A Thai cow "mawing" for the camera
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”)
Our adopted dog, Cha Dam, outside our home in Pla Pak
This is a picture of my adopted dog, Cha Dam (his name translates to Black Tea) hanging outside our front door. He technically belongs to our next door neighbors but spends just as much time here as he does there. We have what I consider to be a love-hate relationship. When we first moved to Pla Pak in November of last year, we stayed clear of Cha Dam because he was still a puppy and had a bad habit of jumping on us and nipping. Eventually I started getting used to him and I even began giving him treats once in a while (he loved the watermelon sugar cookies my mom sent in June!). Now he comes around every day after school for a little snack, a good behind-the-ear scratch, and to lounge beneath my chair while I eat dinner or read at our kitchen table.
I was starting to really enjoy our special bond until he began this bad habit of pawing me to let me know he’s hungry. I initially ignored it, which was my first mistake. It really wasn’t a big deal though, until it started to rain more frequently and he began leaving brown paw prints on my clothes. The last straw was a few weeks ago when I was walking to Steph’s high school to work an English camp. It had rained pretty much all weekend and, upon seeing me, Cha Dam eagerly ran up and planted his mud-caked front paws square on the front of my freshly-pressed sky blue shirt. I gave him a good verbal scolding, so good in fact, he stayed away from our house for about a week! Since then we’ve mended things between us and I even gave him some extra fried chicken scraps yesterday to show how much he still means to me. It’s hard to think in a few weeks I won’t have Cha Dam barreling down the road to meet me after school or waltzing into our kitchen looking for left-overs.
In addition to Cha Dam, I’ve also adopted a stray cat, cleverly named Khao Meow (khao neow means sticky rice) by a fellow WorldTeach volunteer, who comes around when the dogs are away, looking for a meal and affection. And when the weather is cool (dropping to the mid-70’s, in case you’re curious), mice have been known to make themselves at home in our second floor bedrooms, where it is a bit warmer. As for some rather non-traditional animal friends, we’ve also hosted quite a number of frogs in our bathroom, a scorpion or two in the kitchen, and the most recent addition to our ever-growing list of pets: a snake! Steph saw it the other night slithering around downstairs and since then we’ve been a bit on edge. At least it’s considered good luck in Thailand to see one, though I think I’m okay with the amount of luck I already have for the remainder of my time in this house.