It doesn’t seem to matter what country I am in, but the first question from locals is always, “Where are you from?”
When I say America, or the US, there’s usually a look of recognition, mostly that I’m from what is considered a rich country by many in the world. Thus, I must also be rich.
The second question, “How long you stay in (insert country I’m in)?”
If I say I’m just visiting, a tourist, the third question, “Where you stay?”
If I say, however, that I live here, the third question is “How long you here?”
Then, if I say for long time, and the person asking the question is a woman, the fourth question is, “Do you have (pick country) girlfriend?”
I have lost track of how many Thai women have asked me the last question, usually women past 40. There are a lot of single, older Thai women here looking for partners.
Yesterday, I ventured down to City Beach at the end of the day. It was Sunday, so I knew there would be a few people there, but with my music in my ears and the sound of the surf, now stronger as the season changes and the winds start whipping in from the east, I can pretty much block out the tourists walking by, or the endless trips by the tourist-carrying horses as they trot up and down the beach, stopping only for the horse to leave a present on the sand that the attendant dutifully collects with a plastic bag.
I had forgotten to bring my usual happy hour refreshment, so I stopped at a 7-11 for a beer, and then stopped again for a sidewalk food stall and some barbecue pork satay. Four small satays were 20 baht, or about 60 cents, and I was somewhat embarrased at not understanding the price and trying to give the man too much money. In true Thai fashion, he would accept only what was due him, smiling as he dismissed my ignorance. The beer and the pork both went well with the rock and roll, and rolling waves, as I sat leaning against an exposed coconut palm tree root.
As darkness fell, I started making my way acorss the roughly 200 meters of beach back to the entry area, a fairly stinky place because it is where the horses queue for riders. The walk from there to the street is a gauntlet of tourist trinket and clothing stalls.
About halfway across the beach, the music blaring in my ears, I could hear a faint call from behind me. Turned out it was a woman yelling at me as I passed by. I guess she had been trying hard to get my attention, but I was off in another world with my thoughts. After apologizing for not hearing her, she started with question #1.
Then question #2, then #3 and finally #4.
“No, I don’t have a Thai wife,” I told her, pretty sure what was coming next.
“Oh, I can be your Thai friend!” she exclaimed, with a big smile exposing questionable dental practices. I just thanked her and moved on.