And as I learned, that commitment meant changing how I addressed Jun’s parents. From then on, Jun instructed me to call them Laoba (老爸) and Laoma (老妈), just like him. Or Baba (爸爸) and Mama (妈妈) — the universal Chinese words for “Dad” and “Mom” — if I so desired. The bottom line was, I would now refer to them as if they were my own parents, in the most intimate terms once only reserved for my father and mother.
This isn’t the norm in the America I grew up in, where you call your in-laws by their first names. And given all the jokes about in-laws (and the American tendency to want to live as far from your in-laws as possible), I’m sure there are some Americans out there privately referencing their in-laws using expletives. The bottom line, though, is that in America there’s always this implied distance from your in-laws — a distance that I was never expected to have with Jun’s parents.
Being suddenly asked to call two people who never raised me “Mom” and “Dad” should be an adjustment. And to be sure, it did take some getting used to. But it was actually a lot easier than I thought for a very simple reason.
I was calling them “Mom” and “Dad” in Chinese, not in my native language of English.
Even though Laoba, Laoma, Baba and Mama were just as intimate as the words “Mom” and “Dad” that I grew up using, I had never called my parents by the Chinese versions. So in way, it actually freed me to easily adjust to using them with Jun’s parents. I didn’t feel like I was stretching any definition of who “Mom” and “Dad” were because it sounded different.
Now it’s like second nature and I don’t even think about it anymore. That’s who they are — Laoba and Laoma.
So I have to wonder, is it harder for Chinese people to get used to this? Do they struggle to refer to in-laws with such intimate terms?
Recently, Chinese Olympic figure skater Yan Han took to the ice to a version of Christina Perri’s “A Thousand Years” — and audiences cheered his choice of such a romantic, moving song. (In 2011 and 2012, the song became synonymous with Bella, Edward and their legendary human-vampire romance when it played in the “Twilight: Breaking Dawn” movies).
Never mind that he had some stumbles. His song for the men’s figure skating short program was endearing to audiences, especially those of us who adore “Twilight”. (Team Yan Han, anyone?)
But if you’ve seen the Edward in the “Twilight” movies (played by Robert Pattinson) and witnessed figure skater Yan Han on the ice, you might just agree with something Chinese fans have been saying. That he looks like Edward in “Twilight”.
It’s great to see him display a little humor after his uneven performance. Let’s hope that spirit and confidence, boosted by this gorgeous song, will help him land those jumps next time around. (Admittedly, he’s has had a tough Olympics, since he is still healing from a number of injuries, as he told Chinese press in an emotional interview.)
While Jun and I were watching China compete in the men’s 1,500m speedskating event at the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, we happened across a fascinating young man among the competition: Hungary’s Olympic speedskater Shaolin Sandor Liu.
After seeing his name, I knew one of his parents must be Chinese. Turns out, besides his Hungarian mother, he has a Chinese father.
He and younger brother Liu Shaoang were given the opportunity to train in People’s Republic of China earlier in their career. “We were really lucky. When we started there was a world championships in Hungary and the Chinese team came. My father, being Chinese, started speaking with them, helped with different things in Hungary and getting to know the country. They said since his two sons were Chinese they should come and train in China. It sounded good to him so he decided to take the chance to bring us to China and we were training there for one-and-a-half years. Before our results weren’t really good. After that time we came back from China and we won every competition.”
As anyone who follows short track speedskating knows, China has a powerhouse of a team in this sport, with a total medal count only second to the leading country, South Korea. So I’m not surprised that Shaolin Sandor Liu improved so much after training with the Chinese team.
Shaolin Sandor Liu claimed gold in the 500m short track speedskating event at the 2016 World Championships in Seoul. During the current World Cup short track speedskating season, he’s had a number of strong performances, including ranking first in the 500m event at Budapest and the 1,000m event at Seoul.
That’s why, while he only finished in fifth place in the 1,500m short track speedskating finals the other day, Shaolin Sandor Liu is still a solid contender in the Pyeongchang Winter Olympics. He’s set to compete in the 1,000m event Tuesday, February 13 at 19:26 Korea time. If you happen to tune in, watch for him — and why not root him on as well?
