Another week has passed by and I am still very busy with my work in the Thai Massage Room & Spa here in Dalbeattie, Scotland. However, despite working long hours, I still have time to think of my early life in Thailand and what life would have been like for me if I had made different decisions when I was younger.
Now, that I am living in Scotland my life is comfortable and like everyone else, I tend to take things for granted such as running water, electricity, television, the internet and of course we cannot forget our mobile phones. However, when I do take the time to appreciate these everyday things, my mind then drifts back all these years to my childhood days when my life was totally different.
I briefly mentioned that as a family we were poor. We lived in a typical Thai rural house that my father built with the help of the other villagers. It was normal for everyone in the village to help where they could as we were all poor and could only survive by helping each other. Our house was made of wood that was cut from the forest that surrounded us and was basic. It did give us a home and shelter and kept us dry, except when holes continually appeared in the roof and we had to move about inside depending on the direction of the wind and rain!
The house was built on stilts so that we could use the space underneath to keep our family pet…. well when I say pet, it was actually a Buffalo ! We had the animal as it helped our family to work the land. The Buffalo was kept underneath the house to give it shelter but mainly to protect it from being stolen. As a child, one of my jobs was to look after and feed the Buffalo although at times, it was rather difficult as it had a wandering instinct and would disappear for days and then reappear as if nothing had happened. Of course it was always my fault when it decided to go on a walkabout!
I still clearly remember the terrible smell from the Buffalo poo as it wafted upstairs into our house. We did get used to it but it is a smell that I will never forget and certainly one I would never recommend. No matter how often we cleaned out the Buffalo’s bed, the smell persisted and of course, the mosquitos loved it and they lived there in swarms. We used to light a fire under the house to try and keep the insects away although now I often wonder what Health & Safety would think about lighting fires underneath a wooden house with 2 adults and 6 children in it!
Inside the house there was one large room although part of it was screened off for the ‘ladies' (that’s me!) to sleep in. The male members of the family slept in the remaining space although none of us had beds and we lay on the floor. We didn’t have a television, although come to think of it we didn't even have electricity!
At first the only lighting that we had in the house was from oil lamps that had a cloth wick at the top that we had to light. I remember that we also used to take the sap from rubber trees and mix it with other ingredients and then roll it into candles that we lit and used them inside the house. Again there was little thought to Health & Safety using these inside a wooden house! We then had a great advancement when we managed to use liquid gas canisters for lighting.
Then the big day came when we had an electric light installed inside our house, it was only one fairly long fluorescent light that shun brightly. I hated it as it was so bright that it attracted all of the insects to come through the open windows and doors!
There was also no running water in the house, other than when in came through the holes in the roof when it was raining. Our toilet was outside and consisted of a hole in the ground, not really what you would consider to be an ensuite!
Each day we had to collect our drinking water from a well and carry it back to our house. We used containers that were made from woven strips of bamboo and then sealed and made watertight with a mixture of mud, resin that we collected from the trees and would you believe it…. Buffalo poo! These containers were then tied to each end of a long bamboo pole and then carried on our shoulder.
The containers were heavy enough on their own but when you added the water to them, you can imagine how difficult that they were to carry. Now here is a tip for anyone who wants to carry water this way. Because of the movement when walking, the flexible bamboo pole tends to bounce up and down leaving you with virtually no water left by the time you get home. The tip is to lay large leaves on the water as it stops it from spilling!
The water that we used for washing and cleaning clothes was taken from a nearby river and carried in the same way, although in the raining season this could be rather hazardous as there was always a danger of slipping into the river. We stored the river water in a tank at the house so that we could use it when we needed it rather than walking to the river every time. Now you can understand why I appreciate being able to turn on a tap inside my house here in Scotland and as if by magic, the water is there
Despite the hardships of daily living at that time, as a family we were happy and very close to each other. We made our living by growing rice on the small amount of land that we had, harvesting enough to feed our family for the year and what was left we sold in order to provide us with other things that we needed. After the rice had been gathered, my family planted peanuts and when they were ready we were sent out to pick them. The nuts, still in their shells were then roasted on an open fire and that is when I had my first experience of be an entrepreneur.
Occasionally a travelling cinema used to come to our village with a large outside screen and it was very popular with people from the surrounding villages. I used to put the peanuts into small packs and the sell them to the audience for 1/2 a Baht each. Even now if you consider that the exchange rate to a UK £ is around 40 Baht, they were not expensive however I still manage to make the equivalent of over a £1, which as you can imagine was a fortune to us as a family.
In order to supplement our family income further, we grew vegetables at the side of the rice fields and we as children then walked barefoot to the neighbouring villages to sell what we had grown. We didn't earn a fortune from this but as we were poor, every Baht that we could get helped our family to live. Although we were poor, we were not alone as most people in the village were in the same position but we always helped each other when we could.
When we harvested the rice from the fields we carried it back to the house where we prepared it. We had a flat concrete looking base where we threshed out the rice. Now when I say concrete, it only looked like concrete as it was made up from mud and other ingredients including of course, Buffalo poo! The Buffalo was an extremely valuable animal to us as it helped us in so many ways both on the land and when it poo'd J
I must admit though that I was not always the little angel and so well behaved as I am now. On one occasion a man came through our village riding an elephant, so together with another young friends and despite constantly being told not to stray far from home, we merrily skipped along and followed it for miles. After a considerable time and ending up in a place that we didn’t know, we realised that we were lost and could not find our way home in the dark. There was a great panic in the village and many people gathered to search for us. As you can imagine when we were eventually reunited with our families, we were not too popular to say the least!
Well, its time for me to get back to work now but will be back with Part 3 soon.
Posted by Noi McIntyre on August 10, 2019