‘Ci son laj farang su ki…’, ‘Bon dai tei farang pon…’, ‘Lei či ton farang pai…’, ‘Čaj farang lu pi tai pen’.
Have you understood anything? Neither have I. But this is the approximate mixture of voices and words we hear when we walk by people around here.
We don’t understand a thing, expect for one word: Farang. This is the word that Thai people use for a person of white race. Farang, a foreigner. But in fact, this word contains a deeper meaning.
Farang is used to call someone who is a conqueror or an invader.
We are familiar with the history of white people entering Asian countries with great appetites, which made locals believe that nothing good could ever come from the West.
Behave yourself …
The other day, we took the missionary moped to visit the market in the centre of Maesot city.
There was a mother with a child at the entry who drew our attention. The little boy obviously misbehaved and his mother just ran out of her upbringing “ammunition”. We seemed to come in handy for her the moment we parked our moped.Behave yourself, or else farang will take you! Click To Tweet
‘La pa ting son pai Farang čao,’ she told her child, waving her hand towards west. Of course, farang was the only word we understood, but we understood the context well enough, judging from the frightened boy who was clinging to his mother’s knees.
‘Behave yourself, or else farang will take you far away…’, this was probably more or less what she had told him.
We’d rather hear our names
Although the original meaning of the word farang is now lost to many, especially the young people, they still like to use it. Unfortunately, this is often also what they call us when they talk to each other.
It can be painful to hear that, especially when you have spent quite some time with them already. But we are not the only volunteers helping at the mission or other communities who experience that.
That doesn’t mean that children around here are not the sweetest young things. We grew very fond of them, in fact. Slowly, we begin to understand the circumstances they live in, and how they respond to it.
Second-hand clothes from Bangkok
Recently, a Bangkok charity organisation sent our mission at least a hundred packages of second-hand clothes, packed in big plastic bags.
These clothes were intended for the people of our district, for families from distant villages, regularly visited by father Changchai and other missionaries, and, of course, for our children.
Big occasion for our children
You should have seen the youngest children when they discovered the porch with packages. It was as if they came across tons of ice cream and chocolate. Even though they knew they must not open the packages themselves, no one could stop them from hovering around.
The things they did! At night, they would crawl to the porch and hide between bags. There was this time, when they would even sleep there, had father Changchai not found them and send them back to their rooms.
In the following days, we finally started opening those packages, after missionaries from other communities started coming, mostly to get clothes for children in their missions.
So much joy!
Once the packages were opened and clothes available, no one could stop those children, indeed. They tried on the clothes, chose their favourites, put it on and off, in the most colourful and impossible combinations.
But not only children. Workers building our missionary church and mothers with their children from nearby houses did that, too. So much joy, laughter, fun and excitement! These are the precious moments which make life at the mission so much brighter, so much closer to God.
Enslaved or free?
People who are deprived of so many things that we Westerners find self-evident or even trivial, are so delighted when they get the most basic goods. Our children are this happy only when they get new bikes, watches or mobile phones.
I think that ‘wealth’ should not be interpreted in a way as it was enforced by the capital and the current economy system. Who is a wealthy man actually?
A wealthy man is a man who is free. A man who is not enslaved by his desire for more beauty and comfort. A man who knows how to live without all of this, giving God a chance to surprise and delight him with the smallest of gifts.