Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Perspective Series-Taiwanese Travel

This week I'm so excited to introduce Lauren from Miller Memoires for the next installment of the Perspective Series. This is a series about expats sharing their experience of living abroad and how it inevitably changed their perspectives on life. Lauren is such a sweetheart and shares amazing travel posts along with the entertaining day to day stories that come from living and teaching in a country where they are still trying to learn the language (props to them for even trying to learn Mandarin!) 

I guess I'll start with a brief history of why I'm even in Taiwan in the first place.  It all started back in 2006 before I'd even met my husband or heard of Taiwan.  My husband was called to serve a mission for our church on the small island of Taiwan and learn mandarin Chinese.  So he did.  He served full-time for two years and then came back a changed man, and in love with the Taiwan culture.  Fast forward to January 2010 when I met Cameron.  We hit it off immediately and were quickly inseparable.  He, of course, always talked of this crazy place called Taiwan, and as all story-tellers do, made it sound overly exotic and interesting, and a little like a third world country.  (we biked through rice fields all day, and had to hand wash our clothes, and there's no deodorant, and no one speaks English etc etc.)  So after maybe 5 months of dating, we're sitting in the car chatting about Taiwan again and how an acquaintance of his had mentioned that he should study in Taiwan.  So I just said, why don't we move there! You go to school and I'll.... teach English??  Sort of serious, sort of joking.  Well, it caught us both off guard, and as we thought about this plan it sounded better and better, until Cam said, well we should probably get married first. (romantic right? haha!)  So we did.  5 months after that we were married and 3 months after that we were in Taiwan.  

Now we've been living here for just shy of two years and it has been a crazy ride.  We've been through all the stages of love and hate and why the heck are we here and will I ever learn this ridiculous language?! Overall though, I can't say I'd change a thing, except maybe that I would have done a little bit more planning before I just showed up here.  One thing I guess you'd need to know about me is that I'm pretty much the "anti-planner."  I have a bad (or good?) habit of just letting the chips fall where they may, leaving caution to the wind, and seeing where things go. Honestly, I've always been pretty lucky with the way things have turned out, but there have also been times when I wish I would have looked before I lept.  Showing up in Taiwan with a few suitcases and smile would have been one of those times.  I think what neither of us really realized is that missionary life is completely different from regular life in another country, so though Cam had lived here for two years, we were quite unprepared.  We'd found a school to teach at through a friend and showed up assuming things would be just how we'd anticipated.  We were totally wrong and ended up getting gypped out of a lot of money from this so-called job and our so-called friends, and were on our very last dollar with the decision to fly home or suck it up and figure out another plan.  So suck it up we did, and learned by a lot of trial and error the best ways to survive in Taiwan, and grew stronger together as we did.  I'm still glad that we managed to stay, because it's just such an amazing place.

OK, as for perspective, we're still here, but we did get the chance to finally spend a couple of weeks at home (1 in California and the other in Canada) over the summer.  I knew it was going to be great, but I just kind of forgot what it was like to live in an English speaking country!  First of all, I got off the plane and thought 'look at all these white people!'  It took me a few days before I wasn't caught off guard to hear English spoken in the streets, and another few days to remember that people can understand me when I'm having personal conversations in public places and that I can't just say whatever comes in to my head! I also had a tough time believing the prices!  No wonder we moved! There's no way we could have afforded to stay when going to Chipotle for a burrito actually costs 20$ for two people!!  I'd been paying 2-3 dollars for every meal and forgot how expensive eating out in North America is.  

Can't lie though, there were definitely some things that I missed.  For one, Target!  I freaking love that store, and to just go into a store and to be able to read every sign, and know what brand to buy is pretty nice.  Or going into a clothing store and having everything fit, and in a style that I like, and not have Hello Kitty on it, was also nice.  Not being stared at or followed, or asked to have my picture taken was a relief.  Just being left alone and not feeling like I stick out like a sore thumb all time, was pretty relaxing.  

So there are ups and downs to being here or being there, but I have learned so much about myself and the world from being here.  I've learned that I'm tougher than I ever thought I was.  I can handle riding a scooter through a city full of 4 million people, I can deal with eating foods I can't pronounce made of the weird parts of animals, I can step out of my comfort zone when I'm in a place where no one speaks English and I actually have to use the the Chinese I've spent so much time learning.  I've learned that Taiwanese people, or people in general, are kind and helpful and don't mind if you don't know how to say some words or you call them strange instead of cute by mistake.  I've learned to really appreciate my friends and family that take time to skype with me and write emails and letters.  I've learned so much more than I ever would have stuck in my comfortable little bubble at home. I learned that I can do hard things!

So, we're still here and still loving it.  We're here for another few years and then who knows, we haven't gotten that far.  

I could go on all day about the cultural differences, or the crazy things that have happened over the last two years, or the awkward situations I've ended up in, but at the end of the day, I probably feel more at home here than anywhere else at the moment. Cultures and countries are different, but underneath it all, people really aren't so different from each other after all.

Thanks so much for writing Lauren! Be sure to stop by her blog and say hi!

If you have lived abroad and would like to be featured, shoot me an email at lostintravelsblog{at}gmail{dot}com. I would love to hear from you!

Check out the other girls from the series:

Jay from From There to Here

PS. I'm guest posting over on Eat, Drink, Be a Tourist today about my favorite things to do where we live in Korea. Go check it out!