Guest Post: Kiss and Tell from China and the UK

What’s the difference between dating in China and the UK? Here’s one personal take on that question from Miriam, including the story of how she met her Chinese husband.

Do you have your own “kiss and tell” story you’d like to share here on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn more about what we’re looking for.
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The author with her husband and his family.
The author with her husband and his family.

I came to China at the age of 26 and already knew about more divorces than I could count on both hands and feet (including my parents), as well as many more single women my age than married (or happily partnered) ones. I’d also had enough experience with men to know I wasn’t impressed with the dating and marriage culture in the UK.

One evening in the UK I was out having a drink with two female colleagues after work. While I was at the bar, an attractive guy in his late 20s/early 30s came up to me.

“I just got promoted today and I’d love to buy you a drink to celebrate.”

I was flattered by this and looked back at my colleagues to make sure they didn’t mind me being waylaid. The two girls looked back and me with smiles on their faces and motioned for me to keep talking to him.

“Thanks, a gin and tonic would be great.”

We got talking and I found myself thinking: why would this guy not have a girlfriend already? To find out whether he was single or not I casually asked: “So where’s your girlfriend tonight?”

“Oh, she’s at home having a night in with the girls.”

What!?!? And this wasn’t the only time.

For several months a man used to come into my work in the UK just to talk to me. They didn’t seem like especially romantically driven exchanges – he would just ask me how I was and talk about other neutral topics. However, finding myself bored of being single, I took the plunge and asked him out. If he had a girlfriend he would decline and we would go back to regular, friendly chit-chat. I was pleased when he accepted my invitation for coffee, but still had a little doubt in my mind. I decided to act on these doubts and ask directly whether he was seeing anyone else.

“So, do you have a girlfriend?”

“Yes, I have two actually. One’s 25 and the other’s 32.”

I repeat: what?!?!?

He proceeded to talk to me about how much difficulty he had deciding on which girl he should be with, but felt no rush to make a decision about it right away. I was tired of this attitude towards dating, which seemed to be getting more and more common.

The author's husband proposing to her
The author’s husband proposing to her

Before coming to China, I was open to the idea that it might be for the long-term, as my job prospects would be better in China. On researching Chinese culture before I came to China, I was pleased to read about the emphasis on marriage and also pleased about the less liberal attitude towards sex. In saying this, I’m not suggesting that I thought it would be “easy” to get married in China, or that there would be any fewer relationship difficulties than I might have had in the UK. However, just knowing that marriage was valued and that both men and women were strongly encouraged to seek marriage at my age gave me a sense of security and confidence that I hadn’t had before.

I met my husband on a dating website. His profile told me he was 34 and “looking for marriage”. He messaged me first saying something about his surprise seeing a British woman on an Asian dating website and we exchanged a few emails after that. From his emails he was clearly talkative, charming and open-minded (willing to talk about anything from Astrology to books on popular science). And yes, he had excellent English (a very understandable barrier to AM/WF relationships as mentioned on Jocelyn’s blog in different posts). Just over a year after we met he proposed to me on a beach in Qingdao and the following year we got registered as married.

My family in the UK are all delighted for me and I’ve been told numerous times about what an excellent choice of husband I’ve made! My in-laws in China were also incredibly supportive of our relationship from the start and my mother-in-law especially treats me like I’m her flesh and blood daughter. Although we’ve gone through our rough patches, my husband’s complete commitment to the values of marriage and family have made it so much easier to resolve any conflicts or misunderstandings as soon as they occur. We’re both committed to making our future a happy and fulfilling one, even though we both know that a happy marriage takes work. I’m also delighted that my husband is now planning our approaching wedding party in China with as much zeal and enthusiasm as his bride!

partyP.S.: This comparison is just from my experience of living and dating in the UK and China. I do know many happily married British couples from my generation…just not as many as you might expect. Please don’t be offended if you’re a British woman who isn’t the least bit interested in getting married, or a British man who would like nothing more than to walk down the aisle, or a Chinese man who has ‘two girlfriends’ and isn’t looking for a wife!

P.P.S.: If you’ve had similar experiences dating in the West then you may be interested in the book Date-onomics: How Dating Became a Lopsided Numbers Game by Jon Birger. Although the book is written about dating in America, many of the points apply to the UK as well.

Miriam is a British woman married to a wonderful Chinese man. Her interests are reading, thinking and writing and she works as a teacher in an international school in China.
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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Guest Post: How I Met My Asian Christian Grey (Reader Discretion Advised)

Flye Hudson, a Lesbian Pickup Artist, shares the story of how she met her “Asian Christian Grey” in this guest post. She also reveals an excerpt from her new memoir PET., the story of how she was seduced by her Asian Christian Grey and how they both joined forces to become prominent members of the underground seduction community.

(NOTE: Flye references sexual content and language that may be offensive to some readers. Reader discretion is advised.)

Do you have a story you’re itching to share on Speaking of China? Check out the guest post guidelines at the submit a post page right now.
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GUESTPOST1A lot of people aren’t aware of the different types of relationships that occur for AMWF couples. A lot of people aren’t aware of the true dominance that Asian men really have. I read a lot of… romance books. And believe it or not, many of them are cheesy. What I’ve lived however is something that is very much on the dark side. A chaotic and messed up romance life in an underground community of seduction artists. I still can’t believe I am living the real thing.

There have been a lot of crazy things that have happened with my partner and I. We met off of a fetish website that catered to BDSM, which I was referred to by my former sorority sister. When I had filled out my profile, I was also trying to get back at my now ex girlfriend who had cheated on me with her girlfriend and her former boyfriends. I had specifically wrote in that I had high preferences for Asian men but was open to all kinds of men (at the time I didn’t think most Asian men would be attracted to my plainness. I was definitely the cat loving, rock loving, emo scene kind of girl back then unlike today). I had received MANY messages that were very inappropriate, especially some that were racist for me putting down Asian men. It’s amazing how insecure and rude some dudes can be on the internet.

I received a message finally from someone who approached me with the line: “Been hit up by a lot of creepers, huh?” At first I didn’t think anything of it because it was the first normal message I had ever received on the site. So maybe it was a little silly of me, but I went back and forth with him. But after a short exchange of messages, a Skype call, an accidental stand up on a date, and finally meeting in person, we ended up dating and getting into a lot of trouble.

Trouble means a lot of things. From obeying and serving an Asian Master, to having a threesome with my ex girlfriend on Halloween night, to two hospital visits, to learning the art of seduction, to the amazing parties and women we met on the way in our journey, to meeting his traditional Chinese mother who found our sex toy kit, we have been through so much. And while a lot of pain and torment came with some of our adventures, I do not regret them.

To get a taste of those adventures, here’s an excerpt from my new memoir PET.

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IMG_20160508_131208“Hey, did you forget about our date?”

I had already f***** it up! Wednesday at 2. How could I have forgotten? Perhaps it was me checking my bank account every so often that I stressed a little prematurely- I had taken an additional shift at an odd job that I considered to be sweet but had me going more insane than I already was.

“You’re really pretty,” said a six year old, playing with my hair. I look up at a few of the workers. They smiled with their mouths but glared with their eyes.

“You know what I wish?” the boy asked.

“No idea buddy,” I said, brushing off their stares, “What do you wish for?”

“I wish I were a zombie so that I could sneak into your room every night and bite your face off.” He whispered, then proceeding to put his hands around my neck and squeeze. I laughed nervously and looked to the other counselors for help. They stared angrily for a few moments before snatching the kid off and leading him to a different activity.

I didn’t understand my passion for working in such crazy conditions. Maybe I just had a heart for people who needed help- or maybe I was just crazy and wanted to work somewhere that made me feel more normal. But none of it mattered for the time being, because I had just lost the most exciting thing that happened to me all month.

