Kohsoom (meaning lotus in Thai) is a welcome addition to this gorgeous beach at the end of the lane that runs alongside our condo complex in Hua Hin on the Gulf of Thailand. She is a remarkable reminder that when life hands you lemons, you make lemonade.
Kohsoom, she of the laughing black eyes and a smile as warm as the Thai morning ocean breeze, is mother to 4 children, one of which---a girl---has gone with her ex-husband. “I no see her again,” she laments, quickly changing the subject. With 3 children by her current husband, Kohsoom sells fruit and drinks to throngs of tourists who flock to this popular 4 km long beach fronting turquoise ocean water with a sandy sea bed.
She works hard, this lady, charging less for a standard Styrofoam tray of freshly---and neatly---sliced mango, jackfruit, watermelon, pineapple…slightly undercutting the shiny new market stores in nearby malls.
The Big Boss collects an annual “minimal” sum for her small patch of sandy beach, she says. Her husband, one of a group of Beach Patrol Volunteers who ride horseback (each owns his/her horse) along the beach, is obliged to pay half his profits from horseback riding to the Big Boss. Each morning, before he heads off on his horse, he rakes the sand on her territory and helps set up her stand. Each night, they take it down.
It is young Soon who captures the tourists’ attention. They buy him cold treats from the visiting ice cream truck. Bring him toys. When his sisters are home from school and at the beach with their mom, they play house on the concrete lane and sandy beach. Large banana leaves transform into plates. Bougainvillea blossoms, shells, rocks magically resemble a food feast. Mini sea crabs sometimes capture Soon’s imagination as the tiny crustaceans skitter, scatter to and from their hole homes, forming raised grid patterns across the beach. And, oh yes, the mobile phone gives Soon lots of electronic exposure. The kids ignore the sea, the turquoise sea tourists pay mega bucks to experience.
She powders his face. And hers. To protect their skin from the relentless sun.
In the end, though, the Fruit Lady epitomizes the beach. She grabs many foreign hearts with her honest, genuine style. “I make okay living,” she says. “Save for my children.” Pauses. Flashes a smile showing even white teeth.
“Yes. My children. So they grow up good. To study.”