Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Katy's TAIWAN Adventure

I really think that I'm going to start a second blog for Taiwan. It's a new year, in a new country and "Katy's China Adventure" just doesn't seem like the right tag line for it.

I've said, in the past, that maybe my new Taiwan blog will be more "touristy" - not as personal as this blog has been .... but I don't know now if that's really how it's going to turn out. Feelings are important. Opinions are interesting. Reading several different sources on a topic can be helpful and fun. Like with the news: You watch CNN but you also watch MSNBC... or maybe you watch FOX NEWS- "seriously" if you are a Republican or more... "tongue in cheek- looking for comedy bits" - if you're a democrat. ;)

To be an encyclopedia like Frommer's Guide or Lonely Planet.. isn't really what I'm after. I'm after stories and feelings and "shooting from several angles" - different points of view.  So we'll see...

FOR NOW I wanted to blog a little bit about my time in Taiwan because I figure after being here SEVEN MONTHS (!!!) now I've had enough time to get into habits and to see patterns in everyday life. My days of "being a tourist" are over.

Soooo here's a little list of things that I love in Taiwan and an (even smaller) list of things that frustrate me/things I don't like so much.


1. FRESH FRUIT - fresh fruit is everywhere in Taiwan. Whether you eat it straight or in a smoothie or on top of a bowl of "nui nai bing" - milk ice - it's guaranteed to be fresh and delicious. I'd say that summer is the best season ... lychees, mango, dragonfruit, star fruit, watermelon ... etc. etc. But even now (December) fruit is everywhere- apples, bananas, mini-bananas, mini mangos, etc.

2. OUTDOOR FOOD/NIGHT MARKETS - if you live in Taipei, chances are, you can find a variety of bbq-ed meats, noodle soups, dumplings, fried chicken, etc. waiting for you just a hop, skip, and a jump outside your doorstep. Many neighborhoods in Taipei ( including mine- Yonghe ) have their own night market that sets up shop every night. The most famous in Taiwan is the Shilin Night Market (off the RED LINE at the JIANTAN stop) .... but really... "neighborhood food" in general is pretty darn GOOD and CHEAP here. I was sad to find that my BBQ husband/wife team in my neighborhood that I've been buying from pretty much every two nights or so on the regular here in November, has CLOSED up shop for the season! It LOOKS like they have- maybe it's just ALL the RAIN we've been having has kept the fire out/ kept them away??  I'll have to go back and see... But I've ALSO found a new favorite breakfast spot- "Soybean Milk Magnate" - bing doujian - a big cup of cold soy milk, xiao long bao - dumplings, and dan bing- kind of like an egg omelette make for a pretty good breakfast.- even if it IS at 1:30pm... my usual wake up time. ;)

3. TRANSPORTATION - NYC, you know that, for so many reasons, you are the best city in the world, but don't get all full of yourself- cause let me tell you, you've STILL got room for improvement- re: the NYC subway system. The Taipei Metro ("The MRT") is an easy, often efficient, way to travel around Taipei. The MRT is CLEAN, the stations themselves on the whole are CLEAN ( I'm pretty sure almost EVERY one even has a BATHROOM - and it's a bathroom that's usually.... wait for it... CLEAN!), People are not allowed to eat or drink on the MRT or in the MRT stations in Taiwan ( this was a challenge/bugged me at first and it was a real exercise in... breaking that "coffee cup" habit ... making sure to get caffeinated and regulate the blood sugar BEFORE getting to the station). If you DO eat/drink- you will be fined something like $7,500 NT - probably about $250 US dollars. SO it's a good way to keep the subway clean AND if/when ( though I've never seen anyone eating/drinking) people don't follow the law, it's another way for the city to make money.  The high speed rail also makes it extremely EASY to get out of Taipei. Just take the MRT to Taipei Main Station and you can catch the high speed rail from there. I've taken it as far as Fulong... but it goes all the way down to the beaches in Kenting in the far south. The high speed rail is nice because it has big comfy seats and windows so you can sit, relax, and look out. If you catch the local train, it feels more like you're on a bus.... a very good possibility that you could be standing for half the ride at least.

4. HOT SPRINGS/BEACHES/MOUNTAINS - easy access to nature via the high speed rail.... beautiful nature.... whatever you like- swimming, hiking, etc... you can FIND IT and GET TO IT - fairly easily here. `

*also - cheap, amazing body/foot massages, and KTV ( of course!)*


1. Lack of passion, apathy, exhaustion? - maybe it's because Taiwan has been ruled by so many other countries in the past, or maybe because China is still such a bully and does not let Taiwan step on stage as a "lead player" in the UN, etc. today - but to me, looking around at the everyday lives going on around me, Taiwan feels like it lacks a pulse sometimes. I'm still not sure what gets Taiwan frustrated/upset. I'm still not sure what gets Taiwan excited ( besides Jeremy Lin ;) ... and maybe Jay Chou.). I KNOW that kids are often over-schooled and people are over-worked here. But in China they are too... and yet in China I saw/heard frustration, sarcasm, excitement- a variety of emotions. In Taiwan, people are VERY nice - it's as if no one wants to make waves, to bother anyone else... people DO care about their national identity. People DO care about being seen as TAIWANESE, not Chinese. I have one friend who has said that if China ever tried to truly take over and make Taiwan a province of the PRC- she and another mutual friend would move to the US or Canada. I heard another woman at a party say that "China is the last place I would visit" - when in a mixed group talking about going to places in Asia. Then another Taiwanese woman who I met at Elephant Nature Park in Thailand last year got almost visible upset just THINKING about China, physically shaking a little, as if she was trying to hold some something back while saying "Taipei is a really great city" "You should go to Taipei, next year". As if the mere thought of China upset her. So people DO care .... but it's really hard to see past the exhaustion and the apathy sometimes. I HOPE that the collective unconscious of Taiwan BELIEVES that they CAN and WILL get past this "identity disorder" that China and the world have thrown at them-failing to acknowledge their statehood in the UN. I hope that there PULSE RISES when they realize that there are people in their corner who believe in their freedom and who will fight for them - politically and/or militarily- people who will make calls to the UN, President Obama, etc. I want to see ALL SIDES of Taiwan's HEART. I know that I need/want to see more of the arts here too- local music, local art, local story telling. Don't let your fire burn out Taiwan... don't be afraid to wear your heart on your sleeve.

