05 August 2013


Seems to be one happy birthday girl

A few months back, when I first got to my mom’s town, she let me know that it was one of my great-niece’s (the one that looks a bit like me when I was a kid) birthday the following day.  I was pretty stoked about that as I’ve never attended a child’s birthday in Thailand and it’d be fun to help her celebrate and take photos of her and her friends – they LOVE having their photo taken!  It was the very least I could do and my one small contribution to the day since I clearly wasn’t prepared to bring a gift, then I could later bring a photo album next time I come to visit. 

The next day, I wake up and ask if we should go into town to get some items for her birthday and I find out that her mom was having some financial challenges so no party, which apparently disappointed my great-niece as all her friends have birthday parties that she goes to and she wasn’t able to have one on her day.  So I tell my mom I’m happy to contribute to the party as whenever I visit, they typically don’t let me pay for anything since I’m a guest. 

So, my mom orders a custom cake which takes a few hours to make and I find out the price for the two small cakes is 260 baht – a mere $8.50.  Include some snacks, dinner, drinks, etc. for the party and it comes out to less than $25 (that includes lunch for the adults too).  To see the look on her face when she finds out that she is going to have a party for her and her friends is absolutely priceless. 

A birthday party out in the country entails this: several little girls getting together, swinging off tree branches from a platform only to get dirty and hurt themselves on occasion, going out in the nearby field and sing songs with a dance routine, then do some sort of game where one of them acts like a sergeant and gives commands, followed by a game of tag.  Did I mention that this field where they’re playing is where the buffalo often hang out in and there’s buffalo shit everywhere?  Yeah.  Then, they all get together to have snacks and dinner together, followed up with cake, and then coloring pictures together with many giving their drawing to the birthday girl.  Not too different than regular Western parties, however this one is out in the country under a rusted tin roof structure, no theme, no matching décor, dirt ground, an old broken desk with ants all over it, plastic mats on an old wooden platform, two hammocks, a strange mish-mash of ropes, spliced tires and nails holding everything up, and a cement patio table that looks like a tree with blue insides.  These girls don’t know what it’s like to have a themed party and you know what?  They had an amazing time.  They probably had a better time!  No expectations of gifts or what she didn't get, and she didn't miss what she's never had.  Goes to show me that you just don’t need all that crap to have a good time with friends.  (See!  I know why I left doing events for a living!)

One thing I learned about Ip, the birthday girl is, is that she takes care of people.  Maybe it’s because she’s the eldest child of two, with a little sister who is a big handful and hasn’t had the luxury of being selfish.  When dinner was coming out, she was setting the plates and utensils out, getting cups out and filling them with ice and soda, then for her own cake, she was lighting the candles with a little help from her friends, then after she blew out the candles, she put the candles on another cake for her little sister (she can’t be left out of the celebrations so another cake was ordered for her), lit them and lead the procession to her sister.  The entirety of her party she was taking care of others, not stomping around like it was "her day" and that the world should revolve around her for that particular day.  And even when it was time to blow out the candles, she bowed her head (doing a proper Thai wai) and did a prayer.  How many children do you know pray before blowing out their birthday candles??  I’m pretty sure she wasn’t wishing for the new the PlayStation either.  I think the typical prayer involves good health and luck - but who knows, I'm not young girl, she could be hoping Justin Beiber comes to find her in her village, though I'm pretty sure that's not the case.  This little girl is pretty special and I hope she gets every opportunity to succeed in her life and able to celebrate the day that she was born every year.  

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