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Posted on Mar 8, 2013

Part Three: Son- Fondled, Slept- In a Bar, Living- Literally On Shit: It’s A Good Week, No?

Part Three: Son- Fondled, Slept- In a Bar, Living- Literally On Shit: It’s A Good Week, No?

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So, you may have read part one in which we contemplate why we put ourselves through hell for this dingy little island, and part two in which we talk about a tropical island growth so fast that it let us eating dust, and sleeping with our kids in a bar. Eh-hem. We’ve also aware how vulnerable we’re making our parenting darker moments to the world, while the rest of you close the windows so the neighbors won’t hear how normal you are. We’re OK with that.

This time we talk about how and why Asians keep feeling up our son and how we’re not sure exactly how to handle it. Well, we know to stop it NOW but also know that it’s a bit more complicated than that. You’ll see…

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In Which Orazi Gets Fondled Twice In One Day

[Note: I’ve asked Orazi if I can share this. He was totally cool with it AND it has a great empowering conclusion about a week later, which we’ll get to, of course!]

Orazi has been fondled before in our South East Asian adventure. First time, we took the kids to a message in Thailand and thought maybe he misinterpreted the upper-thigh message for something else. We were furious at ourselves later when we realized we were in the room when she touched him. Was it just an accidental touch or intentional? We don’t know. And then again in Cambodia, a super-friendly staff member felt him, and he spent a long hour-hiding behind the door before he could tell me what happened. We talked about it for a long time, with him and just us adults.  Poor super-friendly staff member. Kobi almost smashed his face in. And now, today, twice, two different men. Are South East Asian men sick-o and Cambodian men in specific?

Well, we’ve seen some things I’d never watch in a movie by choice, and I’ll write about those sick things one day when I’m ready, but not today, and no, this is different.  In these cases it’s really a kind of pastel plaid and neon bright polka dotted cultural mismatch. They hit their kids out of affection. A bear-hug type of I’m-going-to-eat-you-right-now tough love slap and jab. Like that Uncle who always pinched you too hard sort of love. And they do that to my kids too, out of pure love, I’m sure. And the men, they grab little boys by the penis in that same sort of gesture of affection. They say, “You a boy?” and grab. It is not a feel you up sort of thing at all, but more like a jovial one-two sly sort of say and pinch motion.

In South East Asia, it doesn’t help that he has long, blonde Shirley Temple ringlets. The bright blue eyes don’t help either. Neither does the Kobi-matching pirate loop in his left ear. Oh, and having such a pretty would-make-such-a–beautiful-delicate-girl-face really doesn’t help. So, they call him “lady boy” jokingly, and, well, they check. People often assume we have three girls, so I understand the unreal attention our son gets all over the world, and I more so understand how he can fall through the cracks of cultural feely-ness. The Cambodians love to laugh, to touch, to be close, and they LOVE kids.

So, here we are somewhere between letting our kids roam the island for hours and trying to protect them from the over-friendliness of the men.  We have decided to talk to them about staying together when they venture off to play so that if there are any sick-o’s on the island, they can protect each other. No one would be a fool enough to try and mess with my three trained-to-scream-their-asses-off-if-anyone-tries-to-touch-them kids. The fondling, we’ll have to keep working on it. We don’t want Orazi to get shy, unconfident, or scared of locals; we don’t want Kobi having to put a heavy arm on every Khmer man’s shoulder telling him “Never touch my son again!”; and we don’t want him fondled all day. Sweet rock, hard place, testicle situation, no?

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So where are the kids now? In the Koh Rong Dive Center watching their first PADI Open-Water Course Certification Videos. And after that? They’ll finish their lessons with us and roam the island for a few hours, safe and sound as we think they can be in this big, hairy, scary world. Would we rather shuffle them onto the school bus and then to pre-planned, sanctioned activities under the allusion of controlled safety? No, we’d rather not. For better or for worse, having my kids roam the world and start conversations with locals and fellow vagabonds, child or adult, seems more right to us.

Have any thoughts about our son’s repeated mishap? Think there are other great preventative things we can do to keep him safer? Please, share with us your ideas, experiences, and knowledge. We’d appreciate that dearly.

Laughing with Yiannis about that drunk guy in Thailand who literally dove into a puddle of muddy rain water, and swaggered away, happy for the adventure. And, the breeze has abated, just in case you were wondering since last time in part one of the series or in part two of the series.

