How Grace and I Met

My girlfriend Grace Goon and I are celebrating our six-month dating anniversary today. We thought this would be an appropriate time to share how we met and started dating. We’ve color-coded who was writing at the time; it should be easy to figure out. Enjoy!

One fine day, I received an email:

Avast, me hearties!

Cap’n Gerald, th’ sharp-tongued wench Alice and I gunna be cookin’ up a Korean barrrrbecue dinner this here Friday, Septembarrrr th’ 19th, ready to be devoured after 7 hourglass cycles have passed since midday. We be dockin’ in the port o’ Sidney and Pacific, in the fifth floor kitchen, and ye be invited to parrrrtake in the plunderin’!

If ye be kind, float me a letter in a bottle notifyin’ me of yer enlistin’ in this here crew. Fare thee well!

Yer matey,


To welcome the new first-years to the Graduate Christian Fellowship, we older students in the fellowship teamed up in groups to cook meals in groups for the first-years. As we were planning, Alice suggested that we find a dress-up theme, and Gerald discovered that the day we’d be meeting would be International Talk Like a Pirate Day! So we decided to fashion our e-mails and costumes in that style…
(Grace is on the left, I’m second from the right with a weird look on my face…)

That was a particularly bad week for me because (long story short) things were not going well with my previous research advisor and me. At that point of time, I was already having thoughts of dropping out of grad school. So I almost forgot about dinner, but still managed to make it in time in the end. Then I met Sam and everything changed (just kidding, I was still thinking of going home for the next two weeks).

After dinner, we played a get-to-know-you game, where one person would ask a question, everyone else would answer it, and the asker would have to guess which answer came from whom. I remember getting the distinct impression that she was a geek from an answer mentioning comic book stores.

One of the questions Alice asked was “if there is a fire and you could only save one thing, what would you save?” The first thing that came to mind for me was all the random letters and souvenirs I collected during my time in Cambridge, but that would be too many things! Sam’s answer was “drawer of keepsakes” which made me think of him as really sentimental.

We meet again and again

We later ran into each other again at a couple board game nights started by a Caltech friend of mine named Helena. Through one of her labmates, Guang Hao (who also knew Grace from Cambridge), a bunch of Singaporeans got involved in the group, and one of them invited Grace in, too.


Yayy board games! That was something I wanted to join here and was glad that there is a game group right here at Sidney-Pacific! I went for one of the board games sessions and Sam was there as well! (I hadn’t really noticed him at that point of time though) We then met a few more times. We even played together as a team for my first 7 Wonders game. There was then this Resistance game when Sam was one of the spies (bad bad spy) and I was the ONLY resistance who suspected him! But Sam was so good at lying (tsk tsk) that he still managed to convince everyone else.


I had a second chance to deceive her (muahahaha) at a Murder Mystery Party in our dorm, Sidney-Pacific. It was an interesting night, as we each were given roles to play and information to tell people, then someone died and we had to figure it out. As it turned out, I was the murderer, but I was able to keep myself concealed, though Grace almost suspected it.


Sam was playing the bad guy again! And I kind of suspected him for a while, but of course we know how good he is at lying (tsk tsk).
Murder Mystery Party 1.jpg
Murder Mystery Party 2.jpg


Then it was the week before Halloween! My friend, Linh, and I were brainstorming about our Halloween costumes. So being a Star Wars fan, I initially wanted to dress up as a Stormtrooper. Then Linh convinced me to dress up as a female character in Star Wars. So I posted “Padme or Leia for Halloween?” as my Facebook status and Sam was the first one to comment. Linh of course picked up on the comment and started looking at Sam’s profile. Our conversation went something like this.


Me: I think he is pretty cute
Linh: (looking at profile) eh not bad ah. Go for him!
Me: erm….


A few days before Halloween was Guang Hao’s birthday, and Grace and I both went to his birthday dinner. We ended up sitting next to each other, and I decided to ask her more about her faith and churches she had visited in Boston so far. Later, the two of us ended up switching tables when we split into two, and had a lot of fun trying to pick up our water glasses with chopsticks. I always seem to end up doing silly random (but fun) things like that when I hang out with Singaporeans. 😛 Here’s the picture we took all together at the end:
We sat together and Sam caught my attention for the first time because he asked me a lot of questions about my faith and church. Part of the reason was because I had just decided to stay on at MIT and was looking for places I can serve and grow spiritually. Anyway, Sam was all super enthusiastic about his church and GCF: “You should come to my church! You will like it!”.


