Thongchanh was translating Vakoung’s conversation with his wife and parents. He calls his wife and parents everyday. Kayeng had a big smile on his face, hearing Mommy’s voice. He asks for Mommy, when he talks in his sleep.

 

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After a few weeks of culture shock, Vakoung is now beginning to voice the differences between home and Thailand.

He and Kayeng have been in Bangkok for about three weeks. The realities of the differences between his home village and the big city are beginning to sink in. They are becoming real to him. He’s living it, albeit temporarily. Aside from his first three days of travel, visiting the beach at Pattaya, taking the Skytrain to Bangkok’s vertical department stores, eating at Pargon’s ultra modern food court, Vakoung is living in Bumrungrad International Hospital, an ultramodern, state-of-the-art edifice in itself with all of the conveniences of a modern hotel and office building combined, including Au Bon Pain and McDonalds, and the BH Residence, where he sleeps. He is getting first hand exposure to luxury living.

At first, he described everything different as being “funny” – crowds of people waiting in line, traffic jams, moving stairs (escalators), moving rooms (elevators), tall apartment buildings (people lived in the sky), food court (so many choices of food), connected buses moving in the sky (Skytrain), highways in the sky (elevated highways), and on and on. He was obviously in shock and speechless, so everything was “funny”.

Vakoung lives in a small village in northern Laos. There are 35 families in his village. They recently had electricity installed in his village. They must still carry water from a central location to their home. Their home is a typical Hmong home, single story and made of wood with no windows. The floor is dirt. The living room shares the same space as the kitchen, where there is an open wood fire for cooking and keeping the home warm during the cooler months (most of the year in Xieng Khouang).

Vakoung stares out his seventh floor window and enjoys a panoramic view of the Bangkok skyline. In awe, he takes Kayeng to the window and describes what he sees. Kayeng responds and says that he sees what his Papa sees.

 

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The day after Kayeng’s return from his operation, Vakoung called his wife. He told her that he is on the seventh floor of the hospital. He is seven houses above the ground. Thongchanh echoed that she doesn’t believe him. It’s not possible. He describes the panoramic view of the Bangkok skyscraper skyline from his window. She doesn’t believe him.

He says that there are many switches on the wall of Kayeng’s hospital room, which turn selective and different sets of lights on and off. He explains that there is a dimmer switch for the accent lights (my words). She doesn’t believe him.

Very reserved and quiet in the beginning, Vakoung is now curiously exploring dishes neatly stacked in the kitchenette cabinets, built-in kitchenette cabinets, the indoor kitchenette sinks, bathroom sit down toilets and sinks, the light switch dimmer.

He doesn’t hesitate to call the nurse, when the monitoring devices begin to beep. He’s even beginning to speak words in Thai and English. How will his visit to modern Bangkok impact Vakoung’s thought process, we don’t know. But, he did say, that he should think about going to school to give his children more opportunity in the future. Time will tell.

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