Tuesday, September 10, 2013

"四海一家" (One World)

I post blog entries regularly. I post one entry per week every week in "An East Coast Girl In The Far East". ( ok, we all know the truth and that's not quite the truth..... yet.)

I'm trying to put it in the positive here rather than using words like " I should" or " I need to". To make it more like it is the current reality.

However, judging by the date on my last public entry here, we know that the past reality was in fact July 31st. I think my new job working Mon-Fri has taken the bulk of my time and energy from here - especially commuting into the city 90 minutes everyday.

So, I will write a future entry about "extended home visits" and the perils and perks of them. But I don't know if that's the direction in which this writing is going tonight. We'll see.

Although New York is so diverse - for example the current neighborhood that I work in, in Brooklyn is pretty much evenly divided- (slightly more Hassidic if any)- into a huge Hassidic Jewish, Guangdong/Cantonese Chinese, and West Indian ( Trinidad, Haiti, etc) population. I am missing Asia. I'm missing Taipei. Missing Taiwan. I feel like it's where I am supposed to be at this point in my life. I feel like I've stayed in NY a little too long now. I'm ready to go back ( just not quiiiite financially ready- I want to bring a bigger "nest egg" with me).

I love my friends in NY ( and there still a few I have to see)- and I'm so grateful for this trip especially for meeting up with the friends who I hadn't seen in two years. I'm so grateful to have had quality time with my extended family - beautiful days on the beach, go-kart racing, making English trifle with my Aunt Joan. For new babies - (both animal babies and humans). It's been a little.... rough/stressful at times being 4 people under the same roof again at Mom and Dad's (But 4 is an unlucky number in Chinese after all, it means "death") but that's for another entry.

I get asked in BOTH directions from Taiwan and from New York "How long are you staying?", "When are you coming back?" ( "No, I mean like REALLY back" - I remember my cousin adding once, just to clarify). To sum it up: I don't think it's your burden or responsibility to have an answer. I think every person has their own intrinsic gut feeling of when "it's right" to move. I also think we don't know- we can't predict it rationally. I am saying now, as my blanket statement, to give myself a picture and to pacify the masses - that I plan on being in Taiwan for the next 3 years and then I will re-evaluate my living/working situation and decide where I will be for the next 3 years after that. (During these 3 yrs I will take 2 week long trips home at the most. Nothing longer than that. Hopefully this absence will give my parents the incentive to come VISIT ME in Taipei! - I'm already writing up our itinerary :p)

I would LOVE to bring someone to Taiwan- to live with me. To have a partner, a wife who is just like "Yup, let's go!" To travel, to live abroad as a couple ( or even as a family - adding kids is a blessing I think- to see how easily they adapt. I loved watching my TA's daughter in China two years ago. The family was from Uzbekistan and the daughter was 3 yrs old and her brain was working to learn Uzbek, English, and Chinese. She definitely mastered the Chinese "bu yao!" early on.) Kids are little sponges. I was speaking Chinese to my friend's 4 1/2 yr old daughter here one day and she made me melt-so adorable- just the way she was watching me so intently and could perfectly imitate the words and tones.)

I hope that happens. That's the one thing that would keep me in New York- a partner and kids. But I guess if I want to be "An East Coast Girl In The Far East" it's a good thing that I'm single for now. Meeting someone over there is very possible ... but I don't know, I can't predict.

I'm glad that I was so easily able to get back with my old company and find a job in NYC. But just "being in a relationship" or "having a big, fancy house" doesn't make you happy. It's the specific person that you're with. It's the people who enjoy the house and make memories in it with you. Yes, I "have a job" right now ( and I'm grateful!) but I feel like there are more quality experiences waiting for me in Taiwan at this point.

I don't have any tattoos - yet. But I recently saw a phrase in Traditional Chinese that  I would consider on my wrist maybe.  "四海一家"  ("Si Hai Yi Jia"- literal meaning "four seas, one home" or "One World"). We are all family. You can find a home ( and miss people) no matter what their language, race, religion, flag, political beliefs,  ... may be.

Taking a step out of your "home" country is a good wake up call. A healthy dose of perspective. Feeding your soul and exploring your own unique curiosities and questions is worth a million times more than feeding your fear with doubts and never knowing WHAT could be. "Don't you want to support our country???" - was one question that I got from my mother recently - a real "throwaway" comment in a little argument that we were having. If anyone says this to you, I'd say- the US is a nation built on immigrants. People constantly leaving "customs and cultures" of "the old country" to find a "better life" somewhere else. My own grandparents left Ireland for the US. It doesn't mean that it's forever. But if you get the chance, take it. Anxiety and nervousness only feed fear and make you stand still. They weigh down your mind. Optimism and hope give you an open mind, options, the ability to see more sides of a situation.

"JUMP And The Net Will Appear" - is a phrase from improv. It was the name of a workshop that, I think, Rachel Hamilton, ran at The Magnet in NYC - years ago now- back in 2005. I think it's a really appropriate phrase to think about when you're considering traveling or making ANY big decision .... know that you WILL be supported. Trust that the universe will provide a "net" in the form of new friends, new work colleagues, a place to live, etc. etc... wherever you land.

We really are one family. Political parties and governments and nations will often use their nationalism to separate hearts and minds. But we all want the basics - food/water/shelter/health/love/affection and also things like the potential to grow, the freedom to move, new experiences, maybe some healthy competition/tests - to strengthen skills, recognition for our work/efforts, the freedom to speak against perceived injustice, etc. Money is far too often involved in the decisions of "our leaders". It's not a "Republican" or "Democrat" thing either. It's not "puppy love" regarding me and President Obama anymore. His "Asia Pivot" and the way that he and all future US leaders treat Taiwan .... will prove if the US is really about "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness" and "liberty and justice for all" and "freedom... etc, etc. " It's the smallest island country in Asia but there's a lot riding on Taiwan's self- rule and increased international presence. If the US leaders develop "guanxi" with other countries *coughCHINAcough*  and worry more about their debt/$$  with "big brother" in the neighborhood- that throws all of the rhetoric about the US truly supporting  "FREEDOM" and "SELF-DETERMINATION" of a country- like Taiwan- out the window. The US can hide it in the Middle East - (blame religious extremists, blame inequality- lack of women's rights, etc for going in and "saving" the Middle East.) but you cannot not hide any ulterior motives ( their China debt/money, oil, ocean access, etc.) in Asia, especially with regard to Taiwan (Taiwan is *already* a -young but thriving- *democracy*. Thrusting free people into the hands of communists would not reflect the " good image" and/or "past rationalizations" of the US.) Self-Determination - for each country and person, is important.

Regarding returning to Taipei - for this next trip ( thinking it will be the first week in November), I have decided to take Eva Air. http://www.evaair.com . They are a Taiwanese airline that provides NON-STOP flights from JFK/New York to Taipei. The hours are a little..... different than what I'm used to. But we'll see how that works out. It's a science experiment. Maybe my jet-lag time will be reduced leaving at 1am NY time and arriving at 5am Taiwan time? We'll see. I'm excited and curious (as usual).

