How we’ve kept in contact since college. Happy National Siblings Day. Love ya to pieces
20 year old abandoned amusement parks become the perfect photography spot for wedding advertisements. #Peacecorps #China
You do get a few shots during your service, but none were in the butt. It’s just your normal shots to prevent you from getting sick. Not too bad!
Beauty queen at the exotic fish market
I get clingy. My best friend is in Taiwan.
Photo submitted by Keith May
Story and Song by Keith May
The week before Peace Corps staging, my father passed away.
We were close and I had been expecting him to be one of the people most closely following my Peace Corps experience and broadcasting it to everyone he knew (and he knew EVERYONE).
"Keith ate pig brain!"
"Keith sent me pictures from a Chinese car show!"
I could imagine him saying while he would fumble the name of my site,
"Yeah he is living in Gingerman, Gayjoe."
I wasn’t sure how his passing would influence my experience. I just knew that he would not want it to have a negative impact. Despite this, I was really worried that my days in Peace Corps would involve frequent and random sessions of weeping.
As a 41-year old, married man who chose not to have children, I would never have guessed that my students would play a part in helping me deal with the loss of my father, both encouraging and inspiring me, while helping me understand myself better.
This semester I spent considerable time in-class/off-campus/online with my students. I fully embraced the “Say ‘Yes’ to every invitation you receive” philosophy. As a result, I was surprised at how much time I spent laughing and enjoying myself in their company. We share many similarities:
- We are far from home
- We are meeting new people and forging new friendships
- We are doing an incredible amount of learning
- We miss people we love
In my office, there is a homemade board game created by previous volunteers, called “The Conversation Game,” which acts as a good icebreaker when students come to the office for the first time. It is like Candyland, but with conversation starting questions like, “What country do you want to travel to?” and ”Who do you most admire?” One of the questions on the board is:
“How often do you say, ‘I love you’ to your parents?”
When students land on this question the response is always the same.
But then they are quick to follow up that answer by saying that they show their love through their actions (being helpful, studying hard, making their parents proud).
When my first semester came to an end, I started reflecting on the four months I had been at the University. The students had obviously been doing the same thing as I started receiving heartfelt emails and messages. The most surprising thing is the amount of times I received a note with the words,
“I love you.”
I know that even typing this must have been emotionally risky to them. Knowing this, gives it additional weight to me. At first, I would respond with a heartfelt, “That is SO sweet!!” What I started to realize, though, is that we have unconsciously filled roles that we needed each other to play. On occasion, my students will tell me that I am like a father to them. It is a role that I chose not play in American life, but it is a role that my father played well. To say that I enjoy being their teacher and school “father” is an understatement. When I admit to them that I have been calling them my “daughters” for months, they are pretty tickled.
After a week of getting “I love you” messages, I changed my response to,
"I love you too."
"Honest" is the first song I have written in China. It was written and recorded two days before IST. Whether you choose to make connections with fellow teachers, students or others in your community, I think there is a wealth of people here who care about you.
“Love in Chengdu”: Photo by Katie Fassbinder
Poem by Mira Brown
The sun beats down in a glorious outpouring
Sandals smack on the cobbled sidewalk
A cotton dress sways at my knees
Every step brings me closer.
Dodging motorcycles and scooters,
We cross the intersection
Maybe a roundabout is not
The best place to cross
But I don’t care
I’m so close I can smell it
Waves of turquoise and jade crash,
Froth bubbles on the sandy strip
As we walk along,
Searching for a spot to sit.
We stop at two beach chairs and
An umbrella made of palm fronds.
A woman approaches to collect money for the chairs
A negotiation begins.
“Hold that thought!”
I throw down my bag and kick off my shoes
Down the slope I run, sand flying
Running like a dog set loose from a leash.
My feet enter the cool, sea water
I dive under an approaching wave
Invigoration and nostalgia flow over me
Through my hair, over my skin, in my pores
Hands stretch to the sky as I break the watery embrace.
My heart’s smile spreading on my lips,
A laugh bursting at the sky.
A culmination of months’ anticipation.
Reunited at last with an old friend,
”Ocean Lover”: Photo by Jason McFarland
Poem by Sydni Phelps
I have taken
Now I am
under the covers
clawing for you
You were good to me
you were good
to me you were
good to me
“Somebody’s Favorite”: Photo by Sydni Phelps
Poem by Tye Rabens
Today was the first snow.
The night before the first snow is always
ominous, cold and dark
clouds, the sky a human
uncertainty about what
will come next. Then everything made beautiful
and delicate by little particles
Snow flecking your dark waves
of hair and forest
—green coat, woolen & sound.
On the bus I tell you about Sundays
in my childhood, Dad and I
pleading: “We don’t want
to go to church!” You snort
laugh at me, and I feel
something like honesty. The temple
door opens finally and easily
and Dashi isn’t here but one
disciple is sweeping snow.
