Miss Jew Wew and the Big Bike

Miss Jaew Waew was born to a European father and a Thai mother with penchant for gambling and booze. Her dad has been there to help her in the past and she believes he will be there again in the future for her own daughter.

Published by Bangkok Post, Sunday, June 16, Spectrum Section

By Father Joe Maier, C.Ss.R.

The first time, 12 years ago, it was an easy rescue. Her dad, a European man, kicked down the door, barged in and beat up the two bad guys with his fists, cracked their skulls with a beer bottle, and picked up his three-year-old daughter, Miss Jew Waew. He waved down a taxi and brought her to us at Mercy. He had heard that we took care of abandoned kids.

The taxi driver was a Klong Toey man who knew us, so no questions and no charge. Dad cradled his daughter, sleeping the sleep of innocence in his arms. A friend riding a big motorbike followed the taxi as an escort, to avoid any surprises - just in case the beat-up bad guys got stupid, maybe phoning acquaintances and asking them to follow the taxi.

When dad arrived at Mercy, he didn't close the taxi door, lest the sound wake his daughter. We got him a couple of Band-Aids for his cut knuckles. This giant, sobbing tattooed warrior handed us his daughter and a wrinkled birth certificate. All he could say was: ''Please love her. I'll come back when I can.'' He thanked the taxi driver, left some money on the seat, then jumped on the back of his friend's big bike and he was gone.


Let's back up. Dad had left Thailand five months before. Got word that his father in Europe was quite sick. So dad borrowed money for plane fare and went back home.

In Thailand, he had lived frugally, his wife working in an all-night cafe.

He's known as a world-class motorcycle mechanic and was regular in making monthly payments for their house and his classic motorcycle. While back home in Europe, he decided to stay a while to make enough money to pay off all his debts here in Thailand.

When he returned to Thailand, he brought Jaew Waew a doll, and her mum some chocolates and perfume. But when he arrived at the family home the front door was locked and there was no familiar barking from the dog. A ''For Sale'' sign was in front of the house. The place was deserted.

During those five months he was gone, old habits kicked in and his wife began gambling again. She lost the land, the house, his huge classic motorcycle and more. The man next door saw him and pointed down the street.

His wife was easy to find, busy in a high-stakes card game. Jaew Waew wasn't with her. Mum admitted that two men forced her to give them their daughter for ''collateral''.

But mum didn't know exactly where they had taken the child. He told her he would find their daughter and if he ever saw mum again, he'd kill her with his bare hands, and stormed out. It took him some hours, but he took Jaew Waew back and she had not yet been abused. He then brought her to us and disappeared for four years.

What happened in those four years?

He went back to work at his old trade. His peers said he had magic hands, could modify any bike on the planet for street racing. Other bikes were borrowed without their owners' permission and crossed borders quietly. His job was to fix bikes, but also to break them down into parts and reassemble them, no questions asked.

But then he made a mistake. He forgot to deliver a complimentary ''promotion bike'' to Mr Big, and Mr Big was not happy. So he blew the whistle on Magic Hands and suggested to the tax people they might look at his business and maybe talk to immigration, too. The chop shop closed suddenly, and that was when dad disappeared.

After four years, a new shop opened in a new location with the same owners and Magic Hands went back to work again. With his first paycheck, he came to Mercy Centre to see his daughter Jaew Waew, now seven.

She didn't remember dad, or maybe she just pretended not to. Never underestimate seven-year-old girls. So he sat there beside her on that bench out in front, showing her faded, tattered pictures from his billfold of him holding her as a baby. All he could say was, ''I promised I'd come back when I could.''

Shaking, sobbing - waiting in tears, watching her as she looked at those old pictures - and after a long time she hugged him and they both cried and cried. I remember her saying ''Daddy, don't hug me so tight - I can't breathe.''

Time went on. Dad came when he could and was always there for birthdays, and left an envelope for clothes and schooling. Every time she begged him to take her with him, but his new wife wasn't excited about that.

He came for her 15th birthday with a present, but Jaew Waew was gone. Dad blinked. He was convinced that daughter had been abducted or kidnapped. He said he would save her from the bad guys once more, like so many years before. We told him that fists and breaking heads with beer bottles weren't right this time. She had gone to live with a boyfriend and his parents.

We phoned, wished her a happy birthday and told her her dad was here. She came, defiant, with her boyfriend in tow. He was terrified. Dad said, ''Happy Birthday'', but she didn't come to listen. She yelled and beat on his chest with her fists. ''This boy. He's here for me,'' she cried, ''and you were gone. He's the father of my child and he will care for me, like you never did – he will be here for me.''

Dad looked shocked when she said she was pregnant, but said nothing.

They both walked away in tears. Dad got back on his big bike and Jaew Waew went home with her boyfriend, taking dad's present with her. He whispered as he left, ''I'll come when you want me.''

Here's what happened. It was a boy she met in school and another girl liked him, too, and she was vicious, as savage as 15-year-old girls can be. She said, ''I can have your boyfriend any time I want. You stink like your Klong Toey slum! You even talk with a slum accent!'' Jaew Waew screamed some Klong Toey words, hit the other girl with her school bag, punched her in the belly and walked out of school. She came home to Mercy, packed her toothbrush and shampoo in her shoulder bag, and took the 15-baht motorcycle ride to the boy's house. It was a week before graduation from secondary school, but she had no regrets.

Survival and control came first, and maybe that's why she decided to get pregnant.

She had to guard the boy. He'd quit school the previous year, got a job at a local convenience store. But three months after Jaew Waew moved in, he was fired. Then his mother said, ''Both of you have to work, and help around the house.'' Miffed, Jaew Waew, took the boy's severance pay and bought a bus ticket for her and her boyfriend to Pattaya to live with her mum.

But mum rejected her. Didn't like her boyfriend. Said he was useless and wouldn't work or help around the place. Mum was also terribly irritated that Jaew Waew would't sit beside her on a barstool. She said some customers paid top price for pregnant girls. They think it's exotic, good for business.

So Jaew Waew went back with her boyfriend. Her man likes video games and recently did not come home until dawn. She beat him with a stick - three stitches.

He says that she isn't fun like she was in the beginning. Says he's thinking of moving in with some friends.

They came back to Klong Toey and his parent's house – not because she wanted to, but they had nowhere else to go. Plus his mum, in spite of it all, rather likes the sauce and spice of her young daughter in law. His mum never had a daughter and now with a granddaughter on the way Jaew Waew has became that daughter she always wanted.

Jaew Waew has settled in. Still won't let her man out of her sight, guarding him ferociously. She knows that he's weak and can't possibly protect her. She knows that he most probably won't stay. She tries to make him strong and make him love her, but knows she probably never can.

She phones her dad. He hangs up, angry.

Jaew Waew says he's acting like a little boy who doesn't get his way and that he's stubborn. But Jaew Waew, 15 going on 16, knows that one day after her baby is born, ''Daddy will come'', and she will smile and let him hold his granddaughter.