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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.
I left Shanghai in August of 2015, and my life haven’t been the same since. To basically sum up how I feel about being back in the States: “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.”
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?!
I want to be a little personal on why the island means so much to me, on a deeper level. No country is perfect but when you found a country to call home, it’s perfect to you. I wrote this in 2012: “For the longest time I couldn’t even see the menu at the coffee shop so I say my usual and not get embarrassed. When I was at the Metro station, many times I couldn’t see the signs or the map. I would have this intense anxiety wondering if I missed my stop. Tonight was different. I just got my eyeglasses and I walked the usual roads and it was as if I was seeing a whole new world, you know? For the longest time, I was seeing a painting only in two dimension and for the first time, I can see the painting for all its glory. Being able to see the colours more vibrant, being able to navigate easier, and seeing everything in detail is such a privilege. In the past two weeks, I’ve cleaned by teeth and did a whole body check up. I usually get all tensed up when I go to the hospital but somehow in Taipei, I don’t feel as such. It’s an amazing feeling. In America, you can still go bankrupt even if you have health insurance.”
I can’t stress this enough. Taiwan’s health insurance probably saved my life. I’m blessed that if I need to see the Doctor, I don’t have to question if I can afford to (even with health insurance). I’m truly grateful.
I wrote this back in 2014: “One morning I woke up wondering why it was so hard to open my eyes. I thought I was simply just tired so I went back to sleep. Sadly, that wasn’t the case. When I went to the kitchen to get some water, my husband freaked out when he saw me. My eyes were swollen and my face was puffy. I had a terrible allergic reaction. I also had red bumps all over my hands. We immediately went to the dermatologist that morning to get treatment. Well, my eyes got better but my hands got worse. Before you know it I felt like my entire body was on fire. The itching was unbearable. My body is changing and now I no longer know what I am allergic to. I’m already lactose-intolerant – what more do you want from me?!
It was discouraging to wake up every morning and realize I was simply just getting worse. I ended up going to another dermatologist also around my neighborhood. The dermatologist said it is in fact an allergic reaction, so she have me drew blood to find out what’s exactly going on. I got more medicine and went on my way. I will find out the results on Tuesday.
I’m finally getting better, which is good because I don’t want to get on the plane to Shanghai and have everybody freak out when they look at my arm thinking I am contagious. Seriously though, my arms did look rather disgusting. Red turns turned to bubbles and the bubbles got bigger. It would freak me out too, honestly.
The allergic reaction could’ve been more dangerous; instead of my eyes, it could’ve been my throat. It seems my allergic reaction is getting worse each time, but luckily I’m taking necessary measures to find out what is my body reacting to. Thank you, Taiwan, for giving me a better quality of life I wouldn’t otherwise have in my birth country.”There was a mini concert at the Hospital and it cheered some people up. Continue reading “I’m Homesick (& I’m Not Talking About My Birth Country)”
Chinese New Year card for my mother-in-law.A card I made for my Grandmother for Memorial Day. I’m glad Kendall got to see it before he passed away.
More cards for my Grandmother. I gave her a get well card when she was sick, for instance. Continue reading “Card Making to Fill My Emptiness”
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.
I probably say this too many times but I will say it once more: It must’ve been mind blowing to grow up in Taipei during the 1970′s and seeing all these changes as time rolls by. I can’t even imagine. I’m impressed (and proud) of the positive changes that happened in the last 20 years in Taiwan. Before the 1980’s, you couldn’t speak your mind and now Taiwanese people elect their own President. It’s amazing to think about.
The first time my husband, Dawen, took me to his childhood hangout in Gongguan was back in 2009. 7 years later, and I can honestly say this place will always be my favourite, so I may as well share what to do in the area (besides eating at the street vendors, of course).
Other regular little eats whenever I’m in Gongguan.
We got off from Taipower Building Station and walked roughly 10 minutes to the cafe. My husband said the Americano is pretty good. Out of the three Cafes, this is by far my favourite. The design of the cafe is rustic and has a down-to-earth sort of vibe. There’s a library as well for you to browse while you drink your cup of Joe.
