What You Want to Know::Everything I Hoped For

“Was it everything you hoped for?”

I’m going to be honest here. I honestly didn’t know what I “hoped for” when moving here. Well, that’s not entirely true. I hoped for a safe flight and a wonderful time spent traveling and building a new life with my [then] new husband, in which I would be able to save up money for our future back in the U.S. I had the feeling that, yes, I was supposed to come here, and the original plan was to stay here two years, but now Jeremy’s been here for almost five years and I’ve been here for three. Not quite what we expected, but I can’t say it hasn’t been what I hoped for.

I’ve actually been giving this a lot of thought lately. I have come to the realization over the past year and a half or so that I didn’t have any specific goals in mind except to save money. I thought I would pick up more of the language as time went on, maybe take some classes, but life happens, and bad jobs happen, and let’s just say we’ve finally able to begin saving money over these past few months. Before reaching this point, though, there were some bad times, and one of the problems is that when you are doing something just for the money, and that’s your only goal, well, then, “Houston, we have a problem.” (Pardon the old quote.) It’s been hard to find things that fill that longing in my soul, the things that make me feel complete. But in the end, I’m glad I was able to start here because I have grown a lot since being here. I’ve learned to better accept rejection. I’ve grown closer to God because of all of my down time. I’ve learned that there are some things I can do, even with limited communicative abilities, and I’ve learned what I want to do once I returned home. That’s more than I could have hoped for, especially since coming here unaware of the things I would be missing back home can sometimes take over my mind and overshadow the good things. When I left the states, I was open to all possibilities, and sometimes that was good, but it also sometimes left me feeling empty and confused.

But despite all of this, one of the things that I can tell you is what I’ve learned and what I now hope for in the future, upon returning back to the states. I hope to follow through on my dreams and succeed (despite whatever rejection or however many failures I may encounter first). I hope to travel more – in a way that really allows me to enjoy it. (Sometimes here there is just never enough vacation time… lol) I hope for a loving life and family that is supportive and happy. I hope to find every opportunity to celebrate and enjoy life. I hope to become involved in “extracurriculars” again. I hope to spend as much time as possible with friends and people I love, and I hope that all of my decisions are in line with the will of God.

I really don’t regret my life here, and I will remember it fondly, but there are times when I wish that I would have thought more about what I really wanted out of all of this because some days I can’t help but wonder if I’m “doing it right.” But I have hope for the future, and I am looking forward to the next step.

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Thank you for all your questions! They’ve really made me think, and have gotten me through the summer. This is the end of What You Want to Know (for now), and starting next month, I’m planning on doing something a little bit different, but all based on things I thought of while answering your questions. Thank you; you’ve been a great help! 🙂

What You Want to Know:: What I Hate About Living Abroad

Kristine also asked, “Is there anything you don’t like about living abroad?”

To be honest, I’ve been putting this question off because even though there are days when I complain about living here, I do my best not to focus on the negatives, especially when I get to the point in which I am really missing home, friends, and family. So, for starters, that would be number one. I’ve met some wonderful people here – ones that I hope to always be able to visit and/or keep in touch with, but obviously one of the things that sucks about being abroad is not being near to those I care about.

In relation to this, I also feel that I’ve missed out on things throughout my time here, including important moments in my friends’ and family’s lives, pop culture, and, of course, the chance to shop at Target for wonderfully priced colored skinny jeans, which I cannot find in my size here. 😉

However, if I were to discuss Taiwan/Asia in general, it would have to be the ingrained ideas about saving face and how important it is to always make sure that embarrassment stays at bay. While there are things I absolutely love and will miss, this will not be one of them. I can’t find it in myself to accept this cultural idea about always needing to preserve one’s honor and pride in relation to losing face. (And this coming from someone who makes up pseudo-scientific facts just to win an argument! ^.~) Even though there are times when I am so stubborn that it hurts, I do know (eventually) when to apologize and give in, admitting defeat. (And in turn, realizing that this is how to grow and learn in order to move forward in life and on projects. Here, though, if you’re at the top, there’s no arguing about who is in the wrong. This is the same for foreigners; if you are not from here, you are obviously wrong. (Just ask the Taiwanese man we gave directions to, who then drove another 10 feet to ask another Taiwanese person…who didn’t know!)

But more than that, this happens all the time in business politics. I realize that saving face happens in America, too, and pretty much all over the world, but in this country, it’s so much more prevalent in daily life. If you are at a lower level, it’s your fault, no room for argument. The boss/teacher/elder is always correct and rarely ever open to any sort of discussion about what could be better or what may have actually happened. (Ask our older neighbor who, when leaving the store, found out we bought meat there and wouldn’t leave the store entrance until Jeremy got on our scooter and left that store to go to the other one.  Jeremy then drove in a circle and went back to the closer store because it wasn’t worth the extra kilometers, or the lecture we would have gotten later. Or ask every cram school boss who has had a complaint from a parent saying that their child doesn’t like the teacher’s class because the games “aren’t fun” even though all the other kids are having a blast. On second thought, maybe don’t because then you’ll probably get berated, too. Maybe instead, ask teachers, like my friend Jamie, who were fired because the kids “weren’t having fun,” or just “didn’t like the teachers.”) None of these situations were open to discussion, and often there’s not much of a reason either; it’s “just the way it is.”

