Andrea Aribe, 130 YinD
“That’s Jupiter,” I said as I pointed out the planet.
“How do you know?” Nong At asked.
“Because it’s too bright to be a star,” I replied.
“Really?” he questioned again.
Facing my cellphone towards the night sky I showed him that according to the Sky Map application, right next to the moon was Jupiter.
With eyes full of curiosity, he then grabbed the cellphone out of my hand to learn the names of the surrounding celestial bodies.
Teacher, facilitator, mentor – all terms used to describe a volunteer. Never did I imagine that “sister” would be another role that I would come to embrace.
I have two host brothers, Nong Omsin (ออมสิน)and Nong At (อัฐ). Omsin refers to bank savings, and At refers to what Thai currency was formerly called.
I feel the most at home being around my host brothers, I do feel safe and secure having them in my life.
Twenty-year-old, Nong Omsin, and twelve-year-old, Nong At, were the first friends I made in Wiang Sa, Nan. They showed me around and helped me to speak Northern Thai and integrate into the community.
Nong Omsin and I lived under the same roof during the first two months at site. He is funny, smart, and from what I have observed of how he treats people, he is such a gentleman.
It took me by surprise how sad I was to watch him leave for university in Bangkok. Like his father (and mine) he is studying to be in the military.
As I watched the bus disappear in the distance, I kept wishing we had more time to hang out and thinking about the good times that had brought us closer.
My favorite bonding moments occurred when I was teaching him how to drive manual. We jumped at every opportunity to practice. He’d stall and we’d laugh. It was comforting to know we could tease each other.
Much like his brother, Nong At is hilarious and quite clever. He knows exactly how to charm his way into hustling twenty baht from my host mom and grandmother, and admittedly, myself.
He is one of the most thoughtful kids I have ever met. One time, I told Nong At I missed cheese. The next day, I came home from work to find him trying to make cheese by boiling milk and using a cheese cloth to gather the curds. Who does that!?
He also trusts me with his fears. My host brother kayaked for the first time with me even though he is afraid of the deep ocean. He asks if I can be with him anywhere that is dark or when there is thunder and lightning.
On the other hand, we know how to frighten each other. We have way too much fun hiding in corners of the house. I’ve lost count of how many times we’ve scared each other, but he believes he’s winning. I beg to differ.
I remember the day that I told my host brothers I had decided to live with them, a host family for the duration of my service. They were so excited to receive the news, afterwards, we went on a sunset bike ride.
“When you come to Nan, I was scared of you. I don’t know why. You’re not scary,” Nong At said as we biked together. “Thanks, kid.” I thought.
Knowing my host brothers trust me, I realize I have a responsibility as their host sister to be a role model and held accountable for my actions.
As volunteers, we teach more than the lessons our assigned programs promote. Outside of the classroom our presence may influence children in ways we have yet to contemplate (and vice versa).
Impact can be made at any time on anyone: students, neighborhood kids, host siblings, etc. so brace yourself.
I am completely in awe of my host brothers just as they are of Jupiter. They are truly out of this world.