“Mai rak Pi Lydia laeo. Rak Pi chai..” said the little boy I live with as he held my boyfriend’s hand affectionately after having met him five minutes earlier. “I don’t love Pi Lydia anymore. I love my big brother.” That seemed to be the effect my boyfriend John had on everyone, not just Nong Oak, the four year old I live with. After having been here for almost a year now John was able to finally come to Thailand. It was a wonderful two and half weeks that flew by much too fast! We spent one week at my site and another week and a half traveling. Before he arrived I was mostly looking forward to our time away from the commotion and inherent stress of cultural differences at my site. But that ended up being one of the best parts of his visit. Seeing how excited my Thai family was to meet him, the effort my friends made to spend time with him and get to know him, and knowing that he was experiencing a bit of what I go through in Thailand meant so much to me.
One of my favorite moments of John’s visit was introducing him to my 8th grade class. My co-teacher and I thought we would let the students “interview” him. I expected them to reluctantly and nervously ask a few questions with a lot of prying, but instead the class enthusiastically jumped into it, asking him questions for 45 minutes straight! (Everyone started to participate more when they realized if they kept asking questions they wouldn’t have to learn a new English lesson….) The questions went something like this:
“Where are you from?”
“What is your favorite food?”
“Do you like Thailand?”
“Do you have a girlfriend?”
“What’s your girlfriend’s name?”
“Do you love Lydia?”
“Why do you love Lydia?”
“Do you want babies?”
“How do you want to have babies?” (I’m pretty sure they meant to ask “how many babies do you
want?” Either way, its a pretty strange question. And to be clear-I didn’t teach him that!)
“What’s your last name?”
“How do you spell it?”
“Do you have facebook?”
“What’s your facebook name?”
“Write it down.”
“What’s your phone number?”
After one class of questions we told the students they could continue the next day if they prepared. The next class one student came in with a full page of written questions. John was a great sport about it and answered another half an hour worth of questions and by the end of the class was convinced to sing a song for the class..
By the end of John’s visit it was hard to say goodbye, but there was a sense of ease between us, knowing that he now has an understanding of my life here. He has his own relationship with the people I talk about, understands the struggles I face, and can paint a picture of the stories I tell him. When I talk to the people at my site they have their own memories with him that we can share and this makes me feel closer to them. Thinking about this doesn’t make another year apart seem quite so hard!