When I was walking those streets in Patpong, Bangkok, Thailand there was a story that kept running through my mind.  It wouldn’t go away.  That whole week in Bangkok, it kept playing again in my mind.  The story was written by my good friend Travis Frugé about his experience in Thailand a couple years ago and he was kind enough to let me post it here.  This is that story….

At this particular moment in time I am chewing on a cockroach looking bug. Surely the biggest one I have every seen. Had ever seen.
And I am sitting on a couch. To my right a prostitute. To my left two prostitutes. Straight in front of me two more. I think the one to my left is named “Bee“…. but it hasn’t actually occurred to me yet what her name is.
So I suppose I have some explaining to do.
I probably owe you an explanation.
After all, how does a young guy find himself sitting at “restaurant” with hourly rent rooms upstairs and five prostitutes around him and a freshly roasted insect inside his mouth.
Only parts of the head and tail have meat. Once its all been squeezed out by the molars you spit the head and wings out. And legs. Not like the grasshoppers I just ate. They go down nice and smooth. ish.
And “bee” is putting her number in my phone.
And you might be asking yourself so how does a young guy who just ate grasshoppers and “cockroaches” sitting with a bunch of prostitutes at a bar that is actually a brothel find himself getting some prostitutes phone numbers.
Well I asked for them.
Anyone of a more wayward persuasion might think I am living the good life, minus crunchy insect head and wings. But for me, though completely at ease, what I am doing will certainly go down as one of the more difficult moments in my life. In spite of finding myself sitting on a couch sipping on a coke.
This is not easy at all.
Asking them these questions….
How long have you been here?
7 years.
10 years.
4 years.…..
And I know that for these girls every one of those years marks another year of debt bondage to their pimps, a debt that can take decades to pay off.
Did you know other people in Bangkok?
My sister was a prostitute here.
My sisters and cousins are prostitutes here….

The surveys are in my backpack right now.
On my hotel bed.
Contaminating it with their truth.

As the girls started to talk in Esaan I saw on there faces how they felt about their lives. And I felt evil for even bringing it here. To their work. Forcing them to do anything that would remind them about how they got here. And why they can’t leave. “Bee” wanted to see her family again. In the North. As they were speaking in their first language, a language much like Lao…
It was then that it occurred to me.
One was “Bee.”
On the right was “C.”
Across from me was “Dee.”
“Your names are just letters from the English alphabet.” I told them.
“But I want to know your real names.”

“Our real names?” they looked confused and scared.
And they didn’t know if they were allowed to tell me.
I had already broken some rules.
Asking how they got here.
Most of them were trafficked.
And they were afraid to answer that question.
So I told them to skip it.
Then one by one.
Opening up more to me then they probably have ever opened up to a foreigner man…
And B
And C
And D
Began to tell me their names their mothers gave them.
Before all this.
Before innocence was something that could bring a higher bid.
Each one spoke there name regally.
As if it represented who they really were. As if all of this wasn’t really around us and they weren’t really in a bar full of inappropriate old American men and they were really loved.
It killed me…
Is there any job you would rather have?
The survey asked next….
I wish Chaiama’s English hadn’t sufficed in this moment.
I wish I didn’t understand what she was about to say.
Because it is haunting me.
Even right now.
Its so hard to type this right.
Because I’m crying so hard
“I…..want……to sell… market……face cream……to make girls beautiful…….”
I tried to smile.
And hold everything back.
It was so simple.
And so innocent.
And life isn’t fair.
I don’t care what you say.
There’s no way that it’s fair.
A crusty American old man steps over wondering what has made me such a big deal. Says a few inappropriate things. Slaps a girls butt. And walks away.

How do you start?
They were so confused by me.
Meters from the lady boy cabaret.
Surrounded “massage parlors”
Encircled with “karaoke bars”
Just sitting.

I didn’t want sex. I just wanted to ask them questions and learn Thai. In truth I was doing research for a HIV prevention program through my university. I was so limited in what I could say and ask. And I was being policed by the owner of the joint. But I knew someday and somehow I wanted Chaiama to be able to sell face cream to make girls beautiful. So I did one of the oddest things I’ve done in my life. Asked for prostitutes’ phone numbers. What else do you do? And right there. I did something I doubt they’ve experienced from a man before. I just enjoyed their presence. I ate what they ate. And I tried to speak what they spoke. And there in one of the many red light districts within these city’s borders I learned that I have so much in common with girls who have been enslaved by prostitution….
And with the lady sitting in the trash heap across the street.
And with the girl upstairs who has given up her innocence so many times she feels like she will never be able to go home.
They just need to feel love.
And I honestly don’t know if they ever will.
I don’t care what you say.
Life isn’t fair.

*names changed for their protection

Travis is a a dear friend who’s heart for people caught in the slave trade has not stopped.  If you’re heart was at all moved by his story, please visit this site the next two days where I will give some information about two organizations working to make a difference in this area.  Tomorrow I will be sharing some information about the work Travis has begun in India and how you can become involved.

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Justin Clemons Thanks Lane for this story. It’s amazing. Really got to me…

PATTERSON, Lyndsy Rae It is hard to imagine that these are not JUST stories, they are people’s lives! I live in a world where it is easy to become desensitized but for some reason things are coming to life here. I’m really moved by these stories. How heartbreaking. I can only imagine how hard it is not to go numb in a time like that, to be able to stay focused and not mentally depart from the present moment as a defense mechanism. I am thankful for these stories. Given the atmosphere, I’m shocked at how well your capturing it all. Keep up the good work.

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