Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Tales of the Black Ox Prince and the Wandering Maiden (2)

The following Monday, I started back with my translation group at the church publishing company. It was hard to sit still and correct copy after two whole months of almost constant hard labor. But it was nice to be able to sleep in a little later and not have to run for the bus. I could hardly wait for the next day when Liu Yuni would be in town and would meet with General Manager. I was really getting impatient with all these Chinese rules about relationships.

The next day I was called into General Manager’s office not long before quitting time. Liu Yuni was sitting in a chair in the waiting room. He looked a little green around the gills. I do not know what kind of grilling General Manager had subjected him to. I went in and General Manager said, “I knew I should have made you come home when the foreman stopped going up the mountain every day. You know this boy comes from a poor family. Your grandfather is a millionaire. His parents are uneducated, and your father is a college president. What will they say?” I told him that none of that mattered to Americans. I said that we judged a person by his character and abilities. I was more than a little upset. General Manger looked at me and then began intoning a Chinese folk saying: “When a girl grows up, you can’t keep her (from marriage), the more you try to keep her, the more she becomes your enemy.” With that he seemed to have made a decision. He had me call in Liu Yuni.

The two of us stood at attention before General Manger’s desk, not quite knowing what to expect. He shut his eyes and rubbed his face. Then he said, “It is very difficult for couples of different races and cultures. And you come from completely different backgrounds. But nothing is settled yet. Okay. You can date, but don’t tell anyone else. You are only allowed to go out for two meals per month. Take things slowly. Don’t talk about marriage until both families agree and Liu Yuni has finished his schooling and military service.” With that he waved us out with a flick of his hand, and he went back to his paperwork. Liu Yuni rushed off to his first day of English class, and I went home for dinner. (We had not mentioned to General Manager that the foreman had asked me to give Liu Yuni English lessons. We figured the less said, the better.)

That night we had our first English lesson. It was almost the end of the relationship. The teacher had given a pop quiz the first day of class to determine the class’s level of ability. Liu Yuni scored a negative five out of one hundred. He couldn’t even remember his English name. At the time, his name was Stephen. The “ph” as an “f” was very hard for him to remember. He decided there was no hope for him with an American girlfriend. I suggested that he change his English name. He selected “Joshua” because it sounds like the Chinese word for “toothbrush.” It was also easier to spell phonetically. So the first crisis in the relationship was averted. We continued meeting every Tuesday and Thursday night for English lessons. I have to say that the English teaching in Taiwan’s country schools in the 1970s was appalling. Liu Yuni did not even know that “is,” “are,” and “am” were forms of the same word. He tried to memorize each one individually. I certainly had my work cut out for me as an English teacher.

Finally, we set the time for our first “date.” We were told we could go out for two meals per month. Nothing was said about how long it should or should not take us to get to those meals. So one Sunday afternoon at the end of September, we went for a motorcycle ride from the center of Taipei, up Yangming Mountain, out to the coast at Yehliu, and finally wound up at a bread shop where we had a sandwich snack for our dinner. It was great fun. Our round-trip ride was 150 kilometers. My rear was numb for a whole twenty-four hours. And as we rode, we talked and talked about our families, our schooling, our dreams, and our plans. Every other week from that day onward, we went on a long motorcycle ride that culminated in a meal some place. We followed General Manager’s instructions to the letter, but certainly not in spirit. And as we rode and talked, we got to know each other very well.

By the time of Chinese New Year in February, 1986, Liu Yuni felt we were ready for the next step: taking me home to meet his parents. And that is a topic for a whole ‘nother post.


Cloudia said...

So we both courted on a motorcycle and met our guys around the same time!
Aloha, long lost twin ;-)

Teresa said...

Ni Hao, Cloudia,

I didn't know that you were a biker babe, too. Of course, Joshua's was just a Vespa scooter, but that was what was popular in Taiwan at the time, and he rode it like a dirt bike on some of the scariest dirt tracks. We did have a lot of fun.

Yolanda said...

Such a great story.Do you read much?I just read Lisa Sees new book and loved it.

Teresa said...

Dear Yolanda,

I love to read. I have read a number of Lisa See's books and quite enjoy her as an author. I am planning to read her latest book when it becomes available at my local library. Right now there are 14 people on the waiting list for it. Glad to hear that it will be worth the wait.


Jenna Lynn said...

Hello mommy #2,
I LOVE your blog!!
Its awesome to read the details of stories that I've heard before -especially since I always forget them. hahah of course.

Just thought I'd let you know that I read every post. hehe =D

Teresa said...

Hey Jenna,

What's up? Congratulations on your street kids of Seattle book. I'm so glad to know you're reading my blog.

Hope to see you at the end of this month!!!

"Mother Teresa"

Barrie said...

I read these posts out of order. How very fun that you worked in long vespa rides and still followed the rules! ;)

Teresa said...

Hi Barrie,

We were nothing if not creative!! That was all part of the fun of the dates.