Spin the Globe with Justin Butner

A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.

Welcome to the Mansion

“Yeah, that’s the mansion.
That’s the rats nest where I hang my hat, yes.”
Seth Sentry, Room For Rent

The reason I don’t mind being at office 11 hours a day is because the other place I can sit around for free is house. The falang (foreigner) house is a mansion with nine bedrooms and huge common areas. Structurally, it would make a perfect off-campus frat house with its built-in entertainment center facing a dance floor area big enough for a hundred revelers plus the DJ stand and with a kitchen big enough to prep food for twenty. But the size is where the fit ends. Even a frat house would be cleaner, in better condition, and furnished.

When I moved in, the tile floor of my room was coated in dust, onto which a twin-size crib mattress was placed. Blankets were found in a pile in an upstairs room dirty enough that I slept in clothes until I could wash them. There was no pillow. My room contained two windows, curtains for said windows, a rotating ceiling fan that didn’t rotate, and two fluorescent bulbs.

The sum total of furniture in the house was the empty entertainment center, three toilets, four sinks, a full size mirror, two trash cans, and a whitewater raft. Generally, I don’t think toilets and sinks deserve mention as furniture present in a house, but they made the list for two reasons. 1) For a 9-bedroom mansion, they help illustrate just how little is in the house. 2) There are things noticeably absent, such as a stove, oven, fridge, or dishwasher in the kitchen, a washing machine, any closets, any cabinets, any chairs, tables, or couches. There are some spaces, such as where an oven would go, but they are just holes in the surroundings.

The house during the day looks like it was abandoned years ago. When the late-afternoon light comes in and you look across a room you can see the layer of dust that has accumulated on any surface not directly between someone’s room and the nearest bathroom. The floors of a few rooms look like a relief map of Pluto, with rain drops that came through perpetually-open windows during strong storms cratering the thick layer of dust. I’m not sure whether to close these windows or just not move into these rooms. The war against dust and dirt will be a hard one to fight with the arsenal that appears to be on hand. It contains a child’s broom (or just one with a broken handle) and a dustpan that is so bent as to be completely worthless.

The house during the night looks like the set of a very low-budget horror movie where ghosts come out of the mirror by the stairs and the cockroaches are demonic. The spiders are on my side, at least in the war against mosquitoes. The bathroom (the one that works, but whose water heater for the shower doesn’t) has a permanent consortium of at least eight spiders with 5+ cm leg-spans. Their continued existence speaks to the constantly breeding colony of flying insects. The walls are tile and the floor covered in a thick, dark substance I hoped was dried mud. Given the feel of the rest of the horror house, this room looks like the one where you actually do the murdering for ease of clean-up and the low bar for what cleaning-up means. The cockroaches that inhabit the adjacent “kitchen” might even help with removal of the evidence, albeit very slowly. “Kitchen” is in quotes because it only contains a waist-high tile surface one might consider a long countertop, and roaches.

There is an upstairs to the house, but there is nothing for me there. The lobby area at the top of the stairs contains approximately five dozen large, empty bottles of beer and about a hundred empty 1.5L bottles of water. A week after move in, the plastic bottles will fill three garbage bags and be carried to work to join the mountain of potentially recyclable material that already lives there. A month after move in, the beer bottles continue to sit unmoved. Six bedrooms open to the landing, all of them closed despite only half being occupied. The seventh room to open onto the landing is the bathroom that doesn’t work. It contains a standing pool of water a centimeter deep filled with settled dirt patches and, to my utter surprise, nothing else that shouldn’t be there.

The lack of anything in the house worth stealing helps explain why it isn’t locked. There are two keys to the front door, neither of them in my possession. There may or may not be keys to the lock that sits unused on the sliding gate across the driveway. I doubt I will ever find out. A week after moving in, after coming home particularly late, I will find the front door locked, prompting my first exploration of the grounds. I will find a side room (maybe a laundry / storage room were this a real house) with a padlock on the door. I will take the unclosed padlock off the door, enter, and head to my room, being delayed a total of about thirty seconds by having to break into my new house.

This is my reality now.

One comment on “Welcome to the Mansion

  1. Cy Butner
    August 16, 2016

    That which does not kill us makes us stronger. Does it help to think of it as shabby chic? Perhaps some lovely drapes? 🙂

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This entry was posted on August 13, 2016 by in America, Laos, Luang Namtha and tagged .

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