Accessibility Navigation:

Conversation with Preeyaporn Chareonbutra

Chareonbutra, Preeyaporn
Combs, Meredith
Date of Interview: 
Storytellers and stories; Relationships with people and places; Cultural identification; Tolerance and respect
Preeyaporn Chareonbutra talks about how her parents met and about two folktales from Thailand.
Charlotte Narrative and Conversation Collection
Collection Description: 
Meredith Combs interviewed a variety of people currently residing in North Carolina for a class project at UNCC.
Interview Audio: 
MC (Meredith Combs): My name is Meredith Combs and I am interviewing Preeyaporn.
PC (Preeyaporn Chareonbutra): My name is Preeyaporn and I am interviewed by Meredith.
MC: Pree, can you tell me about some of the stories you remember being told as a child?
PC: Being told, like, from--
MC: That maybe that your parents told you, um, or family members, or a teacher, that, that told a story to you?
PC: Um. What kind of stories would you like today, tales or real stories?
MC: Just some that stick out in your mind.
PC: OK, I remember my mother's stories when she was a young girl in her small town and she was like a beautiful girl in that village. And she was a dancer on the village and every year she had to prepare for a dance and, and she knew a lot of boys and of boys was, were, interested in her and but, um, her, her girlfriends were like her security guards and she's very naughty and um, my father found her in a, within a, at a store in that town. And he wasn't there but he just visited the town and the, his first impression was her, um, personality, like, she's, very, um, talkative, and she's different from the other girls, because, I think, because, um, most Thai women were, um, at that time, were, shy, didn't speak much and um, and he liked her.
MC: Because she was different?
PC: Yeah, um. She's different.
MC: Did she used to tell, tell you about that when you were young?
PC: Yeah, so funny.
MC: What stories did, um, your dad tell you?
PC: Um, my dad didn't have a lot of stories, mostly from his, his, his real, real true stories from his experience. Um [pause], I remember he, he talked about his younger brother, who's not in Thailand now, because he's married to a German woman and I think he had a good time with that brother and he's pretty close to him and he always miss him still, you know, and he's in Switzerland now--
MC: Far away?
: Yeah and um, my father was, was in a military school for a few years, and when he came home and knew that the younger brother had a, had a job and he was a musician, a guitarist in a rock band. MC: Oh neat.
PC: And so he had like, like a, free time after school and he's thinking about what kind of job he wanted to, to do after the school, because he could choose it. You know, he didn't have to go to be a solider. But, um, he spent, um, a few months with his younger brother. And he said he pretended, um, to be a manager of that band and went around, you know, and they had a show. He went with them and, and, um, because he hung out with those, the musicians a lot of times so he, he learned to, to um, speak English, because they sang only English songs, the 60's, 70's songs and he knew a lot of songs and, um, he talk about, um, the songs and he, he sang the songs to me and then every time he, sang the songs to me, he would mention this younger brother.
MC: Right, right. Well, did you learn to speak English from your dad?
PC: Um, not really, because we just listen to him and I think that's why we like English and we um, we wanted to know what the songs mean and he, he explain it to us, and so I, I think it's, English not difficult as I thought and you know, it's just pretty.
MC: OK, Well um, do you remember any stories um, that were either told or read to you that were kind of like fairy tales or children's stories, things like that?
PC: Um, let me think, yes there's one story about a [pause] um, I don't know, what do you call in English, but we, we called it the stars, the group of stars, um, the seven--
MC: Constellations?
PC: Yeah, constellation. There are seven of them. Uh, six or seven, I think seven, and it's like a tale how they became stars. No, before that they were chickens, seven chickens. Um, there's a um, a poor couple who lived in a village and they, they, um, had a one, um, one hen, the mother chicken?
MC: The hen, yeah.
PC: The hen and seven, seven chickens. And, um, you know, we, we are Buddhist, and they, it's like a custom that in the morning you get up early and you have to offer the monks food, because they will walk, they will walk, um, past your house in the morning, like six or seven o'clock in the morning and that's we call to make merit, to give away your what food you have to share to be generous to other people and, um, the monks usually didn't, didn't come that way, to their house because they lived deep in the woods. But one day they heard from the, you know the, town people that two monks will, will come in the, in the town, so they really want to make merit, to offer food, but they, they didn't have any good food for the monks and then they thought about it, they to cook the chickens, the hen--
MC: Oh. Uh-huh.
