Just Another Day in Isaan

It is a good thing that I love hot weather. It doesn’t get much hotter than this. The thermometer caresses one hundred degrees every day. It’s a love affair of blazing proportions. While I do love the heat, I am blessed that I can afford an air conditioner, as well as the electricity to run the thing. I have the only AC in the village, a novelty that many villagers have had to see and feel for themselves. Many a card game has been played in my bedroom for the relief this affords those who have never had much relief from the heat. Although I don’t mind having the gals in my room playing, I do ask them to keep it down (the card games can get a bit noisy) and I put my foot down when my wife and her friends start bitching that it is TOO cold in the room. Don’t like it honey, you all can shake your asses out of here and go outside the room to play. I caught her a few times trying to turn down the AC. There’ll be none of that this season dear. Touch that climate control again and I’ll break your pretty little tan fingers and kick you in the bum to boot. Sammi (husband) controls the AC. Hands off!

Today we decided (that is I did) that it was time to do some serious cleaning of the kitchen area. It was getting pretty nasty and needed a ‘spring cleaning’. The problem with these outdoor (sorta, it is roofed, and a wall encloses one end) village style kitchens is the damned dust. It is everywhere and hard to keep up with at times. Also the stove has no vent, fan or hood to draw off the cooking steams and oils. It’s a typical Isaan village cooking area. So my wife and I hit the kitchen with a vengeance, soap, water, and elbow grease, the works. We were at it for hours, and jumping blue Jesus was it hot work. Sweat just runs off you when doing any sort of physical labor this time of year. The rains have come, but that is mostly in the late afternoon and evening. It cools the airs down some, but the humidity before the clouds release their welcome cooling H2O is incredible. I sweat gallons I swear and must have drunk at least ten bottles of cold water in the hours we were at work. It feels good to do a bit of manual labor, but the heat drains the hell out of you. Washing stuff outside in the sun was like standing in a blast furnace. Luckily I tan rather than burn.

My wife is the type that once she starts a job she will not stop until finished. Have a heart honey. Let’s take a break! “No. I want to finish.”

“Well fuck me, I’m taking a ten minute breather and grabbing some ice water and sitting a spell. You go on if you want.” With that, I took a break. She just kept on. A little energizer bunny she is once started.

Around noon the neighborhood gals come strolling in, little kids on their hips or trailing behind, colorful pasins wrapped around their waists, all smiles and wai-ing me as they walk by. They were here to set a spell in Mama’s house (which is attached to our house by the exterior kitchen) and play a bit of cards. To tell the truth at times Mama’s house looks like a goddamned casino. I’ve seen twenty or more gals sitting around their card cloths (a piece of felt-like material used as a card table on the floor). Mama’s house has a raised tiled floor with like twelve-foot ceilings, so it stays cool through the heat of the day with just a couple small fans on. I have a good sized freezer in the village and keep it stocked with these ice things with a weird name, something like ‘freeze-pops’, long colored and flavored liquid sticks in plastic that you freeze in the freezer. I give them out to the kids on the hot days like this. They are cheap as hell and you can get dozens for a hundred baht, and the kids love them.

Under the aluminum stove lays a piece of green linoleum, placed to keep the tiles clean around the cooking area. It was one of the first things I wanted to clean, along with the stove itself and the area behind the stove. My wife and I disconnected the stove from the gas canister and took the stove outside to give it a thorough going over. The hose outside and some plastic tubs with soap and water make it easy to do with little mess and fuss. We then grabbed the linoleum and took that out as well. The linoleum when under the stove had curled down some, forming a small tube at the back end. When it had been first laid down someone had decided to have the linoleum go up the wall about six inches. In the heat it had just folded down over itself. As my wife was opening this I heard her yell and saw here jump back away from the linoleum. There, when she once again lifted the linoleum with a stick so I could see what had excited her, sat a medium sized black scorpion, which had made the small tube tunnel its hiding place during the day. Ugly beast, I hate the damn things. I still can’t figure out how the hell they get in, as the kitchen is surrounded by steel grating and covered with chicken wire three feet high from the ground. This is one reason I am careful when walking around barefoot. You never know when you’ll run into one, or step on one in the dark. The night previous I had gone into the kitchen in the dark, and was thinking I should turn on a light to see if there were any varmints cruising about in the dark that might do me harm. There is one less scorpion in the world now. Serves him right, the bastard, for invading my space instead of hanging around outdoors where he belongs. We continued our chores and got a lot done that needed doing. I was happy to get this finished, as I had been meaning to do it the past few weeks. Tired and sweaty we knocked off around four p.m. and showered up while Sis made some food for us all.

