Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Clogged Drains, Knee Pains, and Life Strains



I'd like to take a shower or a bath tonight.--I have a nice bathtub in my new apartment here this year- BUT I'm waiting for my bathtub to drain. I'm also waiting for my toilet to unclog. So, I figure now is better than never to update the blog a bit.

I accidentally, absentmindedly, threw some paper towels -- I know, I KNOW, in Taiwan --where the pipes in buildings are generally old and most places caution against throwing paper into the toilets, even in public restrooms, that's even WORSE than throwing in regular old toilet paper -- into my toilet the other day after I was cleaning up around the apartment and I think that's the reason for the problem. I bought two bottles of that "chemical sand" that fizzes and smokes and sounds like it's ripping up your pipes when you throw it down the drain, and I've thrown some of that into both my toilet and my bathtub drain, but I have to wait 25 minutes before I flush it with cold water.... 

so, here I am. 

I feel like "slow down", "put the work/effort in" and "clean up/unclog/untangle the mess" are the lessons that I've been learning -- sometimes the hard way-- these past 2-3 weeks,  specifically.

I've had a lot on my plate in terms of school in October-- writing mid-term academic reports the same week as I had to prepare for my L2 class PTA performance/parents meeting night, preparing for and working at our -all day- school Halloween Party- running games/ going trick or treating, figuring out what I was going to BE and putting THAT together, etc. On top of the little daily things like making sure my kids who have medicine take their medicine at the right time each day-- more getting sick with the weather changes, grading homework, doing -what seems like an increased amount of- art projects, etc. etc. It's required more mental juggling and really "staying on top of my game" --- putting things aside/preparing a lot ahead of time. Thankfully I feel like I came out on top/kept all the balls in the air/ somehow managed to pull it all off. November - basically from now -until I go home for Christmas- feels like a breeze compared to all that came before. Even "the Christmas Show" -- I'm not worried about it. We're not planning for it--- yet. I can "rest" a little bit.   

I've also starting RUNNING -- as in running- not metaphorically- but ACTUAL feet moving, heart pumping, sustained fast movement for 35 minutes or so, physical running. I started running both because #1. I knew I'd need the extra energy reserves to help battle the busyness of this school semester which has been a little more challenging/busy -- with my older kids class in the afternoons on top of all day with my kindy kids. and #2. I'm going to be cycling around Taiwan for 12 days in February with a few friends over the Chinese New Year holiday and I wanted to test/improve my strength in multiple ways for that fun/intense/serious challenge too. I've done hot yoga, hip hop dance, soccer, swim team, roller skating, biking, ....even "speed walking" in terms of getting physical/working out since I was a kid, but I've NEVER seen myself as "a runner". My brother and one of my female cousins have both run in different marathons over the years...but I never saw myself in that category. So I feel like both my self-perception AND my actual physical self are going through a kind of metamorphosis. I'm challenging my own beliefs about myself and putting in the time and effort to build up different kinds of new strength and endurance. BUT that also means potential new kinds of injuries --- last week I guess I pushed myself a little too hard because my left knee started hurting. Typical me, I ignored it .... and naturally it demanded more of my attention and forced me to stop and do something about it. Tiger Balm, Tylenol, one of those knee wraps, ice, etc. etc. I threw everything on/swallowed/tried everything... for about 5 minutes ....and then attempted to run again. Slight exaggeration there .... but I didn't really give it the rest it needed and so the pain came back two days later when I attempted to run again. I was also dealing with a scrape on the bottom of my left foot from that same leg --after using one of those "cheese grater" type exfoliation knives that the women in nail salons -- in Asia and I've also had in New York too--  to scrape the skin off the bottom of my feet. DON'T try this at home, kids. Leave it to the professionals -- and/or those flesh eating fish in the tanks in the massage parlors/salons in Thailand/The Philippines. I scraped too hard and made myself bleed and had to bandage up my heel. SO... attempting to run with a busted knee and a sore heel....not exactly a recipe for a great workout. I needed to forgive myself, to take care of myself, to heal myself, and to trust that I have a pretty good level of endurance at this point and waiting a week to run isn't going to set me back too far. Still... it's hard to be patient.... luckily I can feel that, the time is almost over. Both my foot and my knee feel SO much better. After a few nights "off", I ran for the first time for 35 minutes last night at the gym with no problem.... and just a littttttle bit of pain coming home. So, here's hoping I'm well on my way to better.

and then, since July/August there's been .... adjusting to changes. The biggest being- friends leaving Taiwan. When I first came to Taiwan, almost 2 yrs ago now, in May 2O12, the majority of my friends were Taiwanese. So, for me, there was never the worry or question of them "leaving". I figured they'd always be "here for me". All of our schedules can get crazy and days/months fly, but I still see them. I actually met up with two of them - on separate occasions- in NYC last Fall when I was home. But somewhere around December 2O12 I started to become friends with other expats.... at work it was Luke and Amy. Luke and I bantered like brother and sister.... probably even better than my own brother and I ever do.... and commented on the craziness of the world, the school we were working for, America, England - he's British-, etc. etc. We would "share some good craic" sitting in the office waiting for classes to start. I found a similar sense of humor in Amy - as well as a sweetness and a general "up for anything" attitude. She invited me to go Christmas caroling with her church here around Christmas 2O12 and... that was that. A friendship was cemented.  To laugh, to cry, to spend so much time - every Sunday, every Wednesday night, with the occasional Saturday and/or Friday thrown in too with someone, to share such intense life situations in such a sort amount of time with someone ..... was EXACTLY what I was trying to avoid. I found an AWESOME. friend here in AMY. ... and I threw myself into our friendship wholeheartedly. Like we were two ten year olds and we had all the time in the world -- like me and one of my childhood best friends, Joy- riding our bikes all day til the street lights came on and "Mom just called" and we had to go home.  Like any "kids" we had our own not-so-"secret language" here- Chinglish .... and we understood each other COMPLETELY-- even if other people didn't. We had "girlie chats" over coffee, day trips to the beach, we got lost and slept on rocks together while River Tracing in Wulai, I introduced her to "On Tap" - a British pub here, our footprints made there mark on several different mountains here- lots of hiking together.

