Whether the rooster population made it impossible to sleep past dawn, or everyone had to get ready for work in the fields, it’s hard to say (it’s the latter), but most people in the village were early risers. I could hear everyone in the neighborhood gearing up for the day, which included making som tum. (Som tum is a side dish consisting mainly of shredded papaya, tomato, peppers, fish sauce and lime. Thais eat som tum like Americans eat french fries.) You could always hear the pounding of the mortar and pestle from somewhere.
Also, everyday someone – not always the same person – would play music that the whole neighborhood could hear. While that might seem obnoxious, the music was always appropriate for the hour, and it was actually very pleasant and soothing. I think the music was a form of community sharing, and I miss that immensely.
I stayed with my uncle and he frequently cooked sticky rice to take with him to the farm, so I’d wake up to the smell of a wood fire. As much as I wanted to stay in bed, I had to get up. There was always a slight twinge of guilt that other people could get up and be productive, and here I am, the lazy American… Not to mention if I dawdled too long, it would be super hot. I’d get up, get dressed, put in my contacts, and fill my Camelback. I carried a stick to fend off any aggressive dogs.
Aside from acclimating to the heat and humidity, dogs were another challenge. The area I was in is a poor farming area where dogs roamed the streets. Basically wherever there was a house, there was a dog or two. The dogs may have had an “owner” but ultimately, they were their own masters. They constantly patrolled their territory and dog fights were common, even among dogs that knew each other. The dogs were used to automobiles and motorbikes, but they were most certainly not used to runners.
Even just running down the street the first few days was a little nerve-wracking. I tried to leave at a time the “owners” would still be around so they could call off their dog. And really, there was never just one dog. As soon as a dog barked, three more would spring out of nowhere, barking and ready for blood. At least, that’s how it seemed. Honestly, I’m not one for abusing animals, no sir, but I started to hope for a dog to attack me so that I could beat the dog and get over my fear. I was tired of running scared. Luckily, being on the edge of town surrounded by farmland would offer more than enough mileage.
And just for the record, I made friends with several dogs on the street, flea infested or not.