“no, i have one back in Thailand”

“Is it your first?” I innocently asked the asian partner of a local at our brief festive gathering yesterday afternoon. 

They had arrived together with an older woman and I couldn’t immediately detect which pair were the couple.  It appeared the older lady was the man’s mother.  He was an entirely bald thirty-something, his mother apparently much older than she appeared.  At a stretch, or a quick glance at their backs, you could even take them for a couple.  They had apparently lived in the street for many years, as the twenty or thirty attendees of our street-only invited gathering had.  It being a London suburb, although reasonably affluent, few people seemed to know any others.  Perhaps excepting their closest neighbours. 

So the bald thirty-something man, it turned out, was the partner to this pregnant asian lady, probably in her early thirties.  We were introduced to her using her unlikely English name, and I phased out amidst the politeness of the scenario, wondering. 

Even if you couldn’t have too much of a developed communication, it saddened me to sense that I was beginning to empathise with the not unattractive appeal.  It’s so preposterously easy there, I remembered, on the southern Islands and further east into Vietnam they can almost literally throw themselves at you as you walk down the touristy streets.  That doesn’t happen so much in London.  Not in my experience anyway.  But it becomes a pain over there, an irritant as you try to keep walking.  You just need to be white, Western.  They’re not fussy. 

It’s getting increasingly common too.  Last Christmas at home, in our comparatively isolated village there was a local with a young eastern girl who sat quietly in the corner, saying nothing to nobody and being roundly ignored by her presumably newish partner.

“Is it your first?” I asked yesterday, when we turned to her bump.
“No, she said,” in perfectly good English, “I have one back in Thailand, but..” and she trailed off.
I felt bad for asking, insensitive.

It jabbed hard, the extreme displacement they must suffer, the sacrifices they make – as much as they are willing to endure it in the hope of a better life.  Acclimatising to a place and culture so far removed as to be practically impossible to call “home”, must be utterly bewildering.  The promise and hope invested in such a move: are they really worth it in the long term?  Is the poverty that unbearable, or the allure of the west that great? 

And is it cruel to facilitate that transfer, to encourage it.  Or is it acceptable now?  Should we get over ourselves and be more liberal about it now?  Or is it fundamentally a bit wrong and uncomfortable?  Especially if there’s a significant age discrepancy.

“Sounds complicated!” a neighbour chirped into the half second of silence.
It’s certainly that.

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One Response to “no, i have one back in Thailand”

  1. Pingback: feeling like (a) charity « swashbuckled stories

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