Who We Are

Saisamorn Khawsook Adams (Nuiy), born in 1955, is a Thai-American and a GED graduate. Currently she lives in Scottsdale, Arizona, and travels between Arizona and Ban Yor, Yasothon, Thailand, working on the Earth Angel project. Her future plan is to spend more time at the project site in Ban Yor, where she plans to retire and spend more time helping and being with her relatives, friends, and the villagers she’s known since childhood.

Nuiy had a character-building childhood in Ban Yor. She and her younger brother, Wee, lost their father, then in his twenties, to malaria. Nuiy was four and a half. Her brother Wee, was just an infant. Her mother had difficulty farming and supporting the family alone, and she remarried when Nuiy was nine. Instead of moving in with the new family, Nuiy chose to live with her grandparents, and young aunts and uncles. Wee was sent to live with an uncle in another village. Her childhood home, her father’s house, was abandoned. Nuiy graduated from fourth grade, and then went to live with her second grade teacher in Yasothon City. Nuiy was supposed to get an education there, but there was never any time, as she was busy working as a nanny so that she could send money home to her mother.

A year and a half later, her mother divorced her second husband and returned to the old house alone. She was pregnant with Noi, Nuiy’s half brother. Nuiy and Wee were called to come home to help their mother. When Nuiy was fourteen, she made the difficult decision to go to Bangkok to work. Her mother was better physically, and Nuiy observed the villagers and relatives continuing to condemn her mother. Nuiy realized that in a few years she (Nuiy) would be expected to get married and continue in rice farming. It was considered a matter of financial necessity and a traditional way of life to have a man in the house. Nuiy saw her young friends and classmates about to marry local village men, and she realized this was not what she wanted. She had other dreams for herself.

When older girls who had been away working in Bangkok returned to Ban Yor, Nuiy asked her friends to help her find a job in Bangkok. She asked her mother for permission to leave for Bangkok with them, but her mom said she was too young. Nuiy explained to her mother about her dreams and goals. She didn’t want to get married and be a farmer. She promised her mother that she would work hard and said she would send all of her salary home. Nuiy wanted her mother to quit working in the rice fields. Since her mother had neither a man nor a water buffalo to help with farming, Nuiy told her mother that she ought to have other family members work on the farm and share the rice crop with them instead. Nuiy also told her mother that she hoped to further her own education, and to save money for Wee and Noi to be able to attend high school and college in the future.

Luckily, one of her older cousins was also going to Bangkok to work, and that gave Nuiy’s mother a comfortable feeling that the cousin would be able to look after young Nuiy. Before leaving, Nuiy also promised to build her mother a house because she was tired of watching her mother repair the leaks in the old, thatched roof that hadn’t been replaced since her father died. She was tired of moving from one spot to another in the house to try to stay dry when the rains came. Nuiy pitied her mother and wanted so much to help her. Furthermore, Nuiy also observed large families on small farms trying to split up parcel after parcel of land, and simply running out of more land to share. Part of her father’s rice farm, half of the lot where the house was occupied and two water buffaloes that her late father inherited from his parents were unreasonably and unlawfully taken away from her mother by three of her father’s big brothers after he passed.

Nuiy’s mother made sure to tell the friend that Nuiy and her cousin were not to be separated. Traditionally, when young girls from the northeast left the village, they had to be boarded with the family they worked for and had to be protected by the employers because they were naïve, innocent, and uneducated. They were also good workers.

Both girls were placed at the YMCA Center in Bangkok, where a Chinese couple ran a dining room and a coffee shop. Nuiy’s cousin was trained to be a chef, and Nuiy was trained to be a waitress helping in the coffee shop. Nuiy and her cousin were boarded there with other older employees. A new world opened up for Nuiy. She was taught to make fruit salad, and sold ice cream and sandwiches. She was introduced to foreigners who came in for snacks and lunch. It was there Nuiy became aware of the larger world, its people, and its languages, especially English. She learned to recognize the ABCs from the menu and memorized the language associated with food in the menu. She understood very little English, and she couldn’t speak a word of it. She wanted to learn the language, but there was no opportunity for her.

After Nuiy worked for a year at the YMCA, the Chinese family decided to move to Korat, or Nakornrachasima, where the plateau Issan begins, and it was halfway closer to home for both girls. The two were the only original employees who moved with the Chinese couple from Bangkok. In Korat, Nuiy worked as a full-time waitress among older girls because there was no coffee shop; it was only a steak-house. Nuiy’s cousin was one of the great chefs and a well-trained baker in the restaurant. Both were still considered very young and lived in the upstairs of the restaurant with a few more employees and the owner.

