Just call me Wendy

My journey in Taiwan started August 27, 2010. During the past twelve months I’ve had the pleasure of traveling, meeting wonderful people, discovering a new culture, trying my hand at a difficult third language, teaching some adorable children, and enjoying a kind of financial freedom that eluded me since my credit card debt began to skyrocket in 2006. Life in Taiwan has changed my entire perspective and has given me new hope in my future. I live a beautiful, blessed life, and I know it.

A good number of expats who come to Taiwan, especially males, stay long-term. They find love, often with a Taiwanese woman. Both male and female expats relish the lifestyle teaching English here affords; low cost of living and a very handsome pay make month-long vacations in exotic places doable. If you don’t travel, the money can be used for any number of habits, hobbies or toys.

You can also get away with quite a bit. Calling in “sick”, showing up late, not showing up at all, teaching while in an altered state: most companies elsewhere will can you after the first offense. Not so here. Should a school decide they’ve had enough of a teacher’s antics, that teacher can typically find a new job within a week or so.

Taiwan, for expats, is like Neverland. It’s a dreamworld where adults (and those who appear to be adults but are actually teenagers in disguise) go to play without fear of consequences. An island paradise full of exotic treasures and plenty of fairy dust: what’s not to like?

For some expats, Taiwan is their last stop; they’ll stay for the rest of their lives. A handful like me see themselves living here for one or two years, but that’s it. There’s more to the story, and that story continues in another setting.

That’s where my next major challenge arises. Financial stability: check. Extensive Far East travel: check. Quenching of wanderlust: check. Next step: move on.

Now here’s where Bob’s baby steps come into play, because moving back isn’t simple. What career do I want to go into, and where, and are any companies hiring, and how long will it take me to find a job, and how will I go through the interview process… the list, while finite, is daunting. Anyone who has played the job market game recently will understand the complexity of finding work in North America right now. Honestly, if I boarded the next flight out of Taipei and moved back to the States, I would likely be unemployed for months.

In essence, those who are ready to leave Neverland and return to the real world are at the mercy of the global economy. They’re stuck here until they’re hired; it’s out of their control. It’s something to consider when I am ready to fly back home. Will I be stuck?

“Stuck” is a poor choice in words given the quality of life I’ve been afforded here. Considering the financial distress many Americans are in, the starvation of millions in Africa, the men and women in the Armed Forces who have no say in when they can leave their posts, those who just lost loved ones in the horrific massacre in Norway: who am I to complain? How dare I whine about being “stuck” in Neverland?

This last month has been one of introspection, intense conversations with loved ones, and decisions. My perspective has changed. I’m not meant to be a member of the Lost Boys, nor am I meant to stay in Taiwan long-term, but I can’t leave until my business is finished. My chapter in Neverland isn’t quite over.

8 comments

  1. Mandy – I read your blog at 4AM Hawaii time. Your instincts have been “right on” from the time you made the decision work in Taiwan till today. Trust them and keep your ear to the ground – things will be better for the USA in 2012.

  2. Mandy you’re awesome. I think you can do it and will make the right decision. So glad that you’ve had this opportunity to see the fantasy that living in another country like Taiwan offers you. I would say from my experience, I still miss that fantasy life but know that I’d never be in HK long term if I go back (which I still want to do).

    1. Living abroad is just like living Stateside – job, taxes, bills, errands. Everything’s the same except for the location. I love HK, probably more than I love Taiwan, but I’m not meant to stay abroad very long. For a while I thought it was because I wasn’t a good expat, but that’s not the case. Everyone’s story takes them to a different place, and mine is only supposed to have a couple of chapters in Taiwan, not an entire novel.

  3. Happy birthday, Mandy! I think I have the right day here! Just read your post for the second time and detect a growing sense of maturity (not that you already aren’t!) and appreciation of where you are at this point in your life. You’ve undoubtedly accomplished much of what you were seeking when you moved to Taiwan and you’re correct in that moving back to the states would not be “easy” right now. Don’t sell yourself short, however. You have a lot to offer any potential employer. Of course you are missed here, but as we are all the sum total of all of our life experiences, the time you’re spending in Taiwan will allow you a “fresh start” when you return to the US and give you more of an edge in the jobs market. Hopefully after the 2012 election, we will start turning this country around and once again create conditions for growth and the pursuit of the “American dream!” We love you — love has no boundaries, so not matter how far away you might be, know that those of us back here think of you often and want nothing but the very, very best for you! ~ Love, Aunt Norma

    1. Thanks for the birthday wishes! I’ll be back in the States soon enough; I just have to make sure I don’t wish away my time here in the process of looking forward to my return. I’ve got to remember to have fun in the midst of all the planning I’m doing 🙂

  4. You’re right. Getting “stuck” has a very negative connotation. The only way that someone can get “stuck,” in the negative sense of the word, is to get comfortable with the standard of living, not be looking to better oneself and losing one’s desire to continue exploring.

    I think that every foreigner in Taiwan is here for similar but very different reasons. I came here with a plan of 1 year but didn’t plan on returning to Texas anytime soon. It’s been 3 years now and I’m still amazed by how little I understand about Taiwan. It continues to fascinate me.

    All the perks of living here, traveling, learning, financial freedom and standard of living, have significantly helped me become a better artist: my ultimate goal and dream. (do you have any idea how expensive a 550NT canvas would be in the states?!)

    I fight with the “getting stuck” in my mind all the time. I wanted to live in at least 5 countries before turning 30. But as it is, ideals are best kept as guiding reference points to your life and should always be updated with the reality that unfolds. My itch to move on has been getting itchier in the past 6 months. I know the time will come. For now, I need to continue learning Chinese, become a better artist, be a good high school teacher, save money and enjoy every single second. Do everything. Surf on saturday, ride motorcycle into mountain towns on sunday, swim in river, hike up waterfall. Work on art every night. Grow vegetables. Do more art. Study. Read. enjoy exuberance.

    Your understanding of your place and purpose in Taiwan is above par. You know it. It breaks my heart to see foreigners in Taiwan who aren’t enjoying every second of it…and disgusts me when they complain about life. Enjoy it while you’re here. Live in the present with plans for the future. Always strive for something higher. That’s how you will NEVER get “stuck”—anywhere.

    1. I really think that most people need to use their experiences in Taiwan as a stepping stone. Unless teaching is your passion or you find just the right job here, staying in Taiwan too long would stunt a person’s personal growth. Beyond that, the students deserve better than a teacher who doesn’t care and is only here for the money and vacation days.

      That said, I have to get over my tendency to pass judgment on those who do stay, or on those who are afraid to leave and find the next adventure. Just because someone’s happy being “stuck” doesn’t mean I have any right to criticize. Unless they ask me for help, I don’t need to care about anyone besides myself.

      In other news, have you done any more pieces with the calligraphy brush? I thought your first effort was beautiful and would love to see more.

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