“I’ll make it up to You,” I reasoned, “Let’s do Friday. I’ll buy You lunch, my treat.”

“Sorry, I don’t like getting stood up,” Ryder said, “Good luck in the future.”

“I know, I forgot and I’m sorry,” I said, “but I was really working. I needed the money and I just got paid. Let me treat You out.”

“I don’t know.”

“Is there any way I can make You change your mind?” I asked.

Silence. Five minutes later, my phone buzzed.

Ryder. “Let’s talk on video tonight. Right now.”

“Right now?”

“Why not? Are you a catfish? Why else would you be afraid?”

Because I looked like a pile of s***?

“Give me 30 minutes?” I texted.

“Yep.”

Plenty of time to do makeup and fix that hairrrrrrr.

Within 30 minutes I had clicked onto the video screen, made the call, and then… Wow.

It was love at first Skype.

“Hey,” He said. But at the time, there was no trace of seriousness on Him whatsoever. He was smiling, grinning ear to ear.

“Hello,” I said, immediately attracted to the man who looked better than His pictures online. I couldn’t feel my face for a moment, until He started laughing.

“What’s so funny?” I huffed, feeling insecure, “do You think I’m a catfish?”

“You’re hilarious,” He responded, “and no. I just never took you as a funny girl. But hey, thanks for not flaking on the call. You had me thinking you weren’t real.”

“Funny girl? Of course I’m real,” I justified. “And I’m sorry I flaked. Work, it just-”

Ryder laughed again. “No worries. You’re totally shady though.”

IMG_20160329_130401“Whatever you say,” I said, relaxing, “so You said You’re from Partytown University?”

“Yep. Now I work.”

“What do You do?”

“I’m a manager, remember?”

“Oh, that’s right,” I said, unfolding my fingers into quotes, “Ize Management Major.’”

He only laughed again. “Exactly.”

It was so confusing how calm and happy He seemed. His texts seemed a little more serious, but talking to Him- He was so laid back. It was just different from what I experienced.

But not bad, not bad at all.

“What about you?” He asked.

“I’m a social worker and some other s***,” I said, “interesting jobs.”

“How many jobs do you work?”

“2 part time.”

“How’s the money?”

“Decent enough,” I lied.

“You said you’re from Hometown?” Ryder asked.

“Yeah, it’s the pits.”

“Ain’t hard to imagine.”

“So what brought You to the site?” I blurted out. It was a question weighing heavily on my mind.

Another laugh- in a darker tone.

“I want to find a submissive,” Ryder said, “I had an ex girlfriend a while back who wasn’t into the lifestyle. Wasn’t very fun. So now I’m much more free to do as I please. I’m looking for someone who’s open minded, eager to learn, and who knows the meaning of loyalty. And what brings you here?”

“Have You ever had a submissive before?” I asked, cringing at the word ‘loyal’.

“A few. Have you always enjoyed avoiding questions?” Ryder snickered.

“Fine.” I said. Maybe I was playing too many games. “I’m here because I’m tired of the way I’m living my life. I’m not a bad girl or anything. In fact, I’ve usually spent most of my life being busy- even too busy for me. I want to figure out what I really want and experience more out of life with the right person. I just want to find someone that I can grow to love in servitude.”

Ryder’s expression was unreadable.

“I’m used to people f****** around with me,” I said suddenly, “people who like to push me over, use me, play their games. So if You’re here to play games and f*** me over, it’s not going to work.”

“But you’re the one who stood me up, right?” Ryder smirked.

He did have a point.

“Don’t worry,” Ryder said, “you’re not the only one in that boat.”

“How many girls have You been with?”

“9 or 10,” Ryder said, “you?”

“About the same,” I said.

“Guys or girls?”

“Girls.”

“So you’re a pimp,” Ryder teased, “or should I say a madam.”

“No, that’s not nice,” I pouted.

“But I’m not a nice guy,” Ryder winked.

Something peered at me from inside the closet.

Flye Hudson is also known as “The Lesbian Pickup Artist” and is the author of PET., the story of how she was seduced by her Asian Christian Grey and how they both joined forces to become prominent members of the underground seduction community today. You can contact her at [email protected]
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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Interview with Kelli Estes on Her Novel “The Girl Who Wrote in Silk”

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes

Some books are so captivating that I even cherish the memories of scrolling through the pages with my e-reader in hand. The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli Estes is that kind of book.

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk by Kelli EstesI’m surrounded by bookish friends and bloggers who get really excited whenever they hear about interracial love stories (especially AMWF pairings) and this was one of those books everyone seemed to be talking about the summer of 2015.

I finally got my hands on a copy from the library sometime in August, which is coincidentally one of the most dreadful months weather-wise in Hangzhou. It’s so humid you feel like you’re wrapped up in a steaming wet towel wherever you walk. Normally it’s a month that doesn’t register much in my mind, as I usually spend most of it shut up indoors with the A/C cranked on high.

But I vividly remember the August days when I read The Girl Who Wrote in Silk, as though the book itself provided a much-needed vacation from the oppressive heat. Granted, the novel takes place in the gorgeous San Juan Islands (which allowed me to imagine myself into this refreshingly cool summer destination), but it’s much more than just the setting.

Kelli has woven together the lives of Inara and Mei Lien – two women separated by over 100 years, but bound together by an embroidered silk sleeve with secrets of its own – into an enchanting story filled with love, courage and humanity. There’s interracial love in the past and present (Inara catches the eye of a handsome young Chinese American professor in her quest to understand the story behind that silk sleeve; Mei Lien falls for Joseph, a man whose kindness and generosity seem as endless as the oceans that surround their island). The story spotlights atrocities against the Chinese in America, exposing history that never should have been forgotten. And did I mention it’s all so beautifully written, a real page-turner that will keep you engaged from the beginning to the end?

The Girl Who Wrote in Silk even made the USA Today Bestseller’s List in December 2015. Wow.

I’m thrilled and honored to interview Kelli Estes about her debut novel The Girl Who Wrote in Silk.

Kelli EstesHere’s Kelli Estes’ bio from Goodreads:

Kelli Estes grew up in the apple country of Eastern Washington before attending Arizona State University where she learned she’d be happiest living near the water, so she moved to Seattle after graduation. Today she lives in a Seattle suburb with her husband and two sons. When not writing, Kelli loves volunteering at her kids’ schools, reading (of course!), traveling (or playing tourist in Seattle), dining out, exercising (because of all the dining), and learning about health and nutrition.

You can follow Kelli at her website www.kelliestes.com, on her Facebook page, and Twitter. Her debut novel The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is available at Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support this blog.

In this interview, I asked Kelli about everything from how she approached her research to what it felt like to learn her book was a USA Today Bestseller:

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You’ve written before that you knew nothing about Chinese culture prior to beginning this book, and yet your book does a good job of portraying Chinese culture. How did you approach your research to ensure your portrayal was as authentic as possible?

You’re right, before this book I knew very little about Chinese culture. When the idea for The Girl Who Wrote in Silk came to me, I really wanted to write the story, but I was completely overwhelmed with the belief that I wasn’t qualified to write it. I’m not Chinese, I don’t have any Chinese family members, I’ve never studied Chinese culture, etc. And yet, I realized that this story needed to be written because so few people knew about the anti-Chinese riots and ethnic cleansing through all Western states in the last half of the nineteenth century. No one else was writing the story, so it was up to me. I started my research by reading everything I could get my hands on…from non-fiction books on Chinese traditions, symbolism, and customs, to all kinds of fiction books with a Chinese protagonist to help me get into the point-of-view of my Chinese character. In Seattle there is a museum called the Wing Luke Museum of the Asian Pacific American Experience and they were a wealth of information for me in both their exhibits and their archives. The Wing Luke also happened to host a dinner I attended that was presented by a food and cultural anthropologist discussing and sharing food eaten by “Chinese settlers in the 1880’s.” Basically, I soaked up as much knowledge and culture as I could until I felt confident enough to write.

