On March 12, 2002, a company named "HouLei's English School (formally
known as 'HouLei')" was visited by reporters of CCTV-10. This is a
privately "woman-owned" business located in BaoTou, Kun Area, Inner
Mongolia, P.R. China. HouLei's English School has become known outside
of China through a pen-pal program started between seven schools located
in Humboldt -Trinity Counties of northern California. Through this
exchange there has been friendship and culture shared between the
students. Two newspapers, called "The Kourier" and "The Hoopa People"
serving the eastern communities of Humboldt and western communities of
Trinity counties report activities related to some activities
surrounding Houlei and her husband.
Also HouLei and her husband's picture is
displayed in a local restaurant called "Laura's" in Hoopa, and can be
found in a couple businesses where Charlie frequently visits when in the
Willow Creek/Hoopa area communities. What might attract such interests
of two individuals from totally different lifestyles and countries? To
answer this question, it should be told from the beginning of a young
woman's beautiful love story, sharing thoughts and feelings of all those
Unfortunately, an accident broke the first love and dreams of a young
middle school teacher.
One day in spring of 2000, a common family's daughter of BaoTou, HouLei,
received a letter from her Internet lover. He said, "He would fly to
Beijing from San Francisco, California in the early part of June, 2000."
It was a great surprise to her family, for the family members did not
believe in her Internet "Affair or dream." The Internet was very new to
them, as well as for trusting foreigners (not knowing any, but only
through heresay); and, it was felt that their daughter was chasing after
a love that was not true.
But HouLei, believing in her new Internet friend and distant lover had
expected her family's feelings. Even though her family felt different,
she never deterred from her faith in the person she had been
communicating with, nor her fate in life. She knew from communicating
with this individual that believing in fate and trusting others would
change her life considerably. This was an opportunity that needed to be
trusted and followed through with. No matter what the outcome, good or
bad, it was believed to be her destined fate!
Before this time, HouLei's life was
simple and closed. The accident several years ago took all her dreams,
and also buried her first love. That was in the Spring of 1993, she had
just graduated from Inner Mongolian Normal University not more than half
year, and was a young flower blossoming into a beautiful young lady.
She went for an outing with her new-found
boyfriend who had just been introduced to one-another and known each
other for a short time. This outing, in the beginning, was one of her
happiest days of her life, they rode horses, walked and enjoyed the
green grass of the country. Sharing thoughts and feelings that only two
young lovers would know about. After spending the whole day together on
a joyful outing with her first love, they drove for home. Suddenly, they
were in a single car accident caused by an unknown malfunction in
controlling the vehicle. Instantly, two of the three passengers,
including her boyfriend, were killed leaving HouLei alone in the car
seriously injured. At the time, HouLei was unaware of the seriousness of
her injury, fortunately there was an emergency rescue group at the
scene. After being treated it was discovered that she had injured her
"Spinal Cord" and would be left as a paraplegic the rest of her life.
HouLei with peak and pine face cried her heart out sadly.
The 22 year-old HouLei travelled around
from hospital to clinic throughout China to find a cure for her
paralysis for 3 years, without obvious effects of returning the use of
her legs again. In May of 1996, HouLei returned to BaoTou. Disapppointed
with all the promises received from so-called experts to heal her
paralysis. At this time, it was time to face her future and a serious
problem; "How to live the rest of her life?" At first, she learned
knitting from her mother, then relating the books to study, invented new
designs. Llater she learned to make tapestries which were so nice that
all the family appreciated them and were happy for her. It was the first
time for her to gain any kind of happiness and recognition from working
at something after the injury.
Then in September, 1996, she opened a
fashion shop. Every time there were new beautiful clothes, she would
like to try them on first, and then introduce them to the right people.
When she saw what was recommended to these individuals look well on
them, she would feel very happy and pleased for them. From knitting to
selling clothes, everything was fresh for her. Earning a large amount of
money was not important, but having something to do that contributed to
her life, as well as others was rewarding.
In 1997, HouLei entertained the thought, "Why not help children with
their English?" Especially since her major was in "Teaching English" at
college and she was originally working as an English teacher when
injured. She decided to offer and hold an English class.
At first, there were only six children.
Communicating with these students, she felt rarely content, the students
only paid attention to her teaching and spoken words. Nobody seemed to
consider her different from the "so-called abled bodied" person. With
this beginning, her teaching became more affective. Through word of
mouth, the students increased more and more. Until June of 2000, she had
gone from 6 to 200 students. Her income had improved very much, compared
to what she had been paid working as a full-time teacher, fashion shop
owner, and so forth.