Another quick little tidbit regarding Taiwan. As luck would have it, this week is "Taiwan Week" in New York City! So, if you are experiencing any "reverse culture shock" or feeling like you would like to learn more about Taiwan, there are several events that you can check out if you are in New York this week. This is the Facebook page for the events https://www.facebook.com/events/528492097224586/ . It is sponsored by "Keep Taiwan Free". http://keeptaiwanfree.org/ If you can come, come! Saturday is the march and rally outside of the United Nations - to seek to add Taiwan as a participating country/nation in the UN.

With the dawn of another 9/11 coming in the next few hours here - 12 years ago now. It's important to remember that we all have loved ones that mean the world to us- all over. We ARE one world, one family. I lost my cousin Kristy Irvine Ryan on that day. She worked in the South Tower- the second one to be hit. She was way up on the 103 floor working for Sandler, O'Neill, and Partners. She was 30 at the time. There were about 9 yrs between us. She was able to talk on the phone with both my uncle- her dad, and Brendan before the plane hit. It was just such a hard time. I was in college in Boston then, but I ACHED to be in New York. I can't describe the feeling. It was similar to, but MORE than a homesickness/ other-country culture shock. I was 21- so there was a lot of drinking- masked in "being a college kid" to numb the pain/feeling of isolation I think. I feel like- post 9/11- I had a lot of time to explore NYC and make some wonderful friends and create many fun, good memories living down there. I thank Kristy for that. I know she was there, putting people and experiences in my path - just like she continues to do. I remember her as someone with a good sense of humor- Funny but very centered-  Cool. Calm. Collected. Definitely a "city girl" - raised on Long Island but she lived in the West Village in NYC for most of her life after college. She had just gotten married that June- to Brendan- her high school sweetheart.  As a 33 yr old now, I -especially when 9/11 comes around- wonder if the "3 extra years" that I've had, if I've lived them well.  If I've ... done the "right things" with mine?, if I've done "enough"? We all have our own "story" and a "path" I think, but this time of year always feels like 12 yrs ago. It always feels like the longest day.

However, it's what inspired me to travel. That "never knowing". "Live for today". Since 9/11, I've found myself saying "if it's my time, it's my time." .... there's no point in letting fear and anxiety freeze me/you/us  if we all have "a time". Three thousand people, including my cousin-  had theirs on that day. It's the one thing that makes it's hard to ever "permanently" leave New York. Because there are three thousand people who were going to work that day and - they can't leave. They're still here.

I've known people who have died young and people - like my grandmother at 99 yrs old -who have died old. I've seen people overcoming disease and people succumbing very quickly to disease/illness. So I know- there is "a force" behind it all. Love while we're here.  Encourage dreams. Try to erase borders/walls. 

We ARE one world.  

Four Seas, One Home. 
                                                                        四海一家

My Grandma, Marjorie Lucid - who left Ireland at 2O yrs old- to move to America- here with her 1O grandchildren. Chris, Kerry, Kristy, Michelle, Me, Greg, Tracy, Megan, Wendy, and Sean.
February 2Oth, 1996 at "The Rainbow Room" in NYC celebrating Grandma's 9Oth birthday.
SUCH a good time. Great memory.

I miss both of them so much. Grandma passed away in 2OO5. She never knew about 9/11. She was in the nursing home- getting very tired easily at that point and didn't read the newspapers. Out of respect to my Uncle Stuart and his wishes, no one ever told her. I'm sure she was very surprised and happy to see Kristy when they were reunited.








Wednesday, July 31, 2013

What I Would Trade The World For.

An intense game of kickball in the backyard - that I'm pretty sure me and my 12 yr old teammate won playing against my friend and her 4 and 1/2 yr old teammate. :D  ..... UNO cards .... high fives.... italian pizzelle cookies and ice cream cake.... re-connecting hugs and conversation on the bed .....wiping away a 5 yr old tears - a stick of gum can be magical.... laughing and smiling. remembering ... who'd have thought you'd find your best days in middle school?

THAT'S what it's all about. Moments like these. Love. Connecting. Re-connecting. Empathy. Confessions.

Caught up in this kind of simple happiness, it's easy to lose yourself in it.

As much as I love traveling, learning, going out into the world. I would trade the world for a year's worth of moments like this. Then maybe after a year - go back to missing them, longing for them. But if I could, I'd wrap myself up in sunny, simple, happy times like these more often.

Ideally, I'd want both. BUT if I had to choose love or travel, I'd choose love.

No need for "da club" in Rio.
Cups of Rice Wine on the top of Mount Fuji.
gay pride celebrations in Mykonos.

Every day I typically google "China News" and "Taiwan News" to stay connected, to read what's going on. But this past Sunday and for the past few days since.... I haven't. Or I've been late. It's turned into yesterday's news.


The First

For one day I forgot about Taiwan.
For one day The Taipei Times, Shanghaiist, Focus Taiwan, China Post....

all international news
became irrelevant.

The KMT surrendered? What? ...  Cual? I mean,... Shenme?
H&M opened ...zai where? Donde? ummmm. great. hao.


Wrapping myself up

in the familiar cocoon of long ago- but still- local
news.

the internet was dead to me.
I flatlined.
The CCP censors lit incense, visited the grave of my internet activity, and wiped me off their chart

Be.
Cause.

I honestly didn't care what was

happening. outside
of her hug.


Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Reverse Culture Shock- zai nali? Wo meiyou.

It's been a month that I've been home, back on the "East Coast" of the USA. This time around I don't know if I've had any real "reverse culture shock". In terms of coming home -I've tried to take it easy, not be too hard on myself, just "go with the flow" and take it one task at a time. Get to JFK. Get my bags. Exchange my Taiwan dollars back into US dollars at the airport. Get in car. Go home with parents.

Jet lag was a familiar little bastard .... I had about a week of going to bed at 6pm, waking up at 3am. Going to bed at 3pm waking up at 11am, etc. etc. all crazy combination. But I was more forgiving of myself, more understanding of the situation this time around.

I brought my Mandarin Chinese workbook and textbook home with me - so I've been keeping up with my studies like a good xiao xuesheng- practicing my writing, speaking, reading. But other than that - and missing MINK terribly- I haven't been shocked being home or feeling like I'm missing anything from Taiwan. Maybe it's because I know that I'm going BACK there.

Looking back now, after my first year in China, I really pushed myself to "get back" over to Asia ASAP. I was home for a month last year and immediately while I was home I was sending out my resume and trying to find ways to get back to Asia ..... because everything was up in the air with Lisa. I thought that she would start taking English classes in Guangzhou and join me in Taiwan. It was a little of my anxiety and desperation mixed in with a lot of denial. I went to Taiwan. Lisa stayed in Guangzhou. Wo juede ta hai bu hui shuo yingwen .... and even though I can speak more Chinese now, I'm not doing it to try to communicate with her. The relationship is over.

But it took a good 6 months of my first year in Taiwan to come to terms with that. Feeling -first-rushed. Then jet lagged. Heartbroken. Insomnia. It was a difficult transition. Luckily, I was NOT alone in Taipei and I made some wonderful friends and new memories.

There are several wonderful things about RETURNING to Taiwan, and Taipei specifically.

