Memoirs of a Yangxifu: Most Popular Posts

Chinese husband and Western wife getting married in China
What were the most popular (or in some cases, embarrassing 😉 ) moments from Memoirs of a Yangxifu?

Memoirs of a Yangxifu was the story of love, cultural understanding and eventual marriage between one American woman from the city and one Chinese man from the countryside.

What were the top 10 most popular moments, by views?

  1. Chapter 72: Private Parts in China. An embarrassing afternoon of trying to get my — well, you know — checked out.
  2. Chapter 1: My Heart is Shut Away, My Chinese Boyfriend is Gone.  As I took a weekend trip, to escape the muggy summer heat and a painful breakup, little did I know I was heading towards my future husband.
  3. Chapter 8: John is my Chinese Boyfriend. The night by the West Lake, when John and I officially become a couple. Continue reading “Memoirs of a Yangxifu: Most Popular Posts”

Epilogue: The Destiny to Marry in China

Western woman and Chinese man marry in Shanghai
Six years ago today, John and I registered our marriage. Today, I look back on the series, Memoirs of a Yangxifu, and also announce a new posting schedule

In China, lovers are often said “to have the destiny to meet across one thousand li.” For my Chinese husband, John, and I, it wasn’t just one thousand li — it was ten thousand li.

Distance, of course, is all relative.

I grew up in the suburbs of Cleveland, Ohio, and John in the countryside of Zhejiang Province. I knew the distance between us, something around 8,000 or more English miles apart (almost 13,000 kilometers). But this kind of distance, where separation is measured by miles, by continents, is as meaningless as the “Model Unit” plaques adorning work units all over China.

So what is it that can turn a thousand li into ten thousand?

I wrote the series Memoirs of a Yangxifu to explore this idea, to look at what it took for one Western woman and one Chinese man to overcome the distance — cultural, mental, even physical — to become a couple. Continue reading “Epilogue: The Destiny to Marry in China”

Chapter 83: Salad, But Not Safe

Salad with lettuce
When John, my Chinese boyfriend, refused to eat my salad, that moment was a window into one major difference between our culinary cultures.

One Saturday evening in Shanghai, I holed up in the kitchen with some long lost culinary acquaintances — angel hair pasta, ripe red tomatoes, and mesculin mix, with flavors that ranged from the bitter, toothy mizuna to the sweet baby lettuces. I wasn’t even close to being purebred Italian, yet for years, an Italian meal on the weekends was as important a ritual as evening mass at the Catholic church. It just wasn’t a week without our spaghetti and salad.

Well, in China, I had spent many a week without spaghetti or salad. And after discovering the foreign foods market just blocks away — the tawny olive oils, the deep balsamic vinegars, pasta, and even salad greens in a rainbow of colors and shapes — I schemed to dazzle my Chinese boyfriend with a taste of my childhood, and feed my thirst for something beyond the usual Chinese fare. Continue reading “Chapter 83: Salad, But Not Safe”

Chapter 82: Late to the Perfect Shanghai Apartment

Late clock
When the real estate agent in Shanghai arrived late for yet another apartment visit, I wondered -- will I be late in finding a good place before in Shanghai, before the month is up? (photo by Julia Freeman-Woolpert)

We arranged to see yet another apartment in Shanghai, one dreary Friday at noon in late November. John and I stood at the intersection of two streets just blocks from Xintiandi, the very intersection the real estate agent had designated as our meeting place, and stared at our watch as the minutes ticked past noon, with no sign of an agent.

The agent is late. People arrive late in China all the time. But this followed a string of disappointing apartment visits, with Taoyuan Xincun the nadir. This wasn’t a late agent, but a foreshadowing of failure — our failure to find a good place to live.

After 10 minutes past the hour, a harried, lanky Chinese man in a long trench coat stepped out of a taxi and approached us. “Sorry I’m late. But, don’t worry, this will be fast. The place is just down the street there, that entrance next to the bicycle store.”

I peered down the road at where he had motioned, and groaned within. Continue reading “Chapter 82: Late to the Perfect Shanghai Apartment”

Chapter 81: Shanghai Apartment Hunting Angst

Housing complex in China
John and I go on a dead-end visit to an unsavory apartment building in China -- in an effort to find a new place to live -- and make the landlord angry with our disinterest.

In late November, 2003, John and I stood before this shadowed, six-story housing complex that looked more of a Gotham City glum than Shanghai, with a soundtrack of scooters, motorcycles, car horns, and bar hoppers playing all around us in the streets. A fifty-something man with a greased Elvis-style do and dull gray button-down shirt, exuding overconfidence like bad breath, led us towards this urban planning nightmare. The whole scene felt more like a trap — the kind you don’t survive — out of a Hong Kong kungfu movie.

I looked at John with one of my desperate, please-can-we-get-out-of-here glances. The thing is, we both knew this was a dead-end. Not the killing kind of dead-end — but the apartment-hunting kind.

