I was wrong. There were not nine Thais coming over for Christmas dinner and gift-giving. There were 10.
And just enough food.
Why did i have 10 Thais over for dinner? Pretty selfish, really. I just wanted a better Christmas experience than I usually have overseas. And the best way to do that was to involve others, especially children, and give out gifts to people I hardly know.
Kind of a personal followup to the orphanage visit on Saturday.
My intent was to have gifts for the children of Non’s best friend (and I don’t know her name) – three girls and one boy. I also had to have something for their mother, as well as for their grandmother. And, of course, there were gifts for Non.
But first, dinner.
On the road back from the orphanage, we stopped so that I could purchase a whole chicken hanging over a charcoal spit on the roadside (150 baht/$5 for the whole bird). It was a pretty dusty day and I’m sure some of the grit attached to the chicken skin, but I was told the chicken was excellent. I decided to save it for Christmas.
Christmas morning it was time to go to the fresh market (Chat Chia) for regular groceries. But I also purchased half a roasted duck at my favorite duck and fried pork vendor (300 baht/$10). He wished me a Merry Christmas.
I made the dish you see here – tin foil on bottom, lined with boiled mustard greens, with sliced tomatoes and cucumber, and the two birds side by side. Lots of sauces, too. Looked pretty good, and actually kind of festive. It was pretty much decimated by the hungry guests, except for the tomatoes, which is somewhat puzzling.
My guests brought some longan and what looked like candied baby carrots. Longan, or “dragon eyes”, is so named because of the fruit’s resemblance to an eyeball when it is shelled. The seed is small, round and hard and closely allied to the lychee.
A couple of bottles of soda, a beer for the kids’ father, and we had a meal. I mostly just watched and listened, not understanding anything that was being said but enjoying that they were enjoying.
I was really guessing when I bought all the gifts. Guessing on sizes or on appropriateness. Thais would not say otherwise, but my sense is everyone was pleased with their gifts.
The two youngest girls received multiple gifts – teddy bears, fancy hair clips, play dough, and a small carry bag. I bought several of the bags and they went over very well. They were only $5 each, not much for me but half a day’s pay for their mother. She received a tin of chocolate.
The older girl received two light and colorful blouses; the paternal grandma got one of the bags. Non’s son Mek received a shirt I wish they had in my size. There are also gifts for Non’s daughter and sister and her husband that they will get when they visit next month.
For Non, some legwork was necessary trying to find the gift I wanted to buy. I thought she might like a new motorcycle helmet but I just could not find one. I walked a mile to one store, only to find it closed in the middle of the afternoon. I decided on the alternative, and that experience was a bit strange.
I previously had found a beautifully designed silver ring that I thought would be a good replacement to the ring she found that turned out to be fake. To add to that, I went to a jeweler a short distance from my house with a huge building on the main road, Petchkasem. I pass by there often and always wanted to go inside, so I did. I was greeted warmly – I was the only customer there, days before Christmas, and no one came in while I was there looking at silver necklaces and pendants. They have tons of inventory but I gather not much business.
They were offering 52% off all merchandise. I selected a nice silver chain and a pendant encased with rubies (her birth stone) and diamond fakes.
Since none of my guests were familiar with this whole process, I started having the youngest, Tungmu, deliver the presents to each person. Then I asked each one to open theirs. Non was last.
Oh, the 10-year-old boy couldn’t believe he got a soccer ball. Later, the kids and the biggest ‘kid’ (me) went out in the street to play.
My guests, as all good Thais would do, cleaned everything up for me. Me? I couldn’t wipe the smile off my face until going to sleep.
I hope all my friends, family and followers had a GREAT Christmas! Mine was pretty good.