Archive for the ‘International’ Tag

Sunday In Qingdao, China   3 comments

Now some people may ask why come to this part of China.  I mean other than being kind of China’s epicenter for most things that have to do with the sea, what would bring me here is the question that many people have asked.  Well, I traveled to Qingdao for two reasons.  The first, as I have admitted many times I am curious.  I am the proverbial curious cat.  I love off the beaten track places.  Once I heard the name of the city, saw the photos and read the description I wanted to go there.   Now the other reason is a little more complicated.

I had met Blessing online; on one of those international dating websites that cater to people who want to date and mate across cultures.  She was pretty, smart, a business woman, the right age and spoke English.  I remember thinking, Blessing – was that an omen or what?  Since our meeting, we trailed each other almost every day for months; emails, photos, disclosures about life and sharing our philosophies about living.  We talked on SKYPE, live chatted on msn and I found myself wanting to know – could one really fall in love with someone you only knew through your computer?  Yikes!!!!

The possibility of meeting Blessing only provided comfort to a decision that had already been made.  I had wanted to go to China for years, but never had the time.  No, never took the time to go.  My sister had gone last year.  Her visit made me want to go more.  After talking to my sister, who went last year, about the visa application process, we both used Travel Document Systems (TDS), which turned out to be an excellent service, I took to leap.  You send your passport, the China visa application form (available on the Chinese Embassy website) and the fee to TDS and they take care of the rest.

I must admit I was surprised when the Chinese embassy not only approved my visa application, but also gave me unlimited visits for a 12 month period.  Usually they only give applicants for tourist visas one or two visits during a 90 or at most 180 day window.  It made me wonder whether about Blessing’s name as someone I was going to visit had anything to do with it.  Her now deceased father had been a party official.  It also made me a little nervous.

But, as the time approached for me to depart for China, our conversations became increasingly distant.  Just the opposite of what I thought, and certainly wanted to happen.  The excitement of meeting for the first time; thoughts of spending time together; and all of the problem solving avoidance that can go with romance across cultures had drifted into a gulf that I felt was growing between us.  Our conversations were consumed by her family problems.  She was turning her business over to the people who worked for her.  Her life was being turned upside down and health problems followed.  All of which became the focal point of our conversations.

As my train arrived in Qingdao, I had no idea of whether I would see Blessing.  I came with hopes – I am optimistic that way.  But I did not let myself count on it.  I am also realistic that way.  I, along with what seemed to be a football stadium full of people escaped the train to climb a long steady incline though the station to the mass of people waiting, vending, and hanging out in the sunlight on the other side of the station’s doors.  I had arrived and nobody knew it.

English is spoken by a few people in China, mostly in the cities.  And that includes written English.  I caught a break arriving in Qingdao as the one of the guys who saw the look of “I am really confused” on my face helped me negotiate a taxi to my hotel.  We wrestled to put my oversized bag in this gasoline smelling old three wheel vehicle driven by one of the nicest people who I met on my trip to China.  She spoke no English but went out of her way to make sure that I knew I was in good hands, even if I was sure that her care was very safe.

After three days of no response from Blessing to my emails or calls, I wrote the following email to her.

“It is obvious that I will not see you this trip. I do want to thank you for introducing me to Qingdao.  I have had the most amazing day of my trip to your wonderful country.  I am just very sad that you were not here to share it with me.

Sincerely

Wayne           

I had just walked the boardwalk, as I had done several times before about 5 kilometers, perhaps hoping that this would be the day I would see Blessing there.  Qingdao possesses one of the most social beaches that I have been on in a long time.  Qingdao is a family city.  And though the city itself is about 9 million people, the beach and boardwalk on Sundays is a comfortable place to walk, eat, play, exercise and people watch.   As on this day, like all of the other days I walked the board walk, I was the only person that I saw that looked like me.  Not another man with chocolate-brown skin in sight.  Most ignored this minor oddity.  Many smiled. A few wanted to take pictures with me.  And some stopped to chat.  I had grown comfortable in Qingdao pretty quickly.  And Qingdao had grown comfortable with me.

But this day was different.  Sundays are wedding days in China.  And in Qingdao, for those that have little money to pay for the expensive rituals weddings have become in China, they come to the beach to rent wedding gowns of any and all fashion, tuxes or suites that make the man look like he could afford his new bride and many bring their wedding friends to dress according to the tradition of having many bridesmaids and groomsmen at one’s wedding.  And they bring photographers to capture their special day in poses that ranged from the traditional to romantic to, WHAT are you sure you want to do that.

There must have been thirty or forty couples on the beach that day.  As I strolled I saw women hiking their dresses, revealing the jeans they wore underneath, to get that photo that would be their memory of being together in fun and in love for years to come.  I walked past many couples that day, thinking these are memories in the making.  Their smiles, some exchanging happiness glances with me, were contagious.

