This is the longest story I’ve ever published in my Double Happiness series. But Mayte’s unexpected journey towards China and love really touched me, and I’m really excited to share her story of two different, surprising and beautiful relationships with Chinese men.
I came to China to enjoy my dream trip. But before I arrived, I met and fell in love with a Chinese man who was by far the most amazing person I had ever met.
It began as a language exchange so that I could improve my Chinese enough to get through a backpacking trip I had planned in China. I wasn’t looking for any relationship at the time but as I prepared for the trip, it made sense to start working on learning Mandarin if I was going off on my own for the latter half. I met C.J. when he responded to a post asking for a language exchange. We talked briefly by phone before meeting and the day I met him, I thought he seemed sweet. When we talked, it was like talking to your best friend after not seeing them for years. We laughed a lot and shared lots of stories. He told me about China and I told him about life in the States, among other things. We closed down a cafe and a bar while we talked that night.
When I went home, I remember thinking that this was the kind of guy I could marry. I think that’s when everything changed for me. Prior to that, I didn’t think about marriage much. After meeting him, it was nice to think of it as a possibility.
We spent more and more time together over the course of the year, and it frustrated me that things didn’t seem to move forward at first. I didn’t know how to approach him. I didn’t know what to say, or better yet, what not to say. Here was this man that I was clearly in love with, and I didn’t have anything that said we were more than friends. I knew he was set to return to China and so I didn’t know if I should even bother trying to proceed from there or if I should just enjoy the friendship I had with him and leave it at that.
Then two things happened.
One was a summer concert we attended with a few of my friends. In the middle of the show, I remember feeling a little tired and resting my head on his shoulder. Either the wine or the mood seemed to kick in and I kissed his cheek. He didn’t say anything and it didn’t matter. He made me happy, just being with him made me gleefully happy. I reached up to kiss his cheek again and he took the opportunity to turn it into our first kiss. I feel like I’m approaching romance novelist status with this, but it really was the kind of kiss that wakes you from a stupor. I knew how he felt then. I don’t think we saw the rest of the show and when we pulled away from each other, our friends were long gone. I don’t remember how we made it home, but I remember that kiss as clear as day, even now.
The second thing that happened was something I tried to prevent, actually. We had met every weekend, because that’s when he was free. I called him to tell him that this particular weekend I couldn’t meet because I had a family gathering to attend. I don’t regularly invite friends to events like these because something always, and I mean always, goes wrong at these things and I spend a lot of time trying to clean up messes. This event was no exception and yet, he asked me what it was, I told him (it wasn’t an invitation), and he decided to go. He decided! It’s my inner control freak, I know, but he said he would attend, as plainly as that. Like there was no use arguing with him because he was coming. It galled me at first, but after a day or two (and the fact that I had been told I was going to drive 45 minutes to pick him up and 45 minutes to bring him back to the party), I guess I accepted it. Embraced it, even. God love him, this guy had worked around the wall I built up and set himself smack dab in the middle of a family function!
It turned out to be a great party. Everything went off without a hitch, as far as he was concerned (though one of the kids knocked out a few of his own teeth). C.J. got along with my dad famously, and no one up to that point had ever done that. They hung out for the duration and I was left minding the kids attending the party. But I’m glad that he came and met everyone. I think he must have thought we invited the whole town, but you know how Mexican families can be — I like to say, we’re large and in charge. After that party, I seriously started thinking this could go long term.
Unfortunately, he moved back to China after almost a year, as he was in the US for work. I was heartbroken. He planned to stay there and, because of his job, it didn’t seem realistic to think that things might go further. So, though it was hard, I had to move forward. We stayed friends, but it changed from daily conversations to occasional emails.
When it didn’t work out, I just buried myself in work. I didn’t think about things and certainly didn’t plan to look for someone new. I got ready for my trip to China and set out to be in Hong Kong for my birthday. I didn’t want to be jet lagged before our tour started so I arrived a few days early and got adjusted to the city.
