International Day of the Girl

Without a doubt, I would not be who I am today without Girl Scouts. Although I didn’t want to be left alone that first year of meetings (thanks mom for putting up with all of my abandonment fears), Girl Scouts enabled me to become a strong, independent, brave, curious, thoughtful individual. From an Outward Bound course in the wilderness to a girl-run leadership program with the State of Michigan, I learned to believe in my own capabilities and see the value of my skills in society. This may sound cheesy, but I can assure you that this is not the case for every girl.

Today is International Day of the Girl and it could not be more important. There are 1.1 billion girls in this world. They are our future. They are tomorrow’s leaders, mothers, mentors, workers, and entrepreneurs. The world has made many strides in improving the lives of girls, but the work is not over yet. Girls still face issues of access to higher education, sexual and reproductive health education, and so much more. There is honestly so much I could talk about—it would take up several blog posts. Instead, I want to share a snippet of my experience here in Thailand.

One of the biggest things I notice about girls in my schools is their confidence. So many of them do well in school.  In fact, almost more than the boys. They’re the ones who will volunteer for things when I do an activity. They’re the ones who seem most interested in talking to me about things outside of the classroom. But I bet if you were to ask them if they thought they were a leader, they would say no.

In Thailand there’s always this one student who will tell the other students to stand up and greet the teacher. It’s almost always a boy. Not in every classroom, but that’s been my experience. That’s not to say that there’s something wrong with the entire system and that patriarchy has overrun us and that they’re all doomed. But there’s a little something there.

I recently was talking to one of my counterparts about some of the problems in our community. The biggest one, she said, was teenage pregnancy. That’s a common theme here in Thailand. Stop Teen Mom is an actual program from the Thai government. So, she wanted us to design a project to teach the youth about sexual reproductive health. While that’s great, I was really trying to go big picture.

I want to do this life skills project. When we teach both girls and boys life skills like leadership, positive communication, and critical thinking, we get youth that start thinking differently. When they start to learn these skills, maybe they will start to say no to things like unprotected sex and drugs and violence and all the bad things that occur in our community. It’s not an automatic fix, but it starts to get at the root of the problem rather than just slapping a band aid on. It empowers youth to be able to step up and become leaders. It gives them confidence. It gives them a voice.

Developing leadership and life skills in youth is not a waste of time.

It’s difficult. It doesn’t happen overnight. It probably won’t even reach all youth. But it’s a start. My point is this: girls are important. I’ve experienced firsthand what it is like when you empower girls. It’s pretty darn cool. We can make it happen.

So, here’s to celebrating International Day of the Girl. Girls have real power and real voices in this world, whether they realize it or not. We have made strides, but there’s still so much more work to do. I realize this post was a bit all over, but I’ll let one of my favorite people sum it up for me.

“We’re in this together.  Because these girls are our girls.  They are us.  They each have the spark of something extraordinary inside of them just like our daughters – and our sons – and their fate is very much our responsibility.” – Michelle Obama

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Thailand’s very own Girl Guides.

P.S. Many of us PCVs are putting on a really awesome leadership camp next month for girls and boys in our communities. It’s part of the Let Girls Learn Initiative and it gets right at these issues. Shameless plug, but if you feel so compelled, we would all be eternally grateful for any support you might be willing to give. For more information, click this link!

Peace and love!

M.

Funny Faces, All the Places

There’s no wifi at the office today. I’ve started this blog post five different times in the last hour only to lament that it’s not exactly what I want to talk about. I’m too tired to engage at the office. I just got back after 10 days away and am going to an English camp 6 hours away tomorrow. Then, as soon as I get back from that, I’m traveling back to Bangkok for another training. I’m tired. I miss my students. It’s been awhile since I’ve seen them. I could really go for a long nap right now. I’m behind on my online class. Oh yeah, I’m learning to code. It’s cool.

Complaining is easy. That’s probably why I haven’t written in a long time. Nobody wants to hear about my long list of problems. Thailand is supposed to be so great. I’m supposed to be having the time of my life. Everything is supposed to be perfect.