2. Recycling- it's not that I don't LIKE recycling... I DO. BUT, where I'm living now, my apartment is not a "big, fancy apartment building"- it's cute- in a cute neighborhood- but it's in a small building- on the 5th floor of a 5th floor walk-up. So we don't have a "building recycling service". I've gotta wait for the trucks to come by playing their "ice cream man" music... and go outside and drop my bags in the truck. To be honest, I STILL don't know their schedule.... and to be even more honest ("shhh!"), since being here, 98% of the time I either drop my garbage/recycling in the garbage cans at my school in Banciao OR I drop it in the bins in one of the MRT stations. Next year, I'd like to live in a slightly more expensive building ( not really more expensive but "more expensive" means more utilities- like garbage service and maybe a kitchen and an elevator :) )

3. Architecture - to stand and be counted alongside its brothers and sisters -Singapore, Hong Kong, Tokyo stand apart from China, be considered among the "great Asian cities" , Taipei needs to update it's architecture. The temples ( and Taipei 101) stand out and are beautiful... but the everyday building architecture is, for the most part very grey, almost crumbling, and outdated. It would be good to breathe a little fresh air and LIFE into the backbone of the city.

Taiwan is a very unique, peaceful, Asian country. In my last post I talked about how "China's not all bad, etc.." but at the same time, that DOESN'T mean that Taiwan should be a part of China. Taiwan is definitely more "Southeast Asian" than "Chinese"....  almost Polynesian... there was talk recently about the tribal lineage in Hawaii being similar to that of Taiwan... traced back to Taiwan. Chinese is the official language of Taiwan but there are definitely a lot of subtle differences. At this point in time, both England and America have pretty good setup when it comes to the rule of law and freedoms for their people and yet America doesn't want to go BACK to its days as one of the " 13 colonies" and be A PART of ENGLAND. Both England and America SPEAK English as their "mother tongue"... but that doesn't mean that the people are the same. The same applies to Taiwan. The one frustrating thing about President Obama is his foreign policy re: China. From the outside, He looks very weak. (even if China owns 1/3 of our debt, that doesn't mean you have to sacrifice your personality, your personal opinion/world view. I wouldn't! I'd be diplomatic and calm, but I wouldn't sacrifice my feelings and point of view in the process.) I'm so TIRED of hearing news on the Middle East and what the US thinks/feels about what's going on over there. The FUTURE ECONOMY is in ASIA.... this is where the next chapter is.

Taiwan deserves to have its fingerprint stamped into the history books. I would like to think that the whole "threat of re-unification" with China is very similar to the threat of overturning "Roe V. Wade" in the US -taking away a woman's right to choose. Every 4 years- every woman's blood pressure rises a little, anxiety and disbelief set in, and we hear a lot of old white men (especially this year)  talking about rape and birth like the "experts" that they AREN'T. BUT at the END of the day, we find that it's JUST TALK. That the PEOPLE don't want their rights taken away. The people vote AGAINST those who do not SUPPORT their INDIVIDUALITY. I think it will be the same with China and Taiwan ....

President Ma's current policy of the "Three No's" are kind of like Bill Clinton's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy regarding the military before President Obama could completely dismantle that policy and let soldiers serve openly in the military. It's a small step in the right direction, a softening.

Ma's 3 No's are -
1. No re-unification during his presidential term(s)
2. No "official" pursuit of independence/ recognized international statehood.
3. No use of force ( ya heard, China?!)

The people know who they are and what they want.... it is not up to any "outside" body to define them. They broke away from China during the Civil War. They did not want to be ruled by a communist regime and 60 some years later, that hasn't changed.  Taiwan is beautiful ... and I'm glad that I've seen both countries - especially going to China first. I feel like it's easy to get in the "just destroy it all! Level the country." mindset about China when you haven't been there. I know that my patience with China and my quickness to judge has increased since I've left. It's something to guard against. China has many positive, good people inside of it. It's fascinating and changing- for the better- however slowly. But I hope that its nationalism doesn't get in the way of its common sense. I hope it can get over itself enough to openly admit, not just whisper " I know, but I'm not allowed to say...." that TAIWAN IS A COUNTRY.... and has been for a long time now. Wo ai ni Taiwan!

Friday, November 16, 2012

"Second-Home" Sick?

Wow... just looking back here. It's been over a month since I posted anything. I went into my account and I saw a few drafts that I had attempted to write but.... they didn't feel right. I'm pretty sure I didn't have the heart/energy to complete them.

I've had a pretty good month in Taiwan here- away from this blog so it's actually too bad that I haven't posted. Hiking in Yangmingshan, swimming in hot springs/cold springs and "showering" under a waterfall there. Finding a BBQ stall in my neighborhood that is parked on one street pretty much every night of the week. The husband and wife team serves up an amazing variety of vegetables, meats, fish, on skewers.... ready to BBQ for you... etc. etc.

I was having a "hard day" tonight .... out of nowhere feeling "homesick" for China. It's strange and it makes me feel bad to have that kind of "second degree homesickness".... to be homesick for a home that's not my "HOME" you know? Because I don't want to upset people here.

I feel like if Taiwan was a person maybe he/she would say something like "We've got Facebook and Democracy what else do you want?!"  -- and maybe he/she would understand my moment of weakness and would really only be tongue-in-cheek kidding in saying that.... but to MISS a country that so many people on the outside label as "abusive, corrupt, communist" feels strange I guess. It feels wrong.... but then China isn't what everyone says it is. How China is, how China looks and feels depends on where you are standing, where you are IN China. There is movement happening. Movement in the "DIRECTION" of democracy. I'm not sure how it is going to play out.... but it is happening in so many small ways. The dots will eventually connect. There ARE people in China who WOULD speak out against the self-immolating Tibetans- if only they KNEW about it- if the government did not censor the news. There are people who HAVE spoken out in shock and anger about the forced abortions- once the news was leaked onto Weibo. People KNOW that their news is censored. People use a variety of coded language online to get around the censors and talk about what is bothering them. There ARE protests against "local" - it's never blamed on the "central CCP government"- government officials regarding land grabbing, etc. And the people usually win.