#1. The "Visa-Waiver Program" between the US and Taiwan. It was just very recently put in place- last year - in November I think. It was after I was already in Taiwan. Before that, for me, getting to Taiwan, had involved much more paperwork and letters and a trip to the TECO office - "Taiwan's Embassy" in New York City. BUT now any US citizen can book a flight to Taiwan and once you land, you are automatically issued a "LANDING VISA" and can stay in the country for 90 days without any additional paperwork needed.

#2.  My friends Romona, Emilia, and Avivi run a wonderful, warm, hostel called "Taipei Fun House" where you can stay for 600 NTD per night - about $22 USD per night. They also host events - dumpling making, hiking trips, etc. and they are all a lot of fun and very sweet. Romona should run for "Mayor of Taipei City" because she knows EVERYONE. So, this time, upon returning, after I book my flight and land in Taipei - I intend to crash at the Fun House for a few weeks. Romona told me I just have to let her know my arrival date about 3 weeks in advance. So, this time I won't feel "rushed" to find a new apartment once I land in Taiwan. Last year I was put up in a hotel during my orientation with my new school, but it was only for a week. So I felt pressure to find a place. This time around I know the area better, I know the Fun House - we had Thanksgiving there, and I have friends in the city. I can take my time to get over my jet lag. The only real big reason for leaving the fun house and finding a place ASAP is MINK. I want to get her back from the shelter as soon as possible.

BUT if you are a new teacher to Taipei - book your flight - land and get your landing visa to stay for 90 days and in that time ... look for teaching jobs.

#3. It seems to me that a lot of schools in Taiwan - both public schools and buxibans - prefer to interview potential teachers in person. If you have landed, you've got a cell phone with a Taiwanese number, you've decided to crash at Taipei Fun House and/or maybe with a friend already in Taipei, the next thing you can do is start looking for a jobhttp://www.tealit.com has a variety of both Full-Time and Part-Time ESL teaching positions at different schools around Taiwan. They usually list a phone contact and/or email contacts. Bottom line - after doing your own research on the school, I would ask to have the email address for a current teacher at the school - so you can get some honest feedback. I did that with my school last year. Although not having two consecutive days off and not having paid holidays was annoying - at least everything was said up front and my paperwork was legitimate. I obtained my Taiwan Residence Permit and was legally allowed to work in Taiwan. BUT in hindsight I think I could have done more research and waited it out a bit to get/find a better deal. There are plenty of schools that offer  Saturdays/Sundays off and some that offer paid holidays. But again, regarding last year, I was "rushing" to "get back to Asia" to save my pseudo-relationship and in my desperation I took whatever was available. In addtion to exploring tealit, I would also recommend"Reach To Teach" http://www.reachtoteachrecruiting.com as a great resource. Carrie Kellenberger and her husband John run the company and they are based in Taiwan - they live in Taipei. They've lived in Asia- Taiwan specifically- for so long now that they've got permanent residence status in Taiwan. Great people - a lot of fun and very helpful and sympathetic toward expats with all of the initial culture shock that goes along with being a newbie in Asia. So, check them out on the website or on Facebook and they can help you find a school as well.

Even though half the "fun" of living in a foreign country should be about "getting lost" and "living on the edge" .... I'm glad to have some of the "comforts of home" waiting for me this time around - friends, a familiar place to crash, my cat ...

Being home now I'm trying to just get everything as organized as possible here .... because I feel like this is my last BIG TRIP home for awhile.  When I return to Taipei, I want to find a school that I really like and I hope to work there for the next 2 years. Even if I do get a break between contracts,  I'm pretty sure I won't be able to just come home for three whole months in between. So now,  I've been cleaning out my closet. Cleaning out the basement. Organizing old photos and old family VHS video tapes that I want to turn into DVD's. My parents are getting older - in their mid to late 60 's - and they want to sell their house and move into a retirement community within the next 2-3 years. So I'm trying to do my part to help them.

The one scary thing that has happened during my two years away is that each year I've lost somebody. The first year I actually lost 3 somebodies. One month after I went to China my 21 yr old family cat "Pumpkin" died and my 18 yr old cockatiel bird "Cheery" died one month after that. When I came home - about 2 weeks after I came home from China, my Uncle Frank - who never officially married my Aunt Joan but they've been living next door to each other and "dating" each other since 1989... so he's pretty much been my uncle- died very suddenly of liver cancer.  He was a wonderful guy - very technical - he used to work at IBM. He loved tractors and fixing things and farming the plot of land that he and my Aunt Joan shared in Ulster County. He travelled with Aunt Joan to places in the US - like Cape Cod and Florida and around the world - to Peru. He helped my mom and dad figure out how to SKYPE with me. He had been following me on FB and commenting and sharing my pictures with Aunt Joan. He was only about 73 yrs old, so in my book that's still young. When I left for Taiwan, I was scared for Aunt Joan. As independent as she is, I wanted to make sure that she would be OK. But now one year later, she seems to be doing well. Still going out with her social group. Still gardening but only in her yard- she sold the bigger plot of land. The second person that I lost was another "uncle" - my Aunt Mary's boyfriend of 14 years "Joe". He also died of cancer - and he was about 73-74 yrs old too. He passed away while I was in Taiwan. In/around January.  He was another wonderful guy. A real "port in the storm" a wonderful companion and support for my Aunt Mary. My Uncle Howard, her first husband, died of cancer in 1994. SO ... I'm just trying to make some good memories here and cherish the good times.... because I don't know - god forbid- who's leaving next.

But in order to stay, I ALSO need money - aka a summer job - to support myself and get me back to Taiwan. I have a bank account in Taipei with money in it. Definitely enough for a 3 week stay at the Fun House and to start me off on my 2nd year .... but I need airfare to Taipei and also just some more money to play with while I'm home here. So ... after putting in a few applications, just today, I got a phone call telling me that I got a job .... at my old company in NYC. It's Monday to Friday. I really like the company and I've kept in touch with my old boss on FB. I'm going to be working in a different department this time around .... so she won't be my boss. But she - my old boss- knows that I'm only here temporarily. However, the company doesn't. I wasn't finding any jobs that were hiring only for the summer ..... so I lied and said that I'm back in NY full time. I feel like, when it finally comes time to go back to Taiwan, I can just say that I found a better paying position/needed more money because I'm moving back into NYC. But it sucks to have to do that. I feel bad. I've never worked at any job for less than a year ..... so yeah, I hate having to leave so early. But of course I'll give them plenty of notice.

Realistically, I feel like I won't be back in Taiwan until October. I don't want friends in Taiwan to think that I'm not coming back... because I AM ... I'm just being more... responsible about it. I'm not going to "rush". I want to have enough money to rent a bigger apartment - with a kitchen this time. :P ... and more space for Mink to run around. I still read the "Taipei Times" online so I'm trying to stay connected to what's going on over there. It's also helpful to have so many Taiwanese friends on FB. I guess that's it. I don't have "reverse culture shock" this time around .... because I'm used to the process and I'm still connected. As far as being home, it's so good to see NYC again The city is BEAUTIFUL and people-strangers actually seem very friendly and outgoing- more than I remember!

