I hesitated at first, when Phi-lay asked me to join his family for dinner after having only spent a few hours with me. I sensed he wouldn’t take “no” for an answer, and as he was literally in the driver’s seat at the time, I RSVP’d for what was to become one of my fondest experiences of the whole trip. The initial delay might have been from the knowledge that in addition to him and his wife, there were 8 children in the family. 8! I don’t even know what to do around one.
The whole family lives together under the same roof. Only Phi-lay and his eldest son, Rich, work and bring in money. They were also the only two to speak English. The cynical part of me wondered how much of the interest in me was tied to an interest in a bigger tip. But that small voice, which is new to me and only the result of too many encounters with hustlers and greedy drivers on my trip, was quickly overshadowed by his wonderful family. A welcoming wife, pretty daughters (the youngest being 11 and 14) and handsome sons (Rich being in his early 20’s).
We had beef and rice, and sweet potatoes later on while watching a Bollywood movie in their TV room which doubles as a bedroom for the kids. The dining table and open-air kitchen are on a patio under the house. They only have electricity from 7-9pm nightly, and it is bought from a private supplier. The power level would decrease from time to time, requiring the DVD to be restarted and fast forwarded to the place where it last played.
Feeling tired from a long day, I asked for a ride back to my hotel a little before 8pm, but not before committing the special scene to my camera’s memory card.