This has become a nice little instant playback series on what we went through. This series relays our adventure through exhaustion, homelessness, and sexual assault to salvation.

Part One: In Which We’re Not Sure Why We Put Ourselves Through Hell

Part Two: In Which We Sleep In A Bar

So much fun all bundled up in one, and if you don’t want to miss any of it, please subscribe to the rss feed to get our posts directly to your inbox. We’re loving your comments on the blog, your likes in Facebook, and your subscriptions to our Twitter and YouTube Channel. That online attention directly funds our journey, as I use your measured interactions with me online to show organizations how worth it it is to work with The Nomadic Family. So, follow the series, subscribe to the blog, YouTube Channel, Twitter, and/or leave your comments. Knowing you are out there, seeing your e-footprints, reading your comments really truly helps us more than I can even tell you, economically and emotionally.

 

 

23 Comments

    • he doesn’t want one dear. when he cuts his hair he looks super little man but he doesn’t want one…

  1. I think you should consider the awfulness of the worst thing that could happen to Orazi and start from there. Here – let me lay it out for you: he could be raped. Are there simple things you could do to lessen the amount of inappropriate attention he’s getting? Yes – aside from the kids travelling in groups like you describe, you could cut his hair (as short as Kobi’s). This is an easy fix, a very visual sign that he is a boy. Will he like it? No. Is it nice that he has to change his appearance to make things safer? No. But it is a reality that we are humans living among other humans who use visual content to communicate much more rapidly than we do spoken language. Orazi is (unconsciously) sending signals to potentially predatory men in South Asia that he may like looking girlish, may be receptive to sexual contact. This part of the world has plenty of child sex available. It isn’t fair or Orazi, no. But it might save him from future fondling, or worse.

    • wow so you’re serious here, as was rachel about the haircut. ok. i’ll talk to him and kobi. even when his hair was shorter they did that, they communicate to their boys this way. they are grabbing boys all the time like they would tickle a kid in the West. i’ve talked many times to women i was closer to in siem reap, and as we spoke they would hold my breast. very casually and like it was normal. i’m freaking out going ‘there is a woman on my breast!’ but they see it as normal. he’ll push anyone now who tries to touch him and tell him, no touch… he’ll even give a run down of all the places they can touch him and include in this tour, ‘no touch here’. i will talk to him about the hair if he wants to reduce the attention he gets. those damn gorgeous blue eyes and shirley temple curls get him attention everywhere. thank you for always caring so much. in summary, i do think it’s been a highly empowering experience for him but no,i do not want it to be an invitation to sexual predators to see him as a potential target. i love you.

      • A hair cut will not solve anything! There are men who go after little boys too. What you are doing is right. They should stay together, slap the touching hand and scream like crazy. As long as they understand (and that is the unfortunate part) that there are people who like little girls and boys, they will learn to protect themselves.

        • Thank you Amalia. I was beginning to doubt myself for a minute there. We did not overreact but talked as adults on how to keep our kids safe without living in fear. Then, talked to the kids on how to keep themselves safe, without living in fear. We have discussed as a family that there are sick people out there who are not evil but just mentally ill and will try to force children to have sex and touch them and other things that adults have no right to do. We’ve instructed them to never enter anyone’s house or room, ever, to stay only in public areas with others, to stay together, and if anyone is too friendly to push them away and if necessary, scream and wave and kick and scratch like a madman, no matter what they say or do. no one will mess with a kid who is overly confident and hysterically loud and thrashing about. we don’t want them to stay by our side 24/7 and we don’t want them to be scared. we want them to enjoy life but to keep them safe. we think this is the right balance. and after the concerned vote of several mothers, if we again are in a country where we let our kids roam the village/island/hostel like a native, we’ll again reassess how to do that in the safest manner. thank you amalia. i do believe prevention and education are the best ways to keep our kids safe. keeping them on a leash with us, or behind a screen in the safety of our hostel room is not.

  2. Gabi, As you know I have spent plenty of time in Cambodia and even more in SE Asia. I have NEVER seen anyone do this. I have beautiful boys and while they get lots of attention it was never to their penises nor to my breasts. I am genuiniely concerned here that you seem to think this is all normal. In my experience it is absolutely not! They are viewing him and maybe even you in some sort of sexual way. To think having 3 small kids out and about by themselves is safe after experiencing these fondeling moments, many times, seems dillusional. You know I am all about not letting fear get to you but danger IS real, and this seems unsafe and very abnormal to me. I would really rethink a lot of this. Maybe just moving on. I get him not wanting to cut his hair but if that has anything to do with it maybe it is worth considering. I know you have moved on from there but I don’t think I would ever take a thing like that as lightly as it seems you have here. Love you and I know words can be off a bit in writing so maybe I am not hearing all of it but do consider some changes. Like I said fear is just an emotion but dangers are real, it is just a matter of finding a safe balance!

