One day I saw this sticker in a WeChat group and it made me realize that this is what China is all about and that it’s why I’ve been attracted to China in the first place. In my life it has become my personal philosophy and I express it in many ways.
People in China know me as 刘蓝地, but my name in my native English is Randy Alexander. I am a conductor and composer from the American midwest city of Cincinnati, Ohio. Growing up I didn’t have much exposure to Chinese things; my biggest impression of China was from a 1970’s TV show called Kung Fu. The main character was a half-Chinese Shaolin monk who wandered around the American old west. He was quiet, calm, and intelligent – a wonderful role model. It wasn’t until I attended an arts high school that I actually met Chinese people. Later I became good friends with some while studying at conservatory (1985-1989). But the real China was still a mystery to me.
我叫 Randy Alexander，在中国，人们叫我刘蓝地。我是一名指挥家和作曲家，来自美国俄亥俄州中西部城市辛辛那提。我成长过程中，接触的中国元素并不多，印象最深刻的是 1970 年代的一部中国电视剧《功夫》。主角是具有一半中国血统的少林僧人，他在美国旧西部闯荡。他沉着冷静，聪明睿智，是少林僧人的榜样。高中我选择读艺校，那时我才真正认识中国人。后来我在音乐学院学习时（1985-1989 年）交了一些中国朋友。但中国到底是怎样的，对我来说仍然是个谜。
In 1993, when I was in grad school my father called me and said he was invited to give medical lectures in China and had an extra ticket. I had no idea what was in store, but whatever it was it was sure to be interesting! China at that time was far behind the US technologically, so it was like a trip back in time, but the people (and the food!) were amazing. That two week trip planted a strong seed in my heart.
In 1999 I got married to a Chinese woman and had my first kid while working on Wall Street. Things were going well until 9/11.
1999 年，我和一个中国女人结婚，有了第一个孩子，当时我在华尔街工作。一切都那么顺利，直到 9/11 打破了以往的安宁。
I was lucky not to be at work that day. And there was no full time work there after that at all. Being unemployed I spent more time doing things I love doing: raising my son, writing music, and studying languages. Since I had married a native Chinese speaker, I started seriously studying Chinese. But since there wasn’t much income, I suggested moving to China where the economy is on the rise.
We moved to her icy hometown, Jilin, had another son, and opened an English training school. There wasn’t much going on there culturally so somehow I got interested in the local history, which involved studying the Manchu language. Here is a Manchu 对联 I wrote:
But Jilin is pretty far away from the capital, so sometimes people can go astray morally. One morning I was on my way to work and my already cramped parking lot was filled with a large group of shady-looking men getting ready to go to a wedding. They made it very difficult for me to slowly get my car out and then one of them apparently thought it was funny to open his door just at the moment I was backing out, and I very lightly touched it, doing absolutely no damage. Then they all started picking a fight and I found myself against eleven people. The good thing is that the police dealt with it well and put three of them in jail.
但吉林市毕竟不是长春，不道德的行为偶尔会发生。有一天早上，我准备出门上班，已经很拥堵的停车场里挤满了一大伙看起来不好惹的人，准备去参加一场婚礼。我只能慢慢把车挪出来，就在我倒车的那一刻，旁边一辆车里的人突然打开车门，两车刮碰到了一起，但完全没有损坏，然后他们 11 个人开始围殴我。好在警察及时处理，把其中三个人送进了监狱。
After eight years of harsh Jilin I moved to Xiamen to get away from the cold and focus on raising my two boys. My wife and I decided to separate (things weren’t going so well anyway) and she stayed in Jilin for a year and then moved to New York.
在严酷的吉林生活了 8 年之后，我搬到了厦门，因为我受不了严寒的环境，而且想专心抚养两个儿子。我和妻子决定分开（因为关系不好），她在吉林待了一年，然后回到了纽约。
It was the best time of my life, my boys and I studied together, ate together, and hiked all over. I taught them to be frugal and inquisitive, and any question they had about anything I either answered directly or researched. It was a paradise.
After three years my wife decided suddenly to visit us. She said that she wanted to get back together. At that time my visa was about to expire, which required me to make a trip to Changchun where her hukou is. With all the correct documents I expected I could get the visa renewed by myself, so I went there alone, but just in case they needed to come later, I gave her the boys’ passports. I got there and called them frequently, but on the third day all their phones were off. I couldn’t reach them all day and couldn’t imagine what happened. Did they go on a day trip and somehow got in an accident? I was panic-stricken.
三年过去了，我的妻子突然决定来看看我们，想和我重归于好。当时我的签证即将到期，我需要去一趟她的户口所在地长春。准备好所有文件，我独自去长春续签，为了让他们不用再跑一趟，我把孩子们的护照交给妻子保管。我到长春后，经常给他们打电话。可是第三天，他们的手机都关机了，一整天都联系不上，我想象不到发生了什么。他们是不是去了一日游，然后发生了意外？我顿时惊慌失措。Three days later I got a message from my wife saying that she thought that the kids should grow up in the US and so she took them there. It turned out that she told them that my visa was denied and that I was deported to New York!
I didn’t know what I should do; my life was swept out from under me. My kids were my purpose. I decided the only thing I could do was to go to New York and find them and try to reason with the unreasonable. I reminded her that she said she wanted to be together. She said she wouldn’t go back to China but that we could live anywhere in the US. My mother had just gotten married and had an empty house that we could live in, so we moved there. After ten months of the kids begging her to go back to China, she eventually gave in and we moved back to Xiamen. Two years later she moved out and we divorced amicably. I continued to raise the boys. She stayed in Xiamen (after all it’s the best city in China!) and sees the boys about once a week. I will be married again soon.
Now that my sons are grown up I have been focusing on my specialty (music), and studying languages a lot. Recently I’ve been studying Literary Chinese (文言文) and Manchu. A couple days ago I celebrated my 20 year anniversary in China! Life is indeed beautiful, but you have to keep yourself strong!
现在儿子们都已长大，我一直专注于我的特长（音乐），时常学习语言。最近我在学习文言文和满语。几天前，我隆重庆祝了我来华 20 周年纪念日。生活确实美好，但你必须保持坚强！