If I seem distracted today, it’s because my youngest daughter, who graduated from College of Charleston several months ago, left today to begin her training for the Peace Corps — in Thailand.
I’m very proud of her, and also traumatized. We expect her to be gone a long time. How long? Well, my 19-month-old grandson will be almost 4 years old when she returns.
I try to cheer myself up with the below clip from “Volunteers,” which she posted on Facebook the day she learned where she would be posted. But today, it’s just not as funny as it normally would be.
I don’t know what else to say right now; words fail me. But she did a good job elaborating on this moment on her own blog last night:
So tomorrow marks the beginning of what people keep telling me will be a life changing journey. I will meet my fellow Peace Corps trainees in Washington, DC before we board the flight to Thailand aka the other side of the planet. You would think that I would be double-checking my packing lists or re-reading official documents, but instead I have spent the day rolling around toy tractors with my baby nephew and learning about Star Wars from my 4 year old niece. Not to mention eating as much southern food as possible. After all, I don’t really think I could prepare myself for the next two years right now if I wanted to.
Not to say I haven’t tried. I have stocked up on quite a few “riap roy” outfits (this is the expression for polite and professional). This has definitely been the most difficult part of my preparations. More difficult than the nearly year long application process, the multiple interviews, background checks, or medical clearances. In fact, all of those things were pie. Finding clothes that cover my shoulders, chest, and legs below my knees that I don’t feel Amish in has been more challenging than it sounds. Sometimes I think to myself, how did my life go from getting in trouble for covering up my body and wearing more clothes than a leotard in ballet class, to this? I took a weird turn somewhere, but I’m adjusting.
I have also prepared by learning the most important Thai phrases for survival. I can now say, “fried chicken is delicious”, “I don’t understand”, and “beautiful dress”. I can also count to 100, though since Thai is a tonal language, meaning intonation determines the meaning of a word and not emotion like in English, I am probably making arbitrary philosophical statements instead. This is fine with me for now, as I am sure that the next three months of Pre-Service Training will expand my linguistic abilities ten-fold.
What else to say? I will miss my friends and family, my country, and my party clothes, but I feel really good about leaving. Maybe the anxiety that everyone keeps expecting me to have will set in before I step off the plane or something, or maybe in a few months when I realize that I am the sole American in a 100 mile radius, but for now all I am is happy. I have lived a lucky life, and I couldn’t be more grateful for everyone and everything in it. …