We Moved!

More than six hours of driving later, through the rain in the darkening afternoon through the mountains on a pothole filled highway, in a car with no power steering or power anything, we made it to our new house.

new house balcony, looking in and looking out

We still don’t have a truck to drive. It’s with the 3rd mechanic now I think. Apparently the first guy could take it apart but didn’t know how to put it together. In typical Thai fashion though he didn’t just admit that, because then he might lose face. Instead he lied, said he was waiting for parts and then, when pressured, tried to put the thing together and did it wrong, causing even more damage. It was just a cracked engine block before. Now all the valves need replacing too.

But we’re here, in a lovely house that I had never seen before the night we pulled up to it.

BamBam’s first response was, “Me wuv my new house!”

 That pretty much sums it up. There is enough room for us, with some extra besides.

It feels like we’re all alone here, but we’re really on the edge of a Thai village, complete with dirt roads and stray dogs, and there is another down the hill. Also giant bugs of all shapes and sizes, including some beautiful Atlas moths, the largest moth species in the world.

(Go to my instagram feed if you want to see the Boy holding a spider of comparable size.)

The shop keeper at the little store up the road, (my kids always scout out the nearest place to blow their allowance money on stuff I’d rather they didn’t have), shakes her head at me because I don’t speak Thai. So unheard of. I speak enough to know that’s what she’s saying though as she mutters to herself and shakes her head disapprovingly. I want to promise her I’ll try harder, but I can’t say that yet.

One of my neighbors asked me how I was the other day and I didn’t recognize the words so I told her I didn’t understand. She switched to English, “How do you go?”

So I told her we came from down the hill and we were headed up the road.

It took 2 more minutes, as we were walking, for me to realize that that she meant, “How do you do?” A few seconds later I figured out that that I knew the Thai words she said and the appropriate response. I’d just drawn a total blank.

But I’m getting better. Before we left Chiang Mai I got my Thai drivers license and picked up a package at the post office all by myself. I didn’t catch all of it, but I understood enough of what people said, mostly because they were both predictable transactions, that I was asked in both places if I spoke Thai. The answer was, “A little bit, but not so much.” That made me happy. Every where we go Aaron speaks all he Thai he knows, which isn’t much, but his accent seems good. And people are always asking me if he speaks Thai because of it. So I’m proud that they think I might know some Thai because I’m using as much of it as I can when I go out.

Elvis killed a neighbors chicken our first day here. He broke right through the bamboo fence and it was over in seconds. So Aaron went over and bought the chicken. Then he used it to teach Elvis not to kill chickens, hopefully. Then he took it back and gave it to the neighbor again. They were very happy about getting the chicken back. They called over all the other neighbors to see. It was the best we could do to make amends with the limited language we have. We don’t want anyone throwing poisoned meat over the fence to deal with the chicken killing dog. (It happens.)

My aunt suggested we get some chickens of our own so Elvis learns to protect them instead of eat them. that seemed like a good idea so we’ll probably do that. We have the space for it.

Elvis doesn’t realize that he is currently in an audition for the role of inside dog. He therefore doesn’t know that every time he sneaks onto the cushioned chair outside when we’re not looking he’s blowing that audition. Dogs don’t belong on furniture in my house, especially not dogs that live in rainy jungles in a rented house that came furnished with white couch cushions. He may just have to stay in the laundry room forever.

There’s a lovely woman named Tae who also lives here on the property with her husband and little baby. She’s kind of the manager. She also works for the NGO our landlord directs, Compassio.org, and stays here for free as part of her pay. He offered to move her out so we could use her house too, but suggested we might want to keep her around. She speaks English, Thai, Burmese, and her first language is a tribal language. Those are the languages I know about. She showed me all over to the local markets and helped me find things we needed for the house our first few days here. She’s wonderful.

Now we don’t have a car again, since the car we drove here was a loaner. It belongs to Compassio and needed delivery after being in Chiang Mai for repairs. Which worked out well for us. It’s being used by a couple who runs a home for babies whose mothers are in prison.  Tae keeps asking me if I need her to pick up anything while she’s out. I can probably borrow a vehicle on weekends for grocery runs though until our car comes.

One of the things I asked people to pray for me about before we left was learning to ask for help, because I try and do everything myself. I actually often enjoy doing everything by myself. I like the feeling of accomplishment that comes from finishing things. Apparently the answer to their prayers was for me to be forced to ask for help, on a daily weekly basis, in the form of needing to always borrow someone’s car, or ask people to pick things up for me. I feel like a teenager all the time, asking to borrow my dad’s car. Thanks for praying, I think.

The internet is super slow 3G network. We tried to see what kind of faster internet we could get at the store. They showed us the plans and maximum speeds and set ups costs and told us it would take 1-2 months to “run the wire”. So I asked them if it was DSL service we were getting, or if it was from a cell tower or satellite. Tae translated the question. She didn’t understand. So I drew a picture, of a house getting satellite signal, or wire, or phone signal, and we asked again. She didn’t know. The guy who might know wasn’t there. She just knows how to sell plans.

Some people think the internet is magic. It sort of is I guess. But it would be awesome to know what we’re paying for before we sign on.  So still no internet. We wait for a technician to come out to the property and look around and tell us what is possible.

I like the rhythm I’m finding in this house. Every house imposes itself on your daily routines somewhat, just because of the layout. Here the kitchen, dining room, playroom and kids rooms are all downstairs. Upstairs is this big spacious sitting area, balcony, and our master bedroom. So after the kids are in bed I stay downstairs and clean up the kitchen while they fall asleep and then, once I come upstairs I feel like I’m truly done with housework for the day. The physical separation creates the mental separation as well. Now I’m in a hurry to finish that part of my work so I can go upstairs and just relax.

I need to post pictures of this place, and I have so many stories drafted that I’m eager to tell. It’s going to be at least another day or two of unpacking and reorganizing and then I think I’ll be able to find the time to start telling them.

This house is on a hill, and it’s been empty a while so the concrete on each side is covered in mud and super slick algae. There were multiple falls the first day here. So task number one was to scrub away at all the algae and mud so it was safe to walk. We did that for a day in the rain, and then Tae told us she could get a pressure washer to use. I’m still damp from the few hours I spent washing the concrete today. We’re taking it in turns, the Boy, and Girl, and I. There’s a lot to wash.

But little bit by little bit this place already feels like home. We’re going to be just fine here. I can tell.

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