If China was a relationship on Facebook it would be "It's Complicated". That, to me, is the worst... when I see that on someone's profile I ask myself "why?" ... why even engage in something like that? But with China it's a fascinating ride, it's a billion different stories, it's a hundred small cultures with their own "local languages" tied up in the mother tongue, common language of "Putonghua"-Mandarin and it's evolving. China is evolving. Maybe that's the reason. You don't give up on the caterpillar. You don't throw away the seeds of the flower before the rain falls. For all the stories of "fake goods" and "censorship", "human rights abuses" and "cheating/stealing ideas" , there are ALSO people who are fighting against these things. People in China who value creativity and freedom of speech and human rights. People who are opening up and changing. I remember riding up in the elevator in my apartment building in Foshan one day last year and having a small conversation with a woman. The woman asked me "Zhongguo hao bu hao?" - pretty much "What do you think of China... good or bad?" and I said "Hao". Because it was. For all of the craziness as a foreigner, my first year abroad.... it was "hao".  Then, there was another instance where I was at Starbucks ( of course... lol) and this woman had her baby and I was saying "hello" to him and smiling and when they were leaving the mother said "Tell Jiejie bye bye" ... and I thought that was sweet. "Jiejie" is "older sister" so pretty much she was telling him to "tell your sister (me) bye bye"...Chinese has VERY specific words for each SPECIFIC person in your life/family member. So I thought it was nice that I was "Jiejie". I wasn't "Ayi" - which means Auntie- a word used for OLDER women.  I wasn't "Waiguoren" - foreigner. I was OLDER SISTER. Despite NOT being blood related, race-related, at all. It was a really brief, but a very touching, memorable moment. He IS my younger brother... my "didi".... in the family of the human race, we are ALL each other's jiejie, gege, didi, and meimei.

Chinese people actually, in a way. trust foreigners more than they trust other Chinese people. People in China trust foreign goods/foods more than food bought in China - a girl I met on the bus on one of my monthly "visa runs" to Hong Kong confirmed that with me as we looked at other passengers with their bags of goods and talked on the bus ride "home" to Foshan - where her boyfriend drove me home. GOOD CARING PEOPLE.

Speaking of good and caring.... a 4 yr old Chinese boy actually taught me how to say "I want to kiss you". - a very good, caring phrase that EVERYONE should know. lol. My school last year was in a shopping mall and next door was a clothing/shoe store. The son  of the owner 4 year old "jun-jun" had come to one of my demo classes but his mother did not enroll him in our school. Still, we were "neighbors" and we stayed connected. I would wave to him and smile and he'd laugh and make funny faces. One day he came running by the front door, in an obviously playful mood and he said ran by a few times saying "Laoshi.... *giggle giggle giggle*... laoshiiiiiii.... Wo xiang qin (亲 ) ni!" - I asked the receptionist what it was that he wanted and she said laughed and said that he was saying "Teacher, teacher I want to kiss you!" - I think he knew he was charming and such a flirt! lol. So of course I replied... "Wo YE xiang qin ni" - I wanna kiss you too! and we lived happily ever after. lol. :p

This is not at all where this blog was going originally.... but at 2am I guess there's no turning back from the tangent now.

I've met some amazing friends here in Taiwan and I'm doing more than I ever did last year- taking REAL Chinese classes- speaking/reading/writing  and getting around more regularly.... not just going from work to Starbucks and back again. lol. I want to create a SECOND blog for Taiwan. I think that would be better.... to post REAL TRAVEL stories.... not just "heartsick" contemplative "diary" writing. Writing here now feels like I'm in a new relationship and I'm sleeping in my old bed with my new partner. It doesn't feel right to post in "Katy's China Adventure" ... when everyone (except the CCP) knows that Taiwan is not a part of China! :)

I'm "ok" now... currently 2:35am. That's the trouble with homesickness though- you don't really get a warning. It's not like cramps and your period or an itchy throat to signal an allergic reaction. It sneaks in. It's funny, realizing that I just said "homesickness" again.... because this has nothing to do with "my home". *SIGH*  But anyway, I know if I stayed in Foshan I would not have had HALF of the experiences I've had already this year. This frustration/longing/regret of situations, how things turned out last year is just a feeling.... high tide, low tide. It works itself out. Actually, right before posting this blog I accidentally opened up a "draft" of a blog here that was a translated message from LL and it was when we were fighting.... and seeing that pretty much killed 90% of the "longing" for "yesterday". It was a small blessing, a little wake-up call. I may not always know where I am. But I know I'm where I should be.

Last day of working together Best Learning, Foshan China. Me ( and my TA Metis) and the rest of the staff and some little boy... I think he was one of David's ( in the glasses) students.

AND here are two pictures of "my boyfriend". The first one was at the demo lesson. The second one is more recent - when I was leaving Foshan. He looks a little homeless with his box and his yellow rubber glove, but I promise you he's not. ;)

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A 360 degree shift.

Hey, remember 2 minutes ago - one blog post ago- when I was having that conversation with my left brain about wanting to be with Lisa again?

Well, everything couldn't be more different now.

Actually right around September 11th, 2012 unfortunately, everything came crashing down.

Fighting with someone that you care about is never good, but you know, it's especially not good on meaningful, significant days. Looking back at this year 2011-2012, Lisa and I fought on Christmas, on my birthday, and now on September 11th. So,  in this case, 3rd times  not really "the charm" but more the "wake up call"... and I'm just done with it.

I'm done with
#1. - being the one to reach out to her and to share my life without any sharing/reply from her.
#2. - using "negative attention" to GET her attention - knowing that this is the only way she responds.
#3. - believing that she held on to the idea of maintaining a friendship between us as long as I did.

