Category Archives: change

no excuses

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Do you struggle with perfectionism — like me?

This is the first time I’ve opened my laptop in more than a week, the first time I’ve looked at my blog in more than that. The last two weeks have been busy. I’ve been teaching a writing camp at my new job, where I’m an instructor at an after-school learning center. Camp has been in the mornings; regular classes, until 7 or 8 at night. It’s been fun — tons of it — and has given me a lot of ideas about what to write right here. But when it comes to actually sitting down and finding the time to write? When I’m not exhausted?

And the thing is, I don’t want my blog to be all about me, or, worse, less than my best work. The key to successfully engaging an audience is to have something interesting to say, and to say it well. But great writing requires a fresh mind and time to follow through. It seems like every time I sit down to write, I’m in a hurry. Today I’m headed out to meet Jon at the marina where he is tootling around on the bay in our new kayak. It’s something we’ve been wanting to do together for a while now, but, well, when has there been time for that, either?

The good news is that this next week I have a little time off, and I intend to utilize that time to do some of the things (write and ride, and maybe swim) I’ve been putting off. I also know that many of the world’s greatest writers have finished their best works while working other “real” jobs, however. A busy schedule is no excuse.

So stay with me, please. Soon to follow are letters from students, thoughts on homelessness, thoughts on futures, gay pride (the San Francisco Pride festival is being held in the city this weekend; it feels weird to live in so liberal a place when both Jon and I come from much more conservative backgrounds), and much, much more.

I hope you are all having a wonderful weekend!
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See that head poking out of the water? That’s me swimming. :)

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thrive

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It’s funny how it hit me: Tonight, I had to write.

I’ve been putting it off for ages, trying to find my voice. Writing is my passion, but there is never time, never the place. There are always things in the way — things of higher priority — and there are bills to pay. Blogging doesn’t help much with bills.

And then there’s topic. What on earth do I want to say? My little brother got married a few weeks ago. I cut my finger so deeply I could see the tendon. I started a new job working with young kids. Traffic is insane in the Bay Area. The weather is different here. Homelessness is everywhere here. And, and . . .

People are people. It’s what I keep coming back to. Here in Berkeley the population is incredibly diverse. There are black people and white people and red people and yellow people. There are people wearing saris and turbans and skullcaps and blue jeans and pant suits and rags. We are all so different, and yet . . . forever the same.

And that’s why I love you . . . and you and you and you (especially you, hatted boy). I love you because I am like you. I breathe and cry and laugh and try and fail and try again just like the rest of you. I am sick when the world is evil but thrilled when love calls my name. (Thank you, sweetie…)

I am human, and I will thrive. Until my dying day, I will thrive.

And you will, too.

I know it.

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on the road to a new life

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Already tired but ready to get this show on the road.

When I was 18, when most of my friends went just two hours away from home, I drove 2,500 miles for college. It was a scary time, and an exciting one. I’d lived in the same small town in Northern California my entire life. I was ready to see something new.

In many ways, that decision was a turning point and a defining moment in my life. This small town girl was exposed to a whole new world — Chattanooga, Tennessee was nothing like Placerville! You see . . . Where I came from, a “hog race” would indicate a pig race not a Harley race. Thunderstorms happened only rarely (and only during winter) at home. “Y’all” and “you’uns” were not in the dictionary. And grits? Fried okra? Sweet tea? Huh?

In many ways, it was like being in a new country, with the only difference being that English (albeit Southern English) was the written and spoken language, and I didn’t stick out everywhere I went — that is, until I opened my mouth.

In embarking on our recent journey from Tennessee to California, Jon and I created something of a reverse culture shock for him — and taken it to a whole new level. If Placerville was nothing like Chattanooga, Chattanooga is on a different planet from Berkeley! From rural Signal Mountain where Jon could recognize friends by the sounds of their cars passing on a two-lane highway, we’ve moved to busy University Avenue, where traffic never stops and our closest friends live several hours away!

