Out of the mouthes of babes

My video Skype conversation with Jasmine today included the following exchange as Eliza waas smiling into the camera:

Jasmine: “Oh look at you! You’re such a cute little monkey baby!”

Me. “Why did you call your sister a monkey?”

“Because she’s so cute! And she looks like a monkey when she smiles like that!”

I had to pause a minute. “Well she does look a little like a monkey.”

“Mommy do I look like a monkey?”

“A little bit, dear. But not as much as Eliza. See she has a round face like her father. And big ears. And a little nose. You look more like me.”

“Well what animal do I look like?”

I had to think. “Well you have a big nose like me. And a longer face and big eyes.So I’d say we look more like…”

“Horses.” Jasmine finished for me. “I think we look like horses.”

I had to laugh. “Yes. Horses it is then.”


Never tell your husband someody tried to rape you

Today was a perfect day at the beach in Phuket, Thailand, if you’ll take out one little incident. My husband and his brother were happily drinking and my baby was sleeping. There was a coral island off the shore, one that only showed at low tide, that I had wanted to go see. I figured our dog Blackie would follow me and I was fine with that.

With Oh’s blessing I headed out to sea. Blackie followed, as I had expected him to do, and we made it to the coral island. Some months before I had tried to swim there at low tide, but I had cut my foot on  the corals halfway there. Fearing sand sharks smelling the blood, I had turned around that time.

Once me and Blackie were on the coral island we had no choice but to swim back. On the way back to the beach Blackie, probably tired from swimming, found two men who were hanging on to a log out at sea. The dog swam to them for a rest and I swam towards them. “My dog is tired.” I said briefly to the men. Blackie hung on to the log for perhaps 10 seconds. They were both Thai and young, one with longer hair and a longer face, one with short hair and a round face. As I swam away I said. “Thank you.”

Perhaps this was all the incentive they needed. I was not wearing anything  remotely sexy. I was in my shorts and tee shirt from the beach. Nonetheless I felt a man swim behind me, trying deftly to pull down my shorts. I was sure that the other man from the log was behind him but I did not see him.

I found a high coral that gave me some leverage and I kicked off strongly. The man’s hand fell away. Suddenly not caring remotely about sharks in the water I started testing my arms and legs against the coral on the bottom, scratching my knees and feet as I went. Blackie rejoined me quickly and in a very short time we were back to shore.

“Eliza she wake up.” My husband said as me and Blackie came to shore. Our 1 year old baby was playing with his brother and a few Thai women who had come over from the next blanket. “Everything okay?”

That’s when I said it. “Somebody try to rape me.” I was not even sure if my husband would understand the word rape or grasp its implications. He was not a native English speaker.

He got it immediately. “Who?”

I needed to clarify it for him. “Two men out in the water. But they did not rape me they just tried to pull down my shorts as I was swimming. I think they were friends with the fisherman.” I was referring to a Thai man we had met earlier on the beach.

Oh was already standing and walking towards the water. His brother seemed confused by this. “Where Kuhn Oh go?” He asked me.

“Oh! I’m not sure who tried to do anything!” I said as my husband was walking towards the water. But it was too late. I heard my husband screaming at two men in the water as his brother Ka went to join him. The Thai women from the next blanket retreated and I took care of Eliza.

Shit. I saw my husband arguing vehemently with one man who I was sure was on the log earlier. His brother tried to placate things which did not help. Fists flew. My husband started punching the man in the water. After a few seconds everyone went on to shore and behind a huge bend of trees that prevented me from seeing them. I did not hear anything spoken either.

After five minutes I was starting to think that this disagreement had led to a disappearance. That’s when my husband appeared. “Let’s go.  The police come soon.” He said.

I picked up Eliza. My husband’s brother appeared behind him. “Gen I can take care the mat.” He said, referring to our beach mat and the food strewn on it. I headed towards the motorbike but it was too late. The police met us there.

Some words were exchanged in Thai. “Nobody rape me!” I said vehemently as my husband and the policeman spoke. “They just try. TRY.”

“What they do?” Oh asked.

