After three months of training, my Junebug has been sworn in as an official Peace Corps Volunteer and has arrived at her site in southern Thailand where she will spend the next two years. Eleven of the 15 teachers from her school rented a van and basically turned picking her up into a group vacation. They made stops all along the way, showing her all the sights. She was able to bond with them on the two-day trip, and already feels welcome. I love all these Thai people who are so loving and protective of her. It truly has been the Land of Smiles for her.
She is now ensconced with a family, where she will stay for a month. After that she will decide if she wants to stay with them, move into the teacher’s quarters or live by herself. Right now she is leaning towards living on her own, but it’s only her second day there. And she already had to present an introductory powerpoint about herself to the school! No rest for the weary traveler!
I just read a great article written by a current PC volunteer, Natalie Garro, about the grit it takes to be in the Peace Corps. And when you think about it, it does. Yes, my girl is on the adventure of a lifetime, is meeting new and interesting people every day, is absorbing another language and culture, and is being exposed every day to the opportunity for personal growth, spiritual enrichment, and a brand new perspective on life. And yes, she has made amazing friendships and is experiencing a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
But the article pointed out some of the challenges these volunteers face and the loneliness of being the only American face in a village of strangers, even welcoming ones. Of having every friend you just made in the last three months living at least a few hours, if not a few days drive, away. Of feeling exhausted from trying to understand and be understood in a language you knew nothing about three months ago. Of not being able to run to Starbucks or your favorite restaurant/bar/movie theatre/home that makes you feel cozy when you’re alone. Of having any food that is remotely familiar ten hours away in Bangkok. That takes grit to hang in there when the loneliness and/or challenges strike, and do the job you signed up to do.
I’ve really enjoyed learning so much more about our Peace Corps. I’m impressed with the training program, and how they thoughtfully and thoroughly prepare these First World volunteers for the ride of their life. For a mom, who’s sitting in her very comfortable empty nest, I am in awe of her amazing ability to adapt to different surroundings, customs and levels of living conditions. Her father and I have been totally focused on all the incredible benefits and opportunities of this adventure, and it’s fun to follow along on her journey. Our family was even on a live group text with her as the assignments were announced one by one. It couldn’t have been more exciting as we all waited with anticipation to learn where she would be living.
But there will be moments. She’s been prepared by the Peace Corps for this. She’s been told that after the initial flurry of excitement and newness at her home site, some of these moments will likely follow. These next few months will probably be the toughest of her stay. As her mom, hearing and reading about how her heart may hurt makes me ache for her. But if there’s one thing I’ve learned, it’s that this girl has grit.
Bravo Peace Corps. Bravo Junebug.
Reprinted from www.featheringmyemptynest.tumblr.com by Lorri Antosz Benson
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