"Contact on line, making new friends through the unreal world of the
HouLei's material life was not poor, but the world of her spirit was
empty. HouLei always felt she was different from others, such as, taking
a walk with others, going out alone to shop or with friends to a film or
restaurant. She could only sit in the wheelchair wait for assistance to
get around, usually provided by her mother. And very often when they
were out, those around her would say, "Why do such people of this kind
appear here (Often referencing 'Why do disabled people come out where we
have to see them?')?"
Before her friends had been more boys
than girls, now she had nobody. Yes, there were a couple friends, but
not friends for sharing close relationships. Friends that usually
visited out of pity. She was eager to communicate with people close to
her and contact others to be a part of society. Later she bought a
computer to connect with others on-line.
When she came home after classes, she
sealed herself off from others to the unreal Internet to look for her
own world. The first day, HouLei learned to surf on line. Discovering
"Yahoo Clubs" she found a club for "disabled." This provided her an
avenue to ask many questions and to accept her own limitations. She
wanted to know more about settling her paraplegic situation and how
others lived and coped with their lives. Through Internet searches, she
came up with over 80,000 web-site addresses regarding spinal cord
injuries, individual's lives and general day to day problems and
solutions. HouLei, at first could not believe the amount of information
available. More than one person could ever read. She decided to pick
five individuals from a list provided by a Yahoo Person Search) with
common interests. HouLei chose five individuals to contact; one of them
was Charles from California.
Through this chance meeting and ocasion,
HouLei got to know this net friend who calls himself "Charlie." The two
of them became quick friends and began to communicate very quickly
through the Internet.
So, now there was one more friend in
HouLei's flat life. Though they could not see each other face to face,
they could share their thoughts. Their situations in life were very
similar, that is, they were both confined to wheelchairs after an
injury. Charlie always enlighten Houlei, he seemed very considerate and
humourous. While talking through the Internet, he often joked to her and
made up funny topics to talk about. Little by little, they talked
From this time on, besides in her daily
so-called real life, Houlei had one more expectation to look forward to:
"In that unreal space, on the other side of the world; there was a
foreigner friend whose age, older than hers, whose experience more than
hers, whose fervency of the life better than hers." What he shared with
Houlei, was just like going to school for her. Houlei could learn a lot
Houlei's mood improved after she got the computer and connected on line,
also she became more and more conversable. She and Charlie established
set times to meet on line, sometimes several times in a day. If there
was a day she did not talk to him, it seemed that the life lacked
something; and those around her could see this. After a time, it was
felt they knew each other as close relatives, and got to know each other
more and more.
Gradually, Houlei had developed special
feelings for Charlie. When the brother knew it, he tried to persuaded
her not to care too much. He felt this was a problem for her, "Because
things on the Internet were unclear and misleading. If you take this
affair too seriously, when you lose it, you will feel a loss. If you do
not believe in him from the beginning, and you lose him, you won't be
hurt." But Houlei thought, "My life has already been this way, no
extravagant hopes for marriage or life. Sure there are a couple of
girl-friends, but they only visit once or twice per year. I still nearly
live as in a vacuum bag. Only this guy from the Internet talks to me all
the time. Even just talking about trivial matters, it brings me warm and
intimate feelings, and attracts me to be close to him."
In this unreal world Houlei found a
bailment of her feelings, she was tasting true spiritual happiness for
the first time since her injury. With this new found happiness she
beamed with much satisfaction. Seeing this, her mother asked (with
concern for her feelings and desires), "What did Charlie talk to you
about?" HouLei answered spoiledly, "You'd better not ask me such things.
No matter what, it's something good." Mother could feel her daughter's
excitement and cares. And thought to herself in a happy surreptitious
way, "She is in another world of her own. A very happy one!"
"Be head over heels in love - the story which could not happen
One Sunday after Houlei finished communicating with Charlie, she
received a very special E-mail. Houlei was very excited to tell her mom
shyly, "Charlie proposed to me formally." This was the first person to
demonstrate love of any kind for her after the accident.
