Welcome to the Baht Life: Day One/Two

Day One

Sunday was the first day of my eight day, ten dollar budget. I enjoyed having the house to myself, as Nick was out of town teaching an English camp. Yes, the kids here spend their weekends at camps where the goal is to learn English outside of their English classes and English private tutoring. I spent Sunday doing the things I always need to do but manage to put off. I cleaned my room, organized my ever-growing pile of student work, and took care of my laundry before that pile got any larger. My parents sent me an envelope full of newspaper articles from San Diego, so stretched out on my bed and caught up with some of the current events at home. I found the selection they chose to send me interesting, as much of it focused on ridiculous stories, such as “Man leaves infant with Pit-bull as babysitter.” Also included was a picture of them in the newspaper, from a dress-your-dog-up Christmas parade. And last but not least, the papers for my student loan; a reminder that although I am on the other side of the world, I have not be able to shake free of my responsibilities back home.

I finished the articles and attempted to continue reading a book I have been struggling to get through for the past two months. The book is “100 Years Of Solitude,” which has amazing reviews and won a Noble Peace Prize. I pick it up at least three nights a week, but somehow only manage to make it through maybe ten pages before falling asleep. This was the case for Sunday as well. I was only a half chapter in when I passed out, and spent the next two hours of my Sunday afternoon napping in my warm bedroom. When I awoke, the weather had cooled down and I figured I should try and get outside and enjoy the rest of my day. I rode my bike down to Koh Lampuh, a big park in Surat Thani. The park is located on a small island, surrounded by the river. It is a beautiful place to work out, take a walk, play music, read, enjoy the sunset or people watch. I have used it for all aforementioned reasons, except that rather than playing music I was entertained by Nick and some friends, when they decided to have a jam session one Friday evening.

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After spending a few hours in the park, I went to the Sunday night market to pick up dinner. For dinner I grabbed pad thai and chicken skewers (60 baht/$2).

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After the market I went back home and started a project for my preschool class. One of the biggest differences about my preschool classroom, and American classrooms I have worked in, is the lack of visual learning aids on the wall. I decided to make a giant counting chart for the kids, so that they could touch the numbers as I said them. After hanging out with Nick and his girlfriend Kay, I called it a day and went to sleep.

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Total- 60 baht ($2)

Day Two

The arrival of Monday meant the beginning of the workweek. I have to be at work by 8 am, I get an hour lunch break and an hour break to plan, and by 3:30 I am riding my bike home. It’s a quick workday that is over before you know it.  My school also provides me with free lunch, which helps with budgeting, as long as the meal doesn’t include eggs. Anyone who knows me, knows that the one thing I hate more than anything in the world is egg. The smell, the taste, the sight, and the fact that it is a liquid animal within a shell. I do not understand why I am one of the only people I have ever known that thinks there is something wrong with that.

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(Normal school lunch- Noodles with meat and veggies on a giant prison tray.)

Planning for classes this week was easy, because I decided to structure my lessons around “Red Fish, Blue Fish, One Fish, Two Fish,” by Dr. Seuss.  I read the book to my kinder class, and had them point at different pictures and explain to me why they were silly. I left work early because I had to go to the immigration office and get my passport stamped, for a thirty-day extension. (I will not be including this cost in my budget, as it is not a normal expense of my daily life). The immigration office is an official Thai government building, and I don’t know why, but I was surprised by the condition of it. From the outside the building is part of this giant complex in traditional Thai architecture, but the inside was old, worn out, with years of dirt on the walls, and damage to the ground and doors.

 

Of course, I was the only Westerner in the entire building, and all the other immigrants stared at me like I was from another planet. The immigration office was packed to capacity with Burmese and myself, all waiting to have our passports stamped. There was a service window, and rather than a single file line, there was a cluster of people all shoving one another to get access to it. As I waited at the back of the mob, I wondered if when I got to the front if people would shove up against me as well and crush me in the sea of bodies.

