- 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.
Sunday, January 17, 2010
2009 in retrospect
I cant recall how last year begun, but I wont forget how it ended. Oh wait Zenaida and I went to a Xiao Wont-z show (also knows as “Cherry Cheeks”), from all the characters from the classic Japanese cartoon. My friends Alisse and Marty came from Taipei to stay for a much too short visit. The first half I was mostly broke and working hard.
Some memorable highlights from 2009: In June my taxes went down from 20% to 6% which freed some extra cash for buying a scooter, saving very poorly for 2 tickets home, joining a gym, and buying all what Zenaida needed. During the wet season we had the destruction of Typhoon Morokat which really devastated south Taiwan, destruction from around Tainan to Kaohsiung. My apt was without water for a week, so for one day we filled up as many containers as we could and used that for washing up. Water was rationed everywhere for a few weeks there until all the rain and silt from the typhoon was properly cleaned for public consumption.
What other highlights, we got a sweet cat named Mitzy, I went diving and found a good diving crew in Kenting (but haven’t gone since, scroll down for things to do in 2010). I made 2 great friends Anna and Doreen, Taiwanese divorcees with kids and they both live down the street. I found a great church (Dayspring) that feels like home. Having jumped around different places, this one is so full of love, no religion, no legalism, only Jesus. I got baptized there and for anyone who knows me, anti-establishment, free as a bird this was a major, revolutionary step in this process of God-actualization. This goes hand in hand with this present phase of celibacy, Jesus is truly my husband. I’m like a nun, and if anyone ever knew me just several years ago, they’d think that was pretty damn revolutionary (not that I was like Samantha from Sex in the City, but you get the drift).
Also, there were some big uncomfortable earthquakes and loads of tremors, but no damage. I began to learn how to surf and had some wonderful moments trying to learn. One of the best blessings of the year was different people coming together to sponsor the majority of our plane tickets for our Chinese New Year trip home. Share Fun’s owner Mary sponsored Zenaida’s ticket and my church at home (Living Way Fellowship) sponsored 500US for mine. Pretty great! I could afford a bootstrap 3 day weekend in Hong Kong and bring home some gifts. I know I wouldn’t be able to come home without this help. Its one month’s salary and its difficult to save right now.
Health is a strange drama sometimes, childhood sicknesses, things going around the school. For the most part I was like the iron maiden immune from all of it, but there was an episode around Lantern Fest where I fainted in my kitchen and hit my head` on the floor pretty hard (never fainted before, IM not the type). How strange to wake up disoriented on my kitchen floor not knowing how I got there. And then in the change in seasons I got the flu and bad cough for 3 weeks. Zenaida has had a respiratory infection for most of the winter that would come and go and only before our Hong Kong has disappeared. Her stomach is very sensitive and sometimes she gets the runs. Otherwise we are both very strong, energetic and vivacious.
There were some strange experiences with Chinese medicine, cooking with it for dinner. In Taiwan food is really medicine. The bad reactions to the medicine is another story.
Sharefun (at certain moments also known by the teachers as Share Stress).
I felt I found my groove with my kids and being uber-productive and having higher than expected results. Sure each of my students is a 5 year old genius and easy to teach, but I’ve just been this Aquarian icon standing with a big water jug, pouring, pouring everything into their receptive, growing brains and its gratifying. These little 5 year olds can tell you about Taiwanese aboriginals, watersheds, the Nativity story, reduce/reuse/recycle, they know the geography of Taiwan and their song repertoire is impressive. I love the kids and am not perfect, but love covers a multitude of mistakes.
Zenaida continues to be in half day English, half a day Chinese. Her Mandarin and English are both excellent. She can go in and out of either in mid conversation and often translates for me. She can also speak Taiwanese (Hokkien).
The Flying Club
The gym is just around the corner from our apartment. The staff and members are like one big family. I get lots of support. I workout during lunch and W, Th., Fri eve classes (Latin, combat and belly dancing). There is a kid room adjacent to the weights and studio with glass walls, and if Z isn’t playing on the indoor jungle gym, she is being spoiled by the trainers and staff. The old aunties (aw-ees) and grandmas (amas) also spoil her. Two particular amas (one being Amy Wu) are a godsend, even if they can be with her for 10 minutes. I started working with a personal trainer, who is my friend Jessica and she is amazing, creative and good at her job. The medicine ball on a buso is my best friend. I finally pump iron and am not bored. The head manager Ben is kind and his daughter is Z’s age. The head trainer Ethan is Z’s favorite uncle. Professional baseball local hero Wong, Jimmy ex-pitcher for the Yankees works out there on his off season. Now 3 Korean baseballs teams beat the harsh Korean winters for Tainan’s mild ones and hit the weights after practice.
At the gym I’ve tried being buried in wood dust of heated sandalwood. Its like being buried alive. I’ve seen people buried to the neck in sand to sweat out toxins, this is sorta the same thing, except you’re lying in a wood box full of soft, aromatic, sandalwood and one of staff gets a shovel and buries you up the neck, closes the wood over you, turn on the heat and all you hear is crickets with classical music. You don’t even feel like you’ve sweated until you come out. Recently they bought this huge clay jar with a lid and of course you’re supposed to sit inside of it while they pump medicine vapor with the fumes of some expensive medicine stones. I tried it , it felt great, could of stayed there longer, but my an eye vessel popped shortly after--might have been a little too stimulating.
Now I’m setting up a kettlebell trainer from Taipei to come do a seminar at the end of Jan, so I’m hoping it will be a win-win for all parties.
I think this year, at least the end part Ive been given the gift of the abundant life. Sure I live mostly from paycheck to paycheck, I don’t own a car or home and make too less to mention, but somehow I have everything I need and want. I find the coolest high quality clothes for me and Z at cheap prices (Korean not Chinese made—so cool and high quality), I can buy the best foods. Taiwan is blessed with a plethora of exotic fruits, vegs, fresh fish. Sure the bread sucks and there is no decent Mexican or Middle East food and great cheese and deli meats are expensive, but I cant complain. I have access to all the TV shows, movies, music that I want or have time for (an hour b4 bed maybe). I have too many books to finish. I am taking Chinese lessons and have no time to finish my homework. At Chinese New Year, they hang red door banners and symbols of prosperity in order to have a year of fullness; full kitchens, bellies, wombs, bank accounts, chalk full. But what I have is overflowing. I have to give away Z’s clothes, books and toys, I cant contain it all. I can barely keep my 3 room apartment clean. And all on my little (by US standards) paycheck, which when you take away taxes, Z’s tuition, isn’t much at all. Its this small miracle, to be a lily of the field and have all my needs and then some met.
And so I end this year with a hotel/flight package to Hong Kong, a change of scene, and pace, ringing in the New Year with total expectation for good things, new adventures, new possibilities and more blessings to overflow and pass around.