There’s a winky little planet in the black sky at 5:45 in the morning as ten or twenty of us are face-down on a small stone plaza next to the place where we’re staying. We’re beginning an hour of yoga, and by the time we’ve completed our practice, it’s a bright blue day. Perhaps there’s something about being so close to the equator that makes sunrises so abrupt. Maybe it’s the yoga that compresses time.
Every morning during our first week here, our running group has been on the road by 5:15 am for a quick out-and-back on the highway (and an adjacent road we call Dog Alley. — more later about Thailand’s stray dogs) so by yoga time I’m roaring with perspiration. It’s only in the seventies at that hour, as it’s still the cool season. It’s mighty humid by Minnesota standards, but I’m sure it’s nothing compared to what it’ll be like during rainy season (June – October).
Our Peace Corps trainers advise us this that we are enjoying our honeymoon period, where everything is new and sparkly and exciting. It’s a lovely honeymoon, and the best part is the integrity and depth of the people around us. There’s not a dope in the crowd. The volunteers (66 people, most but not all younger than we are), our language trainers and the rest of the Peace Corps staff — all are bright, funny, substantive people.
The honeymoon continues this week, though things are about to get a lot more real. Instead of cultural and language training sessions in a hotel, we begin on Monday to familiarize ourselves with the villages where we’ll live during nine weeks of the “home stay” part of our training. Each of us next Wednesday will be welcomed by a separate family that will provide accommodations, food, companionship and total Thai language immersion through March. One of our training days included sessions on hand-washing our clothes, eating meals with our hosts while respecting cultural protocols, using mosquito nets to reduce the risk of dengue fever, and (everyone’s favorite and the source of the most nervous laughter) how to use a squat toilet. There I was, perched on a rectangle of paper with a Magic-Markered outline of squat toilet, with a couple of Peace Corps staff people offering tips. Ah, pooping, that great and funny common experience of humankind.
Our trainers tell us the honeymoon will soon end, and there will be frustration and loneliness and isolation in our futures. Best to be prepared, I guess. In the meantime, Paul and I are healthy and happy.