The best example I can think of regarding the difference between living in a small town versus a big one, however, occurred while waiting in line at Comcast the other day. Jon and I were waiting to pick up our Internet modem when a large African American woman began a loud telephone conversation in line behind us. “. . . Hey, yeah. Yeah, I’m jes’ out payin’ bills. Yeah, I know. Jes’ remember we can’t affor- no f***-ups. I . . . Yeah, I’d like to see you, too, but I’ve jes’ been so bi-sy . . . Nobody gives me no respect. You hear that? No-body. Everybody is always disrespectin’ me and the way I raise my keeds and trying to tell me what to do. And so you know what? I’m gon’ re-move myself from the situation. I’m jes’ gon’ go away so there ain’t no one can find me no more. If they don’t respect me, I’m jes’ gon’ go away . . .”

Oh, boy.

Below are pictures from our road trip across the country. We drove the northern route, through Kentucky, Illinois, Missouri, Iowa, Nebraska, Wyoming, Utah, and Nevada. It was a beautiful drive, but man am I glad that it’s over. I cannot stand sitting in a car for hours on end!

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At Jon’s before we left — that’s a scooter and three bikes on the back of that truck!

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Hello Illinois!

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Can’t forget the St. Louis Arch.

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Because my friend Jeff lives in Nebraska, I’ll go ahead and say it’s an awesome place. Otherwise, I’d just say it’s flat!

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Old barn somewhere along the way.

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Jon contemplating our truck’s sagging hind end at a gas station. That scooter was heavy!

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Hello, Wyoming.

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Light at the end of the tunnel.

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I heart clouds.

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Electricity.

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Somewhere in Wyoming.

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Snow-swept.

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Boulders in Wyoming.

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Snow!

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Salt Lake City area.

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Salt Lakes, Utah

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Wind-blown and worn out

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She’s still holding up!

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Sky meets salt.

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Jon was excited about this.

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Getting closer.

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Driving, driving, driving.

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Almost home.

 

 

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listen to your heart

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What is yours telling you?

I’ve been starting blog posts in my head all week.

“Looking back, I should have stormed out of his office.”

“I got a job offer. I didn’t take it.”

“What does ‘meaning’ mean to you?”

“Does everything have to be a lesson?”

Instead of finishing them, though, I’ve been writing things like this:

“Hi!

My name is Jessica. I am contacting you regarding your ad for a one-bedroom apartment listed on Craigslist. Currently I live in the Sacramento area, but I need to move to the Bay Area very soon . . .”

I’ve then been driving to and from Berkeley (about two hours each way) every day looking at places and realizing that finding housing in the Bay Area is IMPOSSIBLE. Even if you have money (I don’t), the housing demand is so great that no sooner does a person put up an ad on Craigslist than twenty business professionals/students/etc. are banging down their door.

It is a cut-throat fight to find anything around here.

And so days have passed since my eventful “working interview,” which turned out to be a total sham, and which proved to me once again that any time someone is rushing you about something important, it’s time to RUN.

The company was a “direct marketing” firm for big names like the Oakland A’s, supposedly, but what they really were were door-to-door salesman who’d been fooled into thinking they were on a fast-track to management. While they were working tirelessly in a field they hated, another man was reaping their rewards and getting rich. I could go on, but when the CEO tried to make me feel bad for asking questions and indicated that money should be my biggest motivating factor, I knew something wasn’t right.

I left the interview exhausted and upset. I knew I needed a job, and needed it soon, but could I compromise who I am and what I believe in to do a job I hated, not to mention didn’t feel right about?

My answer came that night when I got home. I checked my email for the first time in more than 48 hours, and what did I find? A response from a job I’d applied for weeks earlier and given up on. I won’t say too much more about it right now, but I will say that my first interview went well. In fact, I’ve had three exciting interviews since the marketing interview disaster . . .

And so it really is true: We should always listen to our hearts.

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Image: Pinterest

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here’s to adventures

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Drove two and a half hours to Walnut Creek today to look at apartments and interview for a job. Planned for a one-day outing (I wasn’t even sure what I was interviewing for, honestly — it ‘s a marketing firm; I’m not in marketing!), but then, towards the end, the lady said, “I’m doing short interviews of thirty people today. I can only invite five of them back for working interviews. Why should I invite you?”

Umm . . .