“Now, Taoyuan Xincun,” Elvis said, referring to this glum complex, “used to be a residence for high-level officials.” He smirked proudly about the pedigree of the place, but used to be was the operative word here. The blemishes on the wall, dirty air, and the scream of traffic out the window made it clear that no high-level official would ever live here, even if he got the apartment for nothing. Continue reading “Chapter 81: Shanghai Apartment Hunting Angst”

Chapter 80: The Foreign Foreigners

Bar street with a neon light-up "bar" sign
When you’re abroad, your brethren foreigners can sometimes be just as foreign to you as the locals, just as John and I discovered one night while dining on a bar street.

One Saturday in Shanghai, John and I eschewed our usual date-night standby — the Tianran Vegetarian restaurant — for a Mexican joint my coworker recommended. The place hovered over a bar street in Shanghai that I’d heard of — from heavy ads in all the foreigner mags in Shanghai — but never visited. I maybe had a beer or glass of wine once a month, and couldn’t even remember the last time I’d been in a bar. Still, in a country where avocados were more foreign than I was, I missed Mexican food desperately — desperate enough to go to a neighborhood I’d never gone to before.

With all of the bar ads for this street — and all of those “happy hour” promos — I expected the patrons and music to be overflowing as much as the alcohol. But instead, I could barely hear the music, and saw only a handful of patrons here and there lurking in the shadows, as if this was the Prohibition era and no one wanted to be caught. And even stranger, the restaurant, perched on the second floor, had the same lascivious glow of a red-light district brothel in Amsterdam. Was this really the Mexican food dinner my friend, a girl at that, had recommended? Continue reading “Chapter 80: The Foreign Foreigners”

Chapter 79: Battling Roaches and Rats

Dark cockroach
In our old Shanghai town house, John and I faced a double infestation -- cockroaches and rats -- despite the popular wisdom that you can't have both together.

In China, I’ve heard people say you might have rats or cockroaches in your apartment, but never both.

If only they’d lived where I did. That creaky old wooden Shanghai townhouse — in the same 1920s style as the surrounding neighborhood — oozed a lot more than just character after we moved in.

John and I returned home one balmy evening and turned the lights on to find a black spot on the ceiling that moved. And just as I shrieked in disgust, it then began to fly, darting around the ceiling with a defiant buzz, as if to say “Go ahead, just try and kill me. I dare you.” Not even John’s whacks to the ceiling with a broom did any good, as the cockroach scrambled — and flew — away from our reach. We looked at each other with a tired grimace, and almost didn’t even need to say what was on our minds — yet another cockroach infestation. Continue reading “Chapter 79: Battling Roaches and Rats”

Chapter 78: Chocolate and Forgiveness

Broken chocolate
I brought my Shanghai neighbor chocolate, as a token of forgiveness, but never expected her to come back with her own sweet reply (photo by Zsuzsanna Kilian).

One evening in mid-October, 2003, I visited my downstairs neighbors, bringing some fine chocolates and a little forgiveness over that stolen bicycle. Only the wife was there, but she welcomed me in. “Come in, please have a seat and enjoy yourself,” she said in Chinese, with her heavy Shanghai accent, motioning towards the couch inside.

“I hope you like the chocolates. I picked them up in the US during my trip back home,” I explained, handing them over to her.

She looked at the packaging, covered in the English she couldn’t read or understand, and smiled at me as she accepted them, and set them aside.

And then she set aside her usual pretenses, and said the last thing I expected to hear. “I’m really sorry about the bicycle. Continue reading “Chapter 78: Chocolate and Forgiveness”

Chapter 77: The Stolen Bicycle in Shanghai

An old bicycle
I never should have left my bicycle outside of my apartment house. And I never should have expected the community to understand the theft.

Friday, September 19, 2003 was just another overcast, dreary Friday in Shanghai — until John pounded up the stairs and asked about my bicycle. “Where did you park your bicycle last night?”

“Why outside, of course,” I responded. I pulled on my clothes and bounded down the stairs and outside, just to prove it.

But I was proven wrong. I stood before the doorway, only to find my bicycle gone. Continue reading “Chapter 77: The Stolen Bicycle in Shanghai”

Chapter 76: The Bench on Su Causeway

Park bench
John and I went to Su Causeway in Hangzhou not for the view or a walk, but to find the bench where we first kissed.

There are endless reasons to visit Hangzhou’s Su Causeway. A stroll with a lake view. A walk through — or rather on — history (it was, after all, named for Su Dongpo, the Song Dynasty poet). A brief respite from city smog. Or even just to fawn over the lotus blooms that grace the lake in the summer.

You don’t go to see a bench. At least, you don’t — unless you’re John and I, a couple minted beside the shores of this breezy little lake just a little over a year ago, on one otherwise unspectacular bench.

“This is it, isn’t it, sweetie?” I asked, pointing to the bench closest to one of the causeway’s bridges — a bench that happened to hold an entire family, curious why John and I were ogling their chosen seat.

“Yes, it’s ‘our bench,'” John beamed. We had secretly christened it our own bench, with John often suggesting that we plant a tree nearby, to commemorate a love that grew right from this very spot. Continue reading “Chapter 76: The Bench on Su Causeway”