There are some sights in Thailand I could live without – for example, a red-legged centipede racing across my kitchen floor. (It was months before my toes didn’t curl every time I walked into the kitchen!)
But one of my favorite sights in Thailand is that of one motorcyclist riding closely beside another, left foot extended and resting on the other motorcycle, giving the necessary pressure to propel his friend along to the next gas station or repair shop. I suppose you would get a ticket for this in the U.S. But here, it’s just one friend giving another his helping hand – er, foot.
The Thai highly value “chuai-leua,” the act of helping each other out. In the Thai language, the words actually sound like what you are doing – the vowel sounds complement each other, even as the falling tone of the first word is met by the rising tone of the second.
When we returned from our Home Assignment last year with a 10-month-old in tow, I struggled to re-adjust to life in Thailand, this time around with a baby-almost-toddler (in addition to two school-age children). Thailand has not yet been hit with the surfeit of child safety and convenience items that abound in Western countries. So when we went to restaurants, there were no high chairs appropriate for really young ones. When I went grocery shopping, I found that the seat in the cart had no safety belt. The seat itself didn’t even extend the whole way across the cart, making it possible for my active child to tip herself out of the seat and get wedged in the side of the cart any time that my hand wasn’t holding her in place! When I went out walking with her, I discovered that the condition of the sidewalks (if even present) made “strolling” feel more like a motocross event!
But amid my frustrations, the Lord met me graciously through acts of “chuai-leua.”
One evening as we were in the process of moving into our house, my husband and I agreed that I would take the girls out for supper, while he stayed back to finish some work on the house. As I struggled to interest my tired, unhappy baby in the food we had ordered, one of the wait staff quietly brought over a bowl of soup and set it before my fussy child with a gracious smile. My little girl consumed it happily – and then the same server walked my child around, keeping her occupied so that I could finish my meal.
The next day, I went grocery shopping. As I approached the cashier, I inwardly began to fume about the design of the shopping cart’s baby seat, wondering how I was going to simultaneously unload the cart and manage to keep my little one from a concussion. But – not one, not two, but three people suddenly appeared to “chuai-leua” me in the task of unloading my grocery cart. What kindness! What mercy! What a rebuke!
My editor tells me I’m out of space to tell you about the motorcycle taxi driver who ran around finding shade for me and my young ones to sit in, and change for my too-large bill for the street food I was trying to buy, having had to change my plans since no taxi seemed to be on our route that morning. No space to tell you of all the ways our Thai friends have helped us out, without a hint or breath or eyelash flutter as to the possible inconvenience that it was causing them.
Chuai-leua. The one’s falling, the other’s rising to pick her up again.