Thailand is gradually shifting from “hot season” to “rainy season” and one of the biggest indicators of this is the sudden increase in bugs. In the past few weeks we’ve witnessed a population spike in the beetles, moths, and most unfortunately, red ants, infiltrating our home. We’ve also had a surprise visit from a scorpion and a return visit from a domesticated mouse. Now I’ll be the first to admit that I am not really great with bugs. I usually get a little freaked out and squirmy around them, but if this year in Thailand has done anything, it’s squashed (excuse the pun) my fear of them. In fact, it has given me a deeper understanding of the term “coexistence.” However….
However, if there’s one invader I loathe to find within the walls of my abode, it’s red ants. They are everywhere. They get into our cereal, our peanut butter, our sticky rice, and even our water! They are constantly marching across all of our walls, so if I even brush up against one for a second or lean over the window sill to shout out to a neighbor, I’m quickly covered. I have to check my underwear every morning before I put it on because they’ve taken a liking to the cotton fabric, giving a whole new meaning to “crotchless panties.” Last month I had a horrifying experience when, unbeknown to me, the pesky ants had infested my bath towel and without my glasses on as I started to dry off…well you can fill in the rest.
I returned to Pla Pak to the relief that I’d finally be able to sleep comfortably in my own bed after bouncing from hostel to guesthouse to bungalow for a month. Every morning for the past week I was waking up to the sight of one or two little fire ants marching across my bed. I did my best to sweep the room of dead bugs (oh, because the bugs that do get into our house and night are promptly feasted on by these ants each morning-it’s quite cyclical) and ensure no food is in the room, but the problem persisted. Finally I decided to re-wash all my bedding in the hopes of ridding the ants; as I stripped my bed I saw, to my disgust, hundred of ants burrowed in my mattress pad, on my mattress, even in my mattress! That was the last straw. I was Caitlyn the Exterminator, ready to reclaim what was rightfully mine.
I did my best to spray the infested areas. I flipped my mattress. I changed my sheets. Now I suppose I will have to wait and see if my work is done, or if I too will fall into the cyclical struggle of a bug’s life.
I spent my Saturday meeting families of the high school students in my village. Although I am not teaching at the high school, I was invited by the principal to accompany Steph. I was more than happy to attend, since meeting people in the community and practicing my Thai are both good options on a free Saturday. About 45 minutes into the first meeting, however, I began to think otherwise. I’ve realized that I quickly get distracted and/or daydream in situations where speakers present in all Thai, for the obvious reasons. By this point I had taken out my camera to document the large gathering of families, the assortment of sandals discarded at the edge of the tile floor, and the beautiful skirts the elder women were wearing. As I was fooling around with camera angles to take “artistic” pictures of my feet, I realized a hush had fallen over the crowd and as I looked up, I saw the principal staring right at me and Steph! Apparently he had just called us up to the front to introduce ourselves and here I am perched over my feet with a camera. Whoops. I quickly recovered by correctly introducing myself in the only full sentences I know how to say, the ones I have been repeating since arriving about a month ago. I did mess up on my nickname but I now know how to say it with the correct tones and vowel sounds. I also found out today what I was actually saying: instead of “Rice Leaf” I was calling myself “White Leaf.” Not an entirely inaccurate description of myself, I admit, but generally a nonsensical one for the people of Thailand.
Despite the rocky start, the day was actually very insightful and I am happy for the experience. All of the meetings (there were four total) were held at various local Buddhist temples, or wats, in the village. I saw one of my students at a meeting and it was nice to meet her mom. I saw her mother by herself before the meeting and thought she looked just like this student, so I was pleased to find out later she actually was her daughter. It was also fun chatting with the high school students at the meetings because several have very good English. They were curious about my parents’ names, how old my siblings were, and what I studied at the university. The highlight of the day was random, though. Towards the end of the last meeting Steph and I were sitting with two high school teachers who saw one of our tampons and asked what it was. Women in Thailand, or at least in the northeast, don’t seem to use them. We actually have not found tampons sold anywhere, which is really peculiar to us. Anyways, they were curious, so Steph gave them one to look at. So here we are in the middle of a temple having a hands-on feminine hygiene discussion! In the end they seemed pretty resistant to the idea of it all….
Well tomorrow is Sunday, which means sleeping in (at least until 7:00am, if the rooster permits it), laundry, and lots of lesson planning. Oh yes, and checking the Badgers vs. Wolverines score when I wake up. On Wisconsin!
It has come to my attention that Thais in my village are closely aligned with the rising of the sun. Most Thais seem to start their day much earlier than I am accustomed to. In the past week I don’t think I used my alarm clock once to wake up. I’m awakened by the sounds of barking dogs, our 11-month-old neighbor (who is possibly the cutest child I have ever seen) and Pi-Yok (our roommate) who is washing dishes and preparing breakfast. In addition, there is the occasional shrieking rooster and noisy motorbike that is badly in need of a new exhaust. Even if I am able to sleep through these sounds, as I did on Saturday, it is not in Thai culture to do so. I was awakened by Pi-Yok walking into my room to inquire about a shopping trip after I didn’t respond to her shouts up the stairs (this is also insight on personal space here). I guess I will just have to be an earlier riser for the year.
Check out the new photos I posted onto my Flickr account to the right. I’ve included shots of my new home and of my first day of school.