As a volunteer elementary school teacher, one thing I quickly learned from my students was that animals in Thailand have their own language, too! Cows maw, chickens ek ee ek ek, ducks gaap, pigs oot, frogs aep, cats mee-o and dogs hong. There were many days when both my students and I would fall silent to each others’ attempts to imitate animals. They would curiously look on as I moo-ed and ribbet-ed to no avail and I would become utterly confused as they started to jiak when I told them to act like a monkey. Since then our communication via animal sounds has improved greatly and now a moo seems out of place. Something I haven’t gotten quite used to, though, is hearing the actual mawing of cows coming from the fields at school. Cows (and herds of buffaloes!) are led to graze on the schools’ football fields and sometimes they even stray closer. Just last week as I was sitting at my desk I heard the tinkling of a cowbell and looked up to see a cow and her calf roaming past my window, not five feet from me!
In addition to animal sounds, here are some others I’ve come to love, or at least find amusing, as there really is no escape from them in Thailand:
- The resonating sound of the temple gong in the morning, calling monks to prayer or breakfast, and the rhythmic sound of the monks chanting prayers
- The inescapable sounds of chatter, shouting, and laughter between neighbors floating through my windows in the early mornings, often rousing me well before my alarm clock has its chance
- The entertaining yet sometimes painful daily rendition of the Thai national anthem by my harmonically-challenged elementary school students
- The scraping sound of Steph’s uneven door that drags across the floor every time she goes in or out of her room
- The deafening sound of motorcycles zooming past, sorely in need of a working muffler; anyone who’s Skyped with me this past year knows how amplified this sound is in my bedroom!
- The cacophony of insects each night coming from the fields surrounding our house
- The pounding downpours or light sprinkling of rain on our metal rooftop when I’m relaxing at home
- The Isaan language; still a largely mysterious language I have nonetheless grown to absolutely love, filling my days with its short, punctuated phrasing and clever vocabulary (the word for “fork” in Isaan translates to mueh ling or “monkey hand”)