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Life along the Burma/Thailand Border

THAILAND | Monday, 20 August 2007 | Views [394]

I didn't move into the other guesthouse as planned. I did move, but moved back to my guesthouse a few hours later. My classmate Jo Jo has been living at the Second Home guesthouse since he arrived two months ago. He pays about $3 a night. Thinking how happy I would be to save so much money I reserved a room at his place without going through to the trouble to go visit first.

The owner showed me to my room and handed me the padlock for my door and asked for my passport to photocopy. There was everything you could want in a place to sleep: a mattress; mosquito net (in this case because there were no screens on the windows); and a fan. The bathroom is actually what made me second think my choice. It was shared and not clean at all.

At that point I had to admit that while I'm intrepid in the eating and travelling category, I do prefer to be comfortable where I sleep. And on that particular day I was not feeling so hot and wanted the bathroom close by. The amazing mackeral meal I had written about a few posts ago gave me some serious heartburn--that I'm still feeling unfortunately. I don't know why I thought eating 10 small very hot chili peppers would not do something to my digestion.

I was very happy to return to my home after a long day of learning how to make herbal medicine balls from fresh ingredients. I did my market shopping trip and the eating on the porch again. On this night another guest was sitting on his porch across the courtyard. He asked if he could come over and chat.

Clint, a transplant from Kansas who first came to Thailand on a mission trip for Feed the Children "fell in love" with "the people" and the country and decided to return and learn Thai and teach English. He is about two months into living between the guesthouse and along the border in Fang and taking culture lessons from a teacher in the border village. He had never lived outside of Kansas and from what discerned really never travelled, but plans to not return to the US.

Clint found work teaching Thai locals in Fang, and a couple of monks English. The trip from Chiang Mai is 3 hours by bus, so he stays up there during the week and comes back to use the computer and take a break from that world. We talked for almost two hours. Mostly he talked actually, but I was happy to hear his stories and get the skinny on the other guests in the place. Sitting on porches with the travellers is his thing.

He told me that in the last two weeks there have been 5 funerals from men dying. A couple from suicide, but the rest from whatever diseases they contract from working in the fruit orchards where there is no regulation on pesticide spraying. All under 40. What's left of the town are a lot of women with children and not that much work to feed them.

One of the men in town decided that arranged marriages were a good way for women to survive, so he has found foreigners to marry for citzenship and in return provide financial security to their wives. Clint was not very specific about what other arrangments might be included.

I laid in my $14 a night room that night with air conditioning, screens on windows, clean bathroom, small frig, and peace thinking about that conversation and Clint. As much as I want to hate him because of his racism, ignorance, and call to serve god, Clint is serving a good. And I got a serious lesson is what it can mean to make choices that require enormous compromise.

Tags: Philosophy of travel

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