It recently occurred to me that after photographing 3+ weeks of travels, I have barely taken any pictures of Mae Sot, likely a symptom of “I have 3 months of living here to document my life” syndrome.
I’m guilty of not keeping my camera in my bag like I did when we travelled. Mae Sot doesn’t feel too different from our last city, Surat Thani, in that the city center is sort of boring and grimy. This is a border town, so there are plenty of Burmese migrants, which means that there are a lot of foreigners working for NGOs in this area, and as a result, certain things are more commonplace here than they were in Surat.
I am delighted to have access to bread, resources like books, and I can find batik classes at an community art studio, for example. But there are other things that seemed normal in Surat that are missing here. The Tesco Lotus (a normally giant shopping center) is weirdly small. We don’t have our trusty motorbikes to zip around town on or our favorite restaurants to meet friends at. I don’t have a salary (sigh).
I’m finding new routines and slipping into the routines that belonged to the volunteers here before me, not to mention some of the volunteers who are here now. It is hard being new again, not being the ‘oldest’ expat in town. I started going to a Muslim-Burmese teashop for breakfast and I know that it’s another girl’s ‘regular’ spot because I always see her there. I feel like I’m intruding, sometimes, just as sometimes I’ve felt like newcomers are invading. I get oddly protective of my life here and the sensation that these paths are my own…even though they’re clearly not.
We live on a small street behind the Mae Sot police station, so our location feels pretty safe, although we do ride our bicycles by a small detention center as we come home. Our little collection of bungalows is called “Baan Janjira” and our landlords are a sweet old Thai couple that have retired from teaching.
As with most Thai houses and apartments, there doesn’t seem to be much thought put into the design of the house, so our floor is tiled green and the walls are painted blue and the kitchen area is pink. But it comes with furniture – the fridge, tables, chairs, a desk, bed and sheets – so we can’t complain. Here is our living room:
I can live with that.