By Amanda Dums
Her legs cross as we walk by. I notice her and wonder at her sullen stare, but pass on with the rest of my group into the bar complex of Soi One. It’s a slow night being a Sunday and Mother’s day here, nonetheless we once again went to investigate the scene in the red light district of Bangkok. The bars are mostly empty except for the girls who line the walls and various bar stools, some looking bored and others chatting and passing cell phones back and forth with giggles.
We head outside again on our way towards another street and I stop. I can’t stop thinking about her. Her face runs through my mind and that sad look she wears makes me turn around and go back. Maybe it’s just a hunch or maybe it’s the voice of the LordI’m really not sure, but I don’t take my chances with these sorts of things. I have to talk with her.
We join her at the little table she’s seated at and buy her and ourselves some drinks. We ask how she’s doing and she shyly shakes her head and giggles saying she doesn’t understand. I know she does but she’s just shy. The bar owner dances her way over to our table to welcome us. She’s a tiny little thing but carries herself with spunk and spontaneity. I later learn she’s 42 but looks more like 24. She has almost perfect English and tells us that it’s Si’s first day working at the bar.
I immediately stop sipping my coke. Her first day? No wonder she looks sad and a bit frightened. Haung, the bar owner, tells us that Si is not from Bangkok but is from the small rural village of Buriram and that she’s working in the city to earn money to go to college. She’s finished secondary school in the village, which is more than most girls are able to do, and even started studying English. Haung laughs and with a glint in her eyes says that she learned all her English working at the bars. She nudges Si and tells her that soon enough her English will be very good too.
Si tells us that she is 19, but I’m guessing she is a bit younger. There is a sweet innocence about her that gives her away even though she tries to hide it with high heels and low cut dresses. She doesn’t even know her way around Bangkok yet. This girl doesn’t belong here.
At our little table we stumble over the little bit of Thai we’ve learned and try to communicate in simple English. I ask her if she misses her home and if it is very beautiful there. She shakes her head emphatically and my heart cries for her. I tell her that I too come from the country where it is beautiful and green. That we grow corn and vegetables too like her family does. I would give anything to see this girl back in her hometown, but I know that like me she wants more than the opportunities at home. She wants to go to school, she wants to learn about the world, she wants to do something she’s never doneand so the city beckons.
I don’t know the circumstances surrounding how she came to the city. I don’t know if this was her choice or if her family sold her into this business (which is a common practice among rural communities). I know that this isn’t the only way for her to make it. She doesn’t have to sell her body to pay for university fees. No one should have to
do that. So we give her the number for The Well. We tell her about another opportunity to make some money making purses, jewelry, and cards and also a place to livewith nice people to be around. She just looks confused as we explain it.
I wonder if she doesn’t get it yet. I wonder if the severity of her situation hasn’t hit her yet. Like she hasn’t had to actually go through with it’ yet so she doesn’t really know what she’s gotten herself into. I want to get her out before she’s really inI want to stop it before it even starts for her. I don’t want her to have to face the music later when she’s hurting and then wants out. I want her out now!
So we came again early the next night and paid her bar fine (500 Baht or $15 USD) so that we can take her out with us and so she won’t have to work for the night. Dinner with the team is on the agenda and then karaokea real night on the town and a chance to form a real friendship with her outside the bar scene. We had a really fun night. I loved seeing the huge grin on her face and listening to her sing in Thai and her laugh at me as I tried singing in Thai too.
And then she said it.
“I will go back to work now?”
My face dropped as I realized she wanted to go back to the bar where we had found her. Inside I screamed, “NO!! We got you out of there! You can go home! You have the night off! You don’t have to go back!” But I knew that I couldn’t keep her from doing what she wanted to do, what she feels she has to do to get the money she needs. I wish I was rich so that I could just pay her university fees. I wish I could sponsor her and tutor herthat those were the circumstances in which we’d met. But that’s not the reality.
Truth is, tonight I had a night out with a prostitute.
I pray she doesn’t keep that title for long and I hope she looses it before she finds out what it really means.
If you liked this article, check out: Bangkok