By Thuy Duong
Tin Tuc News Newspaper, Vietnam
Sitting on a plastic chair in the corner of the room, Boaphan Sittitan just stayed silently, while others were going around her busily. Her eyes seemed to look at something in the distance, far away from the cramped room full of young and old people talking and moving around.
Her body was so small that the chair as well as her white blouse were too big for her. When anyone looked at her saying, “Sa wat di ka” to greet her in Thai, she returned with a completely toothless smile.
At the age of 81, Boaphan’s short hair was totally white and her face and her skin were seamed with wrinkles and a lot of black and brown spots. Nearly 10 years ago, she broke her hip when she fell down after leaving the bathroom and trying to turn off the light. Sometimes, her legs and back still feel painful. “I have to hunch my back when I walk,” she said. She now can see with her left eye.
Boaphan is a member of the “We Love Health” club, which was founded in 1993 to gather older people to help each other. “My niece, Chanfong Fumfuey, told me to join a long time ago—since the floor of the church was made of bamboo,” she said. People now walk on clean red tiles. In the club, she makes buttons and does the sewing. “I am happy in the club. I just do not want to sit around; it’s not fun,” she said. “I cannot handle hard work,” she smiled, “but I always join the club activities.”
After spending time in the club, she is driven home by her nephew who is also a club member. She is living with a 50-year-old unmarried son, whose mental health she said is not good. Her son earns about 150 baht per month and gives her 50 baht. She does not even know how her son earns a living. When she was three months pregnant with that son, she did not live with her husband. When her son was just old enough to crawl, he got sick with epilepsy after a serious fever. “My neighbor said it was not good,” she said in a soft voice.
Boaphan’s favorite thing is playing with her sister’s five grandchildren. Her face grew excited when she talked about the children with bright smiles and energetic gestures of her hands. “They like to pull my skin and ask curiously, ‘Why are you so fat?’” she laughed.
When the children are at school, she often goes around and talks with other older people, exchanging experiences on health. She said if a person is in trouble and asks her for money, she lends it. If someone asks her for rice, she gives.
Boaphan often comes to help the club with easy work like cleaning. She seems quite peaceful in her 80s. “I’m satisfied with my current life,” she said.