Later that night, my conversation with Linh went something like


Me: You remember that Sam guy who commented about my Halloween costume? He kept talking to me at the dinner
Linh: AHHH (looking at the picture above) waa not bad, potential boyfriend ;P


The next day, I received a Facebook invitation to a joint GCF-ACF Large Group from Sam. Then I showed up!


Haha, Grace was one of only three of us GCFers who responded to the Facebook event invitation (along with me and Gerald, our president). ACF communicates events that way to their group, but us old grad students can’t be bothered to reply on Facebook, except Grace. 🙂

Hints of something more…

So when did we first start liking each other? On my side, it was pretty gradual. I “noticed” her the first day we met, in a sense. But I’ve “noticed” quite a few girls like that who I wouldn’t say I “liked” — meh, it’s all a gradient. From my perspective, at this point, I was just getting to know Grace as a friendly fellow GCFer, encouraging her in her faith and to grow closer to the community we have in GCF.


It was pretty gradual for me as well. We happened to meet each other at various events/gatherings pretty often. And as I mentioned, I noticed him at Guang Hao’s birthday party. However, there wasn’t really much one-on-one conversation or interactions for me to say that I like him, but I was of course interested to get to know him better as friend and brother in Christ.


Taking a cue from Sam Perli, I was planning a big birthday party for myself, the day after my birthday, November 8th. I invited friends from at least six different social circles to come together, eat dinner and cupcakes (paid for by my parents!) and play board games!


I was initially unable to attend Sam’s party so I thought I should just drop him an email and use that as an excuse to meet and have ice cream! Linh ended up typing out the second part of my email.
Hey Sam!
I don’t think I can make it for the party next week ): but I would totally get you ice cream for your birthday! Toscanini? Let me know!


I starred this e-mail to get back to later. Ice cream in November didn’t exactly inspire me… but I also figured that I’d wait until after my party to take her up on it.




But I found out later that my weekend trip became a day trip on Sunday, so I could make it after all and RSVPed.


After the birthday party, I posted some pictures on Facebook, including these of Grace:
This picture is nice because it illustrates a bunch of the different parts of my life people there were from: from left to right, Xiaowei (Sidney-Pacific), Sam and Nigel (GCF), Martin (church), William (frisbee), Grace, and Yasha (math department).
Grace stayed later in the night, though by that point people had sorted themselves and all of the Monopoly Deal players were GCFers.


On Facebook, Grace sent me this message:
Hey! Saw the pics for the party it was awesome and had a lot of fun playing the games!
Thanks for hosting and hope you had a fun time
See you at board games!
I suspected that she was interested in me… but wanted to get to know her better first. I simply replied:
Yay, I’m glad you enjoyed it! I definitely had a lot of fun. 🙂


That evening, I finally got around to stalking her Facebook profile, and noticed her blog! I asked her about it and we had a long and meandering conversation through her hope of going to South America to take more pictures, my sister joining the Peace Corps there, the missions trip I went on to Taiwan, and missions trips in general. We eventually moved the conversation to Gchat, which I prefer.


A week later, I asked Sam about the Taiwan trip and he sent me this 53-page Word document about it. That was when I first discovered how long-winded he is. And also how much he likes to document things.

The final build-up

After large group on November 21st, I invited Grace to come play Dominion with the usual GCF Dominion group (e.g. Sam Perli, Stephanie Lam), the first time we had played together after large group this year! She’d never played before but we threw her in the deep end, using cards from all the expansions, since I knew that she’d enjoy it from playing board games with her previously.


When I got back, I couldn’t sleep.. Sam noticed and started chatting with me. I think this was when we started chatting more.


In fact, the next night, we played games with our board game group, and afterwards, I had to stay up to make cookies for my church’s Thanksgiving gathering the next day. When I was done, I noticed Grace still online. Since she had mentioned being hungry the night before, I decided to offer her one of the cookies I had just made.


Cookies at 3am? Erm ok.. I was kind of suspicious by then that Sam likes me. But you know how good he is at lying…. 😛 I was hungry anyway, so I got a cookie!


The games group was building up momentum, so over Thanksgiving break, I proposed that we spend an entire day playing games together, and asked a few of the common board game players if they were in, including Grace.