Oh yeah, this is the Peace Corps.

I live in rural rural rural Thailand. My market is barely functioning one day a week—I have to rely on my generous host family to bring me food (also, I’m super lazy). There’s no 7/11 for miles (this is a true tragedy—if you ever visit Thailand you will understand). Work life is slow. I feel like I hardly do anything most days. And yet, rural Thailand still has wifi. I have air con in my house. Okay, I have a brand new house that was built especially for me (yeah, I’ve become a spoiled brat). I have some of the sweetest students in the entire world. Things aren’t always so bad.

Let me tell you about a few happy moments.

  • It was my birthday a few weeks ago. I spent it in Bangkok because of committee meetings and doctor appointments and whatnot. I had to miss my favorite school for two weeks in a row. When I returned, we were all so excited to see each other and had a seriously awesome afternoon together. Just as I was about to leave, my students told me to wait a moment and all huddled in a circle for a minute. My co-teacher and I looked at each other in a little bit of confusion. Then, they broke into a rousing chorus of “Happy Birthday.” Needless to say, my heart just melted. These amazing, smart, kind, caring kids remembered my birthday even though it had been a few weeks. How lucky am I to have them??
  • BTF (Brighter Thailand Foundation) Camp in Krabi. There are almost no words to describe how awesome this camp was. We coached high schoolers to be mentors to elementary students for a week. It was leadership in action. This was a big turning point for me after a couple of blah weeks. Seeing these high schoolers grow so much over the course of a week was simply incredible and tear jerking (truly—we were all crying at the end!). For the full experience, please check out our FB album here!

Here are some of my favorite moments. (P.S. for an extra special video, click this!)

  • Bpai-tiao yut maaaaak. (Also known as an insane amount of travel.) As much as I complain about how tired I might be, I feel pretty lucky to get to experience this beautiful country and see all these nice places.
  • Ahan Farang. (All of the foreign food.) So much travel means so much foreign food. My stomach doesn’t always thank me in the end, but it makes me so so happy. ALSO. So much cat cafe. All the time. I was there last week. I’
  • SFS (Student Friendly Schools) Teacher Training. My most recent training was without a doubt the best Peace Corps training I’ve attended so far. Not only was it so great to learn and grow with Thai teachers about gender-based violence in schools, but I felt like I finally got to bond with some co-workers from my community. It was a fun week and we all came out with many great action plans that I can’t wait to see implemented in communities across Thailand. For me, we plan to do this training in my community as well as implement leadership camps and clubs over the coming months. I’m coming out of it with a fair amount of optimism (which is probably one of the best things you can hope for).
    • By the way, check out all of our great work here! I manage the page, so know that I will take all of your likes personally. 😉
  • Finally, friends. (Warning: slightly cheesy moment.) From new Thai friends to PCVs alike, we’ve had some good times together and I’m grateful for each and every one.

We just celebrated our eighth month in country and I feel like I can finally say that I’m starting to settle in. Nothing’s perfect, but when is it ever? I’m here and I’m learning and I can say that most days I’m happy. And guess what? I finally wrote a blog post.

More to come soon.

Peace.

M.

 

Let’s Talk About Maps, Baby

Let’s talk about Thailand and me. Let’s talk about…okay, okay, I’ll stop with the bad 2000px-Thailand_Trang_locator_map.svgreferences now and get to the real stuff. Thailand is big. Let’s just establish that now. I know, I know, it doesn’t look so big on Google maps. Actually, it’s only about the size of Texas, but a friend who has driven across the entire state of Texas recently told me: it’s massive. And if you’re not convinced, take my word for it. As someone who spent 18 hours in the car to get to my site, I can tell you just how large Thailand is. Sort of. I’ve only seen a fraction of it.

Here’s a map of Thailand. See that little tail at the bottom there? Again, doesn’t really look that big. I didn’t think so either. That is, I didn’t think so until my counterpart told me it would take 15 hours to drive there (the extra three hours come from various stops for food, coffee, sightseeing, etc.). I was flabbergasted. 15 HOURS?!? In that time, I could drive from my home in Michigan to Atlanta, Georgia. I could drive to Montreal, Canada. We were going to drive all that time and still be in Thailand? Boy oh boy, was I in for it.

