I have developed some strange habits or concerns since I moved to Thailand, and now the village. I noticed the weird half-laugh-chuckle that is a combination of a little puff of air coming out of my nose and a strange muffled fake laugh coming from my vocal cords and out of my mouth, in a one syllable type of noise. I think it developed as a way for me to deal with the language barrier. If I literally didn’t know what to say or I was too tired to think of what I should say or I just didn’t really want to talk but felt people were expecting some sort of response from me, the half-laugh would come out. Now, it’s stuck and I can’t shake it. I get annoyed with it every time I hear it come from me! Ugh.
The other thing that has developed is that I’ve become very sound-conscious. When I was studying Thai, I studied a module on Thai Culture/Society, and l learned that it is very rude to walk loudly because it shows disrespect to the owner of the house that you’re in, or to the others around you. So I tried very hard to learn to walk quietly in houses. Since I moved to the village I am so conscious of the noises that come from my house. Our neighbours go to bed about 7 or 8 o’clock every night and get up between 4 and 6 every morning. So I am particularly sound-conscious during those hours. During the day, I don’t really think about it actually – it’s just during those hours when I’m still up and they’re not that I worry that my roommate(s) and I make too much noise.
Sound carries too well in the village. We don’t have glass in our windows and our walls upstairs are wooden. Most of our neighbours have the same sort of set up. Sound carries as if we were living in the same house. I hear them sneeze, they hear us cough. I hear their babies crying, they hear us take a shower or use the toilet. I hear their phone ring late in the evening, their radio early in the morning and the dishes being done first thing each day. I hear them pound the spices in their mortar and pestle, as they prepare their dish to go with rice for breakfast. They hear us watch a movie late at night, or the chit chat of our conversations. As I said, sound carries.
The thing is that I know sound carries, and I know that we can’t just live silent lives. I guess the thing to do is to try to respect them by not making too much noise during their sleeping hours and just not worry about the noise I can’t help but make. But I’m not sure what to do about the laugh. Maybe it’ll disappear when I get more of a handle of the language?