Our hostess, her son, and his bride during the ceremony.

The groom’s father speaking.

A marriage blessing from the oldest man in the community.


I’m sitting at a wedding dinner, in a spacious house made of mud bricks with a tin roof that clamors loudly when the rain pours out of the sky. Women are busily bringing out bowls of food and dishing them up, rice, chicken curry, spicy fermented fish sauce to dip vegetables in, and a soup made of boiled bamboo shoots and bitter leaf. Suddenly a pan of buns appears, fresh from the oven. “Western food,” our hostess smiles, “for the kids. I think they might not like Burmese food. My nephew knows how to make them.” Something about the buttery smell on the golden tops of the buns, combined with the vegetable smell of the soup takes me back to my grandmother’s kitchen table in western Canada and the lunch she would serve in winter. It’s the exact same smell. It smells like home.

I feel a shift inside, surprised at this feeling of home, here in Thailand. I didn’t expect this. Especially not in the middle of a migrant camp in rainy season, with no electricity, and the mud running everywhere in rivulets as the sky unloads itself.

I eat buns that taste just like grandma’s, baked by a Burmese man in a gas oven in my friend’s mud brick kitchen with screen free windows open to the beautiful mountains beyond.

I wash the serving spoon in the kitchen, because it was covered with red ants when I plunged it into the rice the first time. There is no towel, and it must be dried because the water I washed it in is not safe to drink. I decide to use a corner of my nice skirt to dry it, thinking that I will make that sacrifice for my friend’s sake, for her party guests.

“Oh, don’t let any Burmese see you wiping something with your skirt!” She tells me. “That is very bad manners.”

I offer to wash it again but she doesn’t care, and shoes me out with the spoon.

“Still foreign,” I think. Making the necessary mental adjustment yet again. “Still so much unknown.”

She hands me a piece of paper and asks me to write down that English saying about if the mother isn’t happy no one is happy. “I like it, I want to put it up in my kitchen.”

I think she heard Aaron say it once. I write, “If mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy.”

I try to explain as I hand it back that it’s poor English grammar but that’s how the saying goes. I’m not sure I’m successful at explaining why we English speakers like to pervert our own language in casual speech, but she thanks me anyway.


The Boy sits down at the table, plate laden with food, loaded generously, Burmese style, by the ladies manning the table. “I like this better than the Western food,” he says, as he shovels it in. He’s dressed exactly right for this sort of event. A shirt with a collar but all dark colors that the mud can’t ruin. He’s done this all on his own. Somehow, this month he’s started caring about such things as dressing appropriately, understanding that it’s part of showing respect in this culture.

“May I stay behind and help clean up?” He asks, as I prepare to leave.

“Sure,” I answer. “You can walk home when you’re done.”

“Be sure and put him to work,” I tell my friend as we leave, and she does, getting him to move piles of plastic chairs and tables for her.

He arrives home a few hours later, tired, and happy.


During the ceremony Dek sits, and walks around, excited about everything, and goes to other people who reach out to pick him up and play with him.

I let him stand and walk around the room during the meal, and every time I turn around, someone else has picked him up and taken him for a walk around the village.

I never worry that he will be hurt or lost here.


Little picked flowers at our house to bring to the wedding. She hands them to our host, who puts them in her hair. Flowers, Little has learned, are always a welcome gift.


The boys outside start putting ice down the dresses of all of the girls. My Girl loads up on ice and decimates them, beating them at their own game and winning at the wrestling too.

“I didn’t expect it to be fun,” she says as we’re driving home. “I got ALL the boys with ice!”

She’s sweaty and dirty and exuberant.


One evening we are sitting together outside my friend’s house, waiting for Aaron to come back with the car and drive us home. I tell her how much I liked her nephews buns. We talk about the different words for bread that westerners have, as specific as the many different Asian words for rice. I tell her how strange it is to me that they taste so much like my grandmother’s bread. “Oh, so it’s a memory from when you were small,” she says. “That is good.”

The next day she arrives at my house to pick up the clothes I have for her to take to Burma for the children when she goes next week. She hands me a bag full of freshly baked buns. I open it up and breath deep.

It smells like home.

all content © Carrien Blue


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