Additionally, here are few more interesting things about Shaolin Sandor Liu:
His parents — a Chinese father and Hungarian mother — aren’t the only reason I’ve tagged this post AMWF (Asian male/White female, in this case). Liu’s current girlfriend is Elise Christie, the short track speedskating star from Britain.
It’s April 30, 1945, a little over a week before unconditional surrender by Germany and the declaration of Victory Europe Day, ending World War II in Europe. Qiu Fazu, a German-educated Chinese surgeon, is the attending physician at a hospital in the Bavarian region of southern Germany. Suddenly, a nurse calls him to come out to the street in front of the hospital, where Qiu Fazu discovers a group of Jewish prisoners from a concentration camp, guarded by the SS. A death march. Here’s an account from The BMJ:
…Qiu remembered clearly that he was getting ready to operate when a nurse shouted that there were many prisoners from a concentration camp lying outside. He ran out of his room with his operation cap on, as he had already learnt what happened in the camp. More than 40 ragged prisoners were squatting down on the ground in the corner of a street. Sick and weak, they could not move any further. The SS troops standing there shouted at them and ordered them to stand up.
“I was shocked that they were not able to move any further,” Qiu recalled. He summoned up his courage and told the troops, “These prisoners have typhoid fever. Let me take them away.” The prisoners were released, and the doctors led them to the basement, saving their lives with careful nursing.
One of the supporting nurses, a German student named Loni, would become more to Qiu Fazu than just a colleague at the hospital. The two married soon after the war ended and moved to China in 1946, as he missed his homeland. They would have three children together, surviving the hardships of that tumultuous era known as the Cultural Revolution. The BMJ notes, “Qiu had to clean toilets—‘and this was the only time they were really clean,’ he used to joke. The family had to grow its own food, and he was sent into faraway rural areas to provide medical care for peasants.”
Nevertheless, Qiu Fazu rose to prominence in China, pioneering modern organ transplants in China and authoring a classic textbook on surgery still used in the country. Some have dubbed Qiu, who was a member of the Chinese Academy of Sciences from 1975 to 1983, “the father of modern surgery”.
Let’s remember Chinese surgeon Qiu Fazu and his German wife Loni, a couple who once helped save precious lives during World War II.
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.
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.
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!
P.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!
Years ago, a fellow blogger with a Chinese husband wrote to me, “I follow some blogs by Western women married to Japanese men. You’d probably like them too.” It was the kind of friendly recommendation that you often get from other bloggers – except it came with a warning. “But shhh, don’t tell our husbands!”
Why did a suggestion to read someone’s blog suddenly get slapped with a cautionary note, as if all blogs written by Western women with Japanese husbands might be hazardous to our health? Simple. Like most Chinese men, her husband didn’t care for Japan – and neither did mine:
Yes, my marriage to a Chinese man has taught me a valuable lesson — that Asia is not the great, united, happy family (as some Americans might believe). That “Asians” don’t necessarily like being lumped together.
I didn’t realize the extent to our cultural amnesia about the true state of affairs in Asia until I met and married a man from China. A self-proclaimed “military fan” whose interest went deeper than tanks, submarines and aircraft carriers. A husband who schooled me in the many disagreements, wars and massacres between China and its Asian neighbors.
I’ve learned that Japan has yet to fully acknowledge the “Asian holocaust” it perpetrated against China and others, from the gruesome horrors of Unit 731 to the “comfort women” forced into prostitution. I’ve learned of the skirmish between Vietnam and China that led to a short war. I’ve learned about the border disputes between China and India, serious enough to lead my Lonely Planet guidebooks to print “The external boundaries of India on this map have not been authenticated and may not be correct” on their maps. And now I’ve learned everything there is to know about the emerging military alliance between Japan and the Philippines, especially how it affects China.
In America, we speak of “Asian” cuisine like it’s all the same – as if you could substitute one country for another – never realizing the countries here wouldn’t agree. That the Thai restaurant down the street from my father’s home serving Chinese delicacies alongside a sushi menu would look totally blasphemous to people in China, who still haven’t forgotten what Japan did to them.
I’m reminded of what Alex Tizon wrote about in his memoir Big Little Man:
As a journalist in my twenties and thirties, I wrote extensively about these [Asian] communities. No surprise, I found each group exuberantly complex and instinct, and perceiving themselves as separate from — and often antipathetic to — other Asian ethnicities. The parents and grandparents clove to their countrymen, the Vietnamese with other Vietnamese, Koreans with Koreans, Cambodians with Cambodians.
