“Happiness depends upon ourselves.” –Aristotle
As part of our introduction to Thailand, we spent five days in a northern Thai village. The village home stay helped us TEANers gain a more all-encompassing perspective of Thailand, because while Chiang Mai is a bustling microcosm of energy and life, the majority of Thai people live in rural areas.
At the beginning of the week, we tentatively de-boarded our fleet of song taos, unsure of what to expect. Would we die of starvation, plagued by icky village food? Would we be one of chosen few to be placed in a house with the ever-coveted western-style toilet?
While there were a couple of bumps along the road, I can confidently speak for the entire group when I say that our weeklong village stay was one of the most rewarding experiences any of us has ever had. Sure, I may have slept on the floor, but not having a Tempur-Pedic bed was the furthest thing from my mind as I went to sleep each night and thought about how kind our host families were to us, how happy they were with practically none of the material items we Americans consider necessities and how every day this village stay helped me regain my faith in the true goodness of humanity.
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to spend time in Baan Ton Chok, and I hope everyone can have a similar experience at some point in their lives. If you do happen to be so lucky, here are my lucky seven tips for making the most out of it.
Village Survival 101
1. Have an open mind
Try new foods, be flexible, mai pen rai ka. I ate a cricket, people.
2. Bring toilet paper
It’s one thing to use the squatter, but the bum gun is another animal. Not for me, thank you.
3. Bring snacks
Like I said, try new foods, but know that you probably won’t love everything, so it doesn’t hurt to have a can of Pringles tucked away for emergency consumption after your host mom sends you out for the day with a lunch of fresh squid.
4. Bring warm clothes
It’s darn cold up north! Early-morning trips to the temple can be chilly, especially when you’re riding in the back of a pick-up truck.
5. Bring tampons (skip to #6 if you’re a boy)
We ladies are all a little out of whack these days as our bodies continue to adjust to the time change, a new diet and other changes. Even if your calendar says it’s not that time of the month, all bets are off, so be prepared.
6. Have a sense of humor
Awkward gesture is the main form of communication in the village if you don’t speak Thai, so be able to laugh at yourself. Yes, you do look stupid, but we all do, too. There will inevitably be situations that you can’t control or plan for, but rather than getting frustrated or discouraged, laugh it off and do the best you can.
7. Have an attitude of gratitude
I don’t think I ever fully grasped what it means to have an “attitude of gratitude” until I came to Thailand. Spending time in a rural village becomes so much more meaningful when you take the time to appreciate the little things like bathrooms with toilet paper, hugs from your little host brother or the beauty of rice fields.
Aristotle said that happiness depends upon ourselves, which indeed rang true during my time in Baan Ton Chok. Every experience is what you make of it, and the more you put in, the more you’ll get out.
Until next time…