I have had to say my fair share of “I’m sorry,” statements throughout my three years here, and it’s not fun, nor always necessary, unless you actually want to be fired for “insubordination,” and while it’s taught me [even more] patience and humility (to an extent), I believe that these types of situations do in fact have a trickle-down effect. Having to do this constantly causes any victim to harbor either hostility and hate or fear, which I’m pretty sure is then taken out on other drivers, neighbors, common passersby, or maybe even themselves – whomever seems in the way – especially if that person is at a “lower level” than they are. It’s one of those things that is considered, well, like I said, “the way it is.” It’s the reason my students never speak up in class and sometimes have no reason for why they think the way they do about something. It’s the reason my friend Jamie lost her job. It’s the reason people here feel the need to give you advice about anything and everything – from where to buy meat to medical advice to how to raise our dog, and I think it would take generations to change that. I have tried so long to figure out why things can’t be discussed or worked on or accepted as a difference of opinion, but I have yet to find a true answer that makes me want to accept this cultural aspect, so I keep questioning as often as I can. And while on the opposite end of the spectrum I sometimes think the U.S. can be a bit too outspoken, I am thankful that saving face not something I will have to continue dealing with/doing (to the extent it’s experienced here) for the rest of my life.

So in a [large] nutshell, those are the few things that I do not enjoy about living abroad. But none of these truly outweigh those things that I do love. I just do my best to deal with them as they come along.

Image by Laura Smith

“Sometimes the only thing to do is to start looking at everything again until you forget what you’re supposed to see & actually see what’s there” ~storypeople

What You Want to Know::My Favorite Place

Here in Taiwan it’s hard for me to choose just one place that I could call my favorite place, since there are quite a few places I have yet to go to and also there are quite a few that I like. So, to answer Therese’s question: “What is your favorite place in Taiwan?”, I would have to answer: the mountains.

Image by Laura Smith

I didn’t grow up near mountains. Sure, Michigan has some hills, which are nice, but mountains are truly majestic – especially if you are able to view them during a gorgeous sunset:

Image by Laura Smith

Image by Laura Smith

Image by Laura Smith

And they also allow for great exercise.

Image by Laura Smith

And when the clouds and fog roll in, it’s so mystical that I have to stop in my tracks every time.

Image by Laura Smith

Image by Laura Smith

Every time I make it into the mountains, I feel so incredibly calm. I try to do my best to find a little place away from the other people on the same path, which is easy on a weekday, but definitely hard on the weekends. I always feel so calm, peaceful, and connected when I’m in the mountains. I feel like there is so much they have to tell and their massive, immense size definitely reminds me of how small we really are.

Image by Laura Smith

What You Want to Know::I’m So Obvious

Another one of Kristine’s questions included: Do you ever feel like you stick out like a sore thumb?

In short, yes!
Every. single. day.

In fact, some days so much so that I find myself hiding my face so that I don’t have to stare at other people staring at me on the street or on the MRT. (Although, some days I stare back with a look that says, “Why are you staring? Don’t you realize how rude it is?”) Some days it’s felt so much so that I often avoid eye contact because whenever I look them in the eye, all they are thinking is, “Oh, my, her eyes are so blue…” Or, at least, many of them seem to. So much so at times, that even though I love high heels, I have avoided wearing them 95% of the time I’ve been here because, while I’m tall to begin with (here and in the states), the added height just makes it easier for others to pinpoint my location  and blond hair in order to tell their friend that there is a “waiguoren” (“foreigner”) over there.

Some days here it’s like you’re a walking museum exhibition; people notice you everywhere you go, and you hear “waiguoren” at least 20 times that day. Sometimes the term is used in fascination, sometimes in surprise, and sometimes it’s just Captain Obvious doing his job, but thankfully it’s rarely said hatefully. (Maybe two or three times total have I heard it in meanness throughout my time here.) However, no matter how it’s said, often every day I am reminded of how different I am here. Some days it may be less obvious than others, but it is always there. Needless to say, I believe that I can officially say that I know what it’s like to be a minority now, and yes, it can definitely suck.

I would like to elaborate more, but I feel each related topic (beauty, employment, hatred, assumptions, etc.) would work better as separate blog posts, as each has a story to go along with it; so, I will leave you with this picture and award 10 Schrute bucks to those who can spot the foreigners! 😉

Chinese New Year at Xi’s House

What You Want to Know::Do It All Again?

Hey guys! It’s that time for another installment of What You Want to Know. 🙂

We will take another one of Kristine’s questions: If you could go back in time would you and [Jeremy] still go to Taiwan to live?

In short, yes! 😀 It’s been a bit longer than we originally planned, but it’s been worth it. Overall we’ve loved our time here. The people are quite welcoming overall, and the scenery (when you can get out of Taipei) is beautiful, but if you stay in Taipei, there are many things to do in the city, too. Even though there are some things that are hard to get used it, t really has been great all-in-all. 🙂