You were first inspired to write this story in part because of a horrifying account of a smuggler in the San Juan Islands who killed his illegal Chinese passengers rather than risk getting caught with them. And in the process of researching the novel, you went on to discover more of the darker side of American history. What surprised or shocked you most in the process of researching the story?

So much of what I learned about how Chinese people were treated shocked me, but probably what stands out the most was that other victimized cultures at the time (Native Americans, Irish immigrants, etc.) were sometimes the perpetrators of violence against Chinese. I would have liked to think that these groups would feel compassion toward one another and aid one another, but the reality is that the nation was so filled with an “Us against them” mentality, that very little compassion existed. We’ve learned some in the years since, but our nation still has a long way to go in this regard.

Your story features two cross-cultural/interracial relationships — Inara and Daniel in the present, and Mei Lien and Joseph in the past. Which couple was your favorite to write and why?

If you asked me which time period was my favorite to write I would answer the historical because I loved being able to sprinkle in the bits of information I learned in my research and I loved bringing the period to life. When you ask which was my favorite couple, however, it’s more difficult to answer. I loved Mei Lien and Joseph because Joseph’s love for Mei Lien did not see their differences that others couldn’t see past. I loved that he gave up the life he thought he wanted for a life with Mei Lien. However, when I think about Inara and Daniel, I also love them. Their cultural differences weren’t an issue at all, which I hope reflects interracial couples of today and certainly reflects my own belief that at the heart and soul level, we are all the same. When taking a look at both couples together, I loved showing that in this area, at least, our nation has grown and matured. Most of us can see that love is what matters; not skin color, eye color, speech patterns, or even gender.

Your novel uses scenes from the present and the past to tell the story. Was it challenging weaving these two storylines together?

It wasn’t as challenging as you might think. I wrote the entire historical story first. Then I wrote the whole contemporary story. When it was time I wove the two stories together in a way that made the most sense to me. My agent then suggested we weave in a slightly different way…and then my editors suggested yet another way. So, in a way, I guess it did get a little challenging trying to figure out the best way to weave (i.e. should we “see” the event happening in the historical story before the contemporary characters discover it in their research or vice versa?). I think how we landed was the best way and it took several people to get there!

In the novel, there’s a stunning silk sleeve embroidered with a story that ties the past and present together. How did you decide to have a story hidden within that embroidered silk sleeve?

I chose a silk sleeve because my plotting partner, Carol, showed me a framed and embroidered silk sleeve she had purchased as a souvenir in China. I thought it was beautiful and unique so I started researching Chinese embroidery. I fell in love with the artistry and meaning revealed through the symbols on the embroideries. They seemed to me to be communicating something that I would never truly know without intensive research into symbolism, fables, and cultural beliefs. I loved that.

Your novel landed on the USA Today Bestsellers list in December 2015. How did you respond to the news that The Girl Who Wrote in Silk has been so well-received among readers?

I still can’t believe it! This is a dream come true that I truly didn’t think could happen with my debut novel. My first response was an overwhelming feeling of gratitude because so many people had a hand in making this happen: my agent, editors, publicist, marketing team, sales team, everyone at Sourcebooks; all the independent bookstore owners who voted for my book so that it appeared on the Indie Next list, which directly led to readers learning about my book who otherwise wouldn’t have. And then there are the booksellers who read my story and hand sold it to customers; readers who wrote reviews online and told their friends about the book; other authors who told their readers about my story… Truly, so many people had a hand in this achievement and I am so grateful for each and every one.

What do you hope people gain from reading your novel?

I hope people find the story entertaining and thought-provoking. I hope they think about racial issues and how racism is still very much a problem, which I hope leads them to thinking how they might individually make a difference in their own community. I hope readers learn that there are fascinating stories in our history that still impact us today. Most of all, I hope my novel helps readers look at the people around them and see not the color of their skin nor their cultural trappings, but a fellow human with the need for love, joy, and connection.

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Thanks so much to Kelli Estes for this interview! You can follow Kelli at her website www.kelliestes.com, on her Facebook page, and Twitter. Her debut novel The Girl Who Wrote in Silk is available at Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support this blog.

Guest Post: She Broke My Heart and Saved My Life – the Cheerio Girl Story

How many of you have had your heart broken? I’m willing to bet pretty much everyone reading this has their own sad, crushing stories of love lost.

Well, Ning Li of Ning Li Dating has graciously offered to share his first heartbreak – and why, in the long run, he’s grateful for everything that happened with her, even the painful times.

Do you have a heartbreaking story or other guest post you’d like to see here on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn more about having your words published here.
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4569004476_1f3608b395_zYou always remember your first real crushing, aching heartbreak. The kind where you don’t sleep, your stomach feels hollow, and food tastes like ash.

Mine actually saved my life.

I’ve always been attracted to white girls my entire life. I grew up in a white town, hung out with white friends, and spoke like a white person.

I look… incredibly Asian.

On the scale of mouse to elephant, I would probably say my Asian eyes are probably about ant-sized.

Tiny, even for an Asian.

Nonetheless, I had a weakness for white girls that looked cute and innocent, like the kind you’d bake cookies with.

While the traditional “hot club girl” was visually (and mentally) stimulating, they were never the types of girls I could see myself sitting by a fireplace with, staring deep into her eyes, and uttering those three words that made your armor disappear.

Which was why when I met Cheerio girl, my brain basically exploded.

It was my junior year at Cornell, and I was at the running club, stretching out.

There were a couple other people there, and then she walked in.

She had green running shorts, a yellow “Cheerio” shirt, and a bouncing, brown ponytail. Freckles dotted her face, and she had big doe eyes that glowed hazel in the sunlight.

Her shirt read “Graham” across the back.

“Oh, you guys are running the Forest Home route? I was just thinking that!”

Smooth, Ning. Smooth.

We got to chatting on the run, and I found out that she’s pre-medical school, a swimmer, and was from a town only an hour away from Ithaca.

We walked back to our dorms together, and I thought to myself, “oh boy Ning, we’re in trouble.”

I saw her a couple times a week for about a month, and I eventually mustered up the courage to stammer through a dinner invitation.

We went to probably the most romantic place you could think of: the dining hall.

There, we were talking about our plans for the weekend when she dropped an anvil on the table that I tried to brush off:

“My boyfriend is coming up to visit …”

Okay.

It’s okay, I guess we’ll just be friends, I convinced myself.

At the next run, I pulled a sneaky, devilish move that Jesus and my mother would both have been ashamed of.

Hey, I was thinking of doing a triathlon, and I’m terrible at swimming. Do you think you could give me a few pointers?”

We started meeting at the pool each Thursday, and then going to dinner afterwards.

I started thinking about her. Daydreaming about her.

I looked for her on Facebook under “Graham,” before I face-palmed, realizing that that had been the name of the cereal company, not her last name.

At the end of the semester, we met up after finals to feed the goslings. As we squatted next to the lake, tossing bread onto the grass, my heart hammered.

“What’s going on between us?” I asked.

She froze.

“I don’t know, Ning… I really like you, but I have my boyfriend…”

“I really like you, too.”

Ugh, were we in middle school or something?

That summer, they broke up, and in the fall, Cheerio girl and I became an item.

We started eating together, doing crosswords together, and one night, cuddling on a worn out sofa and on the edge of sleep, I told her I loved her.

“I love you too.”

Before it started falling apart, we spent the next five years on what felt like a rollercoaster ride.

It would be all love, daisies, and fuzzy warm blankets for a couple weeks, and then it would crash into jealousy, insecurity, and tears the next.

Over and over again, like a record on repeat.