I wonder if there's any correlation between years going between one/the same "foreign country" and your "home country" and the "strength/weakness of reverse culture shock/culture shock". I would think it would become weaker with time. When both places become familiar to you,  it seems like eventually there is would be no culture shock or reverse. Like a child who can easily navigate between speaking two different languages - English and Chinese for example- depending on his/her audience.

Anyway, it's 11:39pm NY time now. I am well past any jet lag and legitimately, reasonably tired at this point in the night and will be going to bed SOON. Goodnight. Happy-belated- LGBT PRIDE! More later.

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cute Stories

Time feels like it's been flying faster lately. As if something has legitimately changed in the time/space reality of life..... seriously,unexplainably fast. Soooo looking and seeing that my last blog post here was on May 6th - almost a month ago- is hard to believe - but believeable given the way time has been flying lately. You're all invited to my 90th birthday tomorrow.... lol.

I'm currently back on the "East Coast", not currently in the "Far East". My school contract ended on May 18th and I packed up and I left Taiwan on May 23rd to come home to the US for a visit. I'm here now in New York until late June/early July. Mink is back at the Animals Taiwan shelter (aka "Summer Camp") spending time with "old friends" until I return to Taiwan. I'm reallllly missing her though! It took a good week -full 7 days to get over my jet lag here. Post-flight -my ears are still occasionally popping and I caught a little cold from the flight b/c I left the air conditioner/fan on and it got cold... but that's pretty much gone now.

It's nice to have some time at home. I think to my parents,aunts, etc.. I'll always be "their child, their niece, etc..." so, a home visit is nice to trip back, I can still feel like "a kid" still feel "young" despite being 33 years old, tying my own shoes, paying my bills, etc. etc.. Doing things like driving the car to into town ( got scared for a minute b/c I thought my driver's license had expired!- nope, good til 2017. whew!), taking the train down to NYC, taking my friend's Zumba class, playing a game of scrabble with Mom and Dad, etc... it's a nice change. Something different. More "home adventures" to come! It hasn't even been two weeks yet- more family to see, more friends to see. I'm trying to "be here" - to stay present and enjoy the moment(s) .... but it's hard because I don't want to "stay away" from Taiwan for toooo long. I try to check in with friends there on Facebook. I don't want to feel like I'm not going back.... I've left some "insurance" to prove that I'm returning- I've got a bank account there with some money in it, I've got a small suitcase full of things and two pillows that I left at at friend's apartment, and I've got Mink - my cat- I've technically been "fostering" her but the shelter knows that I plan on adopting her ... so she's "off the market" folks, she's mine. However, I'm pretty sure this means that when I go back I won't be able to just drop her off her at the shelter when I go away or take trips home. I'll have to plan a little more in advance. I know that there is "Miya Cat Hotel" in Taipei, so there are options..

New York City is a breath of fresh air... a nice change of scenery.... but Taipei has its charm and curious nooks and crannies full of little everyday adventures down every lane and alley too. I didn't really "miss" any foods being in Taiwan because I could get pizza, bagels, hummus/pita/middle eastern food, amazing fresh fruit, delicious bbq and burgers, etc in Taipei. Probably the only things I really missed, that are just too awesome-can't be replicated were Kyochon Korean Fried Chicken in Manhattan and Roma Pizza's "Fresh Mozzerella" pizza in Park Slope, Brooklyn ... but that's it.

Every year is a chance for new growing pains/opportunities and lessons to learn. But that also includes bringing new people into your life.... breathing fresh air and creating new memories. Taiwan is an incredibly safe country for tourists/foreigners. Taipei, the capital city, is NOT the exception to this rule. It is very safe and hospitable. Taxi drivers, store owners, children ... people will try their best to help get you to where you need to go and to communicate with you, even if there is a language barrier. I've had SO many "Chinglish" conversations with taxi drivers in Taiwan. I love Taiwanese taxi drivers - they make up a good portion of the "cute stories" I've accumulated from this past year.

The first taxi driver story is from when I first moved into my apartment in Yonghe ( a neighborhood on the outskirts of Taipei). After staying in a hotel for a week and going through my school's training I was SO ready to find a place to "settle down". I know a lot of foreigners use "Tealit.com" to find apartments ( and everything!) in Taiwan.... but the "591.com" website is also ESPECIALLY good for finding housing. It is written completely in Chinese- so you will need to use Google Translate or some translation service to read it in English. Sometimes people on tealit jack up
rent prices because it's an English website and they know they are dealing with foreigners but on http://rent.591.com.tw  if you hit "translate this page" -- AND have a Taiwanese friend/co worker to help you initiate contact with the landlord,you will most likely find better deals.

So, after researching, working with the person that helps new teachers get settled at my school, I found an apartment. Still jet-lagged and feeling disoriented and a little "homesick" for China (aka still in the very early stages of getting over my ex-girlfriend there) I got in a taxi and headed for my new home. The taxi driver didn't speak much English and I didn't yet know how to navigate down the lanes to get to my apartment (or that "Dingxi jayyun zhan" was the closest MRT stop to my apartment...for the rest of the year I would just tell any driver to drop me there.) During the drive, me and this taxi driver (probably in his mid 30's) tried to have conversation - despite my jetlag and our language barrier. I'm a pretty open, friendly person I think. I will sit and have coffee with almost(Sarah Palin/media "personalities" who really don't do anything, PRC China media censors, and animal abusers not included ) anyone- to share stories, etc.

I exchanged telephone numbers with this taxi driver and we planned to meet up. He joked about "no ring" on his finger and that we should "get married". I thought it was a joke. However, I soon realized that he wanted more than casual coffee. He was thinking about dating and I was just going along with the "joke" (that apparently wasn't a joke) He had a friend get on the phone at one point and tell me that he "really liked me" in English. I think I did my best to tell him that I liked women and that I was new to Taiwan and was not ready to date anyone. (and after about 5 days of taxi rides-with different drivers- from the subway stop near my apartment TO my apartment -about a 10 minute trip- I finally mastered how to WALK from the Dingxi MRT station to my apartment by myself! Independent woman!)

Another funny story was when I was sitting in 7-11 one day ( you can do everything in 7-11 in Taiwan fyi: send/receive packages, add money to your cell phone, ... I'm sure laundry service will be coming next!) this group of  12-13 year old Taiwanese kids, a mixture of boys and girls, walked by and looked in and saw me sitting there. I was feeling silly so I waved at them and made the "call me" sign with my hand. They waved back and laughed and smiled and walked by. But then I was really SURPRISED to see them COMING BACK. One of the boys came into the 7-11 store with two other girls following him.He came up to me and said "Can I have your telephone number?" It was really sweet .... I asked him where he was from ( in Chinese) and in English he said "I was made in Taiwan.... ( at this point the girls laughed and teased him) and he corrected himself saying "I'm from Taiwan". He told me that his friends dared him to come in and ask me. I thought that was really brave and cute (but no, I did not give him my telephone number. We both knew it was a dare, a joke). Taiwanese kids aren't "afraid" of foreigners. I think, especially in Taipei they're definitely more used to seeing a variety of different people - given the number of expat teachers as well as mixed families in general- biracial kids-mostly Asian/Caucasian that I've seen, that live in the city.

