Tag Archives: taipei

cling to hope

Some of you have wondered where I’ve been. I’ve been posting less often, commenting the same . . . Have I given up blogging? Have I given up loving? Am I heartless? Do I not care?

Hardly, friends! Anything but! I do care, and care all the more! It’s just . . . my life has been shifting. To give you a review:

..

In December, 2009, I moved to Taiwan. My viewpoints were challenged. My perspectives, changed.

I shifted.

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At Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall in Taipei, Taiwan

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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just another day in taiwan

Temple Dance

April 2010, Sanjhih, Taiwan

Sh**. As I ran, purse bouncing on my thigh, shoelaces untied, down the brick walkway toward the front gate, I could already see the Pony* pulling out of the apartment driveway. Damn. I stopped in my tracks and put my hands on my hips, exasperated. Grrrr! I was already late, and now I would have to walk the mile into town and catch a bus to Danshui from there. Dammit!

I considered turning around and going back to my apartment. I could text Lara and tell her I was sick and spend the rest of my Saturday evening alone, as usual. That would be easier. But somehow, I couldn’t make myself do it. I’d spent almost all of my Saturday nights alone recently. I knew I needed to get out. Continue reading

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in the beginning . . .

Taipei 101

Taipei 101

Something old and something new:

My last few posts have catapulted my mind in a million different directions. All of my posts do, actually. It’s just . . .

Sometimes it’s hard to focus on a single string of thoughts. Tangents are everywhere.

Today, then, rather than wax philosophical, I’ve decided to talk history. It occurred to me recently that I’ve never explained how I ended up in Asia in the first place. I’ve also been thinking about starting a weekly section — “Forever Friday” . . . maybe? — and, well, if I do that, why not combine the two?

And so, without further ado, here is the first installment of . . . whatever this is. I hope you approve! Continue reading

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where we came from

Sandimen, Pingtung County, Taiwan

Boy in Sandimen, Taiwan

Danshui, Taiwan Dragon Boat Festival June, 2011

The hot sun hung high in the western sky. Beneath it, brightly colored gods — with their wide eyes and big lips and expressions both goofy and severe — danced and sang in the dusty streets. The parade swayed to the beat of drums and exotic music as it snaked its way past the MRT station and between the tall Danshui buildings. A ways off, down by a three-story Starbucks beside the river, I saw lions, dancing. The performers were teenagers. They were incredible. Continue reading

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the power of kindness

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I follow the rules of the road!

I was riding my bike tonight—at the top of a long hill, huffing and puffing, watching the full moon rise—when suddenly a car passed, and someone inside yelled, “You rock!” The youth then stuck his hand out the passenger-side window and waved it up and down, and continued waving it until I waved back, as though he wanted to be sure I’d heard him.

And it took me surprise.

No, no. It’s not that I’m not used to being yelled at while I’m riding. I get yelled at all the time. “F- you!” people say. Or, sometimes, “You idiot!” Sometimes they honk their horn and scream “Ahhhhh!” just to scare me.

And, unfortunately, it works. Continue reading

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the luckiest girl in the world

qianhua elementary school

View of the school from our office.

I was forgetting something. What was I forgetting? This was important. But . . . Ohhhh. Sigh. The others were waiting for me. I’d already kept them too long. Forget it.

I grabbed my stuff off of my desk—including the portable heater and laundry bag I carried back and forth and back and forth between work and home—and ran out the door, down the cement stairs, over the wet tile, past the sewer vents, through the mud, to the van. I could tell the others were annoyed. “I’m sorry, guys!” I said as soon as I’d slid the sliding door shut. No one said anything. Suddenly I realized why. It was my turn to drive. “Oh, sorry.”

I fumbled for my keys in my purse and moved to the drivers’ seat. The gray sky began to cry as I drove down the hill. It was just as well. The pitter patter was soothing. No one felt like talking. Continue reading

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no man is an island

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“Heyyyy! I thought that was you!”

I didn’t recognize the man who had appeared out of nowhere beside our table.

“How’s that arm?” He touched my shoulder. “Your dad was so worried about you—and not just about your arm, about your life! How long ago was that, anyway? . . . And how ’bout Hong Kong? Your dad told me you were over there. What were you doing there? Bet ol’ Placerville feels small now! I’ve never been to Asia. Born and raised in SoCal; moved up here and never left. Did a rotation in Dublin once, though. One of the best times of my life. What ya doin’ in ol’ Placerville?”

I wondered, briefly, how the man breathed. His lips hardly seemed to keep up with his mouth. Continue reading

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people are people

The thing I like about people is, they’re people.

No matter where you go, people are people. Can you believe that?

