Since I will be turning 34 in less than two weeks, I may as well share 34 reasons to be thankful for. While I am bummed that I wont be eating cake in Taiwan (Western cake tend to be way too sweet for me, anyway), I still have so many reasons to smile. Case in point?
1. My funky retro shoes picked out by my husband – he gets me.
A is for amazing tofu. Most of my meals are tofu related – stinky tofu, miso soup, mao po tofu (with beef instead of pork), dao hui (Taiwanese dessert – pictured), fried tofu, steamed tofu, boiled tofu, the list goes on. I like the texture and how it tastes delicious when it’s sweet, sour, spicy or salty. I can have tofu 3 to 5 times a week and not be sick of it due to the variety of ways how to cook it. Continue reading “A to Z Love List”→
Panic Attack 01: I’m crossing the road when a sense of dread comes over me. I feel my heart beating faster and faster. My knees weakening. People passing all around me. My ears ringing. I see the bus and for a split second I imagine myself stepping right in front of it. My thoughts are irrational. I know this. It’s not that I want to commit suicide. I do want to live. I become so overwhelmed where I will be seeing myself in the third person not realizing this is really me. I’m really here. I pinch myself. I take a deep breath. Sometimes it works while other times I rush back home. Sometimes, though, I don’t have that luxury to return home so I hold my breath till I return to my studio apartment and I simply throw up. The entire day I felt like a fish on land. Panic Attack 02: I’m standing on the platform waiting for the train. I’m restless. I know either somebody is going to push me or I accidentally fall onto the tracks. I’m breathing heavily. I’m shaking something awful. Once I step in the train just as the doors open, I collapse onto the seat (if I can get a seat). Panic Attack 03: I’m sitting in the cab heading towards the airport. Did I leave my Resident card (I have one for Taiwan)? Did I leave my passport? Will they even accept it? I either keep checking my pockets nonstop or look into my purse thinking the outcome might change. My phone? Where is my phone? I’m tired. I’m terribly tired. I will probably get on the wrong plane. Will I even find the gate? I’m not dizzy due to car sickness but rather my mind is spinning like a tornado in the scenes of the Wizard of Oz.
Despite I’m introvert, it doesn’t mean I am anti-social. I may often find small talk irritable, it sometimes kind of nice to talk to a stranger every once in a while. For an example, a nice elderly man was held the elevator door for me to get inside. I quickly said thank you, pushing the button of the floor I’m going to. He looked over at me, “Do you speak Mandarin?” I replied, “A little bit.” “Ah,” he said while he was trying to get his dog into the bag. I looked down at his dog, “I think your dog is very cute.” His smile grew big, “Thank you!” He stepped out of the elevator smiling and so did I.
Besides, I realize strangers find it easier to approach you when you’re alone. I’ve had some of the most interesting talks when I’m solo.
Sure, being a foreigner is a muddy thing at times. I start to see a different perspective and adapt to different norms. While I may be changing, back at my birth country somehow remains the same – it’s as if time stood still. People back home somehow don’t ever really get it and still ask me when I plan on moving back from a supposed extremely over-extended vacation. I thought I would only be here a short period of time and before I know it, two years has already passed. It’s as if somebody put a cloth over my head and I witness this really neat trick I cannot explain. I realize that while I will always be a foreigner here, it becomes home away from home – if not more home than home.
When I visited China for the very first time, the very first uncomfortable situation I encountered was at the airport. When I was going through the airport immigration, there were 2 lines for me to choose, one for foreign nationals, the other for Chinese nationals. For a person who was born and raised in Taiwan and lived in the United States for almost 20 years, my first instinct was going towards the line for the foreign nationals, but shockingly, the police was yelling “Visitors from Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan should go to the line for Chinese nationals.” I was like, what?! I am a Chinese now even though I had never set a foot on Chinese soil before?!
