In another week and a half, Tawn and I will have some very special guests. My longest-time friend, whom I’ve known since we met in three-year old preschool, and his family are coming for a visit on their way to China. Of course, I enjoy all the guests we have visit, but with Brad and Donna and their children, it feels like family coming to spend time with us.
In the course of preparing, they’ve been sending me emails with loads of questions. What should we wear? What will the weather be like? Is it safe to drink the water? What about when we brush our teeth? Should we bring toilet paper?
I love these questions because they remind me of my early visits to Thailand. Tawn and I met on my second trip to the kingdom and in the nearly six years between that first meeting and when I moved here, I must have made ten trips here, each time learning a bit more about the country and culture, and each time figuring out what it might be like to move here.
The water issue was one of my big fears. Every hotel you go to in Bangkok provides a couple of bottles of complimentary drinking water, the implication being that drinking from the tap is not a good idea. And it isn’t, kind of. Tawn’s uncle used to run the water department and swears that the water coming out of the department is world-class. And it is.
The problem is, that world-class water has to travel through all sorts of maybe not world-class pipes in order to arrive at your tap. Every so often I have to unscrew our facet heads and clean out sand and grit from the screens inside, so there is definitely some organic matter that makes it through the system.
That said, we still drink tap water at home after it has been run through a three-part filter. In the two and a half years we’ve been in this condo, we haven’t had any problems catching ill from water-borne bugs. In our previous apartment we actually had a bottled water service, but when we moved into the condo I didn’t want to deal with large bottles of water sitting about.
In fact, when I first moved here and before we got the bottled water service, we used to buy 5-liter bottles of water from the store and cart them home. For the longest time, I didn’t understand that there is an informal recycling system here (scavengers go through the trash and sell the recyclables) so on my first trip back to the US after moving here, I actually brought a suitcase filled with old bottles, cut in half and nested together to save space, so I could recycle them. Once I learned about the informal recycling system, I realized how silly my action had been.
Also when I first moved here, I was worried about getting water in my mouth when taking a shower or brushing my teeth. It wasn’t until I did some research and read expat forums like ThaiVisa.com that I realized I was being silly about that, too. A little fall of rain can hardly hurt me now, as Eponine sings in Les Miserables.
But those questions are a good sign, I think. A curiosity about the world and a desire to be prepared, things I value in myself and in others.
What questions have you asked in your travels that you later felt were a bit silly?