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Getting to Know our Scholarship Kids

September 1, 2010

From the FieldHeather and Michael Colletto are SOLD’s Communications Directors and are living at the Resource Center for this upcoming year.  They spend several afternoons a week getting to know our scholarship kids who come to the Center everyday after school.  Below is a post they wrote recently about getting to know one of our students.

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“Pi Mi-kuhn!  Pi Wen!  Maa…” she says, waving her hand towards her to get us to follow her past the gate.  Her palm is face-down to the ground, as the American way of waving someone over is reserved only for beckoning dogs here.  Her small, chirpy voice cannot be resisted, so we drop what we are doing and follow.  All the while, she is talking to herself in a terribly endearing, feminine melody that sounds both like a little song and like an Ewok.

She turns left outside our gate and walks down a road we haven’t traveled yet.  The red dirt is muddy and slick, but she seems to have no problems in her tiny plastic flip flops.  The road is lined with fruit vineyards and rows of carefully planted trees.  We ask what is growing, but never understand the answer in Thai.

Suddenly, at one fence of barbed wire and bamboo, she ducks into the vines.  She is gone in a blink and returns to the fence to giggle at us and tell us once again to come.  She patiently shows us how to hold the barbed wire against the bamboo, and we swing ourselves over where she crawled under.

Suddenly, we’re bent completely over beneath a passionfruit vineyard, and the sun that is just beginning to set is lighting us the hanging branches like Christmas lights.

“Chan suung mak!” I protest.  I’m too tall! But she just laughs and heads deeper into the rows.  Her face is to the ground, too, but it is because she is hunting.  Before we know it, her hands are full of round yellow fruits.

“Kuhn ca ow iik, mai kah?” she asks.  After pleas from us, she asks again more slowly, and we understand that she wants to know if we want any more fruit.  There are plenty in her hand, but it took so much work to understand her that I say, yes, we would like one more.

We crawl back out, and she giggles at our long legs swinging over the fence.  She reaches out and offers to hold some of the fruit for me, though she made it through holding twice as much in her own tiny hands.  On the way back, Mike and I watch her skip happily down the road in front of us and we marvel at our lives:  the setting sun behind the mountains, the way the green fields are growing foggy in the twilight, and something we never thought to expect: her obvious affection for us and the intensity in which we feel it in return.

Back at our house, she takes us upstairs and shows us how to cut it.  Inside is a mushy, orange substance filled with seeds.  We take spoons to it and swallow the very sour insides, seeds and all.  We make a show of how sour it was, and we are rewarded with exactly the fit of giggles we are looking for.  She grabs the oyster sauce off our stovetop and pours it into her fruit before offering it to us.  She laughs at our disgusted faces, and I wonder if this is exactly what she was looking for.

“Mai dai!” we shout.  We cannot! In her little voice, she keeps saying “Ching ching!  Ching ching!”  Really!  Really!

She finally convinces us and we swallow down the sourest fruit we’ve ever had with a spoonful of oyster sauce.  I think I am going to vomit, but, since arriving in Thailand, I have never been happier.

You can follow the Collettos’ personal blog at drivenbyfreedom.com/our-blog

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