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  • Susan Brown

Horror, Despair, and Joy

I screamed in horror and slammed the lid back down. The rice container was teeming with bugs. Not just a bug or two – dozens of the little black critters swarmed over the rice. How did that happen? I dipped rice from that same container just that morning and didn’t see a single insect. Did they all suddenly hatch out from their home in the rice? Bleauh! That means we’ve been eating bug eggs.

And what should I do? It was nearly suppertime and I have learned that my Thai kids cannot eat without rice. Literally. It just doesn’t count as a meal if there is no rice. The only exceptions are noodles and pizza – and those weren’t on the menu. Paul was gone in the truck to pick up Jan from a school function. I called to Preston and showed him the rice.

“I fix,” he said kindly.

“No, no – I don’t want to fix it. Mai dee. (not good) I want to buy new rice.”

“Dee (good)” he told me. “I do.”

He reached for the rice, but I frantically waved him away and held the lid tightly down. After more misunderstandings he understood at last that I wanted him to go on the motorcycle and buy more rice.

“William ride motorcycle,” he said, reaching for the rice again. “Play football. I fix for you.”

So much for that plan. I suddenly remembered that my phone works again now that I am once more on the far side of the world. I called Paul and told him the disgusting situation.

“Can’t you just fish them out?” he asked. “You’re going to boil it anyway so it will be sterilized.”

While I was considering this treachery, Molly spoke up. Evidently he had the phone on speaker.

“It’s okay,” she said. “You can put lemon in. It will kill them.”

I told them in no uncertain terms that I will NOT cook anything alive or add ingredients to kill vermin in the dinner – even organic ingredients.

“It’s rush hour and the traffic is terrible,” Paul said. “It will take me an hour longer to go to the store and it’s already late. Can’t you just cook it?”

“I will do it,” Molly offered.

Then inspiration struck.

“Just stop at the little restaurant down the street and buy rice already cooked,” I suggested.

Theirs probably had bugs—or prebugs – too, but at least I wouldn’t have to cook them or strain them out of the dinner.

More argument ensued as I insisted on throwing out the rice. Finally Preston put it in a trash bag and carried it off.

“What did you do with it?” I asked suspiciously. I hadn’t seen him walk past the window to the trashcan at the curb.

“I save for Asa,” he said. “He will say, ‘good’!”

And Asa, who works with us at times, probably would say just that. He is welcome to the rice – and the added protein.

The evening wore on with a continuation of frustrations. I had accidentally taken a nap in the afternoon when I should have been preparing for English class with the kids. (Still fighting jet lag.) At the last minute I discovered I was supposed to bring a coat, a sweater, and a vest to class to illustrate those words. I own none of the above. As I quickly printed out examples from the Internet, my printer ran out of ink.

I held up the picture of a ladies coat (a mottled red streaked with yellow instead of the scarlet shown on the Web site.)

“Dress” they chorused. I sighed. It DID look like a dress. Bad choice of picture. I held up the sweater.

“Blouse,” they said. Yep. Looked like a blouse.

It was all downhill from there.

What a day! I felt like a total flop.

At last the evening was over and the kids were headed for bed.

Danny came and gave me a big bear hug and a kiss on the cheek. “Mama,” he said. “I love you.”

My heart melted. This little guy who never knew his mother called me ‘mama’ for the first time.

“I not be like A.,” he said.

I caught my breath in surprise. Last year Danny was in serious trouble at school for shaking down his classmates for their lunch money. He was a little thug in training. We were appalled and applied discipline thoroughly. I talked to him about how he was acting just like the man who caused us so much trouble by oppressing the poor mountain people.

“Do you want to be like A. and have everyone hate you?” I had asked. “I want you to be like Grandpa. He loves people and takes care of them. He fights against A. who does bad things to people and steals from them. I want you to be on the helping side, not one who hurts others like A. does.”

This school year Danny’s reports have all been good. No more bullying. It’s been a year since I had that talk with him. And it evidently did make an impression after all.

So – what are a few bugs and a not-so-good English class? Not much when you receive that kind of love and encouragement. God knows just when our hearts need a lift. He is good!

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