Lots of cute, every day exchanges...  being a "foreigner" can have its advantages in conversation. Being an "outsider" to what's going on can make you an "insider". After going out to dinner with some friends one night, I shared a taxi home with a good Taiwanese friend and she asked me if I was coming back to Taiwan. and I said "Of course!" and then I added in Chinese ( even though we both speak English VERY well. ;) ) "Wo xihuan Taiwan ...." ( "I like Taiwan", "Wo ai Taiwan" is probably closer to the truth though. :) ) after she got out of the cab, the driver repeated to me "Ni xihuan Taiwan ma?" ( You like Taiwan?...) and we got into "Chinglish" conversation- combination of my broken Chinese and his broken English- that ended up being about Taiwan independence and how he thought President Ma can't be trusted and how, as countries, China and Taiwan are more like "England and America" ( his exact words in English). (I would say more like "England and Ireland" given that Ireland is an island country, closer to the size of Taiwan, and England/Ireland have the same proximity/close to each other, as China and Taiwan, but either way- yes.) I'm not sure if I would have had this conversation if I was Taiwanese/"looked Asian". So it was a real treat for me. I loved that he was so passionate about his country and I loved being able to have this conversation with him.

I remember waking up every Saturday morning - leaving my apartment at 9am to go teach a class at 10:10am I would pass an old man sitting outside of this little restaurant in my neighborhood, we greeted each other with a "Zao" ( "morning!") and a head nod. That was our Saturday morning ritual... a nice start to an early day.(luckily my early Saturday morning class was an amazing class, great kids... they made waking up early so worth it. If they could do it on a Saturday- and still be so interested and energetic- I could do it!)

However, The MOST interesting, sweet taxi driver story that I have from this year was when I was going to Thailand over the Lunar New Year Holiday in February. I needed to get to Taoyuan Airport. Taoyuan is a city not too far outside of Taipei. There are many ways to get to the airport. You can take the High Speed Rail (train) from Taipei Main Station to Taoyuan and get a shuttle bus to the airport ( probably the cheapest and easiest option) ... but on this trip I was leaving early and I didn't check the schedule. SO I took the MRT to Xindian and I was going to take a shuttle bus from there to the airport.... but I missed it. I didn't want to wait around so I took a taxi ( knowing that it would be about 1000 NT ....about $35 US dollars.) I don't think that's tooooo bad ... but if you don't have to pay that much, it's always better not to.  It was cold in Taiwan in February. That real damp kind of cold. I was wearing fairly light clothes because I knew Thailand was going to be HOT (and it was). I had a shor sleeved shirt on and a big shawl/scarf to cover my shoulders/upper arms. During the 45 minute taxi ride the driver and I talked about his family (he has two sons - one is in America, I forget where though) and my family and what I do in Taiwan..., etc basic broken English/Chinese conversation. I wished him a "Happy New Year" and when I got OUT of the car he GAVE me his COAT. He told me "I don't know if I will see you again, if you give it back to me or not. Don't worry..." I told him that I couldn't take it. He told me don't worry, it's cold. and pushed it around my shoulders. It was very sweet. Sadly, I lost his business card....but I left the coat at my old apartment and told my landlord to donate it. I'm sure somewhere out there is another pair of cold shoulders (maybe not now, because it's a hot Taiwanese summer but definitely once January comes around again) that will appreciate it. This is a picture of the coat. It's really nice and it has a hood too.I've NEVER had ANYONE just "GIVE ME their coat because I looked cold/was cold. It's something that you don't forget .... and something that you want to do for someone who you see in need. Staying warm, well-fed, loved/supported,healthy ... it's something that we take for granted especially on those
days when we're "feeling bored" and caught up trying to "keep up with the Jones' ( or the Kardashians)" and just can't wait to.... (insert big dream here). It's nice to bring it back to the basics every now and then. What really matters.


speaking of what matters.....  I shot this picture of Mink just before I took her to the shelter when I was getting ready to pack for my trip back to the US. She is NO fool. She knew EXACTLY what was going on.I am the coldest person in the WORLD for taking this picture and having this image of cuteness/sadness burned into my memory and STILL leaving her at"summer camp". She is .... the best.




 

 
but all of these people above here are pretty awesome too. :) Before I left, I had my LAST Saturday
class from 2:30-4:30pm- see above. Then that night I went out to
celebrate my birthday in Taipei with some friends. We went to my favorite hot pot restaurant, Mala Village, for dinner, then to On Tap for drinks and a game of Jenga, then to "da club... lol... a lounge "Woo Bar" and then "Wet Bar" at The W Hotel for a nightcap. It was a wonderful night and a really great year.... and like I said it's a real struggle to "keep my mind where my body is" because both New York and Taipei have pretty big chunks of my heart...

Monday, May 6, 2013

Little Lessons

Long title for this latest blog post here.

EDIT:  Long title cut short. This blog entry was supposed to be "Little Lessons, Cute Stories and Breaking Stereotypes" but  being that it's 1:35am.... I want to try to get some sleep. Cute Stories and Breaking Stereotypes coming soon..... maybe even tomorrow!***

But, being that it's been FOUR MONTHS since my last post I figured I'd attempt to make up for lost time. ***

No surprises. Read the title and you know every topic that this entry will cover. Or maybe I'll just talk about my cat? :p



LITTLE LESSONS

#1. LISTENING 

Being an outsider or "waiguoren" - which translates to "foreigner" in Chinese but the actual translation is literally 'outside country person' "outside-wai, country-guo, person- ren". ... in a new environment can present challenges.... smells, tastes, sounds.... but it ALSO forces you to LIVE IN THE MOMENT, to BE PRESENT, and to LISTEN. When you are learning a language and attempting to talk to someone, you can't have your iphone earbuds in one ear listening to music while you attempt, with the other ear, to listen to the woman at the BBQ stand ask you if you want your fishcakes spicy or not. Listening/Struggling to speak - creates a relationship - both you and the person that you are having the transaction with - a store clerk, a neighbor, a taxi driver - are working "together" - stopping and really taking a moment to understand each other. 

"You never listen to me" ..... "that's not what I said" ..... "I told you to buy red peppers, not green peppers." -- We hear things like this in English, or whatever our "native language" is, all the time. Whether it's talking with a family member, a friend, a co-worker.... sometimes we just take the situation for granted. We take the fact that we "understand" for granted and we get caught up in "other thoughts" ... and stop listening to each other. 

LEARNING and BEING PATIENT and TUNING IN to listen to what is being said ... is a really nice advantage to living abroad ....it's almost like a meditation- you are TRULY "present" in the moment and everything is vivid and clear. 

But then, YES- the FLIP side of the coin is, after awhile you get taxi drivers and parents and store clerks who hear you speak a few sentences all together in Chinese and THINK you are fluent... and start talking fast and saying things that you don't understand...  and you've gotta kind of reel it in - slow down and let them know that you don't understand.... and try not to be too hard on yourself for not understanding... yet. I've had political conversations in a mix of Chinese/English with Taiwanese taxi drivers - making me think I was really GETTING THIS .... but then I would go by myself to sign up for a gym membership or bank card and be COMPLETELY LOST and think ... " I don't have this, I'm helpless" .... and then- just the other night- I went to the movies by myself and bought my ticket and popcorn and soda completely in Chinese without any help and again felt good .... it's a process. I think, wherever you are- just know that you know what you know and whatever you don't, you'll learn - especially living in a fluent environment. In the meantime, appreciate the "quiet" ... the time it takes you to string a sentence together or to really listen and respond to a question or request. We don't do that enough in English. I guess that's reason enough for anyone to learn a FEW languages.... and travel outside of "the comfort bubble" more often!