It was the children and grandchildren, the ones growing up in America, who would find — or be coerced into — common ground. Years of checking “Asian” on countless forms, of being subjected to the same epithets and compliments, of living in the same neighborhoods and housing projects, and sharing similar challenges and aspirations — the most important to become Americanized — all of these would compel young Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Filipinos to accept their belonging to the category known as Asians.
Perhaps the most unifying force was the perception that everyday Americans saw them as the same, and what made them the same was their “racial uniform,” to use a term coined by sociologist Robert Park. The uniform was thought to consist of a certain eye and nose shape, hair and skin color, and body type, usually shorter and skinnier — identifiers of the Yellow or Mongoloid or Oriental and finally now the Asian race.
…We Asians were now in the same boat. Our uniform did not lie. Like Lisa said on the Grand Concourse: Japanese, Chinese, Filipino — same thing!
Yep, this is what happened in America – we just clustered everything from Asia together, and assumed that it was one great unified map. Never realizing that it was one great lie.
Asia isn’t that great, united land where countries always peacefully coexist. But that doesn’t mean friendships don’t happen to cross unlikely borders. After all, even if he still dislikes Japan’s government, my husband has actually changed his feelings towards the country as a whole. He has Japanese friends. Still, there is one thing though:
“So, does this mean I can buy you a Toshiba someday?” I prodded him, with a grin.
“Not really. I still have standards, you know,” he smiled.
For the past year, Yuan Fu, a native of Shandong Province, has graciously volunteered his time to help translate a variety of posts on Speaking of China into Chinese. I thought, wouldn’t it be interesting to get to know the guy behind the translations? (I admit, even I was interested in knowing more about this fellow who magically appeared in my e-mail inbox one day, offering his talents to Speaking of China.)
So I put together this interview with Yuan Fu. As it turns out, Yuan is one fascinating and incredibly funny guy — his answers had me laughing out loud at times. I’ve provided his original Chinese responses below (he answered my English interview in Chinese — for those of you who can read Chinese, his answers are best in his native language); otherwise, you’ll have to forgive me for the simple translation of his answers into English. Trust me, if you can read the Chinese, you’ll understand just why he’s such a whiz with words.
You’ve volunteered your talents to help speakingofchina.com translate many wonderful posts into Chinese. Tell us about how you came to find this website and what motivated you to translate content for it.
I don’t consider myself a “volunteer”; I’m just one shrewd “businessman!” That’s because Speaking of China gave me more than I could possibly offer. So if there’s someone I should thank, it’s Jocelyn and her website!
I’ve always loved words and have been weaker with numbers. From elementary school I’ve been far more passionate about writing, even though only I think the articles read well. In contrast, I could barely pass mathematics by memorizing formulas. I really like feeling as if I’m “flirting” with readers through words. When you know that simply adjusting a word or phrase can completely change the reader’s experience, that feeling is really amazing. Ironically, after I graduated I staggered into profession of auditing, a world of figures 24 hours a day. So working for Speaking of China has become really important for me. After a day of getting “bombed” by worksheets, Speaking of China gives me a thread of breathing space and for the first time, provides me with readers. This is an essential change. I really cherish this opportunity.
Of course I also await the day when I will finally meet a girl who shares my ambitions and outlook on life. Among the girls who visit Speaking of China, if they’re not interested in AMWF then they’re interested in language. That’s perfect for me. In light of the fact that I often feel overwhelmed whenever I’m together with a girl I’m attracted to, I’ve learned to be careful, so I hide behind the computer. If I give it my all, who’s to say one day the perfect girl will actively find me?
Finally and most important, I’ve noticed that a lot of young Chinese guys have this kind of demand, but they don’t have a platform where they can be heard. I hope Speaking of China’s Chinese version will change that a little – that they’re not freaks in the world of love and marriage. Many of us have the same thought. If you love foreign girls then you should confidently go after them! Speaking of China can provide you with suggestions in this respect and even real-life love stories. I look forward to the future when we can receive many more “Double Happiness” stories from young Chinese men!
You actually work as an audit trainee for an accounting firm. How do you make time to translate posts?
