How do you say…?

My First Thai Book

My First Thai Book

“How do you say…love?”

That was a snippet of conversation (as best as I can remember) that introduced me to the Thai language. Mid-June of 1990 at a state park on the Chesapeake Bay. Kim and I walking closely down a forested path; almost touching shoulders, but not quite. Let me explain….

I was a Navy boy. I was stationed in Norfolk, VA from March of 1989 until June of 1992. I had really never been out of Seattle before that time (I don’t count two trips to Vancouver, B.C. when I was 8). My idea of a cool evening after work was to drive my 1982 Toyota Corolla to a nearby mall and hang out (I miss that Corolla, believe it or not).

Sooo, I go to the mall one evening. I saw a girl that changed my life. Her name was Kim. I was all of 20; she was a bit older (it’s not polite to reveal a woman’s age :)!) She said that she was from Thailand. Thailand? She’s Taiwanese? She speaks Chinese (I know, laughable now, but..hey, I was 20!)?

We exchanged phone numbers that night at the mall. We spent a wonderful six months together..and then no more (that’s for later).
In those six months, I engulfed that first Thai book. I learned the Thai alphabet forwards and backwards. To those familiar with the book, I learned about Thai nuns, monks, and rice farmers. I learned about bowls and tigers…shirts, and wood. Wow!

I still remember sitting in that Corolla outside of the laundromat on those hot summer days, waiting for my clothes to dry. I wrote the Thai letters from the book onto a pathetically thin little notepad I kept in my glove compartment. I still have that notebook, with all those chicken-scratch Thai characters that I wrote. There are also little notes from Kim. “Honey, I am here, don’t leave without me!” she wrote and left on my windshield outside of the mall one day when we were supposed to meet. It still pains me to see those little notes.

Anyways, she introduced me to the Thai language. The minute I went to the library and opened up that book I was hooked. The written Thai language…how beautiful. How fortunate I was to stumble upon such a treasure trove of life experience to follow.

More to come

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