Living in Surat and Housing

Category
← Back to all posts
  • Life in the Big House by Michael Bartolomei 2011

    Our house, is a very very very fine house
    With two cats in the yard, life used to be so hard
    Now everything is easy, ‘cause of you.

    If you get that song stuck in your head don’t blame me, blame Graham Nash. Besides it had to be done: our house really is a very very very fine house. When the semester began I was living in the house that shall not be named. It was across the street from the Big House. I could see the scaffolding, I could smell the paint, I could practically feel the soft spring of the new mattresses. I was on the outside looking in and I really wanted to get in.

    I am in now and it is glorious. The Big House has three stories, six residents, six-bedrooms, and two bathrooms. It has hot water, I repeat HOT water. (Trust me in a country where “shower” often means a bucket of cold water dumped on your head this is a very big deal). It has a kitchen, a good sized back patio, a common area with a sleek, brand-spanking new 32’ flat-screen TV, and WIFI! Outside the walls of The Big House it is still unmistakably Thailand, but inside it feels closer to a place a 20-hour flight away…home sweet home.

    The front of The Big House opens into a large, safely locked courtyard big enough to hold three scooters, three bicycles and a growing platoon of shoes. The front door opens into the common area which has recently been improved by the addition of 32’ of HD awesomeness. We meet in the common area for “How was school” chats, movie sessions and general lazing about. In a house with six residents the common area is used less than you might expect but used well.

    To the right of the common area is the downstairs bathroom and kitchen area. The kitchen consists of a new stainless steel sink, an old green refrigerator, an electric kettle, a toaster and a blender that doesn’t crush ice. The kitchen doesn’t have a stove. Most kitchens in Thailand don’t. We may pick one up eventually (they are cheap enough) but when you are surrounded by great food for under $1 it’s not a big priority.

    The kitchen door opens onto the back patio. The patio is a work in progress. Its concrete floor and cyclone walls weren’t designed with beauty in mind but we have big plans! Christmas lights, flowers, a hammock and decent patio furniture have all been discussed at length. For the time being we have a small moldy table and a rainbow assortment of plastic chairs. Baby steps. The important thing is that socially we are taking full advantage of our outdoor area; coffee in the mornings, Friday night BBQ’s, beers in plastic chairs, roommates being friends in the outdoor air.

    The remainder of the first floor is taken up by two bedrooms each with high ceilings and enough space for a queen-size bed, a dresser and a desk. At the very end of the hall is a roll-up metal door that is locked at all times and it will remain that way unless we can convince Super English to let us sell water, soda and assorted snacks from our front stoop Thai style.

    The second and third floors of The Big House are bedroom areas. The second floor boasts both the biggest and smallest rooms in the house. The biggest room has dimensions that are well…big. And it has a private balcony. It’s a sweet deal if you have the Super English seniority required to claim it. The smallest room is close to both the toilet and the stairs so that’s nice. The third floor has been ventilated to keep the heat out and renovated to keep the Zen in. Separated on either side by a yoga studio/chill space it has two good sized bedrooms and is probably the quietest place in The Big House.

    Life in the Big House isn’t all about the house. It’s about location, location, location as they say. The Big House is nicely situated to give you quick access to all the important things Surat.

    Food: The Big House is surrounded by good eats. Vendors drive down the street selling papaya salad and grilled chicken. A noodle soup shop the next Soi over is renowned as one of the best in Surat. And Teacher favorites Earth Zone, Kampon, Good Health, Corner Guy, Rice Lady, and the often closed but excellent
    Rice Soup and Thai Donuts place are all walking distance from the house.

    School: Motobikes (a.k.a. scooters) are highly recommended. As a general rule Surat is too big to walk, too small to drive and just right to motobike. Thida (elementary/middle school) is the closest. Even on heavy traffic days Thida can be reached in under five-minutes on a motobike. Suratpittaya (high school) is a ten-
    minute ride (maybe less depending on how much of a weaving daredevil you are). And Super English is just a minute or two further down along the river. Tuk Tuk’s can be taken anywhere in town for 15-20 baht. They are a good way to get around but lack the ease of personal transportation. For those of you thinking, “I’ll save money and ride a bike!” No you won’t. Bikes are great, but not when it is blazing hot and you’re
    dressed in khakis and a button down shirt. The Thai people are big on appearance, they prefer not see Farang disguised as sweat stains.

    Exercise: The Stadium is just around the corner for all your exercise needs. Well, not ALL your exercise needs, but it’s not bad. The stadium has a track and soccer field, basketball courts, tennis courts, badminton courts, a swimming pool, free nightly aerobics classes and a nice park area. It even has a small beat-up
    weight room you can use for 10 baht. If you are not interested in joining a gym The Stadium is a good alternative. If you are interested in joining a gym there are several options in town including a small gym a few blocks down from The Big House that will cost you around 1000 baht a month.

    Big C: Big C is the Walmart of Asia and the closest one is only a couple of kilometers from The Big House. This is good because you can get sheets, a tent, an external hard drive, clothes, a new MP3 player, a new cell phone, shoes, a toaster and shelves in one stop. This is bad because you can put all of those things on a credit card and pretend like it never happened. I’m not saying I know anyone who has done that (cough)
    me (cough). I’m just saying.

    Sounds amazing right? It is. I have lived in several different school provided houses during my time in Surat and The Big House is by far the best. If you were to poll my roommates they would tell you the same. The Big House isn’t perfect. It is situated on a main road and can get noisy at times. A scooter passing at night can sound like a diesel truck driving through your bedroom when you’re trying to fall asleep. A very large powerfully strong strain of ants occasionally tries to claim a corner of the back patio as their own never seeming to remember that we fight dirty. But, these things are small things. The Big House rocks and we all feel lucky to have snagged a spot.

    I am worried though. The Big House is in harmony now. We are all friends. We all love our Big House. But, I fear the harmony cannot withstand the progeny. There is a small impossibly cute cat named Juice Box living just around the corner. Juice Box is preggers. Some of the roommates adore cats, others not so much. The kittens of Juice Box promise to be the kind of cute that elicits high-pitched “Ohhhs” and clapping and jumping up-and-down and coos of “I want one!” Will the progeny of Juice Box be the Yoko Ono of the Big House?

    No.

    Why?

    Super English/Landlord mandated House Rule #1 – No Pets

    Ha! Take that Juice Box babies.