“Why?” I asked Bo and Ba the only buffalos my family had to make a living for our family of 4. I grew up in the Eastern of Thailand where clean water was a rare commodity for a family like us. I often sobbed about how difficult my life was with Bo and Ba as they seemed to be the only listeners at the time. I finished school when I was only 15 years old because I had to take care of my little sister and helped the family earn some extra money. I did different jobs from cleaning houses to farming.
“You should try joining a pageant,” One of my employers said. I was surprised as my neighbor always made fun of me as a dark and skinny local girl.
“You’ve got the long, black and shiny hair that goes pretty well with your sun-kissed skin,” my employer complimented. She explained that she had to sponsor some of the girls in this region as a part of her business public relations, therefore she saw the potential in me and decided to join me in the pageant that held at one of the popular local temples. The pageant’s reward was 10,0000 Baht prize it was not a bad idea for me to try and family agreed.
“And the winner goes to Miss Nida!,” said the master of ceremony. I finally won! Since then I started joining almost every beauty contest in different regions in Thailand. I won in most of the competitions but not until my last one in Bangkok, I didn’t even get to 10 people round. When someone reached the peak and failed horribly, it felt like my world shattered. I felt like I let everyone down. I grounded myself in a room for two months as I had some savings left and realized I needed a change in my life. My English wasn’t good back then and I was struggling to find a new job as they required English skill. I decided to look up online for English classes in town and didn’t hesitate to go to the class the next day. I turned up in a class full of 20 people, I thought to myself, I’m doomed as I was so nervous and shy if I had to speak to my classmates. I didn’t pick up anything in class and felt like I was wasting my savings as I didn’t have a lot. At the end of the class, I walked right up to the teacher and asked him to review the lesson for me again. I had nothing to lose, I thought he would say no but he invited me to a coffee shop nearby.
“He is funny actually,” I thought to myself. He is from the United Kingdom and his accent was absolutely hard for me to understand. He had to slow down most of the time in order for me to understand him better. We had been meeting each other outside of the classroom as he promised he’d help with my English and in exchange, I needed to be his company. He even introduced me to Chai Latte, some sort of tea which I didn’t know because I came from the countryside but with his good intention, apart from English he even taught me about food, culture and western lifestyle.
“I’ve just moved here and didn’t know what is good in Bangkok, I hope you can show me around,” said Bryan. I had no clue that it was a date until I turned up to a restaurant and saw him with one rose in his hand then I thought, “This is so cringy but still cute” He confessed to me that he thought about asking me out the first time he met me in class but he knew if he moved too fast I’d be scared.
“I know, I looked scared on the first day at school,” I admitted. We started dating since then and the way he made me feel as I was with a life companion, my best friend and a teacher. Maybe because he didn’t try too hard to date me as we started off as a friend. That way, I felt so carefree because actually, I wasn’t an optimistic person about things especially the new western culture that I hadn’t experience before. I’m so proud of Bryan nowadays he spends his free time volunteering as a teacher in my hometown and I’ve been supporting him. With this, he wins my family’s heart. It was difficult for us at first as my family is old fashion, you have to earn their trust and show that you’re genuinely not just be with a Thai girl because she is pretty. It may seem like a non-sense idea but that is how Thai people in my hometown think and in return for a girl’s beauty, a foreigner pays. All in all, I wanted to prove to everyone in my village that we are different and we are genuinely in love.