Friday, October 30, 2009

China Thoughts, Part III

Part I
Part II

I saw this post on chinaSMACK which talked about how houses are more dependable than men. chinaSMACK is a site that translates posts from other Chinese websites so non-Chinese readers can get an idea what is being discusses online in China. The original post was on Sina.

I am more dependable than a man.

I experienced this firsthand in China. I've been dating a girl in Chengdu for about two years and we just broke up a few weeks ago. It came as a complete surprise to me since I had just brought my entire family to China to meet her. It was quite serious as we were talking about getting a K visa (fiancee visa) for her and her son, and emigrating them to the United States. Looking back, I think she was more focused on security rather than relationship. Over the National Day holiday, her extended family convinced her that moving to the US was harmful to her son and they lent her some money to help buy a bigger apartment in Zigong. In the end, I guess she chose the house instead of me.

Backing up a bit, we had met during one of my early trips to Chengdu back in 2007. She is ~10 years younger than me and divorced with one young son. I found her quite different from your "typical" girl from China. She was very independent and direct in conversation. We had a lot to talk about except when it came to politics (she was not interested) and her future plans in life. She married young and moved to Taiwan (ex-husband was aboriginal Taiwanese) where she lived with his family. After giving birth to her son, she was treated poorly by her husband and in-laws so she came back to China. After I met her, she ended up enrolling in college and she just graduated over the summer with a two-year degree in Logistics.

During our conversations, she would mention often that she felt insecure. There are very few safety nets in China and life is difficult for a single mom. Even with the huge male-female imbalance, there is a stigma about divorce and not many men want to marry a divorced woman, especially one that already has children. She asked me about this a lot and I said I didn't mind supporting her and raising her (our) son. She was quite envious of her friends that managed to buy an apartment, either by starting businesses or being someone's mistress (very common). I think she felt that if she had a house in her name, she would always have somewhere to live... she was scared of being poor and homeless in China.

Long story short, I had met her parents and her son last year during a trip to Chengdu (right after the earthquake) and she just my parents. I was just about to start the process of filing for an immigrant visa for her when she told me that she was buying a house. That in itself was no big deal since we also talked about helping her parents move to a better apartment once I bought a house here for us. Then she told me that she has been too selfish, always thinking about herself, ditching her son with her parents, etc. She was now going to move home (into the new house/apartment), get a job, and be there for her son. Hmm... I thought that sounded kinda odd so I prodded some more and she finally said that she didn't want to move to the US anymore and we can just be friends (我们可以做朋友). That phrase means "let's break up" in Mandarin too.

Sigh... I'm really disappointed that she didn't tell me this before our Aug/Sept trip to China. My family spent an entire week with her thinking that we were going to get engaged/married soon. They also brought gifts for her and I also gave her a new Dell netbook. We had planned to visit Hong Kong during my next trip in November (now cancelled) so I left a wad of RMB for her for travel costs (not sure now if I'll get that US$1500 back). I guess she's been having some doubts about our relationship but she never said anything to me about it until she decided to buy the new apartment in Zigong. We use to chat (Skype/MSN) almost every night but I haven't spoken to her since early October. She said to call her when I go to Chengdu next time (if nothing else she would try to return my money). I haven't decided whether I want to go back there anymore.

I think there were still a lot of cultural differences between us even though we're both Chinese. Both her parents were Red Guards during the Cultural Revolution while my dad was an army officer in Taiwan, and my grandfather was a KMT officer. To some degree, I took for granted that she would want to come to the US and it would be better for her son. Maybe I relied too much on my own experience growing up in the West, or I brushed aside her concerns about adapting to a new culture and learning a new language too quickly since it was easy for me when I moved from Taiwan to Canada. I guess one positive point is that this all came out before we got married. I don't think I could handle a 2nd divorce.

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