Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Happy Camper

American Women's Club English Camp Jan.2013
I've always had a somewhat uneasy relationship with kids. I think they're adorable and all, but but there's something about their tiny hands and un-jaded attitudes that puts me ill-at-ease. So it came as a great surprise to me that I love teaching English Camps. Teaching camps is my favorite part of Peace Corps that isn't going on vacation. When I visit a different site for two to three days to teach kids about the environment, sexual health or ASEAN I am in my element.

For those of you who don't know, I twice played the part of Leper #2 in my church's production of Jesus Christ Superstar. This was less cringe-worthy than you might think, because although my voice is nothing to write home about, our small Lutheran Church attracted a handful  of really talented people. At age-fifteen I sang the hell out of my solo, "See my eyes I can hardly see...See my stand I can hardly walk." And at age twenty-one, while most things religious in nature now give my anxiety, I still harbor warm feelings towards this Andrew Lloyd Weber Masterpiece.

 The point of this Superstar non sequitur, is that in one of the more moving scenes, Jesus sings a song that I relate to as a volunteer. Please laugh along with me, as I make this grandiose comparison. Before the crucifixion as he prays in Gethsemane, Jesus sings the following lines:

"Then I was inspired, now I'm sad an tired...Tried for [one] year, seems like thirty, seems like thirty..."

Okay, that it is it. That is the one relatable moment in the life of Jesus Christ. Also, I changed the word, three to one, because I've only been here one year. But the sentiment holds. I arrived in Thailand with a BS in agriculture and boundless enthusiasm. My development classes taught me that the odds were stacked against me, but I knew I would be an awesome volunteer. So I tried really hard, and continue to try really hard. And it's tiring, and I don't feel so inspired. 

Which brings me back to English Camps. At English Camps I get to be the volunteer I want to be the rest of my days in rural Thailand. I get to show up in another province and give all my energy and love to a bunch of really deserving kids. At Camp I am so cool, in December fourth graders literally got up out of their seats and cheered when I taught them origami, this is Dead Poets Society-kind-of shit (minus Robin Williams, who is horrible). I leave all my exhaustion and recycling project-failure back at my own site and get to be the kind of American goodwill ambassador Peace Corps can be proud of, and I can be proud of. 

It's a cliche but these camps rejuvenate me. I head back to Nakhon Ratchasima at the end of the weekend ready to take on my own Peace Corps assignment.  I hold my head a little higher and try once more to drum up interest in project to reduce Dengue Fever. 

Then I fall back into my old ways. My attempts at projects feel futile, I pass by the community kids without engaging them, I turn down another invite to have dinner at my Lao-speaking neighbor's house. I fall back and sit back while listening to Gethsemane on repeat, waiting until the next English Camp and my chance to shine. 

PC Volunteers at Camp


  1. El, my name is Charles Boesen. Your mom and I were neighbors/friends when we were very young and living in Robbinsdale, MN. I now live in Appleton, WI, were your uncle, David, lived for a while. Your mother posted your blog on FB and I have read a good portion and I wanted to tell you I really appreciate your writing, and your adventuresome spirit. Take care and I wish you well.

    My blog is:

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