I hope you are all doing well. I am fine and alive here, and just wanted to give you an update since y’all are so interested in what I’ve been doing. In order to type quickly in my limited internet time (and limited reliability), I will make this email a series of facts, if you will. 1. I live in a village of about 350 people. It is just about as far removed from NYC as possible (which is the point).
2. There is one other non-Thai here, a Dutchman who came today and visits on and off. We sort of stand out since we’re pale and the villagers are brown-skinned.
3. They don’t do toilet paper here. They don’t believe in it, they don’t have it, and you’re not allowed to use it. Yes, you know exactly what that means.
6. Use your imagination.
7. It doesn’t matter what you like like, which is good since I haven’t seen a mirror for days. Besides, everyone’s rolling around in dirt and filth all the time. Still, the girls always have shiny, black, perfect-looking hair (government requirements). They’re all Buddhists as well.
8. I got my first leech.
9. I’m not losing weight. Ha. You SERIOUSLY thought that was going to happen? What a joke.
10. You eat rice, rice, and more rice. Rice for breakfast with 1 vegetable, rice for lunch with 1 vegetable (leftovers), and rice for dinner with 1 or 2 vegetables. Guess what I’m having for dinner?
11. I’m still not telling you because it’s gross.
12. I actually LIKE the kids! We all know I almost always hate kids, but these kids are just like American kids, except they’re respectful, grateful, don’t complain, and do chores. So they’re really nothing like American kids.
13. I’m fairly sure that I’m the tallest person in the entire village, which means that I constantly walk into cobwebs. There are plenty of mice and lizards as well. But the cobwebs where I live…well, let’s just say that there are so many, they form a sort of dark grey net in doorways. The cleanliness of my homestay house makes my own home look like a pristine palace.
14. Of course they have cellphones. Duh.
15. I often question if I should wash my hands before something, but given what you’ve read so far, I’m sure you understand that I’d have to be in a 24-hour Purell shower in order to be clean here. Plus, there aren’t sinks. Yeah.
16. I live in the most gorgeous place I’ve ever seen in the entire world. I know I haven’t seen a whole lot, but this place beats anything I’ve ever seen in any book, on television, or in any magazine. There is no way to describe what I get to see looking out the (glassless) window every morning. The landscape is the most beautiful mix of mountains, different forests, rice patties grown in the mountains, dusky green cabbage fields, pastures, farms, and clouds that reveal layers upon layers of farms and mountains. It literally takes my breath away for a few seconds. There are butterflies like you’ve never seen, lizards, and, well, leeches. I am in the hilltribes, so it’s not all that hot. It is, however, so far removed from civilization, and so poor, that no tourists ever come near here. There is also very little to do. I take photos when I can, but since it’s monsoon season, it rains here several times a day and then gets dark very early. The family I live with has 4 daughters and 1 son. They’re extremely poor, but very bright. The oldest daughter soon wants to go to medical school, but can’t afford the approx. $300 it would take to pay for the first year of college. If you should want to send anything, be it a letter to me, clothing for anyone from babies to small teens, money for the family or village, school supplies, simple books in English, or illicit toilet paper/an embroidery kit/book/something to occupy my time/cyanide pills, here is the address: Kathryn Cooper, c/o Noi Kanawatkikorn
(address not current) I’m enjoying myself and hope you are all healthy and well. I’ll be here for a month. I don’t have time to reply to every email, but I love your responses and read every one. Love and kisses to all!