We were queueing up for dinner at the Chinese food stall near my house when we met this mainland Chinese man in front of us.
This store has been a favourite for us (Daniel, me and Boshi) because it serves pretty authentic China food at a very very low price (vegetable dishes at $1 and meat dishes at $2-3) and they give a generous serving.
So this dude in front of us proceeds to order 2 $1 vegetarian dishes and a bun. The lady owner then proceeds to ask if he wants a Mantou or a Da Bao.
FYI, this store don't really know how to price their stuff very well cos the Da Bao which has meat filling costs $1 and the Mantou which has no filling also costs $1.
The dude then proceeds to order the Mantou. Then pauses. And proceeds to ask if they have a vegetable Pau instead. The lady says no and he says ok. He wants the Mantou then.
It was at this moment that I realised. Oh. He's probably vegetarian la. Cos who got meat don't wanna eat right? For the same price?
He proceeds to be seated next to us at the foodcourt and he eats his meal alone, and in silence. I think alot of the Chinese workers love this store cos their $1 Mantou is the size of my head and is so so so worth it. And I believe it tastes a little bit like home.
I cannot help but watch him secretly while he eats. Oh I forgot to add that he also ordered a huge bowl of green bean porridge, also for a dollar. He dips the Mantou in the porridge and eats it.
Chopsticks in one hand, and a bun in another.
I wonder if he has a family back at home whom he misses dearly and whom he works to give a better life.
I wonder if he's lonely eating alone and whether, on the better days he has company.
I wonder if he looks at the 3 of us and wishes he has friends too.
I see him looking our way a few times and I give him a smile. I really want to engage him in conversation, but I don't know how.
I always have alot of thoughts when I see old people or foreign workers eating alone and generally being lonely.
I'm not sure if I'm imposing my own perspective on them, and that they could well be enjoying their alone time.
But I'm sure if you're working in a foreign land with your family far away from you, it gets lonely sometimes.
I know we often have a biased opinion against them, and we can't seem to understand why they behave the way they do.
But perhaps next time, we can all take a step back and think of things in a different way.
I like to make up backstories for them.
I imagine him to be a huge animal lover, which explains why he's vegetarian. He's eating alone tonight because his colleagues have gone to eat at a more expensive place and he wants to save some money so he can send more home to his family.
He's gone to this one place he know serves food that tastes like home, because he misses it so much.
Here's a man, with a family, with loved ones and with his own story.
And he has feelings too.