One of Houlei's friends knowing this,
realized the matter was getting more serious. She asked, "How much can
you trust the sweet words written to you on the Internet? She also
advised, "That there are so many people who act as different sexes to
play jokes or tease others. You must be sure not to believe too much. He
could be unreal. Like many who give themselves a romantic nickname. Who
knows if they are male or female?" But Houlei responded with, "There's
nothing in my life now, only a computer. During the day I hold class,
think of nothing. But during the night time, it is not a real life that
I have to share with the opposite sex my own age as a friend, nor a
possible husband. What I feel from him through the Internet has given my
life back!" So when Houlei went outside or had contact with others, "She
often carried in her heart one person. An individual in a far distant
place who cared her, she smiled to herself secretly!"
After the time of meeting Charlie on the
Internet, since before the accident, expressions of happiness on her
face and in her heart were easily seen. She was really in love. During
these days, she was very reluctant to leave the Internet, except
teaching, She spent most of her time on line everyday. The number of
times she typed "Charlie's name each day," could not be counted.
Suddenly one day, the Emails she sent out
all disappeared. She tried it the second day, still no messages, the
third day, the fourth day... every day was the same. "Did horrible
things have to happen?" Houlei said to herself, "My life will go back to
like the past seven years? Or maybe something happened to Charlie?"
Everyday she was on pins and needles worrying about Charlie and her
future. The family also worried for her, they tried to persuade her,
"That alls well, just as in others' words, "people talking through the
Internet would disappear after they felt bored. No one would bother
another." But Houlei did not give up, everyday she was at the computer
anxiously looking for a message from Charlie. She insisted on turning
the computer on at the same time as usual to wait for Charlie's
On the fifth day, when she turn the
computer on, wah! A message which made her so excited showed up. It was
from Charlie! He said, "My computer had broke-down and was finally just
repaired by a friend." When he saw so many messages from Houlei, he
answered back with many E-mails happily! Houlei's heart was set at rest.
After the storm of no contact with Charlie, the Hou family returned to
One morning, the telephone of Hou family
rang. Her mother picked it up, but could not understand the person on
the line. Thinking it was a wrong number, she planned to hang up. Just
then, it came to her that HouLei had an American friend through the
Internet and called her brother to the phone. What the brother found
was, it was really someone speaking English. Houlei hurried to the phone
and found it was Charlie. Charlie said, "I remembered your number and
wanted to talk to you. Our time difference is about 15 hours. Here, it
is night, and there it is day time, right? I had figured the time
difference and thought it was about your time to get up from bed. So I
thought I would give you a call."
HouLei felt he was a considerate guy.
Charlie was afraid that HouLei could not understand his English and
spoke very slowly. While talking, Houlei jokingly asked, "Can you sing a
song for me?" Charlie then really sang for her, but not very well.
However, Houlei felt what he sang was interesting and pleasant to listen
The telephone broke the quietness of the Hou family. A foreign figure
from the other side of the world started to appear in their
imagination's. Listening to his voice, he would not look too ugly,
Houlei guessed. At the same time, Charlie asked for Houlei's photos.
HouLei also shared that her mother wanted photos of him. They exchanged
photos and with Charlie's photos, there was a short note:
"Lei, I am watching TV now, but I can not concentrate on it. You are
forever in my thoughts and heart. What are you doing now? From when we
started to communicate, I have noticed a kind of fresh feeling in my
heart. This is the best feeling one can have in the world! It makes me
very happy and excited, and sometimes sad. But fills me full of hope for
our future. Thank you for staying in my thoughts and heart. You are the
most beautiful person ever to touch my heart. Love you always Lei! Yours
Willow Creek, California, USA--Charlie's hometown.
It was October, Charlie and Houlei fell deeper in love.
"Romance marriage, respecting the life force which shocked both sides of
Charlie thought he should share something with friends, not hide it.
Then he went to his favorite place to socialize, telling his friends
that he would be going to China! The friends could not believe it and
said, "Right! You are going to China? You can't do that?" Charlie
responded with, "Yes, I am. I really love the girl I have been talking
about!" Friends stated, "No way! Charlie, it is untrue, you would drop
everything you have in America to go to China for an Internet fantasy?
Leave your family, friends, that's too crazy!" Charlie said, "I must do
this. I must follow my heart."
Before leaving, Charlie shared with
HouLei the ticket numbers and flight number through Internet -- This is
the first scene of this article shown on television. The hero of an
Internet love story from America, would go out from the unreal space
into a Chinese common family. Because of that, the Hou family had a
meeting. It was felt that it was a 50/50 chance that he would come. "We
will go to Beijing to meet him. If he does not arrive, we can use the
trip as a holiday."
