" 我来自中国 (Wo lai zhi zhong guo). "
" I am from China. " he declared as a manner of introduction when I checked in to my hostel (we were in the same dorm).
He spoke slowly in a deliberate nasally tone, occasionally pausing to adjust the thickly-rimmed glasses resting on the bridge of his nose. No, he wasn't from Beijing nor Shanghai nor even Shenzhen. He was from a poor rural farming village (of which the name now escapes me).
His clothes were stained yellowish gray with age and grime. Dirt was lodged underneath the crevices of his nails and his hair was matted. He was 35 years old. It was his first time venturing out of China.
When I asked him why he was travelling, he answered
" I hope to find a wife. "
The below conversation ensued.
" How many siblings do you have? " He enquired.
" Two. " I responded.
" Hmmm... there are three children in your family. " He murmured.
" Yes. " I affirmed.
" During my time, the one-child policy was enforced in China. In the cities, they were either educated enough to embrace the birth of a daughter or wealthy enough to pay government bribes if they wanted more children. In the villages, it was a different story. Sons were highly valued to help with manual labour and carry on the family name. Daughters were killed at birth. "
" Because of this damned policy, males far outnumber females of marriageable status today. There are no women left in the villages! "
" I came to Thailand because I heard the women here like foreign men. Do you think that is true? "
" Uhmm.. ehmm.. " I uhmmed and ehmmed.
The all too common theme of old white men with young Thai 'girlfriends' surfaced in my mind's eye - could a farmer from rural China compare? However I kept silent, not wanting to dissuade his dream of happily ever after.
" Well, you can try! " I feigned encouragement.
When I left, he had yet to find his bride.