He leads us past two geese
(They’re smart, he whispers, they can open
the door and also guard it)
to the worship hall. We take
the shoes off our frozen feet
and I turn away to let you pray
in Tibetan phrases you’ve memorized
and sometimes understand, I turn away
to look at the timeless, Technicolor murals
on the walls. I make up stories
for the minor monks.
We light candles
with a stick of wax that looks
like a cigarette. I listen
as you explain the meaning
of each statue:
“Guanyin cries when bad things happen
and her tears turn into flowers and
her disciples transform into 21
different animals, all to help us
cope with hardship. She has 1,000 hands
because 2 are not enough to help everyone.”
I don’t know what to say, except
damn, I’m into you, girl (inappropriate, but
true). Instead I ask
questions. You like to teach
me things you care about.
“I think Bodhisattvas appear when
we’re not expecting it, as beggars
or prostitutes, teaching us
our realizing.” We help Disciple make lunch.
As we eat I finally get him
to laugh at stories about chopsticks.
We can make each other better, but
you have more to risk.
the hill behind the temple, your left arm
looped around my right,
and at the top there is a stupa
ringed once by wooden poles
where prayer flags dance helplessly
in the chilly, snow-less air.
Your melancholy silhouettes without
expectation on the ancient wrinkles
of the mountain range behind us.
Your eyes are chestnut, oval, & crest
—fallen as you try to find
the prayer you wrote last year. “I didn’t expect him
to be here, but I’d hoped
Master could help me know
what to do next.” “Do you want me
to leave?” You want to
dance in the wrinkles of the mountains
among the swirling prayers, released
by a fierce wind, something new
and free. You hesitate.
“No. Don’t leave. Dashi isn’t here.”
We could make each other better, but
you have more to risk.
for cappuccinos back in town, jackets off,
contemplative and thawing.
“Either I was secreted away
to another town to keep from being
aborted, or I was
adopted,” You say as our small cups
arrive, and before I kiss you like yesterday
on the second floor in that squeaky booth
under soft, saffron lights
that made your face glow
and me change my mind.
You want me to write the lyrics
to You Are My Sunshine
and I do so in red pen. Your fiancée
won’t know until next week. We won’t
know until after that. We could
Guanyin has 1,000 hands because 2
Today was the first snow.
#Peacecorps #China #Leshan
Tacos happened tonight. Carnitas, corn&black bean salsa, homemade tortillas.
Leshan Grand Buddha. Aka, my neighbor. #Peacecorps #China
Belated Christmas card from an anonymous Redditor. His/her sibling is a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. The world contains lovely people. #peacecorps #pcweek2014
Pals from U.S. and Italy
The view from our hostel in Xishuangbanna, Yunnan.
Oh wait, what’s on the bridge?Zoomed in from the balcony
Featuring: Kayla B., Francesca G., and Yienfanh P.
It wasn’t one of those ‘love at first sight moments.’ I knew _______ was there, since we arrived in China. But I always knew it couldn’t happen. I had a focus, I was driven, my goal wasn’t to be exposed to more foreign things, but to integrate with the Chinese culture. For the last 6 months, anytime someone would say, “oh, what about ________?” I’d reject the idea so adamantly that it wasn’t to be mentioned again. I thought I was okay without it, but at the end of the day, it’s long a long lost magnetic bond, just waiting to be reunited.
It was beginning of February, when we were on our 15 hour bus ride from Dali to Xishuangbanna. It had been bumpy, we had been grumpy, and worst of all, we were only about 4 hours in. Out of no where, Kayla brought up the conversation of ______. I was livid! HOW DARE YOU, I thought in my head. I thought she respected me more than that. Time after time, I’ve told her, I’ve no plans for ________ during my time in China, so don’t even think about it. But she brought up _______ because she said, “everyone deserves happiness in their lives.” So I gave in, who could say no?
Have you ever had a moment in life where you felt freed? Felt like you were floating in the clouds? Felt like you were larger than life? It was that moment, when I finally stopped resisting. People said it was inevitable, that sooner or later, I’d realize being without _______ in China would only make my time worse.
At that moment, when I gave into it, it was like the sun shone between the smoggy clouds. Ever since then, I couldn’t get enough of _______. Day after day, I’d crave more. I’ve always been one to hate neglect, so I had to make sure that feeling never surfaced. I know what you’re thinking, “this chick sounds like a psycho.” But when it’s love, you never want it to stop.
This love affair began maybe 2 weeks ago, and since then, it’s been a little nutty and a little sweet. Hell, it’s even made me want to throw up a few times. It’s as if I got myself tangled in a pot of melted caramel, and I can’t get free. It’s been on my mind since I’ve finally let love in, and life hasn’t been the same since.
You are my sunshine,
My only sunshine,
You make me happy,
When the China’s skies are grey (always).
You never know, dear, how much I love you
So please, don’t take my snickers away.
Happy Valentine’s Day, snicker’s bar.
You were the best decision I’ve made so far in China (shows a lot).
Here’s to 1.5 more years of good, chocolaty love.
You can have all of my love