Nuiy thought her learning opportunity would open up for her there, but the employers were not interested in supporting their employees to get more education. Nuiy still considered herself lucky that they cared for her safety and allowed her to walk to the newspaper stand close by so she could get a few comic books and magazines. Nuiy spent a lot of her own time reading and writing letters home to her mother.

Nuiy was not happy. She couldn’t take any classes, and no one could help her. She was also homesick for her mother and brothers. She decided to leave the Chinese family at age sixteen when two of her co-workers invited her to go to Ubol Rajathani province to work at the Charles Steakhouse with them. Nuiy left her cousin in Korat and moved to Ubol Rajathani, which was only 90 kilometers from home.

In Ubol, not only did Nuiy gain her freedom, she also could go home and spend her day off with her mom and brothers in Ban Yor every week. Charles Steakhouse was a much larger restaurant, and the owner had moved from a closed U.S. Air Force base in Taklee, Nokornsawan province with all his original employees. The restaurant was located right in front of the main gate to the Ubol U.S. Air Force base. Nuiy was newly recruited and was the youngest waitress among seven older ones. Besides the waitresses, there were three chefs and three kitchen helpers. They came from the northwestern part of Thailand with the owner, and they were also protected by the owner.

The owner rented two four bedroom houses and paired up all the employees in a big sister and a big brother system. Nuiy no longer had to live in the upstairs of the restaurant. Since Nuiy was the youngest one, she became roommates with a twenty-four-year-old girl. They both worked the same shift and became like a mother and a daughter. In fact, Nuiy called her friend “mom”.

Nuiy felt very safe with her roommate. They did everything and went everywhere together, and they also worked on the same shift. One day Nuiy’s friend invited her to a neighborhood English class taught by a man who claimed to be educated in America. The class was held in his tiny house. From that day forward, Nuiy began learning. She read and wrote English. The class was designed to aid those having to communicate with American G.I.s during the Vietnam War. There was no Thai literacy class for Nuiy to continue her education in Thai, or, if there was one, Nuiy couldn’t have had attended because her mission was to work and send money to her mother. Nuiy took those English-for-American-G.I. classes with her friend, and among the ladies of the night, they both learned English. In the long run, the English language turned Nuiy around. Becoming proficient in English helped Nuiy to eventually fulfill her dreams and promises she gave to her mother.

In 1973, the owner of the restaurant passed away. The restaurant was dissolved. It was the same two girlfriends who had invited Nuiy to come to work in Ubol who invited her to go work at John’s Diner in Ban Chang, Rayoung province. John was an American and a retired military man. He had retired from the Air Force at the U-tapao- B-51 Air Force base. John didn’t speak Thai, but he was married to a Thai woman who didn’t speak much English. They had two boys together and a nanny. Nuiy was very comfortable boarding with his family. Nuiy was the only interpreter between John and other employees in the restaurant. Then she was able to get a loan from her boss, and she built a new house for her mother in the village. She continued to work for John and paid off her loan. She kept going to the English class in the neighborhood.

After the B-51 Air Force base closed, John’s Diner moved to Pattaya Beach. From 1975 to 1979 John’s Diner did business there. Nuiy’s relationship with John grew closer — and they became like a father and a daughter. He taught her everything he knew about the restaurant business; he also encouraged her to learn more English. Quite often John took business trips back to the United States, and Nuiy was left to take care of the busy restaurant with one of his good friends.

Nuiy continued taking English classes at a larger private school, A.B.S. She studied English and secretarial skills there while working. Her English kept improving. At Pattaya Beach, Nuiy discovered another whole new world from waiting on tables as most of the customers were European tourists. She was no longer serving only Americans and Thai. There, she surprised herself when she found not all white people speak English. Quite often she had to explain the menu in English to the French, Norwegian, or Swedish customers, and she learned that her English was much better than that of those foreigners. Nuiy felt even more encouraged to learn more English, and John was very supportive of her.

