The back door of our building lets out into an alley, at the mouth of that alley sits a 52 year old woman who has probably been sitting there for decades. She is one of the friendliest people in our neighborhoods, and certainly has the most recognizable laugh. She sits on her stool and knits, wearing very bright clothes and much too much makeup to merely be knitting for her income.
Usually 2-3 times a day I walk past her and say hello. She always asks where I am going or coming from and often I sit down and talk with her for a while. She left school in the 4th grade to help her family in the rice fields, so her speech is hard to understand and she reminds me often that she can’t help me spell anything in Thai.
A delightful and unexpected part of this woman and our growing relationship is how she introduces me to her many friends (who are almost all also selling their bodies on our street)…
She grabs my arm, my wrist or my waist (whatever is in reach), looks at her friend and then looks me up and down and says, “This girl, she wears polite clothes – no little tanktops or short shorts like most foreigners – she wears clothes like Thai people…and also she can speak Thai” There you go, that is the impression I make on our friend who works out of our alley – I wear polite clothes, like Thai people should.
As Iven says, “If our choosing to wear long pants and shirts with sleeves in this hot, hot country serves only to make the older women selling their bodies in our neighborhood proud of us, then I guess that is worth it.”