This week marked my third month at site and the approach of the completion of six of twenty seven total months in the Kingdom of Thailand. I have been incredibly fortunate to have had two fantastic home-stay families, one in Suphan Buri, and another here in Chumphon. The previous three months with my family have seen us travel through and visit many provinces in Thailand, celebrate the Chinese New Year (Songkran) by participating in a nation-wide water fight, make many trips to the beach for our weekly dinner outing, share many moments of laughter and cultural exchange, and ultimately grow closer together, not merely as individuals, but as a family.
These individuals are not just my “Thai family,” but rather, family. Period. Regardless of the fact that we speak two different languages and adhere to two different sets of cultural norms, we have been able to get to know each other better and share a powerful mutual love and respect for one another. Perhaps because of our general inability to verbally communicate, we only have non-verbal actions to both convey ourselves and also understand who the other is. As I’ve reflected on this idea, I have come to the conclusion that this may be an even more effective way of truly learning about another people.
When learning about others with whom you share a common language, there are generally two kinds of people- those whose actions and words match and those whose words and actions are not in balance. However, when that common language is non-existent, you only have actions on which to rely to understand the other. Just as the human range of emotions is universal, there are universal actions which denote friendship, respect, and compassion. I am happy to report a mutual exchange of these and, I hope, a deep understanding of one another’s most prominent characteristics based solely on action, and not word. If I were to describe my family with just one word, it would be, “loving.”
My host family made a big choice to alter their daily routines for three months to not only house a stranger who is alleged to help improve their community, but also make an effort to endure difficult and confusing situations to increase their own awareness of other people that exist in the world. It is even more impressive to consider they have not asked for a single thing in return- they refused my rent money and donated it to the school at which I work, have never asked me to buy groceries, have never asked me to change who I am or what I do, or even expected me to help them in their beautiful, large, sustainable garden.
Those things being said, I thanked them profusely for sharing my rent money with local underprivileged children, often brought home various fruits and vegetables that they actually don’t happen to grow, have been respectful of them and their schedules, and have enjoyed helping them with daily work in the garden, as it was critical to me to show that their home and way of life is equally important to me as it is to them. If sweeping grass clippings from on top of all the other grass is how I can help maintain the garden and show my appreciation, I do so happily.
Living with such individuals gives me a completely new perspective of family and has definitely helped change how I define the word, both denotatively and connotatively. I absolutely want to adapt particular routines I observed living with them into my own life back in the States, namely caring for others first, regardless of how menial, or not, it might be (e.g. filling their glass of water before your own, ensuring they’re comfortable before you get comfortable, doing everything in your power to extend help). All of these things, when done for me on a consistent basis, convey respect and care in a way that I have not necessarily experienced before.
This entry is dedicated to my Thai host family(ies), the other Thai families who have selflessly shared themselves and their home and culture with my colleagues, and all other Peace Corps host families worldwide that contribute to expanding peace everywhere through compassion, education, and understanding. It is with a heavy heart that I choose to move into my own home next week, but it certainly is not good-bye by any means. I will live two kilometers from my family and intend on seeing them often, especially for those delicious dinners Host-Mom cooks up and Saturday dinner trips to the beach!
|Thank you for everything. You've taught me a great deal.|