How can I explain my new life to you?
The smell of roasted rat greeted my nostrils when I woke up this morning. Last night Lipo returned home armed with a plastic bag full of lean, charred rats. I have no idea where from. They laughed and said it was food for today, but not for me.
I walk out of my room and find one of the neighbours, whose name I still can’t remember despite seeing him almost daily, drinking a large bottle of Chang beer and seemingly eating the charred pieces of rat carefully laid out on the side. It is 7am.
I shower. Well by shower I mean I tip murky grey cold water over my body using a plastic saucepan. I’ve got my daily wash down to four saucepan fulls. The water is stored in a couple of large troughs in the wet room bathroom. Outside there are two more cylindrical, concrete tanks which along with our water are home to a couple of fresh water crabs the size of small footballs.
I go outside to have my breakfast. An instant 3in1 coffee and a kind of sweet coconut milk pancake. Lipo is building a fire and cuddled up next to him are two shivering puppies. It is reasonably cold still on a morning. I assumed they were new additions to the family. The two kids are running around in the dirt yard half naked with the two dogs. The neighbour is still around and is onto his second beer. I wonder if it is him who brought the dogs?
It is Friday so today I am going to Hoi Ku Pah Primary School. I get picked up by one of my fellow teachers, Mickey, in her smart silver car. She speaks good English and helps me to learn Thai as we drive the narrow winding way to work.
When we arrive, teachers are treated like royalty. My door is opened by the children and my bag is carried into the staff area of the main hall for me. We, the teachers, sit together and drink loose leaf and utterly delicious green tea from China. The kids do their regular morning exercise outside, all dressed in their traditional attire. Handwoven garments delicately made with bamboo.
At 9am I start teaching. Today we do body parts. It goes by in a blur of mostly fun and laughter, sometimes frustration when I cannot express myself in Thai and the students cannot understand.
We pause for lunch and I play ‘Keepy-uppy’ with some of the kids on the school field. Afterwards I teach another class and 3pm I knock off for the day.
I get back into Mickey’s car and enjoy a brief moment of relaxation before re-engaging my brain to try to speak some Thai. We go with another teacher, Om, to Mae La Noi, a small town a few kilometres away. Mickey needs to collect a birthday cake from there and she is treating us all to coffee and cake. The coffee is good and the cake so rich. I haven’t tasted anything so chocolatey for a while.
I get back home about 5pm and after a visit to the park to have a kick around I spend the remainder of the evening trying to speak Thai and Karen and communicate with the various locals who come to Nuan’s low key pub on an evening to buy whisky and drink on the bench outside the house. Tonight I just drink water. It is a lot of fun but by 8.30pm I am exhausted. I am grateful that over here everybody likes to go to bed early and by 9 the house is quiet.
It is only as I go to bed that I realise the dogs have disappeared again, as have the rest of the rats, and I wonder who ate the rats and what happened to the dogs. Perhaps I will manage to ask tomorrow.