Stickman Readers' Submissions July 11th, 2008

Complete and Utter Happiness Part 4

At this point I am guessing a lot of readers think this story is finally going to turn to shit right? “Silly fool what is he doing?” “She is playing him”, “I wonder if he has thought this out”, “sounds like an immature oaf to me” etc. In fact…..look at the following email sent to me only recently – probably as a result of reading my series on Stick.

mens clinic bangkok

Dude, your story is all very interesting. But keep in mind that in Cambodia "everything" is for sale, and the only reason her family loved you is because… Yeah, you got it! Sad, but that is the way it is in Cambodia. Many foreigners come here and meet the love of their life in their first day or two in the country. They are amazed at how loving Cambodian people are. They are, but they are not. They love you, but above all they love your money. Had you been a poor foreigner (not such a thing in Cambodia, though), they would not have cared a bit about you. The only women you can trust here are those who have more money than you do, and they do not go with foreigners. Another thing. Why do you think she spoke English to start with? Many foreigners are so pleased without understanding why. Simply, she is a barang-banger. Do you think any decent Cambodian girl would have taken off with you on that trip and slept with you so quickly? Think again. You may want to fool yourself, but when you post these things online, you only manage to look like a fool to the rest. My advice, keep it to your self. Many foreigners I know are well aware of the circumstances, and they say "sure, I pay for it, but I am happy". I don’t know, I still prefer the real love. Good luck with your purchase. Remember: no returns in Cambodia.

Charming huh? I won’t even give this shit-stain the benefit of my reply because he clearly has had some bad experiences somewhere but his sentiments and attitude towards getting married in SEA are the exact reason why I DID post my series.

The final chapter in this series ? Well…here goes….

Around 2 months after arriving, the desire to ask N to be my wife had been building up inside me like a savage case of dengue fever. Everyday I had spent with her since …yes…day one… had been an exercise in composure and commonsense as I waited and assessed the “right” moment to toss the rock. When N told me that the 2007 Khmer New Year was actually her signature year (she is a pig) and not only that but an ultra-special Golden Pig Year, I knew the timing was right. I wanted to make this a memorable year for both of us and as we blasted down to Kampot Province on our trusty 250cc dirt bike for the New Year Holiday, my mind was racing with the minutiae of when, where, how, what to say and all the usual things a man who is about to make the single biggest decision of his life might be thinking. For too many days and weeks I had been forecasting / hypothesizing about where my life might go now that I was living in Cambodia and what might happen if it all goes to crap but I kept coming back to one single recurring fact. I loved N and no matter where I am in life or what I am doing, I want her with me and she had let me know in crystal clear moments she felt the same.

The trip was already a very special one as it was Kampot we had traveled to for our first road trip together some 10 months earlier and we planned on staying in the same rooms at the same guest houses in both Kampot and Kep. After spending a couple of days in Kampot with family we cruised the 20 miles down to Kep and after checking into our bungalow we decided to go dai-laing (cruising) on the Moto. The Kep beachfront was absolutely heaving with revelers and as the sun lowered in an orange fiery ball my mind and heart were now racing with the task at hand. I soon spied a country lane heading away from the Kep coast and up into the lush hills and on a whim I u-turned and pointed the bike to a place that would soon become special. At the end of the road we were in luck as there was an amazingly ornate Pagoda sitting above us and with an old man pointing the way we headed further up into the jungle until we reached a huge flight of steps. Reaching the top of this beautiful deserted Pagoda we were rewarded by a panoramic and serene view of the Kep coastline below us. By now I was so nervous I could not contain myself and after some “eeeiiuwww…… isn’t the view nice” moments I dropped to one knee. She looked at me perplexed and with some words that only we will ever know, I asked (nay…begged!) her to be my wife and as her jaw hit the ground and the tears came, she managed to nod and say “yes, of course sweetheart!”

Later after sitting together for some time we descended the stairs and were met by the monk who presides over the Pagoda and as I sat on a bench next to him talking in my basic Khmer, N spoke with his female helpers. I told him I had just asked N to marry me at his pagoda and he smiled a warm smile. As we both sat and gazed into the pristine and silent jungle I felt so happy I could explode. On our way down the hill and back to the coast N was holding me tighter than ever and the ride back to our bungalow was done in a dreamy state. We showered and changed and headed down to the Kep waterfront for crab and a bottle of French red wine. The rest of the week was bliss as we enjoyed each other's company – and that of 400,000 other Khmer people on holiday and as we rode back to Phnom Penh I marveled at how life can change as the result of one random overseas trip, one chance meeting and one simple question.

