Nui Lalita

“Things might have been much better had I more education. I might not have to struggle so hard for my family. This is why I want to support my children’s future education as far as I am able. ”

Nui Lalita © Ezistock Co., Ltd.

Nui Lalita © Ezistock Co., Ltd.

“My name is Lalita Saenlee, but people call me Nui. I was born on the 1st January 1984 and grew up in a small Lisu hill tribe village in Chiang Rai Province. I have an older brother, three older sisters and one younger sister.  Even though my parents are poor farmers, they tried keeping us in school but we weren’t very motivated. I dropped out at grade six, ashamed of my poor grades and feeling that I should help with the farm work so that my parents could keep my younger sister in school.

“One of my elder sisters had married and gone to live in Chiang Mai. When she gave birth to a daughter, she asked me to come and help take care of the child and wash clothes for the family. That was when I met my future husband, whose sister was a friend of my sister. My sister told me he was a good Lisuman whose parents had separated when he was young. He had some education and worked hard so when our sisters suggested we marry, we both agreed. We had hardly talked to each other before the wedding, which took place about a month after we first met. That was in 2003 when I was 18 years old.

Cotton and wood ornaments, 'Lisu Forest Festival' (set of 3) © Ezistock Co., Ltd.

Cotton and wood ornaments, ‘Lisu Forest Festival’ (set of 3) © Ezistock Co., Ltd.

“We learned how to live together and love each other and he took good care of me. The first year was easier because we stayed with my sister and didn’t have to pay rent and other expenses.  After a year, however, we rented a room elsewhere because we wanted to live alone together as a couple.

“It wasn’t easy earning our living even though my husband was skilled at making different kinds of wood products to sell, especially frames to carry wall hangings made of fabric. I tried doing embroidery that I had learned from my mother and older sister. I made shoulder bags and accessories using traditional hill tribe cloth. I found that small items like key rings and ornaments sold better, perhaps because they were not so expensive. I kept designing and making small products but I didn’t completely stop making shoulder bags and other larger things.

Cotton and wood ornaments, 'Lisu Elephants Festival' (set of 3) © Ezistock Co., Ltd.

Cotton and wood ornaments, ‘Lisu Elephants Festival’ (set of 3) © Ezistock Co., Ltd.

“In 2005, we had our first daughter and our second child is due in early 2013.

“Life has not been easy. After our daughter was born we had saved enough money to be able to move into a small rented house. Though finding work was difficult for poorly educated people like us, we worked hard at whatever we did and saved as much as we could. I was lucky because my husband didn’t smoke or drink and didn’t get involved with other women like many other men.

Cotton and wood ornaments, 'Lisu Colors' (set of 4) © Ezistock Co., Ltd.

Cotton and wood ornaments, ‘Lisu Colors’ (set of 4) © Ezistock Co., Ltd.

“In 2010, I approached a woman from Bangkok who worked as an agent arranging for people to go and work in Japan. I had already met one man this agent had helped go to Japan and he had come back with much more money than he would have earned working in Thailand. My husband thought it was worth going there to work for a few years.

“The agent told my husband to get a passport and asked us to pay the first installment of her fee. I sent her 100,000 baht, which was half of all the money we had saved. When she asked my husband to go to Bangkok, she asked for the second 100,000. I felt lucky that she had agreed that we could pay her the third installment she had demanded when my husband came back from Japan. I didn’t want to borrow money and go into debt.

“Perhaps we might have realized something wasn’t right had we more education. When my husband got to Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok at the appointed time, the agent failed to show. We tried contacting her but she had disconnected her phone.

“It was very difficult to accept that we had been cheated of 10 years of savings. We reported the whole story to the police and gave them a copy of the woman’s ID and address, but the police have done nothing for more than two years. No one has helped.

Cotton and wood ornaments, 'Lisu Owls Festival' (set of 3) © Ezistock Co., Ltd.

Cotton and wood ornaments, ‘Lisu Owls Festival’ (set of 3) © Ezistock Co., Ltd.

“We have accepted our loss but we have no idea when we might be able to save that kind of money again.

“There has been some consolation. Had my husband gone to Japan as arranged he would have gone to a town badly affected by the 2011 tsunami. It helps me feel better to think that my husband’s life might have been saved by this cheat of an agent. We have stayed together. Money is something we can always earn if we are not lazy.

Nui at work © Ezistock Co., Ltd.

Nui at work © Ezistock Co., Ltd.

“We live very simply, keeping our expenses down, saving for our daughter’s education and for the new life coming into our family. Though we have to work very hard and struggle to save, we are reasonably content. Sometimes we can go back to my village, see my parents and join in festivals. We still live in our small rented house and we have work that brings us income. My little daughter loves to stay near me and help out when I making things. I never ask her to do anything for me as just having her around to talk about things makes me happy.

“Thank you for displaying my work and thank you to everyone who supports us and helps us save for our children’s education.”

Browse Nui’s items.

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Text and images by EZISTOCK © Ezistock Co., Ltd., 2012 – All Rights Reserved.
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