By QU JIA
BEIJING (China Daily Show) – A middle-aged US male has struck romantic gold, after visiting China and discovering he is actually remarkably handsome.
Howard G. Hallbecker, who has never considered himself anything other than average-looking, had only ever previously dated two women: one his high-school sweetheart, the other a brief fling with a colleague following his divorce.
But that all changed after Hallbecker visited China.
“Turns out I’m actually ‘handsome, rugged and mature,’” a perplexed Hallbecker told media yesterday. “I just wish someone had told me this a few years ago. Then maybe I wouldn’t have had that breakdown.”
Hallbecker’s visit to China was arranged through Hearts Abroad, a US travel agency that specializes in group tours for singles. Their Wonders of the Orient package offers middle-aged singletons a 21-day holiday with like-minded citizens at reasonable rates.
“I decided to give myself a treat after three years of agonizing and expensive legal battles with my ex-wife,” explained Hallbecker. Just how much of a treat only became apparent after the group arrived in the People‘s Republic, however.
“I had hoped to maybe make a connection with one of the other American ladies on the trip,” the 48-year-old kitchen salesman admitted. “Sadly, none seemed interested. In fact, most of them only seemed to care about whether or not they would be forced to eat dog.”
Instead, the slightly overweight, heavily bearded East Coaster found love in the most unlikely of places: a Chinese hospital.
“Hankie come in with nervous heart, and he walk too much, I think!” giggled student nurse Mai Li, whose English name is ‘Joyful Peach.’ The 21-year-old treated Hallbecker for suspected heart palpitations following a hike on the Great Wall –and the two quickly became close.
“I practice my English with him and, quickly, I see he is very handsome man: big beard, big belly, big nose.. just all big, actually, yes,” Mai explained.
Now Hallbecker has abandoned his fellow tour groupies – currently bound for a tour of the Terracotta Army in Xian – in favour of spending more time with Mai.
But not everyone supports his decision.
“I think it’s a disgrace – yes, I do!” fumed fellow traveller Grace Palmetto, a 47-year-old divorcee from Florida, also booked on the Hearts Abroad tour. “A man of his age behaving that way… why, it makes my blood boil. This has completely put me off singles’ holidays. Forever.”
And after seeing a picture of Mai Li, Hallbecker’s ex-wife Jolene Peterson – currently studying for her real estate license – has advised China Daily Show to direct all future communication through her lawyer.
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