How did I become a Taiwanxifu? Well, it started with meeting Mr Taiwanxifu.
Earlier this week, I was privileged to write a guest blog post on HeyAMWF . This is a “Western-Eastern” dating site, for Asian men and western women who love them.
So what was my blog post about? Well, it was about how I met and started dating Mr Taiwanxifu. And I have included an account of my guest blog post below:
“Last October, Mr Taiwanxifu and I celebrated our tenth wedding anniversary. We had been together for six years before we got married, including living together for much of that time . Sixteen years on, we celebrated by taking our two sons for a holiday to the spectacular East Coast of Taiwan, where Mr Taiwanxifu surprised me with a bright very bling anniversary ring.
We have gone through a lot together in the past sixteen years, and amidst the love and joy there have been some real ups and down: difficulty having children, life-threatening operations, a premature baby, moving overseas as a family, times in between jobs, family dramas. But nearly seventeen years after meeting, we are still together. So how did Mr Taiwanxifu and I — two people from radically different backgrounds and cultures — meet and fall in love?
“Is it serious?” This was a question I got asked a lot in Autumn 1997. First by my mother, then by my friends. My response was to note that falling in love is not the same as having a terminal illness: ‘serious’ need not be bad. And yes, it probably was serious. I felt carried away in something that I had no control over, and I was too caught up in being happy to fight it.
But first, there was another question friends and family asked when I said that I had a new boyfriend. “Who is he?”
“You’ve met him,” was my response.
“Really?” my friends asked. I could see them wracking their brains to remember any hot dates I had been on recently.
“It’s Sam,” I said.
“Sam, who,” was the response.
“You know, Sam my Taiwanese language partner.”
“Oh.” Then silence. “But of course.”
It was understandable that friends and family might not realise that I was now dating Sam, even though my friends had met him several times and heard me speak about him often. For it took me a long time myself to realise that there was a ‘serious’ relationship brewing.
I was introduced to Sam through a mutual friend, a Muslim Indonesian lady who was in some of my law classes. I had mentioned that I was thinking of finding a Chinese language partner, and she immediately suggested I meet Sam. She had met him in the law library, and they had struck up a conversation because they were both new to Australia.
I really needed help with some of my Chinese subjects that semester. I was combining a law degree with an Honours degree in Chinese studies, and since there were not many native English speakers, most of the classes were combined with native Chinese speakers. It was hard going to understand what was being said and keep up.
At first I wasn’t so keen on the idea of meeting Sam. I had had Taiwanese language partners in the past, and it hadn’t really worked out that well. First there were exchanges with Taiwanese girls who were culture shocked, couldn’t cope with eating sandwiches rather than noodles for lunch and just wanted to go shopping. Then I was introduced to a guy who thought we were more than language partners. There was never anything physical or romantic, but he wanted to know where I was all the time … which to an independently minded Australian woman was something I found just plain creepy. It didn’t end well.
So I wasn’t really looking to bond with a guy over Chinese conversation. Nor was I looking for a boyfriend at that point, either. I was just months away from heading to Taiwan on a one-year scholarship to study Mandarin. My life was a whirlwind of making preparations, earning extra money from my evening typing job, and studying to pass my exams. There was little time for socializing. Especially not for trying to find a boyfriend.
I figured that our mutual friend had good judgement in people. And I didn’t get any sense at all that it was some kind of matchmaking set up. So I agreed for her to pass on my contact details to Sam.
I can’t remember who called who first, but knowing how forthright I can be I suspect it was me. Sam sounded polite and friendly on the phone. We had a bit of a laugh over my (then) strong Beijing Mandarin accent, and agreed to meet outside the law library.
Meeting Sam for the first time was strange. He was not what I expected: friendly, short and handsome in a non-conventional way. He was wearing a brown well-made, almost Paddington-bear like woollen coat. Later, I found out that his Mum had made it for him, and he would drape it over my shoulders wear when I was cold. There was some kind of connection, like we had met before but didn’t want to acknowledge it, and I found it so strong that I could not look at him in the face directly for the first ten minutes or so. I can’t even remember what we said as we walked to the cafe where we did our language exchange.
At first, our language exchanges were short: half an hour each, one hour in total. He went out of his way to help me, and even picked me a beautiful new Chinese name that meant ‘white flowering lotus’. Later he told me never to use my original name that my Beijing teacher had given me, as it meant fxxx your mother in Taiwanese. I was embarrassed, though, that he never seemed to want me to help him with his homework.
With time, our language exchanges got longer and longer. We shared a lot of ourselves in our sessions. My course material was mostly about social issues, and so I got to learn that Sam had strong family values and that he did not hold onto conventional/traditional views about gender roles. I could see that, behind his eyes, there was a struggle to fit into Australia, to adjust to his new life without his good friends and to be studying from scratch in a new language and not understand much. He was homesick. Yet he never complained. If anything, he seemed open minded to learning about the Australian way of life and (unlike other Chinese friends) did not consciously group himself with other Asians on campus.
Then one day it hit me: my God, I was in love. And it wasn’t long before I was about to leave. Actually, Sam and I didn’t actually connect romantically until ten days before I left Taiwan. It was all pretty platonic by Western standards, but the moment he held my hand I felt safe. I knew this was ‘serious’, and I knew that behind his friendly face he was a man of strong emotions.”