For that we should thank the horrible traffic situation, the crowded streets and buses – that’s where I’ve finished most of the translations! Just like Ford and his Model T, I “assemble” each article in my mind starting with the easiest and most fascinating parts and then the more challenging parts of the articles. This whole process – starting from nothing to a finished product – is always exciting to me.
“Accuracy, expressiveness, elegance” is the highest standard for translation but I cannot reach it. Instead I strive to preserve a certain amount of character in the articles, (kind of like when, after suffering for a long week at work and finally making it to Friday, you can actually relax). I’m very clear about my own abilities, you don’t even need to mention the enormous gap between me and translation professionals. In front of those readers who are very serious about language, I appear like “Cub Scout” with this hobby of translation. However, with time I will improve.
You studied abroad at Cardiff University in Wales. Could you share with us your most interesting experience or experiences there?
During our graduation trip we went to Loch Ness in Scotland. That sturdy captain of the ship spooked everyone into keeping their eyes glued to the sonar screen, because the Loch Ness Monster could at any time overturn the boat. In reality this was completely unnecessary, as the Loch Ness Monster was in all of the gift shops – just 15 pounds and you can bring one home. If you buy more there’s a discount. And the “Made in China” tag left on each of them would make you realize they were Asian.
Similarly this street of luxury goods in Oxford was completely occupied by Asian merchants. Seeing this in the small village of Oxford made me suddenly feel like I was back in Beijing’s Wangfujing shopping area; I even wondered if there was someone selling fried flatbread. As it turns out the place only had French hot dogs for sale, and the taste only proved that the technique of these young Frenchmen couldn’t compare to those Henan women selling fried flatbread (for one yuan more they’ll add an egg to it).
Besides the sights and scenery, England’s good regulations gave me a deep impression. For example, how motorized vehicles must yield to pedestrians or how medical services could really be free (despite the fact they weren’t always the most efficient). Of course everything the English people now enjoy comes from the hard efforts of the previous generations, benefiting from how they became industrialized in the 19th century. They’ve waded through war, endured a recession and the inhumanity of Imperial England. So we have nothing to envy. Maybe the hard work of this generation of Chinese will give their children a better country, don’t you think? Those of us born in the 1990s should be thankful for the many things we have received from previous generations.
Yes, until this day I still regret that I haven’t dated anyone. This makes me feel as if I spent all of that university tuition for nothing. Ha ha!
毕业旅行我们去了苏格兰的尼斯湖，白白胖胖的船东吓唬大家要紧盯声呐屏幕，因为湖怪随时可能掀翻小艇。事实证明这完全多此一举，因为尼斯湖小怪兽充斥在大大小小的纪念品店中，15镑就能搂一个回家，要是多买还能打折。留意一下铭牌你就会发现甚至它们也是有亚洲血统的—Made in China.
Why did you choose to return to China after your studies?
I think it’s because my visa was going to expire, ha ha! What’s interesting is that in England when I tried really hard to find work there, more than once I heard locals complain “they’ve already had enough” of this country that in my mind appears very well developed. There was even one Londoner who sent me a text message when I was boarding my plane: he is returning to Shanghai, and he persuaded me to quickly leave this “sinking” country. The very concerned tone of his message made me feel as if I had just missed Heathrow’s last “Noah’s Ark”. I think he’s not wrong in what he said. Immigration moves from a place you are tired of to a place someone else is tired of. Still that Londoner doesn’t realize that Shanghai is the eponymous “sinking” place because the ground there cannot handle the massive weight of Pudong’s skyscrapers. Fortunately this process can be controlled!
You’re currently single, but you’ve told me you hope someday you want to marry a Western woman. Why?
First off, because you’re so beautiful. Second…aiya, I think the first reason is enough for me, ha ha! Foreign women have provided many thoughts and ideas that aren’t in my culture and circle of friends – this is something that matters to me. I started to realize that there are some things you shouldn’t care too much about while there are other things worth pursuing. In our lives we shouldn’t be too hard on ourselves most of the time – we really can just not worry too much about it and move at a slower pace. Regarding “doing what you’re passionate about” or because you love a specific field so while studying you focus on that area, now it seems this is no big problem. Simply put, I discovered some values that resonated with me. I admit, my initial reason for liking foreign girls is because of their pretty looks, but now I’ve discovered many more reasons that go beyond your appearance.
