February 22, 2003 - US Embassy in Thailand: Sumner Sharpe, Thailand 1

Peace Corps Online: Directory: Thailand: Peace Corps Thailand: The Peace Corps in Thailand: February 22, 2003 - US Embassy in Thailand: Sumner Sharpe, Thailand 1

By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, February 22, 2003 - 6:31 pm: Edit Post

Sumner Sharpe, Thailand 1



Sumner Sharpe, Thailand 1

Sumner Sharpe, Thailand 1


"Teacher, where are you going? Where are you coming from?"

These were almost daily questions posed by the neighborhood children as I walked from my residence to the Architecture building on the Chulalongkorn campus. I often think about those daily exchanges and what happened to those children growing up in Bangkok. I also remember interesting and unique experiences, like sleeping under the stars on the deck of a boat crossing the Gulf of Siam at night with two of my students, on a trip during a school vacation to visit the family of one of the students.

The impact of the Peace Corps is at two levels: personal and societal/political. Many volunteers will tell you that, from their viewpoints, the impact of the Peace Corps experience on their personal lives has been one of the most defining experiences. And for many, it is a time of testing of personal values and capabilities. And in the process of challenging ourselves, we learned much about who we were and are as individuals.

I also have retained a strong sense of identity with Thailand. I have a greater understanding of the local areas, the countries, and that region of the world.

I would like to think that those links and ties are reciprocal-- that the people we met, worked and socialized with in Thailand have a better sense of Americans as individuals; that they value our contributions as teachers, as technicians, as community developers; and that those neighbor children and students remember us and not just the Americans they see on TV or at the movies; and that Americans are seen as worthy of their trust and continuing friendship.

I believe it is through all of the personal relationships that the Peace Corps experience provides opportunities for that there also are positive societal and political impacts for both the Thais and us. Because, at the root of how well we get along with each other as communities, societies and nations is how well we know and understand each other as individuals.

The unique thing about the Peace Corps is that we work from the bottom up and the people of the host countries see us at a time of challenge for us personally and at a time when we are vulnerable. It tells them that Americans are just like everyone else we have hopes and fears, that we screw up as well as succeed, and that we are not larger than life. We are who we are and that?s it! I, like many others, probably added to the gray hairs that grew on staff heads during the two years we were together in Thailand.

Like many other Thailand RPCVs, I have retained a lifelong interest in what?s happening in Thailand and in Southeast Asia, even though I have not returned to Thailand (yet). My understanding of the Buddhist religion and how it is practiced throughout Asia has added to my understanding of the world around me. And surprisingly I am still somewhat conversant in the Thai language and still look for opportunities to speak Thai.

But probably, the most important contribution that I received from my Peace Corps experience was a better understanding of myself, confidence in what I could do, a sense of adventure (ability/willingness to make choices) in both career goals and with respect to my personal life. I have had a great run, and I know it would not have turned out the way it has if I had not been part of Thailand 1.

However when all is said and done, I believed then and I believe now that it is what we give back that is most important, not just what we receive from our experiences.

I sincerely hope that those children, students and faculty, and professional city planners that I had contact with in Thailand many years ago have mostly positive memories about the Americans who came to live and work with them, and know that we tried our best to contribute to the future of Thailand.

We asked for nothing in return, but received more than they will ever know.



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This story has been posted in the following forums: : Headlines; COS - Thailand

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