Getting used to the heat, traffic and lack of toilet paper

I’ve been in Thailand for 20 months and there’s still a lot I’m not used to and would likely never be used to even if I stayed the rest of my life. On the flip side, there’s also plenty I have gotten used to that I couldn’t imagine living in the states.

Things I’ve grown accustomed to

The Heat
Sweating has become as common as shivering in Minnesota. I’ve always been rough on clothing with a head-first slide on my mind even in my Sunday best, but Thailand has taken this to a new level. Light colored shirts darken quickly with every drop of sweat absorbed. My best friend in my house is my oscillating fan. Without it I don’t know how I’d make it. During the hot season, you wouldn’t find me more than 10 feet from it enjoying the breeze with a pair of shorts and no shirt on. If I’m home I am not wearing a shirt.

An essential when it’s really hot.

The Food
I had a slow start with Thai food. I didn’t like my host mother’s cooking during training and assumed all Thai food was like hers. I also had a very bad experience with spicy food during training that taught me how to used a squat toilet the same way fathers teach their children how to swim by throwing them in the lake. Thankfully, when I got to Surin I was blessed with a wonderful host mother who cooks wonderfully. I’ve also brought my spicy food tolerance to a level that would impress a Minnesotan, but still makes the Thais giggle.

This is how I look after a very spicy meal.

I’ve fallen in love with a number of dishes I don’t know how to say in English. In short, I will miss Thai food when I’m gone.

Road courtesy
When my parents visited in January, I came to realize some things that I’d gotten very used to and took for granted. A perfect example was crossing a busy road in the city. Thailand has crosswalks, but they have them in the same way Wisconsin bars have signs reading “We Check I.D.” I don’t know why they waste the paint. When I cross a busy street in a city, I no longer look both ways. I look first in the direction the traffic is coming in the nearest lane and then once I’m standing in the middle of the road, I look the other way. If I wait for both sides to be clear, I may never leave the sidewalk.

My mother was not excited to have to stand between two lanes of rushing traffic. For the most part, Thais are more courteous drivers than Americans, they just don’t follow the rules we’re not willing to break in fear of being pulled over by the police or sued.

This is a regular sight: waiting for my friend to cross after I already have minutes before. Some call me brave and others foolish for my street-crossing ways.

The cars are also on the left side of the road. It’s gotten to the point when I watch American movies, for a moment I want to say, “Hey! They’re on the wrong side of the road.” Hopefully when I get back in the driver’s seat in the states, I remember which side to drive on.

The Bathroom
As stated earlier, eating too much spicy food gave me a crash course in how to use a squat toilet. But there’s a lot to the Thai bathroom. I no longer use toilet paper. This thought likely disgusts Americans as the thought of it did to me before I came here. It’s really not that bad and think of all the paper you save without it. The trick is, when you’re done, to wash the shit out of your hands … pun intended.

There’s also the bucket shower. My daily shower consists of dumping cold water from a plastic bowl over my body. Much like the squat toilet, it’s not as bad as it sounds unless it’s not warm outside. This is rare. On a hot day, nothing feels better than dumping cold water over your body once you get past that first dowsing. During the hot season, it would not be uncommon if I took two or three showers a day to help stay cool. In the dry season (Thais like to call it the cold season, but I laugh at that) I sometimes go a few days without showering as I’m not very dirty and it’s too cold for a cold shower. A cold shower in dry season is usually my inspiration to start jogging again. I need the excuse of sweat and a hot body to shower.

What I Have Not Grown Accustomed To
That’s another blog.


1 thought on “Getting used to the heat, traffic and lack of toilet paper

  1. Pingback: Still loathing the heat, stereotyping and “loud noises!” | Sa-wat-dii From Thailand

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