NungNing Welcomes Visitors to Her Thai Village
Emily C. Hingle
The sun peered through cracks in the pieces of wood that my father had used to cover holes in our house yesterday. Getting out of bed, I realized today was no ordinary day. I quickly threw on my bright green shirt and black pants and ran outside to find my bike. Before leaving, I told my parents sawadee ka (goodbye) and they gave me 4 baht to purchase a snack at school. I snagged a piece of mango from the tree and went off to meet my friends down the road. We were going to school and this was the day the American visitors would come.
I live about 1 kilometer from school. When we arrived, my friends and I dropped our bikes and ran to the assembly of students. We took off our shoes and sat in our grade-leveled lines. The khru (teacher) welcomed us and discussed today’s schedule. Soon, loud voices mixed with the sound of car motors, and the smell of exhaust ran through the village and into the entrance of the school. I was trying to keep focused on the khru, but it was hard not to be distracted by the large group of Americans who had just arrived to our school. I glanced over at them and saw that they were of all different skin colors—black, white, tan. Not everyone’s hair was straight either—some was even curly. They sat down near us and looked at us as we looked at them. Their eyes were loving and their smiles were warm. I was thrilled to meet these visitors from far away.
When class began, all the students were sectioned off by grade level. Seven Americans followed our group into our classroom. Luckily, today was cooler than most due to the overcast skies, which meant the bugs would not be so bad. When class began, a young Thai woman told us the Americans would introduce themselves to us. The Americans giggled as they introduced themselves in Thai. I starting watching one of them more than the others. She noticed me, too. “Pom chu Emily Ka," she said. Her name was Emily.
As the Americans spoke to us, all their English words were translated by the Thai lady. I think I could have understood the Americans’ English, if they had spoken more slowly. We played many games together and learned more English words. “What is your favorite color?” was my favorite question to ask the Americans. Soon, we ran outside to play badminton and volleyball. I grabbed Emily’s hand and followed her as she gathered children to play a game of tag. We ran and laughed together. She could not understand me very well, but used hand motions and simple English words to communicate with me. I wish we could have spoken each other’s language better, so we could have learned more about each other. We ran around together until lunch time. I hopped on my bike to go home where I ate lunch with my family. Mæ̀ (mom) made khao khai jiao (omelet on rice)—my favorite. I rode back quickly to play with my new friends.
Going home that night, I could not sleep well. Not because of the heat or moist air that made it hard for my body to cool down. Not because of the crickets creaking loudly in my room. Not because of the thin mat I slept on. Not because I didn’t drink enough clean water today. Rather, I could not imagine saying goodbye to my new American friends.
The next day, we played more games, but then the Americans began packing their belongings and saying goodbye to us. Life would soon go back to how it was and Emily would be gone. The smiling, warm faces would no longer be with us. As they hopped into their cars, my friends and I ran over to say goodbye. I remembered the 4 baht that my parents had given me to pay for a snack. I sprinted over to Emily’s side of the car and tapped her back. I took her hand and placed my baht inside. She quickly exclaimed, “Oh no! You don’t have to! This is your money!” but I wanted her to have it as a memory of me. Tears streamed down her face as her car started to drive away. My friends and I hugged each other and cried as we watched our visitors drive away.
Sawadee-ka, my American friends.