My blessing was a different experience that the one I had planned n Qingdao.  Given the opportunity, I would return to Qingdao.  I got a chance to hangout in a few dance clubs, drink coffee at the Starbucks in a downtown plaza, visit a wonderful aquarium full of kids and sea life I had never seen before and eat fresh caught squid grilled on the beach.  And on that beautiful Sunday as I walked alone, I kept catching glimpses of what is possible when one takes a step of faith into possibility.  As you can see from the photos below, it was a day full of romance.  It was a day full of hope.  It was a day full of love.  It was a day full of joy.  It was a day for forgiveness.

Six Tips for Successfully Using International Online Dating Sites: Part 2   Leave a comment

I have been asked, what are some of the online international sites that I have found to be the best? I did not want anyone to think that I was on the take.  But my marketing guru said it was Ok.  I am a fan of the Latin American and Colombia Cupid sites.  They provide access to photos and their members profiles prior to a person paying a dime.  Therefore you get a sense of what you are paying for before paying.  With their format you can express interest in people, getting a sense of whether they are interested in you.  With a paid membership you can send email messages to people you are interested in to their site mail boxes.  There is no per message fee.  They also offer real time chat through their instant message feature.  Their search engines allow a person to narrow the people in whom you have interest.  Owned by the Cupid Media Group (Australia) these two sites are among over thirty in the company’s portfolio.  Their sites provide people who desire relationships based on ethnicity, religion, physical appearance, special interests or sexual
preferences with the opportunity to meet the people they desire.  Their press says they have over 20 million people throughout the world that use their websites.  True or not, I found lots of women on these sites from which to choose.  I also like the fact they respond to complaints and do not hesitate to pull profiles that do not meet their rules.  But even the best of sites can’t police everything that occurs, especially after the people have agreed to meet off-line or in other on-line venues.   Whatever happens, happens!  So, be careful – always. 

Know what you don’t want

Online dating sites, or should I say the internet, somehow gives people permission to do, and say, things they perhaps would not do with people they hardly know, face to face.  Pretty faces, promises, online sex shows and people soliciting money, drugs and more all are at the end of a click.  And in spite of disclaimers and warnings, like “DO NOT SEND MONEY” people do.  They hear, I really want to take English to better my life. Or my mother/daughter/son needs to go to the doctor and in a flash, money is on its way.  They are some willing to trade their beauty and youth for a better life.  And it works, at least for some.  An amiga in Cali told me of her friend in Cartagena that was very clear about her desire for someone to support her, if they wanted to be with her.  She ultimately found someone to do so and now is married to him, living in the USA with their two children.  Clearly, if the story is true, this guy knew what he wanted and was willing to do what he had to get her.  Perhaps that is the lesson for the serious seeker.   I have had 28 year olds tell me how interested they are in getting to know me.  Please, I’m 61.  Even if she was looking for a serious relationship, I cannot even begin to imagine being with someone 33 years my
junior.  A 28 year old “hottie” may be great for the ego but I am neither secure enough to always wonder what she is doing with me.  Nor do I have enough money to hold her interest, if that is where her head is at.  My advice for the person looking for a serious relationship is know what you want, take your time and be willing to do what it takes to get it.

You have to go there

Getting to know people online is like learning how to bake a cake by reading a recipe.  You have to get the experience.  That is why focusing on a specific part of the world makes sense.  If you are looking for a serious relationship then look in a place that you know you will visit within the year or in a place where you know people from there will come to visit you.  Why get to know a person in Indonesia if you are in Columbus, Ohio if you don’t have enough money to travel there or bring them to you.  When you do visit, plan to be there for at least a week, if not two.  But a month would be better.  Take time to get to know more than one person.  Have a list of questions that you are going to ask everyone.  If you have been talking to someone for a while, they probably will not want you to meet other people.  Don’t give in.  Even if you think you have found that special one, remember you met them online.  You do not really know them.  If your relationship is the “one” it will withstand your making sure by meeting other people.  And even if you think you know them, always meet in public places.  If there is an offer to come to the airport know that agreeing may be taken as a signal that this is your girl(boy)friend, particularly if they bring their family with them.  If you let this happen, pay their taxi or bus fare.  Never accept a car ride from someone you do not know.  This includes the person that you have been talking with for months.  Get a cab. If you are a man, always be prepared to pay.  But never let them bring people to a first meeting that you do not know are going to be there.  This is a known scam in some countries.  Your date will show up with their family, cousin or whoever and you get stuck with the bill, after they have ordered the most expensive thing on the menu, never to see them again.  Simply say “I am uncomfortable with this situation, I need to leave.”  And do it.

