The living arrangements on school campus in Lomkao are…. not at all what I imagined. When I said that I wanted a change, the universe took me as literally as possible.
Lomkao is so rural that it takes us a thirty minute drive to get to the closest grocery store. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. Lomkao is a nearby town and Lomsak is a nearby town. When I say “town”, picture a small market/cluster of homes. Lomkaophittayakhom School, on the other hand, is smack dab in the middle of these two towns, so most people only pass through this area to attend school.
Many people in this location get around by motorbike – several times, Jenn and I have ridden on the backs of the other student teachers’ motorbikes to get to nearby markets. There are a handful of family-owned restaurants within walking distance from the school – the one that is open latest closes by 7pm everyday; the majority close by 5pm. Trying to get anywhere after 7pm without a motorbike or a car is next to impossible. Jenn and I are currently on the hunt for a used motorbike that we can buy for an affordable price – I’ll have to keep you updated on that.
By the way, Thai people LOVE 7/11. They are absolutely obsessed! 7/11 locations can be found everywhere in Thailand, and the majority of them are not gas stations, but convenience stores. The larger ones sell alcohol and groceries. Many people pay their phone bills at them. There is one 7/11 about a 25-minute walk from our school, and I’ve already walked there about 5 or 6 times. Thai people also get really excited because for many of them – especially in areas as rural as Lomkao – these are the only English “words” they know how to pronounce.
When I think of my house on campus, I think of camping. Most days, it’s more comfortable to stay in the office before going home. Our teacher’s office is air conditioned and very nice and clean. (There are no bugs!!!) Our house also has air conditioning, but we have to pay for our electric bill ourselves.
In terms of bugs, our house is another story. The people here call Lomkao the “Jungalow” – a bungalow in the jungle, and this could not be more accurate. Behind our house is the jungle. I wake up every morning to hear gibbons singing, tokay geckos “tokay”ing and birds singing. The nature is breathtakingly gorgeous. I can see all the stars in the sky. Lightning bugs visit me when I walk outside at night. A butterfly even landed on my arm today – an absolutely magical moment.
But the price you pay for living in such beauty is sharing your home with the jungle. One day, I came home from dinner to find a 12-inch long tokay gecko in my bedroom. This was the first time I had ever seen, let alone heard of, a tokay gecko – aka, the second-largest species of gecko in the world. Luckily, we have very kind Thai neighbors (who speak no English, but understood ‘tokay’ and a very frightened face) who came to help me get this gecko out of my house.
Afterward, we discovered: Tokay geckos are very territorial. Not only will this tokay be hanging around, but she has a friend. So, we now have two tokay roommates. The larger one, who I found in my room, is named Touki Touki (like from George of the Jungle). The other: Kwame (another character from George of the Jungle). Fortunately, the pair has remained on our back patio area since we first kicked Touki Touki out. Fingers crossed they stay there. As long as we are not trying to remove these territorial, fiesty girls from where they want to be, they are completely peaceful.
Teacher John helped Jenn and I hang mosquito nets around our beds which has been an absolute life saver. I can’t tell you how nice it is to lay in bed without swatting every two seconds, without waking up with bites covering my legs and arms. And to think I only experienced for two nights before having the net…
Our shower and sink are both outside. At first, it was quite the shock, but we’re already getting used to it. We’re also getting used to the trickle of water we call a shower. Haha! On our back patio we have a hammock, which the other Thai teachers told me is called a “blaae”, pronounced like blay.
We are lucky enough to have a washer on our back patio, but dryers are not common in low income areas. Everything is line-dry, which means laundry can only be done in the morning time. Otherwise, bugs will “move in” to your clothes at night, according to our friends.
All in all, I know we are going to love this yellow Banana Cabana. What are the odds that my house – inside and out – would be painted my favorite color? When I first saw photos, I assumed all of the foreign teachers’ housing would be painted yellow, but only ours is. The school’s colors are yellow and black, just like my high school.
Outside of our home, there are multiple nature trails leading back into the jungle. I have not yet had the chance to explore these, but they are calling my name louder and louder every day. Some days, when I walk to the office to teach, I wish I could turn the other way and go hang out with the gibbons instead.
It’s a relaxed life at the Banana Cabana. I’m getting more sleep and having more vivid dreams than I feel I have had in years. I have time to read, to blog, to sleep. I eat dinner across the street with Ben, the cute young woman who owns the little restaurant. She makes me Pad Pak Sai Khai almost every day, a rice and vegetable stir-fry dish. I order this dish with two eggs for extra protein (since vegetarian options are so few and far between) – “song fong” and without too much spice – “mai ped”. Luckily, one of the really friendly Thai student teachers, whose name is Time, wrote me a list of other vegetarian dishes I can order. I do love pad pak sai kai song fong mai ped, but I’m thankful to have some options.
I am proud of how my Thai is coming along, but when I speak these words to my students, they still laugh hysterically. That’s okay – I’ve learned that the best way to get them to like me is to laugh at myself. Which teaching yoga already gave me a TON of practice with. 🙂