Happy birthday, my love!

Happy birthday to my beloved wife!

A few months back, I was looking over the calendar in preparation for blog posts, and I was trying to do the maths on when her birthday might fall.

I noticed Laba Festival, a traditional Chinese holiday celebrated on the eighth day of the La Month of the Chinese calendar, fell fairly close to when I thought my dear wife’s birthday might fall. A quick message to her confirmed that her birthday did, in fact, fall on Laba Festival day.

Now, you might be asking why this is important.

Many Chinese people use a lunisolar calendar to determine their birthdays and other important festivals as part of the Chinese calendar.

Personally, I find it confusing to have both the Gregorian and the Chinese calendars in place, but it seems to work for them. Nowadays, I just shrug and wait for announcements about festivals and the like.

However, back to my lovely wife.

In this blog, I want to talk about how I met my wife.

The first time I met Virginia

You were the first person I met in China on 14 August 2013. In fact, you were the very first person I spoke to by phone in China. I was one of eight teachers who crossed Hong Kong’s border into Shenzhen at the Luohu border crossing. I remember because I was the first to find somewhere selling SIM cards, so I bought one, put it in my phone, and called the number. All eight of us had been waiting in a guest house somewhere in Hong Kong until the MTR was running after a typhoon had come through. I remember that that day was a Canadian couple and then Americans with me. As we took the Shenzhen metro from Luohu to, I think, Xin’an Metro Station, I would sneak a glance and think to myself, “She’s a bit of all right.”

To say that the training that I had to do was contentious is an understatement, yet I saw you working hard, with a smile on your face as much as possible despite you being under so much stress. I could see that you had massive internal strength. It was at the end of training that “Pompey” John and I said that we would take you out for a drink at some point once we had settled into our schools.

Our first date

I had to go into your office one day in late November/early December and then-boss boss, Fu Ying, told me that your mother had been in town, trying to find you a boyfriend at the singles market at Lianhuashan Park, in Futian District. She suggested that I might be an appropriate boyfriend for you. I considered this, and within a couple of days, I texted you and invited you out for a drink at a bar behind Bao’an Stadium on Friday, 7 December, 2013. I’m sure that the bar has changed hands since that first date, but I still remember taking the chance to kiss you on that first date … and you kissing me back.

Becoming boyfriend and girlfriend

On Christmas Eve 2013, I introduced you to my sister and her husband at Paletto, a restaurant, and the Futian Ritz Carlton Hotel. You had come over from work and were nervous about meeting Alex and Gus. However, they welcomed you with open arms and were the first to take photos of us together.

It was at that point, I started introducing you more and more to people as my girlfriend. You were introduced to many people at a dinner party in March where local teachers and foreign teachers came to my neighbors’ home for a cooking competition. You had ordered plum jam for me from Taobao because I could not find it in stores. I used it to make ribs in a plum jam sauce that you saw people consume in just 12 minutes – 3 kilograms in just 12 minutes! We spent much of the night close to each other and people commented on how happy we were together. As the winner of the cooking competition, I won that small stuffed penguin in that photo we posed in together – a stuffed toy we still have on the couch somewhere.

Meeting the parents

It was at this point I knew I was in love with Virginia. I knew I didn’t want her out of my life.

In May 2014, we took my first trip to Hunan to visit your parents in your hometown of Loudi. We got up at 5am because we had to get a train early in the morning. We changed trains in Guangzhou, and Virginia knew I was nervous. I was worried about making a mistake in front of your family, but she kept me calm, ensuring that I would not make any faux paxes.

The first thing I noticed when I met your family was that you got your gorgeous big smile from your mother, and it was one of the things I commented on in an email back to my family. Your family was so welcoming and thrilled to have me as part of their family. One of the things that touched me during that trip was the gorgeous poem that your stepfather wrote for us. It was full of deep meaning and sentiment, and I was so touched by your family’s support for our relationship. Even if, at times, they asked questions that, from my Western perspective, seemed a little too early, I believed that I answered them appropriately and that your family was understanding of where we were in our relationship.

In 2016, Virginia and I took on the next test – meeting my parents. My brother and his wife were also coming to Hong Kong to join us. We secretly traveled over to Hong Kong the night before to meet my parents at the airport when they flew in. You were a bundle of nerves, but when my mother and father came out, they were thrilled to see us both. They were so excited to meet you, and before long, you were relaxed. Later that day, Friday 16 November, we had lunch with my mother, father, brother, and sister-in-law as part of my mother’s 60th birthday celebrations. You can see how happy you are in that, and in conversations between my family and me, it was commented how much happier I had become, how much happier you had made me, and how clearly, we made a wonderful couple.

Is there more to the story?

Of course, there is more to our story… every day, a new page is written in our story. However, I will share more of that… at the end of the month, for another special day in our lives.

Happy birthday, my love – forever and always.

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