Two in Thailand

After raising three children and watching them graduate from college, Bob and Carol decided to leave the educational field and pursue a dream that had been put on hold for 35 years (since graduationg from the University of Northern Iowa). "Two in Thailand" is the journal dedicated to that dream - to serve in the Peace Corps. This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed within do not necessarily represent the views of the Peace Corps or the United States Government.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Our New Home!

We moved to a house which we will call "home" for the next two years. The owner is standing in front of the house. She does not need the house because she is in another village taking care of her elderly father. We will have to pay her $90 a month which the Peace Corps reimburses us. We have two bedrooms so now we can have company --- hint! The water bill is about 15 cents a month and electricity runs about $2 per month! The downside is we have no neighbors (except a mechanic who works day and night on tractors and raises roosters for cock fighting which is held weekly behind his house). The other downside is we have a squat toilet and no shower, bath tub, or bathroom sink. There is a large basin of water (of questionable quality) that we reach into with a bucket and pour water over ourselves (Thai style). This should make baths quite fast and reduce the amount of shampoo we use!!! We have just recently discovered that the water is turned on at 7:00 am and turned off at 6:00 pm to avoid broken pipes occurring at night!!! This makes things difficult considering we have to leave at 7:00 am to go to our assigned schools. The water has a beautiful tan color and an aroma we shall call "Pond Delight". It gives a sheen to our hair and white socks! Don't worry, we drink purified water that can be purchased throughout the village. Although it looks modern, the workmanship is poor. You can see daylight through the walls around the windows and it's "lights out" on certain nights due to the swarms of insects. Scorpions, centipoedes and giant spiders seem to think that it is their house. There is no air-conditioning so a fan is an essential item by the mosquito net over our bed. By the way, check out that TV antenna. We get 6 TV stations --- all in Thai. We do appreciate DVD's!!!! In fact, over the next two years, everytime we were in Bangkok for medical checkups or meetings, Bob would take the skytrain to Panthip Plaza and buy a few dozen DVD's at the price of 100 baht ($3.00) each.

The Inside Story

These pictures were taken a few months ago when we first saw the house. The kitchen has everything we need, including a refrigerator. The rest of the house is fully furnished in respect to Thai standards.....television and bare floors. Thais do not seem to use furniture. They spend a lot of time outside and when inside, they sit on the floor and sleep on the floor We do have the "luxury" of a bed. In fact, there is a bed with mattress (no box springs) in each of the two bedrooms, although we might buy new mattresses. Our supervisor (Khun Sura) and Bob's co-teacher (Kruu Tawee) are inspecting the house, as you can see in one of the pictures. They recommended this house three months ago because it wasn't "cluttered" with furniture like the other foreign owned homes we were shown. We did move into the house of their choice. In retrospect, we were very comfortable in this house and eventually installed a water tank so that we could have water 24 hours a day. We also installed a shower with a heating system attached to the wall. Our greatest pleasure was taking a shower and standing in front of a fan because of the unbearable heat and humidity.

Squat and Wash!

This is a view of our bathroom complete with a washing machine! Yes, you stand and squat down on that blue porcelain toilet. You then pour water from a large basin to "flush" away contents. The water pressure is so low to the washing machine that we usually pour water from our large basin into the it to speed the process up! The water from the washing machine empties on the tile floor, so we wash our clothes and the floor at the same time! It's then time to hang the clothes outside and hope that the monsoons hold off while the clothes are outside.

Thais are Friendly

On our first day in our village, Bob got his camera out and was greeted with a smile and a wave. This is the main intersection in our village during rush hour. However, we soon found out that all the trucks (with no mufflers) ran by our house all through the late night and early morning hours on their way to Isaan (northeast Thailand). It took awhile to sleep through the noise that shook the entire house.

Our Shopping Mall!!!

Every day, we go to the "shopping mall" where we can find fresh produce and an abundance of big smiles! Some of the covered shops have refrigerated soda and of course, beer and rice whiskey which seems to occupy a larger portion of the diet of men in Thailand. We are still looking for Diet Coke, which is very rare in Thailand. Every time we ask for "Diet Coke", they give us regular Coke. We soon discovered that it is called "Coke Light" and a store manager we befriended started ordering it from the nearby "big city". These markets are a daily ritual for the people of our village since processed food is not available. It gives new meaning to "foraging for food"!


