Bits and Pieces I Haven’t Mentioned Yet

Lest you think life in Peace Corps is all exotic and service, I spent the last hour finishing up my Two Year Work plan, aligned with the Royal Thai Government and Peace Corps Memorandum of Understanding, with goals, objectives, activities and outputs, key results areas, evaluation, key performance indicators, and critical success factors. Just so you know. Later today I aspire to complete the Safety and Security document that’s also due soon, with map of my community including both work site, home, nearest area suitable for helicopter landing, nearest hospital, government buildings, and contact info for landlord, etc. etc. in Thai and English as we don’t know, in case PC sends a driver for us in an evacuation situation, whether the driver will speak English or Thai.

One struggle I’ve has with the culture at this point also shows how inconsistent I can be, as follows. I am happy to use the Thai methods of showing respect including lowering myself by bending my knees and leaning forward when walking past monks or other high level folks. No problem. I believe in respect and I know that HAVING respect for someone (or for a culture) isn’t enough unless it’s perceived. So we have to show respect in ways that can be understood. So here’s the inconsistency: I am really uncomfortable with children and sometimes even teachers using the same gesture for me. I’m American. All (people) are created equal. I’m trying to resolve this discomfort by telling myself it’s just politeness. (Thomas Jefferson: In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock.) Okay, then, thanks for the show of respect, I hope you can feel my respect coming at you, too.

Yeah, it seemed like it had to be an herbicide when I saw a man around the back spraying with a motorized backpack. It makes sense that a farmer might want to limit plants around the field so they don’t lean in and steal the sunlight from the crop, or produce seeds that produce weeds. Then he also sprayed my driveway and most of the plants all over the lot my house sits on. It seemed likely it was herbicide when the cattle that had previously stopped by daily didn’t come. Several days later they’re not back yet. And yeah, today it’s clear that the sprayed plants are dying. And what do I know? Maybe something has to be done or the jungle will return. Among the things I don’t understand, there’s another.

A friend of a friend drives a songtau to the nearest almost-city, and he was commissioned to buy a chair for me. My rental place came with one sad folding chair that pokes me in the back. And the new chair is great. It’s blue, so it goes with the house, it’s a folding chair with padded seat and back and I can now be comfortable working at the ironing board for hours. The ironing board is adjustable in height so I can get it low enough to be right for a computer desk.

I keep finding errors in materials I’ve prepared for the classroom and taking them home to make revisions. There was a puzzle where two answers could apply to a certain question so it was ambiguous. Drat. There was a card game with a typo. Okay, I fixed it. Here’s what’s good. I have two schools, so phonics materials used at one and found to be faulty are at least right when I take them to the second school. It’s all a process.

My counterpart teacher had to be absent Thursday, and I’m not supposed to teach without a Thai co-teacher. They sent another teacher to be with me while I taught which is great as we’re supposed to show results on the government English tests at the end of the year and I don’t want to be missing days of instruction. I also figure it counted as part of my teacher training work as this teacher had the opportunity to see methods used that are unfamiliar in this school. The only thing is, to send her to be with me she cancelled her classes. Oh, right. Well, she did teach twice (I think) when I had preparation periods in the schedule. Sigh.

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