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The beginning of our trip and it’s all smiles!

Our training was held in Singburi province in the middle of the country in what’s known as Pâak Glaang (Central Region). Pâak Glaang is known for rice paddies (lots and lots of rice paddies), monkeys (Lopburi), and some waterfalls. They also speak Central Thai, which is

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Visiting the recently finished 7 Kings Monument.

the dialect that is most widely understood in Thailand and the language I spent roughly 150 hours learning over the past few months. And I was about to leave it all for somewhere completely new. 15 hours away!

Luckily, I had some pretty great traveling companions!

Now, see that little red highlighted section on the bottom of the map? That’s Trang Province in Pâak Dtâi (Southern Region). It’s almost as far south as Peace Corps goes. Of my group, I’m the most southern, but there are a few other volunteers below me. We don’t go to the four southernmost provinces due to safety concerns, so that makes me just about the end of the line in Peace Corps. Here in the south, we speak (you guessed it!) Southern Dialect. It’s a lot faster and full of plenty of different words than Central Thai. Luckily, most people understand Central Thai and will speak it to you if you sound desperate enough…maybe.

Pâak Dtâi is probably what comes to mind when you think of Thailand. It is home to beautiful beaches, waterfalls, and islands. Many tourists come to vacation in Phuket and Krabi. The water is some of the clearest I’ve ever seen and the mountains just seem to rise out of the ocean. It’s pretty breathtaking, I have to admit. My area is also home to more trees than I’ve seen in Thailand so far. Rubber and palm tree farms are some of the most prevalent and I see them every day on my way to work. It’s a pretty drastic change from the rice fields of Singburi and I can’t get over how many trees there are here.

The South is also known for spicy (times a million) food, seafood, and many delicious fruits. I’ve been experimenting with all three, though the fruit is by far the most enjoyable. I actually can’t get enough of it. Spicy is an ongoing battle—my coworkers recently took me to a restaurant and ordered me all of the maai pet (not spicy) food on the menu. But naturally, I tried a little spice as well and let’s just say I’m slowly building a tolerance.

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Spending a VERY hot day at a waterfall!

I’ve been at my site for about two weeks now and it’s been lovely so far. The amazing host family at the end of the epic road trip was enough to make it worth it. I’ve been so overwhelmed with their hospitality and acceptance into their family. My coworkers are great and have gone above and beyond to make sure I feel welcome. They noticed I was a little bored at the office (it’s summer break), so they got some kids to come in and hang out with me! Now, we’re in the midst of the hot season, with temperature averages around 95, so wish me luck as I adjust!

-M.

P.S. I have an address now and happen to love letters, postcards, and other nice mail-able things. If you would like it, please send me an email or leave me a comment!

I Can’t Believe You Did This Twice

My heart almost broke when my girls started crying as they hugged me goodbye. I never thought I would be sad to finish PST (especially for the second time), but I’ve grown close with my new neighbors and family. To make matters worse, minutes before leaving my home, my Yai (grandma) burst into tears, saying she would miss me so much.

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Me and my Yai

She then followed it up in typical Yai fashion by telling me I’d lost weight and that she was worried that I wouldn’t eat well in my new home. Tearing up myself, I promised that I would eat and that I would come back to visit her soon.

As my Ma and Paw drove me back to the hotel in Sing Buri, I thought back to that time when they had picked me up two months before. It was one of the more awkward car rides of my life as they just chatted in incomprehensible Thai and I sat in the back, wondering what the heck I had gotten myself into again. Now, here we were in the opposite situation, joking around about how I would have to marry a Thai man and have lots of babies so that I would have to stay in Thailand. As we pulled up to the hotel, I told my Ma I had to get out to talk to staff about my bike and she teared up as she said, “Molly put passa Thai geng, ja kitun maak maak.” (Molly speaks Thai so well, I will miss you so much.)

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Celebrating a job well done after a day of volunteering.

