Fire!

“Nooooo! The library!”

IMG_1460As I may have pointed out once or twice, Thailand can be a little on the warm side. As a Midwesterner fresh out of winter and a very slow start to spring, the climate change hit me pretty hard. Luckily there was an abundance of fans and AirCon on high in most buildings. Except for the school I taught in. Well, that’s not entirely true. The offices had fans and sometimes AirCon. Classrooms had windows and ceiling fans. The foreign English teachers’ designated office space, however, had none of these things. There was a standing fan that we could plug into an outlet as long as we didn’t need to charge a laptop or use it for anything else. After spending hours shouting over rambunctious kids and over-gesticulating our English lessons every day, us over-heated foreigner teachers were desperate for more respite than a lazy, weak breeze. To cool our sweaty brows (and backs, and arms, and fronts), we often took refuge in the library that was on the ground floor of our building. The library was always kept beautifully air conditioned.

We spent a lot of time in the library.

My favorite tables

My favorite tables

Free periods between classes we went to the library, after classes ended we sat in the library, we did our grading in the library, and we even ate lunch in the library. Our students and co-teachers quickly learned to find us there. It was a lovely space, one of the more updated parts of the whole campus. The Wi-Fi worked well (except for the days it didn’t) but it never worked on the third floor where our ‘office’ was located. The tables and benches we occupied were gorgeous polished wood. The tabletops were the roots and the trucks of trees, and the benches were fashioned out of the same wood. I loved these tables. Someday, if and when I ever stop being a nomad and have my own home, I want a table like those.

Sometimes a few of the other Thai teachers would hold class in the library as well. They usually made the kids sit at the bigger, less fancy tables at the back of the room, so all the other teachers could still work in the other half. There was a small computer lab and a few other meeting rooms attached to the library, too. And a toilet. You had to go into a hallway connected to the library to access the toilets, but they were staff only and for us much nicer than the squat-only ones the students used. While they still didn’t contain toilet paper or a waste basket (concerning for females every once and while), they were sit-toilets. They looked like the western ones and flushed, but also had the Thai water bucket and hose.

We cherished our precious library. Favorite room out of all the buildings on campus. One day, as I was sitting in this glorious library of coolness, there was the ominous buzzing of electricity. I normally couldn’t hear the hum of the electrical wires, so I looked up from my laptop to see what was going on. I didn’t see anything at first, and then…sparks! Over by one of the windows in between some of the shelves, where a wad of infamous Thai electrical wiring hung, something was starting to smoke. There were a few pops and cracks, and then flames burst forth from the sockets and fire started to lick the wall!

My first thought? Not for the students’ safety, not for my own, but for the library: Don’t burn down the library! It’s the only room with Air Con!

A maintenance guy came out of nowhere and somehow yanked the plugs out of the sockets and everything in the room went out. The ceiling fans stopped, the lights went out, and for a brief terrifying moment, so did the A/C. The lights kicked back on, and thankfully so did the A/C. The fans, however, were out a bit longer.

The next day the library was still standing, hadn’t been burned to the ground over night, but the damaged outlet had been restored to duty. How they fixed it: electrical tape around the wires. The black, ashy residue from where the fire had tried to eat the wall still clung to the white washed bricks. Nothing to see here, everything fixed, good to go. Don’t worry about it.

I continued to use the library whenever I wasn’t teaching. I just avoided sitting at the table closest to the burned wall. Mai Bpen Rai.

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