Chapter 2: My Chinese Matchmaker, Caroline

Caroline’s mother doesn’t believe me when I say I’m full. She is a typical Chinese hostess, deciding that I am being polite, even as I’m being truthful every time I tell her chibaole — I’ve eaten enough. “Eat, eat, eat” is her mantra as we sit around the dinner table at this home in Yiwu, feasting on eggplant, fried pumpkin, and — for Caroline and John — chicken feet and shrimp.

I think Caroline takes after her mother, because she doesn’t believe me either — about love, that is. You need to be careful who you date. Continue reading “Chapter 2: My Chinese Matchmaker, Caroline”

Chapter 1: My Heart is Shut Away, My Chinese Boyfriend is Gone

Our “green-skinned” train to Yiwu had no air conditioning on this sultry evening of July 13, 2002. My two translator friends, Caroline and John, were with me on the hard-seat section of this train. The three of us sat on the same seat — with upholstery in the same dark green color as the train — across from two soldiers in the People’s Liberation Army. I borrowed Caroline’s plastic fan from time to time, and sometimes caught a breeze through the open window. But mostly, the humidity loitered painfully around us, and we hoped, in vain, that it would go away.

There is a word for this weather in Chinese: 闷热­ or menre, meaning muggy. The first character, men, is made up of the character for heart (心) contained within the character for door (门) — as if to say your heart is shut away or contained.

My heart had been shut away before this trip. I had just broken up with Frank, my first Chinese boyfriend in Hangzhou, my coworker at the Chinese Internet company where I worked. Continue reading “Chapter 1: My Heart is Shut Away, My Chinese Boyfriend is Gone”