For what it’s worth, we went on some life-changing adventures together.

I brought her to China.

We met each other’s families.

We went on two cross-country bicycle tours.

We went on vacation together.

We ran races together.

I visited her in Nicaragua on her study abroad semester.

Her family brought me to Mexico with them.

I thought that I was going to marry this girl.

Ning Li
Ning Li

When she moved to Buffalo, we naturally tried to make the distance thing work. I’d drive up one weekend a month, and she would come down the next.

One weekend when I was up, she was taking a test, and I was packing to go, when I noticed a note she had written, lying in a box.

Something about that note didn’t feel right.

I felt like a slug for snooping, but I took it out, and as I read, I felt more and more pressure on my chest.

She had written this to some guy in medical school, and she told him that she liked feeling his body next to her.

In a jealous rage, I leapt in my car and sped the three hours back to Ithaca. I left her a scathing voicemail, and alternated between screaming and sobbing on the phone to my sister the whole way back.

I sat on my porch and stared, a hollow, empty gargoyle.

Ten minutes later, she got out of her car and sat down next to me.

“Did you hook up with him?”

Her eyes flickered.

“No, Ning. It’s nothing. I care about us, I care about you.”

I was desperate to believe her, so I did.

When we stopped having sex, she told me it was because she was stressed and tired from med school.

When she made plans to do a “Floating Doctors” program in Panama that summer, she swore that med school guy was in the same program purely by coincidence.

Again, I was desperate, so I believed her.

I was an idiot.

At times, even when she told me she loved me, I knew that it was a wish, not a declaration.

Looking back, I learned my lesson.

A lie isn’t necessarily a manipulation as much as an agreement. To be lied to, you have to believe the lie.

Crushed, heart broken, and lost, I decided to pull some “Eat, Pray, Love” shit and go on a cross-country bicycle ride on my own.

Across New York, Ohio, and Indiana I cried.

I should’ve been having the adventure of a lifetime, meeting people and seeing places, but all I did was cry.

My lowest point came one night as I was camped out on Carlisle Lake just east of St. Louis. I remember the moon was full, and despite being on the shore of a serene reservoir, there were no mosquitoes.

She skyped me from Panama, and on the phone with her, I cracked and had a nervous breakdown.

All I could think was, she would’ve loved this place.

“I miss you so much,” I told her over and over again.

Having a good crying session is like having a lollipop. It always makes things better, at least for a little bit.

It wasn’t until the middle of Kansas that I started feeling better.

I met a wonderful family in the middle-of-nowhere town of Riley, Kansas that took me in, fed me, and listened to my stories.

I played X-box with their son, played basketball with the father, and they even let me drive around town in their golf cart.

It was one of those magical traveling moments where you realize that no matter how different people are, no matter how strange their culture, they are humans just like you and me.

In the middle of the sprawling, barren Kansas prairie, I thought to myself, I’m finally recovered.

It had taken almost 1,500 miles on a bicycle, but I finally felt whole again.

Naturally, the next day she Skyped me.

“What do you think about me flying in to Denver and joining you for the rest of your trip?”

She was supposed to go to Peru after Panama. Apparently she had had a change of heart.

How was I supposed to say no to that?

We spent the rest of the summer camping in the desert, climbing mountains, and falling back in love.

“Okay, let’s finally make this work,” we told each other.

When we flew back from San Francisco, I moved to Buffalo.

We lived a mile away from each other, and in November, she finally came clean.

She had been hooking up with this med school guy all throughout the spring, all through Panama, and had been lying to me about it for 8 months.

I couldn’t take it anymore. I had moved to a shit-hole city, taken a shit-hole job, all for what? For this?

I told her it was over.

I moved back to Ithaca, got my old job back, and focused on one thing: moving forward.

I got some graduate school interviews, and started filling the void inside me with a slew of meaningless hook-ups and one night stands.

In June, I stopped my overstuffed van at her house in Buffalo, ready to say good-bye one last time.

We both cried it out, and finally I headed off to Colorado, where I was to start my life anew at a PhD program in Fort Collins.

From the ground up, I built my social circle and created my universe. I immersed myself in my studies and started dating again.

I felt whole.

Cheerio girl still called and we still talked, but she was seeing someone and I was seeing someone.

I was happy, and I told her that after all was said and done, I was grateful for everything that happened.

I was grateful for all that we had been through together.

I was grateful for the challenges she brought me.

I was grateful for having the chance to grow and become stronger than who I was.

I was grateful because hey, what’s life without a couple curve balls, right?

A year later, she called me and said something surprising…

“Hey, I know that you’re seeing someone and I am, too, but I got a residency interview in Denver in January. Do you want to hang out, and maybe climb a mountain or something?”

I replied with one word.

“Sure.”

Ning Li blogs, and writes dating advice for Asian American men at Ning Li Dating (http://ninglidating.com), and currently resides in Fort Collins, Colorado.
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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Guest Post: Why We Are Not Married (Yet)

Betty of Betty Has A Panda has lived happily with Mr. Panda in Vienna, Austria for over seven years. But they’re not married — and it has led to lots of uncomfortable questions, including questions Betty has asked herself.

Do you have a story you’d like to share here on Speaking of China? We’re always on the lookout for terrific guest posts. Check out the submit a post page for more on how to have your writing featured here.
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(Photo by Nick Nguyen)

I am tired. Tired of all the ‘Why are you not married? Do you want to break up?” questions, or the pronouncements of ‘Oh, he is ONLY your boyfriend!’ Tired of explaining our allegedly ‘not-so-serious’ relationship and why we are not married (yet). While I think that this little detail of saying ‘I do!’ is not of any concern to anyone, I do not want to see others belittle our relationship just because we did not seal our relationship in front of a random registrar (yet). Is our relationship not worth as much as that of someone who is already married? This could be due to varied reasons, liberal worldviews, no bureaucratic obstacles, or bad role models. Beyond doubt, not being married does not make our relationship less worthy, and to answer all of those questions: we do not plan to break up. Not now, and also not in the future. Why would we date and live together for more than seven years now? Mr. Panda and I have our reasons to shack up.

Let me start at the beginning. Parents’ relationships can sometimes be a disastrous example to their children, which can make it hard for their children to connect with others – emotionally and legally. Mr. Panda’s parents are not exactly how I would imagine devoted parents. You could actually say they are as loving and caring as a metal scouring pad. Mr. Panda was the unplanned latecomer, and was therefore always made responsible for all troubles brewing in Chinese parent’s fragile marriage. Albeit they already split up three times before Mr. Panda was born, and came back together again. Mean teasing and verbal insults were on top of their daily agenda — not what one might expect in a loving and caring relationship. Of course divorce is absolutely prohibited. Instead, they continue to live with each other, leaving both their children emotionally crippled und almost unable to be in a working relationship with someone.

On top of that, only soon after Mr. Panda and I started dating, another event aggravated Mr. Panda’s beliefs in the whole social construct called marriage. As another blow of fate, Mr. Panda’s older brother, married to a woman from the Middle East with two children, filed for divorce due to cultural and personal disagreements – and told his parents only six months later. He had been married for quite some time, but sadly, in the end, it did not work out. While both of them separated without any bad feelings, the parents’ world collapsed. Mr. Panda’s mom cried for weeks, begging and commanding them not to separate, but naturally nothing helped. Soon after, the former wife moved out, and cracked the last intact pieces of Mr. Panda’s mom’s picture of a perfect family. I consoled her for weeks, trying to put her sorrows about her grandchildren at ease. Her faith in functioning marriages was busted, and as a result Mr. Panda is even more scared now. He is not scared that our relationship will break apart. But the only two marriages around him just did not work out. The reason why he did not propose to me so far? He is scared our relationship might end after marriage, and to a certain degree I can understand his (baseless) anxiety.

