Today Ayumi turned 11. I keep thinking she’s older. She’s grown into such a mature, young lady. She’s almost taller than me now. It was a pretty normal Thursday with me going to work and coming home to make dinner and eat cake. Dinner was pretty easy, actually Miki made it, since it was just heating up pizza (that’s what Ayumi asked for---I guess she’s more American than I thought!). The cakes in Taiwan are so pretty and good to eat. The frosting is just the right amount of sweet. We've all grown in so many ways this past year.
What an amazing friend Andrea is. She’s been with me 2/3 of my life and I don’t think I could ever tell her in words how amazing she is. It’s so rare to find a friend like her. How lucky I am to have been blessed in this lifetime to have her as my friend. I think she enjoyed Taiwan. She got approached twice and once a woman from China wanted to get a picture with her because she was probably the first black person she’d ever seen in person. Typical Drea, took it all in stride and simply smiled. Another time, students approached her at the night market to have her take a survey. She says that she will miss feeling so “special.” We both remarked how different it felt to be here. Here, we weren't invisible. In the States, many times we both felt we were “invisible” because of our gender and the color of our skin. I've never voiced these thoughts; but there were certainly times when the U.S.’s inability to deal with race-relations get under my skin. The whole black and white thing is so explosive and filled with emotion. Thankfully, being on the outside, I’m purvey to seeing it from both angle’s. There is neither right nor wrong. Just, unfortunately, a huge chasm that exists between both sides.
We had a wonderful dinner over the weekend with our friends Judy and Jon. In fact this weekend was packed with lots of social gatherings. First, a tea with Dr. Su, her son and assistant Lily. Then, a BBQ with Jon and Judy; followed Sunday by a brunch with the group we went biking with. It was a lot of fun (but I could tell pretty tiring for the introverts—Ayumi and Richard).
In any case, over dinner Jon, Judy, Richard and I were comparing the different things about both cultures, as we often do. We all agreed that the average Taiwan person is just simply “nicer” to each other than in the States. There are usually a whole spectrum of responses in the States from rudeness to kindness; but here, you’re social interactions tend to predominantly be positive.
Whether you’re asking for directions, or saying thank you to the bus driver after you get off the bus---there is just some small difference here that’s hard to put into words. Our friend Jon said it was like “the greasing of society”—it was all the niceties that end up making living here so much more pleasant.
I told them about the story how I attended a Les Mills master class workshop a few weeks back and one of the master trainers (from the US and Chile) pretty much dissed my Chinese. I spoke to Master trainer for a few minutes making small talk and how we both were from Jersey and when I turned to another teacher and began speaking Taiwanese, Master trainer teacher loudly said, “Wow! Your Chinese is so bad! Even I can tell the difference!” I was too shocked to speak. I’d been living in Taiwan for over 6-months and most people try to encourage me by saying, “Oh, you’re Chinese is pretty good., etc..” She then proceeded to say this statement 2 or 3 more times. I was really taken aback. It wasn’t that she was intentionally trying to hurt me—she was simply speaking her mind. This I realized was a quintessential “individualistic” trait---to voice one’s opinion with little regard for the speakers response. In a collective society, I do believe that speakers are more cognizant of their choice of words and they spend more time assessing how their comments will be interpreted.
I do believe that going back to the States might be a culture shock in reverse for me.
Today, I took Jill and Andrea to a city called Beitou where my work was having a meeting. After the meeting, we went to the hot springs for a soak. I’d never been here before and it was fun for me too, as I played tourist. I also introduced the two of them to shabu-shabu—a wonderful Japanese tradition of eating food in hot water. Think fondue and that’s what shabu-shabu is. It was pretty hot walking around in the afternoon but the hot springs felt good after getting out of the two tubs of cold springs!
We met a woman from Indonesia and she said that everything that she saw in Taiwan (or the world for that matter); she thought was better in Indonesia. There’s something to be said for pride in one’s country; but I feel like it’s not OK to diss another country when you’re soaking in a tub talking to that person. My feeling was this—she really wasn’t literally or figuratively “soaking in” the experience of travelling. If everywhere you go, you feel like it’s inferior to your own country---why bother travelling? I think a good traveler is one who goes with an open mind and is willing to see the good and bad of all countries.
It rained all day today, but we still had a nice time at Maokong. The lift up wasn’t that spectacular since it was all foggy, but coming back it was really cool because the clouds had lifted and you could see the nice vistas. When we were up at the top, we stopped at the tea houses and had a nice tea and snacks. The pictures from up here were great. It was a lot of fun to be with my friends and with my family. I couldn’t have asked for a better mother’s day.
Today I took Jill and Andrea to the Night market and got some really yummy, yummy deep fried potatoes on a stick. It was delicious! We went to the National Palace Museum beforehand and I got them a tour with Jerri, my friend from Penn who works as a docent every Saturday. She’s so knowledgeable! It was great to get a tour from someone who knew so much and for the first time at a museum, I could understand why some of these old artifacts are so amazing.
My two wonderful friends Jill and Andrea arrived today. Jill is my boss from the YMCA and Andrea is my oldest, dearest friend in the world. We've known each other since we were 11 years old and she helped me get on the cheer leading squad in high school! One of our fondest memories was getting a 10% discount at the local mall because we did our Borden town High School cheer!
It was easy for the two of them to spot each other because they said they were one of the few non-Asians on the plane. I think that’s pretty funny. It’s an awareness then what minorities may feel like every day in the States. I can’t wait to show them Taiwan! Below are pictures of Chiang Kai-Shek and places around Taiwan.
At a conference today, I got to meet the Assistant Surgeon General for the US. Pretty cool stuff He was a fellow Hopkins alum too and he came to Taiwan to give a talk about health care in the U.S. It’s amazing to me that I can get these experiences ½ way across the world.
I’ve been lamenting for months and months about going back to the States. I don’t think I’ll be able to get the wonderful professional opportunities that I’ve been afforded here in Taiwan. I’ve been treated like royalty and it will be hard to go back to being Cinderella in rags again. I’m just not looking forward to the routine of washing floors, doing laundry and vacuuming all over again. I don’t know what the future holds; but I don’t think I could be happy being a stay-at-home mom anymore. It’s been weighing heavily on my mind for many months and I feel like I’ve wasted a good chunk of my time here worrying about what I’ll do when I get back to the States. It’s such a waste. I’m letting the precious moments of the present go by worrying about a future that hasn’t even happened…
Today was fun. We met a family from Colorado that did the same exact thing as us. They just picked up their families and moved to Taiwan to learn Chinese. Jeremy owns his own company and his wife, Barbara teaches at Taiwan European School. It was great having dinner with them and hearing their own experiences. Their three children, Ethan, Issac and Judy seem to be real troopers and their tales of having to move two times made our move here seem pretty easy. I would have to say that this family is much braver than ours—they did this whole move without family support. It was amazing to hear their tale.
Today I wanted to surprise everyone by taking them out to dinner and then a show. I got tickets for the family to see Open heart. It’s a wonderful family show for kids to see live performers doing Chinese yo-yo. I thought the show had already ended and luckily I was able to get tickets for the final show. When we got the pizza place I was bummed because it seemed closed; but that too also worked out. They opened ½ hour later and we were able to eat this delicious pizza with all different toppings---salmon, capers, yumm!
When we headed to the show, Emi and Yumi had 2nd row seats, while Mix and I sat in the back with the little ones. It was really fun to see how excited Yumi was after the show. She just really enjoyed it all. It was such a good day and we topped it off by walking home. I love how we just walk all over the city here and I know it’s going to be tough to put the pounds back on as we pile back into the mini-van again….