This past weekend, I finally got a taste of freedom after eight weeks of having a strict schedule, curfew, and no say in what I eat. Each year, the trainees must make their way to the Peace Corps Office in Bangkok, to prove that a) they are capable of getting there without transportation provided and b) to complete some IT training and see where all of the staff spends their time when they’re not in Singburi training us. I mentioned in my last post that I was most excited for the food, because all I have been eating in Singburi is rice, fried eggs, rice, fried chicken, rice, fried pork, oh and did I mention rice? So my goal was to eat lots of delicious food and I am happy to say that I accomplished that goal.
The weekend started when I woke up at 4:00 am to get ready for the van pickup we had ordered for 5:30 am. As a rule during Pre-Service Training (PST), we are not allowed to ride our bikes in the dark, and it does not get light until about 6:30 am. Luckily, Pii Oi offered to drive me to the pick-up location and picked up 3 other trainees along the way. At 5:00 am, on our way to the pick-up spot, she tried to stop to buy us all fried pork for breakfast.
After two hours in the van, we were dropped off at the main transportation hub for travel to and from Bangkok. We had to figure out public transportation from there, and it ended up being surprisingly easy! My group made it to the Peace Corps office right at 8:00 when they opened, so we were able to finish all our training and tours by 11:00 am. From there, I knew my plan for the rest of the day: find burgers for lunch, find Mexican food for dinner, go out at night.
For lunch, a group of 9 decided to head to Fatty’s, a Wisconsin-themed bar and diner about 5 miles from where we were staying. We split into 3 groups to takes taxis there. During training the week before, we had been warned that taxis would try to overcharge foreigners and often they would not agree to drive that distance, so it was difficult to even get a taxi in the first place. Eventually, we got one and used our maps app to guide him to the location the app told us. We ended up in front of a military base with our GPS telling us to walk through and get to the other side. Of course this was not possible, so after a half hour of walking and attempting to find the end of the base, we ended up getting another taxi. He drove us for about 10 minutes before giving up on our Thai language skills and dropped us off, even farther from our destination. Finally, we ended up in a taxi whose driver had the brilliant idea of calling the restaurant and asking for directions! It turned out being about two miles from where the GPS had brought us, and after taking several taxis, getting yelled at in Thai by a few different people, and spending several hundred baht, we were beyond happy to finally arrive there. All the frustration was worth it when we saw a fridge full of craft beer and a menu with actual cheese! There, I had a cheeseburger, cheese curds, and a locally-brewed craft beer.
After making our way to the hostel where many of us PCTs were staying, we headed over to a neighboring hostel where even more PCTs were staying. I spent some time there, then met up with a family member who happened to be in Bangkok! It was so nice to see someone from home- it was a little reminder that life still exists back in the US. We ended up going to a Mexican restaurant where I had a burrito, guacamole, and a few margaritas.
Later that night, I got to go experience some of the Bangkok nightlife, and it did not disappoint. Something I have been missing a lot is the social life I had back in the US, so being able to go out with friends was truly amazing. The next morning was fun as we all joined together and recounted stories from the night before. I went back over to the hostel down the street where we hung out all day until we had to leave for Singburi (unfortunately the curfew still applied, so we had to leave by 3:00 pm to make it home in time). I considered going shopping or visiting tourist attractions, but decided against it when I realized I have the next two years to come back to Bangkok, but only two more weeks to spend with this group of people. Also, they were ordering real pizza (I have had pizza here in Singburi, but each time, it had mayonnaise, ketchup, or chopped up hot dogs on it..) so I was excited to see if this pizza would be any good. I later found out we had ordered from a company that was founded by a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer who had served in Thailand and realized the lack of New York-style pizza was sad, so he filled that void (and offered a discount to current PCVs!) That pizza was the best thing I have eaten yet in Thailand and I am so glad I stayed at the hostel to order it.
Overall, it was a really fun trip. I got to spend time with my friends in a setting other than Peace Corps training. I got to eat delicious food that I’m sure I will be dreaming about for the next several weeks. I got to see a family member and catch up on life back home. It also reminded me of how much I love the people in group 129, and how (even though I am so excited to begin my journey as an actual Peace Corps Volunteer), I am going to miss them all so much. We have TWO weeks left as Trainees, which means that in only two weeks, I will be sent off to a rural Thai village with a Thai counterpart who I have yet to meet, in a part of the country that I have never been to, where they may or may not speak a different dialect of Thai, where I will most likely be the only English speaker, and where I will almost certainly be the only foreigner. I will no longer see group 129 every day at training, and may be hours from the nearest volunteer. I will no longer have my teachers around to translate for me when I don’t understand something. I will move in with a new host family with new customs to get used to and won’t be able to swap awkward stories with my friends at training the next morning. I am scared, nervous, anxious, excited, eager, determined. These past 8 weeks have been a roller coaster of emotions, which I’m sure will continue once I get to site. Now that our Bangkok trip is over and we can no longer discuss all the foods we will eat, the discussion has turned to, “I wonder what my site will be like…” One week from today I will find out where I will call home for the next two years. Wish me luck!