At first, I laughed a little bit as all I said was that I had to get out to talk to the guy and it wasn’t really that impressive, but then I remembered that the last time we were all at the hotel together I barely could say more than my name and that my favorite food was noodles. In two months, I’ve really come a long way.

It’s not just the language—I’ve built some great relationships and really bonded with a group of students that will be hard to rival with at site. Although PST has been frustrating at times (especially the medical and safety sessions, do you hear me?), it has also been rewarding. I’m grateful for the incredible group of 128s that have embraced me and my experiences and who I know I can count on any time. I cannot even begin to describe how amazing my brilliant ajaans are. They taught me Thai, but so much more than that. I miss them already.

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My favorite people. Ai, Ai, Peh, and Michele. (Yes, the twins have the same name.)

And of course, my first Thai family. I’ll admit, I was a little apprehensive to pour my soul into another family that I was just going to leave in another few weeks, but I was lucky to have some pretty awesome people taking care of me. Not to mention the best neighbors in the entire world. These little girls honestly made everything better.

The last few weeks have gone by in a blur: we took a trip to see the Peace Corps office in Bangkok (during which I was more excited about the visit of my best friend), held an awesomely successful volunteer day (where we had the greatest banner of all time in our honor, followed by a super fun dance party), finished up technical training, and found out our site placements!

I’ll spare you the details and get to the good stuff: my site is in the south of Thailand in a mostly Muslim community. I had an inkling that’s where I would get sent (my Program Manager dropped some not so subtle hints) and honestly was over the moon when I found out. It’s going to be full of some really interesting cultural comparisons and I feel like I will be able to continue my work from Jordan in some small way.

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You can’t go wrong when your school makes a giant banner of your faces. Cheers to the best practicum school ever!

“I can’t believe you did this twice,” one of my fellow volunteers told me in our last days together before leaving for site. I laughed as she was actually the third or fourth person to tell me the exact same thing in as many days. “I don’t think I could have done it again,” she continued.

To be honest, I have no idea how I managed most days and thought I was crazy the rest of the time. But in the end, I really think it’s worth it. Here’s to a fantastic two years (fingers crossed) of growing, learning, and sharing!

Peace and much love.

M.

Hey Now, You’re an All Star

I’ve never been famous, but I imagine it resembles something like my typical afternoon in Thailand. I roll on into my school on my sweet ride, shades on, hair slicked back, to shouts of my name from all directions. Despite sweating all over and feeling like a mess, I’m swarmed by kids, getting hugs and sometimes even kisses! Although I’m often thinking ahead to how my lesson is going to go, perhaps worried about a thing or two, I can’t help but feel like the coolest person in the world at that moment.

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Teaching a new game!

Friday was our last day at our practicum school and after four weeks with my 5th grade students I was more than a little sad to leave them. We still have a camp and a service project with them in the next two weeks, but the end of this week marked a huge

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Me and my co-teacher, language buddy, and best friend, Yan, in our classroom.

milestone in our PST careers. I have to admit: I’m really proud of our group. In just a few short weeks, we’ve built genuine connections with our students and have positively impacted them.

Some of the students that were shy in the beginning are now the first to greet me when I get to class every day. As my Thai has gotten better, I’ve even been able to have real conversations with them (though it usually starts and ends with a few of them shaking their heads at me). This week was probably of my favorite weeks as we were focusing on leadership building and facilitated some games that were pretty fantastic to watch. And the end of the week turned into a giant dance party that couldn’t stop when we started to play a popular Thai song.

I wish you could hear the shouts of “Pii Molly! Pii Molly!” I swear it is one of the cutest sounds in the entire world; it makes me smile just now thinking about it. Pii means ‘older’ in Thai and all of the students call me that because it sums up my relationship with them. I’m not quite a kruu (teacher), I’m more like the older sister that’s there to teach them but also support them. It’s a pretty sweet deal as it turns me into that cool older sister who knows a little bit more, but also has the element of being an infant in Thai. So it works out to be good friends with my students. They know a little bit, I know a little bit, and we all learn from each other.