Like any theater lover/thespian/singer, my comparisons to Lisa here get me to thinking of "The Sound Of Music". You know- the scene where they're all hanging out on the mountain having a picnic dressed in their green and white outfits made from the bedroom drapes. At one point Maria says
Maria: Why do you children play such awful tricks on people?
Brigitta: Well, how else can we get father's attention?...
The kids knew that to get their father's attention, they had to do things they wouldn't normally do.

I also learned that I had to do this with Lisa.... not to "play tricks" but to call her out on things that I "found out". I had to do this in order to get her to RESPOND to my simple "HEY... What's up?... what's been going on?"... to say things, to show her things that she had online...that I knew about, that she was keeping from me. Then maybe 4 hours to a day later she would instantly come to her OWN defense and reply with excuses for herself.

Regarding- her pengyou webiste/friend page- even though it was old, she had pictures there and status updates, but as soon as she knew that I could see it, she blocked me from it. Like her *NEW QQ page* - she told me that it "had a virus" .... but then later on when we were fighting, she admitted that it didn't.

She lies. and she's lied in the past too.... I never brought it up because I didn't think it was a big deal at the time, but when Claire and Mike and Lisa and I went out to this dance club in Foshan and we ran into these two guy friends of hers.... she told Claire and Mike not to tell them that she worked at Best Learning... to pretend that we were not all co-workers. I'm not sure who we were *supposed to be* ... but for that night, I was a stranger to her. She has two cell phones, two QQ accounts... I guess I'm coming to terms with the fact that it's "nothing new"... the language barrier is really the least of the issues here.

So, as a bit of payback- I lied. I * told a story* online about a prostitution ring going on at the Guangzhou Land Rover Car Dealership. I mentioned how one of my friends on QQ, a Starbucks barista from that Starbucks that I used to go to al the time in Foshan, who recently moved back to Guangzhou to be with her family, had seen a salesgirl coming out of the Dalongtaosha Hotel in Guangzhou, in her Land Rover skirt and blouse with several different men- different looks and ages, on several different occasions.... I speculated/wondered/hinted that it might be Lisa.

Then, maybe a day later, thinking about how hurt I was by..... everything that she had/hadn't done... I went to her new QQ account - that I could partially access from my phone but not from my computer- and took a picture of one of her pictures and posted it on my QQ page calling her a liar and a prostitute. I know it's an awful thing to say BUT I DID NOT do this as my FIRST CHOICE in COMMUNICATION options here. I HAD left messages and said "I miss you.... I would love to see some pictures.... etc. etc." MANY TIMES. This time, I wanted a REAL conversation with her. I wanted her to finally respond and I KNEW that this was the ONLY WAY that she would respond to me.

and she did.

and ... my QQ profile is public.... so anyone could see what I wrote. I'm pretty sure that's what got her the most. I knew it would. We had a pretty big back and forth argument. Leaving messages, not a "live" chat kind of argument. Then, Metis jumped in the conversation and took my side, then Helen jumped in and took Lisa's side- which isn't fair because of the two of us, Helen is already connected to Lisa's new QQ account- so her opinion was pointless .... AND she wrote "to me" in Chinese, when she can/has write/written to me in English. So clearly the "message" was meant for the "greater public".... and she looked foolish.

but I backed up my proof that Lisa's a liar .... talking about how she mentioned the "Dalongtaosha Hotel, One Night, Comfortable" in one of her QQ status updates. - why stay there when you LIVE in Guangzhou.... ? I mentioned about the dance club and lying about who Mike and Claire and I were to her two "other male friends"....  so actually, a present-day prostitution story looks pretty possible.

All I wanted was clarity. A final "yes/no". It didn't have to come to this....

But now, I'm just glad that it's over. It's a weight off me, and it's really refreshing to know who my REAL connections/friends are in China. I love Metis and Bella and Jenny's family. I love Hannah's mom "Carmen". We don't talk everyday.... sometimes we don't even send QQ messages once per week. Maybe every two weeks or so, or just a comment on a picture. But I know that they are there for me. I know that they are open to conversation and comments and sharing pictures. Of course, they don't share EVERYTHING on QQ but they also don't go out of their way to hide things .... and I don't think that's too much to ask.

Honesty.... whatever "the truth" is, it is worth soooooo much more to me than a "nice story full of lies all tied up with a pretty little bow on it". Tell me that you can't be friends since I've left or that you don't want to be, give me your reason and... that's enough for me. But ignoring it and lying? Not cool. I will dig for the truth and I will get to it one way or another.

I'm not the kind of person who will go and delete all of my pictures of me and her. I'll keep them in their albums on Facebook. It was a good time... at the time. A mixture of happy memories and confusing memories and some frustrating memories. I'm not just going to wipe the slate clean and pretend that she didn't exist. We can learn things from every relationship and grow and I think ironically, maybe because of the initial language barrier..... this was the most direct and first real time for me, taking the initiative with this relationship. I know there were definitely strong feelings on both sides..... and I know that she was sad when I left.... but I can't pretend that she didn't hide things from me. At the end of the day, I just can't forget that. I want access to your world. Even if you are doing things out of desperation, out of need for quick money. I really won't judge you.... I'll be concerned and sad... and I'll probably want to help you out of the situation...but honestly .... if you just give me your HONESTY I could never/will never be mad at you. It's... your truth, it is what it is.

So despite, the "good times" and the "caring" at the end of the day, the lies... just destroyed it for me.

I am happy here in Taipei... in Taiwan. I'm completely free now and I'm open to dating. LGBT Pride month is celebrated in October here... so it's right around the corner. I'm taking my time just getting adjusted and settled. It's easier in general to communicate here #1 because most of the friends I've made here- both Taiwanese and ex-pats speak English and #2 also because MY Chinese speaking skills have gotten a lot better and I can communicate with shop owners/people when I need things. I'm also just starting to be able to READ a little bit of the characters... on the subways and writing on the sides of taxis.  So that comes in handy too.