For Charlie's arrival, there was much be
done. HouLei was always helped by her mother to take care of herself.
But Charlie had shared with HouLei about being very independent and the
things he did on his own. This made the Hou family take a look at their
house and they changed a lot to make things more convenient for a
wheelchair to get around. Also, new bedroom furniture was purchased to
be used by a person in a chair easier. According to Houlei, "She wanted
to change everything from old to new, just like preparing to be a bride
and new wife." The whole Hou family was filled with happy longing.
On June 4th, 2002, at Beijing Capital
Airport, the Hou family waited for the appointed arrival time on their
tip-toes with much expectation. While their minds and hearts where
filled with thoughts of wonder and expectation, time passed slowly. At
last, the plane expected had arrived! There were many passengers, but
there was no Charlie in sight. Worried about this, Houlei tried to ask
someone on the plane about her expected guest, "Was there someone in a
wheelchair on the plane?" They all said, "They did not notice, so they
were unsure. Not sure?" Everyone was anxious now, for someone in a
wheelchair should be conspicuous, so they wondered about what does "not
sure" mean? They dare not think it over continually, they all closed
their eyes for a moment.
Charlie had teased Houlei through the Internet, "May I kiss you?" "No!,"
HouLei answered, "You can't. This is not Chinese habit." Houlei called
to mind and pondered about what Charlie talked to her on the Internet
with closing eyes, she expected the words would come true.
While waiting with reverence and awe
second by second, it made the Hou family mentally and in theirs hearts
with torment. While waiting, each of them also imagined a picture of an
American in the chair with opened eyes, but the unreal sky was still
muddy. Not knowing how much time had past, suddenly an American in a
chair appeared slowly and brightened their eyes! When the whole family
moved forward to meet him, the words Houlei and Charlie had prepared to
say, seemed lost. Only word Charlie said was, "Hello." Houlei's eyes
were wet, as if a dream, an unbelievable dream, had come true!"
Though the one they planned to meet had
already seen, the Hou family had another worry: "Such a big guy, how to
serve him? One Houlei was busy enough for everyone. They wondered if
they could handle another disabled person in their lives or not?" But
after they heard what Charlie had to say, they were all surprised.
Charlie said, "Besides coming to China to marry your daughter HouLei, I
came to help her become independent." He did not only talk, but also had
a plan. "After they got married, they bought a new house immediately and
moved to live on their own. They then need not count on the family for
Charlie is just really he said. After
Charlie and Houlei transacted their marriage on June 19th, a reception
was held on July 1st, 2000. They moved to their new home within the
first year. Before Charlie's coming, Houlei had hoped to be independent,
a break from others' taking care of her. To live on her own, but she
thought it would be impossible, only a dream. But after they have lived
together for around one year, with Charlie's help and "reform", Houlei
can really take care of herself.
Because Charlie joined in the classes HouLei teaches, students have
increased greatly. In November, 2000, they set up a private school, "Houlei's
English School of Kun Area, Baotou." There are almost 500 students
presently and more always looking for new classes to be strated. Houlei
has no self-contemptuous feelings for being disabled person. Charlie and
she always take walks together through the street themselves, talking
and laughing on the way. There are often many people who show respect
and praise of their accomplishments. It has filled their hearts with
warmth from the sun.
Charlie told the reporters, "There is an
incogitable power in every disabled individual. As long as you dare to
hope, your strength and power could be as big as your dreams. He said,
He had applied his personal time and energy to insure the opportunity to
contribute to forest fire prevention and work while employed with the
USDA, Forest Service. By doing so, it demonstrated to others that
'though there are limitations to what a disabled may do, nothing is
impossible." Through contributions of time, many changes have been made
to allow access for disabled in many fire camps throughout the United
Charles' romantic love story and marriage
has caused attention by a couple local media sources in is home area.
"The Kourier" and "The Hoopa People" newspapers often publish articles
about Charlie and Houlei's lives when submitted. Charlie and Houlei are
loved by people throughout the Klamath-Trinity Area of Northen
California. There are 7 schools which have exchanged pen pal letters
with their school. The purpose of the pen pal letters is to promote
friendship and encourage the use of English. This year Charlie has
started a new business called "HouLei's Language and Consulting Service
Co., Ltd." Through the business it is hoped to encourage more English
classes and promote future growth to Baotou economically and socially.
For anyone interested, our website is
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