Even your first trip will not be sufficient to know if you have found the one.  Resist the temptation to make a heart or lust decision on your first trip.  Most people I know that have developed serious lifelong commitments have visited their girl(boy)friend many times before deciding they were the one.  Take your time, narrow your list, and return as many times as it takes to find the person you want.  An investment of time, and money, upfront may save thousands and heartache later.

Look for friends, if something else happens so be it

It is said that all great relationships begin with friendship.  If you are serious about finding a boyfriend, girlfriend or spouse, then resist the temptation to fall in love with the first pretty face that wants you.  It may even be easy to have someone in your bed on the first date.  Rules, norms and values that govern what having sex means vary from culture to culture.  So it is really important that if this is a sexcapade for you be honest, with yourself and them.  It may also just be an adventure for them.  So, you may find yourself thinking that this is love when it is just a way for them to get into your pants or pocket.  Do not think that you are the badest cat on the block.  Everyone can be had.  If your travel must end with you having sex with somebody, perhaps it is just adventure you seek.  If that is the case, again be honest.  You will find enough people willing to play and not hurt those that are serious.  So, again, be clear.  If you are seeking a long term relationships, and your values call into question the person that gives it up on the first or second date, then move on.  There are other choices.  And it may be best to cut your losses early than to find yourself in a relationship that began with something other than friendship.

Yes, there are horror stories, where people have been taken for their hearts, their money, their bodies and worse.  There are also success stories.  People have met online, moved from one country to another and are living happily ever after.  It can work.  It worked for me.  Bueno suerte y que Dios acompane ti en tu camino siempre!

Posted September 8, 2011 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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Six Tips for Successfully Using International Online Dating Sites: Part 1   Leave a comment

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of online dating sites appealing to people who want to date, marry or whatever with people from other cultures, countries and persuasions. Each has their flavor; their following; and their own fee structures. Across the globe, there are hundreds of thousands of people, if not millions, on these sites looking for romance, marriage or whatever. I have used some of these sites and met some wonderful people. Some of whom are still in my life, as friends. I have also found some pretty crazy and manipulative individuals who find lying, stealing and jumping into your bed as easy as breathing. There are few rules and almost no police to govern abuses, before or after a meeting occurs. Whatever happens, happens! So, the first advice is to be careful – always. These sites have given me a short cut to meeting people, learning Spanish and looking for business opportunities. I have paid the “learner’s tax” and offer some tips to increase your opportunities for success.

Narrow your choices before you begin

Online dating internationally is a very different playing field from online dating in one’s own country. Knowing why you want to be with someone from another part of the world is really critical. Ask yourself that question. And have an answer that makes sense. You are likely to find that someplace along the way, if someone has interest in you, they will ask the reason you are traveling thousands of miles from home to meet someone when there are available folks in your hometown. What is it about that culture? Are your fantasies just that, fantasies? What do you know about their religion and its effect on people’s attitudes and values? Knowing where you want your new love to be from and why is critical to making good decisions. If you have decided on a country, do you know that each part has its own culture? There is a real difference between Costenas (people who live on the coast of Colombia) and Paisas (people who live in the interior). San Jose, Costa Rica is home to Nicaraguans, Colombians, Costa Ricans and a host of other different Latin cultures? Identify the part of the world that you want your mate to come from then do your homework. Know who lives there. Online dating, internationally, means that you are seeking a relationship in a culture that you do not know. Most likely language will be different. Values will be different. The meaning of things is different. Find the online dating site or sites that offer thumbnails, no matter how brief, to the people you want to meet. The only way to make sure your investment of time, energy and money is going to bear fruit is to make sure that someone from this part of the world fits your life, your values and is likely to bring you the happiness you seek.

Beware hidden costs and people who pad their lists

The cost of online dating sites can be relatively inexpensive. But this can also be a lure to get you in the door. This a multi-billion dollar business for a reason. That is why many sites show the young, beautiful men and women (sometimes in very suggestive poses) on their home pages. Remember there is no guarantee that the people they are showing as being members actually are available. I had one agency tell me, “Oh, we need to remove her photo, she has not been around for more than a year.” Remember, they are selling the fantasy. Before deciding, know what you are going to pay and for what period of time your membership will allow you to participate. Some sites charge for everything from sending an email message to sending a letter to sending gifts/flowers to their translation services to selling lists of people who they say are interested in you. These charges can add up. Unfortunately, some online sites/agencies will pay or urge people to write to you generating business for them. So, if you write, pay for translation services and send something then the interest suddenly goes away you know you have been had.

