Guest Post: Everything Happens For A Reason (Even Finding Love + A New Life in Taiwan)

Sometimes, when I think about how I grew up in a very average, very white, very Midwestern suburb in the US, never dreaming that I would eventually find my future husband and a totally new life in China, it blows my mind that here I am in Hangzhou. And yet, at the same time I firmly believe (like many of my husband’s friends) that destiny had a role — that somehow, this was all meant to be.

That’s why I love this guest post from Constance, who blogs at Foreign Sanctuary and writes today about how her unlikely journey to Taiwan (where she met her Taiwanese husband) was anything but an accident. (Enjoy the striking photos as well, a delightful sampling of Constance’s own photography.)

Do you have a story you’d love to see featured here on Speaking of China? To learn how, visit the submit a post page for details.
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If someone had to tell me twenty years ago that I would be living in Taiwan and married to a Taiwanese man, I would have laughed in their face and then, well, I would have probably grabbed my atlas, turned to Asia, and then tried to find the location of where most of my childhood toys were made. Yes, that was probably the extent of my knowledge of Taiwan when I was little – a far away place where people hammered and sewed and assembled the toys that I played with and then stamped ‘Made in Taiwan’ somewhere on the box or toy.

A Selfie with the Chinese New Year Decor
A Selfie with the Chinese New Year Decor

Fast forward to now and I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason. If it wasn’t for that casual conversation with friends over a glass (or two) of wine one cold night in January of 1999, I would have never considered teaching in Asia.The thought never, ever crossed my mind until that point in time.

One of my favorite pictures of us - Paris, France
One of my favorite pictures of us – Paris, France

My fortitude and tenacity was tested to the max when it took me nearly an entire week to get to Taiwan, a nightmare that I recently relived while writing my book. I thought about giving up on my dream to move to Asia so many times that week and if it wasn’t for my recruiter, who gave me the extra reassurance that everything was going to be OK, I probably would be in living and working somewhere in Canada right now.

Hiking in Canada
Hiking in Canada

My thirst for adventure and for experiencing new things led me to sign a third contract at the school where I worked at, which extended my time in Taiwan for one more year. And if it wasn’t for that, I wouldn’t have been out celebrating with a group of friends the night my husband literally danced into my life. However, if it wasn’t for his quick thinking and cleverness, he would have not gotten my number that night and we would not be together right now.

2014 Taiwan Lantern Festival
2014 Taiwan Lantern Festival

Four years later, my husband and I decided to get married. I always knew he was one (nearly) right from the beginning. We shared the same interests such as travel, we had so much fun together, and he always gave me ‘that feeling’ which never dwindled with time. When the newness of the relationship wore off, the feeling of ‘puppy love’ was still there. I was and still am a better person because of him. He is an optimist who dares me to take chances and to dream bigger. I am a realist who keeps him grounded (with regards to certain things). We complement each other. We are better people because of our relationship and each other. We may have grown up on different sides of the world but that makes life interesting.

Sun Setting over Alishan, Taiwan
Sun Setting over Alishan, Taiwan

On June 10, 2005, four years to the exact date that we met, we got married at the court.According to the lunar calendar, it was a perfect day. Probably too perfect! It was definitely a wedding to remember, all for the wrong reasons. Luckily, we had our Canadian church wedding and reception a few months later which was perfect – well, except for me putting the ring on the wrong finger. Plus, we had our reception in Taiwan where we celebrated with our closest friends.

The Beautiful Beach on Jibei [one of the many islands that comprise Penghu off the coast of Taiwan]
The Beautiful Beach on Jibei [one of the many islands that comprise Penghu off the coast of Taiwan]
Then, we come to the house which we actually purchased three months prior to completion. If it wasn’t for a series of events, this house that we bought over five year ago wouldn’t have been ours. It was the first house we looked at. My husband knew it was the one but I wanted to look at more. It was actually purchased by our neighbor who opted to buy another one. And if it wasn’t been for the poor state of the economy at the time, it would have been sold immediately at a higher price. The house was meant to be ours.

Constance
Constance

Which brings me to now! If it wasn’t for that heartbreaking news that shook me to the core and tested my hope and strength two years ago this month, but had a happy ending, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. That incident reminds me each and every day of all the good in my life and to appreciate the now, the present!

That is why I am a firm believer that everything happens for a reason.

Constance is a Canadian expat who currently calls Taiwan home. She blogs about her travel experiences as well as her personal reflections about expat and married life on her blog, Foreign Sanctuary. Photography is one of her passions and she shares photos from her [Photographing 2015] project daily on her Facebook page. She is also an aspiring writer with a memoir in the works.
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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: “I don’t look at my daughter as Indian or Canadian. I look at her soul.”

Alexandra, the white Canadian blogger behind Madh Mama, thought all of the ignorant comments about her marriage to a South Indian man would end once they had a child. But they didn’t, and it has been one of the biggest challenges for her — especially as hearing things about her daughter hurts her deeply.  