    • how i love you. if in any way we seem to be taking this lightly, clearly my words have been off. we have spent many a hour discussing what we need to do to keep our kids safe, how involved and free we want them to be in the local communities, and how this may impact our son. we have talked to him tons and have talked to anyone who in any way has crossed the line. at the same time, we look and observe a lot. we have been at baby namings, seen the young boys born, see uncles and neighbors and hostel owners whom we became close with play like this with boys and no, it is not perverted for them. i had a video which i turned on right after it stopped (damn) of a woman neighbor playing with a baby boy in the arms of his father and the entire time she was grabbing at his penis and the boy and dad were laughing. it is normal for them, and we have lived with the locals in cambodia for 8 months, not on the surface but with, with, with, among them. we’ve even had long talks with cambodians, well educated and westernized who have explained this mentality to us. i am not saying in any way that we accept or invite our son being touched in any manner, i’m just saying we faced it, dealt with it, educated him how to take care of himself, learned to be wise and stay clear of it and not invite it in any way, and also learned not to make something of it that it’s not. and yes, now in a new country where the people are not touchy like the cambodians. we’ll talk to him about cutting his hair but i don’t know if its an issue any longer. thank you mary, as a dear friend, who always tells me the truth, for caring. we won’t live in fear, or overreact in ways that are not necessary, but we did then, and will continue to discuss and make choices of how to keep our kids the safest we can. i love you mary. gabi

  3. Hello Gabi !!

    This is not the first blog post I have read about this having happened. I know some other commenters have referenced they have not experienced this but it is possible that it is how young Orazi is and how long his hair is.

    I went back to find another traveling family who wrote about the same thing, all their children had shaved heads and had their crotches grab because people where unsure of there gender!

    It was on goinganyway blog and the blog post was called: New Different Cultural or Wrong. ( I wasnt sure if you filtered out links in comments as spam otherwise I would have put a direct link)

    Anyway it might be worth reading so you can have a range of perspectives when deciding how to deal with it! I don’t think it is an acceptable thing to happen but also some of the comments made it seem there was not any cultural misunderstanding at all!!

    I guess even if it may be acceptable to them it is not to you or your son! When you travel there are customs both ways that you don’t need/want/ have to embrace at all. It may in some places be ok to really hit a child doesn’t make it right/ok/ something you want happening to your kid. I think figuring out the right way to deal with that with the understanding the other party may not see the harm is a very important skill and there is no one way to do it.

    I think ensuring Orazi is confident, comfortable and safe is the most important thing and I am sure you will find that and a way to deal with this uncomfortable/inappropriate thing that is happening. What you have done so far sounds great but maybe the hair might be a problem too, my younger brother was very attached to his locks so I understand there may be resistance but, if long hair means something else in the places you are traveling maybe making his gender obvious will stop this from happening.

    You are brave for putting things on the line as it is!!! I am sure you will find the perfect way to deal with it !!!

    • Geogina,

      Thank you for taking the time to write this and share. I was really beginning to think that I was so sexually irresponsible mother who was putting her son out there and was too ‘hippy’ or ‘busy’ to care that he was being sold in the sex trade. Whew! I love goinganyway and would love to share their article too. Please put in the link so others can read it too. I think i’ll have to make another post on the subject and share their article too. I knew something was off when I was the only one experiencing this with my son and then,now, i get it- the others don’t live WITH the locals, they are more separated, on the surface and therefore, for better or worse, don’t get exposed like we do. we’ve lived in cambodia WITH THE LOCALS for 8 months. WE showered like them with buckets, ate like them, played with them, spoke Khmer with them, were one with them, and their cultures. We’re in a different country now and I do not think the hair will be a message like maybe it unconsciously was in CAmbdodia. If we hint any unwanted attention, we’ll pursue the hair thing, but for now,I will leave my son in peace. Thank you so much for sharing and helping me know that others experienced this cultural touching/checking and that it is just that and not the perverted beginning of sexual aggression that others caringly seemed to think it was a sure-fire sign of.

