I get a lot of e-mail.
Most of it is polite.
I shall answer both kinds now.
~ How did you and your wife meet?
I wasn't looking for a girlfriend when Mabel entered my life; we met at a conference. After a presentation, she saw me explaining something to an associate. She walked up, introduced herself and asked if I would mind answering a couple of questions about the presentation. I said I'd be happy to.
It wasn't love at first sight; there were no sparks; the music didn't come up and we didn't run into each other's arms.
~ Did you notice she was Chinese?
Of course I did, but several other things caught my attention first:
· she was a confident, intelligent woman.
· she was attractive and had a beautiful smile.
· she was well-dressed.
· she was tiny next to me (she's 5'1").
From there, our relationship developed. We explored the distinctions of our respective cultures: upbringing, language, food and so on. That's normal in any relationship; it's called getting to know one another.
Our racial differences never crossed my mind. I was raised to be colour-blind; race just wasn't an issue. In fact, it never entered the picture.
Until I met her family. Let's just say they were less than pleased.
Against my better judgement, Mabel had insisted I accompany her to the airport to meet them when they emigrated to Canada. I explained that my gut instinct was screaming that it wasn't a good idea. She said it would be fine. Still reluctant, I went anyway.
Try to imagine, if you will, her family's reaction when they cleared customs and spotted her in the waiting area.
With a big white guy standing next to her.
Holding her hand.
They looked at her. Then they looked at me.
At her. At me.
Awkward doesn't begin to cover it. Sometimes I hate being right.
The next day we were surrounded by her parents, her brother and his girlfriend, and her sister, while they nattered at us for over an hour with nary a word in English. It didn't matter, I knew exactly what they were saying; disapproval was written all over their faces.
Despite that she'd worked her butt off to become a Canadian citizen to be able to sponsor them to live in Canada, they were ungrateful and angry with some of the choices she'd made.
One of them being me. To her credit, she informed them that she'd made her decision, and stayed with me. That's why she has my loyalty.
Over time, her family grew to realise I wasn't a colonial foreign devil. Canada didn't colonise Hong Kong, and I'm not British. No real warmth exists to this day, and I'm certain they wouldn't care if I disappeared tomorrow.
The exception might be Mabel's mother. She moved back to Hong Kong, and later moved in with us. I'd say Mabel's mother likes me well enough; she thinks I'm a hoot. I've learned to speak a fair bit of Cantonese, so we can communicate. Knowing how to play mah jong is a big plus. Yep, I'm in solid with Ngoi Mo now.
~ Why do you live in Hong Kong?
Simple. My wife wanted to go home. She was tired of Canadian winters, and her dream was to own a business in Hong Kong. When she told me she wanted to move, I said: Why not? After all, who am I to deny her dreams?
She made arrangements and moved on October 1, 1997. I lagged behind in Canada for a year to work, sell the house, sell the minivan and sell off or give away most of our possessions. I sure as Hell wasn't going to cart that stuff halfway around the world.
I moved to Hong Kong exactly one year later, October 1, 1998.
~ Have you experienced discrimination?
Given that Caucasians make up less than 2% of almost seven million people, not to mention the lingering post-colonial hangover, gee ... what do you think?
I've felt it, but mostly it's been subtle, not overt. I don't practice it, therefore I tend not to invite it.
It doesn't bother me when someone won't take the empty seat next to me on the bus or the train. It doesn't freak me out when people stare. It doesn't anger me when folks refer to me as gwai lo. It's amusing; heck, I refer to myself as a gwai lo.
I get a big kick from watching the eyes and facial expressions of people we approach as we walk holding hands. I can see the wheels turning in their heads and can read their minds:
· What's she doing with him?
· What's he doing with her?
· How did she land him? He's handsome!
· Gold digger!
· Disgusting! She sleeps with a foreign devil.
· He's so tall!
· How dare she marry outside our own people!
· I wish I could find one like him.
· Aiyah! I wish all gwai los would go home!
The eyes truly are the windows to the soul.
Now, onto the rude questions. Despite the tongue-in-cheek nature of this site, a few folks out there just don't get it.
For the record, let me set a few things straight:
~ Do you have yellow fever?
Oh, shut up! I despise that term. It amazes me that people assume I married my wife because I have some kind of fetish for Asian women. A fetish is defined as any non-sexual object that abnormally excites erotic feelings.
My wife isn't an object, bonehead. She's my best friend, that's why I married her. That she's Chinese was never a factor. Take note: using the word fetish around me when talking about Mabel is likely to get you punched in the head.
~ Are you trying to be an egg?
Oh, shut up! Yes, I get it: white on the outside, yellow on the inside. Ha ha, you pointy-headed cretin.
Just because I appreciate many aspects of Chinese culture doesn't mean I want to be Chinese.
~ Don't you think the real reason she married you is so she could have a sugar daddy?
The concept is laughable. Neither of us were what I'd call wealthy when we met. We've been together since 1990; if she had married me for money, she would have left me by now, because I'm not rich.
Look, I don't mind questions, but I prefer good ones. I wrote this to reduce, if not eliminate, the flow of e-mail from morons.
I love having this site; I love being able to share the craziness that is life in this city. I love making people laugh.
I love how this site evolved from what was, at one time, nothing more than long-winded e-mail to family and friends. Speaking of long-winded, I think it's time that I shut up.
Oh, shut up.
March 26, 2001
Next Tale: Run Through the Jungle