Maybe it is the beginning of a new year but I start to reminisce and eventually things that are stored in the dark recesses of my brain emerge. These thoughts will come out of nowhere. They are mostly crumbly and falling apart like moldy lace; like if I gave them a good shake they would disintegrate completely; maybe that’s why they bubble to the surface. I’ve been thinking about my jobs; where I’ve been in my life and the choices I’ve made. Then there comes the reflection; what could have been done differently; regrets; and everything associated with that.
I joined the Peace Corps in the early 1990s mostly because my friend Chrissy wanted to join. She was the coolest person I knew. She had a lizard tattoo on her butt when having a tattoo was a shocking thing; really shocking. We were working out of Stony Brook University when our lab almost burnt down. The hallways in the building where we were working had those giant bulletin boards covered in tear off post cards to get credit cards or join the Peace Corps. One day I tore one off, filled it out and sent it in. After that I received a lengthy application which I filled out; and was then asked to come to the New York City office for an interview. I remember that it was one of the handful of times in my life that I went into the City by myself. I must have passed the smell test because I received a package of information informing me that I was accepted and that I would be sent to Thailand. I had no idea where that even was. I had to drag out the globe to find it. I really didn’t know what I was getting myself into. For the uninitiated, the Peace Corps does not let you choose where you want to go. You can designate a region but can’t choose the country. When they accept you and tell you where they want to send you, it is take it or leave it. I could go to Thailand or turn it down and potentially be put back into the hopper. I said yes; entering into a two year commitment to teach fisheries to third world villagers.
The Peace Corps is a two year commitment. If a volunteer wants to leave their assigned country earlier than that, you can leave, you early terminate (ET) at any time; usually if this is going to happen, it is going to happen at the front end. I had some issues from the get go with my boss on the land settlement. He was kind of jerk; he smoked a lot; he drove fast and badly; he had killed his first wife in an auto accident; his fingers bent backwards and he sang Che Sera Sera loudly with a Thai accent. He had a volunteer serve at his land settlement a few years before me. Her name was Dana and Dana was geng, geng, geng. He loved her to pieces and I could never compare. One day, with about six months time left for me to stay at my land settlement, my boss, my Thai boss, was talking to me in the office. My Thai was never great and he was a fast talker so I had to ask him to repeat what he had said to me because I thought I had misheard what he said. But no, I hadn’t. He told me that I was “like garbage America had thrown out.” That was when I decided to leave. Leave the land settlement and Thailand, early terminate. I made the decision and my friends helped me leave and I never saw him again. I had to go straight home and didn’t get to go hiking in Nepal like I had been planning on doing. I came home and drank my readjustment allowance and met the man who would bring me to Hawaii. I am certain that my actions caused my former boss a lot of grief. I know that he lost face which is huge in asian cultures. When I started writing this, I thought that it would be mostly about how much I regretted leaving; regretted ETing. And I do regret leaving, but that guy, he was such a big jerk to all of my wonderful Thai co-workers. Maybe my leaving taught him a lesson in civility that he would never have learned. Of course, I don’t really believe that. But writing that, writing those hurtful words, putting it out there, made my regret fade a bit; made me think that it was the right thing for me and maybe what was supposed to happen. Made me think that it wasn’t the ultimate fail.