I Am One Of Those South-East Asian Wives And This Is My Story
It was March 2003 when I turned my back quickly as I waved my parents goodbye. I tried to hide my tears, mama tried her hardest to stay calm but her lips were shaking, papa swallowed many times and his eyes were red, it was painful to watch. My younger
brother had to go to school so he was not part of the entourage and it was for the best, for I would fall apart on the spot if I saw him crying.
That was the scene when I left my home country to marry my Adam, he is my soul mate for this life and later in the afterlife.
I came from SEA, but NOT from Thailand or Philippines or Vietnam (that leaves 8 countries to pick from). The culture there was probably different than Thailand, prostitution is illegal and punishable although we actually have a red light district. The society may look patriarchal but actually we have been following a bilateral kinship system since the dawn of time. Women went to war side by side with men, father is the head of the family but mother is the neck, sons and daughters receive the same level of education, female workers have the same chance of promotion as men.
I did not remember clearly the first half of the flight before my transit in Taiwan. I was busy crying or too distraught. Funnily enough I vaguely remember offering a pack of peanuts to an old lady who sat beside me.
On the contrary to what some people like to believe, not all girls from third world countries dream about moving and living in the West. Some of my friends have openly expressed a desire to work and stay for a few years in the west, many more just want to have a taste of western education (lately more students prefer Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan instead). None of the people I know want to permanently move to the west.
I met Adam purely by chance. There was something that instantly attracted me to him. He was a very clever and patient man. I was 19 years old and in the second year of university. I was young and wanted to change the world, ambitious and naïve. I followed several Green Peace demonstrations and campaigns, joining an anti drugs organization, spreading awareness about human trafficking, campaigning for more tolerance for HIV survivors. I even freaked my parents out when I told them about my desire to join international Red Cross and donating all of my usable organs in the same sentence. I told Adam about all of those things and far from laughing at me, he patiently tried to make me understand that it is very hard for one person to change the world.
I did not drop out of university and end up as a bum dreaming about world peace and feeding starving children while starving myself because of his wise words. I still have my vision of a perfect world and I am involved in several organizations, but now I know that you just can’t help everyone, partially because some people do not want to be helped.
We were young but we knew for sure that we want to start a family, b. Both of us were not looking for a fling. I still laid all of my cards when he suggested that we should start a relationship though.
I have never been in a relationship before and I want this to be my first and last. I told him I do not want to have sex before marriage (I used to think that no western man is celibate before marriage – I was wrong). I told him that he is second after my parents because I have an obligation as a daughter first and girlfriend / fiancée / wife second (I owe my parents everything, they gave me life and even when I was dying of pneumonia they did not give up). The third was whatever happens, I want to keep my nationality.
He said yes, even smiling as if he knew that sooner or later I would break two of the rules myself. I am still carrying a foreign passport in his country, so you know which rules I broke myself.
Back to that horrible 6 hours of transit in Taiwan…
I tried to assure myself that everything is going to be fine, that everyday many men and women cross the continents to be with someone they love, leaving everything behind. I tried to think logically but it made me want to miss my connecting flight even more.
I really did have everything in my homeland – family, money, house, land, friends, lucrative job offering, gorgeous landscape and a secure future. I am going to move to a place where I might face racism and not for the first time (I visited his country with a tourist visa a few months before and had the misfortune to bump into two racists). I am going to move to a place where everything is so expensive that we may work forever just to pay the mortgage, going to move to a place where seafood is so rare and expensive and it will be hard for me because fish was almost like a staple food back home.
There is a bit of fear of being stigmatized too. Other interracial couples with wider age, social and financial gaps will have it harder than us. I am physically unattractive so people will know that it was my personality (hopefully) that bewitched Adam. For the first time I actually felt happy being ugly.
Against all logic to just ignore the boarding announcement, I dragged myself into the next flight, spending hours of the flight thinking about the biggest mistake I am going to make. All of the worries evaporated when I saw Adam. His eyes were red, he had eye bags, and he looked really tired. He had been driving for 12 hours, deciding to rent a car instead of taking a train because he wanted this journey to be private and special.
I took language and integration course while waiting for our wedding day. It was a humble party with less than 25 guests and it was great. Everyone helped. We baked our own wedding cake, we printed our own invitation cards, we paid only for dinner and renting a small hall for dancing and games. We did not go for a honeymoon, in fact in the morning Adam had to wake up early for his first day of internship.
I allowed Adam to have a girlfriend, fling, mistress or a one night stand although he did not take the offer. It is probably hard to understand, but polygamy is legal in my homeland and I grew up with friends who were born from the second, third or fourth wives. I can not explain the feeling, but the sight of Adam with another woman will not make me feel jealous. Women in my homeland can ask for a divorce any time they want to. They can even sue the husband if the second marriage breaks the law, still many women I know have the same mindset. He is my man, but I do not mind sharing. It horrified Adam a little that I was so casual about it, even a bit offended about the idea.
We lead a happy life, we have all the bills paid at the end of the month, our apartment is small but is located in a foreigner friendly place, his family and friends are very supportive, I passed the exam to study master degree and he found a job that he absolutely loves. We have a great sex life, so it was worth it to wait (we did have our first night a few weeks before our wedding day though), being celibate for long we were very curious about sex. We tried everything that was in the books and more, even going to swingers’ club a few times a year.
Life is good, except for one thing. No matter how many hundred hours I have spent for integration course or how much I embrace the culture and the community, it still feels off. I became depressed, but I tried to ignore it. I could not tell my parents or friends, I dropped Adam some hints but could not openly tell him about my discontent. I feel it is inappropriate to ask him to move to Asia and leave everything he has here behind, after all I know the feeling.
The dam broke three years ago when I decided to free myself from all this. Waking up from a failed suicide was probably the worst moment in my life. If anyone out there decided to end their life, make sure that it works, because if you failed it is going to be hell. I still can not write or tell exactly how we went through the weeks that followed. My action hurt many people, and trust has been replaced by constant worry. I changed shrink because the first one was so bad. His first question was why would I commit suicide. Aren’t I lucky to finally live in the West, leaving my third world country? Honest, that was his first question.
In the end none of the therapy worked. I did have a heart to heart talk with my papa. Let’s just say if I commit suicide again, somebody will follow.
Adam has never fully recovered from the experience. Just a few weeks ago he still woke up crying. We became closer than ever. We have this jar at home where I can write down whatever I feel and put the paper inside for Adam to read later. I found it easier than looking at him in the eyes while maintaining a coherent train of thoughts. We are saving a lot of money right now because we are planning to move to Asia. We will not live in my homeland, we will try to live in other Asian country instead, so it will be fair for both of us, I have to admit that I can hardly wait.
Gosh, that last bit hits you like a tonne of bricks!
Has Adam visited your homeland? Is he aware of the huge sacrifices you made to be with him? If he understands that he might have a better idea of the torment you have been through.
Here's hoping life for the two of you in Asia is a bed of roses and you're able to put the troubles behind you.