Our group met in Hong Kong and hopped a bus into the mainland, where we ended up meeting more group members. We stopped at a bank so group members could exchange money and that’s when I saw him.
I’m so not the type to believe in love at first sight, but it was definitely the feeling I got here. A.C. was in my group, helping the rest of us get through the line, and he looked up and smiled at me (mostly because I couldn’t turn away and my jaw may have been dragging on the floor 🙂 ). Here was this beautiful man. My Chinese friends keep trying to correct me when I say that, but he was beautiful, like art. More than that, just seeing him help a bunch of strangers was also telling. He was tall, dark, and handsome, and all I wanted to do was run.
I knew that if he was in my group, I’d be locked in with no way to hide my dazed grin and end up saying something terribly stupid. So I tried to act normally and I think it eventually was ok. We left the bank that day and I had decided to steer clear of him. I knew there was no way he’d consider a girl like me. Even if I just made friends with him, I knew I’d start developing feelings and, with the tour being only a month long, set myself up for heartbreak.
So, I set out to enjoy the trip anyway. I made friends and somehow everyone was talking about this guy. Long story short, they invited him to spend time with us for the train ride in. He spoke to everyone in the group and I tried to fly under the radar and listen to stories.
Eventually, people started to get tired and would wander off to find their bunks on the train. It ended up being just the two of us, so he started asking questions and I answered, trying not to stare him in the face. I was sure it was going to be a dead giveaway. After a fair bit, it became comfortable and we started talking about lots of things. It was hard for both of us to stop. We both seemed to enjoy sharing stories.
About eight hours later, we were approaching our destination. I woke up and found that we had fallen asleep sitting in my bunk. Thankfully, I was faster to pull myself together and dashed off to the washroom to clean up before I had to face him. I found him shortly afterward helping others get organized before we got off of the train. I took another good look and remember thinking, “There’s no way I’d have a chance with this guy. Absolutely no way.”
He must have heard my brain working because he turned to me again and smiled, and said he’d sit with me later when we all went for breakfast. Who says no to that? Talk about kryptonite, I didn’t have the strength to say no. I remember nodding and meeting him with the group. And try as I might to avoid him, he kept coming around to talk for the rest of the tour. The more we did so, the more we learned about each other. Despite the fact that I didn’t think he would be remotely interested in me, he always made me feel beautiful, interesting, and important to him.
So we started an amazing trip, friendship and, eventually, love. By the time we finished the tour, I found out he had been planning special side trips to some of places he thought I might like. He had also been communicating with friends and family about me the whole trip, and I even got to meet some of them. He even went as far as meeting me during my off-tour time (an additional month). We started to think long term. He asked me to stay, but I had to start work the next week so I needed to leave. The plan was to come home, find a job that would take me back to China, and see whether we could take things from there.
Fast forward another year, and finally I made it back to China. But during that year we were apart, his family pushed him to not date me as a Westerner and, later, he met someone else. In the end, I don’t hold it against him. It hurts, but family pressure is tough. My own family allows for me to have a strong understanding of what people here go through. Mexican families are similar with the whole filial piety thing.
One of these days, things will work out serendipitously and I’ll have the love that I want. I like to think he’ll be Chinese, but there’s never any guarantee. In my mind, that’s fine too. I sometimes catch hell from family and friends for being in China at all. But when I talk about the men I have fallen in love with — and yes, they’ve been Chinese — I don’t think I have ever thought of them as single faceted, even though that’s what others can sometimes focus on. I see the men I have given my heart to, the ones that have made me feel as if we bring joy to each other and those around us when we’re together, those who have made me feel like they see and love the real me (crazy family included). For that, I will forever have a special place in my heart for them and for the people they come from.
Mayte teaches in Shanghai and has lived in China for several years.
How did you meet? Why do you love him/her (or Chinese men/Western women)? How two different people “complete each other” in unexpected ways? We’re looking for a few good stories from Chinese men and Western women in love to share on Fridays. Submit your original story or a published blog post today.