For their 17th wedding anniversary, most women would ask for a diamond ring, gold, exotic vacation or at very least a costly weekend shopping spree. Not my wife. All she asked for was a small bungalow near Ban Nah for her aging mother and also her sister, who has been their mother’s primary caregiver these past six years.
As you can guess, if you’ve read about my honeymoon being over, I did not really want any members of my wife’s family living in close proximity to us, out on the farm. But, how could I deny my wife? I was so proud of her for thinking of her mother and sister so much, rather than herself. But, that’s not unusual for Thip. That’s the kind of jai dee (good heart) wife I have.
We hired Thip’s cousin Summai and his two helpers to do the work for us. As usual, I assisted with staining, painting and morale maintenance (beers at end of day). Back in 2013, Summai had helped us fix up our village house downstairs and put a new roof on the ground floor section.
The most interesting thing I learned during the bungalow construction was about old windows. They sound bad, but there are several reasons why old windows -- windows and window frames salvaged from torn down traditional Isaan houses that are still in good shape -- sometimes are superior to new ones: they’re cheaper, most of the time better constructed, fully constructed (windows and jams already put in) and made from better wood. It was Thip’s idea to help keep costs down and still have plenty of windows for good air-flow and light. I was actually surprised they were so much better... and a coat of stain dressed them up just fine.
Turns out that Thip’s mother -- Khun Mae -- is so fragile, Khun Paw and family thought it better not to move her out to the farm with us. At first, I was a little mad because of the money invested. But then I realized the decision was a good one. Reasons: 1) last thing we needed was for Khun Mae to die out here. We would certainly be blamed. 2) Since she’s in full dementia, probably better to keep her in the same house where she spent most of her life and raised her family. 3) Certainly easier to take care of her in the village. 4) This way, Thip and I get to maintain our privacy.