You know that feeling when you are about to bring your significant other home for the first time to meet your parents? Your stomach is twisting inside and the butterflies feel like they are about to burst? Ok it wasn’t QUITE like that, but similar, to my feelings when I introduced my first visitor to my Thai family. Two very different cultures were about to mix. I’ve been in Thailand for 6 months now and have been working hard to blend in and respect the intricacies of the culture here. I wanted to make a good impression on my host family and bringing a close friend home to meet my community would be opening myself up in a way I hadn’t yet done. It was comical when my friend Liz and I first arrived home after our mini vacation because I realized my host sister was feeling the same anxieties. All of a sudden there was a new water jug in the kitchen, containers for all the dishes, and FORKS (we usually always eat with spoons, but my family didn’t think Liz would know how to eat without a fork). I was so touched by the effort my family had made to make sure my friend felt comfortable in their home, and I realized I had nothing to worry about.
Each day Liz went to school with me, except for Thursday. Every Thursday I have a “community day” where I don’t teach at the school and can work on projects with in the community. The night before we had an informal cooking class with some of the women who live nearby and made Som-tam, or papaya salad. One of the ladies that came grows coffee plants here and I have been wanting to help and learn about growing coffee. When I told her that she asked if we wanted to go tomorrow. So we went. Little did we know what this day was going to turn into.. It began at in the coffee field. Then this happened:
Somehow we ended up at a nearby river, posing in the water for photographs. (Thai people LOVE to take photos, as you have probably if you are my friend on Facebook!) She had come prepared to have a picnic lunch on the river, with bowls full of rice. The rest of the day consisted of doing laundry at her house, learning about our horoscopes, going to the market, and bai-tiawing to visit neighbors in the community. This day seemed to encompass my experience here in Thailand: you never know what is going to happen, and when you think you do, it still doesn’t. Like the current of the river, you learn to just go with it. The perfect ending to Liz’s visit was the next day, when our new friend surprised us by riding up on her motorcycle to pick Liz up and bring her to the nearby temple. The day before she had found out Liz had a “bad” horoscope and told her she should go to the Wat as often as she can. She wanted to make sure Liz started to turn her bad luck around right away!