Every class ends with endless selfies, adorable gifts, and lots and lots of hugs. I’m really going to miss them.

Peace and Love,

M.

Examples of typical interactions with my students:

One

“Pii Molly, we coming downstairs again today?” my girl Fern asks me as I’m parking my bike.

“Yup!”

“Guys! Get down here! We’re not going to class!” she shouts back upstairs. Two minutes later, they’re all sitting in the pavilion waiting for the activity.

Two

“Where did Pii Jenny go? She speaks better Thai than you!”

“She went home. She’s been living in Thailand for a year, but I’ve only been learning for 6 weeks.”

“OOOH. Pii Molly, you speak really good Thai!”

Three

*facepalm* “Why don’t you understand me, Pii Molly?! I’m speaking Thai so slowly!”

Four

“Can you stay here and teach us forever? We love you!”

 

The Cold Never Bothered Me Anyway

Said no one ever (unless you’re Olaf). However, it’s certainly not something I thought I’d be dealing with in Thailand. My plan was to leave the cold and snow behind when I left Michigan last month. I was only successful with half of that endeavor. Thankfully, there is no snow in Thailand, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t get cold. In fact, a few days in the past two weeks had some of the coldest temperatures in Thailand’s recent history and boy did we feel it!

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It was seriously quite cold.

At first, waking up to the cold temperatures felt beyond amazing. After over two weeks of melting under the hot Thai sun, the cool breeze was the best medicine I could have asked for. Over the course of the day that exhilaration slowly turned to me reluctantly putting on a sweater followed by eventually admitting the worst: “I am cold.” I spent that night wrapped in the few blankets I could scrounge up and dressed in sweats and long underwear. It felt like the ice age had hit Thailand. And it had hit hard.

Full disclosure: the “cold temperatures” I’m talking about were in the low 60s. Yes, yes, that’s nothing like the current frigid atmosphere in the Midwest, but when you go from 95 to 60 overnight, it’s a pretty drastic change. Not to mention the houses here don’t have insulation nor did I bring very many warm clothes.

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Michele, my host sister Tik, and I with the Heroes of Khai Bangrachan. This is kinda a big deal.

The days were filled with questions of: “Nao mai? Nao?” to which I would respond with a fervent nodding of my head and a: “Nao maak maaaa!” Translation: “It’s cold, or nah?” and “Yeah, it’s really freaking cold!” Despite the chill, I always took a moment to show a couple of pictures snow at home and that seemed to freak out the Thais even more. Perhaps I brought this chill with me! Dun. Dun. Dun.

On the upside, it made for superb biking weather. I didn’t even have to shower when I returned home (this is a big deal)! Though sitting still outside was like a reenactment from the movie Everest. At break time, we huddled together for warmth and drank as much hot tea as possible. I found myself wishing for my favorite sweatshirt and my heated blanket. Was I even still in Thailand?!?

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My language group, our ajaan, and some family members celebrate American Day.

Before you start to worry to much, the days since then have warmed up and we’ve actually been having very pleasant weather, which I’ve very quickly learned to appreciate. We’re forecasted to approach the 100s for the next week and needless to say I’ll be wishing for these cool days soon enough.

In other news, this week marks my first month in Thailand and my third with my host family. It’s been a busy few weeks, which is why I haven’t updated. Here’s the DL: I get up early, eat breakfast, bike about 7k to my language teacher’s house, learn SO MUCH Thai, go to technical sessions or my practicum school (more on how awesome this is later), bike back home, sometimes get a flat tire, awesome family helps me fix that flat tire, take a shower to get rid of all the sweat, eat, watch ALL the TV, do homework with my sister-in-law, speak broken Thai to my grandmother and parents for about an hour, go to my room where I sometimes study and mostly just chill, and finally go to bed early.

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My neighborhood gang/best friends/bike fixers/game players.

That’s it in a nutshell. It’s tiring (on average I bike around 20k a day), fun (hanging with the family and other volunteers is always a hoot), and enlightening (SO MUCH learning). And I can definitely say that there’s never a dull moment.

