"Wan go home."
"We're at home. This is it."
It's the middle of the afternoon, post-nap, and we are sitting on the gazebo porch at Boon's mom's house. The fan is blowing as hard as possible. There's a pitcher of hibiscus iced tea on the table, sweating almost as hard as we are. Declan's statement is clear and direct: he wants to go home.
It's less than a second before Caden hears him, and picks up the refrain. It was fun for a few days, now lets pack up and go home. All jokes aside, we're going back home, right, ma?
Obviously, there's only one answer to this. No. Suck it up. There is no return ticket. The renters are enjoying our house, so there is no "home" to return to. But an answer like that isn't going to stop them from wanting to go "home."
They aren't army brats. They know one home, and it's got a dogwood tree in the front yard, a box full of Legos on the floor, and central a/c. Only four people live there, and they all speak English. There aren't a lot of neighborhood kids to play with, but the one who's available doesn't tease or make you be the prisoner in all the games.
Here, there's a mango tree in the yard, just across from the starfruit tree. There are birds chittering in a huge cage, and feral cats that won't stop when you try to pet them. The neighborhood kids, a small horde of 8-10, roll past on their full size bikes, peering into the gate, shouting "Ca-Din!!" before running down the street. We practiced "yak lin, baw?" over and over again, as he worked up the courage to go outside and ask the kids to play. The leader, a girl about 9, grabbed him by the hand and they ran into the yard of the English language school across the street, all of the kids intent on a game of tag. Except it wasn't tag, it was more like, "shove the new kid into the corner a lot and yell at him." He gave it another try, later the same day, but simply can't learn a new language fast enough to keep up with the horde. We tried inviting them into our yard, bringing out the bin of Legos and the mega bounce ball for more equal play. Within minutes, the kids had overrun both Caden and Declan, and Meh Tou had to come out to keep the peace.
He'll get used to it. School starts next week, and we've finally secured a place for both boys at the same international school where we'll be teaching. He'll meet other kids, and hopefully learn Lao as they play. They'll get used to kao piak for breakfast, to the heat, to the flies, and to the people. They're lucky-- they have family in their new country, unlike most foreigners here, sent for work or curiosity, dumped in a new land with nothing and no one, really on their own.
Boon tries again to explain to Declan, this is home, there isn't another one, it's fine. But he continues, "mama, wan go home."
I get it, kiddo. I get it.
*yak lin, baw: want to play?
kao piak: noodle soup with thicker noodles, almost like udon. Sometimes has chunks of deep fried crispy pork belly (my favorite), chunks of congealed blood (Boon's favorite), or boiled chicken.
(c) amanda harris souvannamethy 2017