Everyone knows us (especially our daughter Izayla Talae) and is watching us…and we have many roles, we are known as the foreigners who live on the third floor above the Isaan food shop, as the parents of “little sister” Talae, as people who pray and seek to do good deeds among our neighbors, and as friends of crazy people. That last one is probably our favorite role in the community. Very often we will be engaged in conversation with one of our neighbors – usually homeless and also often looking for customers, sometimes physically or mentally disabled, or both, and someone we don’t really know will approach us and try to get in between us and the woman or man we are talking with to whisper in broken English, “She’s crazy. You shouldn’t talk with her.” We invariably respond politely, “Yes, she is our friend. We have known her a long time”, at which point they look at us like we ourselves are crazy and walk away shaking their head.
Just this morning I (Kashmira) was out with the kids chatting with a man who was not from the neighborhood who was asking about our children while Izayla was calling “mama! Mama!” and pulling on me to come join her to say hello to a homeless man with a head injury whom we have known for years. The “normal” man she was talking with tried to helpfully explain that that man was a beggar and I said, “yes, he’s our friend. She wants to go say hello to him.” He repeated that the man was a beggar and looked confused by my response, all while Izayla pulled me to the side of our homeless friend, proceeded to offer him a piece of treasured ice from her cup and sat down next to him on the street. Meanwhile another older homeless man who we don’t know asked permission to take a picture of Izayla and pulled out an old style (haven’t seen one of these in years) regular film camera, pulled her onto his lap and the two of them gave big broad smiles to my “click” of the camera.