Stickman Readers' Submissions April 18th, 2008

A Day In The Life

To be honest, many people might find my life here in Thailand as somewhat boring. Perhaps it’s because I lack that particular gene that compels people to go bungee jumping or sky diving. I don’t have the slightest desire to get behind the wheel of a formula one car and put the “pedal to the metal”. I don’t much care for extreme roller coasters. I prefer that my stomach remain right where it is, thank you very much, and not in my mouth!

For me however my quiet unassuming life is chock full of small pleasures that are priceless. So here is a typical day in the life here in Lampang.

At this point in my life, I’m pretty much an early to bed early to rise kind of fellow. I’m generally up at 5:00 AM. My little boy Sam won’t be up for an hour, so I have the luxury to do some personal things. I like to start the day off riding my bicycle for an hour. My housing project is the perfect place to ride at that hour. I can make 3 laps around the neighborhood in ten minutes, and I don’t have to worry about being run down by other vehicles! It’s obviously the coolest tome of the day, so I can enjoy the fresh air without being bathed in sweat. I value this quiet time because it gives me time to simply relax and think. I do a lot of reflecting in that silence. It’s almost like being in a meditative state. A lot of ideas for my submissions are developed while cruising around, including the one you are reading right now.

After an hour of exercise and contemplation, it’s time to begin the day’s work. First off is doing some daily yard maintenance. I don’t know what kind of trees are in front of our house, but they shed leaves 365 days a year. I can never understand why there are even any leaves left to fall, but somehow they keep getting produced! So every morning I need to spend some time sweeping. By this time Sam is usually up and my wife sends him out to “help daddy”. He may only be 18 months old, but this kid really enjoys being in the thick of things.

Then it’s time to water the lawn, flowers and trees. The dry season here lasts for six solid months. So you have to water everything every day. We may only have a “postage stamp” sized yard, but we have an amazing variety of things growing in it. There are the fruit trees: coconut, banana, guava, papaya, pomegranate, jackfruit, lime, Chinese gooseberry, longan, rambutan, mango and a few whose name I don’t know. Not all of these are in our actual yard. In the back of our home is a strip of land with an irrigation canal running through it. Like everyone in the neighborhood, we have simply “appropriated” a piece for ourselves. Apparently the operating principle is that “possession is 9/10ths of the law! Oh well, not one has ever complained, and to be honest it all looks quite attractive. Last year we had dozens of sunflowers which really brightened the place up. In addition to fruit, we have a quite a few vegetables growing as well such as pumpkins, chilies, lemongrass, eggplant, tomatoes and herbs. Finally we have plenty of colorful flowers growing everywhere. It’s butterfly heaven for sure! Anyway everything needs to be watered, fertilized, and weeded on a regular basis. I do what I can, but my wife, the “farmer’s daughter” really likes getting down and dirty, which I try to avoid whenever possible!

At this point I usually watch Sam while my wife heads to the closest market to pick up something for breakfast. Sometimes I’ll eat a Thai breakfast, other times I’ll simply cook a western style one. Thank god Big C has Quaker Oatmeal, because I eat a lot of it. It’s good for my cholesterol and I actually like oatmeal! Other times I’ll whip up pancakes, waffles or an omelet.

My wife and I usually alternate having breakfast and showering while the other one watches Sam. And he needs a lot of watching! This kid is a real little monkey. If you turn your back on him for a moment, he’ll be in the middle of the one place you don’t want him to be. Parenting is a 24-7-365 job. At 58 years old I don’t have quite the energy I did the previous three times around as a daddy. One thing is for certain. I never have the chance to be bored! But that’s the topic of a future submission.

So far I’ve exercised, worked in the yard, shaved, showered and had breakfast and checked my e-mail. I guess it’s time to actually do some real work. It’s summer vacation time, so I’m not teaching at school, but I do have quite a lot of teaching that I do out of our home. I tutor students seven days a week. My darling wife is always finding someone else for me to tutor. Perhaps she believes that I’ll be bored if I’m not gainfully employed throughout the day. “Idle hands are the Devil’s workshop” and all that. Or maybe it’s simply that she can’t stand the idea of me not earning a few extra baht!

