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Spotsylvania family was in Thailand when tsunami hit page 2
Spotsylvania family was in Thailand when tsunami hit

Date published: 1/11/2005



The pair met and married during Ann's second year in the Peace Corps. When her stint was up in 1996, the newlyweds moved from Thailand to the U.S.

Today, Ann is an English teacher at Brooke Point High School in Stafford County. She also teaches baby sign language to area parents. Chai works on the maintenance team for a Spotsylvania apartment complex.

In December, the Supanklangs traveled to Thailand for their first visit in four years. It was Saijai's first.

Phimai is largely a farming community. Villagers grow rice and sugarcane. Some are fortunate enough to own milking cows, which are "very profitable," Ann said. Women wash clothes outside in large buckets. It is hot and dry and dusty. The people are poor. But they are polite and gracious, and they feel their countrymen's pain.

Before each trip to Thailand, the Supanklangs send letters to their friends asking for donations. They donate the money they raise to the village school.

Four years ago, $800 bought desks and chairs for the students. This December, another $800 went for playground equipment and a luncheon for the school children. They also got ice cream--a very rare treat.

Ann, Chai and daughter Saijai presented the gifts during a spirited, daylong celebration at the school.

When the tsunamis hit, the mood in Thailand changed. Even in a dusty northeastern village, far away from the damage.

"It's like Sept. 11, multiplied by 1,000," Ann said. "Disbelief. Everyone is glued to the television."

But the Thai people aren't just mourning their own who perished that December morning. They hurt for the foreigners who lost their lives while on vacation, away from home.

Wanting to help

When it was time to return to the United States on Dec. 30, Ann did not want to go.

She wanted to stay and help. She secretly hoped the tsunamis had disrupted transportation out of the country. She hoped the plane would be delayed.

Hospitals needed translators. Ann, who speaks fluent Thai, could have done that.

Instead, she's back in the U.S., in a comfortable home with all her friends and family accounted for.

Ann knows that, realistically, she couldn't have stayed. Not with Saijai. She wouldn't have wanted to subject her young daughter to all the death and destruction.

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