These two houses represent the typical style of living for our area. Most have windows, but no glass or screens. There is little or no furniture. The house is usually used for sleeping because they spend much of their time outside due to the extreme heat. They sleep on the floor and eat on the floor. As simple as their lives seem to be, one resident told us that Thailand is getting too modern and they longed for the "good old days". Sound familiar? The amazing thing is that even the poorest homes have a TV usually visible through the front door.


Village House

This is a house in our village. There is another house to the right. These are located on the street next to us. Approximately 40% of the houses in our village are similar to this one. Next time you complain about the size of your house or the lack of amenities it has, take a look at this house and count your blessings. The ironic thing is that these people are happy! Being happy is a state of mind and not inherent on how many possessions you have. We have to keep reminding ourselves of that, too. It is a lesson we hope we can take back to the U.S. with us.

"Our Town"

These pictures can give you a glimpse of our village. The lifestyle is very simple and slow. The two-story building sells spices and is located in the heart of "downtown". We have discovered that one of our neighbors (about 200 meters away from us) makes reed mats. She can be seen in the shade under her house operating a simple weaving machine. She invited us into her house to view her mats. There were no chairs or tables in the house and she sleeps on one of her mats placed on the wooden floor. But she did have a cabinet where she places her mats. We became instant customers. Please click on the photo to enlarge it! The other picture shows a typical dwelling with the "dtek-dtek" used for transportation, hauling, and tilling rice fields. The large urns collect rain water for bathing and cleaning.

Our village has a "Home Depot". We have bought a hammer, paint brushes, and caulking to put in the cracks of our walls to try to keep out creatures. You can imagine the sign language that goes on between the sales person and us. The store even sells tombstones (the spiral shaped structures on the right). Luckily we haven't had use for one --- yet. Our road bustles all day with truck traffic, transporting goods to Isaan ( the large northeast region of Thailand). There is no right-of-way for pedestrians or bicyclists in Thailand, which is the norm for most of Asia. We really have to be careful, otherwise, one of us might be looking at the possibility of purchasing one of those tombstones.

Since this is one of the best restaurants in our village, we refer to this as "Coco's". It has great "air conditioning" and the restroom facilities are inspected weekly by the Thai Dept. of Health (tic). Carol has learned to always have toilet paper in her purse since the restrooms (haang naam) only have a basin of water for your left hand. There is one restaurant that is better, you can actually get a salad and chicken fried steak. We refer to it as the "Olive Garden". Another one serves kao mang gai (chicken on rice) which Carol really likes because it is not spicy and we refer to that restaurant as "Denny's". We are still looking for Starbucks and Pizza Hut. Will let you know if we find them.

The pictures should give you an idea about our village. One picture is the gas station. Most people drive motorcycles so it doesn't take much to fill the tank! You have a choice of three grades and it's based on the honor sytem. Fill up first, then pay. The other picture is the post office! It is about a mile from our house. Although, we don't have a mailbox, the postman delivers our mail right to our doorstep. He just sees English writing and knows it goes to us! When we do take the time to bicycle to the Post Office to mail a letter, we usually have to wake him up because he is sound asleep on the tile floor!

Knock, Knock!

One of our neighbors came to visit us. However, we did not invite him in. The gaps under the screen doors have a flimsy roll of screen which can easily be pushed aside, so Bob and a broom escorted him away. These lizards make a sound that can wake a deaf person! It is a Tokay gecko (Gekko gecko for you scientists) which is the second largest member of the geckos. The males can reach a length of 15 inches!

More Visitors

Unexpected guests abound when living in the tropics. We have a fairly modern house (by Thai standards) but poor workmanship allows some pretty large creatures to enter the house. Bob recently removed a green viper from the kitchen which had managed to slide under the screen door. Sorry, no picture! He was more concerned about removing it than having to find his camera. Thai people do not have screens on their doors or windows (which are always open) and have large open spaces in their walls for air movement, so you can imagine the creatures that enter their homes!!! The snake is a baby python found in our front yard (although I was later informed that it was not a python, but a poisonous snake) and the spider has a diameter of six inches. They are extremely fast and impossible to catch! This one posed for a picture at the point where our wall meets the ceiling. However, it is a lot scarier when you go into the bathroom, squat and see one dash by your feet!