CONFESSION: speaking of taxis. Last week I took a taxi home, well, actually I took it to the  "Dingxi Jie Yun Zhan zai Yonghe" ... - to the Dingxi subway station in Yonghe - which is about a 5 minute walk to my apartment. EVERY DAY/NIGHT after work.

because..... I was worried about my child tearing up my apartment.  I am either a one stop subway ride or a 10 minute bus and 5 stop subway ride from home, depending on which school I am teaching at- either RV or Banciao.  But still, that just wasn't close enough, not quick enough, for this "worried new mother".

and when I say "my child" ....
I'm really talking about "Mink" the cat that I'm fostering from Animals Taiwan. She's a cute little, very soft, black cat with two little kind of "bald spots" running down from her ears. She was born in April 2008- so she's 4 yrs old, she's definitely still very much like a kitten she's playful and a little crazy.... I think she sees "ghosts" because she's always running from "invisible" things. She loves heights/climbing the walls, eating, climbing in the drawers, waking up early- at 7am looking for food!, and she LOVES sleeping/lounging on PEOPLE. She's a TOTAL lap cat.
Going into my second week here.... I've started taking the MRT - subway- and buses again. She's adjusted, she's FINE.

 I'm pretty sure this apartment is HER apartment as far as she's concerned.  I didn't want to ADOPT because.... although I say "two years" and *other people, specifically my friend Carrie* have said that they think that I will be here.... longer -ME: "don't tell my parents that!"- I'm not sure how long I'm staying in Taiwan ..... and"pet immigration" can be expensive from what I've heard.

So I'm currently fostering Mink and I will update the blog here with information on her for anyone who might be interested, or knows someone who is interested in adopting a cat. I'll go more into detail on her, regarding her one or two "bad" habits as well as her likes/dislikes/needs ... as time goes on.

That's all for now. Things are clear and good. Taiwan is turning out to be the right decision....for many reasons including the fact that I'm going to a concert tomorrow night. My FIRST concert in Taiwan- first in Asia period. That British rocker Noel Gallagher - from the 90's band "Oasis" is playing here. He's got a new album out.

Here are some pictures of Mink and a link to my favorite new song of Noel's titled "If I Had A Gun". Enjoy.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

A Conversation With My Left Brain

**A Conversation Between Me and My Left Brain: Trying To Come To Terms With The Inability To Remain Friends With An Ex**

Left Brain aka the Rational/Sensible One:  Look at your past to understand your present.

Me:  Okkk... um yeah I know, I'm not friends with any of my other ex's. I've always wanted it, but it's never worked out.

Left Brain aka the Sensible One: Why did you think it would be different now?

Me: because to the rest of our world, to our co-workers we were "friends" ....

Left Brain: but to the two of you, you were not. You knew what you were. Then you left...

Me: ::interrupts"" Oh yes, please continue to remind me as often as you want. I really don't hear it enough.

Left Brain:  What I'm saying is, you want a friendship with someone who never wanted to be your friend.

Me: - ::absentmindedly, half listening to left brain:: I wonder how it works for people who are friends with their ex's and are in relationships with other people. Does that really work? I see it happen sometimes.... *trying to think of examples* especially in the lesbian community- well the American lesbian community anyway.

Left Brain: Why wonder? That's not the situation here.

Me: Can't I just wonder??!.... maybe it would be the situation in some future... although no one wants an ex, no one wants to be an "ex" .... *trails off*

Left Brain:  Well look, Metis and her BF broke up when he decided to move for work. Your brother and his ex broke up when he decided not to stay in Massachusetts. Distance isn't easy. Especially for relationships with so many challenges - like language- to begin with.

Me:  Oh right, nice subtle way of not saying "being gay"in China. Age, Sexuality, Distance, Language. It is a lot of things. I don't think at this point I'm expecting to be in a relationship with her ... but I still thought I could be in her world.

Left Brain: Why would she want that?

Me: ::sarcastically:: ..............because I'm an AWESOME, AMAZING PERSON.

Left Brain: :: calmly:: then it would hurt her even more knowing that you left to go to Taiwan. She must not be that awesome. She must not be that amazing.

Me: I thought she would understand that "foreigners" want to see a lot of Asia ....

Left Brain: ::sarcastically:: Ohhhh and I bet she's been thinking you've been seeing A LOT of "Asia" ..... trails off.

Me:  Well, I haven't. I've been sending her messages - that go unanswered- and trying to get a sense of where she is by talking to mutual friends.

Left Brain:  : ::sarcastic:: inferring that she might be a prostitute at Land Rover in Guangzhou up on QQ was a classy move. That's what real friends do.

Me: Actually.... that's when I realized that it's gone... the connection. My real friends were wondering what happened. They believed me and I couldn't stand to see that. To continue that lie just because I was angry with her and her secrets. I know who my friends are and I know that we just.... can't be friends. I've gotta look at it like any past relationship. The difference is, in the past, it was me who wanted to end it .... now it's the other person. I thought she would just "wait".... but it's done and it's beyond my control.

Left Brain: and you are fine and you will be fine. She brought you to the point where you needed to be to understand several types of challenges to relationships all at once.

Me: ::again half-listening to left brain::  I wish I did more for her ... maybe it's the guilt that makes it hard to let go.

Left Brain:  You loved her. That's all that you had to do.

Monday, August 20, 2012

"From Second To First Degree Culture Shock"

I don't know if this is an "official term" in the wandering expat world, but it feels official. That transition from your own culture into different culture #1 -for me, China- and THEN AGAIN into different culture #2- for me, Taiwan- , feels like a shocking burn that is slowing cooling, slowing getting easier. You learn how to work around it and eventually it cools into the normal 98 degree temperature of the rest of your skin. But sometimes you forget about the subtle temperatures that exist between boiling and cool. You forget about the steps in between that you have to take to get to ''comfortable".