What is my excuse? I was busy with my studies, and time just flew by far too fast. Just in a blink of an eye, many years passed by. Up until now, I did not really care whether we said ‘I do!’ or not. We had no need to rush because we are not in desperate need of a visa. We are not pressured to do so because of some religious beliefs. We just spend our days happily together.

But this year, one thing led to another. I found out about the big AMWF community on the internet, which was all about happily married (intercultural) couples with their beautiful wedding photos. Furthermore, we were invited to a summer wedding by one of my friends, and another one of my good friends got engaged. Thanks to these events I also developed an urge to marry Mr. Panda, and I started to believe that it would actually draw us closer together.

It is a fact that nothing in our relationship will change after we marry. We will both live our lives together as we did up until now. We will both be just as serious about us being happy together and passionate about our relationship as we are now. We both will be the same individuals as ever. And still, here I am, apparently forgetting my liberal beliefs, letting my modern world break down over a marriage certificate I don’t need, while I am waiting for him to take the first step.

The last few months, we talked elaborately about this topic, I tried to discuss his fears and about how we both felt about marriage. But as expected, he did not want to talk about his feelings. Our conversations were rather rational. However, some time ago, he confessed to me that he was thinking about us and our future very hard for quite some time now. He asked me to be patient — that I should wait a little more — making me all excited. Hopefully, traumatized Mr. Panda can gather all his courage soon and will finally propose.

Betty and Mr. Panda live in Vienna, Austria, where she shares fascinating stories about their more than seven years together at www.bettyhasapanda.com.
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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Guest Post: “Chun Was Someone I Never Thought I Would Meet”

Unless you’re like my husband (who lucked out and ended up marrying his one and only girlfriend), chances are you’ve had your share of relationships or crushes that didn’t work out — perhaps even ones you might regret. I know I have.

Which is why, when Holly of From My World To Your World decided to share the tale of what happened between her and Chun, I was nodding my head the entire time I read it…and thinking of that one guy I never should have fell for, but did.

Do you have a story about love gone wrong or other guest post you’d like to see featured here on Speaking of China? Check out the submit a post page to learn how to get your work published on this blog.
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(Photo via http://ent.cnwest.com)
(Photo via http://ent.cnwest.com)

It is really hard for me to write about this only because this is something that happened recently with someone I thought was going to be a big part of my life. But, he stopped contact with me. A small part of me wanted to know why he decided to stop talking and the other part just doesn’t care anymore. For this, it’s almost a long story, which goes back last year.

I’ll start in the beginning on how we met.

Chun was someone I never thought I would meet. I always believed people were destined to meet and I thought this was the right moment. But once again, I was wrong. Last year we met at a time in my life when I still was a very emotional person and still searching for a relationship. I really thought everything was perfect when I met him.

Late September, last year

It was a good Monday evening when I was asked by a friend if I wanted to go eat dinner. Let’s call her Ying. So when I arrived to the restaurant, Ying introduced me to the other two guys that were sitting and eating dinner with us. The three of them are Chinese and were speaking Chinese. I could understand as much as I could at the time. But, there was something about Chun that I was attracted to. He was tall, had a broad chest, black hair, funny, and just kind of my type… a bad boy. And I was really physically attracted to him.

Chun was the type of guy who didn’t finish high school. He dropped out of school and never even bothered getting his GED. He and his parents worked at a Chinese buffet or restaurant somewhere in my city.

After dinner, Chun said he almost forgot it was his birthday the next day. So we decided to all go for hookah that night. On the way there, Ying and I were in her car. I asked her if he was single. She said she thinks he might be. That night I got to know him a little bit more, still very much curious about this guy.

The following day he wanted to go bowling, but no one wanted to go. At the last minute I decided to go. He picked me up at my house since at this time, I didn’t know how to drive. When we were bowling, we had this deep discussion about life, love, happiness and more. There were some things I told him that I thought I wouldn’t tell anyone. We talked about the tattoos on his body, the scars he received on his arm, why school wasn’t for him. I was nothing but comfortable with him since meeting him even though he had this bad boy mentality.

October, last year

Just that coming weekend, it was my birthday. In fact it was my twenty-first birthday. The day after, on Saturday, he took me out downtown to a bar and bought me a few drinks. I had gotten a little drunk, but I remember most of that night. I remember dancing with him and then him telling me he doesn’t like to dance. I remember gulping down three or four glasses of water before walking downtown and then discussing a potential relationship.

I told him I was starting to fall for him a bit and that I liked him. He replied that he liked me too, but wanted to get to know me more before pursuing a relationship with me. At the time, I thought this was the right moment to tell him my deepest secret: being autistic. When I told him, his arm was still around me, holding me as we walked. He said to me, “Don’t worry, everyone is different.”

After he dropped me off home late that night, I had liquid courage. I reached up and kissed him. It wasn’t a deep kiss. Mostly it was light kissing. I said bye to him and parted ways.

Who would’ve thought that after that night that everything would go downhill?

A few days later I met with Ying and told her what happened. She told me she talked to him and asked if we had fun that night. His excuse was, “I don’t remember much.”

My heart sank. Was this really true? Did he not remember? How could he not? He barely drank that night, or at least I thought.

The week after my birthday, I invited a lot of my friends out since I had to work on my twenty-first. I invited him out as well. He came a little later and immediately headed to the bar. I went up to him and asked him if he remembered what happened. He said he didn’t remember at all. This made me angry. Just after he had a few drinks, he suggested we all go to a different bar. We agreed to try to bar hop some. I still was upset with him and slowly that night I became devastated. How could he be so cold and barely talk to me that night?

After my party I tried to message him a few times, but he wouldn’t reply as much.

Every time I saw Ying, I felt so bad because all I would do is talk about him.

November came and I saw continued sadness in my life, I was so upset that he wasn’t replying when I tried to contact him. December came quicker than I expected. This was when I decided to call him and ask why he stopped talking to me. But, I was going to have to wait until after finals.

When finals were done, I decided that it was time to call him.

No answer.

I left a voicemail, even though I knew he wouldn’t listen. After this voicemail, I messaged him on WeChat. I said to him, “I called because I wanted to ask you something. But I guess it is pointless now. I tried hard enough. And you haven’t bothered replying. I don’t know what’s going on in your life right now, but you’re ignoring me for some reason…it hurts me. It’s been a long time since we last talked.”

Finally after a few months of no responses, I got a reply. He told me that he didn’t want to talk to anyone because he was planning on moving to a different State. I decided that this was it, which I didn’t care anymore…or at least I thought. Deep down I still cared.

The next day while driving with Ying to go downtown to bar hop, we were talking about something and brought up Chun. This was when she told me something I never knew.

She said to me, “He’s so stupid, I didn’t tell you this because I didn’t want to make things worse. But I wanted to tell you that he had this girlfriend.”

I looked at her, so confused, “What do you mean?”

She replied, “This girl, I know her, she is kind of crazy, She’s a Chinese girl. She doesn’t really care much about anything. They were on and off dating, just kind of like friends with benefits, but whatever.”

I wondered if this is what stopped him from talking to me?

“When did he meet this girl? Was it around the same time I met him?”

“Yeah, I believe so, but they were just friends before it happened. Sorry I didn’t tell you before.”

I stopped for a moment, letting this sink in. It made sense…another girl was in his life so that’s why he probably stopped talking to me.

I told Ying I was grateful and smiled, realizing that Chun was not supposed to be in my life…or so I thought.

About 7 months later, late July, this year

Out of the blue, I received a message from him on WeChat. I never bothered to really remove him from my life anyway so I decided to just keep him on social media. Just a few months before I saw that he was back in my city for the summer. Chun asked me what’s up. I told him that I was going to the mall. He said that he could meet me there. This was strange since I barely talked to him since December. And I was wondering if I was prepared to meet with him.

