Do you have your partner yet?

Chinese New Year has just been gone and it didn’t only bring holiday stress about the traveling, the money you have to give (the notorious ‘hongbao’) or the food that needs to be prepared. But, for many Chinese, it also brought the stress of having to have a boyfriend or girlfriend and if they have that, to get married and even then, to have a baby as soon as possible.

I am so happy to be a Western woman. Yes, my parents also wanted me to settle down with a man and have my 2.5 children in a house with a white fence, but if I said “no” they wouldn’t keep on pushing. They would know that it would not help anyway.

I got married to my Chinese husband quite quickly, but that was because we felt we were meant for each other as we share the same interests and view of life. I was also already 35 years old (and yes, my first marriage, so I think my parents partied many days when they heard I finally got married). For me, it was not important. I got a few relationships before and just living together was enough.

My Chinese husband got married when he was 28 years old and they had a baby soon after that all because of the pressure his parents were putting on him. No need to tell you that they also got divorced quite quickly after that. He told me that he didn’t love her, but he needed to do it as his parents were just putting too much pressure on him. If I would hear that, I would leave him too. Marriage supposed to be special and you should do it because you love and respect each other and want to show that to all the people you care.

It seems not here in China, because unfortunately, my husband’s parents hadn’t learned from the mistake they did with him. They were doing the same to his younger sister.
Already for a couple of years, her parents were anxious as she was getting closer and closer to 30 years old and still didn’t have anyone serious. They were organizing blind dates and were pushing her into a man’s arms. Last year, the year she turned 30, she finally met someone and she got married after only 2 months. Probably because of the pressure. My husband didn’t like it as he wants to prevent her from having the same troubles as he had. All we can hope for is that they truly love each other.

At the wedding, we were telling them that we can all travel to Europe together this year, but all of a sudden the mother was listening to that and she said that the daughter won’t be able to travel when she is pregnant. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. She finally got her parents’ wish: got married before she was considered ‘too old’ and now she has to produce a baby as soon as possible! In what a society are Chinese living? I pity them more and more. They don’t seem to have any freedom. Parents are behaving like monsters to their children. Is this the parental love that most Chinese are so proud to say that it is a cornerstone of their culture? Parental love should be unconditional, which means: you love your children no matter what they are doing.

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When even basic needs are not met

I still remember those early days when I just moved to China. I lived in Yangshuo, a touristy little town in Guangxi province. There was luckily a decent expat community, so I still had Western conversations and didn’t have to speak Chinese.

But, soon I started to see that to be totally immersed in China was quite difficult. There were no Western products and I was surprised when I went from supermarket to local grocery shop to beauty shop to finally understand that Chinese don’t use deodorant. I was quite shocked as in the West, men and women use deodorant from when they are a teenager. I couldn’t understand and didn’t believe it at first.

Another most awkward and frustrating moment was to realize that Chinese women don’t use tampons. No way that I would go back to grandma’s sanitary pads!

So, I remember that I emailed my mother in exasperation to quickly send me deodorant and tampons (and while sending those anyway, some Belgian chocolate to comfort me. For us Belgians this is as much a basic need as these other two).

Flash forward 9 years later and married to a Chinese for almost 3 years now. He doesn’t understand the deodorant thing and another Western thing: shaving armpits and legs.

Last week, was the first time my husband ever used deodorant as he sees me doing it every day and doesn’t understand why. So, he finally had the courage to try it himself.

The other thing we even had some big discussions about was why I had to shave my armpits and legs. I told him that I feel like a man if I don’t and I want to feel like a woman. I don’t care that much about clothes or shoes, but there is no way I am going to let my hair grow in these places.

In the beginning of our relationship, we went trekking for at least 6 days by tent. We couldn’t shower during those 6 days and I felt an immense relief when I could finally shower, but the best part was, to be able to remove the hair from my legs. I felt civilized and clean again.

It’s interesting to see the differences in cultures and it doesn’t have to be the big things. It’s those little everyday things that make it interesting. I would never stop to think about using deodorant or shaving legs in the West and nobody would mention it as it is such a normal thing to do. But in China you see that it is not so common and that other people see it as something weird to do.

I can’t wait to take my husband back to Europe and see what he thinks of it. Now, he just went for 2 weeks on holiday, but that is not the same as living there and starting to miss those everyday little habits that you do! Although, I already got him hooked on drinking a cup of coffee every morning. He is slowly getting there.

Memories…

So many memories of my time in China. It’s been nine years since I moved here and the adventures that I have had so far I couldn’t have imagined in a million years.