Despite the politics and dealing with pollution daily in Shanghai, moving there was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I realize people who never been to China have a very wrong perception of the place. It goes to show every country has its own propaganda about other places. Also, the pros totally outweighed the cons in Shanghai. My standard of living was actually higher than right now. I had mobility unlike here(there was a guy today who almost had a serious crash due to almost passing out from diabetes, but he risks it for there is no other way to get to get to the places he needs to go), I had great health insurance (going bankrupt due to health is completely unheard of), disposable income, the food, the people…my neighbourhood was vibrant and welcoming. Also, I heard firecrackers….not gun shots in my backyard. I actually had much, much worse horror stories in the States. Example: the people at a small restaurant in the Keys refused to serve us because we’re an interracial couple (locals in Shanghai gave us curious looks, but never hateful unlike the stares we get in the States, especially in Florida…pure hate. There were times when white men literally wanted to come up to me and punch me in the face), pay over $800 for emergency hospital bill when I had food poisoning (you know, I didn’t have food poisoning in Shanghai…just in the States), somebody got shot literally in my backyard, etc. Who knew? No country is perfect, it’s all about which country fits you more. Perception.
My husband left Shanghai because he didn’t want to work over time, little did he know that the job in Atlanta would be the same except with very bad pay. Now he is being severely underpaid due to racism and he has over an hour commute each way to and from work. Even worse when he is not being respected as a Senior designer, and being bossed around by a Junior designer who not only doesn’t know shit, but is not even licensed. Again, perception.
No, we are not going back to China. The only reason we got to move there because his Taiwanese international company opened a branch right in Shanghai. Our opportunity is gone, which is fine. After all, our home is in Taiwan.
C’est la vie. Maybe visiting New York City would help me stay sane. Maybe.
September 2012: I moved to Taiwan from South Florida, and I didn’t look back.
Before my first visit to my husband’s home country in 2009, he lend me a movie directed by Ang Lee called Eat Drink Man Woman. Have you seen the opening scene? It’s culinary art at it’s finest. After I watched it, I immediately called him fascinated to know more about the island. Honestly, sometimes life can really surprise you. One moment I’m in Maine watching the movie, and the next moment I’m standing in the very same overpass that was shot in one of the scenes. I saw the overpass every time I walked home from Shida. I smile just thinking about it.
I never thought in a million years I would find myself in China. I was shocked when my husband’s Taiwanese international company decided to have a branch right in Shanghai. I’m sure I was annoying tourist and for that, I really do apologize and want to thank everyone for putting up with me during the time I settled around Hongkou area. It really does mean the world to me. and I am glad I got to call Shanghai home for a little over two years. (I really did feel like I was in a Woody Allen movie, honestly).
我與老公在咖啡館閒聊,突然我往窗外看, 覺得想要拍幾張照, 我不知覺的想到紐約及伍迪愛倫的電影。我將相機置於桌上, 摒息以待, 並開始按下快門,我不知道拍出來得效果如何,我不是伍迪愛倫, 不過我不在意,因為世界上已經有一個伍迪愛倫了。我不是攝影師, 也不是旅客, 我只不過是一個過客而已。The view from my very first apartment in Shanghai.
August 2014: We left China to return home in Taiwan.
Dawen and I went to our old neighborhood we’ve lived in for 11 months one last time. We haven’t been in the area for the past 6 months and it already changed greatly. I admit, I will miss my old neighborhood more than where I am now. Having said that, it’s time to move forward.
It has been over a week since I moved back to New Taipei from Shanghai. It feels right to be in my second home right now. Dawen and I have been constantly on the move for the past two years. As I was having my usual stinky tofu enjoying the view of Bitan, I realize I can stay here for a while. Scratch that, I can see myself growing old here.