One of my deepest impressions is the alcohol tolerance of foreign women. Once we went out to drink beer with some very petite German girls. After their “warmup” stage was over, I was already very inebriated. Sorry everyone, I think I just made Shandong men lose face.
Actually I’m very interested in Jocelyn, but I don’t know if John will mind. At least China prohibits guns, ha ha!
Just kidding! I mean to say, I hope I can find a foreign girl who is as interested in Chinese culture as Jocelyn is. And if she also loves Mandarin and even wants to become a translator or interpreter, that would be perfect. I can definitely be a big help to her! You see, the fascinating thing about China is that, first it is quite ancient and yet it has changed very quickly. So no matter whether you are a historian with your head buried in the old pages of our history or you want to do something modern or different, you can basically find your place here in China. So to all of the girls living in the first world, if you come over to our third world for a turn you’ll find it’s very fascinating.
Or maybe we ought to talk about what kind of person I am – anyone who loves my kind of personality is also that kind of girl I’m looking for.
I have some really cool friends in my life. These people don’t just live well, they also can bring a lot of happiness to the people around them. What’s even more appealing is that they have this kind of ability to grasp the future. Without exception, they all love to read or at least do according to that saying, “There’s nothing exceptional under the sun,” books provide them with wisdom to understand the world. I also hope for this kind of wisdom. As such reading has gradually become the biggest thing I do outside of work. Of course, this kind of life can be pretty “quiet.” Similarly, my two other biggest pastimes — traveling and making military models – are also “soundless”. One young English guy once told me with a very concerned face, “Yuan, if you want to know the meaning of the word ‘Nerd’, you’d best look in the mirror.” Ha ha, in fact I wasn’t concerned at all about my lifestyle. Ladies, it’s good to find yourself a quiet partner. In this way you’ll always have someone to listen to your stories. Plus, perhaps these guys who are always reticent are in fact the most passionate guys!
Due to the limits of writing, forgive me for not being able to provide more details. But I strongly suggest any interested ladies to come forward and have a try. Based on my understanding of Yuan, I bet I would not disappoint the vast majority of readers. 🙂
There are a lot of Chinese men out there who, like you, have the dream of finding a yangxifu – but not every guy will be successful. What do you think are the biggest barriers for Chinese men to meet and date Western women in China?
First, Chinese men lack opportunities to regularly interact with foreign women. Objectively speaking, the vast majority of Asian men cannot compare to the tall stature of Western men. This is not worth complaining about nor is it racist, this is Darwin’s evolution. Because of this, I ask Chinese men to call upon their “soft power” in more superior areas, such as being more attentive to women or smarter. In this way we can become ideal to girls. Unfortunately this kind of “soft power” is not as easy to see as the huge biceps on a guy’s arm. You have to work long and hard together in order to observe it. And this kind of opportunity to “work long and hard together” is without a doubt in unusually short supply. So it’s very possible that young men here are already excellent enough, but that women just haven’t noticed it yet.
Secondly, you should also blame the spiritual impotence of Chinese men, their sense of inferiority. Whenever I tell someone that I’m interested in finding a foreign girl, the response I receive is, “Gosh, you need lots of money to do that!” As if I don’t have this then I cannot win the battle for a spouse! Another example is when a guy is standing before someone from a developed country, we can be overcautious. Yet when we’re standing before friends from less developed countries than China, we can behave all high and mighty.
I hear from Western women out there who are looking to find a good man in China. What advice would you have for them?
To all of those ladies searching for a “good man”, I want to say your search can stop right here. Just choose Yuan. Don’t hesitate. He will become the best decision you ever made for the longest part of your future. Ha ha!
If you’re speaking of the biggest strengths of Chinese men, that’s probably that we’re hardworking. I remember there was an economist at MIT who, when asked why he was so full of confidence about China, this gentleman shrugged and leisurely replied, “Forget about all of those economic models because the Chinese are very hardworking.” Look, whenever people attempt to answer these truly important questions, we often must return to the most essential things. So if I was a woman, I would stay away from those good for nothing laggards or the men who are constantly changing their jobs – the kind of guys who think they can use women because they’re cool and handsome. Just like Lucy Kellaway of the Financial Times once said, “Find a responsible partner, even though that doesn’t sound sexy or romantic.” Then I would choose someone with similar values. For example, my father values frugality; whenever he goes shopping he always picks the cheapest items. But my mother values quality and she absolutely would not compromise her values because of price. You can imagine that this couple of such mismatched people will not live very peacefully together. However, thank the heavens, as long as it’s not time to go to the supermarket, things are fine. But if the two of them cannot agree on what kind of beef to buy, then the two of them are not so well suited for each other.
