Bye, bye old condo! I’ll miss your 7-11 and beautiful views.
Today, we moved, but we didn’t move far. We’re still in Thailand, still in Chiang Mai, still in the Nimman Road area. We moved four blocks north, and one block west, and we took all of our earthly belongings from one abode to the other in only three trips.
We lived in our last apartment for six months. That’s the length of time my family spent in our little house in Adelaide, Australia and the length of time I lived in my last apartment on North Loop. Six months makes barely enough time to get settled, to get finger grooves on the things you switch on and off often, to get dirty patches where the rug ends, to nick the inside of your closet door with the drawer inside when looking for a pair of tights.
When you move out of a place after six months of living, you don’t get the joy of uncovering lost things; there are no new-to-you spices lingering in the back of your pantry or knee-high sock singletons to reunite. It’s enough time to replenish your of stock bobby pins and ponytail holders, curating a new collection from pieces found in couch crevices, sock drawers, and wedged in the seam where sink meets countertop. But it’s not enough time to find that lost earring. After six months of living, all your earrings live in sets, even when you’re the type of person to lose earrings. Your lost earrings live together in hotel rooms, lake shores, dingy bars. They’ve escaped and eloped.
(It’s good. They only weigh you down, anyway, and they turn your ears funny colors.)
Finding lost treasures is a small consolation prize in the hell of transferring one’s earthly belongings from one place to another. Uprooting things from their rightful places: wrapping, boxing, unboxing, unwrapping…and finally transplanting the things somewhere new because the rent is cheaper, view is better, and the cable is free feels like punishment. As you pack, lug, and unpack you’re punished for the acquisition, hoarding, and collecting you’ve done in the time since you last moved all of your things.
This move was the easiest since shuffling between dorms in college. With only 46 liters of clothing, 20 liters of electronic and traditional media, a guitar, tubs of (soda) brewing equipment, a coffee maker, and about 20 plastic 7-11 and Uniqlo bags full of things that go in the kitchen and the bathroom, this move was a breeze. Even with the brewing equipment, it took two trips by foot, and one trip by car to shift our lives one unit west and four units north.
It started poorly enough. Our real estate people missed the 10 am appointment at the new place after we had packed up approximately 66 liters of things each and moved them on our backs. We sat in the new lobby for 45 minutes, sweating in the damp air, running to the real estate office, making phone calls, advocating for ourselves.
We were forgotten. Then rescheduled. And we humped our things back to the old apartment and cleaned it with our stuff still in it. We did things backwards, according to Standard Operating Procedures for Moving. You’re supposed to clean last. Mai pen rai.
Soaked in cleaning supplies and sweat, we made our second-first trip to our new apartment three hours later. With one backpack on my back, one backpack on my front, a purse slung round my neck, a bag of toiletries in hand, and a yoga mat under my arm that also carried an umbrella, I waddled forward in the pouring rain.
One cleaning lady at the old place took a great interest in our move, speaking so confidently and inquisitively to me in Thai that I could not understand or respond to her questions.
“Tangmot?” she said, as she pointed to our belongings, now piled on the curb.
“Tangmot,” I replied, hoping the word meant “everything.”
She replies, in great rapidity, with a set of observations and questions I comprehending in segments, like a radio going in an out of its signal.
“You tee nigh….bai tee…mee…mee…bang sing…tow rai…ka…mai?”
“Uhh, hong tee ben peng mak. Bai tee pratet jeen, pratet myan, pratet lao. Hong tee ben yai mak.”
“Uhh, shit. Umm. Sao. Umm. Yee sib. Pan. Baht. Is that how you say it in Thai? Peng for rao, dteh toog nayee pratet America.”
The woman looks on with confusion at my complete incomprehension of the Thai language and number system. Meanwhile, Andy flags down a songtheaw willing to take us and our things the six total blocks. It took two tries. The driver hops out, and with cleaning lady, we pile in all of our things in just one trip.
When we arrive, the driver helps again, as does the parking man/security guard at the new place.
I like the two parking men/security guards I’ve encountered here; they interact with us as people, not as foreign objects of mystery, like we so often are when it comes to various adventures in expating.
I have lived in 10 places since I turned 18. 10 places in 10 years with 8 roommates, 7 landlords, four back yards, two gas stoves, one cat, and very few belongings, probably none at all, that have made it to each place. I’ve consumed and destroyed entire Ikea bedroom sets and abandoned fruitful gardens.
I hate moving, but not as much as I hate staying put. What if there’s something better? Cheaper? With a better view?
Eventually, one day, maybe in the future, I’ll learn to revel in making the grooves on the inside of a closet door and losing spices in infinite pantries. I’ll indulge by browsing paint colors with the intent and intensity with which I browse hotels today. I’ll squirrel away bobby pins and ponytail holders with abandon. My socks will never have joyful reunions, and pairs of earrings will split up.
One day, I’ll never have to feel the weight of my things on my spine ever again; it will be glorious.
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