已從上海搬回臺北一週了, 搬回我的第二故鄉感覺一切都很自然。我和大文過去兩年不斷地遷徙, 但當我吃著臭豆腐並觀賞這碧潭的風景, 我覺得我能在這裡再待上一陣子。喔! 更正! 我認為我可以在這裡住到老。When I was living in Shanghai, I was yearning to go back to my old life in Maine and now that I’m staying at my mother-in-law’s place in New Taipei, I no longer have the desire to do so. I felt like I have been holding my breath since I left the States; I have forgotten to stop and take a look at where I am.
I’m now looking around and I do like what I am saying.
Remember not too long ago I wrote my farewell to Shanghai? I think I made G-d laugh so hard, he (or she) fell out of his (or her) chair and landed on my head. Where am I going with this? I’m moving back to Shanghai, of course! I’m actually kind of happy about this. There’s unfinished business and I simply just have to return. I guess I really didn’t need to write what I would miss about Shanghai, after all. My bad. Taipei to Shanghai, Shanghai to New Taipei, New Taipei to Shanghai. To think I actually wrote, “I honestly don’t know where I will be next.” G-d is truly laughing at my expense.
Leaving the States is like losing your seniority from this big company and you learn to adapt to other companies only to realize you like what you see, learn the tricks of the trade and due to this, you’re no longer the same. When you return to the big company, you can’t adapt and you wind up feeling more foreign than when you lived abroad.
I haven’t stepped on America’s soil for over 3 years; I was either living in China or Taiwan. In August of 2015, when I went through the costumes, I was told, “Welcome back home.” I wanted to respond, “I left home.”
And I did. My home is in Xiaobitan area, New Taipei, Taiwan. Not the United States, especially not Maine. Not anymore. Then again, I don’t think Maine ever felt quite like home. I wasn’t born there, and to most Mainers – I wasn’t one of them despite I grew up in a small town near Belfast. Not only that, apparently I am a Louisiana native because I was born there but I left the state when I was only two years old, but that’s another story. The last time I went to Maine with my husband, I felt more out-of-place than when we moved abroad in China from Taiwan. I felt disconnected but most of all, I simply lost seniority as if I’m Junior level again and nobody knows who or what I am. It’s like starting from scratch again, except it’s quite strange when it’s in a place that supposed to be your home but never quite felt like home. It’s a muddy, indescribable feeling, honestly.
If you ask me what to do in Maine or what’s happening over there. I couldn’t tell you. If you ask me the same thing about Taipei or Shanghai, my eyes light up and I can talk for hours. It’s like being in my comfortable pajamas, reading a familiar book. Places like Maine, Atlanta or even South Florida? Not so much.
Despite the pollution in Shanghai, for instance, my quality of life was still much higher than here in the States. I, at least, have mobility, can easily go to the Doctor (going bankrupt due to hospital bills is UNHEARD of), get my teeth cleaned and I actually hung out with like-minded people. I had a social life, but most of all – I was content.
In the States, however, it’s hard to talk to people when mentally we’re worlds apart. While we may both speak the same language, there’s a barrier between us. And you know what? I realize the States has propaganda just like the rest of the world. Americans have said to me how great it must be to leave China as if my life is better. In a few ways, yes. In many ways, not so much. The bottom line is, though, their perception of China (or even Taiwan) is completely wrong.
Have you realized those who say they live in the best country in the world never actually lived anywhere else while others live abroad become humbled by their experiences?
It has been over a year since I left China and Taiwan, and while it hasn’t gotten any easier, I’m fortunate to be with a very patient, understanding husband; he listens to me when I’m having the blues. Not only the blues hasn’t been turned down, the lyrics to the song rings truer than ever before.
Regardless, here’s to 2017…may this year be kind to us all.