After eating our fill of delectable foods my wife joined the casino girls in some card playing and won a couple hundred baht, which prompted her to splurge on a couple large Heinekens, which I thought nice of her… considering I don’t like Heinekens. That’ll cost her in payback one day soon, damn her hide.

As I sat at the table I have for my decidedly farang ass and spine, which cannot take hours sitting on the damned floor on woven rice straw mats, it started to thunder and the afternoon winds came. The sky darkened and the clouds piled up on top of each other building fairy castles in the firmament. As the sun sank lightning flickered and flashed and the rumbling skies let down the collected day’s moisture, briefly cooling the air. The kids played a Thai version of hopscotch in the kitchen (it is rather large) using the tiled floor squares as their checkerboard. After a while they ran around outside doing something, collecting something, what I had no idea of. Later they came to me and showed me a large pink plastic bowl filled with water, and also filled with a gazillion small black beetles. They seemed pleased with themselves and I assumed these were ‘eating’ bugs. Christ, these people will eat anything! Once fried and salted I guess they taste okay because everyone seems to want a handful. I call this ‘Lao Popcorn’. The kids think it is funny as hell when I make faces when they offer some to me. Never have, never will… unless I am starving to death, maybe not even then. I’m from Boston and we just don’t ‘do’ bugs. We swat them, we spray them and bomb them, we set traps for them… but we do not, under any circumstances, eat them. It’s just not done you see.

It was time to open the bar and have a cooling alcoholic refreshment. I had lucked out the day before when I was in Big C. It seems someone has started stocking cranberry juice. Hurray! Finally. This is one of my favorite juices to drink, and also one of my favorite mixes to make cocktails with… Cape Codders. Yummy! One of my absolute favorite mixed drinks. I grabbed my ice bucket and went next door to Sis Mun’s shop and grabbed a couple bottles of tonic water and ten baht worth of ice cubes (you get a lot of ice cubes for a mere ten baht). I had a bag full of limes in the reefer already, and a full bottle of some vodka I’d bought months before and stashed for just such a moment. I was set to go. There is nothing so delicious as an ice cold Cape Codder, glass filled with ice, and a couple good squeezes of fresh lime juice on a hot, no sweltering, day after finishing your homely chores. I fixed myself a stiff one and made one for my wife and her cousin. They had never tasted one before and stated this concoction was definitely ‘arroy mahk mahk’ (very tasty).

I hadn’t had my ass planted five minutes and sipped more than a couple sips off my delightful refreshment when who shows up, that’s right, sister Eet’s husband (another cousin). The man is some kind of friggin’ mutant I swear. I believe he is one of the X-mens evil villain mutant adversaries. The man has hearing like Superman and can hear a beer bottle open from a kilometer away. He can smell alcohol from the same distance and follow its scent like a prize bloodhound unerringly to the source. And worst of all the man is a fucking mooch and always comes empty handed. Lacking any sort of shame he makes the motion of a glass being filled toward me. I grimace and give the leech a hard look. How the hell does he do it? It’s uncanny the way he appears as soon as booze hits the table, any table. I’m still trying to think up a cool super-villain name for him. Liquorman? Supermooch? I’m open to suggestions.

As I sit there at my table I notice the sun is nearly gone and switch on the lights to the outside. One of the lights can be seen from my perch at the table and I notice as the light turns on the wall beneath is covered with about two dozen small salivating geckos. This is their suppertime and they have been patiently waiting for this moment. Another thing I notice as the florescent flickers on is an incredible sight. As the light comes to life a huge swarm of bugs rise off the ground and head toward the light, like, well like moths to the flame I guess. The geckos, licking their chops in anticipation, start to fight each other to gain the best position on the wall for dining on this fast approaching feast. It is a funny thing to see two geckos go at it. It’s like watching one of those old sci-fi Saturday morning movies where dinosaurs fight each other, only in miniature. They are vicious little buggers when they go at it. Two million B. C. battles erupt all along the wall; the losers at times fall to the ground and start the climb all over again. Yes, I guess I am bored maybe if I find these real life nature happenings interesting. And I do. I feel like a little kid again at times. I’m charmed by it all.

But hell, it’s just another day in Isaan.

(The Central Scrutinizer)
© Cent. All rights reserved by the author.


For more stories from the author and over 1200 stories about Thailand by many authors, visit: www.thailandstories.com