Nuiy continued to work for John until Christmas 1978, when she met Tom while he was visiting Thailand from Iran. Tom was supposed to go back to work in Iran, but the Iranian revolution was dangerously intense. The Shah of Iran left the country, and Tom went back to the San Fernando Valley to visit his family for a few months instead. He decided to go back to Thailand and work for two Americans who had a gem business in Bangkok and whom he had met at John’s Diner at the same time he met Nuiy. Tom and Nuiy started dating in the spring of 1979 and they decided to get married in August. They then moved to Los Angeles, California. Nuiy celebrated Christmas with Tom’s family in the San Fernando Valley. After celebrating the New Year, Nuiy started her ESL class at El Camino Adult School in Woodland Hills. She couldn’t drive, and she didn’t want to drive. She chose to ride her sister in-law’s bike to school, and sometimes she was picked up by her Thai classmate or dropped off by her mother in-law, Bonnie.

Before marrying Tom, Nuiy was asked by her future husband, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” “I want to be a good wife; I want a good husband and ten children. I want to have a house and garden of my own, and I never want to have to work again for the rest of my life.”

Tom left for a new job in Saudi Arabia in late spring 1980. The idea was for him to work at a lucrative job so that they could save money for their dream house. While Tom was applying for a visa for Nuiy to join him, he learned that she could become a U.S. citizen with a new law. Expeditious naturalization was a law that had been passed to allow foreign wives of American citizens working overseas for American companies to become U.S. citizens. Bonnie, Tom’s mother, helped Nuiy apply for citizenship under this law, and Nuiy had a chance to practice reading and writing in her loved language, English, in order to pass the citizenship test. Nuiy had already familiarized herself with the new language and the American customs. There was no problem with the transition, except she had to wait while her mother in-law went through the headache and heartache of having to deal with the tough immigration officials. The day Nuiy was sworn in, she was thankful for those small English classes that she had taken only because of the love of learning. Those classes had paid off their dividend.

In the summer of 1980, Nuiy left San Fernando Valley to join Tom in Jubail, on the Persian Gulf side of Saudi Arabia. David was born in December 1981 in Jubail. Nuiy became pregnant again thirteen months later. They had to move back to Tom’s parents house in San Fernando Valley again because Nuiy needed help when she gave birth to Danny.

The budding family then returned to Saudi Arabia when Danny was a year old. Tom found another job on the shore of the Red Sea in Saudi Arabia. He worked in an old, small fishing village called Yanbu Al-Sinaiya. Parson Corporation was building the Industrial City for the Royal Commission there. Nuiy was happy to raise her two boys among international friends in the same situation. Most everyone in Yanbu was a fulltime mother and wife. Nuiy joined the tennis community and met a few good tennis friends there, one of whom was a teacher. Nuiy was still striving for more education in English in Yanbu. Nuiy would trade her gardening skills for an hour of reading one on one with her close tennis and teacher friends. When Danny turned four and attended K-4, Nuiy spent most of her time being a fulltime housewife, a mother, a gardener, and then started to learn and practice her most loved sport, tennis, while David and Danny were in the classroom.

In Yanbu, Al-Sinaiya, she had the experience of meeting people from all over the world. She was also fortunate to be close geographically to Thailand, so she took her children to visit her mother and relatives every summer. Tom and Nuiy wanted their children to know Thai culture and the local villagers. Nuiy sent David and Danny to kindergarten and preschool in Ban Yor. She was invited to stay and help teach English to the fifth and the sixth graders.

Each time Nuiy traveled to Thailand she went there with the two boys and three suitcases full of used clothes, shoes, and other small items to give to all the needy villagers. While she was there, she’d enjoy going to the market in town to buy meat and poultry for the elderly and the relatives in the neighborhood because she remembered the poor conditions she grew up in with them. During 1984 to 1992, not only were they were spending their summer rest and relaxation time in Thailand and Christmas in America, the Adams family also had traveled to many different countries and around the world at company expense.

In the summer of 1992, the Adams family decided to move back to America. They bought their first home and settled down in Punta Gorda, Florida. David started junior high, and Danny started the fifth grade there. Nuiy herself started a new tropical garden, played team tennis, and enrolled in a GED program.

In 1994, Tom decided to go back to Saudi Arabia alone. The purpose of that tour was to wait for Clinton’s administration to form the new healthcare plan. In the summer of 1995, Nuiy took David and Danny to visit her mother in Thailand and had a rendezvous with Tom, who came from Saudi Arabia for a two-week vacation. Then Nuiy applied for a visitor visa for her mother to visit the U.S. for the first time. Her mother stayed with her for five months. She left to go back Thailand a day after Christmas in 1995.