      I do know that there are dangers in the world and I do know that allowing my children to be fully integrated in communities around the world (you’ll like our post: Perpetually Barefoot http://thenomadicfamily.com/2012/09/perpetually-barefoot-becoming-a-local/ ) has its risks. I believe we are doing it just right. Thank you Geogina.

      GAbi

  4. Gabi, I had a hard time reading through to the end of this. In fact, I got upset and rushed through it so I may have missed some information but Gabi! — Please reread all the comments above and this one, and know that this comes from a place of love.

    It’s wonderful to respect cultural differences. Most of us family ravelers believe that it’s a great gift to give our children, to experience and value other cultures’ approaches to life and the world. But young children should not have their privates touched by adults, men or women. As Theodora wrote above, this is not normal. When parents sanctify their children having their penisis or vaginas touched by adult men, it doesn’t teach their kids that the world is a wonderful diverse place. It teaches children that it is reasonable to expect adult men to touch their penisis and vaginas. This is not okay. This is not okay. This is not okay.

    And do you know the kind of adult men and women children grow u to be, who have internalized that it’s okay for adults to touch children’s sex organs?

    • I adore you Jennifer. Thank you for caring so much. I have thought a lot about our experiences and the context in which things took place. I’ve also read other people speak of it, like the family from goinganyway.com and it is customary in cambodia, and based on what Barbara from DropOutDiaries and others say, in other SE Asian countries as well. No, i will not adopt this custom into our lives and i do not think it is ok for adult males to touch my child’s private therefore, we empowered him to slap them away, to stay away from those who did it, and to be very vocal in saying no. other than that, there is no drama here. there is no pre-rape foreplay or anything else- it’s a cultural thing we didn’t like and understood comes with living with the locals. our son orazi walked away learning to express his comfort level and respect his own body and make that limit perfectly clear. he also learned to talk to us about anything- which he always had and i was so overjoyed to know that here too, he could do that. i know you care tons and that it pushes on lots of things us as WEsterns and us as women are terrified of. i know. but, a- it was not that b- we have moved to a new country where this is not the case c- we’ve learned as a family the need to place limits on outsiders with how comfortable they feel with us and d- for life, we’ve all had great talks on how to keep ourselves safe in the world. all great lessons. and, in closing, i do agree with your it is not okay, it is not okay, it is not okay. it’s not a traumatic drama either. thank you and please write back for i value this discussion more than i can say jennifer. gabi

  5. I’m glad you’ve moved on from here Gabi. Even if it was normal culturally as a way of determining the gender of a child, I would not feel comfortable with this happening to my son at all. I’ve got a very pretty little baby boy and was often asked by locals in Thailand and Malaysia if he was a boy or a girl. No touching what so ever involved.

    I love what Mary said “fear is just an emotion but dangers are real, it is just a matter of finding a safe balance”. Particularly so after the recent death of a child in the family travel blogging community. As parents our number one priority is to keep our children from harm of any sort.

  6. Hi Gabi,
    I have to say, I had a really hard time reading this post as I just felt so uncomfortable. I really don’t think groping is normal in SE Asia, for children, adults or anyone. I would definitely make a big fuss and slap those hands away. Child trafficking and the sex trade are big problems in many parts of the world, so don’t assume the touching is innocent. If it were me, I would keep a close eye on my kid and make a fuss if someone approached them inappropriately – I would want the child to learn that it’s absolutely unacceptable and that they should fight back if someone comes at them when I’m not around.

  7. I’m Asian and I don’t think it’s normal that people feel you up. This is kind of cray cray. The poor kid =(

    • dj i know! it’s not normal in all asian countries at all and it’s not a ‘feel up’ it’s more of a jab. it’s sooo common in cambodia and it turns out in the country side in vietnam. i’m slowly learning more and will put it out there when i do. crazy, no?

  8. This is what my Vietnamese husband says:

    “Yes, this kind of thing happens in the countryside in Vietnam. It’s because people think children are innocent so it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t mean they want to have sex with the kid, they’re just playing around. It used to happen a lot everywhere (in Vietnam) but now people in the city know it’s not OK.”

    So, I think you’re doing the right thing by telling the fondlers that it’s not OK to do what they’re doing.

