Reflections on Taiwan

Lately I have been focused on endings: the end of a relationship, the end of the school year, the end of my time in Taiwan, and a sick grandmother at home whom I can’t visit because I am halfway around the world. I’ve been tearing up at every little thing. This happened last year around this same time even though I had far fewer changes happening.

That’s the downside of this life – there are lots of endings and lots of good-byes at the end of every year.

But I started randomly reading journals entries from the past few years, and I realized something. I’d forgotten the impetus that brought me to Taiwan to begin with.

Man, I was in a bad place. I was unhappy, and I felt stuck. And, worst of all, I couldn’t see a way out or anything better in my future. So I quit my job.

When I quit my job, I had no idea what I was going to do. I just knew I had to make a change. It took me three months to figure out that I didn’t want to teach in the U.S. and that there were opportunities to teach abroad. It took me another four months to get here.

But I did it.

And the first few months here were hard. I was exhausted and overwhelmed and there were times when I didn’t think I could stick it out, that I could live this life that was so different from what I had at home.

  • I was living in a country where I didn’t speak the language and was at the mercy of people who spoke English or asking for help from people I’d just met at work.
  • I was living in a studio apartment with no kitchen, one tiny window, and a mattress that was hard as a rock.
  • Without a car, I found it hard to shop for anything more than what I could carry plus I had to figure out where to shop. There are very few big box stores here that sell everything.
  • I had a mold issue in my apartment and my shoes were growing mold and I didn’t know if that was normal in Taiwan or what I could do about it and it made me feel dirty.
  • I had baby roaches that woke up at night and crawled around on the floor and I would see them every time I would get up to go to the bathroom and I would lie in bed at night and pretend they didn’t exist. I felt like a little kid again who was afraid that her hands would fall over the edge of the bed and get grabbed by a monster only it was a baby roach that might crawl up my arm and into my ear and lay eggs.
  • I had trouble sleeping at night because that’s when everyone at home was awake, and I was afraid someone would need me and I’d be asleep.
  • I was teaching students who barely spoke English, and I had no Mandarin language skills so getting to know them was impossible and teaching was a challenge.

Yes, these were the crazy and real things that, by month three, were making me wonder if I could do this.

But the idea of going home and leading the life that had been slowly strangling me was far worse.

So I stayed. I spent my weekends literally wandering around and seeing this new world I was living in and taking pictures and reveling in the strangeness that gradually became familiarity. And I got to know people who became close friends who were amazing when I was hospitalized and who went on trips with me and were there for me when I needed them.

And it’s two years later, and I have to say good-bye to a city I have come to love and people I have come to think of as another family and it’s hard. But I am so grateful that I have had these experiences and met all of these people who will forever be in my heart and have memories that will last a lifetime.

On top of that, I now see three or four different futures that all seem equally as good. I wish I had more than one lifetime to do all the things I dream of and now believe possible.

I couldn’t have known where I would be today when I got on that plane two years ago, but I am so glad I didn’t allow that to hold me back. I honestly have no idea where I’ll be in five years, but I know I’ll be in China for the next two – and I can’t wait to see what happens next!

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