Five hours to a lifetime
Updated: 2014-08-14 16:59
By Randy Wright(Shanghai Star)
Randy found the girl of his dreams, and Shijun followed her heart. Photo provided to Shanghai Star
Why would a woman make a five-hour journey by bus, train and subway from Tianjin to Beijing's Chaoyang district to have dinner with a virtual stranger, a 59-year-old American man she had met only recently on an Internet dating site and talked to only a few times on Skype?
That's the question I asked her - the woman who is now my wife.
I came to China from the United States in October to work at China Daily because I wanted to be a part of presenting this extraordinary country to the world, and I thought coming to Asia for the first time would be an exciting new experience after 35 years as a journalist at big US newspapers.
Besides, I always wanted to learn to speak Chinese.
If I had known I'd be getting married, I would have brought along my tuxedo.
Of course, I love my work. I love riding my bicycle around Beijing. I love interacting with the warm and generous people here. And the food is amazing - although hot water to drink and fish-head soup remain novelties for a Westerner.
Lucky for me, my soulmate, Wang Shijun, 49, loves to cook, and when she does her magic in the kitchen, the result is invariably both delicious and eye-catching, much better than when I cook for her.
She proves the old saying that the road to a man's heart passes through his stomach.
My heart, however, was lost long before she fed me. I fell in love, without a doubt, on her second visit to Beijing.
Her grace, gentleness and good humor were irresistible. I remember the moment in my living room when the thought first entered my mind: "I think I want to marry this woman." When she kissed me goodbye at the railway station before returning to Tianjin, there was no doubt.
Our first dates included walks in local parks, a Chinese acrobatics show at the Chaoyang Theater, dinner at TGI Friday’s, a visit to the Bird's Nest stadium on a freezing winter day, and standing on a stone, the Heart of Heaven, at a temple where emperors once prayed for good harvests.
The ancient architecture makes generous use of the number nine and its multiples, which I've since learned is auspicious in Chinese tradition. And so it was fitting to have a nine-layer cake at our wedding ceremony to symbolize an auspicious start on our new life together.
Our ceremony took place in an unusual setting - at the office, with the participation of China Daily executives and about 250 colleagues.