Note: When I moved to Thailand to teach English last year, I found myself in a tiny town in Eastern Thailand called Wangchan. One of the first questions my friends and family would ask was what life was like living in rural Thailand. Since I could go on forever about it, I’m breaking it up into a few different posts. Today’s is a quick introduction to the little house I called home for a semester.
It doesn’t look like much, I know.
This was my little home in rural Thailand. I lived with the two other foreign English teachers at my school in this house for my semester teaching. It had three bedrooms, a bathroom, a kitchen, and not much else.
Adjusting to living in the house was super difficult at first. We had no hot water. The shower head was just attached to the wall in our bathroom (in typical Thai style). We hung all of our clothes to dry. The bed was rock hard. The house somehow stayed dirty no matter how hard we tried to clean it. If you left food out for more than three seconds or didn’t wash a dish right away, an army of ants would be crawling around it. There were so many ants. And roaches. And lizards.
Before I left I knew a lot of these things would be true. In theory, I was cool with it. In practice, it took way more getting used to.
But actually living in conditions so different from my own every day forced me to really check my American expectations. I felt like I was ‘roughing it,’ but the longer I was there, the more I realized how incredibly different our living conditions were from the other Thai teachers that lived at my school.
We had running water in our shower, whereas a majority of Thai people take bucket showers. We had a flushing Western-style toilet, which is pretty much unheard of in a Thai home. All of our bedrooms had air conditioning. We had a single burner, a microwave, and a fridge in our kitchen, which was way more than even other American teachers I knew had. We had a washing machine in our home, another luxury.
By rural Thailand standards, our house was pretty fabulous.
Realizing that also made me so much more appreciative of the people at my school who went so far out of their way to make this house feel as “American” as possible for us. When I first got there, I didn’t think of my flushing Western toilet or washing machine as an unusual or expensive luxury, but it definitely was. The more exposed I was to the real lives of the people in my town, the more grateful I was for all of these tiny luxuries. (And the more embarrassed I was to think that I was, for even a second, less than super super super thankful for all of it.)
I was also surprised by how quickly I got over myself and got used to it. After just a few weeks, I was used to obsessively sealing food to avoid the endless ant battle, doing squat jumps and running in place for the first five minutes of my freezing cold shower, and I even had a solid working relationship with the gecko that lived on my bedroom wall. And ultimately, these were all such tiny sacrifices to make for a life where I traveled every single weekend.
When it did come time to move out of my humble little abode, I was actually really sad about it. I think about this funny looking little house a lot, and as challenging as living in middle-of-nowhere-Asia could be, having a comfortable place to call home made a ton of difference. I miss it all the time.