I honestly didn't think I would have culture shock my "second year living in Asia". I thought living in a "big city" everything would be easier and more convenient. I didn't anticipate the slight heartache- and no, not talking love related, just in general. I didn't anticipate the comparisons that I was making in my head- between Foshan and Taipei. I definitely didn't anticipate the insomnia. I anticipated the heat and I anticipated the lychees - and they didn't let me down. Both were here in plain sight, full force, when I arrived. :p

But it takes time. Whether you are in your 2nd year and you are transitioning from the US to Brazil and then to China, from the US to China to Vietnam, or from the US, to Harbin China, to Shanghai China. There are going to be differences and there will be shock. Even if the language is the same. Even if some of the holidays and cultural festivals are the same.

It's a new year and it's a new place. If I moved from New York to Alabama even, I'm sure there would be some "culture shock". I accept that in my head.... or even Los Angeles... yes that's "a city"... but it's SO different from NY- in terms of public transportation and just the layout of the city.... I love the ocean but it doesn't really feel like "the city" to me, as a native New Yorker thinks of "the city".

So it's funny that I would forget that in moving from one Asian COUNTRY to another...there might be some differences... some comparisons.

Here are the things that I've been thinking/missing - and yes, go ahead and laugh and shake your head at some things -


. Seaweed Flavored Pringles potato chips

. These pickled artichokes/vegetables in a sealed plastic bag that I used to buy at 7-11 in Foshan.

. H&M and/or just a good familiar "western brand clothing store" in general. We had H&M in Foshan.

. An easy way to dispose of my garbage. Why buy/sell black plastic bags here if everyone separates/recycles their garbage into those little pink plastic bags? I have a big roll of black plastic bags in my apartment that I have no idea what I'm going to do with.

. A good brand of hot sauce - the ones I've found here so far have been too oily or too salty for my taste - I know specifically the Lee Kum Kee brand is too salty. I'm a girl who loves her spicy Sichuan Chinese and/or Spicy Hot Pot Taiwanese food.  So, I'm open to anyone's suggestions!

. hearing people speaking Cantonese. It intrigues me and I still want to learn it, despite not being in a Cantonese speaking area. Admittedly here in Taipei, I'm still listening to podcasts on my laptop, learning a little more online. It's the FUNNIEST language. I mean with everyday words like "Nay", "Gnaw", "Gay", "Sick", "Hoe", "Sup" ... how could it not be?

.Being able to SPEAK CHINESE with my kids in school. I learned enough "classroom/children's language" from Metis my TA last year in China and last year I used it freely- even in front of my kids parents. But I'd get in trouble for that here. We're not allowed to speak Chinese in class. It's pretty much a written "rule". But I REALLY think mixing it up a bit for the kids CAN BE helpful - especially for the young kids. #1 - to be able to discipline the kids a little bit as a TEACHER, not just leaving the discipline to the TA. #2 - so the kids can look at you as LESS of a "STRANGER, foreigner" and more of a "friend, confidant" and also, even if they know that they're not allowed to speak a LOT with you, can find comfort in the fact that you literally "speak their language".  #3- to CLARIFY a term - just using a simple word like "tiaowu" - for "dance". I don't mean talking in conversation for the whole 90 minutes - I can't do that yet anyway. :p ... just little tidbits. Or maybe using just one sentence to say to a kid  "I'm proud of you" - "Wo wei ni gandao hen jiao ao!"

. PASSION- some days I feel like the kids here are pushed REALLY hard. Like harder than my kids last year in terms of school/schools they go to in one day. Regular school-English cram school- Math cram school. There's not much room left for imagination and creativity and FUN. Life is more than "passing a test". Life is a JOURNEY ... it's NOT a TEST! I TRY to make my classes as FUN as I can, because I know, mentally, some of these kids are worked down to the marrow in their bones. But then again, the kids I had last year were much younger -- and the older kids - Justin and Troy for example- went to boarding school during the week and only came in on Saturdays- so I don't know, they could have been worked hard there too ... but I just didn't see it as much- not as many tired eyes - unless you were looking at MINE on a Saturday morning! :p

I had a VERY quiet life last year in Foshan in comparison to all that has already gone on this year in Taipei. To sum it up you could say most days it was-  teaching/hanging at my school - IN the mall- to work and maybe get food and get my nails and eyebrows done, late nights at Starbucks after work - for wireless internet access, home to my apartment - to make dinner and watch whatever I downloaded at Starbucks, a few dinners and only 2 KTV nights out over the course of the year, and then also the occasional subway ride in Guangzhou or the bus to Hong Kong or Macau for visa trips when I had to leave the country.

So I think.... these first 3 months here in Taiwan were for adjusting and learning and transitioning. In the beginning I feel like I was rushing to do EVERYTHING when I got to Taipei. Taking on that MANIC pace that fits with city life... but really looks more like a TOURIST with little time on her hands. Taipei 101, Taipei Zoo, Shilin Night Market, Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall, Eating WESTERN FOOD - at On Tap, buying western food at Carrefour,  etc. etc. I needed to slow down.

and I think I finally have. I'm starting to SEE the smiles of the local people here, and hearing people - young Taiwanese guys mostly being brave enough to say "Hello" is nice- as I say "Hello" back and ask them in Chinese if they speak English, usually the answer is "just a little".

to be SO QUICKLY ... building wonderful FRIENDSHIPS, almost like FAMILY - with other expats- like my co-workers "the boys", in particular some good fun, quick witted office banter with my co-worker "mate"- half South African/Half Brit/Sagittarius/NY Times crossword loving/brother from another mother -  Luke.  and WONDERFUL TAIWANESE friends .... who are so helpful and LOVING and so quick to "bring me into the fold" and make me a part of their "everyday..."  annnnd it's especially SO nice to have these new TAIWANESE friends on FACEBOOK. I have QQ and whatever communication I do with friends in China, it's there and it's in English mostly, but the fact that my Taiwanese friends and co-workers are here on FB... it's hard to describe how nice it is. It feels like I am "going out of my way" ... every time I get on QQ. Like it's a bumpy backroad that I'm forced to drive on because the main road is blocked.