Here are 2 videos of that time:
This one was by a National TV crew and broadcast on Chinese National TV in 2014

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDVvoy5jB0o&lc=z22dizpqduirivppx04t1aokggd50vglml2prqlwivwerk0h00410

And this one my husband made about our honeymoon:

Tai Chi teacher in China

I came to China in 2008 to study Kung Fu. I was practicing Kung Fu in Belgium and came to China for the first time in 2007 to travel through the country of this beautiful martial art! I visited tourist places, like Yangshuo, Xi’an and Beijing and also went to Shaolin to see some real Shaolin Kung Fu. When I was in Yangshuo, I met a Kung Fu teacher who had a beautiful family style, BuDiZhen, a mix of Shaolin and Wudang Kung Fu.

 

I decided to live in Yangshuo for 1 year, study Kung Fu and then I thought of moving back to Belgium. Little did I know back then that my life would never be the same again…
IMG_2391

 

I stayed in Yangshuo and learned from my Kung Fu teacher for 2 years. I had some money saved, so I was an English teacher just part-time and I focused on learning a lot of Kung Fu.

But, after 2 years, I started to hear more about Tai Chi and how it helps you to cultivate your internal energy. I was intrigued by it and finally found a good teacher to teach me Chen Tai Chi.

From 2010, I started to practice Tai Chi. I loved the slow graceful movements, but also the martial aspect of it. Every movement represents a self-defense technique and it is actually hard work. I practiced really hard and went to a couple of competitions: in 2013, I went to Henan, Jiaozuo, the birthplace of Tai Chi to participate in an International competition and I got a gold medal and silver medal. The year after, I went to the World Championship, but didn’t get a medal there.

 

In 2015, I moved to Shenzhen and I started to teach Tai Chi to expats that I met here. I never thought I could be a Tai Chi teacher in China and I didn’t profile myself like that at first. Some people wanted to know a bit more about Tai Chi and because I could speak English, they asked me to teach them. Little by little, I started to be known as the ‘Tai Chi master’ and more people were texting me to know my teaching schedule.

 

I am teaching almost every month now and am having more and more students. I am thinking of a whole project to teach Tai Chi as a whole lifestyle: the movements, the history and the philosophy.

 

When I tell Chinese people that I teach Tai Chi, the first reaction is almost always: but you are not old! Apparently, for Chinese people you have to be old to practice Tai Chi. I always answer: “it’s because I don’t want to become old that I practice.” Because Tai Chi helps to balance your body and mind, makes your body stronger, you will not become old that fast.

 

I find it a shame that Chinese people don’t want to practice Tai Chi anymore. The new generation is not putting much value on it. I heard that in my country it is becoming very popular. The West is discovering ancient Chinese philosophy: Chinese medicine, Chinese arts and Chinese martial arts are all becoming very popular. But, in China they are becoming less and less popular. Do we, Westerners, in the future will have to teach the Chinese about their traditional culture?

 

photo shoot

A couple of weeks ago, my husband and I did a photo shoot for his sponsor Camel in their headquarters in Guangzhou.

I thought that it would be mainly my husband that they would take photos of, because after all, it is him that they sponsor, not me. But, as it turned out, I had to be in the pictures as well and it was all more professional than I thought. I thought we would just dress in some of their clothes, they would take a few photos and that was it.
Not according to them…

It took a whole day: from 9.30am till 6pm. They had a stylist who was doing our makeup and hair, we had to change into different clothes a lot and we had to put on some gear (e.g. climbing gear, backpack,…). I felt uncomfortable a couple of times. Like the time when the guy was doing my makeup and he said that I really didn’t put a lot of makeup on myself. He was surprised to see how little makeup I applied myself. I applied mascara and eye-shadow, which was already more than I did before and no, I don’t apply any foundation or BB cream now as the temperatures are still over 30 degrees and it would run down my face in 5min anyway.

While he was doing my makeup, some real models showed up: they would do the normal clothes line. I felt very conscious of myself. They were tall, slim and beautiful!! And most of all: they knew what they were doing. They did their thing and after just 1 hour they finished. As with us, they had to tell us over and over again where to look, what pose, do it more natural, not too natural, smile, don’t smile, look up, look down. It was exhausting! I know now that I am not a model and don’t even want to be one.

Another embarrassing moment was when 1 of the trousers were a bit too tight. The girl who dressed me (yes, I had my personal assistant who took me to the dressing room and helped me dress), said that they might be a bit too tight. Me, not wanting to admit that I do have big thighs, said it was fine. But, I had to wear them a couple of times and yes, I was very conscious on how tight they were. Time to go on a diet, I guess (although till this moment, I still haven’t started on this diet just yet, I will soon)!

All in all it was a nice experience and it might have been the only photo shoot I will ever do, so it was good to see that a model’s life can be quite hard and that it’s not so good for your self-confidence at times!

Long time not online

Hello everyone,

It’s been a while since I have posted another blog.

