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.
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

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.