Back in America

27 10 2011

First and foremost, I would like to apologize. I know it has been quite a while (over a month) since my last entry. I don’t usually go that long without writing and I know I have a bunch of followers who have been waiting for this particular entry … so my apologies.

I would like to say the reason for the delay was because of my lack of internet connection for a few weeks, my frantic attempts to get settled and find a job, or my multitude of engagements with family and friends, but in all honesty, I’d be lying. Simply put, I just haven’t been ready.

Usually blog entries are a means of relaxation for me. Putting words to paper has always been a way for me to clear my thoughts and find an inner peace of sorts. That sounds a bit dramatic, but it’s true. Writing has always had that effect on me. The thought of writing this particular blog entry, however, has caused me more anxiety than it has inner peace … so I’ve just put it off, waiting for my emotions to settle and the newness of the recent changes to wear off. It took a month, but now I feel ready. So, here you are.

As I have already shared with some of you, and others of you have heard through the grapevine, I have terminated my service as a Peace Corps volunteer and returned to Seattle. As I made this decision and began informing people of my new move, I was faced with two very different reactions. The first group of people immediately wanted to know why. I found it difficult to face these people because in all honesty, I don’t really have an answer to that questions. I know what my gut tells me but aside from that, it’s just a big jumble of lots of reasons, none of which stand out more than any other … it was just what I needed to do.  The second group of people didn’t ask why; instead, they told me that the why didn’t matter and that I didn’t have to explain anything to them. I found this group difficult to face as well because I have this overpowering need to do just that … explain my actions, justify my decisions, make people understand.

The truth is that I loved Thailand. I love the country, the people, the culture, the food, the sights, the traditions, the weather. I loved it all. Unfortunately, amongst all that love of my new lifestyle, I was placed in a job that didn’t turn out to be what I went there to do. I will not speak negatively about the Peace Corps. I think it is an amazing organization that does incredible things. I also won’t speak negatively about my community. They were equally incredible and I love and miss them all very much. Even so, my particular experience turned out to be less than ideal. It happens.

As a young female, I was at the bottom of the totem pole and my ideas and projects were rarely heard. My community had separate goals that didn’t match the reasons why I was there. My counterparts did not quite undersetand my job and I didn’t have the proper language to effectively alleviate this lack of understanding. I went to a job every day and came home every day but I did very little in between. It just got to a point where I couldn’t do it anymore. I’m a goal-oriented person and the goals of the program were not being met. I couldn’t justify staying in Thailand on the government’s dime if I wasn’t doing the job they hired me for. That, and a number of other random reasons is what brought me home.

Now, a lot of people have told me over my nine months of service and this first month home that just being in Thailand and being in my community was making a difference. Just walking the streets, talking to people, being in the classrooms, and being a part of their lives, was making a difference. I do agree with these people. I’ve learned so much from my community and they learned so much from me. However, I am still disappointed. I still went there with a job to do and I didn’t fulfill it. I won’t call it failure because as I said, I learned so much and so did they. I am a completely different person today than I was when I left in January and I would like to believe that everyone I met is slightly different because of the interactions I had with them. Deep down though, I will always wish that my impact could have been bigger.

As for Thailand, I will go back; there is no doubt of that. I will go back and visit my host family and the amazing people of my village. I will return to Kanchanaburi, Chiang Mai, Bangkok, and Phuket, and will explore additional areas that I didn’t get a chance to see. I will eat the food gain, visit the temples again, walk and talk with the people again. Thailand will forever be a part of my life – my second home if you will – and I do not regret even for a second my decision to go in the first place … I wouldn’t give it up for anything.

But for now, it is time for me to be here in Seattle. It is time to pursue my next journey … and life is good. I am back in the job I was in prior to leaving (and loving it), I am currently living with Cory and spending time with family and friends. Life is good. That’s all I can ask for.

I will forever look back on my service with nothing but fondness. It was not easy nor was it always paradise, but in the end, it was the most incredible experience of my life.

Kitung mak mak bpratet Thai. Ja grap bpai laao, jing jing. Rak mak.

On a side note, I am sure that you all have heard about the devastating flooding that hit Thailand just after I left.  It has affected thousands upon thousands of people and has ravaged much of the country. My first three months of service were spent in Ayutthaya, the old capitol, and the area most devastated by the flooding. The community were I lived is under water. My home stay family and the families of all the other volunteers are of out work, out of their homes. Many have lost everything. The volunteers still serving in Thailand along with those of us who have already returned home are working hard to raise money to help these families who took us in, fed us, taught us, and helped us become successful volunteers. If you are interested in donating, please visit http://ayutthayaflooding.wordpress.com for details. All donations (excluding transactional fees) will go direction to our home stay families and the surrounding community. Every dollar helps.

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One response

27 10 2011
Kati

Hi Kylene, this is Kati over at NewBooking. I’m sorry to hear that you’ve ET’d, I know how hard that decision is to make, and it sounds like you thought long and hard about it. Peace Corps service is _tough_ no matter where you are, and tough in different ways for everyone. Like you, I just ET’d myself, and got back to Seattle yesterday. I was dealing with a lot of physical harassment, and Peace Corps didn’t offer a lot of help, other than to say either avoid the areas where it happens (basically everywhere), times of day it happens (I was in a truck stop town, so it happened at breakfast, lunch, dinner and at night), and people who did it (mainly out-of-towners); or they could’ve switched my site, but there was no promise that it wouldn’t happen again because this was such a part of Ethiopian culture. So, rather than spend the next 2 years miserable, I decided to go home, instead.

Your post rings very true to me, and though I’m saddened to hear that you felt the need to leave a country that you loved, it was helpful to read at the same time. I’ve been wondering how you’ve been doing, but had very little internet access so it was impossible to follow any of the blogs. It’s a weird experience being back home, and yes, people do react very differently to my decision to leave. Thank you for posting this, it helps to not feel so alone in this process. Hope you’re doing well, and I _really_ hope your family and friends are safe!

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