“I’m the hardest worker you’ll ever meet. Right after college, I took an internship that turned into a job, and when I left, they begged me not to go . . . Uhh (I was really fumbling here), I’m a great writer and have experience writing marketing materials. I could convince people that the bottom of their shoes taste good (okay, not really, but) . . . I’ve worked in customer service and like dealing with people (I really have — I’ve been a server and worked in retail). Umm . . . I adapt well to new situations and am a fast learner. In Asia I managed large classrooms of 9- to 14-year-old students, and I didn’t even speak their language!”

While I was talking, the lady wrote a large “B” in red ink on the top of my resume. B? Gulp. Was that my grade? This was not looking good.

Imagine my surprise, then, when a few minutes later she said, “So does tomorrow 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. sound good?”

Say whaaattt?!

“Umm, sure. Yeah, great. Thanks so much!” Meanwhile, my mind was racing. 8 a.m.? Tomorrow? How am I going to pull that off?!

So here I am, several hours and several more apartments crossed off my list later ($900 a month for a ROOM? Are you kidding me?), in a hotel room at Motel 6. I have my disposable toothbrush and travel-size shampoo and conditioner, a new shirt (so I won’t be wearing the same clothes two days in a row), I’m writing this post on my iPhone, and here we go!

Life really is an adventure. Like my friend John said, “Hands on the wheel at all times!”

Wish me luck!

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the world awaits

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In looking for jobs recently, I updated LinkedIn. In updating LinkedIn, I got in touch with old co-workers. In getting in touch with old co-workers, I got a job offer in Taiwan.

And I couldn’t take it.

Those of you who’ve been following me for a while now know how important travel is to me. I’ve often stated how much I miss living in Asia and how I can’t wait to return. My dream job would be to work for a nonprofit organization whose focus is international relief. I want to write to make a difference.

But why is travel so important to me? How can I make others understand? Continue reading

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here’s to thirty

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This girl will always revel in nature… The moon rising behind my apartment the other night.

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I turned thirty today. Wondered where the years have gone. I was never going to be thirty — ever. And here I am.

It’s a good thing, though — getting older. My twenties were good years, but hard. I “shifted” a lot as life changed. (You can see where I’m going with this.) I wrote in a post in 2012 when I was living in Hong Kong: “What I didn’t expect was the identity crisis — some things aren’t supposed to change.” I was referring to being young, to my family always being together, to being alone . . . We get used to things, us humans. We like routine; we form ideas about who we are. Continue reading

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a penny for your thoughts

bay_bridge_nightSo tell me about change. I’ve been thinking about change a lot recently, as my own life is about to change A LOT very soon. I’m moving to the Bay Area, hoping to find a full-time job in writing/publishing, like, two days ago. As a kid, I HATED change. God forbid my mother ever move the furniture around in our home . . .

It’s funny, looking back, as I’ve come to see I actually thrive with change. I can’t tell you how much I grew as a person when, at 18, I went 3,000 miles from home for college, or again at 25 when I moved to Taiwan. Big change equals big growth. Continue reading

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love is sweeter still

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I took this on my run the other day. Aren’t they cute?

You’re the one did not exist,
the one I’d never known.
The one of whom the stories list,
but life had never shown.

You came to me, I didn’t see
you ‘pproach or standing there.
I was turned toward history –
destruction and despair.

You didn’t wait for me to turn
around to say “Hello.”
Instead you swept me off my feet
and laughed, “Where shall we go?”

But still I thought of history –
was scared deep down inside.
I saw the way you looked at me,
but eyes before have lied.

But you were patient, soft, and kind;
assured me, “This is real.”
With gentle touch you did unwind
a heart I thought was steel.

And now we’re walking hand in hand
and love is sweeter still,
than storybooks, which do not stand
a chance ‘gainst what is real –

For storybooks, they have an end,
but we’ll go on and on.
There are things you cannot rend,
not even when they’re gone.

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For an audio recording of this poem, click here:

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Image: Mine. All Rights Reserve

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life is precious — treat it well

2014-year-of-horse-chinese-new-yearI ought to be asleep. No, really. Normal people go to bed before 11 p.m. Normal people also go to bed before 12 a.m., and 1 a.m., and 2. More often than not, I go after 2. Even on work days. Even when I’m tired. Even when I haven’t gotten enough sleep for weeks and weeks and weeks.

