Wednesday, February 06, 2008

This is a photo of our cottage.

We’ve lived here for over two years now and although we cannot get phone service or satellite Internet, we’ve really fallen in love with the place. The seclusion and peacefulness can’t be beat and we’ve learned to live alongside all the creepy crawlies in and around our home. But even so, I try hard not to get too attached to it since our landlady has told us many times of her desire to move into the cottage once her father passes away.

Although I’ve grown accustomed to our way of life, I sometimes reflect on what it was like to sit on a Western toilet, have both hot and cold running water, stand under a luxurious shower or soak in a tub full of hot water and bubble bath suds. Our bathroom is furnished with the standard Asian squat toilet, a cold-water spigot that fills a huge plastic water basin, a washing machine hookup, and a jury-rigged system of PVC pipe, baskets and twine hanging from the rafters on which to place our soap, cleaning liquids and hang our bath towels.

On particularly chilly mornings, we heat water in a large pot on our single burner stove, and pour it into our water basin. Bathing consists of ladling water from the basin onto my head, taking soap from another improvised hanging basket and lathering up, followed by more ladling. It’s something akin to what I was used to doing when I went tent camping in the West.

Mam, demure woman that she is, has a unique way of bathing while enswathed in a wraparound dress. She douses herself and manages to clean her whole body without revealing any tantalizing tidbits of skin, much to my disappointment. Women are experts at devising methods to remove bras or change clothing without showing the least bit of skin. Who teaches them these tricks? Is the ability genetically imprinted, or do mothers pass these talents along to their offspring?

Our downstairs living space consists of our enclosed bathroom and small “L” shaped kitchen / living room / dining room. We purchased a small wooden table and two chairs at Tesco Lotus, which we use as a desk / dinner table / catchall, which also serves as a divider of sorts between the kitchen and um, living room / dining room. Mam bought a rather unique futon-like devise, which we use as a couch / chair / easy chair, and which further serves as a divider between the living room and um, dining room, if you will.

Our kitchen is a study in impromptu necessitation.

The one burner stove also has shelves below the for storage space. It is powered by a 15-kilogram propane tank that Mam consistently chides me for failing to turn off after I cook. Propane is not scented with “stink scent” here in Asia, like it is in the U.S., so you have to be careful or you’ll end up blowing your house to smithereens if the gas is left on.

When we first moved into our home, we had a spigot installed in our kitchen area so we would have water to wash dishes, but we had no sink. So Mr. Handyman went to work and constructed a wooden cabinet of sorts, from scrap wood found around the house, on which to place a big rubber basin for dishwashing. Wastewater goes right out the window…very convenient, but pretty smelly on a hot day.

The scrap wood around our house also came into use as shelving for our various condiments like oyster sauce, soy sauce, salt, pepper, flour, vinegar, nam pla (fish sauce), and numerous bottles of noxious liquids and sauces used in Mam’s cooking.

Crammed between everything else is a large, red, folding table we bought which serves to hold our spice rack, small oven (about the size of a microwave), crock-pot, water boiler, and rice cooker.

Upstairs we have two “rooms” separated by a rattan wickerwork wall. One “room” is our bedroom, which contains our small twin-size bed, T.V., and Mam’s Buddha shrine. In the corners of our bedroom are strategically placed limes to ward off snakes (One of many of Mam’s many talismans). Our other room serves as my “office” with a desk and chair for my computer, as well as another folding table for my jigsaw puzzles.

On a really hot day it is too hot to stay upstairs even with the fan blowing directly on us, so we linger downstairs hoping to catch a breeze coming through the windows. All in all, everything pretty much balances out here at our humble abode, and I truly look forward to returning home at the end of the workday.



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