A short little list of things that stuck out to me as I spent my time at reconnect training the last two weeks. Some of them I was really surprised with and how much the me-living-in-Thailand has sunk into my psyche (and my daily schedule/rituals/activities/expectations… you get the picture).
You crazy westerners, you live inside?! For the past six months, I’ve shared space with ants, geckos, mosquitoes, and whatever else decided to exist in the world because, you know, I live outside with them. The whole wall and doors that keep things out is a new concept to Thailand and not one that is catching on here. Though in Suphan Buri, I got to revisit a place I once knew as the indoors. (The odd thing about living there for two weeks though, it’s the most I’ve worn shoes in the past six months. Inside my room at the hotel, at our meetings, everywhere…shoes.) It’s a dry, climate controlled area, one that I don’t need to share with the wildlife of Thailand, can sleep under blankets (because, you know, it’s below 85 degrees and therefore cold) without fear of what’s sleeping in my room with me, and with all sorts of amenities like a flushing toilet. These are all things I’m more than ok with. My body however, was not. It literally rejected living indoors again. I developed a vicious sore throat, sinus pounding, phlegm hacking cold that is recovering nicely as I am now back in my natural habitat of outdoor living. Don’t worry though, my skin is throwing a hissy fit now as pimples and heat rash break out across my body. And yes, my Thai friends have already pointed it out to me and asked if I wanted to see the doctor. Welcome back to the moo-ban.
It’s amazing the different things you can wear when not restrained to hot, rainy, or hot and rainy. We lived inside an air-conditioned paradise (sometimes with temperatures dropping into the low 70s, we were freezing!) in the Vasidee Hotel and with that came things like sweaters, pants, tank tops under said sweaters, scarves (anyone that knows me outside of Thailand knows how much of my fashion choices revolve around my scarves, my dear, dear scarves) and wearing my hair down. The end parts of my extremities were a bit confused. ‘What’s this?’ they asked me, ‘You’re covering us up? Did we leave Thailand or something? No, no this is wrong.’ It certainly felt like it. With my hair swishing free from its normal sticky bun and my toes confined to shoes that are not some form of sandal, I lived out my season fantasies. The conclusion I reached however was that I am in no way ready to go back to a cold weather climate. Or even a climate that has real differences between seasons. Wait, do those things still exist?
I haven’t had hot water, in any way, shape, or form for the past 3 months. Let that wash over you for a moment (pun not intended, this time). Say you want to get a good scrub from the mud you accumulated from your bike ride, haha too bad. Cold water to clean the floors, the dishes, and your body. (Note, soap doesn’t get too foamy in cold water. Not sure if it’s just Thai soap or what, but it does not meet my suds standards.) There’s something about cold showers that don’t really make you feel clean. I use the same soap as a hot water shower, but it doesn’t feel any different from not using it. My first hot shower at reconnect was long, hard, and hot (like my skin was red and burnt to a crisp, it was wonderful).
Never, never again will I take the invention of the western toilet for granted. You sit, do your business, throw the toilet paper down, and with the push of a button, flush it all away. What a grand process! So simple, yet so effective! There’s no need to squat, throw multiple buckets of water in hopes that the water will come up clear this time, or fear of a scorpion crawling across your foot as you wait out your body’s adjustment to the squat.
Count how many times you use a sink in one day. Now look at the things you have on the counter around the sink. What about underneath the sink? Where do you brush your teeth when you don’t have a sink? Where do you wash your hands? Or shave your face? The sink is such a vital part of the bathroom experience that is far overlooked. I didn’t realize how far I had gone down the non-sink road until one of the first days at the hotel, I went to the bathroom, flushed (choir of angels ahhhhh), and walked out as I normally do to get a splash of disinfectant. Wait a tick. I’ve got soap, hot water, and a sink at my disposal! I take my hat off to you, sinks everywhere. Never shall I under-appreciate you again!
Something about dressing like I normally do, speaking my native language, living inside, eating farang food (pizza three times and ah-may-zinggg Italian food), and spitting into the sink after brushing my teeth (please notice the reoccurring shout-outs to the sink, I got you dog), I felt like I was back on my native planet. It’s a certain mindset that comes when hanging out with other volunteers, reading a good book, or watching a movie or TV from home. I think I might have mentioned this state of mind before, but it’s worth bringing up again. Nothing is as relaxing to the addled ‘at site for too long’ brain like getting to disappear onto a little paradise island that, word of the street says, is called ‘normalcy’. And then it was lunch time and as you open the doors to the hotel you are literally eating the thick, humid air of in your face Thailand. I sought out refuge in the hotel, from the heat, the stares, the realities of my life here, as reminders of where I came from, but after two weeks, I was quite ready, to come back home.