I have now been living in Cambodia for 18 months and we have been married for 6 months – the first time for both of us. Our wedding was attended by friends and family from all over the world and is still mentioned as one of the best people have been to here. Our first baby is due in a little while and we have bought properties here. Life is fantastic. I landed the most beautiful girl in Cambodia with a heart of gold and the ability to bring out the best in me. My wife is without a doubt my best friend in the world. We share everything and talk about all things trivial and major. We have the same dreams and desires and I feel we are a team- not the ME BOSS / YOU WIFE arrangement that I so often see here. We cook together, we clean together and we laugh together. We go out to parties and dinners and she comes to the bars with me sometimes but also lets me have my freedom to hit it with the boys if needs be. I don’t mean go out chasing other women, I just mean hitting the piss with the lads. I can take off on my motorbike for a weekend without it being a big drama and her family is wonderful to me. I count my self very VERY lucky indeed.

wonderland clinic

I wanted to write this story because I have just read so many tragic ones on Stickman and I thought it was time for a good one. All these tales of disaster and despair that, to me, seemed doomed from the start. Guys marrying girls 40 years younger than them, guys marrying taxi girls, guys becoming “sponsors” (that word is just hilarious to me….when I think of sponsors I think of Coca Cola and Nokia), guys knowing their GFs have other BFs and STILL pursuing them. To be honest I think the way a lot of the guys behave is just ludicrous but I guess the heart can make people do strange things. What I don’t get is the way a lot of guys seem to think that because their GF is from SEA, that there is this whole preset recipe for engaging the relationship. I have escaped all of the usual list of fiscal and emotional challenges that seem to beset 99% of guys that post a story about their (usually disastrous) experience. Somebody PM’d me after PART 2 of my story was put on the board to ask “can you write anything that's just not "complete and utter happiness"? It would make it sound a bit more normal”. Well……sorry but I can’t! There have been no dramas. N never asked me for money for a single thing before we got married (more on that later) and trust me, there is some hardship in this family like you wouldn’t believe. I was never touched up for a sick mother, a scooter, a buffalo, a phone, a hospital bill etc and I did not pay a dowry for my wife’s hand in marriage. I am certainly no cheapskate but I explained to N that as we were going to have a very nice wedding that would cost a reasonable sum (about US$10k), I thought that was contribution enough. N was absolutely fine with this and when I respectfully asked her mother if I could just pay for the wedding, her mother simply said “of course-if you are happy together, that’s all I want!”

I now contribute here and there financially where I can and when I believe it is appropriate and I do so without being asked. Things like dental check ups for the immediate family, new bikes for the younger kids when their rusty old ones fall apart, larger cash loans with interest attached for purchases by family members with incomes who can pay money back, spectacles for grandma etc. I like doing this for my Khmer family and I do it without hesitation or any ill feeling. I have secured a great job and I have so much work on it's not funny. I am fortunate that I have found gainful and rewarding employment in a country where the average income is a pittance and I am also aware that by virtue of my age (FYI… if you were wondering – I am 39 now and 14 years older than my wife) and income status, I do carry a certain fiscal responsibility. If you are going to marry into a SEA family unit, you need to accept this fact and embrace it. It is a two way street though. Initially it was embarrassing to me that every time someone would come to our house for a visit or an overnight stay, clothes would get washed and ironed, beers would get delivered to me, meals got cooked and floors would be swept. I will probably always feel a little uncomfortable about this as I lived alone for so many years and looked after myself but it’s the way it is! I have told the family I am not to be called BONG (the respectful Khmer title that comes with age and standing) but simply by my first name and they love this. I have also trained all my family (men and women) to be comfortable with me kissing and hugging them during happy moments – something a bit out of the ordinary here but the smiles on Khmers who witness it when it happens is priceless.

So I hope my story had given some of you a good read whilst you have a cup of tea or a quick break from work! I have found complete and utter happiness in Cambodia with my beautiful Khmer wife and I thank Buddha I made the decision to come to Cambodia for a holiday because if I hadn’t, I would never have met N. Many of my mates here are very happily married to beautiful Khmer women so I can confidently say it is entirely possible to find love in SEA and take off on a wonderful journey if you play your cards right, have a bit of luck and take it a step at a time. Go in with your eyes open and conduct yourself as you would with any relationship. I don’t know what the future holds or where we will be living in 10 years time – maybe we will go back to my country one day – but I do know that N is the best thing that ever happened to me. I just can’t wait for our little baby to come along and enrich my life even further.

Thanks for reading my story and I wish all of you embarking on a similar journey the very best with it.

Stickman's thoughts:

That's a heart-warming series.

nana plaza