Thai People

haulin netI can barely fathom how my parents raised seven children in the ’60’s, ’70’s,’80’s and 90’s.

Recently, one of my youngest sisters—feeding her six-month-old while her two-year-old scrambled around the floor—mentioned she and her husband were thinking about a third child.

“What’s the difference,” she asked, “between having two or three kids?”

My reply: “The amount of personal sacrifices you are prepared to make.”

A reply like that might scare the heck out of a lot of Americans contemplating parenthood today. We can get so accustomed to our lifestyles, our luxuries, our free time, our me-ness.

One of the most unexpected benefits of my returning to schools after nearly a decade on the trot is that our family has “adopted” a foreign exchange student from Thailand. Kitiya has lived with us now for about four months and will be with us until the end of June.

I can understand how the casual observer would think I’ve lost it. “Doesn’t he already have three teenage daughters?”

So what’s one more . . . especially one who speaks broken English? Honestly, I understand all four about the same. (I’ll leave it at that.)

No doubt, I am indebted to my family for making sacrifices (time, space, resources) to ensure that Kitiya’s time in America is spent as part of a thriving family unit.

By all means, she is a teenager. As such, we have to guide her and limit her. She has the same fascinations with phones and computers that my other three have. We have to prod her to go to bed at night and get out of bed in the morning.

Dancing and ballgames are priorities for her. Homework? Well, you get the picture. She is a typical teenager!

So far, Kitiya has enriched our lives in many ways.

  • She has an affinity for Thai hip-hop . . . and—breaking news—she just auditioned for and made the West Carteret Dream Team (You Tube video or our hip hop dancers).
  • One of our favorite ways to cook now is to break out the woks, rice cooker (every kitchen should have one of these!), and griddle.
  • The kitchen cabinets are full of condiments like oyster sauce, fish sauce, Thai sauce, Viet sauce, and many flavorful sauces labeled in Thai.
  • Forget Oodles of Noodles. We have boxes of Thai noodles (Mama Shrimp Tom Tum Flavour) in the pantry.
  • We have visited the Korean market, Asian market, and Japanese market in Havelock.
  • We have hit the Thai restaurant in Jacksonville and reacquainted ourselves with the Crab Cafe (which has Thai influence).
  • I have learned (or re-learned) the following non-food related tidbits—
    • Thai culture is as old as Chinese and Indian culture.
    • About 6 million people live in Thailand.
    • The primary religion is Buddhism, and mostly older people go to temple on holy days.
    • Thai schools are both public and private. (Often, poor children do not go to school.)
    • Middle Schools are grades 1-6. High Schools are grades 7-12.
    • All students at all schools wear uniforms. Such expressions of individuality as mohawks and green hair are not allowed.
    • Grades generally do not mix. (All 11th graders take classes with all 11th graders.)
    • Computers and English instruction begin in the 1st grade.
    • The Thai spelling for Bangkok is “Krungthepmahanakhon.”

Last night, I noticed a subtlety that somewhat cements Kitiya’s place in the family circle. As we were pulling out of the driveway on our way to dinner, Kitiya and one of my daughters got into a bit of an argument. Five minutes later they were laughing together . . . like sisters.


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