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.