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Love of language leads to love

Love of language leads to love
Love of language leads to love
Alex Bowden and Wei-Lih Shieh, who live in Lanesville, met when they became language partners at Indiana University, Bloomington. (Photo by Alan Stewart)

Alex Bowden and Wei-Lih Shieh met at Indiana University in Bloomington in the summer of 1997. It was not love at first sight, but rather a friendship that grew over time.
It was Wei-Lih’s decision to study the English language that brought this couple together in Bloomington, where Alex had previously earned a double major in psychology and Chinese. ‘She was looking for a language partner,’ Alex recalled with a slight glint in his eye, as one who had walked away with the prize.
‘I advertised for a conversation partner,’ she said, ‘and he replied.’
The relationship, though, wasn’t limited to studies.
‘I’d pick her up on my motorcycle ‘ it was fun in the fresh air.’
At the time, Alex had purchased a house one block from campus, took in boarders and sold things like water filters to earn a living.
Wei-Lih (pronounced way-lee) earned a degree in Spanish in Taiwan in 1994. After managing a convenience store there for 1-1/2 years, she applied at I.U. and was accepted into the English program.
Through their study partnership, Alex and Wei-Lih, both 31, quickly became friends. ‘He would invite me to meet his family; it was really good for me to understand American culture,’ she said. ‘That way, I understand him more and like him more.’
But the next year, Wei-Lih transferred to far-away Seattle to study graphic design. She earned a degree in that field in 2000.
Meanwhile, Alex wasn’t to be undone. ‘He flew, and he drove back and forth,’ she said.
As for Wei-Lih, ‘After I graduated, I went back to Taiwan for a year, but I couldn’t stand that we were so far away.’
That was 7,724 miles from Indiana.
‘I think I made the decision’ to get married, she said. ‘We were thinking about that.’
‘It had been five years,’ Alex said. ‘It was time.’
Wei-Lih left her friends, two brothers, and Mom and Dad to return to the States on a permanent basis.
‘They did approve,’ she said. ‘I had to fight a little bit; now I think it’s OK.’
When they married, Wei-Lih retained her mother’s last name.
‘It’s tradition for the woman to keep their name,’ Alex said.
Rural America offers a lifestyle vastly different from Taiwan, where 22.6 million people live in a country slightly smaller than Indiana, she said.
‘Since I am from another country, if people get to know me, they will know a different culture, a different way of living, different way of thinking.’
The couple chose Ball Diamond Hill Road at Lanesville for their home because they were familiar with the area and liked what they saw.
In Taiwan, Wei-Lih lived a busy, urban lifestyle. ‘Here I can enjoy the quiet life and relax,’ she said.
Alex’s father, James Bowden, a retired IUS literature professor, had bought land in Lanesville after separating from Alex’s mother, Colleen. She remains in Louisville, where Alex was reared. (He also has an identical twin and an older brother.)
Even though he is well traveled, Lanesville suits Alex just fine.
‘I like Harrison County,’ he said. ‘The air is cleaner, and it’s less crowded.
‘I like the sound of cows. I can hear them from my house. And I like looking out my bedroom window and seeing a cornfield.’
They haven’t had the traditional honeymoon yet, so Alex and Wei-Lih have chosen a resort in Wisconsin to visit in March.
In late December, Wei-Lih went to work at the Shanghai restaurant in Corydon as a waitress. (The owner is also from Taiwan.)
Both Alex and Wei-Lih have dreams, large and small.
‘I want to have kids ‘ maybe two; he wants more, but maybe two will be enough ‘ and, hopefully, I can have my own business, like graphic design,’ she said.
‘I have no idea how many,’ Alex countered with an easy grin. ‘Maybe start with four and see where it goes.’
He also dreams of leading a technical revolution, of bringing out the ‘suppressed technologies,’ like alternative fuel systems, he said.
‘I’m trying not to be a big consumer, to simplify,’ Alex said. ‘A closer goal is to get my car to run 80 miles to a gallon ‘ double the mileage.’
A friend, an inventor who lives in the north, has gotten 200 miles to the gallon, but it cost him $15,000 to do so, so it’s too expensive to be a viable alternative, Alex said.
‘I’m studying the technology, because it makes me so anxious to know when I’m driving, I’m polluting, and I don’t have a choice.’
‘The name Alex means ‘helper of men’, ‘ he said. ‘I think that’s what God called me for; to help His people to serve God, really.’