|By Admin1 (admin) on Saturday, February 22, 2003 - 6:32 pm: Edit Post|
Thailand RPCV C. Nickels
Thailand RPCV C. Nickels
It was with no small amount of trepidation that I boarded the late-night TWA flight in Honolulu in mid-April, 1971. It was the mail run, with scheduled stops in Guam, Okinawa, Taipei, Hong Kong, where we would lay over for several hours, and finally Bangkok. For one thing, even though my father was a career pilot for a rival international airline and I had flown from the time I had learned to walk, I was scared to death of flying. I especially hated takeoffs, and we were going to have a few of those. More than that, though, I was panicked about finally being on my way to Thailand with the Peace Corps after six weeks of training at our site north of Hilo. We would have a few more weeks of training in Chiang Mai. But then, in less than two months, the real show would begin. Did I know enough Thai? Did I know enough about teaching English as a Foreign Language? Was I sensitive enough about the ?Thai Way?? Was my hair too long? Did I have the right clothes? Would Thais like me? Would I make too many mistakes? Would I survive?
Four years and a couple months later, I boarded another late-night flight (this time on the right airline) in Bangkok. I had just completed two years in Kalasin and a little more than two years in Bangkok. My hair was much shorter and my clothes had all been made by a seamstress near my house. I was bound for Delhi and other points east. There were fears and tears. I was still afraid of flying, though I had discovered Dramamine in the intervening years. But I was leaving a place where I had gone from being a new college graduate to an adult. I was leaving the place where everything had come to make sense. I was leaving the place where I had learned that the world is my home, not a city or a country. I was leaving the place that had introduced me to the level of adventure I have never been able to shake. I was leaving the place where I had picked my first bunch of bananas from my first banana plant. I was leaving the place that had taught me so much about sharing and goodness. I was leaving the place where I had my very first pet as an adult, a gibbon. I was leaving a lot of good friends and colleagues who had taught me so much about myself and life and who had accepted me into their lives.
If I could have turned around that night, left Don Muang and stayed on in Thailand indefinitely, I would have. I was not sure I could survive leaving the place I had learned to love so much.
Peace Corps gave me the opportunity to travel to and live in another country. But the people of Thailand gave me something that is so deeply a part of who I have been since the night I boarded that TWA flight it is almost impossible to explain. They taught me to be open and to celebrate the cultural diversity of this small planet. They taught me that learning something of the world?s many unique peoples is the basis for understanding and acceptance of what may, at first, appear different. They taught me that peace can be a realistic goal.