  9. It is so brave of you to put things like this up on a blog for all to read, i admire it. There are so many things that people disagree with because….well it is different. One of those ‘don’t talk about it’. I’m so grateful that you put yourselves out there so much and are so clairvoyant. If we ever travel to an area where this happens i am now aware that my ‘often mistaken for a girl’ son would be treated the same way and i’m not sure how i would’ve reacted. Now i know. I am beyond impressed about how you deal with things on the road and i can only hope to react with a clear head and grace as you do. Never doubt yourself. Never.

  10. Hey Gabi,

    We have not yet travelled to SE Asia, so my comment is neither here nor there. It just a sort if “I feel you, girl” kind of thing.

    The culture of adults and children is very different in Turkey than it is in the US. In the US we have this concept of stranger danger, no one wants to be that dangerous stranger, so people generally keep their distance from kids who are not related to them. Totally different in Turkey, where my son was born. Top it off with the novelty that Dara is biracial, he gets TONS of attention in Turkey. We could not go anywhere without people rubbing his hair, picking him up, kissing him, offering anything to eat including tea and often sugary sweets, and occasionally touching and grabbing his penis.

    The first time it ever happened, we were walking to the ferry and a complete stranger came up to admire the boy, talked with us for like 10 seconds, then sort of pinched my sons penis between his knuckles and said, “I’m gonna rip it off”. Excuse me. You’re gonna WHAT? WHY? I freaked. We both freaked. But I am very confrontational and Baris is not. I asked the penis pincher why and he responded that he was making a joke. Not funny. We later discussed it with some of our friends and neighbors and, from men especially, got a lot of, “It doesn’t mean anything, they are just playing around, I remember that happening to me” sort of comments. Some also said that it is something about engendering the importance of the penis from an early age, alerting the young brain to the fact that the penis is an important organ (remember my child was not even speaking when this was going on). I still don’t know what or why it was, but I know I didn’t like it and unlike you, I could not talk with my son about what had happened or warn him. We even had to stop taking our son to a park that he loved because the owner of the tea garden kept grabbing his penis and talking about his penis. Were these men sexual predators? I dunno.

    I think I do know that cutting Orazi’s hair won’t make a bit of difference. Children are not potential victims of predators because they are attractive or have long hair or blonde hair or blue eyes, children are potential victims because they are children. Child abuse occurs all around the world to children ranging from extremely unattractive to extremely beautiful, the poor, the wealthy. It doesn’t seem to be a cute kids problem as much as an innocence and curiosity problem. While there are many roads up a mountain, I think you chose the best path, you equipped your child to protect himself, you gave him agency, and you did NOT make him feel like it was his fault. If you were to cut his hair in response to inappropriate touching, what message does that send to Orazi? Does it make him feel somehow culpable? I mean, should you also scar his face so that he is not so adorable?** Parents (and I count myself, too) think of and rationalize some really weird things in the name of protecting their children. I would much rather see children taught to fend for themselves. I love that my son needs me, but I will worry less when I know that he can take care of himself no matter what and does not need me or anyone else. Kudos to your parenting choices. You remain an inspiration.

    **here is a link to a site about one community’s tradition of cutting infants to ensure “protection” of the ancestors http://larskrutak.com/scarification-and-tattooing-in-benin-the-betamarribe-tribe-of-the-atakora-mountains/

    I hope all is well with you and your family.

    • all i can do is modesty bow to you. thank you, oh shy one, for coming here, commenting, even though it is outside of your comfort zone, on my behalf. thank you dear one. i got soooo much heat for being negligent as a parent it was crazy. i deleted the ruder comments. it was wild what happens when you live with the locals and experience life through their eyes, and then share it with other eyes and all the crazy distortions that happen twenty times along the way. love your wisdom and that you shine yet another fresh light on That Which Is. thank you dear friend. gabi

  11. Dearest Gabi
    you know where I “have been” and I can tell you I felt ill reading your blog – but the fact you know about it, and you and Kobi have spoken to Orazi about it, he should not have the traumatised response to it when he reaches adulthood. He knows it is wrong, and that you and Kobi are there to protect him. Whatever the reason for the grabbing/touching it is wrong for you and your family. If it is wrong for you then you stop it in any way you can. I admire the courage in letting your bairns roam and explore – it would not work for me, but I am not where you are, and I do not have the vast experience of travelling that you have. You love your children with every fibre, so you will always do what you feel is best for them. May you all continue to grow and stay safe. Much love, and tartan prayers xx

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