California was great. The flight was short, I made conversation w/ the guy next to me who is a local CO dude turned independent producer working w/ some sort of comedy gig w/ actors that toured CO. Zenaida had fun, was well behaved and fell asleep when the plane landed at LAX. Aunt Stella and Uncle Bob found us right away and helped w/ the baggage. Their house was relaxing enough, great food, good company. My time was too short there (a day) just enough to have lunch w/ my estranged brother John and for him to meet Zenaida for the first time. She eventually warmed to him. We met at Pasadena and had lunch at some Indian Restaurant at Old Town. He was driving his friends Beamer w/o a driver’s license which wasn’t cool and his driving on the freeway (I’ve never known him to drive) was hair raising. I had no time to see my old roommate from Chu Wei (Eric) or my grandmother.
The flight to Taipei was hellacious. First there was the craziness at LAX, so many SE Asians in one place all crowded and no one not sure which line to stand in. Luckily having so much luggage and Zenaida strapped to my back had some perks, being at the front of the lines. Security was a pain, taking off our shoes, taking out the portable DVD player, etc. Waiting for the plane at our gate for 1 1/2 hour and after boarding the plane waiting 2 more hours in an overbooked plane which was extremely hot. I didn’t sleep at all, my back was too uncomfortable. Zenaida slept the first 5 hours or so and that was it. There was a Taiwanese boy her age in front of us and they played, being joined by an Indian girl and an older Taiwanese boy. Zenaida was a superstar until about an hour before we landed, she was asleep in my arms and I had to go the bathroom, she woke up and started screaming. Of course I tried to calm her and she kept on crying, "I just want to cry a minute!" over and over again. She was great. People where very helpful all around.
Sherry was there at Taoyuan Airport to pick us up, which was great. There was a tropical storm and she suggested coming home w/ her instead of the train south, which sounded good to me. I was overtired and excited and chatted w/ Sherry as her brother drove us. The traffic was bad, but a little over an hour later we made it to her nice apt. I found out the next day that 13 people died from floods from the rain of that storm in Central Taiwan (near Taichung). It was bizarre to drive by Chu Wei and see the street Eric and I lived when we squatted in that condemned building that winter and to drive by Alisse’s building, the whole town has grown and it’s busier and more developed (Starbucks next to the train station where a local shrimp burger place used to be).
Sherry’s place was great. Zenaida was a bit silly w/ her and took some time warming up to her, which got old. Her apt looks like a Florida resort and is called the Flamingos and looks over the beach with Guanyin Mts in the back behind the town. She took us into town and showed us her favorite walks along the river and the flowers. When the farmers let their fields rest they plant wildflowers, Cosmos and Sunflowers and it’s pretty. Zenaida’s sleep was all jacked then and she was not in the mood for much. She also felt insecure walking in along the street w/ all the cars and scooters and wants to be held. (She is doing better now and Tainan has some sidewalks which are comfortable walking and running on). Sherry also took up to the mt to this rushing stream where there were calm cool pools for the baby to play. Zenaida loves the water anyway and the cool water really soothed her spirit which was irritable from the heat. We also took her to the beach to see the ocean for the first time. She loved it and was laughing out loud totally exuberant from being the in presence of waves, wind and so much water. She could have stayed there forever but the wind picked up and the sand started to feel like needles against our legs so we left. Sherry’s place also has a luxurious outdoor pool and I couldn’t get Zenaida to leave w/o promising we would swim in Tainan. From Sherry’s laptop we Skyped home and called Grandpa and Noni which I wish I could do now but cant.
Sherry’s brother Michael drove us to the train station and helped me the luggage. Of course like my aunt and uncle they would not except gas money and treated me like family. I’m so grateful. The Taiwanese people helped me out all around. I forgot to use Sherry’s phone to call Amy in Tainan and tell her which train I was on, but a kind lady called Amy for me. Zenaida loved the train, so many adventures and she handled it so well.
As for Zenaida she is a bit of a sensation wherever she goes. She is getting more comfortable with the attention (maybe?). Her blue eyes and light hair is a novelty here, plus Taiwanese love kids so everyone turns their head and wants to speak w/ her, even pick her up. When we go anywhere whoever is on the street is waving hellos and goodbyes. Today we walked to a shady grove beside the canal where there was a nice breeze, drinking fresh coconut water (which she didn’t care for) and the workers in the park, matrons my mom’s age put their hands out to pick her up and she let them! (I told her they where grandmothers like Noni and she repeated “they are grandmothers” which maybe she misses hers). And then the women started taking pictures of themselves w/her w/ their cell phones, which was slightly annoying, but I didn’t do anything, Zenaida was ok w/ it. It felt a bit exploitive, as this women will go back to her alley house and show her friends the cute little American girl w/ blue eyes, but oh well this is Taiwan.