Finding schools to take MANDARIN CLASSES! FINDING the ANIMAL RESCUE CENTER! Fantastic places to go for DINNER! KTV! .... amazing fast wireless internet! - there is A LOT  to love about Taipei. But it takes a while to see it .... and I wouldn't recommend trying to see it all or EXPECTING to FEEL it all in the first month. I came here assuming "Taiwan will BE WONDERFUL and the people will be KIND and there will be A LOT to DO!" ... and it is, and they are, and there is .....

but I wouldn't recommend expecting to see it all  or feel it all as soon as you get here. Or as soon as you "get to" wherever your "2nd country, 2nd year away from home" is. Just as it takes a while to build cities- it takes a while to build familiarity and routines with new places and people.

I didn't want to go to South Korea or Vietnam in my 2nd yr of teaching because I didn't want to " have to learn another language". I wanted to continue to learn Mandarin. But now, I really feel like, in reality, wherever we go, we will always be learning "new languages".  Each country, province, state, city, neighborhood ... has it's own.

be patient with yourself, be kind to yourself, and despite the jet lag, despite the tint of those rose colored glasses of yesterday distorting the view a bit, keep your eyes open ...

that's my advice for now.

Though I've barked at one or two co-workers here for making overblown generalizations about China -I've defended the PEOPLE there, knowing that there are good people there. I'm very happy with the decision I made to come here.

Be patient and give everything time.... that's the best advice I can give.

    and take time to chill out like these guys I saw hanging in Ximending with their shades & pink tinted hair...

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Typhoon. Hospital. Breathing. Olympics.

That's my title. I feel like it's been awhile since I've written - almost a month. Sometimes I feel like writing takes energy that is difficult to muster after a long day of teaching classes and/or just a busy day. I know "they say" you should write everyday .... so I'm going to TRY to get on that as my next challenge. I know that it's important, and I know that I LOVE to read other people's blogs ... so I gotta do my part and give back/share TOO!

Today is a "Typhoon Day" - so really I have no excuse NOT to write. I was off yesterday and I'm off again today. All schools and big businesses are closed today. We never had "typhoon days" when I was in China. Basically what it is, is a big rain storm- lots of rain and wind- almost like a Hurricane. It's literally be raining since late yesterday afternoon. I was hesitant to open my door today, not sure if I would need a boat to get out, but it's... nothing really. Just a lot of rain. No flooding here. I went to 7-Eleven to get some milk and toilet paper and went to this South African restaurant to get a chicken curry pot pie take out for dinner .... but other than that, I've been home - watching episodes of "Anthony Bourdain" AND "The Real L Word :Season 2" - it's not THAT bad- they've got one or two good story lines this season - i like the couple trying to get pregnant and the Japanese girl who might- don't know yet- come out to her mom- on my laptop, reading, doing wash .... etc. I'm starting to get a bit of cabin fever. I'm looking forward to going back to work tomorrow - and especially just to an end to all of this RAIN.

A few days ago I took my first sick day and went to National Taiwan University Hospital Emergency Room. I wasn't sure about any other, smaller "clinics" in the area... and I needed a doctor's note if I was going to take a day off. Feeling woozy and headachy and head-cold-y, I just needed a day .... so I went and they discovered I had a mild fever and some sinus pressure - but no, that did NOT stop me from going OUT to KTV that night with Ann and her friends and having a GREAT night singing and drinking ... etc.  (-:  While at the hospital they took an X-ray of my skull - saw some swelling/congestion, and gave me antibiotics - the whole shabang! It all came to about $25 USD ... so I guess that's not bad? I don't know. I need to check with my boss and see if there are any smaller clinics near the Guting or Dingxi MRT station... closer to my apartment. SOME of the doctors spoke English at NTU Hospital - in the ER they did, but MOST don't so I don't know how good my chances would be with a smaller clinic- I"ll have to research it and come back and let you know.

Speaking of "congestion" and "breathing" though, more metaphorically ..... recently I feel like a big space has been opened up in my heart and mind and just my whole being and ....I can "breathe" again. I'm ready to love again. To fall in love and feel everything with someone who loves me and wants to do this together - to take the leap and build/share wonderful times together.  It hurts to acknowledge when someone is "not coming back" whether it's through actual death of a person or the end of a relationship. But at some point there comes a time when happiness overpowers the sadness... when you are too caught up in your present to worry or grieve for your past. I can't grieve for Lisa anymore. It feels like there is nothing left inside for me to grieve. The only remaining difficult part that gives me a little pang of hurt still is when I hear a song that she knew or that I learned/listened to with her in China ... that's a little painful, there's an initial stab before I can sing it.. I just need to start associating those songs with ... a new person... and/or learn to sing more Chinese songs. (-;  But it's comforting when you realize that you CAN love again. That moment when you feel that sudden pang of happiness and know that it's possible to do it all again... to LOVE again.... but BETTER ... with more COMMITMENT... and maybe with less of a language barrier issue this time around? I want to.. but it takes two people and so ...  you know... I've got to do some research to see if there is a Taiwanese woman somewhere out there who speaks English and who might be interested...

In general I have to say that I've DEFINITELY seen more lesbian couples HERE than I ever did in Foshan. But then again, Taipei is the capital city. I'm sure if I spent enough time in Beijing or moreso Shanghai, I would see them too. It's not like it is in New York City or Chicago... or Los Angeles though. The lesbian couples here look like the lesbians of the early 1980's. There is a DEFINITE -"Butch and Femme" dynamic. I HATE that kind of thing. That's what always used to get me anxious when I was in my teens and just starting to get comfortable with my sexuality. I felt like I could not RELATE to either being "butch" OR "femme" and it made me question whether I really WAS a lesbian. I finally had to just go back to my FEELINGS ... forget what any girls looked like and focus on what I FELT around them vs. how I felt in general with men. I would feel desire and flirtatious energy with women and just think to myself "yeah.... I really like women". I definitely CAN be attracted to men - John Cussack is amazing- his character in "Serendipity" - totally smitten, LOVE. I thiiiiink I could marry him. Who else? umm you know there's no one else really... no other characters that I can think of. I admire good guys- men who are attractive, do good things in their community, are passionate/competitive about sports or hobbies or whatever, - but that's kind of as far as it goes. There's an invisible line - that I'm sure gay men also have with straight women- that just cuts off the "attraction" at " a really good friendship". It's like a heterosexual man and his male friends. Like a "bromance" I guess? LOL.

