Dad’s Thailand, my Thailand

“My dad would buy scary looking fruit with spikes and needles”

Thai people call me a dek meung nok, which means a foriegn country child. My parents lived in Chicago when I was born. At the time, they were undecided about whether I would be raised in Thailand or as a Dek Nok in America. (They ended up raising me in America, I lived in Thailand for a few years during my twenties, and now I live in the middle of England with my British husband) They decided to register me with both a Thai name and an English name. My Thai name (Nalisra) was registered as my first name and my English name (Lisa) as my middle name. Mom and dad would never call me by my first name. As a rule, Thai parents do not use their child’s given name. Instead, they use a ‘play name’. They try to dissuade evil spirits from taking their child by using a name like ‘pig’ or ‘fatty’ or ‘rat’. I never had a Thai play name, I guess my parents thought using my foreign name was enough to dissuade evil spirits that might be tempted to take me.

My parents shared Thailand with me through their stories. Most of dad’s stories were about the river…the time he nearly drowned in the river as a toddler, how he used to play in the river until it was banned after a neighborhood man was eaten by a crocodile, and about all of his favorite food stalls near the river side that he would stop at just before or after travelling on the river ferry. Food was a popular story theme for my dad. On my childhood visits to Thailand, dad would hit the market to buy scary looking fruit (with spikes and needles) then he would seek out his favorite hoy tod stall that was across the river from his university. My father’s years in Bangkok were mostly occupied by studies (he was in med school) and food. When he left in the 1960s, Thailand was beginning to change, largely from the impact of the Vietnam war.

Thirty years later, I moved to Bangkok, living and working there for over 3 years. My Bangkok was very different to my father’s. I travelled to work by car, driving an hour in the morning to travel about 10 miles along Petchburi Road and an hour and a half in the evenings to return along Sukhumvit Road, doubling the travelling time in the rainy season. Like my father, my friends and I sought refuge through food. Dad’s beloved market food stalls were still there and provided daily meals, chicken and rice, bamee noodles or pad thai for 35 baht; but in the evenings my friends and I could sometimes be found at a sophisticated Europen restaurant where we paid 500-800 baht per head for dinner before hitting a Thai discoteque or karaoke bar into the late hours of the evening. On the weekends, we would hit to the road, escaping Bangkok along the multi tiered expressways to visit coastal towns where we bought live crab off the beach and, on every street, golden mangoes appeared in March/April, piled high alongside sweet, sticky rice.

So many things about Thailand has changed since my parents left. At least some things, a passion for food and life, will never change.

8 responses to “Dad’s Thailand, my Thailand

  1. Welcome to the blog, P’ Lisa! Although I wasn’t “raised” outside of Thailand but, like my high school host mom said, I’ve done my growing up in the US. And now I live in California. So, there we go. Somewhat of a same background. 🙂

    Looking forward to read more of your stories ka!

  2. Hi,

    I am 31 and was born in Thailand, i left there when i was 1 year old as my birth mother was too young to kkep me and i was adopted.
    i spent most of my life living just outside Oxford and some years in Germany too.

    I have a son of my own now and decided it would be good for me to learn about my heritage. unfortunately my adopted parents did not think it necessary to keep anything from their time in Bangkok so i am now learning the language and the culture – i have alot of catching up to do.
    I would like to maybe exchange emails with anyone else who has had a history similar to mine.

    Regards,

    Lisa (Pasara)

  3. Lisa (Nalisra) – enjoyed your posted. I was born in BKK and raised in the US. I go back every year.

    Lisa (Pasara) – I was also adopted out of Thailand. I’ve never met anyone in my whole life adopted from Thailand specifically. email me if you have the chance at thai_import@yahoo.com. I’ve found my Thai mom 10 years ago when I was 20.

  4. Hi, I’m Lisa too. Seriously, there are just too many Lisa going around …. 🙂

    Anyway, Lisa, thanks for sharing your story. But I would also like to know how you feel about these differences and how it impacted your life.

  5. Lisa…hmmm that is a deep thoughts question. I think that when people leave their home countries, they freeze their memories of home. For a long time, my parents held a very idealistic image of Thailand…to them life in Thailand represented a much simpler life. As things in their American lives progressed and improved, their eyes became more open to how Thailand was also changing. Bangkok changed so much that some of it became very foreign to them. My dad got lost for hours once trying to find his favorite hoy tod stand; my relatives refused to let him drive himself anywhere after that. When I told mom I was moving to Bangkok, she was horrified; she didn’t think I would be able to survive there without her. How strange it must have been for them when I was living there and they came to visit me; to have me taking them around Bangkok.
    I don’t think I’m really answering your question, but my brain is beginning to shut down for the night so maybe I’ll pick this up again in a future blog…

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  7. hai lisa actually i have a assignment to do about thailand,could you do share with me about your life in thailand

  8. Hello I am 30 years young and was born in Panama City Florida to my mom which at that time, her name was Sataphon Lagasse, formerly Sataphon Chysutte, My father Raymond Lagasse and her married in Bangkok Thailand i’m assuming around 1970-1974 my brother Barry Lagasse was born at Peas AFB in Aug 1974 she goes by the name Ann and may have even remarried an american airforce man, she had her tubes tied after me and I was born in July 1978. I know I have 2 cousins named A and B I believe they use to live in North Dakota, if anyone can help me please let me know, I have never met my mother and would like to do so before I die.

    thanks,
    julie