Peace Corps – My House

A few months after I moved to Khon Kaen, I was visiting with Walt, another of the PCVs that I trained with, and he suggested that we share the rent on a house, rather than continuing to live in apartments. I asked him if he had a place in mind, and he did, so we went to look it over. It was new construction, probably only a few weeks old, but certainly not designed for farongs. Some readers here may be bored by my description of that house, but I would bet that many of them would find it almost as strange today as I did then.
Like nearly all houses in that area at that time, it had two levels. The ground floor was completely enclosed, and built of concrete blocks plastered over to seal cracks and such, and with a concrete slab floor. The downstairs part was divided into three rooms, with a front door and a back door, although the back door was almost never used. There were a few small windows high in the walls that let in a little light, but the rooms were mostly for storage, except the bathroom. We used the room just inside the door as a garage to park our motorcycles, and the rest of it was empty, since we had not accumulated much stuff.
The bathroom was not completely walled off, but had walls perhaps two meters high to give privacy, but still allowed generous air flow over the top. Light was provided by a light bulb, 15 watts or so, that hung above one of the walls such that about half the floor was in shadow from the wall. It included a small sink [no hot water], a Thai toilet, and a cistern for flushing the toilet and bathing. A plastic bowl sat on the edge of the cistern to satisfy both uses. The floor gently sloped to the west, and there was a pipe through the wall on the west side for drainage out onto the ground, plus a small window high in the wall with a good screen over it that may have served to slow down the bugs a little bit. It did provide enough light that I planned my shaving, bathing, etc., for daylight hours, as the light bulb gave barely enough light to safely use the toilet.
Upstairs, the house was divided into two rooms, each probably three by six meters, plus the landing at the head of the stairs, which was almost as large as either of the two bedrooms. The landing was our primary area for storing stuff that could be lugged up the stairs.
The upper floor of the house was all built of wood, except for the corrugated metal roof, and the walls were only one board thick. That is, you saw one side of the boards from the outside of the house, and the other side on the inside. My room was on the north side of the house, and I had a window on each exterior wall. The windows all had grillwork in them to discourage burglars and such, but no screens. Given the cracks between the boards and at the eaves, screens wouldn’t have meant much anyway. Of course, there was no air conditioner, but we couldn’t have afforded one anyway, and this way we really were fully acclimated to the heat.
When we moved in, there was no furniture, so the first order of business was to build beds. We each bought some lumber, and split the cost of a handsaw, a hammer, and some nails. After mine was built, I bought about a 2-inch foam pad to cover it and a mosquito net. I’m sorry I do not have a picture of it, but it served me quite well.
I almost immediately added a hammock, not for sleeping in, but as kind of a recliner where I could read comfortably while getting full air circulation around me. I also bought a small electric fan, and I quickly figured out that I could soak a thin cotton shirt and put it on, and the fan would cool me down quite nicely. I had to get up every half hour or so and re-wet the shirt, but it was well worth the effort.
Although I cannot find any pictures of the house, there was a school just to the north of our house, and here is a picture of the school children climbing up to pick flowers from the trees, taken from my north window.
School kids picking flowers

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