She had me at hello…
So, today our errand-running didn’t start out the greatest. After a week of either the post office being closed or being completely inaccessible due to the Songkraan holiday, we were ready to pick up whatever had arrived. Among whatever mail may have come, there is certainly at least one package from home, possibly two. You have no idea how anxious I’ve been, waiting to see what’s come, trying to be patient about getting our mail… I absolutely LOVE getting mail. Always have, always will.
But, we had no keys. No post office keys means no mail.
Here’s the deal – I hadn’t bothered to look for our keys over the past several days, because I knew we wouldn’t be able to get to where we would use them. Today, upon looking in their usual keeping-space, I remembered that I loaned them out to a fellow student at our language school (we all share one PO box). I remember exactly where I was sitting, what I was wearing, even the conversation I was having with another person at the time that I so graciously volunteered our keys to a person who needed to run to the post office. The only thing I DON’T remember is who I actually lent them to! Blargh. So, after running around in the hot midday sun, we had no mail, no packages, and no fun.
Next up was a trip to Big C for a few essentials. We ate lunch at KFC as a treat, and sadly, the fries tasted like they’d been made 2 weeks ago, then put in the refrigerator. Blech. After finishing our lunch, then heading into the store, I realized the a/c must not have been functioning properly, as I began sweating like crazy, along with the other tons of people in the aisles (which was surprising, being the middle of the day on a Monday). But, then it happened. The one thing that made the day all better, despite the tiredness, despite the heat, despite the headache I already had from not sleeping again last night…
A little girl sheepishly said “hello.”
Upon my hearing this and turning to see her, she hid her face and giggled. I turned back away from her, looked only out of the corner of my eye, and out of the side of my mouth whispered back “hello” as I continued to browse the sale bucket of Thai printed fabrics and whatnot. About a minute later, she said it again with more confidence, so I replied and smiled back at her. Again, more giggles. Just before I was about to move on, she came up to me (with 2 other little ones now looking on) and said “my name is” with a huge smile. I figured she was trying to ask my name, but only knew a couple of phrases in English. So, what did I do? I spoke back to her in Thai, told her my name, and then asked hers. She couldn’t believe it. A farang (white-skinned foreigner) not only spoke to her kindly, but spoke in Thai! More giggles of course. I told her I was pleased to meet her, then she went back to the cart to wait for who I assume was her mother.
A few minutes later, I hear a pitter-patter of flip flops coming up behind me in the shoes section where we were looking for flip-flops big enough to fit Brook (Thais generally have tiny feet, so we have trouble finding shoes in this country), as his current ones are nearing the end of their life. I turned around to see the same little girl, this time holding the hand of another girl younger than herself. She told me the other girl wanted to meet me, too. I spoke a few sentences before they giggled again, and ran away. The same scenario happened a few more times as we went through the store, with each time meeting another of the young girl’s friends. One of them was even excited as she was also named Sara. Sweet kids.
The best part was the last time they came and found me, over in the noodle aisle, (there were 5 of them together at this point) and the girl said she had one more person who wanted to nae nam (introduce herself) to me, and find out if I lived in this city or not. After we spoke another minute or two, they all got really shy as the oldest one said naa rak cang lery, which means “I love your face,” and they said they had to go. As they went their way and I went mine, each time they saw me down at the end of another aisle, they all smiled and said, “Phii Sara” (phii means older sister in Thai). That was awesome. I couldn’t help but continue smiling as we finished up and walked out of the store.
This is why learning the language of whatever host culture you live in is so important. Language helps you to connect with the people you are living with. Language helps you to communicate, even if it is only your name and that you do, in fact, live in this city and are not a tourist. I can imagine how excited the girls will be to tell their parents and friends that they spoke to a real, live farang today. (I know how happy I am to tell you guys about this, and I’m an adult!) Being able to understand, and be understood, no matter how difficult it is, is a victory. This same sort of scenario happened a couple of weeks ago, as I met and spoke with another group of curious young girls at a small shop two days in a row. It’s intimidating for sure, but really fun. I like meeting new people, but especially kids. And, to now feel like I’m starting to get my ability to connect with them back… well, that’s a really good feeling.
It’s the little things like saying hello that really make my day.