Why, hello there.
It’s been a while, hasn’t it? I apologize for my prolonged absence, but when J and I reached the crest of the tsunami that was getting rid of everything we owned and moving to a different country, I had to jettison responsibilities alongside extra pairs of shoes, extra winter clothes, and that headlamp that I used a couple of times when I went running at night during the winter of 2011. Blogging went, as did reading, eating healthy foods, and eventually, personal hygiene. By the end of it, I was crying while scrubbing the toilet in a house empty except for bags and heaps of nonsense items destined for the dump.
And then we left. Then we got on the airplane and all of that was behind us and so much was ahead of us, and after six (seven? Christ!) months it’s easy to say it was worth it.
I lived in Taiwan for five years four years ago, from 2004-2009. When we decided to come back, I thought it would be easiest on us if we moved back to the same city I lived in for all those five years. Chungli/Zhongli/中壢 never gets a mention in any of the guidebooks, even as a city of 600,000 on an island only 244 miles long.
However, I have a solid network of friends and acquaintances who are still around, many of whom have spent at least a decade teaching English here. I had teaching hours lined up before I even arrived and friends to stay with when we landed. We secured a new apartment the weekend we landed with help from a friend and another one lent us his scooter. Within the first month of our being here, a handful of the old crew had already invited us out for dinners, drinks, and birthday parties. I’m confident that if our tolerance for uncertainty and our budget were greater, we could have relocated to almost any city in Taiwan, but moving home to Chungli has been made a lot easier by the presence of friends and well-wishers.
I was worried that coming back to the same town with some of the same people to take a job at the same school would feel like I was relapsing into an old life, and of course it has felt like that sometimes. But I also made so much progress toward my own goals while I was back home for those three years, that it can’t be totally similar because I’m in such a different place in terms of my own priorities. I spent some valuable time getting to know people with master’s degrees and mortgages, and learned just what it was I was giving up in deciding to be an expat English teacher. Of course, if I hadn’t gone back, I never would have met J, and it doesn’t need to be said that would have been a great loss. He and I are on the same page when it comes to our lifestyle and our goals for the future, and we move in sync. So being back here is eerily familiar–in some ways it feels like I never left–but it’s also very different. I can’t help but think that I somehow rigged the deck and got a second chance at the life I wanted all along: living overseas, living simply and intentionally, working to build a future, alongside someone I love.
Also, I’m 32 now…33 in a hot minute. I can’t drink and party like I used to, even if I wanted to. And trust me, I’ve tried, and paid for it with whole Sundays a few time already. J and I got into wine pretty big when we were back home, and I just can’t enjoy the local Taiwan Beer or my vodka tonics as much as I used to. For the most part, we go to bed sober and early like an old married couple should. It’s also uncomfortable to go back to my local bar and find the same parties going on, but with different people. It takes about three beers before I started missing this one and that one, and then I’m in a funk for the rest of the night.
You can’t step in the same River twice. (wink, wink)
I have meant to write this post dozens of times already, but between being regularly conflicted about how to best invest my free time between writing, reading, or studying Chinese and actually wasting my free time on social media and imgur, I haven’t had a chance. I’ve been taking a writing course online through The Writers Studio and trying to work on my own short stories and assignments in my free time, and I am very ambivalent about how much time I should spend blogging, or if I should be journaling instead. They’re such different exercises, but even if I botch the schedule, I like the accountability of blogging in terms of the writing and editing process.