Sunday, June 12, 2011

Water Wonders

I'm Brighton, a senior music therapy major at Colorado State University. I’m also pursuing a performance certificate for cello and I’m hoping to be able to use both these skills in life to help others and share my passion of music!

I think I’ve been wet more in my first week in Thailand than the whole past semester in Colorado. Humidity, swimming, the ocean, rain, boat trips….in short, water is a big deal here! It’s been interesting to discover cultural differences between then U.S. and Thailand, such as how to greet people, how to use a fork and spoon, sitting vs. squat toilets, religious beliefs, and moral foundations. My new item on the list is water. Yep that’s right, good old refreshing wet stuff. Even how water is integrated into the cultural makeup of an area differs between our countries. I’ve noticed how important the water is to Thai culture during our tropical excursions.

Canals run all around and through the Bangkok area. I was highly amused at first how neighborhood blocks are built on the river just like our American neighborhoods are built along streets. Stairs lead straight from backyards into the water! Seems to be a popular place for kids to congregate and have diving contests. Aside from play, though, I noticed other people using the river to wash their laundry and dishes, squatting on the steps for balance and leaning carefully over the water. Quite a strange concept to me, having the big river out back as your main source of running water.

In other places, especially coastal and low-lying areas, buildings stand on stilts in order to survive the flooding seasons. At first I wondered why even bother building so close to the shore, but then I learned how important fishing is to business, and the nearer you are to the water means fresher seafood! Fishing, crabbing, squiding (yes, I did just make that a verb) make up most of the local business, especially down here in Krabi, in the southern islands of Thailand.

Speaking of which, Krabi now takes title of my new favorite place and I’ll try not to give Dr. Dena too hard of a time for making me leave tomorrow….but why do I love it so much? The water! Down here the water serves a very different purpose, however: tourism. Speedboats work vigorously to transport tourists between the lush islands, and at each stop there is a different activity. All in one day, we swam, rode waves, fed fish out of our hands, snorkeled, and explored a cave. And….all revolving around the water of course! (Which if I didn’t make clear before, was absolutely breathtakingly gorgeous!)

All this talk of water making you thirsty yet? I know I am! Which is my last point I’ll make about water…the tap water here is not safe for foreigners to drink, and clean water in general is more difficult to come by than in the U.S. Having to scout out bottled water and not having the luxury of filling up a glass from the tap whenever I need has definitely made me think twice about how precious it is, and how much more thankful I now am to live in America! We certainly have it easy in comparison. It seems Thai people have needed much less convincing than me of the value of water, and that’s precisely why it’s had a long standing, or waving (bad pun, I know – I couldn’t resist) history in their culture. Gotta love the H2O!

What other things do you think we take so readily for granted that may not be the case in other areas around the world?


  1. Brighton, thank you for this post! So glad you all spent time in Krabi. I've been told to use bottled water to brush my teeth while abroad -- are you all doing that?? Safe travels!

  2. I think I take for granted the accessibility of transportation. Even when I was without a car my first semester at college, I thought I was going to fall off the face of this earth! I never realized how much I had used my car for my main transportation. Granted I had my feet to walk with, and bike to ride, it just didn’t satisfy my needs when I needed to go a farther destination. I see a lot of people here have mopeds, which I think is awesome, but fitting a family of four, their daily groceries, a few books while not wearing helmets doesn’t seem like the safest solution to me! Also, their bus systems lack the safety of simple seatbelts; and I don’t know about you, but when I’m in the back of a taxi, tux tux, orred car, a seatbelt is the first thing I am craving!

  3. Thanks for the comments! To answer your question we're not using bottled water to brush our teeth, we're just careful not to swallow! But we ARE careful only to drink bottled water. So far I've been fine! And Sarah, I agree with you it makes you so much more appreciative of what we have once we're in a different environment where we can't take certain things for granted!

  4. Brighton, thank you for responding about water when brushing teeth. I think the place I went to for my vaccinations, etc. went a little overboard on some of their precautions, but then, that's what they do. :)

  5. I definitely agree about the bottled water thing, it's pretty frustrating to have to locate bottled water whenever I'm thirsty. But I am REALLY thankful for the water the ASEAN house provides us! And I also agree about not having a car! I do not like having to take taxis everywhere and depending on others so much to get somewhere as commonplace as the grocery store. I don't know how long I could live without a car (which sounds like such a gross American thing to say but I've become so used to that way of life!) but it is so awesome that so many Thais make it work!