Monday, December 28, 2009

Anna's Christmas Story (part 2)

Christmas in Thailand means it's time for daughters to spend a lot of time in the kitchen with their moms. Our household was no different except the Prasomphols were even busier than most families. In addition to all the traditional dishes and special desserts for our family and friends, we would put together baskets of food for the prisoners in the local jail, which was less than a mile away from our home.

It was not a very big jail, but it held 800 prisoners. Thai jails and prisons are not like the ones in America. In Thailand they give the prisoners broken rice, and not much else. Your relatives and friends bring food to the prison for you. If not, you get very skinny.

Because my parents came from families who had been refugees from Vietnam, my mother felt that we had an obligation to help feed these prisoners at Christmas time. But 800 prisoners is a lot of mouths to feed so a tradition began in which we would get a water buffalo from my cousin and then make it into dried beef.

One water buffalo makes a lot of dried beef, and we would spend a full week preparing and sun-drying the meat before packaging it up with sticky rice to take to the jail for the prisoners.

Last August I told you the first half of my Christmas story about the crocodiles. Now that you're done with your Christmas holiday I think maybe you are ready to hear the rest of this scary story.

To recap, Little Anna was awoken by her mynah bird Koon Tong and then went downstairs to eat breakfast only to find that the house was flooded and there was a crocodile in her living room!

Because of the flooding there was no electricity and we didn't know what was going on. We did not learn until later from the radio that a crocodile farm upriver had been flooded and all the crocodiles had escaped. We just knew that we had a crocodile in our living room.

We could not cook, but we did have all the dried beef we had made for the prisoners. One of my brothers snuck down to the kitchen after the crocodile left and brought back a bag without any other crocodiles catching him. Then, as we were held prisoner in our own home for three long days, we ate the dried beef we had made as a Christmas gift for the prisoners in the Chanthaburi jail.

Later, after the waters receded and the crocodiles were all rounded up, we took the rest of the dried beef to the prisoners who were still glad to get it even though Christmas was over.

It was not the best Christmas ever, but it was the one I remember best because it was the only Christmas I ever celebrated with a crocodile.