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Chinese Women Seek Second Marriages in U.S.

New America Media, News Report, Jun Wang Posted: Sep 17, 2008

Editors Note: "A Thousand Years of Good Prayers," the new film from director Wayne Wang, reflects a trend taking place across U.S. cities as elder Chinese immigrants fall in love in a new country. NAM writer Jun Wang reports that some middle-aged Chinese women are now turning to American cities to find their new husbands. This is part of a New America Media series on elders in America.

Sue Zhang never thought that her mother would marry an American man on her first visit to the United States.

But Zhang, a Chinese graduate student living in Montgomery, Ala., now translates for the newlywed couple, who dont speak a common language.

Zhangs 57-year-old mother, Guangzhen Lu, is a retired primary school teacher from Hubei Province, China. She lived alone for years after her husband died.

One day my mom wept, saying that I never knew how lonely she was for so many years, Zhang says. I was totally shocked.

Zhang, whose husband works in Asia, was raising her newborn daughter alone in the United States at the time. She invited her mother to the United States to help take care of her baby.

The mother and daughter lived together in Montgomery, where they attended a Chinese church. One day, a fellow churchgoer introduced Lu to Joseph Endinger, 65, an army veteran whose wife had died a year earlier.

After a short courtship, the couple got married.

They started to learn each others languages, and still use a dictionary to communicate. Zhang interprets for them when she is home.

Joe calls my mom honey, Zhang says. Its just so un-Chinese, especially for elder Chinese people. But my mom likes it.

Endingers daughter says she hasnt seen her father this happy for a long time.

Zhang says that Endinger is proud to have an Asian wife who is pretty and is a good cook. In order to stay healthy and live longer together, she says, Endinger quit smoking, which had been his habit for over 40 years. Although he doesnt understand much Chinese, he goes to a Chinese church with Lulu, the nickname he calls his wife.

With decades of experience teaching children, Lu wants to open a childcare center to serve the Chinese American community. She hasnt had any experience running a business, but with her husbands encouragement, she feels ready to accomplish her new career dream.

They have a lot of fun together, like taking my baby daughter out for a walk, Zhang says. Someone even asked them if they were my babys parents.

The newlyweds are currently on their honeymoon in Florida.

Their story is becoming increasingly common in this Montgomery, Ala. neighborhood, where more than a dozen Chinese women around Lus age have married American men.

Most of these women are retired professionals -- businesswomen or doctors in China. But these widows and divorcees had a hard time finding local Chinese men of a similar age and social status.

Unwilling to consider less-established men, and finding that many men their age were interested in younger women, they turned to the United States.

Some meet their future husbands online and come here to meet them. Others move here in the hopes of finding a husband. Some, like Lu, came here for another reason and happen to fall in love with an American man.

Of course, these couples have conflicts like any other couple.

Endinger rents storage space for about $100 per month. But people dont use such service in China. His wife wants to squeeze all of their belongings into their closet in order to save money. When they go grocery shopping, Lu doesnt understand why her husband chooses small watermelons since they are all the same price. And Endinger sometimes complains that his new wife is trying to change him.

Zhang doesnt translate every complaint between her mother and stepfather. She says their inability to communicate sometimes helps them keep the peace.

Zhangs husband wasnt sure about his mother-in-laws remarriage in the United States; he plans eventually to move his family back to China.

But Zhang isnt worried about leaving her mother behind in this country.

Joe said, My job is to make sure that my wife is happy, Zhang recalls. She believes her mother and stepfather will have a happy marriage in their senior years no matter where their children live.

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