Chapter 52: Bad Luck or Blessings?

The Taoist yin-yang symbol
As I grappled with the uncertainty of finding a new job, and wondering where to live in China, I began to realize that my bad luck just might be a blessing after all.

There once was a Taoist man, named Saiweng, who lost his horse. While his neighbors thought it a great misfortune, Saiweng’s father said “I don’t know.” Later, the horse returned with a herd of the finest wild horses. The neighbors called this a blessing, but Saiweng’s father said “I don’t know.” One day, Saiweng decided to ride one of the new horses, but he fell off and broke his leg. The neighbors declared this tragic, and Saiweng’s father still said, yet again, “I don’t know.” Later, their region declared war, because of the invasion of barbarian tribes. While all able-bodied men had to take up arms and fight, Saiweng, with his crippled leg, could stay at home.

As the days in February 2003 passed, I slowly lost my hopes for staying in Hangzhou. Even though they’d promised news within a week, more than a that had passed since my Alibaba interview, without any call or e-mail. Except for David Dong — and the resulting non-interview at his classmate’s company — none of my guanxi had job leads for Hangzhou. Calling companies in the Hangzhou Yellow Pages, as John and I had done a few days, yielded no hidden opportunities — because none of them could afford a foreigner.

Even worse, the landlord had no interest in extending my lease for another month. “I don’t care if you’re not sure if you want to stay in Hangzhou,” the middle-aged fellow, in a cheap polyester suit, miffed to John and I, annoyed that we had even suggested such a thing. “I’m tired of spending 2,400 RMB a month just to put up my foreign teachers in that hotel.” How could I have had such naivete to think he would change his mind?

The thing is, I was naive, like the neighbors of Saiweng. I wanted to decry the great misfortune, without even seeing the potential for hope — a potential that seemed obvious to everyone, but me.

One day, when I returned to the Chinese Internet Company, to retrieve my new temporary visa, my former coworkers said what I had never before imagined. “Why, you should go to Shanghai! John is there.”

Why not Shanghai?

It was even the mind of my man, John, who came from Shanghai to spend Valentine’s Day with me. After entering the apartment, his mirthful face emerged from around the corner. “So, did you get any news from Alibaba?”

I shrugged my shoulders. “No, nothing,” I sighed. The hopes I had pinned on the job had began to pin my own spirits down.

His head disappeared for a moment. And then he re-emerged, a complete John, with a complete surprise — a Valentine’s Day card.

It said, in Chinese: “Congratulations on being accepted as CEO of the John company!”

John beamed at me. “Don’t worry, we’re in the same company now. I’m going to help you settle down in Shanghai.” And with a kiss, and embrace, I began to wonder if this was all such a misfortune after all.

Has your bad luck abroad ever turned into a blessing?


Memoirs of a Yangxifu in China is the story of love, cultural understanding and eventual marriage between one American woman from the city and one Chinese man from the countryside. To read the full series to date, you can start at Chapter 1, or visit the Memoirs of a Yangxifu archives.

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4 thoughts on “Chapter 52: Bad Luck or Blessings?

  • April 7, 2010 at 2:33 am

    It is true that sometimes, we are so blinded by our own hopelessness, that we can not see what is right before us.
    You seem to have a really sweet guy. 🙂
    .-= Juliet´s last blog ..Illinois trip: Day 1 =-.

    • April 7, 2010 at 10:30 pm

      Thanks for the comment, Juliet, and thanks for the sweet words about John. Admittedly, I am grateful to have him. 😉

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  • March 4, 2012 at 9:36 am

    I know I am very late to this, but I just discovered the blog (through a post on 龙腾网,, which I read with great enthusiatism. Excellent writings! Just a minor correction to the story about Saiweng: I thought Saiweng referred to the father, as “weng” in Chinese means “old man” (and “sai”, frontier fortress).


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