I told him what time I would be there and he met me. The entire time I barely wanted to look at him, still remembering about what happened in the past. My main destination was Victoria’s Secret. He followed me into that store. The entire time I felt like I was teasing him. We got into a small argument what my actual bra size is. I told him teasingly, “Why? Do you want to see me in these bras then?”

His response, “Yes, I actually do.”

Throughout that day at the mall and spending time with him, I never thought I would get some closure. He offered to drive me home. On the way I was talking about how we first met. I unexpectedly got an answer I was looking for.

“How come you don’t remember that time we went bowling?”

“Well, to be honest, I was high a lot. I was smoking weed before I saw you or anyone else. That, or drunk. Or both.”

I was a little relieved in some way. Because telling him I was autistic was one of my biggest worries and I was so scared that this is what made him stop talking to me.

“I also heard you were with this girl too?”

“Yeah, that’s true as well, but she was crazy. And she lied to me. I felt badly about it later. But I took her virginity. She never told me before. I thought she wasn’t a virgin and was angry she didn’t tell me.”

I really didn’t care about that. I just finally was able to know some of the truth.

“You really upset me at the time. I hate to blame, but a part of the reason I am like this is because of you.”

I think these words did make him see that he truly screwed up. And I luckily got an apology.

When we sat in the driveway for a few moments, he asked if I wanted to go somewhere else with him. I agreed and then we were off to play mini-golf and ride go-karts. Next thing I knew, it was around nine at night.

“It’s getting late and I’m kind of hungry.”

“What do you want to eat?” he asked.

“Uhm, I’m not sure, I’m not picky.”

Chun decided that we could just go to the grocery store and then cook back at his place. I said sure. But, I didn’t realize his place was farther from mine, about a twenty minute drive or so. When we got to his place, he told me his situation. Chun was living in the living room since there were only two bedrooms and his parents have a friend staying with them. So his parents and little brother occupied one room while their friend had the other. I told him not to worry. Ten minutes later, his family arrived. His parents mainly ignored him the entire time I was there.

Time was going by slow and it was already ten-thirty at night when we started to eat dinner. He suggested that I just stay the night. I asked if that was okay with his parents and he said they didn’t care.

So I spent the night. And things happened.

At the time I was so happy. Everything was perfect. We talked a lot that night. I told him that I am happy how things worked out this way. Mentioning of course that I don’t want a relationship at all.

He said he was happy too and that he wanted me in the same way I wanted him. We talked almost that entire night. About how he was in trouble with the law and how his parents didn’t recognize him as their son now because he said he has disappointed them. Part of me was feeling really bad for him.

But after that night I didn’t see him for a while. He got busy with work and so did I.

A few weeks after seeing him, I managed to convince him to come over. However, he messaged me and told me not to think anything of us and that we are just paoyou (炮友), or friends with benefits. Why would you send that when we already defined the relationship between us two? I snuck him into my house that night, but my brother came home to sleep that night. My older brother was barely home at this time as well. So, overall the mood was ruined.

This was when I asked him quietly, “Why did you have to remind me that we’re just paoyou?”

Chun wasn’t happy I brought it up, “Because I wanted to remind you.”

“No, seriously, please tell me why.”

He paused for a few seconds, totally not expecting this response.

“I feel like I’m not good enough for you.”

I looked at him, “Why do you think this?”

“When I see you, I see myself. I see how I used to be and I how much I changed. You deserve better. Now, enough of that. But promise me something.”

“Hmm?” I inquired.

“If I disappear from your life again, don’t get sad.”

Still a little confused, “Why do you say that? I already had you gone from my life once, I’m sure I can get through it again.”

I snuck him back out after this big conversation of ours. That last kiss, that last hug…I never thought it would’ve been the last of it all.

Early September, this year

School started for me and I was really happy to be back at school. One day after I was finished with classes for the week, I texted him. The message wasn’t sending on WeChat and it was saying I had to add him as a friend. Confused, I looked him up on Facebook. Chun also removed me from there as well.

I was furious. So I messaged him on Facebook telling him, “We’re better than this. I don’t know what’s going on but it would be nice for you to talk to me instead of just removing me from your life. Please call me when you get the chance.”

No phone call.

No response.

No text messages.

Silence.

I talked to Ying just a few weeks after it happened. She told me that one of her friends went to hang with him and they got stuck on the highway. This friend of hers said that Chun was agitated because this one girl wouldn’t stop talking to him. And also that he didn’t really want to talk with her a lot and it was becoming annoying.

Immediately I knew that was me. I wasn’t really talking to him every day, I made sure of it. But, when I heard all this, I sighed some relief.

I began to not care about this situation because this wasn’t my problem. Deep down I knew that this was possibly going to happen again. I knew that he was going to stop contact with me again.

Somedays I have some regrets about letting him back into my life. I wish I had been wiser about things. But we learn from our mistakes and learn to accept them. This is just another life lesson that was learned the hard way. I’ve accepted what happened and even though I want to regret, I cannot. This situation shaped me into who I am today and helped make me stronger.

Holly resides in Michigan, where she writes about her novel, Destiny Across a Thousand Miles, and her life at http://frommyworldtoyourworld.wordpress.com.
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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

The Love Stories of East German Women and North Korean Men in New German Documentary “Loved, Engaged, Lost”

Loved Engaged Lost German DocumentaryWhen North Korea sent some 357 men over to the former East Germany in the 1950s to train them, the two countries also unexpectedly set in motion some of the most dramatic and bittersweet stories of forbidden love that I’ve ever encountered.

For example, consider the case of Renata Hong, who waited for 47 years before reuniting with her husband in North Korea:

Renate returned to Germany on Tuesday after a 12-day reunion with her long-lost husband in North Korea – a highly unusual episode given the Communist government’s policy of keeping most of its people without mail or telephone links to the rest of the world, not to mention the Internet.

Traveling with Renate were their two sons. Peter Hyon Zol was 10 months old, and Renate was pregnant with Uwe, when the family broke up in the vortex of the Cold War.

Renate Kleinle and Hong Ok Geun met in 1955, when they attended the same freshman chemistry class at Friedrich Schiller University in Jena, East Germany. Hong was a humorous exchange student from North Korea, then East Germany’s Communist ally.

They fell in love. Because both governments frowned on marriages between North Korean students and East Germans, the couple married in 1960 in a rural town where the local authorities were unaware of the national government’s policy. There were no guests.

The couple’s happy time lasted only one year, however. In 1961, the Pyongyang government recalled all 350 of its students in East Germany, a measure believed prompted by a few North Korean students’ defections to the West. Hong was given 48 hours to pack.

Holding 10-month-old Peter, Renate bid a tearful farewell to Hong at the Jena train station.

I’m tearing up just imagining that scene for myself.

Well, German filmmaker Sung-Hyung Cho stumbled upon Renate’s love story and it inspired her to discover more of these couples, ultimately leading to a new documentary film released in June 2015 titled “Verliebt, Verlobt, Verloren” (“Loved, Engaged, Lost”). Here’s the trailer on Youtube for the documentary film, presented in German (folks in China, you’ll need a VPN to view it):

I’ve also discovered an excellent interview with Sung-Hyung Cho about the film. Here’s a snippet:

DW: What was the idea behind the film?

Sung-Hyung Cho: The story of Renate Hong was very popular in South Korea. In 2006, her story became the talk of the town after a South Korean historian – who had conducted some research in Jena about the relationship between North Korea and East Germany – met Renate Hong by chance.

She narrated her story, and he propagated it on the Internet. The response was overwhelming. The Koreans were blown away by the sad but beautiful love story.

Most Koreans, myself included, know the story. Moreover, I was greatly interested in knowing and better understanding former East Germany. I also wanted to know more about North Korea, even if only indirectly.

