My Lamma Weekly E-zine

#14  (Fri, Nov 29, 2002)

written, edited, designed & distributed by:

Latest E-zine online at:

Supplement to "My Lamma Weekly E-zine" #14  (Fri, Nov 29, 2002)

Real Romance in a Virtual World


Cyberspace is expanding the boundaries of love,
as one couple who found happiness can testify, writes Steven Knipp

(edited by Lamma-Gung to correct mistakes and protect our identities online.)

To you or me, Lamma-Gung, the popular webmaster of one of the largest websites in HK, might not be a dashing Clark Gable or a Chow Yun-fat.
To his adoring wife Lamma-Poh and his many friends, however, he has it all – charm, humour, wit and lots of heart.

But it was not always that way. Back home in Europe, today’s Lamma-Gung the heart-breaker was Lamma-Gung the heart-broken. With a university background that combined biology and computer studies, he found himself ill-trained in the delicate art of feminine seduction and the science of cheeky chat-up lines.

He was too shy to summon up the courage to even talk to girls at the bus stop, let alone drop into a swinging singles bar. Needless to say February 14 would be just another day, with no Valentine in sight. Working night shifts and self-conscious about his looks, Lamma-Gung became a self-confessed “computer monk”.

But all that changed late one night, more than a decade ago, when he sent out into cyberspace a brief instant message that was picked up by a woman in Hong Kong.

“Basically, I worked as a babysitter for a mainframe computer during night shifts,” he says. “And if everything was running well, you could spend the time as you liked.

“I knew a lot about telecommunications and I knew how to find out another instant message user’s ID in other places, and from that ID you could usually tell if they were male or female,” he adds. “I was always insecure about my appearance. I thought a lot of girls wouldn’t like me because I’m a big guy. But on-line, I could shed all my fears and insecurities and just be as crazy and funny as I wanted to be.”

Initially, because of the time differences, he chatted electronically with computer users up and down the United States east coast. But late one evening, he decided to go time-zone hopping.

Selecting a number of female-sounding IDs from his unique little black book, he slapped on a dash of virtual cologne, virtually slicked back his hair and sent out a blind instant message to these IDs, saying: “Hello, a mighty yodel salutes you from Europe! Are you busy?”

More than five time zones away, this message appeared on the screen of another computer user. Mistaking Lamma-Gung’s very short ID for another online friend, Lamma-Poh felt there was no harm in chatting.

Soon enough, Lamma-Gung pulled his cyber stool closer to Lamma-Poh’s and with wolf-like cunning he e-mailed her a much longer message listing his many hobbies and part-time jobs.

“We’d talk about all kinds of things, everything under the sun,” he recalls fondly.

“Because I was also a big Bruce Lee fan, I asked her questions about Hong Kong, about its film industry, about the people, the food. And she asked me about my home country and about life there.”

Before long, the two were spending hours communicating almost every night.

After a few months, Lamma-Gung decided to make a move into the real world, boldly going from e-mail to “snail mail”.

He began to deluge Lamma-Poh with a vast array of fantastic multi-coloured, cartoon-festooned works of art that would appear to be the combined effort of Salvador Dali, Jackson Pollack and Bugs Bunny.

Lamma-Poh’s reaction to these hand-crafted creations, some of which took 10 hours to produce, was immediate. “The feelings which came whenever I received these strange and wonderful envelopes made me rush over to pick up my office mail, and I couldn’t wait to read Lamma-Gung’s messages. All my office friends would come over to ask: “What’s all this about?” and I’d tell them about Lamma-Gung.”

Many Europeans may be diligent and dependable, but they are not reckless romantics. It was Lamma-Poh who made the first long-distance “verbal interlock”.

Lamma-Gung recalls receiving her first call: “Her voice was so quiet, so shy I could hardly understand her. And she couldn’t understand my accent at all.”

After several more months, he decided it was time to meet some of his computer pals in the U.S. He saved the last week of his holiday for Lamma-Poh.

“Basically, I had to convince a very shy girl to travel to the other side of the world to spend a week with someone she had never actually met,” he says, adding that he finally succeeded after months of effort.

Not only that, but she had to pick up her own airfare as well because Lamma-Gung was still a student and part-time worker and could not afford the expenses for both.

To top things off, he claimed he did not have money to pay for two single rooms.

So within hours of their first meeting, Lamma-Gung had managed to draw a shy young Chinese quail into his lair, using frugality as his cover.

“Up until then and at that time,” Lamma-Gung insists, “we were just good friends and she called me ‘Dearest Comforter’ because I always managed to bring her through tough problems and cheer her up.”

Their first meeting took place at the airport in Miami, Florida. Lamma-Gung strolled up to Lamma-Poh and introduced himself.

“I was a bit nervous,” remembers Lamma-Poh. “I didn’t really know what he looked like, because he had only sent pictures from the head-up. I don’t know how I could talk to him so easily, so quickly, but I just felt comfortable.”

“And she swept me off my feet,” says Lamma-Gung, conjuring up a scene that would seem to defy the laws of physics. “But I was thinner then,” he adds with a hearty laugh.

“The nice thing I found about Lamma-Gung over the first few days together,” remembers Lamma-Poh, “was that this guy acted the same in person as online.”

Lamma-Gung says: “Often people are very different in person from on-line. Actually, Lamma-Poh is very different in person from on-line. On-line she’s very quiet, not outspoken. She can type very fast, but she doesn’t write a lot. I would send five times more lines of instant messages than her. But in person she’s much more lively.”

After a few months, Lamma-Gung decided to find out whether their mutual attraction was more than mere flirtation, and asked Lamma-Poh to visit his home country, where she was a big hit with his family.

He then decided to see what living in Hong Kong with Lamma-Poh might be like. While he had kept his family informed of the rapidly unfolding events in his life, Lamma-Poh had kept the reasons for her trips to Florida and Europe secret.

But her mother eventually found out after spotting them in a cafe one morning. Luckily she was broad-minded.

The courtship was not without problems, however. While he had sent only passport-type photos of himself before their first meeting, Lamma-Poh had not revealed she had three children – aged 10, 12 and 14 – from a previous marriage.

“I was quite furious and almost flew back to Europe,” Lamma-Gung says, recalling when she gave him the news.

“Eventually I realised that she hadn’t mentioned her kids because she was very concerned that it might scare me away. Basically it’s a difference in perception of the importance of truth, and for me this is very important.”

But Lamma-Gung calmed down and they married in November 1991. Now, he attaches a metallic “I love Lamma-Poh” pin on his lapel almost every morning as he dresses for work.

Despite having found true love in cyberspace Lamma-Gung warns: “Don’t fall in love on-line because it’s very dangerous. I did not fall in love with Lamma-Poh on-line, only after meeting her in person.”

“The great thing about on-line communication is that you see the inside of the person first; the outside comes later.”

© South China Morning Post