During my Peace Corps interview I may have inadvertently exaggerated the extent of my athleticism. By a little more than a lot. It was an accident, I didn’t know what I was saying. Ignorance is bliss… that turns into diarrhea inducing terror. This led to months of anxiety that I would be biking long distances, undoubtedly getting lost, and then probably dying by a pack of stray dogs or being kidnapped and sold on the depths of the internet.
Luckily, worrying about biking took my mind off of worrying about all of the other things there were to worry about. Which in the end was extremely helpful because 80% of them never came true and when I did have to squat poop into the ground and spray my butt clean with a “bum-gun” it wasn’t really all that bad. It was actually productive and refreshing. I can’t say the same for showering, brushing my teeth, and shaving with a bucket but even that feels like an adventure.
The day before “Bike Day,” the day we would receive our bikes and have our skill level assessed, we learned about the rabid stray dogs of Thailand and what to do if they attacked. We should remain calm or freak out or run away or stand our ground or look them in the eye or not look them in the eye or scream or stay quiet. Oh, but never show any fear or let them bite on the face. Basically pray and hope you have a random piece of meat to throw. Last year 19 (ish?) volunteers were bit by dogs so the threat is real. It was a very reassuring session that didn’t make me cry.
The scent of fear exuded from my body as I showed up to “Bike Day.” Every dog in a three-mile radius perked up as I walked closer to my bike, my anxiety whetting their appetite. I put on my helmet and jumped on, not knowing what would happen. Within one second, I remembered how easy and fun riding a bike was. The scenery along the way distracted me from the threat of dogs and made me feel like I could bike for hundreds of miles. Coincidentally, this is the exact overexcited thinking that put me in this predicament to begin with. Zero lessons learned!
After riding my bike for a few miles (maybe?) I realized that I had fallen behind into another group. My leisurely pace and absent mind had led me astray. I could still see my group so I figured that would count for something with my evaluator. Then, all of a sudden everyone had stopped. They said there were thorns on the road and to be careful. Before I could hear them say not to remove them, I excitedly declared that I found a thorn and pulled it out as all of the air quickly whooshed from my tire.
Long story short, I failed “Bike Day.” On the bright side I’m now living in a village right on the river with all of the age 50+ volunteers that is super close to the schools we are working and studying at. In the end, my inadequacy worked out really well. I love my host family and the house that I will be living in for the first 10 weeks and I only pass a few stray dogs on my very short trip to school. I even have a pocket full of meat that I sneak out after not being able to finish it at breakfast and a very long stick. More on this soon. ❤