As I sit in my new home and listen to the rain, I’m reflecting on the end of training and the beginning of my new journey. The last two weeks of training went by unbelievably quickly, starting when I had my Language Proficiency Interview to determine if I actually did have enough language skills to at least survive at site; followed by site assignment day where I found out I would be moving to the Nakhon Ratchasima province; followed by my final interview with Peace Corps staff where I also got my LPI results and found out that I can speak enough Thai to at least get by on my own. Then, last weekend, we had a going-away party with our host families in Singburi. Each of us got up on stage and said something in Thai to our host families about how much we appreciated them being there for us as we navigated our first weeks in Thailand and how much we would miss them when we left. The next day, we had to say goodbye as they dropped us off back at the hotel where we stayed for the first 10 days. This was the beginning of an emotional week.
On Monday, group 129 was officially sworn in as Peace Corps Volunteers! The moment we had been preparing for was finally here. The US Ambassador came and administered the Peace Corps Oath, and we were given our Peace Corps pins.
“I, Sarah Crisci, do solemnly swear or affirm that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic, and that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same, that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion, and that I will well and faithfully discharge my duties in the Peace Corps. So help me God.”
That same day, we met our Thai counterparts who had come from all over Thailand to pick us up in Singburi. We had a 2-day conference with them so we could get to know each other a little bit before we were sent off with them. Wednesday morning we sat down to discuss their 2-year plan for the community I’d be living in and it was a preview of what working at site will be like. Our communication was very limited and we struggled with even the most basic discussions. It was a test of patience for all of us, as I’m sure will be the case over the next two years. Then, at noon, the conference was over and group 129 was given about 10 minutes to say goodbye to each other. Saying goodbye was difficult for me. Over the past 10 weeks, group 129 has become my family here in Thailand. I had been spending up to 15 hours/day with some of them. Every time I struggled with something or didn’t understand the language, someone was there with me to make it a little bit less awkward. Now, I would have to navigate on my own. While I am excited to do so and begin my work as a Peace Corps Volunteer, saying goodbye was still sad.
After a few minutes of crying and hugs, I loaded my bags into my counterparts’ car, and we headed off to Nakhon Ratchasima (more commonly known as Korat). We made several stops along the way, but it still only took about 5 hours. I was driven straight to my new host family’s house and was immediately told that I am family.
Now I’ve been here for 3 days, and it has been filled with adventure already. I have attended a house-warming party with 700 guests, handed out water during a 50-km bike ride, participating in a torch-running event to celebrate a famous female warrior, introduced myself in Thai at a meeting with 60 local leaders, danced a traditional Thai dance with several hundred women where I watched the woman in front of me and attempted to imitate, met an elephant on the street, attended a party at the Nayok’s (similar to a mayor in the US) house, got matching shirts with my host parents, and had my picture taken approximately 3,423,769 times. So far, it has been an indescribably strange experience, filled with fun, interesting, awkward, unique, and uncomfortable moments. Our country director told us a few weeks ago, “Get comfortable being a little bit uncomfortable, because that’s how it will be from now on.” I think about this statement often and can’t help but to laugh at how accurate it was.