Editor's Note: The following article is part of an ongoing series of essays featuring the perspectives of foreigners and expats living in China and abroad. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the staff and management of Zhengzhou Connections.
I love New Yorkers - the saying, "There is the United States of America and then there is New York City," is true. It’s not that they are a bunch of arrogant you-know-what’s – it’s just their culture, it’s in their DNA to tell it like it is.
Last week I made an extended visit to Hong Kong, to get a 30 day tourist visa, and in three days I attended seven AA (Alcoholics Anonymous) meetings. Beijing visits are my only chance to go to AA meetings, so in my three Hong Kong days I got a whole year's worth.
After I had given my usual lengthy, meandering woe-is-me story about the relationship challenges of widowhood and my struggles to find the ideal love, marriage & life partner, under the title "I want my mommy," One of my three New York City AA brothers immediately upstaged my ‘sharing,’ with the NYC direct translation,"Men want a mommy with sex privileges."
I first visited HK in 1970, aboard the USS Okinawa, which would have become famous if not for the fact that her sister ship, the USS Iwo Jima, rescued Tom Hanks and the Apollo 13 crew on April 17, 1970. My ten day stay in Hong Kong harbor came at the end of my US Marine Corps sponsored Vietnam tour, which included five months ashore in the Philippines, two months of camping on the side of Mt. Fuji and another harbor visit to Kaosheng, Taiwan.
Fighting the Vietnam War from Hong Kong convinced me that the expatriate lifestyle was the way of my future and I should practice my ‘architecting’ overseas rather than in the boring ‘ole USA. A decade later, in '81, my interior designer wife and I stopped off in HK on our way back from the zenith, the apogee, of my architectural career – designing Singapore Airlines’ computer center at Changi airport.
At the time, I thought there
might be many more expatriate opportunities to gad-about the orient, for several reasons. 1:
three years of living beyond our means, in Sao Paulo, Brazil, had convinced me to return to my mommy’s religion; no drinking, no
smoking. Even my father decided to get on the bandwagon and join the church. 2: I got an EMBA in ’82, so prosperity and the yuppie lifestyle was just
around the other side of a fully restored
But, No! As they say in NYC AA, or AA anywhere, "doing
geography” like most alcoholic behaviors, eventually catches up with you. I had traded a leveraged trip down the Amazon for an attempt to navigate the Nile without a paddle. My Amex Gold card went through mummification, paying for a root canal by the US State Department approved dentist in Cairo. In her book, Heal Your Body A-Z, Louise Hay, the Kongzi (Confucius) of metaphysics, who incidentally learned her stuff in New York City, labeled my tooth problem as "root beliefs being destroyed.
On July 4th, ’93, at the Houston Post Oak AA club, and the nadir of my mid-life transition, (all mommies and daddies experience this phenomena, between the ages of 45 and 55) I got religion again, and a new mommy, a CPA Systems Analyst and a nine year veteran of AA. Now, I was confident that I was on the right path, and my mantra was the tenth AA promise, "Fear of people and of economic insecurity will leave us.”
Astrologically speaking, I was also on the right track, because my new mommy was a 'Jack of Diamonds' and as the 'Jack of Clubs,' I was her karmic slave. I was, my mommy’s, good boy. I was living the New Yorker’s dream, I had "a mommy with sex privileges.”
Then, one late night the sheriff came out to our farm and told me that my mommy had been killed in a truck-trailer accident, on I-80, in western Pennsylvania. She had been on her way to New York to buy an emergency generator, so we could milk all the goats all the time, even in a hurricane.
God as I understood him, or her, abhors a vacuum, especially when it comes to money and carbohydrates. After selling the farm and giving the goats, cows, chickens, ducks, rabbits, dogs and cat to a good home, I was financially independent for all of sixty days. Then, I had another religious experience: 'vegetarianism,' (not Vegan-vegetarianism, just vegetarianism), and of course, I got a new mommy, in Eugene, Oregon.
Once again, I was certain that I had returned to 'the way,' after all, my new mommy and I had met each other 45 years before, on Spring break in Florida. And she had been led to Google me, six months after my mommy died. It was fate, it was destiny, I was sure that this was the ultimate Zodiacal relationship. Why, it even said right there on page 56, of Robert Camp's Love Cards, "when the Jack of Clubs meets a Four of Diamonds, he has met the woman of his dreams."
However, after 13 months of spending $120,000 and losing sixty pounds, eating vegetables, Miss Eugene, said I wasn’t her idea of daddy. Rebuffed, I consulted the 'Oracle from Frisco' Craig's List, and received the divination: "teach ESL in China." A month later, I was on my way to Zhengzhou Henan, China, to pursue my true karmic path:
"September Thirteenth - The Day of Passionate Care:” After separation, divorce or death of a mate, September 13 people may carry on the work shared with their original partner. September 13 people have intense physical drives and a great biological need to share their life with an understanding mate or partner who is capable of completely accepting them, along with all their foibles.
The Way of Resolve: The life purpose of the individuals on the Way of Resolve is to learn how to face any challenge or problem without backing down. However, they tend to lack resolve and prefer to take the path of least resistance. Those on this path often pay too much attention to what others think, preventing them from cultivating their own beliefs. Without a more fully developed value system, they may lack a sense of self. CORE LESSON: Standing up for what they believe in or for those they love.
Last year when I turned 67 the Chinese government said they didn’t want to be my mommy any more, and I should go back home. I didn’t want to confuse them with the old Cortez, "burned my boats” idiomatic expression, so I have, quietly and expensively, been going to Hong Kong every ninety days, to re-enter China as a perpetual tourist. This is not a unique expatriate solution; my Houston farmers’ market friend, who lost his spouse a year after me, heads for the border every three months to maintain his residential status in Costa Rica.
I was feeling quite proud of myself for going almost a whole year of living dangerously, in a foreign, non-English speaking country, without an employer and the accompanying free housing, free utilities, and almost free alien documentation. Then, on the third day in Hong Kong, after the three New Yorkers and the Kiwi had pointed out that I was certainly no emperor and no longer had a mommy of any kind, I got really, really nervous.
What if, the Chinese embassy doesn’t renew my visa? Where am I going to live? How am I going to afford to stay even one more day in HK? My sister might love me but I don’t think she really wants to be my mommy and I’m sure my brother-in-law doesn’t want to be my daddy.
I wonder what those New Yorkers and their Kiwi brother would say. I’m afraid to ask.