There’s so much more to tell and it’s coming soon.

Peace,

M.

 

Smoothies are Great

Sa-wat-di ka from Thailand! After about 22 hours of traveling (not to mention the 7 it took to get to Portland), I’ve arrived in the Land of Smiles. It’s only been a few days, yet it already seems like a lifetime. We spent our first ten days as a large group of 66 in a hotel before moving to our homestay family. It’s been a jam packed few days, but I’ve already made time for plenty of smoothies and street food.

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I’ve pretty much been getting noddles and dumplings every day because they’re so darn good.

Peace Corps Round Two as I like to call it has been an interesting experience so far. I have to say, it’s certainly a lot less stressful. All of the things I worried about the first time hardly even seem like problems now. Of course, there’s still the small worries like: how do I cross the street (it sort of feels like a game of Frogger) and will the smoothie guy judge me if I get another smoothie today (he probably does, but we’re established best friends now). All joking aside, I’ve definitely become a lot more jai yen yen, which is the Thai saying to keep calm.

Speaking of Thai, we’ve already had a few lessons and I can pretty confidently introduce myself, muddle my way through ordering some food and tell you my parents have two daughters. That’s not so bad going into it with nothing. The jury’s out on whether or not it is more difficult than Arabic, but I’ll update once I’ve got a bit more practice in.

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My first language group and our ajaan (teacher).

Today, we move to our homestay families. While it’s a bummer to leave some of the friends I’ve made, this is where the real learning starts. The ten days in a hotel was nice, but I’m looking forward to some real home-cooked food (spice level low, please!).

That’s about it for orientation week (real exciting, I know), but it’s been a good time with lots of laughs and some pretty nice Thai learning. This afternoon is game on for the real stuff.

Since pictures are way more fun to look at than my words, here are some for you to enjoy of my first week in Thailand.

 

What’s Next?

Many people have been asking me if I will continue blogging and when I will post next. Although my lack of posting over the past few months might indicate otherwise, I most definitely intend on continuing my blog. I’m not sorry I didn’t write anything sooner. It’s been an interesting few months for me and I’ve had to do a lot of processing. Even the post I wrote a few months ago can hardly explain everything I’ve felt or been feeling.

Peace Corps is an emotional journey. Moving away for two years is an tough. Moving away for two years twice in the past year is even tougher yet. I feel like I’ve been waiting so long for this moment and yet I still can’t help but wonder what I’d be doing right now if I was still in Jordan.

This week marks the first year I would have been living in my permanent village in Jordan. Last year at this time, we were snowed in, wishing we were able to start all of the great clubs we had been planning for winter break. It was exciting, fun, a little scary, and oddly enough, home. Now, I’m about to leave for a new Peace Corps country and experience everything for a second, but also first, time. It’s been an incredibly surreal few days and I’ve been hit with déjà vu more than once.

While I’m sure the comparisons will be inevitable, I’m doing my best to look forward and be just as open to my new experiences in Thailand as I was in Jordan. This time there are new challenges, but I trust in my ability to meet them as they come.

I actually wrote this post a few months ago, but I basically just rewrote it in the past few minutes. I’m at my staging event in Portland and we actually leave in just a few hours for Thailand. Then, it’s about 19 hours of flying and a couple more of travel and I’ll be starting PST all over again. (I’ll update more on what that and my job looks like later, don’t worry. It’s like 1 AM here and we are leaving before the crack of dawn, so bear with me.)

So, here’s to new journeys and new relationships, but also to old friends and good memories: thank you for your love and support, I seriously couldn’t do it without you.

 

Thoughts on an Evacuation

Hi friends, I know, I know, its been a crazy long time since I’ve updated this blog, but to be honest my heart just wasn’t in it. The past few months have been some of the toughest, most heart-wrenching of my entire life. As many of you know, all Peace Corps Jordan Volunteers were evacuated back in March. It was a shock. To say it wasn’t expected is an understatement. And for me–well, I went from a high (just getting back from my medevac to Morocco (and that’s a story for another time)) to an extreme low.