You see . . . I just . . .

There’s so much more I want to do than I possibly can in sixteen hours. And since we’re supposed to sleep eight hours out of every twenty-four . . . I put sleep off until I absolutely have to and often end up getting less than I should . . . And sometimes, yes, sometimes, I regret it. But only sometimes.

Tonight is not one of those times. Continue reading

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let us trust (or, happy new year!)

Santa Cruz

Last year, on December 31st, I wrote a post about growth. I talked about the good and the bad that make up the times of our lives. I talked about how we all have a choice: Will we grow and learn from these times, and be generous and grateful for will we have? Or will we . . . Most of you can guess what the opposite reactions to those listed might be.

When I wrote that post and said that I hoped we would choose growth, I was mostly referring to my own growth in Asia during the previous three years. I was remembering the culture shock and the cold showers and the day-to-day isolation and the discomfort and uncertainty that frequently accompanies living in a foreign country. I was remembering how I went from hating my surroundings — to loving them . . . From succumbing to my circumstances — to mastering them. I was talking about the life-altering change to my worldview that I owed entirely to a place I’d previously never ever thought I’d go . . .

Truth be told, I had absolutely no idea what growth would mean for me in the United States, in my home state of California, in the coming year. Continue reading

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let us grow

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“Courage is not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear.”

Nelson Mandela

There was a time . . .

When life was simple, choices slim.

When decisions were easy, schedules flexed.

When writing was endless, thoughts abounding.

And then times changed.

At the end of last year, I wrote this post about growth. I talked about the good and bad things that shape the “times of our lives.” I talked about how we have a choice: When good times come, will we take them for granted, or will we appreciate them? When bad times come, will we moan and groan and complain about them, or will we stand up to them and learn from them?

We have a choice. Continue reading

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the true meaning of the holidays

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My room in Taiwan

Two months after I left for Taiwan, I got a phone call. “Jess, your mom and I have something to tell you . . .” My parents were getting divorced. After nearly 28 years, my mom had made up her mind — it was over.

The conversation wasn’t long. There wasn’t much to say. I couldn’t say I was shocked. I’d seen the disconnect between my parents for years — both of them trying, each in their own way, to bridge the gap. Both of them failing. I’d convinced myself that they were going to make it, knowing, deep down, I was wrong.

After we got off the phone, I sat on my black bedspread and stared at the brightly polished wood floor that I’d scrubbed and scrubbed when I’d first arrived. Outside my window, the dark sky began to rain. I didn’t notice. My mind was empty; my emotions, numb. I wondered, blankly, how my brother would take the news. Continue reading

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staying true to me . . .

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For some, the path has always been clear . . . But not mine!

My parents had a plan. From the time he was a kid, my dad knew he wanted to be a doctor. My mom was fostered into a career as a physical therapist — in high school, she fell in love with gymnastics. She was naturally strong and interested in fitness. Becoming a PT just made sense.

I never knew what I wanted to do. While the rest of my friends fell into paths almost identical to their parents’, I was not a science person. I hated Chemistry and Biology. Give me a literature class any day! And besides, I’d seen how hard my parents worked and what working with people in pain could do. I knew I wanted to help people, just not with their physical health.

Fast forward several years. A college graduate with a B.A. in English, but now what? . . . I’ve held a handful of jobs since I graduated, ranging from being a copywriter, to an ophthalmology technician, to an ESL school teacher (in Taiwan and Hong Kong), and now, to a freelance writer. I’ve been trying to come up with my long-term plan: But what? I’ve wanted to return to Asia: I have this HUGE fear of getting tied down. The world is too big and too beautiful and too full of need to live in one tiny pocket my whole life . . . But. But.

Do I always want to be alone? Continue reading

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the importance of “this”

IMG_0112edOne hour and eleven minutes. That’s how much time I have to get this post written before midnight. That’s how much time separates me from posting once every three days and once every four.

