"I think we're on the same tour!" I said to the Chinese man holding the voucher like mine, kicking off the start of my friendship with JD, an electrical engineer who came all the way from Singapore to
- See Chichen Itza (because it's one of the 7 Wonders of the World on some lists), but most importantly
- See the Los Angeles Lakers play in person.
When our tour bus arrived, JD and I were assigned to sit together, which worked well since we enjoyed visiting. When I told him about my Peace Corps service, he was puzzled at why the U.S. would have a program like that and why I would volunteer for such a thing. "Chinese people wouldn't do that because they are too worried about making money, " he said and then hesitated before asking "Excuse me, may I ask if you are married?" wondering how being married would fit in with the Peace Corps. (In two-days time, five Mexicans had already bluntly asked about my marital status, one of them within five minutes of landing there, so his polite way of posing the question was refreshing). When I told him I wasn't married but had 8 siblings and over 30 nieces and nephews, showing him a family photo, he was astounded.
He grew up near Beijing during China's 1-child-per-couple policy. The policy was relaxed recently, he said, because of the problems of not having enough young people to support their parents and grandparents. Now, couples who are only children themselves are allowed to have up to two kids. But, even if there were no restrictions at all, he thought Chinese people wouldn't dare to have large families like my parents', even though he believes a large family produces a happy life, because they would be too fearful about money. And I felt grateful once again for my good parents, who dared greatly.
JD recently decided to move back to China to be closer to his parents, and I sensed it was a painful decision for him. As soon as he gives up his Singapore passport for a Chinese one, he'll be restricted on where he can travel (that's why he's seeing as much as he can now). He will make less money in China. He'll be exposed to more pollution. He'll have a harder time finding a wife, since there are many more men than women in China due to sex-selective abortions related to the one child limitation. But, he thought it would be too difficult for his parents to come to Singapore, too difficult for them to adjust to a new culture and language, and so he planned to return instead. I admire him for that.
We enjoyed visiting...he asked me if the government owns all the farms in America; I explained our agricultural economics as best I could. We talked about engineering...he didn't enjoy his software engineering classes but loved the electrical engineering ones. Together we debated the merits of the stuff people were trying to sell us. At one place, they took our photo together and then pasted it on a bottle of tequila they hoped to sell us...we decided to take a photo of the bottle instead.