I am the fourth generation of my family to live and work in China and to make China the focus of our lives’ work. My sister who has blonde hair and blue eyes would often tell people that she was half Chinese. Though we were not Chinese by blood, we certainly felt Chinese due to our family heritage and my family’s long-standing relationship with China. It was from this heritage that after my mission I started to become interested in Asia, in particular China. I took Chinese language courses at BYU and studied at Xiamen University on China’s southwest coast in the summer of 1986.
After my summer program, I decided to stay and find work in Asia. Locating a company to not only hire me but to sponsor my working papers was difficult. My first job was to help set up and manage a new office in Bangkok, Thailand, for a man in Hong Kong whom many still call the “King of Shoes,” because his company is a leading manufacturer of shoes throughout Asia. We were suppliers for Reebok and several other major U.S. and European shoe brands. In the 1980s, Thailand fully lived up to its reputation as a free-wheeling place where almost anything goes. Working in the shoe industry and spending most of my time in Bangkok, I was in the heart of it all. Many times my customers would ask me: “What is a nice girl from Milwaukee doing in a place like this?” That is a question I have asked myself many times since.