PC: And then, the mother, heard, heard the talk, like, you know the wife talked with the husband, like, "I will cook for the monks," and she had to kill the, the mother and then the mother like, she, she was grateful to them. So she didn't, she didn't try to get away or get out of the house, but then she came to the house, to talk to her children. Like, "Tomorrow I will be gone and be good, good children and don't, don't cry," something like that. And, but, um, in the morning, the wife kill the mother, but the seven children just, um, jumped into the boiling water and so everybody died. Every chicken die.
MC: So the mother hen was in the boiling pot too?
PC: Yes, so they all die. And after that they became the, the constellation.
MC: Oh, that's neat. I like that story. [Pause] What do you like to read now? What stories do you like to read now?
PC: You mean the children's stories?
MC: Or just any kind.
PC: Um, now, I like to read, uh, maybe fiction or non-fiction about a person, who really knows the plants, the trees, the nature, maybe because I'm, I'm studying that course--
MC: Right.
PC: And any kind of memoir, like a real story from a personal history. And I really like that book, Frank McCourt, Angela's Ashes. I love that. It's kind of real sorry, but it's painful, but it's funny at the same time. I like that kind of, yeah--
MC: That's what I've heard. Um, well, let's see. I know that you've written a story that you want to read. Would you like to read it now?
PC: Yes. Sure.
PC: OK, it's called, the title is Across the Hong There Lived YaPoo. "When I was eight years old, my family moved to Baan Naon Taan neighborhood, located in Yasothon, Thailand. Baan Noan Taan was a very quiet place, different from Ubon where I lived before. I could hear the night noise from the unseen creatures, the waving leaves from that old big tree by our wooden house, the singing cicadas, the frogs and the toads, the crying kite in the village field and the scratching sounds on the roof. We listened to those sounds every night until we fell asleep. School was something routine and tiring, and I was surprised by the fact that I hadn't really learned in my kindergarten school until I moved to Yasothon. I remembered how the world in front of my eyes was just for me, right in front of me, the breeze greeted me at the door, the wind from the river moving through the rice field gently touched me, the smell of a sunny day encircled my house and everywhere I went, the earth after rain grew my plants and welcomed the earthworms from underneath. The golden rice leaves danced and sang. From their stems we made a flute, the hard-shell nuts were our snack in the afternoon, and the sweet and sour wild berries were plentiful around our playing field. Gudseum was a small river in the northwest of my house. It was next to the house of powerful YaPoo or Old Man Spirit. We had to cross the "Hong," the Hong means a small and shallow canal, and take the pathway leading to the side of the spirit house in order to go to the water place. I could not swim and neither could my sisters, but we enjoyed fishing using a netlike tool and played around the muddy area. We liked the monkey-faced plant. We ate the sour leaves before we got home. Sometimes we went into the thick bush, and found the biggest Wa tree which covered the whole area of YaPoo's spirit house. We asked for permission before we took his fruits from the tree, remembering my mother's warning, "Never take too much, and tell the spirit that you are his children." The spirit house was a friendly place, because I knew YaPoo protected the village, and the people paid homage to him every year by offering him good food and performance. We got closer to his house than other children, right above the old and weak black-wood porch. We climbed up above his house to pick up the ripe fruits and almost fell from the branch and felt guilty. Maybe YaPoo didn't like this so he gave us a lesson. We shouldn't have been higher than this sacred being because he was the respected spirit. Inside the miniature house, we could see the dolls, one of which was the figure of YaPoo and the others were his servants. I guessed he was looking at us while we were playing around his place. He would never let any danger happen in his area because he was a good spirit. But if you were a bad child or bad adult and ruined his place, he could punish you with his power. We didn't know how he used his magic. Many people believed he had power to make miracles or to heal people, but we could not see him. The only way to communicate with him was through the selected, such as my cousin. I had never seen, I had never been in the ceremony when village people gathered around in my cousin's house and asked several questions mainly about what to do or how to be careful in the future." That's a story. Well we grew up with this kind of, you know, myths.
MC: Wow! I really learned a lot about um, your culture and things like that.
PC: Um, it's a very small community. They're, they're a lot of stories like this in Thailand out of the big city, like ghouls, sorry spirits, miracles.
MC: Great! Thank you so much for sharing that.
PC: You're welcome. Anytime.