The land of Thousand smiles

July 2, 2012
By Shelby Alsobrook BRONZE, Houston, Texas
Shelby Alsobrook BRONZE, Houston, Texas
1 article 0 photos 0 comments

Thailand a tropical getaway with beaches of white sand and with cities with every vacationer’s dream of cheap food and knick knacks around every corner. I lived in Bangkok, Thailand for a year and got to know the city as more than just the place portrayed in movies such as the hangover 2 or Bangkok Dangerous. It is home of golden temples that flicker in the sunlight and the moonlight with its followers making their amends to Buddha. With flowers blooming on every corner and Soi even when they shouldn’t be blooming in the booming slums and city the lily’s and unknown flowers radiate beauty. What the movies don’t show are the people of Thailand there is a reason it is called The Land of Thousand smile, because many of the people have no reason to be happy they live in filth and pollution, yet they still smile and go about with their duties.

The first thing I noticed when we landed in Thailand is the stench that hangs in the air there is no way to describe the rancid odor because of it mixture of pollution, septic waste, and who knows what. The locals here though drown out that smell once you hit the city streets that are bustling with the rich aroma of fried meats and grilled goodness. One bite of street fried chicken you will be in heaven, your mouth will crave that chicken again. Many of the great people here make their livings by selling this restraunt worthy food for very cheap. Bright colored carts will surround you as you get deeper into the city selling those knick knacks that tourist love so much everything from a wooden Buddha to Chocolate covered ants to take home to gross out your friends. With so many people coming in and out of so many different backgrounds and languages things can get lost in translation like certain word including thank you or please.The average minimum wage salary for an 18 year in the state of Texas is 7.25 an hour, so if someone works 25 hours a week that make 181.25$ that would be 5437.30 Baht in Thai income. In Thailand if a person makes that much a week they are well off. Many people forget when they visit this lovely place that just because there are tall sky scrapers everywhere they are hiding the true Bangkok in the Bangkok that is in the dark dingy wet alley ways.
One day in June I made the mistake to go out to the city during rainy season, I left the comfort of my gated community that is separated from Bangkok its expats paradise hidden away from anyone unworthy of entering. Rainy season in Thailand means pouring sheets of rain that eat away the sky line and sunshine so to say I was scared is to be understatement. Being a female and by myself I had not yet began to trust my surroundings everywhere I went I felt piercing stares looking up and down my body that was getting drenched from the pouring rain. My Thai also was not the best either so asking for help would be a fruitless endeavor and waste of time so I decided to just sit and wait. While waiting I saw a little girl small figure feet covered with mud from the dirty streets her jet black hair was in her small chubby face. She was staring into a book store her eyes so intense locked on one book; she was yearning for it touching the crystal clear glass. As she touched the glass an older man came out with a newspaper swatting at the girl like she was a fly bugging his food. Shooing her away like some sort of animal begging for scraps I ran from the safety of my chair and tea to the sobbing girl. Her brown eyes pierced my heart without even thinking I grabbed her and pulled her close to chest she was so close I am positive she could feel my heart beating out of my chest. Stroking my fingers through her dirty hair I picked her up and walked her to the same window that caused her this pain in the first place. Seeing that yearning in her eyes again I asked her with my little bit of Thai I knew
“Abandon mueng a nangsue” which was me asking if she wanted a book. Her fragile innocent faced smile and nodded. Wiping a tear from her dirt covered face I open the door to find the owner the old cruel man who kicked her away staring at me in astoundment. Sitting the girl down I said “pick anything” in any language she knew what I meant her eye glistened as she looked at the clean bare store. Running around she picked up 2 books to this day I don’t know their names because they were in Thai but I do know is that she loved those books. I bought the books with such relief I never had this feeling before seeing her smile and hug her books like a fluffy puppy it warmed my heart she was brighter then sun could have ever been.

That young girls name was Lea I took her to her parents they owned a small street food restaurant they gave me a strange look when I came in with there like princess Lea. As we came in Lea ran and showed them the glossy books that I bought her and pointed to me, next thing I knew was Leas mom came over and was hugging me tightly I could feel a tear on my bare shoulder. Ever since that day lea and her family became some of my nearest dearest friends in Thailand they showed me the beauty of small gestures like buying a book or two their family could not afford could do for a little girls dreams. So every month I take Lea to that same book shop full of glossy new books and buy her two books like I did the first time we ever met. To me it is experiences like that are what leave faith humanity still out in our world. There isn’t a second I ever regret doing what I did on that faithful rainy day and I just hope that more people can show small gestures like that to Thailand’s beautiful people because trust me they deserve it more than most Americans or Europeans. We are countries lucky enough that our daughters don’t have to resort to walking the streets at night selling their bodies to help keep their families afloat, we are lucky because we have a chance to chase our dreams. Even with all the problems in the lives of most Thai natives they still have the ability to stay positive and smile which is an inspiration to me and should be to everyone.

The author's comments:
What inspired me to write this piece was moving away from Thailand. I realized that when I moved i wouldn't be able to see the little girl anymore. So I wrote down our story so i could always have it.

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