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.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Eight Ways from Sunday: 8 Years in Taiwan

萬事開頭難 wàn shì kāi tóu nán - All things are difficult before they are easy

It's been 8 influential years here in Taiwan! These photos are a day or two after our arriving from Colorado. Z was still nursing and in diapers. Although I had friends in Taipei, I didn't know a soul in Tainan, let alone ever been there before. I was excited to start our new life there. I had complete, blind  faith (is there no other kind?) that this was exactly where I should be after I agreed to take that leap.

Jul 23, 2008

Why did I take my nursing toddler to  a foreign country all by myself? No I don't have family in Taiwan, I'm not Asian at all. It was a combination of reasons. I was getting ansy, living for 2 1/2 years in the States after living abroad so long, I felt stuck. My bro's insane toxic divorce was extremely stressful for the whole family. It was infecting me and my kid.

Plus I had lived in Taipei for a year and half some time before Z was born. Taiwan was good to me. Living and working in Spain, Germany, Ireland and S. Korea, as well as traveling through 20 other countries, Taiwan was my first choice for uprooting with my kid. I didnt even consider another place. In Taipei,  sixteen years ago, I quickly paid off my undergrad loan, had a comfy lifestyle, was able to save enough to travel for the next 2 years and made lasting friendships that thrive still. Taiwan was and still is a safe place to raise a child in comparison to other countries I worked in.

There is this hurtful stereotype of westerners in Taiwan. That we can't somehow "make it" at home so we come here. Thats almost right, but its still far from the truth.  It depends on what your definition of success is, and mine hasn't been monetary. Coming here was a choice with real sacrifices. True, I didn't think I could raise my kid and be a productive citizen in the US those first critical years after giving birth. Not without renouncing precious time away from my kid. I was living on food stamps and Medicaid when Z was born, I appreciated that, I was fortunate enough to recieve aid and mother fulltime, but it wasn't sustainable or ideal. Obviously with a Master's degree finding a job wouldn't have been a problem, but I didnt want to work and have someone else raise my kid, even by my mom whom I trust. I wanted to be independent, be an active mom and live abroad.

I thought I could just return to Taiwan, pay off my grad loan and save. I could work in a kindergarten and bring my kid to work there too. And that's exactly what I did. Unfortunately it hasn't turned out the way I hoped, at least financially. The school I worked for charged me 14,000NT a month for her halfday bilingual preschool- and with a teacher's discount. Starting from scratch and having to pay such a high tuition for her for 5 years was like 2 steps forward one back.

So instead of getting out of my loan debt, the focus has been more on Z's Mandarin, and enjoying traveling around the area. I had little goals along the way; bite the bullet and work for a sadist manager for 5 years until I got my APRC.  Save enough for little holidays around Asia. I didn't really dream big. Working and being a mom, I had little energy for imagination. By 9pm when she was in bed, I was too brain dead for anything more meaningful than mindless HBO. Perhaps thats turned into a habit, an excuse for not improving my Mandarin. Yet, exhaustion is real.

I would have left Taiwan long ago for a higher paying job were it not for Z's fluent Mandarin. Its a difficult language, it takes years of daily, painful study. I believe she has some grander scheme in her future where this skill will help the world be a better place. Until then I do my part and try to be a good enough mom and teacher. I pay my income taxes to Taiwan, volunteered when I could and make the case for the world to recognize Taiwan's sovereignty.

Thank you Taiwan for welcoming us with your tolerance, kindness and generosity! Its been a privilege teaching your precious children. I am humbled for your embracing us with your friendships and support. Living here has been such a blessing, despite the challenges. Its a sacrifice being away from our family, and sometimes I questioned if it was worth it.

Still in diapers, July 24, 2008

But this past 8th year has been our best in Taiwan, and espouses my case that staying here was the right decision. No we didn't win the lottery, I didn't meat Mr. Right, I still drive the same junkie old scooter I had since my first year in Tainan. As I write this I'm still dead broke after coming back from travels in Japan. Yet, a worthwhile job with excellent management had found me. My daughter absolutely relishes her school, admires her teacher and cherishes her classmates. She frequently echos how she prefers to stay here in Yilan, at least until she graduates from 6th grade- especially when I was crushing on moving to Okinawa. Our contentment and appreciation are gifts.

Finally after years of praying for a dream, I have a dim revelation of a practical goal. It finally dawned on me after ending a relationship, that no one but myself is responsible for my happiness. I know its cliche, maybe I am the cliche single, liberal mom. But I want to save and pay off my grad loan, get out of this mentality of hand to mouth survival, improve my Chinese, and my Taiwanese friendships that are now 16 years on. I need to change some habits, mental strongholds about my relationship with money that are rooted from childhood. This is bigger than me. I still have lots to learn from Taiwan and I hope even more to contribute back. 

With God all things are possible. “在人這是不能的,在 神卻凡事都能。”

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