Have you heard something about your interracial relationship or biracial children that you’d like to write about for Speaking of China? We welcome all kinds of guest posts (including love stories) — check out the submit a post page for details.

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I often forget that my husband and I are from different cultures. We have so much in common, so many shared interests. We are going on our 9th year together, and I could trace every freckle and scar on his body with my eyes closed. The kind of familiarity that you have with someone you know inside and out.

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In reality, we are from vastly different cultures. I was born and brought up in Vancouver, Canada, by a small tight-knit family with European ancestors. My husband is from Hyderabad, India, and descends from the most conservative and devout Indian clans – the Tamil Iyengars.

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I always dreamed of having a child with him, in a romantic way. I wanted to expand our family and raise kids together in a way that combined our similar values. I wanted to grow myself by becoming a mother, and I wanted our bond to deepen even further by becoming parents together.

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Being a rare mix, we have had a hefty share of ignorant comments. At first, it was people saying things like we “just want to try out a different race“, then it was “he’s only with her for a green card” (I’m not an American, so I don’t even have a green card), then it was “she’s corrupting him with her Western values“, then it was “they’ll never make it to the altar“, then after we got married it was “how can they function with all these cultural differences?” Supporters and believers in our relationship were few and far between. We became desensitized by these kind of comments and learned to expect them. For a long time we didn’t even know that other couples like us even existed, so any negative experience just brought us closer together, since we were the only two people who understood what we were going through.

I thought all of that would end once we started a family together – that by having a child, people would realize that we are committed for life. Especially to other Indians, who assumed that by me having white skin, it automatically meant I was not cut out for motherhood, have no family values, or that I would divorce him.

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When we had our daughter, it was the happiest moment of my life. It was incredible. She looked like every single person in our families – combined. Watching her grow up and see how her personality has developed has been astonishing. She is nurturing like me, quick like her dad, a great dancer, and eats any cuisine. She is the most global child I have ever come across. She is classically beautiful and looks like she could pass for any ethnicity. She is adventurous and loves to travel and do new things.

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I think the comments started when she was about 6 months old. One of our Indian relatives asked me if we intended to raise her “Indian or American” – as if we had to choose. Then, I got a few comments from white Canadians about how tanned my daughter is, with a weird side-eye glance to prompt me to tell them her ethnicity. When we were visiting Italy last year, everyone thought she was Italian. So much that one old Italian lady pointed to my husband and asked “Is he the father?” when he was standing right in front of her. We have stepped inside an Indian restaurant where every table looked at us with disgust, so much that it scared my daughter. The latest comment we got from an elderly Indian relative was when my daughter was feeling shy. She said, “Maybe she doesn’t like Indians“. Appalling, since she certainly adores her father and many other Indian family members. It stung a lot.

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The thing is – I expect comments about myself, but when it is directed towards my child, it hurts me deeply. And it surprises me, because I forget that we are an intercultural family, raising a biracial child. We live in such a multicultural world. We celebrate all festivals and holidays, even ones that don’t belong to our respective cultures – like Chinese New Year and Greek Easter. We have lots of intercultural friends. It’s only when we get ignorant comments that it occurs to me that the multicultural world we live in – is one that we have constructed for ourselves. That the majority of people out there do not mix, that they tend to stick to their own culture, and either out of fear or ignorance – and they do not step outside it. That global families, such as ours, are a minority. However, I hope that my children and grandchildren’s generations see love before color. Because that’s what the world needs – more love…a love that transcends borders and limitations.

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My daughter is only 2.5 years old now. I haven’t really figured out how to tell her that sometimes people might question our family – more than others – because we are different. I know I will tell her that doing things differently doesn’t mean we’re wrong, but just that a lot of people won’t understand us. I want her to be confident in who she is. I want her to not be scared of this diverse world we live in, to see the beauty in being different and blaze the trail from there.

I don’t look at my daughter as Indian or Canadian. I look at her soul. I look at her as my child. The child that God sent me to raise. She is both cultures; but at the same time – she is everything. She is anything she wants to be.

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Alexandra Madhavan fell in love and married her soulmate. Then she inherited a big, fat South Indian family. She shares her unfiltered view of what it’s really like to be a Firangi Bahu at Madh Mama.
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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.

Double Happiness: How Alex married Fei, and became a wedding planner in Qingdao, China

Canadian Alex calls it destiny. She went to China in June 2010 as an exchange student, never realizing she would leave her heart in Qingdao — and end up becoming a wedding planner together with her husband, Fei.

Today, they run H-Flower together in Qingdao, and their story is as beautiful as the designs they create for weddings and more. Even better, Alex shares her how-we-met-and-married tale in two languages — and has graciously provided a video starring the two of them (with subtitles in English and Chinese). In addition to their company website, you can also follow Alex and Fei’s company on Weibo.

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Our hometowns share an ocean, but are on different continents. We both celebrate a new year, but at a different time. We both have parents, but only one of us has siblings.

