A Little Teal House Tour
By the end of October we had officially finished our OEG orientation in Bangkok, a crash course in living in Thailand and teaching English to non-native speakers. The reality finally began to set in that in just a few short days we would actually begin teaching English to secondary Thai students for the next five months. As we pulled up to the two level, teal house at Phusangwittayakhom school, that was to be our new home, I remember thinking how surreal it was. The fall had been a whirlwind of changes for David and I between getting engaged, moving out of our beloved apartment in Northern Virginia, moving in with Dave’s parents, and running around like chickens with our heads cut off trying to figure out what to pack, what to put in storage, what vaccinations we needed, and how much we should pay for them. For a long time our “big move to Thailand” was like a distant, shimmery dream. We were happy to regale anyone who would listen with the few details we knew about our teaching placement, but the move itself always seemed just far enough away that a part of me didn’t actually believe it was real. But, by the first week of November, as we settled into life in Phu Sang, that shimmery dream materialized into the little teal house that we now call home.
In Northern Thailand many of the houses, including ours, are what I would describe as “open air”, meaning they are not completely sealed off from the outside elements. It’s a bit like camping - the sounds of nature flow freely through the house at all times (re: the school band, the excited stray dog, the early bird roosters, and the incessant, impressively rhythmic bird that sits in the tree outside our window…). On any given day, you’re likely to see at least five little critters (re: lizards, spiders, ants, slugs, and moth flies) passing through the kitchen, bathroom, or bedroom. For example, upon our return from Phuket, we arrived at our house late in the evening when the moon was in her rightful place. As I turned the key and opened the front door, I saw something move out of the corner of my eye. As I turned my head, a lizard the size of an American banana (Thai bananas are super small and cute), jumped off the inside of the door and ran out onto our patio! Let’s just say that I now proudly refer to myself as a “Bug Warrior” and have somewhat begrudgingly allied myself with my lizard roommates, as we share the same mission of killing the other unwanted spiders and bugs.
There are many quirks that come with living in a Thai style house. Over the past two and a half months of living here, I have learned to embrace these quirks (re: Bug Warrior) and have even found beauty in the “simple life”. Living in our tiny teal house has shown me that it’s entirely possible to live comfortably with far less than I do back home. It's also increased my gratitude for things that come standard in western housing that I often complained about and took for granted in our previous apartment back home (re: the front loading dryer). Despite its quirks, our little house has become the place we are grateful to return to after a long weekend of traveling or a busy day at school. So without further adieu, I’d like to invite you on a virtual tour of the very teal, very humble abode that we call home in Phu Sang, Thailand.
As you make your way from the front of the house to the side of the house, where the main door is located, you step foot onto a teal tiled patio with a wooden roof. A clothes line runs around the perimeter of the patio for hang drying clothes; this line is not to be mistaken with the separate line that runs around the perimeter of the entire house as a buddhist blessing (pro tip: don’t mix those up). We use the patio to hang our wet clothes, park our motorbike, workout, and meditate. The students often walk by (since our house is on the school’s campus) and greet us in their sing song voices with “hello teacher!”, so it’s a cool place to just sit and hang out. Fun fact - this is also where I recorded my instagram story to introduce The Curious Dabbler to my instapals, as I thought the teal wall made a cool backdrop.
The Kitchen/Laundry Room:
Upon opening the “front” door of the house (if a lizard doesn’t come jumping at you, that is), you walk into a narrow “hallway” with a staircase to your left and the kitchen directly in front of you. One interesting thing we’ve learned since being here, is that it’s actually pretty rare for Thai people to have a full, western style kitchen in their home. Most Thai people eat at restaurants or local food stalls in their villages for meals. So the fact that we have a microwave, a toaster, a kettle, and a hot plate is a luxury. Plus, we also have a rice cooker, a blender, and some kind of steamer that we’ve never used before. We also have a fridge, that doubles as a shelf most days, and a a rectaculangur kitchen table with a lemon patterned tablecloth and two plastic chairs (also doubling as a shelf/clothes hanger). Our school was also extraordinarily gracious to provide all of the cooking ware we could ever need including cutlery and tupperware. About once a week we hit the local market for some meat and veggies and make a big stir fry to eat throughout.
Our clothes washer and spinner sit In the left back corner of the kitchen. Notice, that I didn’t say “dryer”. In Thailand, many homes do not have drying machines. Instead, the clothes are washed and rinsed several times (with detergent and fabric softener) in the washer, then spun for a few minutes in the spinner. The spinner removes the excess water from the clothes, leaving them damp but not sopping wet. Then the damp clothes are hung on the line outside to dry. I will admit, that when I first learned about this process I was a bit intimidated as it’s more labor intensive than throwing your clothes in a western style washer and clicking a button. However, after doing it a few times, I got it down pat and actually think it’s pretty simple now (provided I remember to take the clothes out of the washer and put them in the spinner in a timely fashion).
