Friday, February 10, 2012

Meet the Fam

I have been remiss. For each new place I visit, I like to introduce my readers to the people I’m living, eating, and working with. Despite various and hack-eyed mentionings, I haven’t yet done that for Thailand and my apologies are sincere.
One of the key principles of the H.E.L.P organization is that the house parents and house workers ought to be people of a common ethnicity with the girls and boys they care for. That way, the kids grow up within their own culture, with someone who can understand their backgrounds and speak their language fluently. These house parents and helpers are my new family here in SE Asia.

Mam and Ton were the first house parents for the now three houses in Thailand. Mam was 27 when she started dating the 18 year-old Ton. “If we are still dating in 2 years,” Mam told him, “you have to marry me.” They will soon celebrate their 8-year anniversary with their two little girls Marie and Mana—as well as the thirty-five odd orphans living in the next room. Mam loves the movies and being part of such a huge family. P’Ton likes making puns, playing soccer, and being a dad.

Bow and Boot have one son, Philip, and they take care of the second girls’ home on the land. Bow, the cuddliest momma in the world, is the talker of the two, while Boot, so shy that he’s literally hiding behind trees when I come to teach English, is the funny one. When she and Boot first started dating, Bow says, “My friends no like P’Boot. Too old for me they say. But now when I go home, they say, ‘No, no! You no need come. We want P’Boot come’.” Like most Thai men, he listens well to his wife. When I asked her if she and Boot had wanted to be house parents she laughed. “I want. And P’Boot do what Bow say. He happy.”

Joy. Joy exudes love and compassion. The nine boys H.E.L.P. Thailand has rescued are her boys and they adore her. I’ve never seen such a happily rowdy pack of boys pack it in with such alacrity as when P’Joy tells them to. She studies English harder than anyone and laughs when I say that her cooking is my favorite in the world. After every lesson she says, “Thank you, teacher. God bless you and give you strength.”

Jiab and Bank. Jiab and Bank are the youngest of the group at 27 and 25, respectively. They have one daughter, Pat, and serve as itinerate parents/cooks/grounds crew/drivers for all three houses. Jiab tackles the twists of English grammar with ferocious aggression while Ban(k)[1] wanders in and out of lessons memorizing vocabulary that’s more important to him—like “jersey,” “dangerous,” and “take a nap.” As previously stated, Ban(k)’s smile cures cancer and Jiab’s laugh lights up the world.

P’Bry. Bry, Bow’s younger sister, helps at Mam and Ton’s house taking care of the little ones, cooking, and driving. Like Auntie Nim, she has a very healthy laughing life, but misses hanging out with people her own age. We chop vegetables for dinner together and go for walks during which she tries to teach me Thai but mostly laughs and says, “mai chai!”—literally meaning “not yes” meaning “wrong”—a lot.

Ba Nim. “Ba” means “Auntie” and Nim is everyone’s go-to Auntie—also possibly Wonder Woman. Her husband died leaving her to raise two girls, which she’s done with aplomb, a toothy cackle and a lot of God. Every girl wais to Auntie Nim and goes to her if they have problems. Remarried mothers with AIDS, a rip in a new dress, depression, sick stomach, anything—Auntie Nim is the guru of all wisdom.

[1] In Thai the last consonant isn’t very important in names like “Bank” and “Boot,” so you often only...feel their presence rather than pronounce it. Ban(k) sounds kind of like “bang” as previously mentioned.

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