Thursday, December 29, 2011

My New Thai Life

I woke up to the sounds of 45 little girls scraping their plates clean with bent-up metal forks and spoons. There was chatter and hand-games and crisp school uniforms for about three different schools (based on the girls’ ages). Devotions were next, which I watched through bleary eyes and my glasses and mechanically swallowed my egg and rice breakfast.

Devotions were concluded by the only word I recognized—amen—and in the subsequent scurry, everyone grabbed pencils, notebooks, and backpacks for the school day. It feels like any other school morning—except this time I will stay at home with the moms, watching the girls get on the bus one by one.

Except the bus is a hardy but dirty Mazda truck with benches in the bed, and I can’t understand a word of what the girls are saying as they climb over the tailgate.

As we sit here and wait for the final bus to come and take the oldest girls, some are studying (I heard there’s a big chemistry test today), others are playing with the two girls who don’t go to school, and others are ribbing each other—slaps and points are universal language.

I’m starting to recognize numbers and names in Thai. Yesterday Nan and I covered numbers as swung together on the porch swing. Nan is twelve, but was never allowed into school and now she’s too old to start. She’s bright, though, and learning English quickly. She loves to sing the Happy Birthday song and play hand-games. She has burn marks on her wrists and her eyes are permanently damaged from a severe fever when she was younger. She’s not a patient teacher, but she drilled me on my numbers, one through fifty.

I’m still getting everyone else’s name mixed up left and right, though. They all seem to start with a b. Brie, Bang, Bot, Bo, Betty, Becky Beckham. Okay, so Becky and Beckham are two of the dogs, and I made some others up. But Brie is one of the house moms, and the girls call her “P Brie.”  The p is added to the front of names and is sort of a sign of respect and love.

It's so very green here.
Roosters do crow at the crack of dawn here and the sun glazes into the trees quickly once it decides it’s up. Nature’s first green is a silvery gold, with grey mountains in the background and a pale blue sky. It smells fresh here, raw—the way summer nights camping sometimes smell, if the park’s good enough, and exactly the way Korea, with its cement ground and skyscrapers, does not.

The house seems so empty and cheerless now without them all pattering around. P Brie and I watched the last of them ride off in the Mazda minutes ago. The roosters stopped crowing and now I can hear the low menace-buzz of the bees above me. An unknown bird cackles in the flower tree by the swing. I wait and I watch the sunrise in what’s left of the home.

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