They don't speak much Enlgish, and I don't speak much Thai. In 2009 communication was real rough. But now I've worked on my Thai a bit and communication is much smoother. It was funny, the other day I was having a talk with my Khun Mae and it dawned on me how strange it is that she asks me questions in English, and I answer in Thai.
In Thailand, English is something of a status symbol. Generally the more English you speak means the higher up on the social ladder you are and the more money in your bank account. In Thailand, a person majors in Enlgish if they want to make heaps of money. In America, people major in Enlgish and wind up serving latte for life. Something we take for granted is treated as Gold in another part of the world.
So it works out real well, because I'll help them with their English, and they'll help me with Thai.
I've never known two people who works as hard as Khun Paa and Khun Mae. Both of them work at Chiang Mai University--Khun Paa in the library, Khun Mae cleaning the dorms--and then after work they have one hour until they go down to Talaat Romsak, a huge nightmarket where people serve all kinds of food. They work at Talaat Romsak every night, and at the University six days a week. When I was living with them in 2009, Khun Pa was spending his one day off taking classes for his Master's Degree. So in reality, these people rarely get a day off.
They are members of the emerging Thai middle class. They own a home, a car, a truck, a few motorcycles (everybody drives motorcycles in Chiang Mai) and a computer.
When I lived with them, the only time I really spent with them was at Talaat Romsak. They would pay for whatever food I wanted, and they'd come visit me when business was slow. The night always ended when Khun Paa ended work at 8 and drove me back to the house.
Now it's much the same--except that I'm paying for my food. When I first showed up, Khun Mae said how much she missed me, and that she wanted me to come to Talaat Romsak for dinner everynight. So far I've been pretty faithful. The nights where I can't go I let her know and when I'll be back. They enjoy having me there and showing me off to all the other merchants.
Just the other day Khun Paa introduced me to a new bad habit. He brought over a cut up saugage and some chilli peppers, and he would eat one piece of the sausage and then eat a chilli pepper. As both Khun Paa and Khun Mae know, I love spicy food. So today one of the kitchen helpers and Khun Paa decided to give me plenty of sausage and dozens of peppers, just to see if I'd eat them. I did, ands they kept piling up. Khun Mae was not too impressed, and she said if I eat anymore I, "Go hospital. I not visit you." We all laughed.
Khun Mae has noticed a considerable change in my life since she last saw me. She's noticed I'm a lot happier. I'd agree.
The neat thing about it all is thaty they don't have any obligations to me anymore. They don't need to feed me, they don't need to give me rides to my apartment, they don't need to even talk to me. But they do, and they do it with love. In many ways they are like real parents to me, and I hope they see me as a son.
The three of us.
A spicy pork soup Khun Mae made for me.