What’s the big deal? some people might say. Blogging just seems like a lot of work.

Well, yes . . . Yes, it is . . . and yet it’s not. It is because there’s pressure to post regularly and to write well. As a writer, I hope to continue building my blog and that, someday, writing Shift will lead me to bigger and better things . . . It’s not, on the other hand, because writing is what I LOVE and interacting with readers makes all the effort I put into my blog worthwhile. (You, dear readers, mean everything to me.) Continue reading

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who we are (and where we’re going)

I don’t know about you, but I’ve always known how my life would turn out.

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Sanjhih, Taiwan

I knew what I wanted to be, and where I’d go to school, and who I’d marry (someday), and where I’d grow old. I knew who my friends would be, and how many kids I’d have, and that my parents would divorce, and that I’d move to Taiwan . . . I knew I’d have a serious rock-climbing accident, and that I’d survive. I knew I’d be “different,” and that that’d be okay.

I knew it all . . .

And I’ll bet you did, too. I’ll bet you’re an expert on everything that’s ever happened to you (or will) in your entire life.

Ha. Continue reading

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finding freedom

birdsAnd another thing . . . Why would anyone want to go into a field where half of the people you work with are jerks?

As many of you know, I am currently freelancing for a couple of papers in my area. It started out with an article last November. I’d recently moved home from Hong Kong and was trying to break into writing in print. I contacted the editor of my local paper and asked him if he’d be interested in a feature on a WWII/Korean war vet of my acquaintance for Veteran’s Day. Much to my delight, he said yes. Continue reading

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the world from above (for real)

When viewed from above,
this world that we love,earth2
seems awfully small,
though we thought it tall . . .

And all of our lives,
just busy beehives,
like rats in a race,
pursuing the chase.

And all of our dreams,
not rivers but streams,
all flowing to naught—
or that’s what we thought . . . Continue reading

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grandparents aren’t supposed to die

My Nana died tonight. I didn’t cry. I have, and I will. But I didn’t when I heard the news. Some things take a while to settle in.

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Grandparents are the best!

It occurred to me recently that, in the span of six months, I have gone from having three living grandparents to, now, only one. It is something that was never supposed to happen, really. Grandparents aren’t supposed to die. They’re the ones who tickle you and tell you stories and sneak you treats when Mom and Dad aren’t looking. They’re the ones with gray hair and wrinkles and sparkly eyes and easy smiles. They’re the ones who age but don’t get old, who tire but are never too tired for you.

They are, and always have been, for eternity.

Until tonight. Continue reading

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why “shift”?

4shiftToday is a bit rushed. I have several posts in draft, but recently have been working on updating Shift. In particular, I’ve made quite a few changes to my menu. If interested, check out my “about” section where there are now three sub-items, including one that explains in greater detail why I chose the name Shift. I’ve also dedicated a page to my rock climbing story beneath “top posts,” and well . . . Just check it all out. I promise you won’t be disappointed. (Well . . . Maybe I shouldn’t make such boasts. But I can at least say I’m happy with the way my blog is slowly coming together!)

Much love to you all,

Jessica

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disenchanted

roaring-twenties-picture-3I often stop and think
standing in a crowd,
when nothing seems in sync,
everything, just loud.

When everyone is talking—
nothing’s being said.
When everyone is moving—
pieces being led.

When light is eery shading:
scenes are black and white.
Familiar faces fading;
distant, lost from sight.

Yup, I don’t belong here,
anyone can see.
If only . . . Never mind, dear.
Time for me to flee.

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thank you

beachSomething I didn’t expect when I started this blog was . . . Well, two things actually.

One, that anyone (besides my dad—thanks, Dad!) would ever actually read what I wrote, and . . .

Two, that I would begin to feel a sense of community with the people I never expected would read my blog who actually did.

Creating this blog has allowed me to express my thoughts—thoughts which previously bounced endlessly around in the recesses of my mind—with an unknown world. In return, the unknown world has, for once, been kind: You have made me feel less alone. Continue reading

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wider, richer, deeper

The woman behind the counter smiled when I walked through the door. Her face was young; her dark hair, tinged with gray.