#2 CULTURE SHOCK and SEEING with NEW EYES

In addition to "cleaning out your ears", living for an extended time in another country REALLY opens your eyes to your own country- both the positive and negative. Of course, when you first come to a new country there is that "culture shock". But when I came to Taiwan this year, I was actually shocked to realize that I was experiencing culture shock AGAIN. DESPITE having already BEEN in Asia, in a "Chinese speaking country" - China, for a FULL YEAR, last year. When I went home in April, I was only home for a month, so I didn't think Taiwan would initially feel so.... strange.

But I didn't factor in my expectations.... and everything that was happening in that brief period.

Regarding expectations: I thought, before coming to Taiwan that EVERYONE in Taipei spoke English. My mother's American friend who, is pretty much Japanese by this point- he has lived in Japan for the past 25 years or so - told me that they did! So it was a shock to "have to speak Chinese... " Another shock was that my school in Taipei here DIDN'T offer PAID HOLIDAYS ... suddenly all the little communication glitches with my Chinese boss in Foshan, China and not being in a "big city" didn't seem so bad when my trip to Thailand over the - 9 DAYS PAID Chinese New Year- was paid for. I began to wonder if I made the right move, I couldn't cook in my new apartment because it didn't have a kitchen, despite being in a "big city" and surrounded by people, yes Asian people of ALL sizes, I had NO idea where to shop for clothes - at this point as far as international brands I know there is UNIQLO, ZARA , ARMANI EXCHANGE, and ESPRIT- but NET is also a good Taiwanese clothing chain and there's one other - can't think of the name, not Giordano's- it's another one, on my way to my school near Longshan Temple. So anyway, all this confusion....  and on top of that I was fighting with my- now ex- girlfriend in China - who I had a very complicated/blurred/unstable relationship with in China to begin with --- because we both spoke very little of each other's native language AND she was in the closet. I had maybe 3 days of orientation at my new school in Taipei, I was still getting over my jet lag and then .... we had a huge fight online and ended all direct communication with each other. She took me off her "friends list on QQ" and that was pretty much it. Though apparently on May 1st and May 3rd  -THIS year -just last week she "viewed" my QQ page. I can speak more Chinese now ..... but I can't wonder why. I've just gotta let it be. Keep moving forward. BUT, initially that was a reason for my "culture shock" as well... it took me awhile to get over her. Making friends here has definitely helped to speed up that process. I LOVE the friends that I've made in Taiwan. They are... so nice/down to earth and generally upfront about whatever their worries or concerns are. We talk and share our stories. A lot of them have already BEEN to the USA -- so in being friends, I'm not some strange "foreigner".... we "connect", we're "the same" in some ways..... in terms of experiences, etc.  We've gone to concerts, gone hiking, gone out to dinner, met up for coffee, ... all things that friends in any part of the world love to do together. The advantage is that they speak English very well. BUT, at the same time, this ALSO motivates ME -- and I think should motivate ANYONE living in a foreign country attempting to learn a new language- to learn MORE Chinese. I think it's only right.... it's the right thing to do. Even though they've had YEARS of ENGLISH already ... and I'm only just finishing up my FIRST FULL YEAR of CHINESE classes/learning. Be gentle, go easy on me. :p

Living in another country and working with a variety of people from different countries, also forces you to see your native country with "new eyes". The majority of the teachers at the school where I worked this year are British - from the UK. Living in a democracy and having different political opinions... is one thing. But stepping even further out of that is something else. When the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School happened, it was the first time that I was ever truly embarrassed to be an American. They don't have school shootings in England - or anywhere in the UK OR in Taiwan. Both countries have SENSIBLE, GOOD, GUN LAWS. So, I think it's hard for people to wrap their minds around the "extreme gun loving mentality" perception of the US. So, while watching the news... and feeling SO sad for all of these families in Connecticut- I also couldn't help but feel embarrassed to think that "it's happened again" - after Columbine and Virginia Tech and so many others. To hear my Chinese teacher say "I'm sorry" to me - at the start of our lesson - after she heard the news - knowing that I am an American - ... it was.... hard to take. I didn't want to hear her "I'm sorry" .... because I was too ashamed. It was painful to know that the world could see.... when I didn't even want to see, to know. I really hope that things can change. Who needs an AK-47??? I don't want to live in a country where THAT is a necessity for any "average civilian" walking down the street everyday. I don't want to know that country. I don't think I could live - for long- in that country.

There are lots of reasons that I am PROUD to be an American - the FREEDOM of SPEECH - freedom to dream, to speak, to write what we think and feel as individuals, the Rule of Law, the INNOVATION and CREATIVITY of our companies- whether it is Facebook ....YouTube ...Amazon....Whole Foods.. etc. But it's an easy slide back down to the bottom. We can definitely do better. Capitalism is a nice idea. But more money often = more problems and too much lobbying/filibustering/self interest. There's gotta be a better balance.

Selling out to the highest bidder - whether it's in terms of military contracts, the CIA giving money to a specific political party in the Middle East to "keep the peace" and keep that party in power, selling movie rights to one party totalitarian regime countries- PRC CHINA - butchered/ "re wrote" the  Iron Man 3 movie for their audiences in that country, etc is not the way to go.


Whether you are an American living in Asia, the Middle East, Africa, or somewhere in Europe, I'm sure that your perception of America will or already has been, altered in some way - beyond the traditional "Democrat/Republican" trains of thought. I don't even consider myself to be a stereotype of either one at this point. The republicans frustrate me with their ideas about abortion and guns BUT John Kerry and President Obama have ALSO frustrated me with their lack of knowledge about Taiwan and the ROC as a self-determined COUNTRY. How can you sell the idea of an "Asia Pivot" when you don't know what you're getting into? I think it's good to keep an eye on North Korea and China - but you've gotta know just how valuable Taiwan IS - as a country- to Asia. Sidenote:  I'm happy that the DPP just got an office- just got representation in Washington, DC - giving them more ability to help balance perceptions and allow the US to really know all sides of Taiwan. I just want people to do the right thing and get things done.  It goes back to LISTENING. Nothing is getting done in the US because no one is listening. We MIGHT AS WELL BE a totalitarian state with ONE PARTY RULE like PRC CHINA because in the US everyone "assumes" that they "know" what the other person is going to say.... because the other person is from "this party" or "that party" ...  so yes, taking the time to LISTEN and SEE the world with NEW EYES are gifts that .... EVERYONE should experience. I am grateful for them and I hope I never take them for granted. I don't want them to slip away. The constant back and forth of going between Asia and the US helps to keep everything "fresh" and "open" - everything seems "new" when I land, whether I'm going in one direction or the other .... but I can't rely on that. Maybe meditation? Clearing the mind. I used to do it. One year, back in 1999, I went to this monastery on Sunday mornings with my friend - who was Buddhist at the time. The Chuang Yen Monastery in Carmel, NY. It was beautiful and peaceful. I remember coming out and everything about the day - from pouring a cup of coffee to the sound of the birds chirping - seemed to be done with purpose, intensified. Not to get too "new age-y" but Chakras/Energy Points in the body DO exist. I've felt my "third eye" and my "throat chakra" pulsating/vibrating/ you know like that "pressure" feeling - concentrated energy built up in a spot- on occasion. It's a GOOD thing, I think.