 

After about twenty minutes of standing there, debating if I should move up, I realized there were another room and a sign that said “one stop visa renewal.” I wiggled my way through the crowd and walked into the next office. There I sat at a desk and waited for the woman to simply stamp my passport. I watched the clock pass over an hour, as she continued to tell me, “just one moment please.” I was patient because by the looks of the leaning towers of paper and folders on her desk, she had a lot of other work she had to do, and was probably having a long day. I sat quietly and looked around the office. Seated next to me was a mother with a baby that was naked. I wondered why she would take a naked baby, especially with no diaper, to a government office to do immigration paperwork? There are things you see here, that you just wouldn’t in the States.

 

After immigration, I went to a coffee shop and had a smoothie (50 baht/ $1.67) and worked on some lesson plans. I stopped by my neighborhood night market and picked up dinner and some more fresh fruit (80 baht/ $2.68), and some candy as rewards for my students (100 baht/$3.35).

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That evening Nick had company over, and we had a few drinks as we talked and swapped music videos from America and Thailand. I had a half bottle of whisky in the freezer, and Nick picked me up mixers, so I didn’t need to spend any money on that.

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Total- 270 Baht ($9.04)

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Welcome to the Baht Life

Last night, I was inspired by a friend’s blog post, in which he declared he was going to live for ten days in Washington DC on one hundred dollars. It may sound like a good chunk of money, but after living in the city last fall, I know that a hundred dollars hardly gets you half way through the week.

A year after leaving DC, I have relocated to Southern Thailand, where money goes a lot further (which is great, since you make a lot less). With a week until pay day, and less than a hundred dollars to my name, I decided to copy his idea.

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I am starting with 2,365 baht, which is the equivalent to 79.38 USD. I will track my week, from Sunday to Monday (eight days), and document the ways that I spend money and live my life on less than eighty dollars. I chose eight days because his goal is to show how you can live on ten dollars a day, and I would like to offer the same, except from the life of someone living abroad.

To be fair, my fridge has a loaf of bread, some sandwich meat, and a drawer full of fresh fruit and a few vegetables. My motorbike has a half tank of gas, and my water jug is empty. Living in a country where the water is not safe to drink means that I must constantly be either filling up water containers or buying water bottles. While water is still cheap, it adds up quickly when you’re doing it daily, and consume as much as I do.

Rent is the only expense that will not be included in this week’s budget. Just to give you an estimate of what life costs here, I rent the master in a two bedroom/ two bathroom/ fully furnished house, and pay 4,500 baht ($151) a month.

This week I will find productive and creative ways to spend my time, that allow me to avoid spending as much money as I normally would. I will avoid nicer restaurants, going out for drinks, and buying items I don’t need. To save gas I will also be making a conscious effort to walk to places I would normally use my bike to get to.

The house that I have been living in was under construction since late November, and it was only just completed in the last few days. Now that it is finished, Nick, who is wonderful  housemate, and I can make it our home. Decorating with the limited supplies we have, will provide me with a way to fill time. I will also post pictures of before and after, so you can see my Thailand home.

There is an Olympic sized pool up the street from me that I can swim in for a little more than a dollar a day, and a park down by the river, where I can lay out and spend my day reading and writing.

I am also taking inspiration from my friend’s idea to track his progress on a painting he is working on. In order to save money, he will fill some of his free time with the canvas, and hopefully complete it by the end of the week. I too will start some type of picture, whether it is a drawing or painting, and dedicate my evenings to it. I will also share the activities I plan for my students and any art projects I prepare for them.

As life so often has a funny way of working, living on a budget this week comes at an ideal time. I recently found out that the school I work for is closed the second week of February. However, my agency has mandatory on call office hours, and if we choose to be unavailable, we will be penalized a day of pay for each time. I was planning on using this week to meet up with a friend who is in Thailand, and spend the week in the islands with her. A normal weekly budget for me is around $100-$150, depending on how often I go out, or what unexpected costs arise. Saving money this week, so that I will be able to afford to take a few days off, will work out perfectly. As I mentioned earlier, I also don’t have much of a choice, since this is what I have until the 9th.

I hope you enjoy the photos of my daily life, and more so, that this inspires some of you to leave your jobs at home, and come live a life style where you can afford to live on such a small amount of money, while not living without any of the normal comforts of life as you know it.

Feel free to check out The Dandygram, and see how Trevor does this week!

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http://thedandygram.blogspot.com/2013/02/living-on-100-for-10-days.html

It will also offer an insight to how one lives in one of America’s most expensive cities, compared to life in an emerging country.