About Me

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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.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Cordial Interrogations: Most Common Questions Being A Foreigner

North of Tamsui a few days after we first moved to Taiwan

My daughter and I have been in Taiwan for almost 8 years (in July) and we still are asked the accustomed inquiries when we first meet Taiwanese. She and I  moved here when she was 2 1/2 years old. She was still in diapers and I was still nursing.

After a year of living in Taiwan,  Aquarium in Kenting
Most Taiwanese are too polite to ask too personal of questions straight away, perhaps the 3rd encounter or so. There are some businesses in Yilan City that my kid and I will straight up not frequent, despite the good service/food, because we get a full on interrogation every time from the whole staff of a very private line of questions.

Taiwanese are curious of course of foreigners here, its a homogeneous society. Especially in Yilan we are a novelty, compared to a more cosmopolitan place like Tainan. It generally gets old, but I try to answer as graciously as possible. My kid who is less self censored by societal norms will half the time flagrantly ignore their examination.

The most common questions in order of frequency:

1. Is your husband Taiwanese?

Keep in mind they ask this in regards to my kid. I know the natural assumption is I'm married because I have a child.  But they are looking at her green eyes and light hair and are marveled that a Taiwanese person can have such a white kid. I still find it incredulous, because I look more "Taiwanese" than she does. I answer first that I'm not married, which always produces a physical reaction akin to, "Oops." And sometimes depending on the situation I'll offer that her father is American and lives in America, again because they are curious to the biological equation.

2. Why did you come to Taiwan?

I usually say,  "Work" when the answer is infinitely more complicated.  Initially it was about being financially independent, she was old enough to go to preschool at the kindergarten I worked at, and I missed living abroad. If I stayed in Colorado sure I could find a better paying job then Taiwan, but I would never see my kid. Now staying in Taiwan is about my kid's Mandarin and all the social benefits of living here. But if I didn't have her I would of left Taiwan years ago.

One of my more interesting students

3. What do you eat?

People seem surprised (always) that I cook (at all) maybe because they can't or don't and its cheap, convenient to eat out here. Since working in Yilan, I have less time for cooking, less time at home generally between my work, and TRX, ballet, weight lifting classes and my daughter's art, and flute classes, that we do eat out more. I still cook, or I should say I have my daughter cook (its the one house chore she loves) on the weekends when we have time.  We like to experiment with all the dearth of fruits and veggies when they come in season. For example, our pink guava bundt cakes turned out great. It doesn't always though, I also like to experiment with replacing wheat flour with brown rice powder or anything and sometimes the cake is more like a protein bar than dessert. When we first moved here and Z was small I made lots of pasta with whatever I have around. Now I use bean noodles and since she can do spicier, coconut curries.

I also try to cook vegetables I've never seen before. We do have our favorite Taiwanese foods. Some aren't too healthy so they are for twice a year, like sweet bubble tea for her and stinky tofu for both of us. Our go-to eating out meals are beef noodle soup, dumplings and sesame noodles. One a  month we eat at the nicer restaurants in the shopping mall, or Western Food places like Balagov's, Slow Train, Slobber's or Tavola's.

Pink guava cake with dragon fruit frosting

4. Do you go back home to visit?

Its pretty expensive, somehow or other we seem to go back every year and half. The first time was during CNY when Z was 3. Mary the then owner of Sharefun in Tainan (my boss) sponsored Z's ticket, which was a godsend. I think we have been back three times (?). The last time, summer of 2015 I was able to pay from my new job's sign on bonus, the summer before then my folks came here.

Family in New Mexico July 2015

5.Will you live in Taiwan forever?

Lately, I've been answering it depends on who is president. Obviously if its Trump (which I doubt) we would stay here. The plan has been to go back when Z is in 6th grade, so she can skip junior high here and the boring, spirit defeating unbalanced life of academics and tests.

6. Is Taiwan better than the U.S?

Both places have their advantages. Obviously its safer here. The chances of an active shooter in Taiwan is almost nil thankfully. The national health care system is fabulous, we can see the dentist or get acupuncture for a few dollars US. The social safety nets here are more civilized. Taiwan is also a fabulous springboard for travel around Asia, we have always taken advantage to bucket airlines, holiday time and neighboring destinations. On the downside my dating options are nonexistent. Men my age are married with kids and the single foreigners are young and want to play in the ocean of hot Chinese toys. Taiwanese men are too shy and honestly I don't have the time or patience to deal with what I see my Taiwanese female friends deal with, I already have a kid (no offense).

 The US is more comfortable, the food is better, at least I have access to healthy foods, gluten free, high quality  organic food and ancient grains which are rare and or expensive here. I don't have to worry about tainted oil, milk, etc back home. There's more of a variety of exercise, dance and yoga classes State side, although Taipei may a have a few here and there. Of course my oldest friends and family are back home. But for a while now Taiwan has been our homestead.


What I don't tell people

What I don't tell people, but all my good friends know is the story of  her father. I have nothing to hide, you can guess what I'll say. Her father and I dated on and off for years, even lived together for some of those. We got pregnant on purpose anticipating marriage and then it all went to crap. I was in grad school in England and he was calling me drunk, sending me scary emails about shooting, blowing things up (he likes to target shoot for fun) and was generally off his rocker, very controlling (I couldn't use email to male friends, or couldn't accept baby gifts from my parents, and he even said I couldn't have a telephone.) I made him the ultimatum to see a counselor (which has done before for years) or end the relationship. I went back to the US 22 weeks pregnant to successfully finish my master's dissertation and unsuccessfully get a restraining order on him (judge said his threats were implicit). It was a scary decision  to allow him in my home to see her, but he and his mom lost interest after she was 5 weeks old. He never paid a penny. He knows where my folks live, my email address hasn't changed; basically its effortless to contact me and not once has he asked about her. I assume he's too cheap and too afraid I'll smack him my legal right to garnish his wages.

Having said that, he's always in our prayers.

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