In any case, I actually enjoy tutoring. The students I get are bright and highly motivated to master English. This is in sharp contrast to the other 90% of the students I have in school! One young man I have tutored for over a year is now studying computer science in Bangalore, India. He is one of the most gifted Thai students I’ve ever met. I expect to hear great thongs from him in the future. One girl I’m currently working with just finished her first year at Chiang Mai University. Not only is she talented, but is quite relaxed speaking English. That is something you don’t see every day. Then there are the two Matiyom 1 girls I see on Saturdays and Sundays. They are not only smart, but are great all around kids, and cute as a button! We started our learning the 100 Most Commonly Used English Words. We are now up to words 1401-1500! These girls may only be 13 years old, but they take what they are doing very seriously. If they’ve forgotten the meaning of a word, they have a written sentence using that word for me the next day! Because my living room is not school, we also play a lot of word games and have conversations about what is going on in their lives. It’s having students like this that keep me from total despair when I think about the Thai Education system!

In addition to tutoring, I work a few afternoons at the Lampang branch of Kumon. Boy that place is the exact opposite of your typical Thai classroom. Talk about being organized! Wow! It’s amazing to see pre-school kids walk in, take out their work books, do their exercises, listen to their CDs…all by themselves! Self learning is part of the educational philosophy there, and that seems to be working.

So how do I spend the rest of this thrilling day? Shopping is certainly a daily activity. Whether at a local market or at Big C. I tend to do at least some grocery shopping every day. Along the way I will probably stop for an iced coffee at one of the ubiquitous cafes around Lampang. Perhaps I’ll get a Thai massage. My regular establishment is in the parking garage at Big C. They’ve got an excellent deal. 10 one hour massages for 1500 baht. These ladies are all very talented in getting the kinks out of my neck and back. Back at home I try to spend a few hours working on “The Project.” If all goes well with it, hopefully next year you will be reading a submission called “Why I don’t have to teach English anymore!” My Australian friend Roy and I are working on a community website for Lampang. It’s been slow work getting all the computer code and other things that work behind the scene ready to roll. But hopefully we’ll have a test page or two up and running in the near future. When it is, I’ll send Stick the URL for you to check it out.

So what about the rest of the day? Of course there is always cleaning to do! My wife is certainly more cognizant of what it means to be clean after living five years in the U.S. She knows that a mere pass of the broom and a swipe with a dirty mop is not clean enough for me! Still she will never share my standards of sanitation. Ants in the sugar container are a no-no! The kitchen needs to be cleaned every day, not just when the mood strikes. Since it would be counter-productive to nag about it, (and of course it is equally my responsibility to do the house work) I usually spend some time on my hands and knees scrubbing things to my satisfaction. No, I’m not obsessive compulsive, an incarnation of “Felix Unger”. I merely want to live in a relatively clean and disease free environment.

There are usually a few errands that need to be run around time. I often bike to the corner copy shop to have some teaching materials printed. Yesterday I brought some pictures into town to be framed. Today my wife and I went shopping for material and then visited her seamstress to have some clothes made. We might pick up some new flower pots or some bamboo to build a trellis for the garden. There is always last minute grocery shopping at one of the local markets. We always bring Sam along since he enjoys seeing the vast quantities of colorful fruits and vegetables.

When it comes time for preparing dinner, I usually take Sam for a walk around the neighborhood. We are fortunate to have some very nice neighbors, some also with small children. Everybody likes to make a fuss over Sam, especially the various building crews that are putting up new houses. I tell them that in a few years they can have a new apprentice, which gets a hearty laugh! Actually I wouldn’t be surprised if he shows some talent in that direction. He really enjoys putting together and taking apart things. My wife usually joins us at some point on our stroll. The early evening is the time when folks walk about, greeting each other, sharing food and of course trading gossip! I may be the only farang living here, but I am definitely part of the neighborhood. Parents have no problem dropping their kids off here to play for a while.

Before it gets dark it’s time to water everything again. Sometimes we sit and relax in our screened in porch, enjoying a fresh breeze and listening to the burbling of our fountains. Eventually it's bath time for Sam followed by “story time” or just looking through some picture dictionaries. Then it’s off to dreamland…hopefully!

This is the quiet time of the day to relax and unwind. We rarely go out in the evening. We lay in bed watching TV for a while before going to sleep. We turn in early, usually by 10:00 PM. It will be another busy day tomorrow, so we need our rest.

That’s it folks. This is ordinary family life. It may not be your cup of tea, but we find it rewarding. Oh it’s great once in a while to travel to “the big city”. We also enjoy taking day trips to some of the many National Parks in the area. We like to have friends over for dinner. But the rhythm of daily life is fine all by itself, especially when you have a family that you love.

He Clinic Bangkok

Stickman's thoughts:

I bet a lot of readers outside Thailand don't realise how routine life in Thailand can be. Your life is probably typical of many, although you seem to be more active in attending to household tasks. I think it would be fair to say many prefer that their teeruk attend to such things.

nana plaza