I can’t say I was ever homesick when I’ve always been disconnected to my birth country. I never felt truly at home; I was merely a visitor. It was as if I was a guest at somebody’s house who was invited for dinner. The hospitality was sincere and the food was tasty, but I felt foreign in a culture I supposedly grew up in. A country, the root of my well-being where I dare to dig out my seed to plant out of its borders. I branch out only to become a tree who changed her leaves, but……….
sometimes I just want to shake those leaves. Once upon a time, I had a big heart and small hands, but I honestly thought I could take on the universe. I pull down the shades only to see myself in a new angle. I know I’m not the only one who has demons swallowing me whole. Swing set without swings. The leaves turn and fall from the trees. I would damage my skin even when there’s no tragedy. Mice and their Cinderella stories. Dwarfs and their Snow White thoughts. I fish for love I know deep down, I cannot bare. No one will be having cake. No, not tonight.
I wave farewell to the moon and greet the sun. I will smile even when I get unfriendly stares. I will keep my head up high when life brings me down. I hold my umbrella and deal with the storms. I wait for the rainbow. I will count my blessings and not amount of friends or money. I don’t mind being heartbroken. I just want to crawl out of my skin and never look back.
I know, all this thinking, how often these thoughts go stale? My brain turns to mush. I thought if I get a little bit older, a little bit wiser, I would know who I am. I wear my dress and let my dreams hang to dry. Even I make a difference. I have a voice of my own; a world I refuse to disown. Even I burn; have asteroids crash to the ground. I dream BIG and appreciate the small things. Even I survive (to revive). Even I get up from scraped knees. I live life under my own terms but sometimes I wonder, do I really call the shots here? Angels laugh in the backseat of my car and all the experiences that I encountered becomes one long joyride.
When I was 6 years old, despite I was hearing impaired and nobody really wanted to be my friend, I’ve always went on my own adventures. When you’re small, your background seems so much bigger. I was merely seeing a glimpse of the world from my window. I remember the days when my dad was lazy to mow the lawn to the point where the grass ended up being taller than me. I felt like I was in a jungle like in Where the Wild Things Are. When you’re afraid to go home, you imagine a place so beautiful that it only exists in your mind.
Now that I’m 31 32 years old, living in a studio apartment in Shanghai, I continue to explore what’s around me. Instead of my backyard, I wander in a concrete jungle with 25 million people.
I wrote this almost two years ago, and I finally decided to publish the post. I left Shanghai in August of 2015, went back to Taiwan for a couple of weeks before returning to the States after 3plus years hiatus. All I can say is that reverse culture shock is a thing, and truth be told? I’m still going through it to this day. Leaving Maine in 2006 is like giving up your Seniority, and now no matter where you go – you’re being asked, “Where are you from?” My instinct is to reply, “Taiwan,” but I know they wouldn’t understand. People keep saying, “Welcome back home,” and all I can think of is that I left home instead.
Maybe that is why I didn’t feel like updating my blog, lately. Most days I just want to stay in bed, never go out and just hide from the world. I’m fortunate to have a husband who is supportive, and if it weren’t for him – I would continue to be a frog in a well.
One afternoon in August my husband arrived at the gym after me (he had to drop his clothes at the dry cleaners first), the woman at the front desk said to him, “I’m always seeing your wife working out. She has lost a lot of weight.”
I’ve been going to the gym 4 to 6 days a week for the past four months and just when I start to get discouraged with my progress, I get reminded that I may be slow but I at least am going to the right direction.
I have met people who didn’t stay for long but left an imprint in my heart. I learn more of myself through that person. What I want, who I am as a person.
Over two years ago I arrived in Shanghai from Taipei. At first I stayed at the Hostel near the Bund before I moved to my studio apartment where I stayed for over a year. I’ve bumped into interesting characters. When I went to the computer room for the free WiFi, I saw an aspiring musician strumming his guitar to practice singing his songs. I kind of liked his beat. I thought about exchanging emails to discuss writing lyrics together, but my shyness (scratch that, anxiety overshadowed my opportunity – I even shared how I deal with my anxiety: Dealing with Anxiety Abroad). Who knows, he’d probably stare back at me as if I have multiple heads. Continue reading “My Shanghai State of Mind”→