I am 99.99% confident that the movie, A Bug’s Life, was produced, directed, and filmed in my new apartment. Basically every single critter in that movie has made a guest appearance somewhere in my house. I really am not exaggerating here. Especially the fact that A Bug’s Life is based on an ant colony…which is something that I have here. When I moved into my new apartment a couple days ago, I realized just how much of a fixer-upper this place really is. My dad would be so proud of me if he saw all the work I did on this apartment all by myself.
As I was scrubbing each individual tile on my hands and knees, I began to sweep away several ants that appeared on my tile. I then turned around to check my phone. I turned back: more ants returned. Hm. I briefly swept them away. More ants came. How did they come back? I swept them away again. I sneezed. More ants came…for a brief second, I thought I was actually sneezing ants out of my nose (honestly, that’s not a strange thought to have in Thailand. They’re everywhere!). I shook my head. More ants came. I eventually stood up and yelled, “WHAT THE HECK?!” Then, the dreaded moment came…I looked up.
It’s difficult to describe what exactly I saw when my eyes gazed to the ceiling. All I can say is that when I looked up to the light, the surrounding area was completely and utterly black…It was a swarm of ants. Of course, my initial thought was remembering the MacGyver episode where he had to fend off the killer ants who eat people alive. That’s always a comforting thought to have when looking up and seeing nothing but ants everywhere.
I had no choice. I had to spray the ants…knowing that they would all fall down and shower my freshly scrubbed floor. As I sprayed and sprayed and sprayed, slowly I could see the ants trickle down to the floor. Eventually they all began to fall and it seriously looked like raining ants…maybe that’s because they WERE raining ants. And of course, I thought about the song, “It’s raining [men] (insert the word, “ants,” because let’s be honest, there will never be a time in my life where it is raining men…sadly)! Hallelujah, It’s raining [men].” That song was stuck in my head all day long. I wonder why.
I even came face-to-face (literally) with the infamous cockamouse that haunted the characters in How I Met Your Mother. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the TV show, How I Met Your Mother, all you really need to know is that there was a creature who lived in Lilly and Marshall’s apartment and scared the living daylights out of them. It is known as the cockamouse: part cockroach, part mouse. When you watch TV shows like How I Met Your Mother and hear about cockamice (plural form for cockamouse…because I’m pretty sure there are more than just one in this world) and watch movies like The Princess Bride and hear about rodents of unusual size (ROUS’s), you generally would think of them as fictitious animals…FALSE. I discovered that a cockamouse is real…so I’m pretty sure that an ROUS is real as well. Heck, I bet unicorns are as real as cockamice are. Living in Thailand has given me a whole new perspective on the meaning of fictitious animals.
So where exactly am I going with this whole talk about ants and cockamice? Well I actually had an insightful moment with these two things. Let me continue: I was invited to go on a last minute trip to Bangkok. No kidding, it was incredibly last minute. I biked over to the main office and my friend comes up to me and says, “Do you want to go to Bangkok tomorrow for a week?” And of course I can’t say no to an opportunity to travel, so I was like “YEAH!” Our organization had a training session in Bangkok, where we teach Burmese migrants about human rights and the importance of having an understanding of the definition. It was right up my alley! I was so excited to be part of such an amazing training session.
So I packed my bags and embarked on the lovely 12 hour bus ride to Bangkok. While in Bangkok, I was given the freedom to walk around by myself for the first day while the trainers set up for training. I saw all the touristy sights of course: The Grand Palace, MBK, Khao San Road, and of course, we can’t forget the infamously HUGE shopping malls of Bangkok. I was able to meet up with my friend’s aunt, who is a Burmese migrant working as a nanny for an American family. The American family’s apartment was vacant for the night, so naturally I jumped at the opportunity of staying in a place with running water and showers. As I walked into the apartment, I was flabbergasted. It was the Upper East Side of Thailand. This apartment was huge! Plasma screen TV’s in every bedroom, king size mattresses, swimming pool, and a kitchen that could serve as 3 kitchens. As I open the cabinets, I realize that this American family has all American food: Mac ‘n Cheese, peanut butter, tortillas, you name it.
Initially, I almost cried with happiness at seeing peanut butter… but then as I explored their fridge, I realized that they ONLY had American food. The entire apartment was full of American products, American this and that, American everything. I really didn’t understand why in the world would a family move to Thailand if everything they have is American. They might as well live in America, because they certainly are not embracing the Thai culture here. When you live in another country, you should embrace everything in the culture, including the food, appliances, and house. It was ridiculous to see such a huge house and of course, knowing that an American family (of all nationalities) was living there. It made me think of just how materialistic we Americans tend to be.
I became even more frustrated when I walked down the street of the rich neighborhood to find all American shops: Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, The Gap, Old Navy, etc. I look on the street and see that it is flooded with white people. I look on the other side of the road to see Thai street vendors and realize that there isn’t a single white person on that street. I guess I was so shocked to see that all the Americans preferred to stay on their side with their comfort restaurants rather than experience Thailand at its fullest. All they need to do is cross the road to see the real Thailand. It’s as simple as that. But some of them were too satisfied in their own comfort zones. Why would you live in a foreign country if you’re going to continue drinking the same Starbucks drink, eating the same Dunkin Donut, and shopping at the same imported Western-food grocery store?
After a couple rides on the skytrain and a couple rides in a typical Thai taxi (that was an interesting experience…I can tell you about that later), I made it to the huge shopping malls. I went in and couldn’t handle being in there for 5 minutes. It was too overwhelming. People were swarming around, trying to find the newest and latest gadgets and trendy clothes. It’s so incredibly different to where I live in southern Thailand, where I am happy with my 100 baht ($3.33) t-shirts and my one pair of grungy flip flops.
I thought of my friends in southern Thailand, who live life so simply and immediately I began to miss my home (“home” in this case is Khao Lak…sorry, Colorado! I still love you!). I realized how materialistic this area is and it reminded me of the States. It finally hit me that the reason why I am so happy in Khao Lak is because of how simple my life is. I don’t need many things to make me happy. Most things don’t function properly here because we don’t have access to all the latest gadgets, but that’s why it’s so much fun! Yes, I have many issues with plumbing, insects, and technology, but I am able to brush aside those problems happily in order to live in such a simple place. I have never lived in such a strong community of people who are so happy with what they have. They never talk about things they want, only things they genuinely need. I never feel insecure about the clothes I wear or how many cute handbags I own because it’s completely unnecessary here. It’s taken me 18 years to realize that I am happier with less stuff. I will explode if I see one more billboard advertising some ridiculously expensive piece of jewelry or lipstick. I guess the city life isn’t for me after all. I prefer my hippy pants, my messy hair, and playing ukulele on the beach.
After a week in Bangkok, a 12 hour bus ride home, I opened the door to my new apartment and found the familiar pile of ants falling from the ceiling. I smiled when I saw the tile covered in black spots everywhere. There’s something comforting about knowing just how messed up my apartment is. It makes my life so much more exciting and unpredictable. I’m also pretty sure that the cockamouse is somewhere in my bedroom…I guess I’ll find out sooner than later.
The song popped in my head again…“It’s raining ants! Hallelujah, it’s raining ants.” And for the first time when singing this song in the context of my ant situation, I was able to say “hallelujah” full-heartedly and genuinely mean it. Hallelujah, it’s raining ants. I am finally happy. I am finally home. Hallelujah.