Sunday, April 19, 2009

Putting Down Roots

Tina and I bought a home last week. It's actually a half-finished concrete shell in a half-finished high-rise, but it's got a view of the sea, it's a little bit outside of Xiamen proper so the air is cleaner, and best of all, it was less than half of the price for homes inside Xiamen island. We've put down our 20% down payment and we're going to be on a 10 year mortgage plan, and with my new resolution to start paying off my student loan debt, this means that I'll have to cool it on the tattoos for awhile :-).

Tina was relieved and excited that we actually purchased a home, although it will probably be another year before we can move into it. Her family was pleased too, because it is a demonstration of my commitment to her and our marriage (I guess a diamond ring isn't enough for some folks :-P). Most of the down payment money was hers though, so my display of commitment wasn't so much a monetary gesture as it was a symbolic contract to make a home and build a life with their daughter. And since I'm the breadwinner of the family, my monetary gesture of commitment will be to feed the forthcoming mortgage monster :-). And honestly, I'm pumped. I've always had an enthusiasm for interior design (go ahead, laugh sucka) and having a place that we can shape together however we want is exciting.

But of course the biggest consequence of this purchase is a decision to put my roots down in China. Most people assume that a foreigner doing his thing in China will eventually go back to his hometown, and if he happens to get married in China, he will inevitably whisk his beaming bride to the Land of Opportunity. This was never my intention, and I'm glad that I have an anchor here (besides Tina). Of course, making a home in China can have its challenges. For example, the banks were hesitant to give Tina and I a loan because she's married to a foreigner, and the banks assume (with some justification) that Chinese people who marry foreigners are likely to leave China for their spouse's country and leave the bank holding the bag on the loan. And there is also distance from one's family. My father has been battling terminal cancer for the last 5 years, and although his spirits are high and his faith keeps him strong, I still feel bad being on the other side of the world while he and my family struggle. But they are supportive of me and my life here in China, and my folks are a little bit Sino-philic (my dad even speaks a bit of Mandarin), and they're ecstatic to have a Chinese daughter-in-law, so it makes the distance easier to digest.

So the verdict is that China is going to have to deal with this skinny tattooed laowai for a long time to come, but we're friends so it's cool. One great thing about our new home's suburban location is the lack of foreigners. I think I could really monopolize the market on English and Tina would like to establish some sort of Latin dance studio. Oh the possibilities....

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