After my long day(s) of traveling, getting to Randy’s house was like heaven. I got to lay down on a bed AND take a shower. It is seriously the little things-especially on the other side of the world. I was pretty much delirious from lack of sleep, but was still able to take most things in. I was lucky enough to get picked up personally by Laura and Randy from the airport! Laura and I got to have quite the reunion; it has been almost 5 months since I have seen her! Randy then treated us to lunch at a restaurant owned by a nice Swedish man. It was nice to be able to ease into eating Thai food- the food at the restaurant was for “furlongs” (foreigners). It was very good!
Randy and his family live outside of Chiang Mai, similar in distance from rural Delano area to Minneapolis. Driving back to his house gave me the opportunity to see what Thailand looked like. The buildings are a big mixture of old and new meshed closely together. Thais also drive on the left side of the road, or what they refer to as the “right” side of the road. There are many people on mopeds, scooters, and motorbikes darting in between the larger vehicles. The city was very busy, but the closer we got to Randy’s, the slower the pace of life looked. The Thai people also dress like it is about 40 degrees outside. Randy described it as, “Thai people dress to keep the sun and heat from getting in and Americans dress to get the heat out.” It was over 100 degrees and most people were wearing pants and a long sleeve!
Some of you might be wondering who Randy is. We are connected to Randy through Laura’s dad. Mike and Randy met at work many years ago and have been very good friends ever since. Laura and her siblings have grown up calling him “Uncle Randy” their entire lives! Randy is married to a Thai woman named Nuch (pronounced Noot) and they both live with many of Nuch’s family members. Randy owns the number one pig farm in Thailand and Nuch’s family helps to run it! The farm is about a block from their house, but you can’t smell it at all. The Thai government is very strict about smell and will even shut down farms if neighbors complain about it, so you would never be able to tell that we were so close to a farm. I have seen many different family members in the past few days and Randy tries to explain their relation to Nuch, but her family tree is starting to resemble Game of Thrones so I stopped trying to understand. In the Thai culture, all the generations live together, so we have met grandpas, grandmas, aunts, uncles, nephews, and nieces.
Most of the Thai people we have met and those who live with Randy speak very little English, so I have been trying to learn some Thai in order that we can communicate a little bit. Laura has already been here for a few weeks, so she can communicate pretty well actually. The phrases I use the most are: Sawatdee Kah (Hello/Goodbye), Khob Kun Ka (Thank you), Aroy (Delicious), and Ron (Hot). We mostly converse by saying thank you for the delicious meals they cook us and note how hot it is. Laura can say a little bit more than I can, but it is a lot of smiling and nodding. At meals we will point to something and say, “Thailand” and then they will point to something and say “English” and we will try teach each other new words! To be honest, I don’t remember anything, but it is fun to talk with them. Like I said, a lot of smiling and nodding. In many classes I have learned that speaking only accounts for 7% of all communication, but I never realized how true that was until I was not really able to use words! It is pretty amazing that usually we can still get our point across using broken language, facial expressions, and gestures.
Randy’s house is very nice, especially by Thai standards. It is all one floor and very open. Closing doors isn’t really a thing here because it is so hot, so it is good to have the air be able to move through the house. (Our room is closed off because it is the only room in the house that has AC) They actually do most of their cooking outside in the outdoor kitchen as well as eat a lot of their meals there.
They also have two indoor kitchens; one is Thai style and one is American style. The American style kitchen looks very modern and has an oven, stove top, large counters, and cupboards (all things Thais do not use). Before Randy came to Thailand, Nuch’s family did most of their cooking using a wok over coals or using a gas burner and a pot.
The rest of the house is very open and nice, but the best part is the view. Randy actually oriented the house to face the mountains and bought the land in front of the house so the view would not be obstructed. That was some well spent money. It is really cool to have palm trees in the same photo as mountains. It is quite the view!
So far we have been really spoiled with the food we have been served. Every meal has consisted of some sort of broth with vegetables and pork (my favorite) and either rice or noodles. The nice thing about Randy being American and living here is that they usually make a traditional Thai dish and then make an Americanized version that is not too ped (spicy). They are always very worried that it will be too spicy for us! I was very nervous about not liking the food, but it has been very good so far! They do use chopsticks for some meals with noodles but often use a fork, so I don’t look like a rookie at every meal.
The awesome thing about living on a pig farm is that there is always delicious pork! We have been going down to the barn once a day to check it out and hold the baby pigs. (I am in withdrawal from not being able to hold baby newborns in my labor and delivery rotation). Today we actually helped feed the pigs in the nursery! Around meal times the barn gets deafeningly loud as the pigs get anxious to eat. It has been very interesting to see how they run the farm; it is very clean and efficiently run. Maybe that is why they are number one!
It has been so fun to get to live with Randy and his family the past few days and experience Thailand authentically(kind of). (Laura and I get to sleep with the AC and escape into the room if we ever feel like we are over-heating and they don’t get to). It is very hot here- think of the hottest, humid day in Minnesota and that is how it is all the time. You don’t really ever cool down and you pretty much are always kind of sweating or damp, but since there is no refuge from it, you just get used to it! I should not even be saying anything about how hot it is because it is about 15 degrees cooler than it was the few days before I got here according to Randy. I can’t even imagine it because it is already SO hot. Everyone here is worried we are too hot and will make sure the nearest fans are turned on wherever we are. There is also shade everywhere, so you are never really in direct sun which helps. The views and the people make the heat worth coming out of our AC room and tomorrow we are going really far from the AC room to venture into the city!
The next three days we have a hired driver to take us wherever we want, so we are planning to visit the spa, zoo, mountains, waterfalls, and some temples! We will also find a market or two to do some shopping! Then on Saturday I will be spending the day shadowing at the small county hospital in the area which will be very interesting. I can’t wait to see what the rest of my stay has to offer!