Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Daily Life

I have recently realized that as my daily routine gets established in my village that my blog entries may not be near as entertaining as previously. As I wrote that sentence I immediately thought that this will most likely not be the case given that in the past seven months there has hardly been one uneventful week. Nevertheless, this blog will be a description of my daily life which some may find intriguing and others will wonder how I survive days filled with inordinate amounts of nothing.

Most days I wake up at around 7:30 a.m. and make myself my staple breakfast; oatmeal with sliced bananas on top. My dining table is actually my hammock from where I enjoy the small village around me as everyone begins their day. In all reality by 8:00 a.m. most everyone has been awake for two or three hours, but that is beside the point! I then normally try to be diligent and study Thai for at least an hour and afterwards if I feel the urge I go to the SAO office to see what is on the agenda for the day if there is one and if anyone is actually present. I often read my text books on American history and international relations that my mother kindly sent to me in order that I will be thoroughly prepared to take the Foreign Service Exam when my volunteer service is over.

At around noon I go and eat lunch at the noodle stand that is two houses down from me and is run by the excellent host Sa-bee-mon. There are normally other people from the village enjoying lunch at the solitary picnic table which constitutes the entirety of the seating in this named eating establishment. I usually spend quite some time talking with everyone on subjects ranging from how to grow basil to “Is it really true that Americans eat bread for every meal and don’t eat rice?”

The afternoons are usually spent riding my bike around the surrounding communities seeking to get to know their inhabitants. Most stops are characterized by the explanation of what I am doing and discussing life in the village in comparison to the United States. After the initial visit upon return nearly everyone is very eager to teach me the Karen language which is quite a monumental task given that everything has to be learned orally because of the lack of a Karen language dictionary and any other related learning materials. It is interesting learning a language where the base language of learning, Thai, is one that I am still in the process of learning. I knew many Europeans that also encountered this situation while I was living in Guatemala having to learn Spanish from teachers who spoke only English as a secondary language but I am quite sure that their English was much more refined than my Thai. It will be interesting to see how far I get with learning Karen before the next 19 months are over. I am really amazed how quickly time has passed. Many volunteers say that days seem to last for ever, but months pass with ease. I can truly contest to that reflecting upon my lazy days but still being continually awed that I have spent 8 months in Thailand.

At around 5:30 p.m. I embark on my daily run over the slippery mud covered roads that run through the mountains of my site. It is not an easy task running like this and this was made even more apparent when I ran on a nice cemented park path in Bangkok the other weekend. I think I should be thoroughly prepared for the hardtop of Bangkok when the marathon rears its ugly head in November although sometimes I do question that. Today I ran my longest run yet, 16 km (10 miles) and although my body made it through alright, my feet paid the price. Several large blisters are now adorning my feet! Once my run is over I either prepare my meal or am invited to eat with one of the local families. I cook more than I am invited over which is interesting given the fact that most of my PC friends have trouble eating all the food they are given every day. I think this may be due to the fact that up until one week ago I had anywhere from 7-12 people living in my house and I don’t think that inviting one person to eat while leaving the rest to fend for themselves would be very Thai like! I then spend the remainder of the night either reading or watching one of the seasons of any particular TV series that I may have in possession at that time on DVD. Buying full seasons of pirated TV series is quite popular with PC Thailand volunteers and each series is continually traded for others so that large sums of money are not spent.

This has been a short (for my talking abilities) description of my life in the Karen villages of Northern Thailand.