My baby’s gone off to join the Peace Corps

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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. …

9 thoughts on “My baby’s gone off to join the Peace Corps

  1. Michael Leet

    Brad, sent your post to my 30 something Peace Corp buddy. Her remark back to me was it is a great place for you to visit, so travel plans are in your future, she went to a country I cannot actually spell, but she learned Russian for her assignment. Please give us updates of your daughter experience.

    Reply
  2. Patty Russell

    I’m so excited for your daughter, Brad. What an amazing opportunity for her to grow and learn! (Sounds like she is already a very knowledgeable, smart young woman!) I hope there were will be a way for others to keep up with her experiences. (BTW, my favorite ethnic food is Thai…and it is so healthy!) Please keep us posted.

    Reply
  3. T.J.

    My very good friend has spent the last 14 months in Swaziland with the Peace Corps. It has been a tremendous experience for him. I hope your daughter finds it to be the same.

    Reply
  4. Brad Warthen Post author

    She’s there and she’s doing fine, by the way.

    I was pretty worried while she was on the way — especially as the flight tracker app I downloaded had her flying over the North Pole, Russia, China and North Korea….

    Reply
  5. Brad Warthen Post author

    Well, I’m really glad she’s not in Bangkok today:

    BANGKOK — Bangkok’s central commercial district was swarmed by antigovernment protesters on Monday as part of a so-called shutdown of the city, a largely peaceful demonstration that cut off most traffic to Thailand’s costliest real estate and most prestigious addresses.

    The protest was the boldest move in two months of protests against the government of Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra….

    What grabbed my attention was “largely peaceful”…

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