01 January 2006

Local Man, Foreign Bride ...

... and one very cute baby.

ST Jan 1, 2006
Man who couldn't find girlfriend: Now baby makes three
By Chua Kong Ho

TWO years ago, lighting technician Jackson Lee was despondent about ever finding a girlfriend, much less a wife.

Singaporean women, he said, found him too fat, too ugly and too poor. After all, he weighed 180kg and his job paid him less than $2,000.

When he approached marriage agencies for help, three turned him down. The fourth, Mr Cupid International, did not and found him a Vietnamese wife. When The Sunday Times wrote about him in January last year, he was just settling down to marriage.

Today, the 35-year-old is a proud father. His wife, Ms Nguyen Thi Kum Ngan, 22, whom he picked out of a queue of about 1,000 Vietnamese factory girls, is settling well into life in Singapore.

Their daughter, Zhi Ling, is a smiley and gregarious baby who steals the hearts of strangers.

'Now, I have a goal in life. I know what I'm working so hard for,' said Mr Lee, in an interview at his parents' flat in Kim Tian Place in Tiong Bahru, where they live.

Fatherhood has changed him, he said. He drinks less and saves more. He wants a place of their own. He wants another baby if their finances permit.

Whereas he was once sceptical about whether his marriage would last, he now worries about the cost of putting his child through school.

Ms Kum Ngan, a rice farmer's daughter, may have married him to escape poverty and to give her folks at home a better life, but the bonds between the two are clear.

When Mr Lee said the baby weighed '3.5 pounds', instead of 3.5kg, she playfully swiped at him and corrected him. He was in the delivery room with her.

On motherhood, she said: 'I was scared at first. I didn't know anything about being a mother. But thankfully my mother came over and stayed with me through my confinement.'

The couple said they live simply. They take walks in the evenings when he returns from work. She takes care of the baby and helps out with the household chores.

Her sister, who is also married to a Singaporean, visits often and the two cook up Vietnamese dishes. They are not so homesick anymore, she said.

Said Mr Lee: 'Everyone was telling me how nasty foreign marriages turn out to be.
'But I can't wait to get home from work now to see my wife and daughter. I hoped for, but never really believed, that I would have this life.'

We often hear evil, unpleasant things about the exploitative Singaporean men who buy themselves a poor young wife from Vietnam or Cambodia etc. This article paints a different kind of picture. Man is happy, woman is happy, so what is the problem? Things look good, don't they.

I found it interesting to note that Ms Nguyen Thi Kum Ngan also has a sister who's married to a Singaporean. And that the two sisters often visit each other here in Singapore. I wonder whether we are witnessing another social phenomenon.

Maybe the "poor young wives from Vietnam and Cambodia" now have sufficient numbers in Singapore to start forming their mini-communities here. Perhaps they build a network to help their eager sisters and cousins in Vietnam and Cambodia come over and find Singaporean husbands too.

Then in Singapore, they establish contact with each other and meet up to provide mutual friendship, support and company. You know, drink tea, chit chat, philosophise about the differences between life in this country and life in that other country. Like the expat wives in Singapore do.

On a separate note, the blogger known as Expat-At-Large offers a commentary on the sex lives of FBOs (fat balding old men). Expat-At-Large speaks with great authority on the subject, heheh.


hugewhaleshark said...

Woohoo! First comment for the year!

Nice story. Along with the other one about the Chinese boy who raised his adopted sister singlehandedly. Very Grave of the Fireflies.

Rani said...

i'm amazed on how this phenomenon is connotated with nationality (race?). For example, foreign brides are always vietnamese and cambodian, foreign domestic workers are always filipino, indonesian, and sri lankan..

expat@large said...

"Expat-At-Large speaks with great authority on the subject, heheh."

Ain't that the sad sad sad truth!

Zia said...

Local man,Foreign Bride...
yes, that's my husband in Faroe Islands. I just wish my sister would make up her mind and come here to stay so we can chit chat into the night like we used to. Those were the days.
Not all foreign brides are mistreated I think. Depending on which country they go to. Maybe in Pakistan or India or Africa but Singapore is not so bad I think.