I am coming up on my sixth week in Thailand and fifth week with my host family. My krop-krewa koong Thai (Thai family) consists of Mee (mother: Bpuu), Paa (father: Pie Roht) and knoong-sao (younger sister: Broht). I have known these people barely 30 days, yet they have taken me in as one of their own since day one.
Upon initially moving in, I had made myself at home under my mosquito net and was ready to sleep on the floor using a glorified mat as my mattress. Having been well aware of what I signed up for, I was at peace with this new environment and ready to take on the challenges it would present. Mee and Paa, however, were less enthused. Within an hour, and after disregarding my insistence that I was okay, they had moved out of their only room, replacing their belongings with my cluttered suitcases. After just one hour of knowing me, they sacrificed their own comfort for mine. Four weeks later, Mee, Paa and knoong-sao are still sleeping on the floor under the mosquito net that was originally mine. Although this act of hospitality initially made me uncomfortable, coming home to a private space I can call my home has allowed for often needed alone time and some essential decompression.
Although each new day presents several new challenges, I am comforted knowing that I not only have my American family to lean on, but I have my Thai family to come home to, as well. Not a lot is certain of my daily routine. In fact, it often feels like I don’t have a daily routine. And the little routine I do have is not under my control. What I can count on, however, is coming home to Mee with a beaming smile on her face asking if I am hungry. “Gin kaao?” she will say, which loosely translates to, “ready to eat?” Although moments of hunger are far and few between (Thai people will never allow you to go hungry), it is nearly impossible to say no to the perfectly sweet bananas picked from the trees beside my house, fresh eggs from the chickens in our backyard and steamed rice picked from the lush green field that our kitchen overlooks.
In Thai culture, you will often hear the phrase “nam-jai.” Nam-jai literally translates to “water heart.” If a person has nam-jai, that person will go above and beyond for their friends and offer generosity to strangers. My Thai family epitomizes what it means to have nam-jai. Not only are they a phenomenal representation of the Thai community, but they serve as my daily inspiration to act with kindness in even the smallest of tasks. In just one month, Thailand has not only become my second home, but has given me a family to share that home with.