but anyway, yes lesbians in Taipei - and in Asia in general I think - because I know this butch/femme dynamic also exists in Thailand too - are very EXTREME looking. It's almost like a "trend" ... like being a "hipster" or a "hippie" in terms of style of dress, etc. I've also heard that sexual roles are VERY defined in these relationships - one person is dominant, the other is passive - but I think it depends on the relationship. SO .... in terms of ME finding a relationship, it would have to be with more of a "Western woman..." with someone who is open to both of us being a little feminine, a little masculine/tomboyish... someone who is confident enough to be flexible and not worry that we don't fit the "stereotype". I think, as a "Western woman" I'm probably more tomboyish in general.... just because in general Asian woman are far more feminine... but I'm not going to bind my boobs and cut my hair and/or wear a tie and boys pants around town and be "ni de nan pengyou". I'm definitely a woman too....

What else? the OLYMPICS - are happening in LONDON! I've tried to watch as much as I can online. It's been hard for me to find live footage so I've mostly been watching re-caps online and reading the news online. I THINK if you go on YouTube you can watch live streaming footage. I'm gonna try.... the USA and China are NECK AND NECK ... SO close with their medal counts.... I home the USA comes out on TOP!

There was some frustration and controversy in Taiwan when the Taiwanese Olympic Team was not allowed to fly THEIR flag in London. China was upset and asked the people in London to have it removed and to replace it with the flag of "Chinese Taipei". FYI: Chinese Taipei is the most RIDICULOUS name for a PLACE. EVER. Chinese Taipei does not exist. That's like calling the USA "English, Washington DC". Taiwan is MORE than "Taipei" ... it is Kaoshiung... Taichung ... Kenting ...Taoyuan , etc. etc... so many other cities and areas ALL AROUND the island country.  You should be able to fly your flag if your team is competing ... but China was worried about "harmony" and keeping the peace with their own people and their money and influence sadly won out in the end.

I recently posted on my QQ account - China's version of Twitter/Facebook - that I supported Taiwan flying their flag and I got some unexpected responses - one mainly from Hannah's mom. Hannah... is the cutest, happiest little 5 yr old that I had in my Pre-K2 class in Foshan. Whenever I would take attendance and ask "Is Hannah here?" she would ALWAYS say "I am happy here!". Her mom, Carmen, is a wonderful, sweet woman too ... and she speaks SOME English... but not a whole lot... so it's interesting that we have so many conversations/she leaves me so many messages online. I think she must translate a lot of my English into Chinese. I try to write mostly in English - if I'm writing something a little "controversial" so that's it's not deleted when the Chinese censors come through and look at what people are posting on QQ. I tried to post a picture of the TAIWANESE FLAG HANGING IN LONDON as my QQ profile picture ... it still LOOKS like it is my profile picture to me when I log in. But I think that's deceiving.... because if you just go here which is my profile that the public can see - you see that my profile picture is an old picture I posted a few months ago of the "hands sculpture" from the NTU MRT subway stop. ANYWAY, here below is what I posted as my QQ status and her response and my responses ....

Katy : 台湾国旗应悬挂在奥运会上。自己的球队有竞争。我支持台湾的国旗!
07月27日 23:32来自QQ签名
昨天 20:32通过QQ签名评论(2)转发
  • Hannah( mom? )
    Hannah( mom? ) : taiwan is only one part of China.
    07月31日 09:35回复转发
    • Katy
      Katy : But Hong Kong has its own flag. Also, the people I meet here do not consider themselves to be Chinese. They are Taiwanese. Taiwan is a democracy. The government is different here. There is freedom of speech here and freedom of the press. Taiwan considers itself to be a country.
      08月01日 11:47回复转发
    • Katy
      Katy : Taiwan has a two party democratic government. Not a one party Communist government.The current president here was elected by the people. Your president is not the ruler of Taiwan. It is sad but I think there are many things that the China government does not tell you...
      08月01日 11:53回复转发
    • Hannah( mom? )
      Hannah( mom? ) : i realize the malpratice of one party leading
      08月02日 20:13回复转发
    • Hannah( mom? )
      Hannah( mom? ) : but there so many people in PRC,and part of them are not educated.
      08月02日 20:19回复转发
    • Hannah( mom? )
      Hannah( mom? ) : they havd no idae of politic.they only care about how to live
      08月02日 20:24回复转发
    • Hannah( mom? )
      Hannah( mom? ) : if there are two or more parties in china,PRCwill fall apart soon.
      08月02日 20:31回复转发
    • Hannah( mom? )
      Hannah( mom? ) : it's not the right time to have two party leading.
      08月02日 20:32回复转发

      and so that's been the conversation so far .... I'm glad that she's so open to talking about it
      I enjoy political conversations... just observing the trends, what's been happening and WHY - ahhh my FAVORITE questions/word! You know? It doesn't have to be angry extremist political debate. I think real conversation dies when people get too heated and angry. I LIKE Hannah's mom a lot. She' s a sweet person.... just like Hannah ...and  so I'm GLAD that she's open to discussion and she at least does not appear to be offended by my perspective. I feel like, IF CHINA is "not ready" for a two party system .... they should at 
      least be able to vote for the PERSON that they want in charge FROM the ONE PARTY. 
      I'm sure that there are different trains of thought, a "spectrum" within the CCP party.... 
      just like there is within the Republican Party in the USA. Bo Xilai and Hu Jintao are 

      both members of the CCP ..... but they are VERY different in terms of their politics, where they want to take "the party".

      OK- so I need to sign off SOON.... 1am is creeping upon us here. But I know that I promised posting one picture in EVERY blog from the last one on .... so here's a picture. Some delicious xiao long bao dumplings from Din Tai Fung... AND one MORE picture..... me in my touristy TAIPEI hat!  -I did NOT wear this to Din Tai Fung by the way... LOL.