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How We Met — Living the Dream

Cindy Zhang was an emergency-room nurse in Shanghai, China, when she met her future husband. It was the 1990s—the era of the one-child rule; the era of limited choices and little freedom. And for Cindy, the American dream was as far away as the continent itself.

Being a nurse was a demanding job for Cindy and came with severe consequences. She had no flexibility in her work schedule, and the fact that a heart ailment left her taxed didn’t matter. In her country, working was a requirement.

Sam Yang had been working in a toy exporting company and was less than satisfied. But when he was invited to a friend’s wedding, something shifted. He took one look at Cindy, who also attended, and he was immediately star struck. He liked that Cindy was “so beautiful, so smart, and so kind.”

Cindy didn’t feel the same spark. Following a wedding in China, the old folk go home and the young people traditionally gather to play games. Everyone talks and laughs and parties. It was there that Cindy and Sam exchanged contact information. But when Sam kept asking Cindy out, she declined, because she thought, “He’s not my style.”

Although shy, Sam was determined. He surprised Cindy by repeatedly showing up after her hospital shift to accompany her home. He rarely came empty handed, always bringing her little gifts, like a flower.

As Cindy continued her grueling schedule, her heart condition began to take its toll. After a year, she landed in the hospital. Sam again surprised her, this time not just by visiting and bringing flowers, but also by taking care of her and being so kind. “He is so good to me,” she says.

It may have taken a year and a serious illness, but Cindy began to realize that Sam made her feel “warm.” A year and a half after they met, they were married, and after another year their son was born. Cindy’s hospital benefits were good, but after 18 months of maternity leave, she was required to go back to work.

With the threat of Cindy’s illness always looming, Sam continued his caretaking, this time seeking other options for his family. Relatives in New York urged him to come to Queens.
Again, Sam was smitten, this time with a new country. He was amazed by the freedom, and endless possibilities. He liked the “choices and the chances.” When Cindy and their son followed, she didn’t feel the same way. Being a homebody, she missed her family and the cramped living conditions were stressful. But the thought of changing jobs was appealing and she returned to school.

As the two made their way in the U.S., an opportunity to buy a nail salon became available. Cindy already had her license, but Sam was uncertain. This time it was Cindy who did the convincing. They purchased The Nail Plaza on Danbury Road and eventually moved to Ridgefield.

Now, nearly 25 years after first meeting, Sam and Cindy have moved their parents to the states. They spend a lot of time in the Chinese community of Queens, but love their lives in Ridgefield, where their son grew up. “Our story,” says Cindy, “is an American dream come true. It’s a success story.”





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