What I didn’t write about while in Thailand but I will remember the longest.
On day 3 of my Thailand trip, I didn’t go to the school where I was working, but instead I stayed at the hotel to work with my colleague, Bob Probst, who had arrived the day before. We wanted to make sure we had all of our keynotes and workshops in order for the weekend conference.
We headed to the 31st floor of the Landmark Hotel to work together. It’s a big space with comfortable chairs and tables and floor-to-ceiling windows that look out to the stunning landscape of Bangkok.
In the states, this floor might be considered the “executive lounge” floor and only accessible for folks with certain Hilton or Marriott status levels. But in this hotel, access wasn’t limited to anything, that we could tell, so I met Bob there and we set up our computers, got our coffee, and began to work.
And then I noticed something odd. A 60-something-year-old man walked in with a teenaged-looking Asian girl on his arm. He sat down and said to her with a dismissive waive of his small hand, “Go get what you want” as he pointed to the buffet breakfast. He was speaking English, but not with an American accent. Pot-bellied, balding, and smugly confident, I was positive he was not her husband, father, or benevolent uncle. Within minutes another man – same description – arrived with another very young, wide-eyed Asian girl. He, too, sent her off for food. Seated near them, I couldn’t help but overhear their conversation.
SOB #1: Yours looks like a high-flyer.
SOB #2: She’s great. Was getting another tonight but will keep this one.
SOB #1: Mine, looks aren’t so great, but she is fa-bu-lous, if you know what I mean.
Me to Bob: No, you can’t throw them out the plate glass window. Bob to me: Watch me.
Two other “business” men joined them and the four of them moved to another nearby table and discussed something that I’m sure made their small parts feel bigger. I swear, if I had heard with enough clarity the type of work they were doing or the company they were with, I’d blast either or both all over the web. The young girls with them, both sitting at other tables, ate hungrily, never looked up, and said nothing to each other. They both sat. Waited. Not anxious. Not anything other than waiting. I kept trying to catch their attention. That would have required that they look up.
Bob and I left. I couldn’t stand being there and Bob’s idea of throwing the men through the plate glass windows of the 31st floor didn’t seem like the right thing to do. Yet, it seemed the perfect thing to do. I wanted to rescue those young girls. They didn’t act as if they understood anyone thought they need rescuing. I didn’t understand what I was seeing, and I completely understood it. I was sickened and heart-broken.
I told one of the conference organizers what I saw and she was as appalled as I was, but admitted I wasn’t the first American to see such a thing at that hotel. She explained that they had put other Americans at that hotel and another speaker – also a women – had encountered a very similar situation and now refuses on subsequent visits to stay there. I will, too, should I ever go back.
The problem, as it was explained to me, is that this hotel is located in the business area and some foreign business men enjoy sex with young Thai girls. That’s it. They enjoy sex with young Thai girls and it’s not illegal and the hotel is near the what the men want – where they conduct their business and where they can find the girls they want.
Sex-trafficking in this area is a huge problem and prostitution is not illegal. As one local explained to me, many families consider that when their young daughters are good enough for “town work,” they are able to move out of working in the opium fields. This is a step up. What I saw was a step up.
The most important association I might have right now is with Pam Allyn‘s work with LitWorld. This global organization helps girls worldwide find their own voices, discover what it means to be valued, figure out what it means to value themselves. What Pam is doing can help change the lives of girls. Everywhere. I deeply appreciate that Pam has invited me to serve on her advisory board. This board isn’t worried about Lexiles or state tests or leveled libraries. This board is worried about the lives of children, and especially of girls. There are girls out there in the world, in 2017, now, tonight as you read this, who have been convinced that a step-up is accomplished by lying down. With old men who leave their wives at home. Shame on those men. Shame on them. Shame. On. Them.
And as I condemn those men, I realize that I have done so little in this world. I have done so very little.
Yes, I want to go back to Thailand. I want to show all those girls that the next step up is there for them. That giving yourself to someone who does not value you, does not respect you, does not care for you, is not the next step for you.
And if you want to help, then donate today to http://www.litworld.orgbecause when girls find their voice, then girls find they have a choice. It’s one of the organizations my husband and I support. I encourage you to do the same. Any amount. You will be changing the lives of girls.
And as you do, those SOBs, and all their friends, will discover that they are only sad, fat, old, pompous, desperate, cheating, lying, bald men. Alone. On the 31st floor.