I’ll never forget the moment when our Country Director sat me down in his office and told me the words that no volunteer ever wants to hear: “We’re going home.” For a moment, I hardly even believed him. No way, I thought. It has to be something to do with funding. No, he said, nothing like that. Security concerns in the region were the official cause of our departure. I’ll not speculate on my other thoughts and opinions because still so many of them are fueled by my emotions. However, I just want to say that I think it’s a pretty incredible thing that my first thought wasn’t actually for my safety.

Baby Mohammed is all grown up! Two months away and I hardly can recognize him!

Baby Mohammed is all grown up! Two months away and I hardly can recognize him!

Jordan is an amazing country and I have honestly never felt safer in a place in my life. Literally almost everyone in my village knew me and looked out for me. They were so concerned about me 100% of the time, even to the point that when I delivered the news, more of them were worried for my safety than upset that I was leaving.

Even though it’s been almost three months since I left, I am still processing everything. Part of me is still angry at Peace Corps for making us leave one of its most important countries. If any country needs Peace Corps, it’s Jordan. Perhaps not for all of the work that we might do there, but for a chance that we might bring understanding to a part of the world that is so deeply misunderstood by Americans.

Since I’ve been back, I’ve had so many people express their gratitude for my safety. While I appreciate the sentiment and know they mean well, there’s always just one thought that goes through my head.

I was safe.

I find that hard to explain to people. It’s already so deeply ingrained in their minds that the Middle East is unsafe that I know they can hardly understand my words. That’s frustrating for me. In the end, the best I can do is tell them about my life in Jordan and share with them about all of the kind, amazing people that I came into contact with. That’s going to have to be enough because that’s all I can do.

Me and my forever neighbor, Veronica, with my host family on our last morning in Karak.

Me and my forever neighbor, Veronica, with my host family on our last morning in Karak.

Over time, some of that anger has dissipated, though I am still not sure that I agree with the decision that was made. Now, I am mostly plagued by feelings of guilt, doubt, sadness and loss. I think frequently about my time in Jordan and regret all of the things I never got to do and experience. I also think back on all of the crazy, wonderful, happy times that I had. I remember my little host baby brother and wonder how big he is now. I remember all of the fantastic new friends that I made and how they have impacted my life. And yet, still, I can’t shake the feeling that I’ve failed, that I’ve let so many people down. I miss my students and my counterparts. When I think of how I’m not with them, I feel a huge sense of disappointment. I’m not sure if or when that will go away, but for now it’s just something I’m learning to deal with.

My absolutely amazing youth counterparts, Safya and Roa'a.

My absolutely amazing youth counterparts, Safya and Roa’a.

To be completely honest, it’s been a hard transition. I find it difficult to move past one of the most life changing experiences that I’ve ever had. I’m not ready to give up Jordan. I’m not ready for it to be over. It’s challenging to try and figure out what I want from my future because Jordan was supposed to be my future–at least for the next few years.

I know this much: the past few months were some of the most incredible ones of my life. Although they’re over, they will not be forgotten. I will continue to tell my stories and hope to change their minds–one at a time.

As for this blog: it’s not over. There’s more I Want to tell about the past and the future. I’m planning to do some interviews with my Jordanian friends as well as post about what my few months at site were like. So, please please stay tuned for some more updates and I promise I’ll deliver.

Love, M.

Ch-ch-ch-changes!

Wow, the past few weeks have flown by in a blink of an eye. Here we’re a week into 2015 and I’m a week into living in my permanent site. I’m writing to you today (in the middle of a snowstorm–yes, Jordan has these too) as an offical Peace Corps Volunteer! I’ve completed all of my training, passed all my tests (including the language one!!), and have taken the oath to become a volunteer. As you might imagine, the past few weeks were jam packed with everything we needed to do and learn before becoming volunteers. Here’s the DL in a quick and not so detailed manner: we had site announcements, which was anxiety inducing at the time, but already feels like a distant memory; a supervisors conference, where we were introduced to our bosses for the next two years; site visit, which was particularly overwhelming as I was introduced to what felt like the entire community in a period of 36 hours; and many other odds and ends, which of course included the much dreaded language test (I’m happy to report that I am at a level higher than the minimum required by Peace Corps!) And during the course if all this officialness, I spent a lot of time with my host family. I still can’t get over how much baby Hamouda has grown in the months I’ve known him, so I’m

Playing with babies during a picnic to the Dead Sea!

