Previously I promised you all a little something uplifting. I know a lot of what I wrote about while in Thailand was as difficult to read as it was to experience, but while I explored the evil that resides in places we may not expect, the good was there too. I was supported and encouraged by those closest to me and also by those I least expected. Happy New Year. And remember...
"The dreams we appear in are not only our own." - Gil Scot-Heron
It had been a long week. Several days in a Laos-Thai border market from morning until past sunset. This are not your friendly tourist market, but one where you sit and watch, observing and remembering, but unable to react to the things you see. Members of the military delivering children across the border to work. People offering you permission and warnings about your presence in the same breath. Walking down sweltering streets quietly assessing the children you see. I got so I could guess the age and nationality of a child with very good accuracy, whether he or she was selling fresh fish or sex.
So on our day outside of the market, we planned half a day in karaoke bars on the other side of the Mun river to see what we could find. The first had a reputation for having the youngest and most beautiful Lao girls. I sat and observed as three interviewers chatted with girls, reading stories through voice tone and hand gestures. Then we crossed the street to another karaoke bar, and the mamasan invited us to sit down for a chat. After we explained our goals, and that we were hopeful our research would lead to increased access to support and resources for young people there, including karaoke workers, she was receptive. She suggest that future programming include lessons in Thai manners and customs so her ladies could better serve customers. I threw up a little in my mouth. She then brought out 3 employees well over 18 to be interviewed, denying any who were underage. As it was the end of the day (and I could barely contain my feelings toward the mamasan) I decided to walk back to our guesthouse since I couldn't help with interviews.
As I approached the bridge to cross the river, the father of the owner of my guesthouse approached, jogging. He and I had the quasi-friendship of people who do not speak the same language. Since we both like running, we would greet each other, make running motions and smile occasionally. So he saw me walking, said something in Thai and made running motions. I motioned to my shoes, saying I couldn't run but I was walking home (all in English). He smiled and ran off. I continued crossing the bridge, contemplating the new construction and the karaoke bars as they turned on their twinkling Christmas lights for the evening.
Then I saw the father of the guesthouse owner again, this time on a bicycle. He approached me and motioned that I should ride it, watching as I mounted and rode off. He had run back to the guesthouse, pulled out a bicycle and brought it back to me, perhaps thinking that I had meant my feet hurt when I gestured to my shoes earlier. Although I was less than half a mile away, I smiled, thanked him. Even though I ripped one of my two pairs of pants on the chain and managed to get grease on them too, it made my week. Someone did something, unmotivated by personal gain, to help me and make my day easier. It really is the little things.