By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
All women want to marry Daddy, Richard continues. In Thailand, Daddy pays for the clothes on your back, the roof over your head, the food in your belly, and also puts put love in your heart. "If you give her your American Express card and say here, go have fun with it 24/7/365, you have created an American woman," he says. "So don't blame me if you turn her around."
After the lecture, Greg goes to the lobby to meet Aoy and her son.
"He got himself some baggage," says Bobby, one of the last three bachelors left.
For Bobby, Thailand has been like Colombia: The greater the choice, the greater the search for perfection.
He liked Eve until she got too attached, calling him constantly and threatening to fly up to Udon Thani. He likes Aom, but isn't as attracted to her as he is to Eve. If only he could cut and piece together traits from different women, he always thinks.
Sammy and Yuvaree have agreed to move slowly but already plan to take a holiday together in March. With her government status at the school, Yuvaree can get a visa quickly.
The night before, Sammy's phone rang at 12:30 a.m.
"I so scared, I so scared," Yuvaree told him.
"If you don't like me, let me know, let me know now," Sammy said.
Yuvaree said she likes Sammy and enjoyed their romantic dinner that night.
Sammy still hopes to meet her parents today. But he's not planning to propose, because he's worried he'll scare her off.
Scooby is waiting for Kid, who's coming at noon. He wants to teach her to dance. Instead, she buys him a shirt. She massages his legs. They get engaged.
No translators are available, and Seow wants to get Kid's visa application taken care of for Scooby. She goes to a bar to find some help. The bartender says she'll call her brother, who speaks English. The man who shows up is a tourist policeman dressed in plain clothes.
Scooby wants to help make sure that Kid's children and parents have enough money to live on. He offers Kid $200 a month through the tourist cop, who says it'll cost him $2,500 up front and $375 a month. Scooby is ready to give up on both the marriage and the tour and heads back to the hotel.
Richard can tell that Scooby's upset and still thinking of Kid. He tracks down the tourist cop, figures out it's a scam, gets Scooby back with Kid. Her aunt, uncle, mother and father return that night and sit down with Scooby, a real interpreter and Richard, who does the negotiating.
They agree on the lucky 9,999 baht, or $250, as a dowry. Scooby still looks nervous, so Richard tells him that they won't talk about the monthly payments now. That will be explained to the parents once Kid is in the U.S. "There's no reason to get into that now, because it'll just muddy the water," Richard says.
Richard does make it clear that Scooby doesn't want to raise Kid's children but will pay for a wedding in Thailand. He'll make the dowry part of the ceremony.
After the deal is done, 34-year-old Kid says her only fear is that her new husband will sell her to someone else. Scooby struggles with this, but Richard assures him that in a society of sex trafficking, her fear is genuine, and no reflection on her future husband.
The front of the house has tile floors and a roof but no walls. A breeze blows through, ruffling the traditional white clothing that Greg and Aoy are dressed in for their engagement ceremony.
About two dozen people watch as Greg offers a jasmine wreath to Aoy's parents for their daughter's hand. Aoy makes the same offering to Richard, who's standing in for Greg's parents and is also respected as the matchmaker, an important role dating back to the days of arranged marriages.
Usually Richard doesn't get to attend these ceremonies. He's moved on to the next town, the next match, the next marriage.
"This is the real payment," he says.
Then family members and friends, including Lee and Kung, Ben and Boom, Bobby and Aom, move into the house. They kneel on the hard floors under a picture of Thailand's king, before a burning candle, and chant. There's a pause, then Aoy's father launches into solo prayer.
Bobby is considering taking Aom back to Colorado.
Since all of her family is already at her sister's engagement ceremony, it would be easy to turn it into a double ceremony, Bobby jokes.
"Can you loan me that suit?" he asks.
Richard is grateful for everything that Thailand has given him. He feels that he's doing both Thai women and American men a great service, and he's able to do it only through the Thai culture of sharing. He walks the streets, and when he sees something that looks good on someone else's plate, Richard isn't scared to ask for a taste. A taste that the Thai are always willing to share.
The Thai are proud that they've never been colonized, but Richard sees the globalization of their economy as a type of colonization. Some Thai women have fallen in love with Western culture. They wear jeans and tight tops, they watch Sex and the City and Friends, they eat Pizza Hut and KFC, they drink Pepsi and whiskey. Another type of Thai woman, what Richard calls "original Thai," has yet to succumb to the ways of the West. These women don't speak English, and they don't eat Western foods, wear Western clothes or watch Western television.