I recently attended a wedding in Thailand, held in the bride’s village near the Laos border. It was an event the whole village (pop. 150) was involved in.
There were monks …
… a procession …
… home-made guitars …
… food …
… and more food …
… dancing girls …
… and the town drunk.
The hospitality of the people was incredible and humbling. They had little, but gave everything.
The following evening they hosted another dinner for those visitors who remained. Once again, everything was wonderful. Those are oxen walking by the table.
By this stage I had become reasonably proficient in greeting people (hands together in a bow, sar-wah-dee karp), explaining that I couldn’t speak Thai, saying that I was pleased to meet them and the like.
At the end of this second dinner about a dozen of the villagers lined up to say goodbye. None could speak any English. In fact in the whole village there was only the bride who could speak it, and she has only been learning for a year.
As I edged along the line I quickly brought out my iPhone and searched for a couple of phrases I thought appropriate. I hadn’t time to rehearse them so I chose to just play them.
ah-ha alay-ee mar kop kun
As one they laughed on hearing my praise of the dinner, and replied that it was their pleasure.
par-teh kon kun soey mark
Their smiles grew broader and they nodded in glee as I told them that their country was beautiful. Some little children tip-toed and strained in wonderment at the iPhone.
kon lie par-teh kon kun nar lark mark
Their reaction was one of delight. They all edged forward, laughing and wanting to shake my hand. My friends, now getting into a van, turned on hearing the commotion. A young guy in front of me struggled to say something, while the new bride at my side translated.
‘Oh, you very popular in my village. They want you come again.’
As we drove slowly off, chickens and dogs scurrying out of harm’s way, a friend asked me what I had said.
‘That the people from their country are wonderful’, I replied. And they are.