Recalibrating hope. That’s what has stuck with me most these past days. We have to get a new idea of what hope looks like in a city like Pattaya. Pattaya. How you break my heart. But then I meet people like Pi Lye. She worked in a bar in Pattaya willingly for a year. She hated it. Her small hands wave around as her near silent voice tells of heartbreak, debt, abandonment, poverty. Her sons, because she left without wanting to tell them where or why, have developed deep trust issues and addictions to drugs. How does she feel about that? “She trusts that God will bring them in,” says our translator and new friend Ying. Ying feels despair, she talks about her disappointment. Yet her smile is hopeful and her words are kind. She knows that God must change things in this city. How does she feel about the political situation? It’s a blessing. Because people are traveling to Thailand, 10 major bars have closed in Pattaya. Things are shifting here.
Tonight we tried to walk down Soy Six, a street where nearly 60 bars are crammed into this tiny area. Signs have flashing lights and images of women stripping their shirts off, strap by strap. Yet we peer down the alley to see flashing red lights. The police are announcing things in an incoherent language, but the street in clearing. Once they near us they repeatedly state “Curfew now, get back to hotel.” We obey and hail down a sung tao to take our group of 9 back to the hotel. I can’t help but celebrate as I see men leaving the alley… without a Thai woman in tow.
We get word that Walking Street is closed for the night as well.
Things are shifting here.
But it’s bittersweet. While the women get to rest tonight I’m sure that they will still be charged bar fees and be collecting more debt. The rest makes them antsy knowing they won’t make very much money tonight. But at least they can rest, if only for a night.
I can taste hope. Meeting Ying and staying at Tamar Center for lunch you can taste hope. It’s cooked into their food as if it were a spice. The women consistently say how they now feel joy that they don’t work in bars anymore. One of the girls brings her children down for us to meet. She’s 18. They are precious.
Recalibrating hope means being thankful for flames engulfing a mall in Bangkok. It means praising God for humidity and rides on sung tao (my new favorite mode of transportation). It means holding babies and trying to not cringe at men who hold the hands of 14 year old girls, or at least not assume the worst. It means saying “Sawadee Kaaaaa” as loudly as I can to people on mopeds, buying roses from street vendors, and laughing at ridiculous dances. It means enjoying Thailand for the ways in which God is consistently showing me His glory, even in the most painful places.