It all started on a lark. Not something you want to say that led to a life changing decision. In June 2013 (correction was 2014) I boarded a Korean Air flight from San Francisco to Beijing. There, at the Beijing Capitol Airport I met for the first time in person, Dana. My wife to be. Dana. She was standing there smiling and waving. A little shy. Stunningly beautiful.
As soon as we started walking she frantically told me the story of her missing her train and having to catch a plane out of Wuhan at the last minute. She was scared to death that she may have missed me. I was last off the airplane and through baggage and was thinking almost the same thing.
We spent 2 days in Beijing. I had to get a single status document from the US Embassy. We stayed at a hotel in the central part of Beijing. This was my first visit to China. I learned quickly that with Dana being my guide we ate and slept in China. What that means is that the restaurants and hotels we stay in you rarely see a foreigner. One morning we ate donkey soup. Not bad.
Our first day we went to the embassy and were turned away on the account I didn’t have an appointment. We had a train ticket leaving for Wuhan the following night, time was an issue. We found an internet cafe not far from the embassy. The embassy gave me instructions on how to make an appointment online so, we popped online and made an appointment for the next day at 10am. Easy peesey. We spent the rest of the day going to art museums in Beijing. I got to see an exhibit by one of China’s most famous artists, Wai Wai.
The next day we made our appointment at the embassy. I was able to obtain my documents and off we went. We spent the day sight seeing around Beijing. We went to Tiananmen Square, The Forbidden Palace, some the Olympic venues, and other sights of Beijing. I loved being guided around by Dana. She was beautiful, composed, and was able to communicate with the locals to get us anywhere we needed to go.
China is awesome and the real adventure is just getting around. I’ve traveled by all modes of transportation in China over the years visiting there. But, 90% of the methods I experienced on that first trip to Beijing and Wuhan. We rode bicycle rickshaws, taxis, subways, ferries, domestic flights, a sleeping train and my personal favorite⚊ high speed trains. One train we rode from the Shanghai airport to downtown Shanghai was a maglev train. The train was suspended by magnetic levitation. Smoothest ride I’ve ever had at 193kph or 120mph.
We took an overnight train to Wuhan 2 days after I arrived in Beijing. The car we slept in had 4 bunks. Dana and I slept on the bottom 2 and 2 strangers slept in the top bunks. I slept like a baby because I was exhausted from all the running around we did in Beijing the prior 2 days. Dana said she didn’t sleep well because some Chines soldiers were in the next compartment and they talked all night long. We left around 10pm from Beijing and arrived in Wuhan sometime around 7am. I woke up around 5am and had a couple of hours to watch the China countryside pass us by.
Wuhan is a big city and just getting bigger. There were sky cranes everywhere. When we arrived we ate at the train station and caught a taxi to Dana’s home. She lived with Feiya and her parents on the top floor of a 30 story high rise. You had to drive down a small alley to get to it from the main street. There was one elevator that served the whole building. When it breaks you use the stairs.
Dana’s apartment was cool. It had 2 bedrooms and 1 bath. The living room was spacious and the view was to die for. Her parents prepared a large meal for us. I met Feiya for the first time. I gave her a stuffed cookie monster and a stuffed Elmo. She had a lukewarm reception to the red and blue monsters I brought from America. The next day at Starbuck’s she asked me if she could call me Daddy. I didn’t hesitate and said “of course you can!”
While staying in Wuhan, Dana and I stayed at a very nice hotel not far from her apartment. It was a 1 bedroom suite and overlooked one of Wuhan’s landmarks (I can’t remember what it was). I spent my morning drinking oolong tea watching Wuhan come alive from the balcony. I don’t think I could ever tire of watching a city in China from a balcony above.
The day after we arrived in Wuhan Dana and I were married. I’d been in China for 4 days and married a single mom which of whom I met for the first time 4 days ago. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Dana and I corresponded online for almost 2 years leading up to this. When I moved to California I was talking to Dana via Skype twice a day. We were pretty familiar with each others lives.
Getting married was nothing more than visiting several government offices, presenting our paperwork we received from the previous office, and signing more documents. Our last stop, the office was closed for lunch and wouldn’t be back until 3pm. It was noon. All of us, Dana, her parents, Feiya, and myself sat for 3 hours in a restaurant.
The following day we went to a wedding photo studio and had the wedding photos that you see in the gallery below. The studio was actually a large storefront with several floors with countless staged rooms within the floors. You could sit in a ballroom, a library, cafe, or any of the many other options they offered you.
When you first arrive at the studio you are put in a waiting room with 4-5 other couples. Of course, I was the only gringo. Once the time comes for our appointment all of us are herded into the dressing rooms. Here we’re assigned a personal assistant who helps us pick out our costumes. This where the fun starts. They had a really hard time finding clothes that would fit me. Before the day was over all the assistants stood in a group and had their picture taken with me. Some even took individual selfies with me.
Dana had her hair and makeup done and off we went to the many galleries. We were assigned a photographer and Dana had to interpret his instructions to me. It was a weird experience, but an experience I’ll never forget. The photos speak for themselves.
That night we had a big celebration at the hotel Dana and I were staying at. Dana’s family rented a banquet room and had the hotel cater the soiree. There was tons of food and wine and alcohol. 50 people must have been there from the families of both Dana’s mom and dad. One of the dishes was made of fish from the Yangtze River which ran through Wuhan. I just took a bite or 2 of it, remembering seeing that river earlier in the day. Yikes!
I spent a few more days in Wuhan before heading back to Beijing and then home. Talk about a whirlwind trip. I wouldn’t change it for anything. It’s a memory I treasure. It was an adventure, roller coaster, mystery, and thriller all rolled into one crazy trip. Flying home I felt empty inside. I felt lost and really wasn’t looking forward to returning to my life in San Mateo.
There was another family sitting next to me on the flight home. It was a Caucasian American who married a woman from Vietnam and their 2 kids, aged 1 and 3. The 3 year old slept in the seat next to me and occasional kicked me throughout the flight. No worries, I never sleep on airplanes and little kick in the thigh now and then kept me alert. He told me that they lived in Santa Cruz and were coming back from Vietnam where her parents met their grandchildren for the 1st time. I really wanted to that to be Dana, Feiya, and myself. Well, here are 7 years later and that wish has come true many times over.
Here we are 7 years later living in Las Vegas. The three of us are flourishing in a desert. Sure, the coronavirus pandemic is still in full swing as I write this, but I’m pretty optimistic about the future. I am, as always, very grateful that I took that leap of fate 7 years ago and married the love of my life and took her daughter as my own. No matter what happens in the uncertain future, I will have the best 2 things to ever come out of Wuhan, Dan and Feiya.