"Wǒ ài nǐ." Those are all the words I can remember. However, everything else about those magical days in Hǎinán long ago seem forever fresh. I was part of some incongruous youth exchange between my hometown in Hawaii and "friends" in the People's Republic.

      Perhaps I was too young or too naive to understand why the exchange even existed. At that time I optimistically believed that peace would come naturally if people simply relaxed, shared freely, laughed, and danced. . Good food and music might help, and at times alcohol seemed to a valid utilitarian function. However, the organizing bodies did not trust spontaneity: things had to be more complicated and orchestrated.

      Although their ostensible goal was to promote trade in the name of "peace", the opening speeches by the flaccid bureaucrats made me yearn for the mountain slopes of this tropical island. As the ceremony wore on, I dreamed about the not-so-distant cliffs of Tiān-yá or chances to chill out on a beach in Sānyà.

      Yawning, my eyes wavered across the hall to the Chinese delegation. There I noticed a demure dark-haired woman in a stylish changpao sipping a watered-down cocktail while politely pretending to be interested in the lieutenant-governor's speech.

      Instinctively, she felt my gaze and we smiled with a mixture of irony, resignation, and a very faint tinge of sassy defiance.

      I did not know that she was the vice-mayor's daughter or that protocol declared visitors and island residents should avoid getting "too close."

      All I knew is that over the next three days I couldn't stop thinking about this lovely person. I imagined us as deep friends who had known each other many lifetimes, and allowed myself to believe that “karma” (my word for destiny) had somehow brought us together once again. This Qióngzhōu Strait beauty was constantly at the forefront of my awareness, though part of me made futile attempts to ignore her. Logically, I knew there were too many differences for this relationship to have a future. Naively, however, I believed no difficulty was insurmountable if there was love. Though my Chinese was quite limited and her English was shaky at best, Yàhuī managed to teach me some important things about love. By the end of the goodwill study-tour nothing else seemed important, so we managed to spend one evening together.

      Now whenever anyone talks about "foolish love" or the impulsive short-sightedness of youth, I feel a nostalgic tinge for that goddess.