Playing with babies during a picnic to the Dead Sea!

sure it’ll be an even bigger shock to see him after several months away. I can scarcely even begin to think of what he’ll be like when I leave in two years! So, with all the studying, visiting, and baby snuggling, you can see just how busy it’s been. Don’t worry, we made sure there was some time for fun too. Our training group celebrated Christmas together with some good old fashioned American food, music, movies, and a sleepover. I have to say, it was pretty funny watching Tamara roast her first s’more over the soba (it caught on fire!) It’s weird not seeing them every day, but three of us are in the same region (I’m actually still neighbors with one of the girls!). Luckily, Jordan is a small enough country that we will be able to visit each other fairly easily.

The girls from my training village during our Christmas party. (Photo cred to Carrie)

The girls from my training village during our Christmas party. (Photo cred to Carrie)

The group on a trip the the Roman Theatre in Amman.

The group on a trip the the Roman Theatre in Amman.

Just a few short days after Christmas we said goodbye to our host families and prepared for our Swearing In Ceremony in Madaba. It was fun getting dressed up in traditional Jordanian dresses (thobes) and getting our group together for the last time in a few months. Our group was very lucky to be the first group of volunteers to have a ceremony attended by a princess! Though I have to say, I think I was less nervous to shake her hand than I was to introduce myself in Arabic to a whole crowd of Jordanians just a few moments before. Thankfully, everything went smoothly and somehow I made it through. And in typical Jordanian fashion, we were swept away very quickly after the ceremony to head to our villages.

Our language group and LCF at Swearing In. (Photo cred: Ella/Carrie)

Our language group and LCF at Swearing In. (Photo cred: Ella/Carrie)

Now for the big news (yes, sorry, I buried the lead): my permanent site! I’ve been placed in a village in the region of Karak, about two hours south of Amman. My new village is far bigger than my training one ever was and I’m still getting used to being able to shop here and actually finding more than just candy bars at the store (actually, I’m getting used to the fact that there is more than one store in town, period)! The people here have been so nice and welcoming to me so far! I’ve had so many dinner invitations that I hardly know what to do with myself. At least I won’t have to worry about starving.

The group of volunteers that will be serving in the Karak region.

The group of volunteers that will be serving in the Karak region.

Now, south, you say? Isn’t that supposed to be deserty? Why, yes it is! In fact, there’s a whole ton of rocks and sand just outside my door. But how can it be snowing? Because this is Jordan and I’ve come to believe that pretty much anything is possible. Don’t worry, the Jordanians are having a fun time freaking out about the snow too. I’m fairly certain the entire region has shut down for the foreseeable future. I don’t mind, I’m snuggled up in bed next to my heater with a book and some tea. It’s rather cozy.

Yes, this is enough snow to shut down an entire region for a few days.

Yes, this is enough snow to shut down an entire region for a few days.

Right now, I’m focused on getting to know my new host family/landfamily (basically my upstairs neighbors who own my apartment and are one of my main connections to the community) and different neighbors. Most everything is closed for break, so I have a chance to settle into my new apartment and meet people. I think I’ll be starting some English programs with my community based organization (CBO) in the next week or two, so I’ll be sure to share all the interesting moments that are bound to occur.

Me and some of the girls I hope to be working with in the next two years.

Me and some of the girls I hope to be working with in the next two years.

I think we’re all caught up for now. It’s been a crazy few months, with many more to come, I’m sure. If you’re interested in a particular topic (Peace Corps, Jordan, culture, becoming involved with my service, etc.) or have any questions, please let me know, I’d love to write about it! That’s all for now, folks! Wishing you all the very best for this new year! As we would say in Arabic, kul alm al inti bahair! ( كل عام انت بخير). Love, M.