Yesterday I decided to go to a hot springs not too far from where I live to soak for a few minutes and swim like a beaver in the muddy brown river that runs next to it. I went to the bus stop to get on a “local bus” which are generally 30 year-old mid-size Japanese trucks with a cap and two benches running along the bed. I happened to know the driver who was in line to take off next and he just happened to be taking the afternoon off and was going to the hot springs to nurse his knee so I went with him. I’ll refer to him as K. K is in his mid sixties and speaks so loudly that I need to use my earbuds as earplugs when I sit up front with him.
On the way we were talking about how he’s half Chinese and how his dad came from China during WW2. He told me he has many brothers and sisters and how one of them lives on the way to the hot springs and speaks Chinese. I wondered why he couldn’t speak any Chinese but had this brother he said was Chinese and speaks Chinese as his primary language. He told me it was because his Dad was married to a Chinese women and came over from China with her and one of their kids. After he arrived in Thailand K’s dad married a Thai lady, K’s mom, and with both wives, who K said knew and got along with each other, he had a bunch more kids. So it was his half-brother.
I asked how old this half-brother was and K said 90 and I was like 90! People don’t reach 90 too often in this neck of the woods and then he says “Maybe he’s 80.” and I say “You don’t know if your brother is 80 or 90?”. I asked when was the last time he saw him and K replied “many years” so I asked how many years and he replied again “many years”. Then as if a light went off in his head he says “You wanna go see him and speak some Chinese?!”. I’m like you don’t even know he’s alive and he’s says no he’s alive so I said sure lets go see your Chinese brother from another mother.
The guys house really was only 50 or so meters from the main road. When we arrived K knocked on the front gate and I guess what you’d call his half-niece who might have even been older than him came out to greet us. She seemed happy to have visitors and welcomed us to come in and see his half-brother so we walked into the dim house and through this little hallway into a room and there’s this little old man in blue boxers passed out in his bed without any blankets sprawled out starfish style like a little kid taking an afternoon nap to escape the midday summer heat.
So I whispered, as if I needed to, “Whoa he’s sleeping don’t wake him up.” but K’s half-niece insisted on patting him on the leg after which he came back to life. He sat up to find me, probably the only white person he’s seen up close, and K his long lost half brother sitting in chairs in his bedroom. He didn’t look the least agitated or displeased but he did have a disoriented look on his face like “Am I dreaming or am I dead?”. So K says “It’s me, K you remember me?” and after moment of processing the situation the old man’s like “Heeeey… what’s… up… K”. and K’s says here’s my friend and speaks Chinese too.
This guy was 88 years old and although he wasn’t in great shape he could still think, talk, and even walk with a cane albeit slowly in all three regards. After K and I had a few words with him over a glass of water and whatever that green stuff they were drinking was we said goodbye and continued our trip to the hot springs. I wish I had a camera with me because this guy was probably the cutest little old man I’ve ever seen. He reminded me of one of the 8 year old boys I taught English to in China except with wrinkles and age spots but since I didn’t I’ll have to recreate the scene with stick figures.