I've attached a YouTube video HERE above and the website address HERE:  http://www.baus.org/baus/about_us/intro_cym.html for anyone who might be in the Mid-Hudson Valley - near the Carmel/Brewster area in New York- and interested in going to the Chuang Yen Monastery. If you're in Hopewell - it's just a short ride down the Taconic Parkway - and down a few country roads after that. :D

and with that .... I'm happy to have come back to blog, I had no idea that it would go in the direction of meditation and plugging the monastery .... but that's where we are and now I'm going to sleep!!!

Cute Stories and Breaking Stereotypes .... coming soon! - sooner than "4 months from now" soon! :p

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Oh, Also.... Happy New Year!!!

2nd post in one day..... this is a RECORD for this girl right here.

Maybe it's gonna be the new normal in 2O13?... or maybe it's just because it's FREEZING COLD outside and I don't feel like going too far today. Actually at 6:55pm right now I am still in my pajamas.... just finished doing laundry and drinking a cup of tea ... so ANY sense of "productivity" will have to be found online and/or from the couch. :p

I can't believe that it's January already.... and 2O13... 4 more months and I'm HOME for another home visit ... for 3 weeks, possibly a month. Despite my "insomnia"... this year the time has TRULY been flying. Here's a little re-cap of MY 2O12


1. Finished up my FIRST YEAR TEACHING IN CHINA. Started learning Mandarin - learned/sang Mandarin songs at KTV - I can now sing Cantopop singer Sandy Lam's "Zhi Shao Hai You Ni" - At Least I Still Have You- and Malaysian singer Fish Leung's "Meiyou Ruguo" - No If.


2. WENT TO THAILAND for the FIRST TIME - to CHIANG MAI. Explored the city and volunteered at Elephant Nature Park for a week. Thailand is beautiful.... and I intend to see more of it in 2O13 ... going to Bangkok, Phuket, and Koh Phi Phi ... if you are interested in ELEPHANT RESCUE I would highly recommend ELEPHANT NATURE PARK or PATARA ELEPHANT FARM - both in Chiang Mai... I think out of EVERY "elephant tourist option" in Thailand, they are the MOST HUMANE in terms of their treatment of elephants and truly wonderful places to spend your time.

3. Decided that I wanted to MOVE TO TAIWAN - and to a bigger city- specifically the capital, Taipei. Did the footwork to make that happen. Now, I'm HERE.

4.  STARTED taking REAL MANDARIN CLASSES - not just downloading podcasts online- at TAIWAN MANDARIN INSTITUTE  here in Taipei. Love them. Wo you yi wei hen hao de laoshi .... I really like her a lot.. she's great. I take PRIVATE LESSONS twice per week, 2 hours each class... and it's fun. I'm learning a lot and even more than I planned to -- in regards to starting to read/understand some basic characters.
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5. STARTED FOSTERING A CAT .... from "Animals Taiwan" shelter here in Taipei. Her name at the shelter was "Come On" but I've re-named her "MINK". She's SO full of love and curiosity... and just more love... she's a 4 year old sweetheart who will COMMAND your attention and PLOP in your lap even if you're in the middle of sending an email - she don't care! LOL. SHe actually reminds me more of a dog than a cat in terms of her personality. She will look in your eyes as if she's REALLY trying to understand you when you're talking. She's completely relaxed here - she's definitely made my apartment her home .... I love to just watch her sleep.... because she makes it look SO good- especially when I can't get to sleep until 3am! She skypes with my family...  oh, that reminds me...

6. GOT INTERNET ACCESS IN MY APARTMENT HERE -INTERNET is AWESOME in Taiwan. It's fast and reliable. No "Great Firewall" to try to get past in order to access websites. No VPN codes needed to access "blocked websites" Facebook, etc... NO BLOCKED WEBSITES period. ALSO, I TAUGHT MY PARENTS HOW TO SKYPE  IN 2O12 - SO THAT was new too! They got a laptop.... and before I left to come to Taiwan I showed them how to use it and they love it.... it feels like I'm right there with them... and they can see a bit of my world over here too. I promise this year when I go home I'm going to teach them how to add "friends" skype numbers so they can skype with my dad's cousin Maureen and maybe one or two of my other cousins.

7. LETTING GO/KNOWING "MY LIMITS"/FORGIVING MYSELF - regarding Lisa and our relationship in China. I don't want it to ever have to be that hard again. I personally have NO LIMITS - in terms of life and what I can do- none of us should think we do,  BUT I know language barriers exist, and the next relationship I get into, the next time I fall for someone, I want communication to be easier. I don't want the bulk of our conversations to be through GOOGLE TRANSLATE. I'm learning more Mandarin, so it IS a little easier than last year already. But if I fall for a Taiwanese woman and English is not her first language, I want to at least be able to have conversation in English.... I don't care about "grammar" or "perfection". I think it took her, Lisa, by surprise when I left China to come to Taiwan . I don't think she realized that Foshan wasn't my original plan and I didn't really want to be in Guangzhou for the next year ... if language was easier, this could have been communicated earlier. I think a lot of the insomnia... has been unconsciously because of "her"... just getting past that. I slept better last night - in bed by 1am instead of 3am. So, it's slowly getting better.  While in Asia, I plan on living in Taipei - it's a good "home base" - to go out and explore everywhere else. But I hope to FALL IN LOVE and HAVE THAT while I'm here .... and then maybe we could MOVE to NEW YORK?!? hao bu hao??? I'M READY. I just hope it's a little easier this next time. The LGBT community is definitely more visible in Taipei and I intend, in 2O13, on going out and exploring it more.

I guess that's it for now. Reading, cuddling with the kitty, trying to stay warm .... watching tv... those are the plans for today.

and HEALTH - I'm grateful for the health of my family and friends in 2O12. I've had TWO people close to me- one a relative and one an old friend - both who I love very much.... battle cancer two years ago, but today both are cancer free. So I hope and pray that their health and the health of ALL my family and friends STAYS GOOD in 2O13...

Again, Happy New Year!


Tuesday, January 1, 2013

What makes an American, "American"?

first, wishing you a belated....

Sheng Dan Kuai Le!   Merry Christmas!    annnnnd    Xin Nian Kuai Le!      Happy New Year!


New for the new year....
this blog has been given a new address. KatysASIAadventureS.

"An East Coast Girl In The Far East" is still the title .... but since I figure I'll be spending a few years exploring different countries in the region- AND because I'm currently living in ROC Taiwan and not PRC China,  Katy's China Adventure ... seemed limited.

so the new address is http://www.katysasiaadventures.blogspot.com

I've been thinking about nationality a lot while living here.... both in Taiwan and in China. Thinking about my own "nationality" ... what it means to be "American". I really think, it depends who you ask - what "generation" of American you ask. I remember vividly, back around 2OO4, having a conversation with one of my old co-workers who was born in the US, but her family was from Greece -so she was first generation born in the US. She spoke Greek, knew many Greek dances, ate many Greek foods, went to a Greek Orthodox church in Brooklyn, lived in a predominately Greek neighborhood in Brooklyn...

