Sunday, September 2, 2007

Part Twenty Six

This is not last chapter of my life –
but it is the last chapter of my life in the People’s Republic.

*I wanted a different kind of job
*My marriage was dead
*I didn’t want to live with my parents (I could afford to live on my own, but apartments were simply not available in Beijing)

I wanted to divorce, but meanwhile I did not know how to tell my family. My family was very close , but we did not share all our feelings, and I especially did not want to share my sadness and tragedy with them. I was ashamed that my marriage failed and embarrassed that I would be the only one who was divorced. I was spending more and more time with my parents and nieces, and finding all the excuses not to stay at my own home. All my neighbors in that small guarded complex knew about my failed marriage. I felt so trapped and helpless. I shared these feelings with my closest friends, but nobody could give any better advise than the Chinese proverb: Out of 36 methods, leaving is the first choice. I did.

I had two choices at that time. One was to marry the man I loved and then wait 7 years to move to Hong Kong. The other was to go to America and start over again. I was 33 years old. I was not too old to start from zero, but it would not be easy.

I took the second choice because I knew it would be better for me in the long run. I never wanted to become a housewife like my mother, who was very bitter after she lost her government job. I did not want to be in her situation.

I was ready to move to America – if only an opportunity ever presented itself.

And then it did – thanks to an old friend of my father’s brother (the Catholic priest who had fled to Hong Kong in 1948, and who ended up leaving the church, getting married, and living in Taiwan.)

Since he lived in Taiwan, my uncle could never visit his family back in China. But he had a good friend – a fellow priest – who ended up in Chicago, and beginning about 1982, this friend began to visit China on an annual basis – looking up his own family – and visiting our family, on my uncle’s behalf, as well.

The first time I heard about my uncle’s friend was 1983, when my cousin from Tianjin came to Beijing to visit him. Usually there was a reason for our cousin to visit us, and at first, he did not tell us why he was in Beijing, But then, when he asked me to help him to find the hotel where overseas Chinese would stay, he had to tell me whom he was going to meet. I went to the hotel with him, but we were a day late, and my uncle’s friend had already checked out.

We did not get in touch with my uncle’s friend that year, but in 1985, the priest from Chicago returned, and I got a chance to see him. He was very happy to meet me and my family., and it turned out that his visit was perfect timing.

For many years, he had tried to bring his relatives to America . He was a lonely man in Chicago. How many other Chinese Catholic priests could there be in Illinois ? And who else could understand his life – from the desperate poverty of a peasant family during the revolution – to the hope for some kind --- any kind --- of redemption offered by the church – and then the exile from family and homeland after the revolution. His only family was in China – and he was desperately trying to bring a relative home to live with him in Chicago.

But none of them spoke English -- and the American embassy would not approve their visas.

So I asked whether he might sponsor me instead – and fortunately for me – he agreed.

He got me enrolled as a business major at Roosevelt University in Chicago – and he footed the bill for all three years of that education – nearly $50,000. (After I got a job, I wanted to pay him back, but he told me that was not necessary. I was very grateful for that.)

Before I went to the embassy to apply for a visa, I asked around to make sure that I had all the required documents. My biggest problem was that I already had a bachelor degree in China, and I was told that most likely I would be denied a visa just to get another bachelor’s degree. But I wanted to give it a try anyway since my second degree would be totally in a different field.

The day for the interview finally came. I dressed nicely and sat in the waiting room for hours, waiting until my name was called.

I remember my interview very well !

I greeted the official with a good morning, and then handed all of my documents to him. He was a young fellow and not very chatty. He begin reading the documentation, and then I asked him if I could tell him something about myself. He told me to go ahead, so I started telling him how I was an English speaking tour guide – how most of my tourists were Americans -- how nice Americans were, and how lucky I had been for the opportunity to work for American people. Meanwhile I was closely watching what he was doing, and it took him less than 2 minutes to get a blue form out and started writing on it. I knew at that moment I was granted a visa. (I had learned that from the guy sitting next to me that morning. He told me if the officer got a yellow form, that means you are denied – but a blue form that means you are going to the America.)

At the end of those very, very important 5 minutes, my interviewer handed me back the documents and said “Have a nice trip”

Coincidentally, the embassy was nearly next door to the office building where my soon-to-be ex-husband was working. (He had left China Daily, and moved up in the world to become assistant to a very important publisher who was the son of the one of the top 10 military commanders in China) I had never visited his office before, and though we were separated, I wanted to share my good news with him. So I called up to his office – he came down to escort me up – and later I learned that by coincidence, his new mistress happened to be in the elevator with us.( at the time, I did not know about the new mistress – only about the previous one who had been a photographer at China Daily.)

A few years later, when I was living in America, I got a letter from an unknown woman – reminding me of our meeting in the elevator – and telling me that she never knew my husband was married back when they first started dating. She was in her mid-twenties , ten years younger than my husband, and she asked me for advice concerning their relationship. She felt that she was working very hard to make their relationship successful.

She must have heard good things about me from my husband's friends to ask me for advice, but what could I tell her ? I just told her to use her own judgment – and then I sent a copy of her letter to my ex-husband’s parents. I had been very close to them when we were married – and I felt badly about ending our relationship – especially since my ex-husband had never admitted to his adultery. This letter was proof that his affair had begun many years before our divorce.

In response, I got a 4-page letter from my former father-in-law. He wrote that he still thought I was the best daughter-in-law they had ever had, and that if his son continued to have extra-marital affairs, he would disown him as a son. He also wrote that my demand for a divorce was one of the saddest days in my ex-husband’s life ( the other saddest day being when he learned that his father was diagnosed with cancer) His letter made me so sad --- I cried on and off for the next few days.

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