Sunday, June 1, 2008

Jai Ngam Family (Beautiful Heart)

I moved in with my Host family! Last Saturday (May 24) my host mom (Pii), dad (Pa), and brother (Ong) came and picked me up at Mae Jo University. I was so excited to see them! I went to give my host mom a hug and she went to wai me, so then I went to wai her and she went to shake my hand, so then I tried to shake her hand, but then she opened her arms for a hug. We ended up giving each other an awkward hug-hand shake-wai thingy…and that pretty much explains how it’s been this whole week.

This whole week has been a careful dance between knowing when to uphold my own culture and when to bow to the Thai culture. The interesting things is that I am dealing with two cultures: the Thai culture and the Jai Ngam family culture.

The family is super laid back and accepting. They want me to be a part of their family and culture, but are also forgiving of my mistakes.

The mom speaks very good English, but it is still difficult sometimes to communicate. They ended up buying me an air-conditioning system, which I definitely did not need all, because I was practicing Thai and had learned to say, “Today it is hot.” I thought it was a joke when Pa said, “Then I will buy you air-conditioning.” But lo and behold, the next day there was a brand new air-conditioning unit in my room! I called my facilitator to ask him what to do, but at that point it would have been very rude to tell them that I liked the old beat up fan better than the new fancy air-conditioning.

There is a lot of awkward silences between us as a result of one us wanting to say something, but not knowing how to communicate it. I’m trying to learn more Thai, but I don’t know enough vocabulary yet to get across what I mean and that is a little frustrating.

Luckily, without the words, we can still communicate how we feel about one another. If it’s nothing more than a polite smile between pa and I, or a fist pound between with Ong, or Pii’s constant watch over me, it’s enough to disclose that we like one another.