When I traveled here as a tourist, I tended to be in the places tourists are. Due to the heat, we often found ourselves in the many shopping malls Thailand has to offer. Although I loathe to go to malls in the US, the situation is a bit different here. For instance, I can always find clean bathrooms stocked with all the necessary and expected things such as soap and toilet paper. Food courts offer the same food I can find on the street for just a little more and with a place to sit down. Mostly, they are an escape from the heat and the noise outside. Bangkok is a noisy, smoggy city. Living here on a teacher's salary, though, has me shifting back to the streets. This is where I began to see how I would be struggling.
I have ever gone an entire month without some sort of ailment. I have been on antibiotics at least three times and rarely went more than 30 days without catching diarrhea. For the last few days I have had a cold. My brother sent me American over-the-counter drugs after my first cold and they have kept me breathing ever since.
Sanitation is a challenge. Few bathrooms have soap let alone a sink to wash my hands in. Rarely do I see paper towels though quite often I will see a community towel sitting on the counter and I have yet to touch one. Toilets are often just stands on the floor to squat on rather than one to sit on. Bus stations and other random businesses often station a lady at a table outside the toilet to collect 3 baht for the facility and another 2 to 5 baht for toilet paper. Ironically, the toilets you pay for are usually the most filthy. More than likely, this poor sanitation is what has been causing my health problems.
While I am on the subject, I realized I have been living here for some time now when I always know to go to the outside back wall of the men's room at a gas station for the urinals. You know you have lived in Thailand for a while when you:
- See a sign like this directing you where to go.
- Check into a hotel and check for AC, hot water and a toilet you can sit on.
- Are run off the road by a large truck and you keep going without comment.
- Roll up the windows when you see monkeys to protect your camera.
- Ask the front desk clerk at a hotel for toilet paper and she leads you to the dining hall for napkins.
Even more so, you don’t flinch as you walk to the napkin holder, split it open and take out a handful for your room.
Despite all these discomforts, I am beginning to like being here or at least I am getting used to it. I have found solutions for most of the problems and am working on more solutions every day.