I can tell the story of how Fei and I met in two languages. This type of meeting is called 缘分 (yuanfen) which depicts that by fate or destiny two people come together.

Like most foreigners here I began my journey as an exchange student in June 2010. At the same time Fei agreed to help his friend by teaching a class on Business in China. Fei studied and lived in Dublin, Ireland for nine years. When we met it was not in Canada, it was not in Ireland, nor was it in Fei’s hometown Qingdao (青岛). We met in a small suburb outside the city, in an old classroom on the 6th floor.

In class we exchanged cards and arranged to meet later on. We went with several friends for a dinner of roast duck, which led to night market shopping, and further an intimate pot of blue mountain coffee shared between the two of us. After coffee I followed like a puppy to watch a football match in a pub even though I had never been a fan.

Fei

The next day I left to Xi’an. It was painful leaving but the Terracotta warriors, Yangzte River, and Wuhan Dam all distracted me for a little while. As I traveled throughout China we kept in contact every day via text message. Through these short but meaningful first messages we subtly developed our relationship.

We met in a classroom, bonded over coffee, and spent only one week together in Qingdao, China before I had to fly home to Canada. Over the distance our relationship grew closer and commitment solidified.

Today we work side-by-side creating weddings and events here in Qingdao. Everyday we share a cup of coffee together, we make jokes and laugh in both languages, and when I am not at home working we are often crazily texting each other about some little wedding detail or color combination.

Alex, doing a floral arrangement for a wedding.

It feels surreal to think that my small exchange student opportunity has opened up this entire new world. I am fluent in Chinese, married to a wonderful husband, and we are both building our careers and future together everyday.

It’s quite complicated how we came to be in the wedding industry. After we were engaged we of course began to think about how to arrange and coordinate an international wedding party. We also went to check out a few of the local wedding planners (婚庆公司). At first I saw their weddings and just didn’t really understand how there was such a huge T-shaped stage, many different colored lights, and aisle decorations that were nearly touching the ceiling? I thought to myself this isn’t the wedding that I imagined and just doesn’t feel right.

So after some trials and tribulations and meeting the right people, in May 2011 we had our first wedding client (a friend of a friend of course). Our first wedding was an amazing (and frustrating) learning experience about the different between Western and Chinese style weddings. I learned very quickly that creating hand-made seating arrangements for 300+ people just do not work!

One year later I had the chance to design and create our own wedding. I wanted to give my Chinese family and friends the experience of what a western style wedding is like. We were married by the sea, in the yard of a 100 year old building, we ate delicious steak and drank wine, we danced, we ate cake, and we drank some more. It was the best day of my life and Fei agrees it was his too.

Our company is growing, we are learning so much everyday and being challenged in every way possible. I feel honored that I can help other brides and grooms create the same wonderful memories that we had after our wedding day.

我来自加拿大的西海岸, 我未婚夫来自中国的东海岸。 我经常会被问到我们相遇的故事,通常我都会用中文和英文一起来描绘这一段。

2010年春天,我当时的大学组织到到青岛的一所合作大学交流学习。我从没有想到过会来到中国,但是还是欣然接收了这为期6周的越洋学习的机会。我未婚夫的朋友当时请他帮忙来这所大学教一节“在中国做生意”的课,用英文。第一次我看见他,第一次听见他的声音,我知道我喜欢他整个人 。

(photo by TANG VISION from Shanghai www.tangvision.com)

他在跟我们讲经济的时候我当时在凝视他的眼睛… … 之后有一次机会,我们和我的朋友,我们一起去吃饭,然后逛街,一直到只剩我们两个人的一壶醉人的蓝山咖啡。那天晚上,我就高兴的跟着他去看足球比赛(世界杯),在那之前我从来不看足球比赛,但是突然间我发觉紧张的被这项运动吸引了。

那天晚上,Fei送我回到我朋友的楼下,第二天我就要去西安旅行了,一去就是十天。刚刚遇到他就要离开让我很舍不得。 当我游览中国的名胜古迹(也是最热的城市)的时候我们每天都不断的互发短信。 当时我还不确定他对我的感觉,直到当我收到一条消息,说,“我想你”。那个时候我就想马上回到青岛!

我们在教室里遇到,一壶咖啡让我们靠近,在我回加拿大之前我们在一起短短的一周时间。当时的我不知道我们之间会发生什么但是我有强烈的愿望要回来。我们各自恢复了正常的生活,我回到了学校,Fei开始了一家公司(每天我们都用Skype和QQ在网上见面。随着时间过去我们的感情也成长了,秋天的时候,我们彼此知道心里只有对方。现在的我坐在这里看着我手指上美丽的订婚戒指,其他的都仿佛是历史了。

Alex lives with her husband Fei in Qingdao, China, where she is the executive designer, florist and stylist for H-Flower.

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We’re looking for a few good stories from Chinese men and Western women in love — or out of love — to share on Fridays. Submit your original story or a published blog post today.