Friday, December 20, 2013

3 Months

June 2012: 3 months down

It's a Sunday afternoon, and I am lying on my living room floor with a table fan on its highest setting and pointed directly at me. My refrigerator hums in the background and transports me from my rental house's 98-degree reality into a winter wonderland, while my table fan's slight breeze brings back memories of summer days swimming at Manhattan Beach and eating ice cream. For a moment I am not in my village, but back in California with air-conditioning and some sense of home...

A sudden silence from my refrigerator wakes me up from my cooling daydreams and I see my table fan's spinning dwindle to a halt. I groan and utter aloud, "Ugh, not again." It's the second power outage this week, which means double the sweat rate if I remain in my house much longer. I walk across the backyard into my landlord Meh Kam's house, and ask her if her house also has a fai dap (power outage). Several drunk and loquacious meh-bahns (village mothers), who are sitting on my landlord's benches with food and rice whiskey, laugh at my accented Thai and comment on how uan (fat) I am before insisting that I join them for lunch.

As I sweat through a meal of kaao niao (sticky rice) and naam prik (chili paste), I see my landlord's 8-year-old nephew Get peeking from the front door.  It's been about a month since I moved into the house next door, and most of my interactions begin with me greeting Get in English, with Get responding in a doe-like stare, a shy giggle, or a mix of the two before he runs off. Not differing from awkward-moments past, I smile at Get and chirp, "Hello, Get! How are you?" Get gives me a blank stare, shyly giggles and retreats into the house for some Sunday cartoons. "Get glua farang (Get is scared of the foreigner)," a meh-bahn teases as she squeezes my arm fat and force-feeds me more kaao niao, with Meh Kam sympathetically smiling behind her whiskey glass.

After I wai my landlord and her friends for their generosity, I slowly walk around the block back to my rental house, despite the pound of kaao niao weighing me down. The three minutes it takes to get to my front porch is filled with neighbors pointing me from their yards and yelling, "Ron mai? (Is it hot?)" and laughing as if I am the village jester, sweating on-demand for their entertainment. By the time I open my sliding-glass door and step into my living room, I note the lack of movement from my table fan and the small pile of gecko poop on the tile floor. I sigh and grab a broom. When will this feel like home?

December 2013: 3 months to go

At 4:30 on a Sunday afternoon, I sit cross-legged on my living room's bamboo mat, with my body bundled up in long-sleeved everything, gloves, and socks. With Christmas songs blaring from my laptop, I wait for my water on the gas stove to boil for my bucket shower and third cup of tea. Accuweather.com reports an evening low of 39 degrees and high winds in Chiang Rai. I think back to the hot April days when I dreamed of cold weather and laugh at myself in between shivers.

"Pii Saa-raa!" I smile at the sight of Get with his friends Oon and Angun, waiting for me on my front porch. When I open the sliding-glass door,  Oon and Angun nudge Get, who asks on behalf of the group if we can play another round of Christmas Bingo. While I hand out bingo cards and beads as playing chips, Get asks me questions at a mile per minute: "What did you do today? Are you cold? Are you going to be here for Wan Christmas? Can we give presents again?" He proceeds to act as a tour guide and explains to his friends who drew all the pictures decorating my living room wall. Is this really the same boy who would bolt at the sight of me 18 months ago?

Seven "BAH-IN-GO" declarations and sticker hand-outs later, and the four of us are shivering in my house as the sun sets behind nearby wooden houses. I walk over to a light switch, but the ceiling lights stay off as I continuously flip switches. "Oh nooooo," Get and Oon sing in high-pitched voices, the two of them perfecting imitations of my English sayings over the months and putting themselves in hysterics. I mockingly glare at them, and we continue playing Christmas Bingo in the dark for five more rounds before Oon and Angun return home for dinner.

I throw on a scarf and shoes before I walk with Get across the backyard and through his family's house towards the front porch. We sit in the front yard with Meh Kam and two of the meh bahns, all three of them bundled up in hooded jackets and rubbing their arms for warmth. I teasingly ask, "Naao mai?" (Are you cold?) Meh Kam laughs loudly while her friends shiver unamused by the joke. I pat one of the meh bahns on the shoulder, offer Meh Kam's friends my gloves and scarf to borrow, then wai everyone before I pull my hood over my head and take a walk down the street.

As I turn onto the small street leading towards my house, I greet one of my neighbors who is starting a fire for his wife and cousins to sit around. I can smell vegetable broth and smoke floating from a nearby kitchen window, and I feel a breeze flowing from the mountains across the highway. With the sun finally down, the stars appear in the night sky, and these little comforts of sights and smells leaves me smiling in the middle of the street on a cold Sunday evening.

By the time I reach my gate, I can see the living room lights glowing from my front windows. I see Get waiting for me on my porch and hear him shout, "Meh, Saa-raa glaap baan leeo! (Mom, Sara came back home!") Yes, home at last.

"I will learn, I will learn to love the skies I'm under." Mumford & Sons

2 comments:

  1. I absolutely love this post!!! It's always so fun/inspiring to read your blog :)

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    1. Aww thank you Laura! I'm sure you'll have some inspiring breakthrough moments to share on your blog as well, and I look forward to reading them :)

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