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Crowds in Seoul (image credit: world-walk-about.com)

“Hello, Jessica.”

“Hi, Joanne!”

“You ah back from Taiwan?”

I nodded. “Yes. Actually, last year I was in Hong Kong.”

“Oh? Hong Kong?” She reached for the dry-clean-only garments in my hands and began to examine them as we talked. “Did you like?”

“Yes, I did; I liked it very much,” I said. “Except it was too crowded! There were soooo many people.”

She nodded, knowingly. “Like Seoul.” Continue reading

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hey lady

We took Lady to the beach a few weeks ago. Her first time.

She panted and paced. And paced and paced.

She didn’t like the waves.

Her breathing was quick and shallow.

Lady is a 6-year-old German Shepherd my brother adopted from a tow yard. My grandparents’ tow yard. Up until a few years ago, my mom’s parents ran a towing company in Akron, Ohio. Now, due to ailing health and their children’s disinterest in taking over the business, they are having to rethink their plans of running the family legacy for forever.

Lady

That means rethinking Lady, too.

My grandfather rescued Lady from the pound as a puppy. Since then, she’s been the “guard dog” at yard. Some guard dog. Lady is the sweetest, most docile German Shepherd you’ve ever seen. Upon meeting a stranger, she whines and lowers her head, nuzzles and asks to be pet. When the yard was being shut down, Lady needed a home.

My brother and his girlfriend wanted a dog.

The pet movers were contacted, the arrangements made, and “voila,” my brother and his girlfriend had a pet. But it was different adopting a 6-year-old dog than adopting a puppy, they discovered. Lady was restless and uncomfortable indoors. She preferred sleeping on the grass to the bed they’d bought her. And she just wouldn’t calm down. Even outside, she whined all night long.

It’s been a few months now, and, gradually, Lady is getting more comfortable. But the episode at the beach reminded me of how difficult, in some instances, change can be. Even in situations where the change is for the better, it often takes a while to adjust. This is also true for changing ourselves—our habits, thought patterns, and attitudes. While other people’s dogs were yapping happily, chasing balls into the waves or snoozing contentedly on the sand, Lady was pacing and pacing. And panting and panting.

She really was happy. It was just . . .

If dogs have a hard time with change, how much more do we?

Retreating to safer ground after testing the waves

Lady and her new owners

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alone in an igloo

I couldn’t escape. There was nowhere to go.

The apartment building, a tower of brick, lay a mile off the ocean. There was no heating. There was no insulation. It was 9 °C (48 °F). The December chill went straight to my bones.

The water was ice.

I’d been in Taiwan for 24 hours, been traveling for 20, and hadn’t showered in 72. And the water was ice. It felt like needles. My skin was turning blue.

I shivered and looked for warm clothes. I hadn’t brought very many. My roommate, a girl I’d just met, was gone for the weekend. I was alone in an igloo. I had no idea what to do.

And so I grit my chattering teeth and curled up on my bed. It felt like a rock. And I cried. What have I gotten myself into?

•       •       •

Thus began my time in Taiwan. I was 6,000 miles and seven months from home. And I was miserable. Really miserable. Honestly. What was I going to do?! . . .

I was going to grow, that’s what. I was going to learn about and adapt to a new culture, not to mention make many amazing friends along the way. I was going to grow so much that my seven-month stay would turn into a year and a half, and, at the end of that year and a half, I wasn’t going to want to leave. Taiwan would have, in many ways, become my home.

You see, the reason the water was ice? My gas tank was empty. The way to fix it? Call Wei-Ming or Yenhsuan or Sueching and ask them to call the gas guy for me. (I couldn’t speak Mandarin; he knew no English.) The way to get warm? Buy blankets and portable heaters, and layer in as many clothes as possible. (The Michelin Man look was in, man!) The way to feel connected? Look with open eyes and an open heart at this new world around me. Absorb everything possible. Find at least one thing positive for every thing negative.

And never give up.

Because, as I would soon see, Taiwan was nothing like home, but, also, everything like home.

Just one way my Taiwanese friends helped me. More stories like this on the way.

The view from my apartment.

Me laughing at Sueching.

Me and Vanessa

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