See, I thought, when I moved to Taipei, that this dark-haired multitude would be somehow different than me. And, of course, they were. I mean, the things they liked to eat and the way they did their hair—that kind of thing. But when it came down to the REAL stuff, the stuff that makes people people, they were exactly like me!

I wanted to test out my theory, though, so I moved to Hong Kong. Hong Kong is bigger and more crowded than Taipei. As the world’s leading international business center, it holds more different kinds of people, too. In Hong Kong I could observe hundreds, no, thousands of people from all over the world every day. The MTR was a superb testing site.

It was grueling work, jostling amongst strangers. But when the results came in, the data was clear: People are people! Whether Asian or Indian or European or Russian or . . ., people everywhere have the same basic traits.

See, we all want to be loved. That one’s for sure. And we all like food. That one’s also 100 percent. We’re all a bit self-conscious. About 90 percent. And girls and boys everywhere are similar. For example: It’s usually the girls who wear high heels and giggle and the boys who wear basketball shoes and guffaw. Not the other way around. Usually. (Of course, there are always exceptions, but we’re not delving into Thailand’s lady men right now.)

man laughing (image: daviddisalvo.org)

No matter where we’re from, we all like to laugh. But we don’t laugh enough. For many reasons. Unless, of course, we’re a comedian. Then we have other problems. But I’m not funny so I don’t really know.

Oh, and, we all have a story. This one is definitely 100 percent. We tell our stories in many different ways: the way we act, the way we dress, the way we carry ourselves, the way we brush our teeth. Some of us have good stories; some of us have bad. None of us have perfect stories. But all of us are interested in other people’s stories.

Take my research, for example. While making observations on the MTR, I realized everyone else was conducting the same study on me. Everyone kept looking and staring and glancing away at their shoes and then looking again. And not just at me, but at everyone!  It was as if they couldn’t help themselves. As if they were inextricably drawn to each other. As if . . .

As if they knew something all of us had known all along:

Our stories are the things that connect us. If we can begin to understand and love one another, we can begin to understand and love ourselves.

(Are we crazy?)

dark-haired multitude in taipei

woman laughing in vietnam

man laughing in gereida (image: explore.org)

no matter where you go . . .

 

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looking back

One month later, another post.

Hi ho. Hi ho.

I am crouched, elbows at knees, fingers at keyboard, huddled beneath a blanket on my bed. My heater is keeping company next to me.

It’s cold.

Today it’s 9 degrees Celsius. It feels like -9 in here. It’s also raining, and there’s no indoor heating. If I remember anything about Asia when I leave, it will be the insufferable heat and humidity during the summer, and the penetrating cold and clamminess of winter.

It’s off to work we go.

I’ve been looking back at my blog from Taiwan, tai tao. It’s been a little more than two years, now, since I landed for the first time in Taipei. Since I spent that first miserable weekend in an igloo apartment with an ice-cold shower and without any heating of any kind. Since I realized that no one spoke English and a rickety-rackety bus was the only way to get around. Since I realized that the food stared at you (some of it) with real eye balls, and that the buildings were (some of them) decrepit and falling down, and that the people were (most of them) all the same—and that they thought I was weird. Stop and stare. Look at that white girl—she’s got blonde hair. And I remember I was mortified. I had no idea how I was going to last seven days, let alone seven months, in that kind of an environment.

Hi ho. Hi ho.

And I remember I had little hope that things were going to get any better. How could they? Taiwan had obviously been ass-backwards since before the beginning of time, and hadn’t changed much since, so how could I expect that anything would improve during my short stay there?

I couldn’t.

I couldn’t, but that meant that now I was in a dilemma. Now I’d really done it. I’d kissed all my family and friends goodbye, not planning to see them for months. I couldn’t head home now after only a couple of days. I also knew a few people who lived there who said, “Eh, it’s not always bad. It gets better.” I didn’t believe them, of course, but . . . God knew what he was doing when he designed people, I’m telling you. I may not have had hope, but what I did have was pride. Lots of it. If Taiwan was going to be stubborn as hell, well, so was I. I was going to stick it out in Sanjhih if it killed me, and I was going to like it, even, if I could.

And so I did. And I did. Shock of all shocks, I grew to like it!

I don’t suspect many people reading this post will look at my blog from Taiwan, but if any of you ever did, you might be amazed by my transformation. The transformation was so great that a year and a half after my arrival I was still in Taiwan and was heading to Hong Kong where I expected new and even greater (if different) sets of challenges.

[Pause.]

And here you find me six months later . . .

And the number of posts I’ve written in the last six months should tell you:

I was right.

I hope to write more soon. I’m on break for Chinese New Year and, unfortunately, too broke to travel right now; hence, I finally have the opportunity to write.

Hi ho. Hi ho.

Ho.

in my classroom with my kids. more photos coming soon…

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