The Bathroom/Shower Room:
To the right of the washer and spinner is the bathroom, which doubles as a shower (but more on that later). The funny thing about bathrooms I’ve learned, is that even though they are a common feature in most houses around the world, you never really know what you’re going to find when you experience one in a different country. In Thailand there are two styles of toilets - the Thai style and the “international” style. The Thai style toilet is pretty basic - there’s a stall that has a hole where you do your business and afterwards you use a nearby bucket of water and pail to “flush” said business. You dispose of any toilet paper you used in the nearby trash can (there’s usually one in every stall), instead of the toilet. On the other hand, the international style toilet is the toilet that most westerners are accustomed to, the kind with a lid and a lever on the side for flushing. In our bathroom at home, we have an international toilet. However, it’s really a toss up between which style of toilet you’ll encounter when traveling around Thailand.
Another aspect of Thai bathrooms that was surprising to us, is that the shower is not enclosed in a separate structure. The shower head is stationed on the wall in the same room as the toilet and the sink, and typically comes with a water heater attached. When we step into the shower, we turn on the faucet, power up the water heater, and adjust the dial to the preferred temperature. It took a little getting used to, but it was nothin’ a pair or purple shower shoes couldn’t solve!
The Backyard: Opening the door between the clothes spinner and the bathroom will lead you to our backyard. We come out here most everyday to do dishes, as the “kitchen” sink is located out back. Sadly, doing dishes does not get any more fun when you’re living in Thailand. However, looking up and realizing there is a banana tree in your backyard does slightly improve the experience. Yep, one day I was outside doing my dishes per usual and I happened to look up and noticed that the tree in our backyard wasn’t just any ol’ tree - it was a banana tree! We’ve yet to try any of the bananas from the tree, but if they’re anything like the ones we get at the market, then we’re in for a treat! And if not, well at least it makes for a prettier backdrop whilst scrubbing the stir fry pot.
The Upstairs Landing:
Walking up the stairs will lead you to the upstairs landing, a simple space that houses our internet equipment, a bookcase, and two doors - one to the bedroom and one to the spare room. Yes - we are so grateful to have WiFi in our little teal house. There’s no doubt that everything from staying connected to family and friends, lesson planning, and planning our weekend adventures would be much more difficult without it in our home.
Another neat thing about the landing is that the bookcase I mentioned above was actually pre-stocked with a handful of helpful books on topics like learning Thai language and traveling around Southeast Asia. We’ve been able to make good use of a few them (mainly the language ones) and hope to continue doing so (especially the travel ones) as we plan our travels for the next two months.
Upon walking up the stairs, the door to our bedroom is on the left. Inside you’ll find two mismatched beds of varying heights, a closet, a few mirrors, and a small dresser. David and I frequently joke that once we got engaged we did things backwards...we moved out of our own place, into his parents house, and now - well, now we have two mismatched beds of varying heights. But all jokes aside, if we’re not hanging out at the kitchen table, then we’re usually here - netflix & chilling, lesson planning, reading, etc.
We have two sets of windows in our bedroom. The set closest to the beds looks out into the street in front of our house. We’ll often see students, teachers, or the neighborhood strays wandering about. The set of windows beside the closet looks into the greenery in our backyard, where the aforementioned banana tree sits.
The Spare Room:
Across from the bedroom there’s a spare room, or shall I say “the room where all the lost things magically reappear”. Initially, it was a second bedroom, but as you can see from the picture above we moved the beds into the same room. So now it’s the room where Dave keeps his clothes, where we store our luggage, and last but not least, this is the room that we used as our makeshift living room on Christmas morning! The previous teachers left behind a Christmas poster of sorts with a picture of a fireplace and stockings hung by the mantle. During the month of December we completed the scene with a mini Christmas tree purchased from Tesco Lotus (basically Thailand’s version of Target). On Christmas morning we sat by our tree, opened our eclectically wrapped presents, and listened to the sweet serenades of Mariah Carey and Michael Buble.
Our quirky teal house is definitely a change of pace from the places we’ve lived in back home, but it’s taught us some valuable lessons. For one, we now know how to successfully operate a clothes spinner. We know the best time to hang our clothes on the line (or in our neighbor’s yard) for maximum dryness. We know the best method for making a “jammy” egg on the hot plate. We know when to take the trash out and when to set our weekly water supply outside for a refill. We know how to operate a Thai style shower and what to do when we encounter a Thai style toilet. We know how to handle the semi intimidating, stray dog that has taken up residence in our neighbors yard. Yes - we’ve learned a lot about how to practically survive in Thailand by living in our teal house. But perhaps the most important thing we’ve learned so far is that we actually need way less to be happy than we ever imagined we would.