“I was swimming back towards the shore with Blackie. There were two Thai men hanging on to a log. Blackie swam towards them because I think he was tired of swimming. I said thank you then continued to swim towards shore. One of the Thai men–I do not know who–tried to pull down my shorts as I was swimming. He was swimming from behind, on top of me. So I found a high coral and I used that to push off away from him. And then I swam like crazy, as fast as I could, back to shore.”

My husband translated this for the policeman. He already had backup on the way. A man took our pictures on his phone and I have a feeling we might be in the Phuket Gazette. “Few  minutes.” The policeman said as he wrote something onto a notepad.

“You are sure they try to rape you?” My husband asked me as the policeman questioned him.

“Yes I am sure. What else they try to do?”

“They try to pull down your shorts?” Oh asked.

“Yes.” I was starting tol feel intimidated by this line of questioning.

“But then you swim away?” Oh asked again.


Around then the second policeman came back with a lineup of perhaps 15 Thai men from the beach. Short men fat men drunk men skinny men. All were youngish men, but that described 90% of the Thai men on the beach that day. None of them looked like my attacker.

There was one man in the police lineup–youngish, with a long face and long hair, that looked like he might have been one of the men on the log. He looked drunk too, which didn’t help his case. I pointed him out.

“Are you sure?” Oh asked me when I pointed to him.

“No I am not sure!” I said. “This is very hard for me.” Oh translated for the policemen as I talked. “First of all, we were in the water. So the men were not wearing shirts and their hair was wet. And because we were in the water, I don’t know how tall they were.” Oh translated. “I am pretty sure one was taller with long hair and a long face. The one that I think attacked me was shorter and fatter, with short hair and a round face.”

I was afraid of mentioning the second part, but I did anyway. “I know the men were Thai. But being Thai, young, in the water, I don’t think I could identify them. I’m sorry.” Oh translated and the police dismissed the entire group of Thai men in the lineup.  

Oh’s brother said something in Thai after everyone left. “He say maybe you make up the whole story.” My husband said.

“Why would I do that?” I said. “If I make up story about an almost rape, why wouldn’t I just make up story about a real rape?”

Here’s hoping that my daughters never have to live through this…

People as Parrots

Some years ago we decided to take a nature hike with a friend in a state park nearby Palm Springs, California. It had been a hot day but it was nearing sunset as we approached a bridge that took us to the upper part of the trail. We knew from the map that the upper trail snaked back to our car in the parking lot, and that the bridge was about the halfway point on the trail. But we had been walking for a while on the lower trail, which had been shaded in mountain trees next to a rushing river. Our three year old daughter seemed to be getting cranky, and our friend was wondering if venturing to the upper part of the trail was worth it. Not knowing what was up ahead, she decided to ask a couple approaching us from the other direction what they thought of the upper trail.

“It’s not worth it.” The man said emphatically. “The trail is hot and sunny and there’s not much of a view up there.”

With this new information my friend urged us to turn around and go back the way we came. But our three year old daughter kept on running farther ahead.

A man and a woman caught up to us, walking in the same direction as we were. They were tired and asked us about the upper trail. “It’s not worth it.” Our friend said. “The upper trail is hot and sunny and there’s not much of a view.” The couple turned around, just as we were planning to do.

But our daughter had found the bridge and was crossing it to the upper trail. By that point it made no sense for us to turn around, so we looped back on the ridge trail that we had been told was no good. We were treated with a spectacular mountain vista view at sunset as we walked. It turned out to be one of the prettiest trails I had ever seen. Had it not been for our three year old daughter, we would have missed it.

I realized as we walked that evening that the first couple who had told us the upper trail was no good had not been lying. Their experience of the trail–walking up the ridge with the late afternoon sun beating on their backs–had probably been exactly as they described. But our experience–walking down the trail, with cooling wind a few hours later at sunset, and multiple mountain ranges in view below us–had been completely different.

Have you ever been given bad advice that was based on someone else’s limited vantage point? Everything from being told not to take a job in a certain industry or to date a certain person. It’s hard to see how the situation has changed unless you try out the situation.

Always take the high road.