Every time I mention that aloe vera juice and vodka is one of my top drinks, the listener gasps with disbelief. Which conjures the question, how does a Saskatchewan farm girl end up married to a boy from China? Sometimes what shouldn’t work together, does, flowing so well, that the skeptical eye readjusts. Love can bridge that divide of geography and a person’s own experience. The sweet notes of aloe vera juice mingle flawlessly with the sturdiness of vodka (trust me). Whether it’s colliding of cultures or alcoholic drinks, things DO happen for a reason. Kelly Sandor teaches us how. Please enjoy today’s story from Summer Chick Tales.
I went out to a bar with a friend one night, met a guy, and we exchanged numbers. Later the following week, I got a text message, in English, from a number I didn’t know. It turned out that the guy from the bar had given my number to one of his friends, because that guy spoke more English (that guy would be my husband!). After sending messages back and forth for a few weeks, he asked if we could meet one day and go for a walk in a park in our city. I had determined by this point that he didn’t seem like an axe murderer, so I agreed. We met, walked around talking for hours, had lunch, and the rest is history.
But when I stop to think about how many things in both our lives had to happen in order for us to even meet, let alone fall in love and get married, the story becomes much more.
I grew up in small-town Saskatchewan, Canada. I helped out on the family farm, and attended the same school from kindergarten through grade 12. I skated, watched hockey games, attended summer camp and rode on the tractor with my dad. After high school, I moved away to attend university and met and started dating someone.
During the same time period, my husband was growing up in his hometown in Inner Mongolia, China. He rode his bicycle to school and studied for hours, like a typical Chinese child. At the end of high school, when he wrote his final exam (the gaokao, the test which determines which universities one can apply to attend), his math score was good, but not quite good enough for him to attend his top choice university. He moved away from home (not always common in China) to attend his second choice university in Hohhot (had his math score been high enough to attend his first choice of schools, the rest of this story may never have happened. Thank goodness he was a bit of a lazy student!).
As my time in university was drawing to a close, I started to realize that I wasn’t quite prepared to simply find a teaching job and settle down forever. Through a series of discussions, my boyfriend at the time and I decided to move abroad to teach English for a year. We sent out inquiries to many schools, and finally got everything in order to move to a small city in Hebei province in 2004 (unknowingly, this was all destiny at work; had my boyfriend at the time not been willing and able to move overseas, had we not found this particular job posting, I would not have had the job contact, the experience, and the desire to return years later).
Although we enjoyed our time, after our one-year contracts were up, we moved back to Canada to get on with “real life.” I ended up substitute teaching for a year before being hired on a continuing contract. I then taught for nearly two and a half years before burning out. I decided to leave my job, but wasn’t sure what to do instead. I still loved teaching, but not the 15 hour days that came with it in Canada. My boyfriend was no longer in the picture, and I was feeling rather lost. Since I already had a contact who was more than willing to hire me again, I made the decision to return to China to teach for a year, sort myself out, and see where I was at the end of it all. And so I returned, solo, in 2009, telling my less-than-pleased parents that it was “just for a year.”
Meanwhile, my husband studied engineering in Hohhot (as well as English – many students here don’t continue to study it past high school, but he did), discovered his love of hiphop dance, and started looking for employment. He knew there weren’t many good opportunities in his job area in his hometown, so didn’t plan to return there. He had a very good opportunity to work in a factory near Shanghai, and even went to tour the factory and have an interview. During this interview, the company representative told him that he didn’t want to hire him, because my husband was young and single and there wasn’t enough going on in the town where this factory was located for him to remain happy. As a result of this fateful intervention, he ended up taking a job at a steel factory in a small city in Hebei province and finding a group of friends at a local hiphop dance studio, one of whom just so happened to meet a foreigner out at a bar one night and exchange phone numbers with her.
Nearly two years later, I still stop and marvel sometimes, not only at the amount we have in common despite growing up in such vastly different cultures, but at the sheer number of twists and turns that happened in both of our lives in order for our paths to cross. If I didn’t believe in fate before, I certainly do now!
Author bio: Kelly Sandor is a teacher from small-town Canada who made her way to China for one year in 2004 and was then crazy enough to return in 2009. She teaches oral English in Hebei province, has met and married a wonderful Chinese man, and is currently trying to plan their wedding (the big day is May 30th)! You can read her blog, Tales From Hebei or follow her on Twitter.
Summer Chick Tales was conceived from my love of the season and my obsession with slurpees. I always have one every summer. I also love women writers. Lots. If you want to submit a story or be in charge of the mojito station, see the editorial schedule. Come on, join the XX chromosome party.
Photo of Inner Mongolia, China: Guo Qi