Poor Zenaida sweats more than me and that says a lot if you know me well. She is still getting used to the climate and so am I. It’s gotten that today we take a shower after breakfast and before sleep at night and if we are too hot maybe a cold shower before nap time in the afternoon. She has just now got a heat rash that she is scratching on the back of her neck (Dr Alba said to put cornstarch on it, which I have but I remember this medicated powder I used in Thailand for prickly heat and will look for it here asap). It’s so hot she does not want to leave the apt in the morning. This morning I was going to take a taxi to the shopping center where there is AC and lots of space for her to walk around, but they don’t open till 11am and she has been falling asleep between 1130-1230. We walked long Tainan River which is just right behind the building I am staying in temporarily at Teacher Mary’s house. At 7am it’s uncomfortably hot. Fortunately this building has a pool and Zenaida threw a bit of a fit the first morning because she wanted to swim (and cool off). It was very cold and after 20 minutes of wading w/ her was too cold myself and had to leave (Zenaida was fine).
Then there is the whole issue of food. I can spend a lot of time discussing it. The whole gluten free diet has gone out the window thus far. Zenaida takes after me and adores dumplings which most dumpling skins are wheat. She also adores noodles which are either white wheat or white rice flour, neither which is considered nutritious to me. My standards have dropped as we are on survival mode—not that we are starving, but I just don’t have my own kitchen yet or am familiar with the locations of health stores and alternatives. I bought Italian noodles (durum wheat lower on glycimic scale) and marinara sauce, which Zenaida loved (minus the bell pepper and anchovies which she didn’t eat. Mary bought us some wheat bread which tasted great, but like all Taiwanese bread is extremely spongy, soft and cake like, nothing like the dry rye bread Zenaida ate everyday for the past year and a half, but she ate it. So I’m not trying to stress about food as I’ve got so much more on my plate (separation anxiety from Zenaida). (I’ve got issues with food, I always have to have some kind of dietary prohibition, because I grew up adhering to a Jewish Kosher diet—I was a strict vegetarian for 7 years and a pescatarian for 10 more years, followed by a low glycemic diet that turned into a gluten free diet when Zenaida got eczema). Anyway, for lunch we shared a beef and cheese croissant sandwich at Starbucks. Basically I will have to learn to cook the local cuisine and tweak it for Zenaida and myself. She likes fried fish and noodles and dumplings. I can’t wait to get my own kitchen and be settled.
Mary’s place is great, they are hardly ever home. Her husband Dr. Frank works in the ICU unit in a hospital in Tainan County 1 1/2 hours away and sleeps there most of the time, their kids are going to Uni in Christchurch, NZ and Mary fills her time at work at the school with long hours (she is the owner). The building is like a 5 star hotel, pool, sauna, gym, lovely gardens and lobby, very nice. I cook and do laundry there and feel very welcome. The only downer is her computer is all in Chinese and she doesn’t know how to change it to English for me so I cant email unless I am at the school (like now).
Working out, my yoga practcice as its been the past 2 years is non existant. Its just too hot and hunid to want to move! Now I know why the locals do Tai Chi at dusk and dawn! I carry Zenaida alot which is exercise I guess, but Im afraid I will loose muscle tone and will have to start doing something soon.
At the moment my biggest stress is Zenaida and her transition. She threw a full fledge tantrum at Carrefour (French Costco) because she wanted to eat a banana before I paid for it. It was embarrassing. Amy was with me which was good for support. We had to drive to an empty parking lot and waited for her to calm herself which she did after 5 minutes, but it was distressing. She has thrown a few screaming fits at home and its very hard to get her out of that rage mode, but when she saw that we weren’t budging until she calmed herself, she began to try. I think she threw a fit for 2 main reasons: 1) She has been constipated since she arrived in Taiwan and 2) she was tired. I was planning on giving her a glycerin enema that night but after a;; the crying she started burping big burps and I knew her digestive system was trying to work and that night she had a sticky/hardish poo at midnight and a nice big loose on yesterday, so we will see about today.
Part of our transition is loosening the separation between us which is completely counter intuitive because I want to protect her and help her adjust to a new country. But I have to teach a full day beginning the 4th and she has to start bonding with her teacher Christine. We have been going to the school in the afternoons this week and whenever she cries for me I come running and breast feed her. We will take her to school in the mornings next week and start increasing the times until she can do a whole day with naps there. Its hard for me, one day at a time. I prayed for Zenaida to have supernatural peace and a supernatural transition Its hard for me, one day at a time. I prayed for Zenaida to have supernatural peace and a supernatural transition as the teacher tell me from their experience she might cry from anywhere from one week to 2 months! Once she is settled, I can eat lunch w/her or pop in during a free moment for akiss and cuddle but until then the is umbelical cord is being cut and it hurts! I still nurse her which for Taiwanese standards is much too old and am being asked when I will quit (soon I hope). Ive been told by 2 sources (Sherry and my aunt Stella) that chili on the nipples is the way to go, but sounds painful for both of us.
The school is like the UN. There is a student from Japan, another from Korea, mixed African American and Taiwanese and now Zenaida. As for teachers, there is a teacher from India, Scotland and S Africa (all male), myself and another female from Aurora, Colorado (small world) who is coming next month. I think there is another female Canadian teacher but she is on vacation.
So its one day at a time for us, lots of adventures and lots to get used to. Zenaida already says hello and goodbye in Mandarin, she is such a trooper. Where there is lack Grace super abounds! And that is evident in every situation with myself and Zenaida at the moment.
- Kathy (杜 言 艷)
- Yilan, Taiwan
- I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.