A lot has happened these couple of months! Beginning of July we went on honeymoon for more than 6 weeks. I succeeded to:

  • summit my first mountain of 5300m (well, actually, my first mountain ever! I had never been close to a mountain before);
  • we did a trekking of 5 days in between mountains (where we had to climb over a few mountain passes, some as high as 4800m, my feet were covered in blisters and I was just glad I was still kind of able to walk till the finish line);
  • we climbed a second mountain: I went till 5000m and stayed at the campsite, while Eric went with our guide to the summit of 5588m. Although, Eric climbed already several mountains, some of them much higher than this one, he told me that it was the most difficult and dangerous one he ever did;
  • then, we did a last trekking of normally 5 days, but we ended up doing in 6. Our last day, we would go on a hiking without our guide in nature. It would normally take 3 hours, we did it in 2 full days: we got lost, had to sleep on top of a mountain on a small ridge and the next morning we had to leave all our stuff behind as it was too dangerous to take with us. We managed to finally arrive at the touristic side of the region and were just in time to take the last bus back (otherwise we would have to walk another 40km to get out of the spot).

And… finally we had our Chinese (very traditional, but a lot of fun too) wedding party. All this, I will describe in more detail these next few blogs…

I will start with our wedding party first, as this is still the freshest in my mind and the most wonderful, happy, mystical experience my husband could give me!!!

The start of my life with my traditional man

IMG_20150603_185728On 5 June, I got married to my Chinese boyfriend. We were then together for 3 months and it felt the right thing. It went really fast, because we were just trying to get the right papers. Actually, it went a bit like this:

One evening I wanted to talk to him about our future. I wanted to have the serious talk, that was somewhere in May. He then said that right on that same day, he went to the Chinese government to see what we have to do to get married. I replied kinda like: “Oh, so, we are going to marry?” And he said: “Yeah, Why not? It’s going to be easy, we don’t need many documents.”
That was the world’s least romantic proposal, I guess. A couple of weeks later he told me that he had to confess a secret. When he was in Nepal, he bought a ruby for me and a sapphire for him and he wanted to take them to the summit of Mt. Everest. Back to base camp, I would be waiting for him there and he would propose to me then. That was really romantic, but, because of the earthquake, he lost the stones and he was really down because of it.
Next year, April 2016, he will climb again and I will wait for him in base camp and he wants to do the proposal right then, but he said that we can already get married now and get the rings next year. That was the most romantic thing I ever heard and that is why I love him: he is very pragmatic, but then all of a sudden he surprises me with some deep heartfelt emotions.

So, after our serious talk in May, I set to work to get the right document from the Belgian government. After a couple of weeks, I could get the document in the consulate in Guangzhou, as it had to be translated there in Chinese. At the consulate they told me that this was not enough. I needed many more documents. On our way back to Shenzhen, we were a bit down, especially me, because I hate this bureaucratic going-around (as many people I am sure) and I was not looking forward at sending emails to different Belgian government departments to get the right papers. Back in Shenzhen, we went to the marriage registration bureau to ask which papers we really needed. And… you won’t believe it, after half an hour we stood outside: Married! We didn’t need the other papers, there were no witnesses (in Belgium you need at least 2 witnesses to co-sign the marriage) and no rings. I was a bit in a daze, didn’t fully understand what just happened, but also very happy that we were husband and wife without much bureaucratic hassle.

In the evening, Eric, my husband (still feels weird to call him that) told me that it was not romantic so far, but he wanted to get the unromantic part out of the way and then we could fully focus on the romantic part: our wedding party and honeymoon.

Eric is from Sichuan and we will have our honeymoon there first: a few weeks traveling by car through the province, do several trekkings in the mountains and then on August 22 we will have our wedding party in Sichuan. Next weekend, 4 July we will finally start our honeymoon. I am so looking forward to it, because the bureaucratic mill is still going on. I need a new visa, but because my passport is only valid for another year, it would be better to just renew my work visa, which need, again, many papers and we were waiting for a few weeks again to see if we could go on a holiday. We will go, even though, my passport will still be in process of the new visa and will be at the PSB, but I guess with a copy of my passport and if we don’t take any flights it will be ok.

mmexport1435303096705Then, we started to look at wedding clothes,…. Aahhhh, I didn’t know! Many Chinese marry Western style now, in a white dress, but I told him that I don’t mind to marry in a Chinese wedding dress, which I thought was red, but still elegant. When he showed me the picture of what he had in mind, my eyes almost fell out of my head and I exclaimed: “No way! You don’t get me in THAT!” (see picture) So, we compromised. We will wear that for some of our wedding pictures and I will marry in a mild, elegant version of the traditional dress.

I can see that our life will be interesting and colourful, because of all the differences. As long as we can talk about it and have a laugh, it will be ok.

I am looking forward to the rest of our life together! It is going to be a great adventure!