Monday, July 7, 2008

A Date? Or Two?

When you only have two months, you gotta act fast. Friday after class I met a girl, Sun Wei, on the bus. After my Chinese Mom was worried that she was a prostitute, I bluntly asked her, "Are you a bad person?" She didn't appreciate my thoroughness and we had our first fight--by text message, because with background noise, reception problems, and my bad Chinese, I couldn't understand anything she said by phone.

We were back in the green by Saturday, though (and Mom said that after considering, she mostly just wanted to make sure anyone I met on the bus wouldn't be escorted into the house, which was fine with me). I decided that since it was the weekend, I should make a move and invite her to come do karaoke with the people from our program. Miraculously, I communicated where to meet, we met, and arrived at the apartment where we were all hanging out before going karaoke-ing. All my friends thought she was a cool girl, and we spent several minutes lovingly brainstorming an English name for her: Suzie. My closest friend, Emma, speaks hardly any Chinese, but really wanted things to succeed for us, so she spoke some horrific Chinese and I translated between them a bit.

It must have been boring for Suzie, since she doesn't speak any English, and most people in our program speak worse Chinese than I do. She pulled me aside once and said she felt--something, I didn't fully understand the word--and that she wanted me to try to include her more. She ended up having to leave before we actually left for karaoke, but that worked out well because we only sang songs in English. So the time went pretty well.

The question mark in the title of this post, though, reflects that I don't really know what this time meant. I'm hardly capable of a relationship in America, let alone in a culture I have little experience with. I don't know what her expectations were, and I don't have the language skills to ask very well. We were definitely together at the party, but we were with lots of people, and that was the lowest level of interaction we could have but still see each other.

Whatever Suzie thought, I had a pretty good time, and was glad that other people who haven't been deprived of Western beauty for several months still thought she was pretty.

This is all further complicated by what I admit have been mixed messages from me. I get her number, then question her integrity, then ask her to come to a party--then I freaked out afterward and said that since I thought she probably wasn't a Christian, I just wanted us to be friends. Then she replied with something that seemed like she was a Christian? I kept asking questions to figure out what she meant, and finally she asked why I was so inquisitive about that. "Well," I said. "I don't want to have a girlfriend who's not a Christian."

I sent this message off without much thought, and then realized that looked at a certain way, it might imply that we already were going out. She didn't answer for several minutes, while I thought about how I was flirting with a culture in which relationships are so unspoken that just asking a girl if she has a boyfriend can be considered asking her out. Suzie finally replied: "You're only here for two months, right?"

So then it seemed like I was the impetuous one and she was the reasonable one, but I quickly texted back (using a recently learned vocab word), "I think I spoke too candidly... sorry." She laughed it off, text-message style, and we said goodnight.

This afternoon she didn't have work so we went to an arcade and had a lot of fun. As we were leaving, she told me that I'm way more reserved than Americans she's heard of. In fact, I'm worse than Chinese people at looking like I'm having a good time. I tried to tell her that I'm not good at smiling, but I don't know if she believed me.

I feel like this is all kind of insignificant relationship stuff to be talking about, but maybe the fact that it's with someone I can barely communicate with makes it more interesting?


katiepenguins said...

It certainly is interesting, though I think that "Are you a bad person?" might not have been the best way to start a relationship.

April said...

When you were talking about not wanting to have a girlfriend who isn't a Christian, all I could think about was a previous post in which you accidentally were saying "civilized" instead.
"You're probably not civilized, and I don't want a girlfriend who isn't civilized."

I hope you figured out the right word. =P