However, perhaps the silliest thing in this world is to listen to me, some 24-year-old guy who has yet to find love himself to give some advice to such experienced young women on how to find true love. So I’d best keep my mouth shut!
Finally, you currently reside in Ji’nan, China. Let’s say I’m coming up to visit your hometown. What you suggest I see and do in your city?
Oh, Ji’nan is a very embarrassing provincial capital city. Not only does it have no international recognition, here in China you almost never hear anything from Ji’nan. In fact the most recent thing I’ve heard about Ji’nan is that some guy put his girlfriend on his neck and received some praise for being a “Good Chinese Boyfriend.” Still, just because this place isn’t famous doesn’t mean it’s not fun. You should definitely see the usual sights in the city. Qianfo Mountain, Baotu Springs and Daming Lake are the three best in Ji’nan. Of course if you loathe manmade pools, Ji’nan – which is also known as “little Jiangnan” – also has a number of good places to go swimming, though they’re often hidden in the most inconspicuous places in the city and usually only locals can find them. Of course you totally shouldn’t be worried about those lewd stares, as can assure you there are far too many to count.
If you’re willing to walk a little, then we can also have a look at “the mountain”, “the water”, “the sage” – that’s Taishan, the Yellow River, and Confucius. Yes, in Shandong Province you can find all of these things that are deeply meaningful in Chinese culture. No matter what, don’t worry. Any trip with Yuan will be a happy one.
By the way, now that you mention travel, next year I’m planning on visiting China’s West (Xinjiang and Tibet). Is there anyone willing to come with me? (This is limited to single girls only! 😉 )
When you’re raising biracial and bicultural kids, you’re bound to have some interesting conversations with them about identity. That’s the case for Susan Chan, author of The Reluctant Brides of Lily Court Lane, who recalls an incident with her daughter, after the little girl told another child about her background. Her daughter said, “Well, I told him, ‘I’m American, I’m Jewish and I’m Chinese. But he kept saying you can’t be three things.”
Read on to find out what happened – and thanks so much to Susan for sharing!
April is an iffy day in New York City-blustery one day and spring-like the next. The morning of April 29, 1989 dawned clear and bright for the Chan family. We were all dressed hours before we needed to be, each of us sporting a touch of red-a lucky Chinese color. Leah had gotten up early every morning for months to practice her speech and now she was prepared and eager to start.
Arriving early at the Temple for Leah’s Bat Mitzvah, we greeted each person as they arrived. It was a serious moment and as her mom, I held my breath, waiting for her to begin. Seated next to her Chinese father, and her younger brother, I held back my tears of pride. We watched her carry out her part in the religious ceremony and then it came time for her personal speech.
I watched my child, now blossoming into a young lady, speak seriously of becoming an adult, as she gave recognition to her cultural and religious background. The years melted away and I recalled an incident that had happened when Leah was a child, probably four or five. She was approached by a little boy in the playground. I had to hide my smile later when she told me their conversation.
She’d said in a very serious tone, “Mommy, he’s so stupid.”
“Leah, you know we don’t use that word.”
“Well, he was.”
“Maybe he just doesn’t know any better,” I said, wondering if I’d need to have a talk with his mother. What had he said to make my child angry?
“He asked me, ‘What are you?’”
“And what did you say?”
“I didn’t know what he meant.”
“Uh huh,” I answered in an encouraging tone.
“He asked me again, and he said, ‘I’m Italian-American and you can be two things.’”
“Oh, so he thinks people can only be two things because that’s what he is.” I realized he was referring to the idea popular then of a hyphenated American.
“Well, I told him, ‘I’m American, I’m Jewish and I’m Chinese. But he kept saying you can’t be three things.”
I knew that Leah wouldn’t let him get away with that.
“Oh, yes, I can,” Leah told me she’d said to him. “I go to American school during the week, Chinese school on Saturday, and Hebrew school on Sunday. Mommy, then he ran away. If I can’t call him stupid, what can I call him?”
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