Tom came back to Florida in 1996, and moved to Phoenix for another job in the summer of 1997. Nuiy didn’t want to move because she wanted to finish her GED program and wait for Danny to graduate from junior high. Her garden was growing and she loved her neighbors. She felt a warm sense of belonging. She felt settled down. She had waited for over a decade to finally have a house and a garden of her own, and everything else she had dreamed of having since she married Tom. She may not have had ten children, but she was just as happy with two sons, a good husband, a house and garden of her own, and the unexpected chance of getting a high school diploma that would complete her lifelong dream.

August 1997 was the last time Nuiy visited her mother, and she realized that her mother wouldn’t live through the winter. Her mother was recovering from a gallbladder surgery that had gotten infected, then doctors discovered liver cancer. At the same time, she was suffering severely from rheumatoid arthritis. Nuiy sadly said good bye to her loving mother and told her that if anything happened to her that year, she wouldn’t be able to return to the village. There had already been two visits that year, and besides, Tom was in the middle of moving and getting settled in Phoenix for a job. There wasn’t anyone in Florida to care for the children for her. Nuiy gave her mother a last comforting promise before leaving for Florida. “When David graduates from high school, I will bring both boys back for the monkshood ceremony to honor you.” Her mother was being cared for by her aunts and cousins and all the villagers. Noi was in Bangkok, and Wee had had mental illness since he was nineteen. Nuiy’s mother passed away in October. All her relatives and the villagers took care of her mother’s funeral.

In 1998 Nuiy graduated from the GED program, Danny graduated from junior high, and David was a sophomore at Charlotte High. As much as Nuiy loved her house, garden, all of her great tennis friends, and wonderful neighbors, she broken-heartedly decided to move to Scottsdale, Arizona, to join Tom. The boys needed their father, and she figured that if the children needed help with their homework in a higher grade, she wouldn’t be able to help them.

In the summer of 2000, David graduated from Chaparral High School and Danny was a sophomore. Nuiy took her two sons back to Ban Yor on Christmas break to reintroduce them to the Buddhism that they grew up with during their annual visits in their young days. They had been very close to her mom. Nuiy’s mother used to take them to the temple, the rice farm, and the woods. David and Danny were not strangers to the local villagers or the customs there. Since Nuiy and her sons hadn’t been able to return to the village for her mother’s funeral, Nuiy had talked to them about the monkshood to honor their yai (their Thai grandmother). The boys were prepared to become monks during the 2000 Christmas break.

It was then, in 2000, Nuiy discovered Raja-pracha #28, the boarding school of the King, Phumiphol Adulyadej, for the poor, orphaned children of northeast Thailand. Her cousin, who is a teacher in Ban Yor’s school, invited Nuiy to visit the King’s school. At the time, there were over 900 children aged between 7 and 16 boarding there. Inside the school property it was like a small but modern village with a big family living in harmony. The older children were gently guided by the teachers and, in turn, these children were helping the younger ones as big brothers and sisters would. It reminded Nuiy of her teenage years while moving around and working in different cities and places. She knew the big brother and big sister system worked.

The students were given their basic, lifelong education, as well as being able to participate in hands-on projects such as planting and harvesting rice, growing organic vegetable and fruit trees, and raising pigs and chickens. When the children finished, they could go on to college, choosing to become a nurse practitioner, a teacher, a doctor, or whatever they wanted to do. Nuiy saw several of them return to the village and help the community. However, not all of the children graduated and became successful. There were some of them who did not take advantage of their opportunities.

Nuiy had a chance to speak with the principal about the children, and how fortunate they were, and she jokingly said, ” Where was all this when I was young?” The principal of the Rajapracha and her cousin told her how tough it was when they were trying to get through high school. They lamented the fact that many village children today often do not appreciate their opportunities for education. In Rajapracha, the children lived in the compound, and some would try to sneak out. Not all of them became successful or graduated from the school.

In Nuiy’s day, there was only a public elementary school through fourth grade in the village. There were no junior high or high schools in BanYor. After fourth grade, it cost money to continue in school. Only the children of the teachers could afford to continue their higher education. Their parents had monthly salaries to pay for the transportation into the city and tuition for the term. That had been Nuiy’s problem–she was to have continued her education in Yasothon City while she lived with her second grade teacher, but life prevailed and she had to babysit instead while the teacher went to work. Many children decided to pursue higher education outside the village, three of whom were Nuiy’s own cousins. They could go because their father was a principal of a school.

