When I got the acceptance email to study abroad in Thailand and Myanmar and saw 14 female names and 0 males names on the list of participants, I think I almost died. I was not about to spend 3 months traveling Southeast Asia with 13 women.
So here I am in Thailand with 13 other women. 50% of us synced up towards the end of the first week. Three weeks in, no one has gotten their period alone.
The reason for our trip is to study village culture and development in rural Thailand and Myanmar. We just left our first village in the Kanchanaburi region in central Thailand. There, I was paired up with another student and we lived with a local farmer. It was a luck of the draw they chose me and my partner, Isabella, to live with the farmer because I don’t think a lot of the girls on the trip would have liked harvesting potatoes in the hot sun and weeding her dragon fruit fields in the middle of the day.
Our host Mom’s name was Bpat Cheeup and she was a B0$$ A$$ Bitch. She is married with a child, but due to economic circumstances, her husband and daughter, Beem, live far away in order to make ends meet. She called them endlessly and made us talk to them on the phone. This is how our conversations went:
Beem: “Hello how are you”
Me: “Good! How are you?”
Beem: “Good! คจีงฃลไๆฟหิอแปผุถภนยสวบนรี”
Me: “I’m glad you are doing good!”
Except for one time, I actually did find out a little bit about Bpat Cheeup’s daughter:
Me: How old are you Beem?
Me: How long have you been learning English for?
Beem: 44 years
Bpat Cheeup is 50 years old and seriously works her ass off in the hot sun making ends meet her herself. She got Isabella and I up at the butt crack of dawn (seriously before the roosters) every. single. morning. Thai’s are not very suttle when they wake up in the morning… She would turn her radio up full blast to the level where I questioned whether I was in a nightclub and say “HANNNAH….ISOBEL!!!”
Sometimes I wanted to kill her until I saw the curry sitting on the table.
Bpat Cheeup is an amazing little chef. We had the fortune of enjoying a plethora of amazing, home-cooked Thai food and I came to realize that fish is good nearly any time of day, even if it’s the first thing you have to put in your mouth in the morning. Cheeup has a way with sauces in particular. Her grilled chili fish sauce is better than sex and it took me nearly 20 minutes of translating to figure out the foreign ingredients in it so I can seduce my next lover with it. It was really that good… she really hits the spot in terms of spice. She never let it get too weak or too spicy… it was just perfect.
The language barrier was surpringly not difficult. Bpat Cheeup basically knows nothing about me other than I like to eat a lot of her food. It was actually very comforting and refreshing not being able to fully communicate. If you learn to say things like “drinkable water” “shower” and “delicious!” you can basically communicate anything that needs to be exchanged. I can comfortably say “Hello my name is Hannah, I am 23 years old and I like spicy Thai food!” I had to learn how to say “I can take the heat!” Because they would all freak out when I would put a lot of chillies in my soup. At one point, there were like 15 people surrounding the table as I was putting spice into my soup all touching me and waving their hands frantically screaming in Thai “PET PET PET!!!” which means “YER GONNA KILL YERSELF!!”
After the homestay, we all got together in a group and stayed at the “Shanti Lodge.” There, we ate the most delicious food. Wan Pen (her name translates to “Full Moon” in English) and her husband, Mr. Hay own the Shanti Lodge–they make the most incredible Thai food. There is no such thing as eating too much food here, or even getting tired of Thai food. I feel like I am constantly full and no matter how much I don’t actually want to eat, I stuff my face because I know I might not get another chance to eat Wan Pen’s freakishly delicious fried chicken and special sauce again. The last night in central Thailand was spent eating over 10 pieces of Wan Pen’s fried chicken, beer in hand, dancing to Thai music under the full moon. Life’s good.
Now, I am currently in Chiang Mai, a busy, funky, city in northern Thailand. All I have been doing here is eating and shopping– a nice pace from village life. Tomorrow we are headed to the Lahu Village, a small, rural village north of Chiang Mai. I don’t know what to expect from this village other than the teachers told us to prepare for intense living conditions. I’m ready for it all!
Off to eat more food and enjoy my last day in the busy city before heading to the mountains. It’s very possible I will have not have internet access for the next month or two…but until then I will be happy, (hopefully) healthy, and living Thai life the best I can.