My Frustration with Daily Life as an Expat Mom in Taiwan
Note…this post may include some internal monologue for dramatic affect
It’s not easy living in a country where I cannot communicate. Let’s face it. I’m an extrovert! Communication and connection are essential to my life. But, as you all know, I’m living in Taiwan and struggling to pick up Mandarin.
Today I thought I’d humor you with a VERY intense day I had last Thursday. It was one of those days that would have been busy and stressful enough had I been living in Canada. And although I don’t make much reference to her, I was lugging my 15 month old around with me. So, without further ado…
SHOPPING AT RT MART
It was an errands day. You know what I mean. The goal of such a day is to run around like a chicken without its head on and get a bunch of stuff done, so that the rest of the week is less hectic. Ha! Is the rest of the week ever less hectic though? Is it really?
So, on this day, I start out by tackling RT Mart (like a smaller, local, Walmart) and feel confident as I do my transaction with the cashier. I have my basic numbers down, and I can say “I don’t want – (Boo yow)” when they ask me if I want a bag. Sweet! But this time, the cashier asks me something else that I don’t recognise. Shit! What does that mean? Cheeks are flushing. “I don’t understand” I say in English as I look up at her apologetically. I hate that I am in their country hoping they speak English.
“Membership Card” she then says.
“No, Xie Xie.”
Okay that was okay. I got this.
SUSSING OUT iCLIMB!
Next, I decide to check out iClimb, an indoor rock climbing gym in Zhubei. Zhubei, also spelled Jubei, is the next city over. It’s a mere ten minute drive from my home (in good traffic), just across the bridge. I spend ten minutes circling the place trying to find parking . Avoid red lines. I tell myself. Can I park in front of this building? How do I know if that ‘s a store gate or a garage gate? I can’t block a garage, but I could block a store. What’s that sign mean. Shit where the hell is a parking spot? Once I finally park the car, I confidently go into the gym. Thank you boost of energy (read last blog post!). I ask the man if he speaks some English (sweet he does! )and proceed to ask him some questions about the hours, fees and eligibility for Theo.
Check me out driving around and getting stuff done! I rock! I’m pretty stoked to hear that Theo is big enough to do the bouldering wall. For 250NT he gets unlimited entries for a day. Awesome! I’ve just discovered a new activity I can do with Theo on hot days! #mamawin
Before we move on, let me just say that if I spoke Mandarin, I would have saved myself this trip and simply called iclimb. Right?
Just putting things into perspective. Not speaking the language makes things a lot harder!
GETTING LOST ON A NEAR EMPTY TANK AND WITH GOOGLE BARELY AT MY SIDE
So at this point in my day, I’m feeling pretty good. It’s nearing lunch and I’ve accomplished quite a bit. Getting home, however, is another story. As I head out, I take a wrong turn and get completely disoriented. Dammit I miss Vancouver where I could always see the mountains in the North!
Moreover I can’t get my Google maps to orient itself the way I want it to AND the app keeps shutting down. Uggg why is my phone doing this to me?!? Note to self: I should really stop ignoring those update phone messages.
So I spend the next 20 minutes trying to figure out where I am in Zhubei. And then…
OMG You’ve got to be kidding me!
I realise that my gas tank needle is delicately hovering above empty. This is not good. And to make matters worse, I left my wallet at home. Luckily, I find 500NT in my bag ($20 Cnd), enough to get the tank to half full. So I pull up to the gas station but there’s no one to wave me in.
Where are they? Oh you’ve got to be kidding me! It’s not a full service lot, which is the only service I have used here in Taiwan. I pull up to the gas pump, look at the the Visa sign and feel my cheeks flushing. I don’t have my cards on me. I don’t know how to communicate with them that I only have cash. I don’t know where an employee is. I see the guy in front of me look at me and I feel the heat in my chest getting hotter (not because it was plus 30 degrees Celsius outside). So, feeling embarrassed, I decide to risk running out of gas. I pull out and keep driving towards home (I think). As I’m on the highway finally heading towards the one gas station I’m familiar with, I realise that my phone’s battery is almost dead. I start chanting two things to myself:
1) Please don’t run out of gas
2) Phone please stay alive , so that If I Do run out of gas I can call one of my local friends to help me out!
How does this part of my story end? I do make it safely to my gas station and ultimately home. Phew!
WHAT’S THE MORAL HERE?
There really is none! I just wanted to share with you that the challenges I face by not being able to read and communicate here in Taiwan are endless! But at the same time, these experiences are hilarious! Sure they can be stressful as ever when I am living them in the moment, but afterwards, I really do feel a sense of achievement. Note to Self: learn more Mandarin!