Even so, the children had to commute to high school on a dirt road riding their bikes. They had to patch their little khaki pants over and over again, tolerate their worn out rubber shoes, and put up with socks that had holes in them. It was still considered a privilege, as many village children had no shoes at all. Nuiy’s cousins commuted 25 kilometers back and forth every day. When they graduated and started student teaching they had to ride their bikes down dirt roads into the jungle to reach their schools.

When Nuiy was growing up, she had the privilege of learning the old traditions; however, she also wished with all of her heart for an education, but there were no schools for her and no opportunities. Now, schools have been built to help the orphans all over Thailand, for instance, the Rejapracha #28, our beloved Father of the country’s school in Ban Yor. However, with the changing times, many village children no longer respect the need for an education; the parents need money to pay bills; these teenagers leave the villages in droves for the big city without their education. They have much gratitude in their hearts for their parents, and want to help them. However, they have also lost their respect for their old traditions and old ways of life.

Over the years, Nuiy traveled back and forth to Thailand. Often Danny and David became ill because of the smoke from villagers burning trash to chase away mosquitos, and she would take them to the city hospital. There, they would go to the children’s ward. There were as many as three children in the same bed. The bathrooms were unsanitary. Parents were sleeping under their children’s beds. When this hospital overflowed with patients, parents were forced to take their children to the small, private hospital, which most could not afford. It saddened Nuiy to see nurses asking poor villagers for cash upfront, and then turning the patients away for lack of money. Ever since witnessing the facts of the city hospital, Nuiy has wished to build a new children’s ward for it. She has seen several Rajpracha graduates go on through school and college to become doctors and nurses, and would like to see them return to work in the children’s ward. She would like to see even more children elevate their lives through higher education.

An inspiration to Nuiy is His Majesty, the King’s school and the project of self-sufficiency for the poor villagers of northeastern Thailand. She admires the King’s project for replanting trees in the northeast, the poorest region of the country, and the craft projects of the Queen, Sirikit. Her Majesty the Queen assists local villagers preserve the culture in handicrafts and helps generate some cash flow to women. Nuiy is also inspired by Her Majesty’s National Park and the wildflower preservation.

In 2002, as Nuiy’s children left home for college, she realized she needed to find a new purpose for her life and decided to devote her life to helping the people of northeast Thailand. She wanted to help the King and . Queen in their projects but could not join in the work with only her 4th grade education. She wasn’t sure if her high school diploma from America would help. She met with several Thai people who told her with her education level, they would discourage her from serving the royal family. That’s how she decided to start her own initiative, the Earth Angel project. Many of her ideas mirror the projects of the King and Queen. She wanted to honor the Father and the Mother of the country.

Nuiy did not travel to Thailand between 2000 and 2004, and had not planned to go back at all. However, in 2004, she bought land in Ban Yor and continued to look for ways to help. Between 2004 and 2009, she bought land for a community center, built the library for Don Kayom School, planted native plants for harvest, and began educating villagers about healthcare and the environment. She formed Earth Angel project, LLC, and the Paradox Foundation. She began writing her autobiography as a memoir and journal, hoping to raise money to support the Earth Angel project. Nuiy formed a Lion’s Club International in Yasothon province to educate volunteers about the needs of people in northeast Thailand. Nuiy became a partner in Benjarong Thai Restaurant in Mesa, Arizona. 

In 2009, she will continue working on the Earth Angel project. She will continue to travel back and forth between Arizona and northeast Thailand. Nuiy plans to build a new library each year and help repair the old school buildings. Her dream is to build a library for each school in Yasothon province that needs one. She wants to build a cultural center where children and older people can interact, and the elders can tell their stories and teach the traditional crafts. She wants the children to learn about the arts, tennis, music, making food, herbal medicine, native plants, the environment, and the importance of education. Furthering her vision, she will create a self-sufficiency project right here in the United States, starting with Chandler, Arizona. The 2009 goal is to work on the restaurant business and serve the local Thai community. This year Earth Angel will start supporting the local farmers by mirroring the farming projects in Thailand by planting organic Thai herbs and flowers for local sale. Nuiy is participating in a Habitat for Humanity project sponsored by the Lion’s Club in Phoenix. She wants to learn about construction and start a similar project in Ban Yor with the Lion’s Club members there. Each year more progress is made and what used to be just Nuiy’s dreams are becoming a reality.