I was initially intending to go for two different ski trips over Thanksgiving break. Due to my non-existent skiing skills, laziness, Black Friday shopping and my desire to watch all 6 episodes of Star Wars in one go, I decided to stay around. (and I also found out that Sam will be around for the break, so that was an additional pull factor :P)


The following Wednesday, we were playing games in Sidney-Pacific as usual, and I started playing background pop music. Grace and I sung along the most, and it kept playing while we were cleaning up. I asked for help carrying games back to my room, and since Grace lived in SidPac, she stayed late to help. After everyone else had left, what song should come on my playlist but The Saga Begins by Weird Al, telling the story of Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, to the tune of American Pie. She hadn’t heard the song before, so I suggested we listen through to the end, and of course, I sang along, inadvertently serenading her, I guess…


Did he just sing the entire song shamelessly? HAHA… I thought it was cute and funny. Coincidentally, I happened to be halfway through watching Star Wars Episode 5 at that point of time. Finishing that I went on to Episode 1 because I got reminded of that through the song.


Well, Sam chatted with me again that night and our conversation ended like this:
good night Sam (:
thanks for singing the song just now
I thought you’d like it
even though my singing sucks
no you were good and i thought it was really cute
ok good night!
that’s err what I was going for…err…


What was he going for???? Puzzled I asked him after Thanksgiving Potluck
So sam… what were you going for? 😛


She had sent me this chat while I wasn’t even online, so it seemed that this was really weighing on her mind, and she really wanted to talk about it. But I didn’t want this conversation to take place over chat. So later that night, I told her:
so honestly, I just like singing along to songs
and felt comfortable enough doing so
sorry if it seemed weird
oh no it wasn’t weird..
i sing along to songs too


Ok.. So he was just toying with me… I was kind of disappointed ):


I began looking for better opportunities to talk with her. The next night, I asked her if she was excited about our board game marathon the following day, and she told me that she was watching Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones. Seeing an opportunity…


Star Wars Episode 2… So much talking! So many wipes! I was planning to go to sleep and then continue with the movie the next day. Ok Sam kind of mentioned something about the action starting after the factory scene and something about watching it with me.. wait what? let me go back and see what he wrote:
are you at the good part yet?
the end of that movie is the best
iirc the good part starts when Anakin and Padme get to that factory
Oh no.. they are still at Tatooine
mm ic
lemme know when they get there
I might come up and watch with you 😛
Gulp. Did I actually just say that? Well, she didn’t react to it…
hmm… interesting… let me continue with the movie. Ok factory scene!
Factory now lol
do you mind if I come up and watch with you?
it’s like inviting myself 😛
So I came up and we watched and laughed at the end of the movie! After that, I showed her the Honest Trailers and How It Should Have Ended’s for Episodes I and II, and we had a good laugh at all of them.


Hahaha.. that was fun. Then suddenly Sam went silent and had this serious look.


Once I’d exhausted all of the ways to make her laugh… I asked her something like,
“So… I think you think I like you.”
“Yeah, I think it’s pretty obvious that you like me.”
“Okay, so I want to be clear: If you don’t like me back and you want to stay just friends, I’m perfectly fine with that.”


Sam just kept on about how its ok if I don’t like him and hoping that we can still continue to be friends. I mean, wasn’t it obvious that I am interested??? Taking a sharp breath I said


“No, but I do like you!”


In my mind, that changed everything!


Sam looked stunned. He then gathered himself and asked about my scholarship bond, to which I replied that it was troubling me as well. Sitting in the dark silently for what seemed like a really long time, we then decided to talk about the possibility of entering a relationship.


We talked about our two major hurdles as I saw them: Grace has to go back to Singapore after graduating and work for the Singaporean government for six years, and I kind of like it here in the US. Oh, and she has the same name as my sister… Anyways, we tentatively agreed that we needed to get to know each other better and would expect to date for a period of something like six months at least (I wanted to calibrate our expectations, to quantify how committed we felt).


Were those tears in his eyes when we talked about Singapore? We talked about so much stuff! About our past and what dating entails and where our relationship is heading…


Haha, I’m not sure. It did feel like a heavy burden to bear at the time (and still does, to some extent). We ended up talking into that night until 4:30am. I remember asking, “So, what now?” and we ended up just holding hands while sitting next to each other.


Wait what just happened? The next morning, I woke up thinking that I just had a really strange Define the Relationship dream. Then there was this email from this guy called Sam Elder:
I didn’t really just meet you, and it’s sort of crazy that I don’t have it yet, but here’s my number:
Text me maybe?




7 responses to “How Grace and I Met

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