Our day of "work" began today around 1.30 - as previously mentioned, Bonita had asked us to help her out on a special project: without exploiting any of the girls by showing their faces, we were asked to try and find pictures of the sad stereotype of the older white man with the young Thai woman. Walking around the various red light districts and connecting streets of Bangkok, it was not hard to find such couples. We switched off pretending to pose for the camera while the photographer then zoomed in on the pair. Thus began that which we saw bits of yesterday but had further confirmed today: disgust and sadness and anger engulfed my heart all at the same time. I found myself soon not wanting to look any obvious male foreigner in the eyes because of the assumed stereotype of his presence in those particular areas of town.
We then went back to their house (which houses 10 girls) to get further training on the night to come, and just hang out with the girls and the other ladies there volunteering as well. After a Mexican Thai (!) dinner, we Bonita, Jeannie, Boo (one of the former prostitutes, who now goes into the bars to connect with girls) and I started out at a "level 2" bar: a go go bar. I was not horrified and I was not shocked by what I saw - perhaps the graphics of my present generation have already somewhat prepared my mind. I saw these girls - some as young as 14, and others nearing the end of their prostituting prime - and I saw their innocence. I saw the disconnect between the womanly facade of sex on the outside and the giddy childlike spirit in their interactions with each other. I saw them excited to see us, especially when they already knew Bonita and Boo. I also saw them eyeing and looking at me as a potential customer (of which we had been warned not to make too much eye contact with one girl for that very reason). I saw them slide up a pole, and then laugh hysterically with the girl next to them, dancing without inhibition. I saw their eyes. I saw the mechanics of the operation. I saw that it was their way of life, their only means to support their family. I wondered of their stories, and why more of them weren't getting out.
And I saw the men too. And I got angrier than I had been before. I saw men looking at the number on the woman they wanted, and simply pointing at the object of their affection. I saw carnal desire. I saw crude longing. I saw saddened eyes and I saw glazed-over eyes. I thought about what these men wearing wedding rings and dressed in their Sunday best might have left behind. I wondered why they wouldn't look me in the eyes. I wondered why there wasn't someone - another man, perhaps - out here reaching these men as these women are with the prostitutes.
I saw a lot tonite. We went to two more bars in another district that evening, and just sat there as the New Beginnings women talked (in Thai) to the working women. We were asked to keep a smile on our face, to not grimace or show disgust. To see the girls as such was not hard, but I felt like my face was in a stale position when a customer came ino the picture. This is not something that I can solve overnight. This is a bigger problem than choice because this is their livelihood. But I believe in what this ministry is doing, just as I believe that God does not look on these women (or these men!) in disgust, but in sadness.
That is all for now.