Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back In Taiwan .... Here We Go.

                         Gorgeous sunset @ Yehliu Geopark on a weekend in January after my return to Taiwan. 

                                                                         *exhale*

                                                                                                       

If you told me that, after 6 months in New York I'd be moving BACK to Taiwan with NO job, NO apartment, NO idea when - or if - I would get Mink back .... and only 90 days to legally stay in the country before I would have to leave again, I don't think I would have believed you.

But then again, I don't think I would have believed you if you told me that I would be living at home in New York for 6 months....

I've been BACK in Taiwan now for almost a year - since November 21st, 2013 - and at this point, SO much has gone on that it feels normal, natural, I'm in a groove here again. Coming back was a HUGE leap of faith and lesson in being optimistic and keeping a positive attitude despite everyone else's - specifically my Mom's- questions and worries/anxieties. I always said, and knew in my heart that I would be returning to Taiwan. I just didn't know exactly when or how.


I think, you get to a certain point in life where it's nice to "visit" home, but you don't really intend/want to "live" there long term. I wasn't planning on being at home for as long as I was, but money was running out and I needed a job THERE to get me back HERE. The general school hiring trend in Taipei is slow during the late spring/early summer months so after my contract ended in May I went home to New York but I had to wait it out there for a bit.  By the end of the 6 months at home, I was SO ready to come back to Taiwan. Even without a job here or an apartment here or .... any idea what the future would hold for me here.  

While I was home, in August, about my 3rd month in, I was lucky that I applied for a job at my old company in the city - doing Social Work - and was hired. Unfortunately the 85 minute train commute took a chunk from my paycheck every two weeks... but I needed a job. I wasn't really happy with my job here in Taipei last year. I felt like I was "chasing paper" with my pay pretty much based on how many hours I was teaching - receiving a certain rate per hour- versus being paid a regular "salary". Plus I worked a mix of nights and mornings and my days off were not consecutive - Wednesdays and Sundays. I wanted something different. Specifically "weekends off" and "paid holidays". The Lunar New Year -"Chinese" New Year -  a week long holiday that falls between late January and early February - can look more like a burden than a blessing when you realize that, without paid holidays, you are actually LOSING 9 days of pay while you're away partying it up in Thailand. Add to that the fact that you are paying extra for the plane fare to begin with because airlines always jack prices up from "Insert Any Asian Country Name Here" to ..... wherever." over the holiday every year.

I knew that if I was coming back to Taipei, I had to think about the plane fare which would be a small chunk of short term pain, and then more long term monthly things like monthly "housing" and little things like daily "food/drink". One of my Taiwanese friends, Romona Guan,  owns a hostel  in Taipei - with two locations- that she calls "Taipei Fun House 1 and 2". I had been talking to her while I was home in New York and found out that she started to list rooms on Airbnb.com. I ended up renting a room from her from November to February. I had my own bedroom and then shared a kitchen, bathroom, and living room with whoever else was staying in another bedroom there. A few people came and went but there was one other "long term" Taiwanese woman and me for the whole time I was there. So I never had it as "my own space" completely ... but I definitely had enough space, privacy, quiet time, wireless internet/skype time, for myself.




I had saved up some money working at home and I also a pretty nice tax return check waiting for me in my Taiwan bank account when I returned in November. But still, I was on a limited budget and needed to be as frugal as possible. I could book a flight to Taipei, as a US citizen I knew that I would be automatically issued a "90 Day Landing Visa" which meant I could stay in the country for 3 months without having to apply for any "Visitor Visa". But then? .....  

I figured I would scope out http://www.tealit.com/ for some short term tutoring or part-time teaching jobs until "hiring season" began and I could find something more long term. Tealit also has apartments for rent but usually the prices are a little.....pricier. Focused on the "expat community". A better option is to go on http://rent.591.com.tw/  where apartment prices are usually catered to the Taiwanese community and a little more reasonable. The one drawback to using this site is that the site is all in Chinese. If you can read enough Chinese to understand/click the neighborhood and apartment size you want on the site you can just Google Translate the rest and/or have a friend help you to translate it and make the call to the landlord. 

So, I had resources here but I still didn't "know"... I had optimism and faith and a pretty clear IDEA in my mind of what I wanted. I was happy to be back and so I tried to just focus on that happiness and re-connect with friends here and just put one foot in front of the other. 




                                               Stamped. Sealed. Delivered. My landing visa. 


Little did I know that only about one month later, by Christmas, Carrie - my recruiter friend here from http://www.reachtoteachrecruiting.com/ would email me with a lead on a teaching position and help me to find EVERYTHING that I was looking for ..... literally everything on "the wish list' that I had written out. A teaching job that gave me a regular salary that ended up- monthly- being double that of what I was making every month working "hourly" at my other school last year. 

Monday to Friday. Weekends Off. Paid Holidays. A boss/Principal who really knows and loves the kids individually, who bakes cheesecake and egg tarts and is not afraid to share her "creations" freely with her staff. Who, while being focused and hard working, also has a  huge heart and a great sarcastic sense of humor and who would never simply do things to "make money for the school" or "to please the parents". 


 

making chocolate heart lollipops with my 4-5 yr old kids using pretzel sticks for the lollipop "sticks"! Using the lollipop molds Aunt Joan and I used when we made them years ago...  when I was 4 yrs old! 



                                          w/ adopted Mink! "Together at last, together furrever....."

I HAVE a JOB that I love. I HAVE an APARTMENT that I really like a lot and - realized about a month after starting my "new" job- is in walking distance to work! Sweet! I've ALSO ADOPTED MINK. I got her back and made it "official".

I had NO IDEA what was waiting for me back here... but honestly I am so much happier this year and I feel like I've had so many new, varied, different experiences already. I ALSO have a group of friends that I LOVE here and Thank God I've got weekends off this year .... because they do too. Sunday is never truly a "day of rest" when we're together. It's a marathon. :p   

 
Christmas lights, decorations, and three lovely "Christmas ballerinas" in the Xinyi District near Taipei 1O1... 


Bowling <3 



I hope to update this blog more regularly this year. The first year making the transition from China to Taiwan was difficult for a variety of reasons. I felt like a walking zombie. A lot of insomnia. But this year- I feel SO free. SO at peace and at home here. At this point I feel equally at home in New York and Taiwan. Returning and seeing the "Taipei" sign on an early morning driving into the city from Taoyuan Airport on November 21st was such a good feeling. I remember sighing and just curling up into my seat smiling ... even without a job or an apartment. I had a real gut feeling that this was the right decision. I had no idea what was waiting for me ... but it felt like home. 


Seeing signs for "Taipei" and "Sanchong" rolling into Taipei from Taoyuan Airport around 9am on November 21, 2013. *sleepy smile and exhale* so good to be "home"! <3 



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