Did we spend EVERY day together? NO ... this year especially - I was at my new school and she was still at our old school - so our weekdays - except for Wed nights were very different. But ... it was always QUALITY time when we made time for each other. That's the thing too --- in a new country of course you want to go out and explore and time is limited, you feel your "humanity" more than you do walking around in a cloud back at home in the US or the UK or wherever your HOME country is- working a 9 to 5 job/ watching that favorite tv show/ shower and sleep- etc. schedule.... so it becomes obvious that the people you MAKE TIME for are the ones that matter to you. To have a real BEST friend abroad ... was not something I ever thought that I'd LET happen ...but there is was. Still, it was different than my situation in China because there, in China #1. I was the one who left . #2. I was dealing with leaving someone, Lisa, who I was casually dating and naively *hoping* to maintain a long distance relationship with --- me in Taiwan, her in China-- meanwhile I had NO idea just how "fragile" the "relationship" between the PRC - China, and the ROC -Taiwan, itself was! With Amy, we were friends and we talked about "love, crushes, relationship stuff" like sisters. I also KNEW - somewhere in the back of my mind ... that she'd probably be leaving Taiwan before me....though I never wanted to think about it. So... when that day finally came - it sucked. I told her that I was just "going to pretend that she was going home for a vacation for 6 months"... like I did going back to New York and then coming back to Taiwan. I wondered how I could feel "at home" at Friendship Church - without her there. Not just her even.... SO many people seem to leave over the summer. As a church we had pool parties and laser tag nights and KTV nights and picnics and a great beach day at Fulong Beach... and to have people disappear after making such awesome memories together... and opening your heart and praying, etc. sucks. There's no "pretty way" to say it.  I'm "out" .... to my friends at church and of course I was out to Amy and a few other people who left. So... to reveal something SO raw and personal and sensitive..... to trust people with your soul, your heart and then to have them leave.... is  just REALLY hard. As a fellow expat who PLANS - "God Willing"- to return to New York and ideally live somewhere AROUND NYC - whether it's as far out of Manhattan/Brooklyn as Queens or even farther onto Long Island, or just over the bridge in Jersey, etc.... just know that I'm NOT going to Staten Island OR the "nosebleed section of New York"... aka as far UP as "The Bronx", I can PROMISE you that. lol. I am planning to return at some point-- SO I understand people needing and wanting to return to their home country. It's not their fault that I felt comfortable with them while a chapter of their life was written and played out here and that now their chapter is over and I'm still here, sad that I can't go back and re-read it over and over. I have skyped with Amy a few times and it feels good... just to laugh and talk and I think that Skype helps..

So, that's it. I've been running, staying connected to our circle of friends through Friendship Church, I've got an overnight hiking trip to Smangus - a tribal village near Hsinchu and bamboo forest - planned for November AND a weekend trip to Taroko Gorge planned for a weekend in December before I go home for Christmas... so, seeing some new parts of Taiwan, meeting new people, "widening the circle" while STILL loving all of the people who have come and made their mark on my heart already. Looking forward to visiting friends who have "gone home" is the silver lining that surrounds the big black rain cloud of... "expats re-patting". I haven't been to London in at least 12 years! So.. visiting Amy at some point... will be awesome.... and a million times better than going "as a tourist".

BUT I've also seen the changes play out in not so great ways here.... how losing one person can kind of unintentionally put pressure on other friendships... attempting to make them into something that they're not. Or just focusing on things that really never mattered before and all of a sudden... there's this tension and stress... where there really shouldn't be.  I'm kind of working through that now with another friend .... it's not fun. But it's something important to be aware of.... each friendship is its own entity. Recognize and respect that. Like a set of twins ... twins are not two copies of the same person, but rather two people with two similar chains of DNA who have nature/nurture life preferences and situations that can be very different. Since the days of Mary-Kate and Ashley on "Full House", I've had a really good knack for telling twins apart. I should be able to "tell apart" aka to LOVE and to SEE my friends here as individuals too....and I feel like I do.

A friend here, who will remain anonymous, told me once- "You're  (I'mnot as subtle as you ) think". I completely agree. ...and I think that applies to a lot of things. I really was such a quiet, sometimes shy, kid growing up. But as the decades have gone by, specifically since my twenties and I think with "coming out" I've become more of an open book. I don't mind-- but sometimes life - my feelings/my reactions to things -  surprises ME too.

I'm really so grateful overall for "it all:" .... for EVERY "lesson". For EVERY chance to love, to laugh, to cry, to say "I'm sorry", to forgive, for life at home and for life here.

I'm NOT really happy about this shower/toilet clog going on right now
 ... but I know I'll get through it.
It's certainly not the end of the world.





f
Look at those smiles! At this point, we had NO idea we'd be shivering in wet clothes all night and sleeping on those rocks. @Wulai, Taiwan. 




Happy Moon Festival! BBQ-ing under the moonlight. 



 













getting ready for another intense Asian shoulder/foot massage with a medicinal foot bath beforehand.... HARD rub down. Gets EVERY tension. EVERYTHING out.  You really can't go back to any of those limp, weak, "Swedish Massages" after this... 

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