Monday, August 8, 2005

How I Ended Up In China

A lot of people think that my journey to China began when I met Mike at our singles ward barbeque, was impressed with the way he dressed and the fact that he couldn't play volleyball either, and started flirting with him until the awkward moment when his girlfriend came and sat down by him--incidentally, he made her a hamburger shortly thereafter and she got food poisoning from it. A few months later, they broke up (more to do with the bad hamburger, probably, than the flirting. I was not the type to go after a taken man, and was myself in the throws of an email flirtation with another man), Mike and I started dating, and two minutes later we were married and on our way to China.

But that is just the short version of the story. In reality, my path to China started years earlier. I would say it was some sort of a divinely inspired path if the contents of aforementioned path were not so trivial and, at times, shallow and politically incorrect, but let's just get on with it, shall we?

It began sometime when I was between the ages of 12 and 13. Kacy and I used to sit up late on Saturday nights watching Saturday Night Live (it was the era of "Sprockets" and "Wayne's World" with Mike Meyers). Every so often an ad for a Chinese restaurant called "Fong Ling" came on. It showed two people sharing a romantic dinner while seated on fancy wicker furniture. Here's where some of the political incorrectness comes in: we thought the ad was a laugh riot, and would shout "Fong Ling: Have good time on wickah fuhneecha!"

These late night forrays into racial stereotypes inevitably led to my formation of the "Chinese Sisters" club with three of my other junior high friends. We each had a "Chinese" name and a "Chinese" job: mine were Ling Ling and a peacemaker. Robyn's were Kamasaki and a warrior. The other two are hard to remember, but I know one of them was a chef and the other was a shepherd.

Of course we met monthly to update each other on our various peacemaking/warmongering/cooking/shepherding missions. Most of these meetings are documented on film. At one point we dressed in Kimonos and ate at Formosa Gardens in Provo (we were not yet schooled in the differences--both subtle and extreme--between Chinese and Japanese). I am sure the people in Formosa Gardens were offended when we walked in looking like a group of underage Geisha Girls, giggling and trying to speak in Chinese accents.

Even after our club disbanded, China was somehow a part of my life.
Case in point: the hilarious and humiliating music video I made to David Bowie's "Little China Girl" (why, oh, why did I ever think it was a good idea to choose navy blue rubberbands for my braces???!!!!)

Not only that, but I was fascinated with Chairman Mao, after hearing the lyrics to the Beatle's "Revolution" about 100 times. "Who is this Chairman Mao?" I would ask myself. "He must not be very good if John Lennon is saying not to carry pictures of him around..." This fascination came shortly after a brief period of confusion over the term "euthanasia" and the scenes of the Tiananmen Square incident. "The youth in Asia are acting up, again!" I would exclaim while watching a news broadcast that moved quickly from a discussion of assisted suicide to a report on the student uprising in Beijing.

But the most telling and important point--a crossroads, if you will--came while I was writing a pro/con list about going on a mission. There, sandwiched between "companions with personality disorders" and "weight gain" on the con side was the phrase "Two words: Taiwan/Chinese." Of course that sealed my fate. When I wrote that down and then didn't go on a mission I was just asking to end up living in a skyscraper in Tianjin, staring out of my window at the smog and the masses of people on bikes, vomiting in a get the picture.

When I met Mike and learned that he studied Chinese and had special feelings in his heart about Chinese people, my first thought was "I should have gone on a mission." But then my second thought was "I look SO good in a Kimono," so it all worked out. But seriously, I had a good time there. And Bono even endorsed my journey when he wrote "see the world in green and blue, see China right in front of you" in "Beautiful Day" which became my anthem as I prepared myself to move to that place in Asia with those crazy youths.
PS: once I can borrow Kacy's scanner, I will put a few pics of myself in China up just to be annoying and slide-showy. No Kimonos, though.


  1. When I started reading this post I didn't even think of the Chinese sisters! Ah, youth.

    You know, about you sealing your fate for China, I think you may have something there. I remember when I was 14 and my family drove from DC to New York. On our way through New Jersey I had an impression of Jersey that was something like, "what a hole". I made it a point to say, multiple times, "feast your eyes everyone, this is the last time we'll ever be here (owing to its industrial foulness)". Well, you know that the joke was on me when years later I opened my mission call to New (Zealand? Hampshire? York? Foundland?) Jersey! But I loved it, after "Welcome to the Jungle" stopped playing in my head everytime I stepped out my front door.

    Poor Mike's food poisoned girlfriend. Lucky you!

  2. Ni xiede bucuo. Hen hao xiao! Women shenmeshihou dao zhongguo qu?


    I hope you will also use my scanner to post your going on a mission pro/con list in its entirety because it is very, very insightful, nay--inspired.

  4. It seems that God plays the same cruel jokes on you that he does on me...where ever I decide is the worst place, there I will go...who ever I decide is the most gross, he will ask me on a's called Murphy's Law, and he must be part of the lost scriptures or something. I love your fascination slash confusion with all things Asian. And I wish that Taiwan was still called Formosa.

  5. When I was ten and eating in a Chinese restaurant, I started singing "Me Chinese, Me Play Joke, Me Put PeePee in your Coke" only to be shushed by my horrified stepmother.

    I believe I am the one who pointed out that Bono was saying China in "Beautiful Day" to you because I thought you would be excited to be going there when I heard him sing that line.

  6. Marcy,
    I should have credited you for the U2 lyric. As I recall, I thought he said "see it shining right in front of you" rather than "see China right in front of you" and you had to convince me otherwise. I also had a Chinese restaurant moment of embarrassment when I said "Have you ever read 'A Brown Spot on the Wall' by Hoo Flung Pu?"
    PS I am Carly