Have you ever heard about this fascinating chapter of AMWF history between Germany and North Korea? And, for those of you who have seen the film, what did you think of it?

P.S.: Thanks to Ruth of the wonderful blog China Elevator Stories for tipping me off to this!

Guest Post: How an American Woman Exchanged Rings, Bows and Hearts with Her Amazing Taiwanese Husband

It’s amazing how the smallest decisions in our lives can change everything. A few years ago, American Anne stepped into a Western restaurant in Taiwan, never expecting that evening’s dinner would come with an introduction to her future husband. 

Do you have a serendipitous love story or other guest post worth sharing on Speaking of China? Visit the submit a post page to learn how to have your words featured here.
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AEM_1A little over two years ago, I exchanged rings, bows and hearts with my amazing Taiwanese husband. It’s incredible to think about all the changes and twists our lives have taken since our fateful meeting over three years ago in a small city in Taiwan.

I had been teaching English in Taiwan for about four months when one evening I decided I really wanted some western food from one of the only western restaurants/bars in the city. It was a 45 minute walk away. The only people I knew at the time were simply interested in going if we shared a taxi, and on that particular evening everyone opted to just stay home. Whatever. I was going to order a freaking quesadilla! I enjoyed a nice walk to the restaurant and as my dinner was delivered on my table by the foreign restaurant owner (also an American) he introduced himself and we exchanged pleasantries. Maybe because I was a random and uncommonly lone western girl outside Taipei or maybe because he was just that good at reading my character he called someone into the restaurant that was walking by the entry door. That person would someday become my husband. He just happened to live in the apartment complex above the restaurant and had slowly development a friendship with Ernie, the restaurant owner. Ernie made some introductions. I think we were both a bit hesitant with the introduction but we were secretly happy to have chance to meet someone, even if it was just a friend in a safe environment.

He was introduced as Aitch (like the letter H) and told me later he never would have talked to me that night if it wasn’t for the fact that a third party introduced us. He believed it would have been quite rude if he had just started talking to me while I was at the restaurant by myself in the middle of eating my dinner. I’ve had some uncomfortable or just awkward first meetings with Asian men in Asia (having also lived in South Korea for nearly two years) so we were both a bit grateful for some common ground to start off with. We are a strange and unique combination of traditional and independent in each of our separate cultural norms, so the blender of that night worked.

AEM_2

He was still in the military when we met so we decided to officially date after his retirement from the military. We soon realized we shared true feelings and connected with real morals and integrity. If we forgot, we took turns stepping up for our values showing we respect ourselves as individual people just as much as a couple. I think what really set us apart from a failed relationship was our wiliness to communicate and make compromises from our old lifestyles, and to feel that those changes could be positive and not just a necessary evil.

Almost exactly a year after we started dating we were back at our favorite restaurant where we met. He proposed to me just like in all the Hollywood movies by secretly placing a ring at the bottom of my glass. The night we met he ordered me a strawberry margarita, and I guess I should have thought something was up when I saw the same drink placed on our table because I don’t order it that often. In addition, I really had no clue this night would be special because I was developing a cold and we decided we would take a visit to the doctors after we finished dinner — so romantic. I’m a notoriously slow eater and I remember swishing the straw around because all the berries would quickly collect at the bottom. I’m sure watching that was pure torture for him. As I finished my drink I promptly stated “ok, let’s go” not realizing the important contents still in the glass. As I got up he quickly declared “wait, I think you forgot something” and he proceeded to pull the ring out himself and bend down on one knee.

We married at the Shilin court house in Taipei September 28th, 2013. We were both happy and thankful we had a small wedding as I’ve always dreaded the stress of the wedding day and the stress mountain of coordinating and planning for it. We were sure lucky our parents understood and supported a small wedding. Honestly, we decided four days before the date that that was the day to do it. Only enough time to get the witness registration paperwork ready. It was thankfully so relaxed we even took a nap after lunch when we got home!

AEM_3

I would say marriage to someone outside my cultural group was one of the hardest and one of the easiest things I’ve ever done. We’ve both learned so much about ourselves, the world, and what we find the hardest to accept about our past conditioning and what is truly important for our future. Communication is crucial, and it will always be a challenge- we have very different communication styles! I consider myself fairly indirect via American standards, but I’m utterly outspoken to him, and he’s ok with that.

We’ve often talked about how many subtle events had to line up in order for us to meet, and I feel so honored and lucky to have snagged this one. Had I not, I most definitely would have returned back to Michigan after completing my first year contract. He appreciates my personality, values and simplicity, while I in turn love his loyalty, drive and compassion. He makes me feel valued for who I am- not who I was or who I’ll be tomorrow. Though we don’t know where we will plant our feet in the future, we have very recently moved to Singapore and are in the process of learning more and more about ourselves and our relationship in a global community. Happy anniversary, I continue to look forward to walking this path with you!

Anne Elizabeth Moss is a newly established Bellyfit®, Bellydance and Yoga instructor in Singapore. You can find her at https://www.facebook.com/riksardance.

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Speaking of China is always on the lookout for outstanding guest posts! If you have something you’d like us to feature, visit the submit a post page for details — and then submit yours today.

Why Did I Assume I Would Stay Single in China?

Earlier this month, Rosalie (the blogger behind Rosie in BJ) publicly explored some of her own prejudices in a post titled, “Why Did I Assume I’d Never Find a Man to Date in China?

As I was reading her article, I suddenly realized that I too had a pre-China backstory worth sharing – one of relationships that never came to be, and what ifs that point to my own prejudices. So here goes:

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In coming to China, the last thing I expected was to end up dating a local guy, let alone marrying one (as I ended up doing with John, pictured here with me). Why?

“You don’t have to worry about the students falling in love with you.”

Before I embarked on my first trip to China, where I would teach English at a college, I met up with one of the former teachers several times for dinner or drinks. And when the subject of student crushes came up – something he had been forced to navigate very delicately – he negated the possibility of anything similar happening to me.

Of course I didn’t question his words. Hadn’t I already envisioned my year-long assignment much like a vow of chastity? I spoke to friends of my interest in studying Tai Chi over there and visiting some local temples, as if I were about to spend my months as a nun instead of an English teacher. It was an opportunity to travel to a new country, a way to postpone my post-graduate dilemma regarding career decisions, and nothing more than that.

Or so I thought.

Then I moved to Zhengzhou, China – and found myself with a crush on one of the first guys I met there, a former student from the program I would teach for. Over a month later, he introduced me to his friend, a guy who was also a former student – and would become so much more to me in the weeks that followed:

Yao came into my life, in all of his sleek, sexy and sullen James Dean perfection, dressed in a black leather jacket as dark as his mysterious melancholy. When my heart raced after our first dinner together, I thought it was just another adolescent crush. Embarrassed, I wanted to just box my feelings away like all of the Barbie Dolls and little girl hairclips of my past.

Then he took me to that teahouse one Sunday afternoon. Over two Taiwanese bubble teas, the truth bubbled through to the surface of my own heart — I loved him with an uncontrollable depth that plunged far beyond the bottom of my tea cup. And, I began to realize, so did he, because he overflowed with confessionals that he had never before poured over with anyone else.

Not long after, our our passions percolated over into romance — a real boyfriend/girlfriend love that translated into steamy weekends at his apartment, hand-in-hand walks around the gardens of Zhengzhou University, and the occasional afternoon out at the Taiwanese teahouse, his favorite in the city. Bubble tea never tasted so sweet.

In his arms, it was so easy for me to forget that I had once secretly declared this year a lonely one without a single chance for dating. And it was also very easy for me to turn a disdainful eye to my female coworkers at the school, all Americans who had no interest in the local men.

