Moving To Thailand: The Annual Drought & Granny’s Visit
Thailand: Granny Comes To Visit
I spend a lot of time these days thinking about water. Drinking water; water for baths, dishes, brushing teeth, flushing toilets, watering gardens, etc. Water that I always took for granted until it was no longer there. April and May are supposedly the hottest, driest months of the year in Thailand, and this year they have certainly lived up to their reputation. Every year at this time Hua Hin experiences a water shortage as the reservoirs, lakes and general water supplies dry up, and the rain disappears completely for months on end. I’ve been told that the water supply has become a growing problem as the development in Hua Hin continues at a marathon pace. Water gets diverted to the large hotels and condo developments each dry season, while entire neighborhoods are left without adequate supply. You can see huge water trucks traveling up and down the main road, sloshing their overfilled tanks as they deliver thousands of liters of precious liquid to residents who have run dry. I have taken to checking the level of our underground tank on a daily basis, and have adopted the annoying habit of chiding anyone in the household who lets the tap run a second too long.
Thailand & Granny’s Sense Of Humor
We experienced the awful, sinking, helpless feeling of running out of water, and unfortunately, it was the first day my mom (aka Granny) arrived in Hua Hin. Fortunately, she was a really good sport about it. It was like an episode from Family Guy or Southpark: we awoke with no water in the morning, and the truck wouldn’t arrive for another few hours. Paul and I have very punctual digestive systems–highly regular, if you know what I mean. And my mom had taken a laxative the night before to kickstart her sluggish intestines (traveling seems to throw everyone’s “schedule” off). Suffice to say, we were more than relieved to see the water delivery guy pull up in front of our house that morning. And I was even more relieved that my mom was able to joke about the whole fiasco (I always worry a little about people who have no sense of humor when it comes to bodily functions–I tend to think they’re hiding something, or else incredibly repressed).
The funny / ironic thing about the drought in Hua Hin is that only a few months ago, Thailand experienced a devastating flood that wreaked havoc throughout the river basin area of the Chao Praya, including the massive metropolis of Bangkok. What happened to all that water? The government couldn’t get rid of it fast enough back in November, and yet now no one seems to have sufficient water supply. No one except for the moronic shopkeepers who flood the dirt roads every morning to keep drivers from tossing up dust into their storefronts as they pass. Whenever I spot the idiot with the hose watering the street, I think, “Hey, you moron, I could have used that water to flush my toilet this morning!”
In the US, you’d get slapped with a fine if you were caught watering your lawn during a drought. My mom’s neighborhood in Austin has certain days during the week when each house is allowed to turn on the sprinklers–you will get a ticket for watering on a non-designated day. Or, at the very least, you’ll receive nasty glares from neighbors who would try to guilt trip you into compliance. There’s none of that here in Thailand. The government and the people, in general, don’t seem to get involved. That’s the beauty and the frustration of Thailand. Paul and I joke that this country is the closest thing to an anarchist society that we’ve ever seen. People seem to do whatever they want, with both miraculous and disastrous effects. Mostly disastrous when it comes to driving, as anarchy on the road is generally not a good idea. And then sometimes I’m blown away by the inventive and creative nature of a people bred to be self-sufficient and left mainly to their own devices.
So it’s this constant feeling of awe and frustration that dominates my daily life. And it was into this mix that my mother suddenly found herself. I was so excited to see my mom, but also incredibly apprehensive. I was afraid that she would arrive, take one look around, and ask me what the hell I was doing in this shithole. I was afraid that she would only see the frustrating parts of Thailand and completely miss the miraculous.
Thailand: Granny Learns Flexibility
I don’t have any illusions about certain things in Thailand. As I mentioned already, the infrastructure in Hua Hin is atrocious, and the stray dogs that poop in the middle of the sidewalk is frustrating (even more frustrating when stuck on the bottom of your sandal). In fact, I didn’t realize until my mom arrived that she was terrified of stray dogs, and Thailand, unfortunately, is a bad place to be afraid of stray dogs. There are dogs everywhere in Hua Hin, and they lounge in the street, on the sidewalk, under your table at restaurants, and are, generally, a constant presence. And I wouldn’t say that my mom is the most flexible person in the world. She’s the first to admit that she has an “anxious” personality, so coming to Thailand, a country where absolutely everything is flexible and demands flexibility, was kind of a stretch for her. She never asked for this kind of adventure, and I encouraged her to come, and she made this incredibly long and exhausting journey all by herself, and I really appreciate it. She misses my dad, and I know she’s ready to go home, but it’s been great to have her here.
Of course, my mom questioned our decision to move to Thailand (as any parent would, I think), and before her arrival I dreaded these inevitable, probing and difficult questions. I was afraid that everything I had thought was great about this place would suddenly look so shabby in my mom’s eyes, and her disappointment would make me second-guess our reasons for coming here. But that really hasn’t happened. I don’t know if it’s that my mom is just getting better at keeping her opinions and unsolicited advice to herself (no offense, Mom, but you were never great at that before), or if it’s that I feel confident enough in our decision to move here that I’m not bothered or even aware of her disdain for the place. Or maybe my mom thinks that this place isn’t so bad after all, and if we like it, then maybe that’s enough for her right now.
I know my mom has enjoyed spending time with her granddaughter, and I like to think that this trip will help put her mind at ease. Now she can actually see where we live, and imagine us in our daily routine here in Thailand, not so different from anywhere else in the world, except that we speak a little more Thai and negotiate with more than the average amount of stray dogs and crazy motorcycle drivers than in most places. I know my mom has enjoyed meeting our new friends and visiting our favorite places, and is happy that we seem to be adjusting well to our new life here. I know she wants us to thrive wherever we are, and I know she’s proud of us for coming to Thailand, taking a risk, and making it work. But I also know that a tiny part of her is hoping that things don’t work out too well and that we’ll decide to move back to the States sometime soon. I know Paul and I will feel that way about our daughter, too, if she ends up on the other side of the world. I just hope that we can have as much grace and poise as my mom, as well as her great sense of humor.