Sometimes the 'rules of the slum' require more than gentle persuasion to save an exploited and abused eight-year-old girl from the clutches of a violent drunk
By Father Joe Maie
t's a love story, raw and rough. But first, the ending -- the little girl is safe. Well, that's not totally true, but she's got a promise and she believes the promise. That's important.
True, we needed a "conversation" to make sure everyone understood a few simple rules, with her real mum, and especially with the "slimy pair of trousers" involved with her foolish mum.
The conversation was one-way -- we talk, you listen. Not that we are goody two shoes, but we promised an eight-year-old child that she could go to school every day. Not just now and then, and not a different school every other month. Every day.
Spunky and all of eight when Miss Chompoo collapses, her dorm mates help save her life
By Father Joe Maier
The bloom was off our Rose -- but for only a few minutes. She didn't die. It happened this past June 19, a Sunday. A sudden-death horror story. Almost. It began and ended in five minutes. Literally. Five minutes. But she lived.
That part wasn't guaranteed for another two hours. She regained consciousness in the emergency room of a nearby hospital.
Today, she's back to playing Thai jump rope, her favourite sport. Total recovery. For now. And, really, that's all that matters, isn't it? There are no tomorrows when you are eight.
Our Miss Chompoo is delightfully spunky and spicy -- like Thai chilli peppers. Even with HIV/Aids, she's filled to the brim with life. Yet, most of time, she's demure and as sweet as tamarind candy. She's a six-pill-per-day orphan, and so popular in school she's a star third-grader. I can hear my own grandmum naming her, like in that old song, My Sweet Honeysuckle Rose.
Sneaking into school after dark for scraps led a desperate boy of seven to learn vital skills.
By Father Joe Maier
Published in the Bangkok Post, Sunday Spectrum, July 10, 2016
He's the slum kid who once boasted, "I can write my own name." And he learned how to spell. That was a while ago, when he was six. He's 20 now, and his aptitude and fine penmanship served him well during the 18 months he served in juvenile prison. He'd pen letters for prisoners and guards -- a skill and a favour earning him "an edge" in a place where edges save you.
His nickname, Lion Tail Ben, was an edge, also. Sounds totally wild. The fact he was born, bred and reared as a slaughterhouse Klong Toey kid, that didn't hurt either. On certain streets, and in prison, "slaughterhouse" is a badge of honour. It denotes a history that commands a slum-recognisable kind of immediate respect.
The real "baddies" behind bars might prance, posture, howl and roar; anything to keep themselves safe, but slaughterhouse kids have no need to grandstand. They are automatically "hands off". In mafia-speak you might say they are "made men".
By Father Joe Maier
Master Galong rides an imaginary motorbike and takes his teeth from his pocket to eat, but never fails to show his gentle nature.
Published by the Bangkok Post, Sunday Spectrum, April 24, 2016
Galong, born with Down's syndrome, was of indeterminate age. He lived on the streets and worked as a "doorman" at a low-budget karaoke joint near the Pratunam market. Always a proper gentleman, he greeted us, shook our hands and in his gravelly voice asked, "How are you?"
For sure, he did not grow up on the streets. He is much too gentle and refined for that. Plus he is healthy and well fed.
Being born, growing up and living daily on the street takes a certain roughness to survive. Master Galong does not have that roughness. He is the essence of good Thai manners. Someone raised him properly as their beloved son.
By Father Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.
There was nothing he could do to save his daughter, but the little girl who was left behind is a performer whose grace evokes a bygone era.
Published by Bangkok Post, Sunday Spectrum, March 20, 2016
She said, “I think I was dreaming. I was sleepy, but I mean, I sort of remember, and it wasn’t scary. Mum in heaven whispered ‘Ahh — ree — sah — rah ... my daughter, you’ve got to mend granddad’s broken heart and stop the pain in our family. Please do this for me, and I shall rest in peace. I didn’t mean to, but I hurt him so much.' ”
He lost his adult daughter. She married a ruffian, and that’s OK in itself, but the ruffian showed no respect. He mistreated granddad’s only daughter. And that's unacceptable.
By Fr. Joe Maier
She didn’t have a home. Did once, but bolted when she was eleven, to save her own life. Ran like she’d never ran before. Hid under a wrecked car. Predator men are feral and dangerous to 11 year olds. And her own drug mum had allowed this predator into their shack. He had the drugs and money and hiv-aids. And he soon destroyed mum. She abandoned her eleven year old daughter: made her an orphan.
She grew up a slum street girl – tough and without a mum. Slept nightly on two chairs next to the old boxing ring under the expressway. There was a guard – old man - usually asleep, but never the less, still a guard, and she was safe. Her nick name was “Boxing Girl.” A nickname much too common for her beauty. She grew up. Gave birth to a son.