She said "No one is 'from America' .... everyone is from somewhere else!" I agreed with her at the time, I could see what she meant. Living in New York, growing up -even in the "suburbs" of NYC- going to Sacred Heart Catholic School in Yonkers- from 1st to 3rd grade- until we moved further upstate- I had school friends from India - Zeena, Portugal- Maria, Ireland- Andrea, Germany- Addie, etc .... most of them either first generation born in the US OR straight off the boat from another country- coming to the US when they were 2 or 3 yrs old.

New York is one of the most diverse cities/states in the US so yes, it may LOOK like "everyone is from somewhere else" .... but, especially now living abroad, I KNOW that there ARE things that make us AMERICAN. - and even more specifically there ARE things that make NEW YORKERS, NEW YORKERS ....  especially when you get past the 1st generation born in the US and move on to the 2nd, 3rd generation, etc.

My father is first generation IRISH AMERICAN. His parents both born in Ireland. Despite the big age differences, I can see similarities between my father and my Greek-American friend/co-worker. Both raised in homes that were trying to preserve their heritage despite being in a new country. But in Ireland. my grandparents spoke English- so there was no urgency to preserve the language or fear of learning a new language.  Bur religion and culture were "big deals" ....

Go to Catholic church every Sunday and "Bring Home The Right Race" -- sounds awkward/ very inappropriate nowadays - especially for a "New Yorker!"  BUT it's something that my father was told by my grandmother when he was dating. My father's first cousin married a GERMAN man and, from what I've heard, it was a BIG controversy at that time- esp just after World War II, BUT they've been married for YEARS now - he worked running a successful car dealership selling Mercedes, they had 2 children, grandchildren, and .... it's all good.

 I knowwww at one point my father dated a girl named Lisa Sabatini- so obviously he loved the Italian girls too ;P .. but he ended up marrying my mother a- MOSTLY Irish father's side / Half Engish-French-Spanish mother's side- woman that my grandmother approved of. Luckily, I was never given that rule. I wasn't given the "Bring Home The Right Sex" rule either - because despite being spiritual/religious, my parents have never used religion as something to instill fear. "Just do the right thing"... "Be nice to each other" .... "find a good person who loves you and is good to you" - is pretty much what I was told - especially after coming out. My mother still "tries to understand" ... and we sometimes have these .... "conversations that go nowhere..." it's just her wondering.... but she's not afraid of what other people think. As long as her children are being good people, she's not worried about the afterlife. Her faith is stronger than that. Sooooo .... as a "2nd generation" born in the US - the "rules" may be different.

Similarly to my "first generation Irish-American father"- who lived in an Irish neighborhood, went to Catholic school, played golf, etc. ... My Greek/American friend was sent to Greece every summer to live with relatives, make friends, in the hopes of finding a boyfriend/husband.... which she eventually did/brought him to the US/ and they married and had children.

Living in China and now Taiwan, I see mostly ASIAN faces. BUT I KNOW that there are many cultures within each Asian race. "White" is not a culture, "Yellow" isn't either. What makes a Taiwanese person Taiwanese? What makes an American American? .... What makes a Chinese person Chinese? .... For myself, I've realized that I self-identify as an "New Yorker" first. Then "Irish-American" and then "American". Because I know.... "American"... is so many different things. BUT at the same time WE are NOT British or Canadian.... there IS something inherently "American" about Americans .... I would say it's our "more aggressive" in general nature - not afraid to speak our minds- but then again, maybe that's a New Yorker thing -  and our love of freedom of speech. Some others might say..... fast food, guns, and war .... :-/  I guess it depends who you ask.

I am assumed to be a "waiguoren" here in Asia because I LOOK different - and I don't speak Mandarin fluently. People have assumed I'm Canadian/English/American .... I've gotten all three at different times.

BUT what IF someone moved to Taiwan - a "white/European" person  and married another "white/European" person and they had successful jobs here, learned to speak/read Mandarin fluently and went on to have children .... who spoke/read/wrote in Mandarin, considered Taiwan their home, but LOOKED different.... looked "WHITE" .... would those children be accepted as Taiwanese?

"Wo bu shi waiguoren ..... Wo shi Taiwan ren!" "I'm not a foreigner, I'm Taiwanese!" is something that I'm dying to say, tongue in cheek, to the next person who asks me where I'm from. Actually, it's cute because on the rare occasion when I've *gasp* spoken Mandarin -!!!!- in my 7-8 yr old SPEC 2 class, one or two of my students will giggle and say "Laoshi, ni shi Taiwan ren!"  "Teacher, you are Taiwanese!" I had another student, 6 yr old Natali, last year in China ask me *which language* my parents spoke at home "English or Chinese"...

So maybe it's possible to BE Chinese, to BE Taiwanese, to BE Indian ...despite looking so WHITE EUROPEAN- without sharing similar genetics. I've asked my British co-workers here about people in Britain. In the US we say "African-American, Hispanic/Latino-American, Irish-American, etc...." to define ourselves, but apparently they don't do that in England. If you are born in England -despite having African/Indian/Hispanic heritage- you are British. That's it.

I'm hoping the same can be true in Asia. I feel like PRC CHINA thinks that everyone is the SAME between China and Taiwan. They feel that, that's "good enough reason" to "reunite" the two countries ..... but it's not true. To be CHINESE ... even second or third generation Chinese-American or Taiwanese-American .... is all very different. There are many different ethnic groups within each country. I had an AMERICAN - boss - who was ethnically Chinese but who did not speak the language- 3 yrs ago in NYC, tell me that she would never move to China, just because you LOOK the SAME, DOESN'T MEAN you ARE the SAME.

I guess that's what I'm getting at.







Also, the longer you live in a new country, the more likely you are to speak the language. Back to my Greek friend - her sister had two sons - the older one spoke Greek at home, but the younger one would always respond in English after being spoken to in Greek .... I remember her telling me, his older brother would say "speak Greek!!!" It's fascinating to see how cultures/countries/moving affects us.

I think speaking the language of WHATEVER country you are in, is helpful .... it definitely draws you into the culture and you can see that people become more at ease and comfortable.... I've seen it happen here ...speaking Mandarin with a father at my school - he looked much more comfortable and engaged, like we were old friends - after having the smallest bit of conversation about New York/China/Taiwan/Teaching, etc.

What do you think? How do you identify yourself? ....

There are lots of mixed families here too ... which is slowly changing the landscape. If/when on the rare occasion I've seen them out in Taipei, I've seen mostly white/European men and Asian wives with their kids, but also I've seen one or two White/European woman with Asian husbands .... and kids.

In China at my old school, I saw a Chinese woman with a Black African-British- husband, a Chinese woman with a Scandinavian husband. In Taiwan, I've seen mostly American/British and Taiwanese ...

so, our world is becoming much smaller ....
and I hope we can all find our "home" within it - whether we look like our neighbors or not.