There’s also Treasure Hill 寶藏巖
I would look out the window and see Treasure Hill from the bus ride home. I kept telling myself I will visit before I leave the island. I even saw this place on a travel channel and yet I kept putting it off and before you know it, two years has passed.
“Only you can fill what’s missing. It’s not something another person can do for you.” Haruki Murakami“This world is but a canvas to our imagination.” Henry David Thoreau
“To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.” Nelson Mandela
Since I knew I was going back to Shanghai in December of 2014, I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer. While Dawen and I were heading home on the bus (pointing at Treasure Hill), “I want to visit here.” You know what? Dawen did surprise me on a sunny afternoon by taking me there after we left the gym. I will always remember this.
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.
2009年第一次造訪了我先生的故鄉前, 他給我看了一部李安導演的飲食男女。你看過開場的畫面嗎?那真是烹調藝術的極致。我立刻打電話給他, 並夢想知道更多有關臺灣的一切。有時候命運真的會給你一個驚喜, 上一秒我還在緬因州看著這部電影, 下一秒我卻站在這部電影中出現過的天橋場景上, 我每天從師大走路回家時都會看到這座天橋, 我每當想到這個, 我的嘴角就露出笑容。
March 2013: I moved to Shanghai, China
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.
當我在上海時, 我希望回到我過去在緬因州的生活, 如今住在我岳母位於臺北的家, 我不再想回到緬因州。我覺得我自從離開美國後就像停止呼吸一樣, 忘了停下來去欣賞周遭事務。
我和大文回到了我們住了十一個月的地區看看, 我們搬離那裡已經有六個月了。我必須承認我會比較懷念我以前住的地區, 話雖如此, 現在已是離開的時候了。
December 2014: We return to China.
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.
I may have been a fat girl, but I was happy at least…even when I had fake Taiwanese snack in Shanghai. It didn’t matter to me, to say the least. Continue reading “A Timeline of the Places I’ve Been (Adventure to Emptiness)”
This woman in the picture no longer exists. Sure, she was chubby. Sure, she was an immigrant in a foreign country, but she was content. I’m sorry, but she’s dead. She is no longer with us. I didn’t want to admit this for the longest time. I thought that perhaps if I give it a year, I will get out of this rut somehow, but sadly it’s only getting worse…the feeling of emptiness; I merely just want to stay under the covers and never see daylight. I haven’t truly laughed since September of 2015…the month I went to the States. There are times when I see a speeding bus, without thought I slowly walk towards it. It’s not that I want to die. It’s not that I want to cause drama. I’m merely trying to end this headache I can’t seem to shake off since I arrived at the airport in San Francisco.
“Work hard and you will be awarded.” I rather not work for the life that is not for me, thanks…but no thanks. Trump will be sworn in this month, and I am also not looking forward to that. The positive side of living in Taiwan or China is that I can escape the bigotry, short-sighted opinions of other Americans. Truth be told that even before I left the United States, I was already disconnected to the country. I was already the black sheep I’m more than happy that people can’t quite comprehend or understand. I’m okay with that. I find it to be a rather good thing, but now that I’m back in the country that I refuse to call home – it is only tearing apart my soul. It’s devastating feeling, to say the least.
Yes, work hard…they say…but when I saw a handgun in my dad’s computer desk…without thought I want to just grab it and put the bullet right through my head. Again, I don’t want to die. I don’t want to cause strife. I’m merely just trying to end the ringing in my head. Despite all these irrational thoughts entering my mind, all these things wont happen. But truth be told, while my heart is beating…I’m already dead. This smiling woman is no longer with us. I will work hard when it’s worth it. Till then, dump me…trash me….belittle me….I will not budge. I will not work for your American dream. It’s not that I want a perfect country, but I simply don’t want the American dream. You can’t keep it for yourself. I lost my receipt long ago, and I have no interest in finding it. My soul is hibernating.
source: icelandmag.visir.is, by staff, 10 dec.
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.