Chapter 7 LITTLE MKs

In 1959 I wrote:
Civilization has finally come to Nongkai. Now we can ignore the old well in our yard because the city just installed a water system. Our drinking water now comes out of faucets, but the water must still be boiled or filtered. The children are having a time adjusting to flush toilets. They are used to dipping water from a large clay jar. Even the shower is new to them. Most of the time, we dipped cold water from a storage container. I did have a pulley system rigged up for hot water, but the water first had to be heated in a kettle. A large metal container had to be lowered filled and pulled up. A lever released the hot water. Nongkai is changing in other ways too. We even have a railroad line coming right into the city. Buses that used to run only when they were full now go out every hour on the hour.

During the early years in Thailand another thing we lacked was overseas telephone service. Telegrams were the only means to inform our relatives back home of any important news. My mother received three very special telegrams from Bangkok, Thailand:

In 1953: Evelyn Joyce arrived at 1:30 a.m. on February 25 by emergency Caesarean section. Baby and Corrine doing fine.

In 1957:
Dale Bryan born April 25 by Caesarean section. Mother and son doing well.

In 1960:
Esther Sylvia arrived November 15 by Caesarean section. All is fine.

Letters always followed the telegrams explaining the details of the births. I realize now how very difficult it must have been for my mother to wait for those telegrams. She knew that the only reliable medical care was in Bangkok, hundreds of miles away from where we lived. Train service did not extend to Nongkai, so each "baby trip" began with a two and a half hour ride over very rough and bumpy dirt roads. It was a miracle that the babies were not born somewhere on that road. Then it was a 13 hour train ride from Udorn to Bangkok.

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In May of 1957 I wrote to my mother:
I thought I would surely die before I got to Bangkok! When I arrived, the doctor would not schedule the Caesarean section until my type of blood was available. Elmer spent a lot of time checking around for a suitable donor. Finally, John and Ruth Perkins donated blood. Our Mission nurse, Honor Warden, was assigned to stay with me during the operation and for several days after.

Bringing up children in the primitive conditions of the years before "civilization" came presented its own set of challenges. For one thing, there were two languages - Thai and English. We always spoke English to the children. We felt that they needed to learn English thought patterns as well as English vocabulary. But there were no other white children in Nongkai so their playmates were all Thai. Our yard became the neighborhood playground and it wasn't long until our little MKs were as fluent in Thai as in English. To this day, all four of our children speak Thai without an accent. Click to Select Click to View David, Evelyn, Dale and Esther

In the early years, toys and especially dolls were scarce. I remember making a cloth doll for Evelyn and stuffing it with rice. Even now when I pass all the beautiful dolls in department stores, I think of the times I longed for one of those dolls for my girls. It was impossible for friends and family to send toys because of the heavy import duty. Every child needs a three-wheeler. Each of our children had one but it was the same one, just painted a different color for each child. In 1965 I wrote to my mother: I just repainted the little three wheel tricycle that we brought out on the ship (15 years earlier) for David. We also replaced the wheel. The children play on the cement patio under our living quarters away from the hot sun and rain.

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We usually had dogs both as pets and as watchdogs. One especially memorable one was a Doberman pinscher named Sheba who was given to us by a former U.S. Army man. We had no problems with robbers for the 10 years that Sheba lived with us.

Our farmyard collection increased. "Dear Mom," I wrote. "Out in our back yard are two beautiful horses - a mother and a colt. We got both for only $15. We also have two dogs, three cats and four chickens (we get fresh eggs now). There is a large fishing pond way in the back of this property. The children caught some good sized fish back there."

Another letter in 1966 informed Mother of certain other additions to our menagerie:
We now have a tame deer for a pet. A Navy man and his wife leaving for the States gave it to us. This deer, called a barking deer, stays about the size of a large dog. Bambi (the deer) roams our fenced-in front yard. We built a shelter for it to go into at night. Click to View We also have two parrots. I am teaching them to talk.

Monkeys too were added to the list - ordinary ones as well as a beautiful gibbon that the children called Paddie.

Although we were surrounded by another culture, we always celebrated the American holidays. One Thanksgiving, I made place cards of paper pumpkins for the table and bought little Chinese counting boards so the children could count their blessings. A manger scene was always the focal point in our home at Christmas so the children as well as visitors would realize the true meaning of Christmas. The manger was made from an old wooden box turned upside down. Drilled holes held the pegged flannel graph figures which we pasted on heavy cardboard. We also constructed a small Christmas tree from bamboo poles, wire and green crepe paper. Decorations made from Christmas cards made our little tree quite attractive. All these symbols gave us the opportunity to explain the true meaning of Christmas in a land where there is no Christmas. We often hosted a Christmas party for the Thai Christians complete with games and refreshments. Some years as many as 300 students came to our home in groups on Christmas Day. Each one received a tract, a Christmas story booklet and some candy. Click to Select Click to View Christmas Carols

To keep our English/American culture alive for the children, we made sure that our shelves contained books which included American classics, fairy tales, missionary stories and adventure stories. We read to our children each night, beginning with a missionary biography followed by a devotional or Bible story book. Our daughters still have some of those books in their own homes. In addition, we always subscribed to TIME magazine and Reader's Digest to help us keep informed of life on the other side of the world. Our family truly enjoyed living in Thailand. Although we adapted as much as we could to the local way of life, we wanted to be sure the children would be able to fit in with American culture when we were on furloughs and later when the time came for them to go to college. A testimonial to how well we accomplished that goal came when David's first grade teacher in America said to us: "We gave your son an entrance exam with many questions. He did so well on the test that I can hardly believe that this boy has not lived in the United States!"

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During another furlough we received a call from Esther's first grade teacher:"I want to tell you," she said, "that you need to check on your daughter's vivid imagination. In our geography class we discuss different countries. Esther always says, 'I've been there.' She claims to have traveled all around the world. I am concerned about this and want to let you know what she had been telling us." Elmer asked the teacher the names of the countries that Esther claimed to have visited. When the teacher told him, Elmer said, "She has been to every one!"

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