Know who you want in your life

Let’s say that you have decided on the city or region of the world you want your new love, friend of whatever to come from. And you have decided on one or more online sites to use. The next step is to have a sense of who you are looking for. What are their qualities? What do they look like? How old do you want them to be? Education? Children? Make a list. Dream a little. You will likely find that, if you have some of the basic stuff going for you – good manners, a job or income, are decently groomed, have good hygiene, and a desire to learn another culture – you will have choices available to you that did not exist before. Having said that – be realistic. A 65 year old man receiving only social security will probably have a different appeal than a 65 year old rich dude. A 45 year old with all the basic stuff, and a treat a woman right attitude, may find himself with the hottest 22 year old woman he has ever met. Regardless of the job he holds. Don’t get dazzled by the people who say they are interested in you. Remember, there are thousands of people just like you trying to get the attention of the person they think they like or want. And some of them are likely to want to get with the same person you do. Getting someone’s attention, and keeping it, establishing a connection, so that they keep talking with you is critical. There are internet sites out here to help you write a great profile, ad, or introduction letter. Use them, their helpful hints work. Do not be daunted when a person of interest loses interest in you. And do not hesitate to move on if you lose interest. This is where the sheer volume of the people on these sites will help. It may take months. It may take years. Be patient. Good things do come to those who are diligent. And remember, meeting online is just the start of the dance. There is more, way more, to do before going to the altar.

Posted August 31, 2011 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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Looking For Love (or Whatever) In Latin America   2 comments

Recently I met a guy, who said he was in Colombia looking for love and marriage. He had made a number of contacts via one of the online international dating sites. As we talked, I was reminded of a world that I discovered when I first started coming to Costa Rica and Colombia. A universe of people who are seeking, and finding, people in other countries and cultures for the purposes of dating, romance, sex, marriage, finding a way out, finding the love of their lives and more. I was so naïve. I had no idea such a network of people with like interests and varied motives existed, much less an industry raking in millions that is available to support them. I grew up in Rand, West Virginia way before the internet was a reality. All we had were White and Black people. And dating outside of one’s race – there were no other ethnic groups that I knew of in West Virginia – though a growing phenomenon, was still taboo.

What struck me though was that this guy was really down on Latin women, Colombianas especially. Undaunted by the fact that we were in a room with three Colombian women, including the woman that had invited him to my apartment, he told me that he had been married to a woman from Colombia, who he said “…got most of everything in the divorce.” And though he was here, again, looking for another Colombian woman, he just could not understand why they kept playing him for money. Now I am really a bit uncomfortable. Though the women in the room spoke no English, his agitation was obvious. He said he would go out on dates and they would bring friends, without telling or asking him beforehand, and he would HAVE to pick up the check. One woman had invited him to her house for lunch, he said, and then taken him by a Chinese restaurant, ordered a bunch of food – for which he HAD to pay, to take it to her house for them to eat lunch. I did not ask who got the leftovers. He went on to say that his ex-wife, who had family in Bogota, sent a suitcase with him to take to them. By the middle of our short conversation, I wanted to scream “Don’t you get it, my brother? It is not them. It’s you.”

But that would have been a too simplistic response to a more complex set of issues. Being the psychologist that I am, I asked him what he brought to the table. Why a Colombian woman? What images did he have in his mind of these women? Why did he think that the same drama continued to play out in his life? It turned out to be a decent conversation, with me offering some of the lessons that I have learned. As I have been told, I am never too shy to give my opinion. But our conversation also got me to thinking – these are questions that not only fit my new friend. Economic disparity, cultural/values differences, sexual attitudes and behaviors, interpretations of what is love, social and political discourse and more, within the context of relationships between north American men and Latin American women, however they are defined, are the subject of conversations in chat rooms, message boards, bar rooms and bedrooms.

While my travels to, and living in, this part of the world does not make me an expert on relationships between north American men and Latin women, my travels to Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Panama and Colombia have opened up dating possibilities that I really have not taken seriously until recently. In the past I have gone out with women looking out for a boyfriend to take care of them and their children or a husband to do the same. I have been asked for money and had offers of marriage. I have been fooled, understanding what is really meant by “beware a big butt and a smile.” All in all it has been fun. I have no complaints. I have learned a lot and grown immensely for my experiences. But to be honest I really did not take the possibilities of marrying a woman from this part of the world too seriously.

To me, the thing is – it seems that there can be a collision between fantasy and reality on both sides of the divide that can cause pain or bring happiness, making meeting, dating, mating (sex) and/or marriage amazingly complicated. There are horror stories, for sure. On both sides of the isle! There are also dreams come true.

So, now that I am here seriously and the possibilites of a long term relationship really does exist, for the next several weeks I am going to talk about “Looking for Love (or whatever) in Latin America.” And so the conversation is not one-sided, I have also invited some of my Latina friends to contribute their own stories and opinions. I hope you will find this subject and the next few blog posts as interesting – as I may find it cathartic.

Posted August 23, 2011 by Wayne in Uncategorized

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