I couldn’t help but wonder, why did I assume that I would be single in China? Why did I think I would never date Chinese men? Was it merely that I grew up in an incredibly white middle-class suburb (I could count on one hand the Asian men I knew from kindergarten to high school graduation)? Was it the overwhelming absence of positive images of Asian men in the whitewashed world of American popular culture?

I think back to my college years, a time when I met many foreign Asian men – including Japanese and Cambodian. I called many of them close friends, yet why did I never let them get any closer to me? Why did I always immediately relegate them to the “friend zone” and nothing more? Why did my white girlfriends and I only giggle over white celebrity heartthrobs in high school, like Tom Cruise?

It’s just not right.

All I know is this — in China, I found the sexiest and most amazing men that I had ever known. I ended up marrying one and I’m still crazy in love with him. (Thank you, John!) It took crossing an entire ocean and time zones to realize that my assumptions about dating in China were a lie.

Interview with Yuta Aoki on “There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan”

Exploring cultural differences in my intercultural and international marriage has long been at the heart of my blog. Which is why, when Yuta Aoki contacted me about his new book exploring cultural differences for mixed couples dating in Japan, I jumped at the chance to do an interview.

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There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan profiles 15 different people (spanning eight nationalities, both straight and LGBT) dating across racial and cultural borders in the country. Yuta’s deeply personal interviews touch some of the most private and intimate details of their love lives. He follows up each of the stories with a discussion of the cultural dynamics going on between the couples, which makes the book even more valuable. Whether you’re curious about intercultural dating in Japan or already in an intercultural relationship, you’ll find this a fascinating addition to your library.

I’m excited to introduce you to Yuta Aoki and There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan through this interview.

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Here’s Yuta’s bio from Amazon.com:

Yuta Aoki is a Japanese author, blogger, and YouTuber. He writes about Japanese culture, multi-cultural communication, and dating.

He is a chronic traveler. He has been to more than thirty countries, from Eastern Europe all the way across to Southeast Asia. He enjoys talking to local people and listening to their stories. His desire to share the best of these stories inspired him to write There’s Something I Want to Tell You – True Stories of Mixed Dating in Japan.

He dates internationally, although he’s slightly worried that he might end up spending more time writing about dating than actually doing it.

He was born and raised in Japan.

You can learn more about Yuta at his blog at YutaAoki.com.

I asked Yuta about everything from how he was able to get people to speak so candidly about their love lives, to his response to people who think culture doesn’t matter in intercultural dating:

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Tell us about the inspiration for writing this book.

One huge inspiration was my friend’s story about how she met her husband. She is African-American and her husband is Japanese.

One day, she was walking down the street of Gunma, a Japanese prefecture where she liked at that time. A car approached behind her and pulled up.

‘What’s up?’ the man inside shouted in English. He was Japanese.

‘Uh… good evening,’ she replied in Japanese, hesitantly.

He smiled, wanting to continue the conversation.

But she wasn’t up for a random chat. It was already getting dark. The sun was going down. She walked away.

She would have forgotten him, had it not been for the birthday party she was going to the same night. The party took place on the 2nd floor of a building where there were several bars.

During the party, her phone rang. It was her friend.

‘Hey, can you come downstairs? There’s someone I want to introduce you to,’ her friend said.

When she came downstairs, she noticed a familiar-looking man.

‘Hey, you are the guy from the car!’ she exclaimed.

That was how she met her husband.

This story made me realize that people had unusual dating stories. I also remembered a friend who had made countless crazy boyfriend, one of which had run 40 kilometers (25 miles) just to see her. I wanted to know more.

You share a variety of stories about dating in Japan from people of different nationalities, racial backgrounds and sexual orientations — many of them diving into very intimate and personal details about the relationships. How did you find the people to interview for this book? And how were you able to get them to speak so candidly on the record?

Finding people to interview was quite easy as I already knew very diverse people who lived in Japan. All I had to do was ask around. Then some of them introduced me to other people.

I think the reason why those people opened up was that most people actually want to talk about their relationships. Often, we are afraid of being judged. But once someone stars actively listening to you, you can’t stop.

I think being interviewed is a very interesting experience. I encourage you to try it if there’s an opportunity. If you have an interesting dating story, contact me!

What’s your favorite story from this book and why?

Every time people ask that question, I come up with a different answer because there are so many interesting stories.

There’s an American girl called Lily, and I loved her quasi-relationship with a dorky, smart, obsessive Japanese guy called Aiba-kun. Lily wants to be his friends because he’s a smart guy and likes Japanese literature which she likes a lot. He’s also one of few friends Lily made back in university in Nagoya. But Aiba-kun doesn’t seem to be able to shake off his romantic obsession. There have been countless misunderstandings—both personal and cultural—between them.

Once, Lily decided to go on a “date” with him. She knew he hadn’t dated any girl before, so she wanted him to experience what it was like to go out with a girl. She was always clear that she wasn’t interested in him, but it was difficult for him to hold back his feelings.

Lily had to go back to the States, but they continued exchange emails even though she found it difficult to write long messages in Japanese.

Eventually, she came back to Japan and started living in Tokyo, quite far from Nagoya. One day, Aiba-kun showed up in her house unnoticed. It was an awkward meeting. Lily had to take him to a nearby café and convince him to leave because he kept insisting on dating her.

But their (sort of) friendship still continues. Lily thinks that once he gets over his infatuation, they can be really good friends.

I like this story because it has several layers of misunderstanding. On one hand, there is American dating culture that tends to be more casual and relaxed. On the other hand, there is an awkward boy who is not experienced with women. I find their friendship kind of cute.

Was there anything you learned about dating in Japan in the process of writing this book that surprised or shocked you?

It’s not so much surprising as curious, but so many Japanese people in those stories are, well, Japanese, in their way of thinking.

Western women who date Japanese men often find it confusing that Japanese men don’t always express their emotions and thoughts verbally.

Michelle, a Finnish girl, says her Japanese ex-boyfriend didn’t want to talk about bad things because he didn’t like confrontations. He wasn’t a talkative guy, and when they went on a date, he didn’t have much to say. She wanted him to talk more.

Kala, another African-American woman, talks about the ‘automatic translator’ that she invented to decode her Japanese husband’s non-verbal messages. When her husband is hungry, he comes around the kitchen, where she is cooking, and asks, ‘Do you need any help?’ But Kala knows he is not really offering help. It’s his indirect way of saying, ‘I’m hungry.’

Lack of verbal, direct communication is just one thing. There are a lot of recurring themes about dating in Japan: mind-reading, passiveness in bed, accommodating personalities, private nature of dating, etc. It was interesting to re-discovering my own culture.

What would you say to people who claim that culture doesn’t matter in intercultural dating?

I think what they really mean is that cultural differences can be overcome, which isn’t false.

But some people overlook or simply don’t notice cultural differences and that can be a problem. I remember Andre, a Jamaican man, who dated a Japanese girl who had a completely different communication style.

When she wanted to stop seeing him, she simply stopped answering his text, which confused Andre a great deal because he needed a verbal, explicit explanation. The more he pushed, the more irritated she was. It wasn’t necessarily his fault because from her part, she was unable to communicate with him effectively. Instead, she just became angry and passive-aggressive, which confused him even more.

It turned out their relationship had been fraught with misunderstandings, which neither of them fully understood. I think a little understanding of cultural and personal differences would have made their relationship much more pleasant.

What do you hope people come away with after reading your book?

I hope that people come away with a good understanding of what to expect in dating in Japan. At the same time, I hope people notice that there are many Japanese people who don’t fit the Japanese stereotypes. I included very diverse people in my book, so I you can understand dating in Japan from different angles.

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Thanks so much to Yuta Aoki for this interview! Learn more about Yuta at his blog at YutaAoki.com. You can find There’s Something I Want to Tell You: True Stories of Mixed Dating on Amazon.com, where your purchase helps support this blog.