Imagining our life in Taiwan was, at minimum, a daily occurrence while we were preparing to move from the States. My constant wonderings probably drove Josh nuts, but I couldn’t help it! By the time we got on the plane I’d thought through every scenario I could predict regarding our lives in Taiwan- not out of fear, just out of excitement. In the long list of ideas I had about our new life, there were definitely some things I expected to be challenging for us. Four months in, it’s been intriguing to see which expectations have been met and which ones were way off. Here are some of the things I expected to be hard, and the reality.
I had already studied Mandarin for a couple years prior to graduating from college, so I knew I wouldn’t have as difficult a start as someone coming with no background in Chinese language or history. That said, I have heard for as long as I can remember that Chinese is hard, foreigners can’t be fluent no matter how hard they try, etc. I am delighted to say that learning Mandarin continues to be a joy, and both Josh and I are making unprecedented progress through the curriculum (faster than Josh’s dad, who grew up here, which I think Josh is quite proud of).
Do I miss my family? Of course! But I think we talk more regularly now than we did when we lived just 6 hours away in Kentucky. And living overseas, continuing to have their support from the other side of the world, and getting to share our struggles and celebrations with them throughout the week, has made me so thankful for their constancy. Not everyone has family that they can laugh with, cry with, and call just for fun. Though the distance is hard, it has made me more grateful than ever for family.
Not Having Chick-fil-A
Yep, I was pretty much spot-on with this one. If you weren’t aware, Chick-fil-A is basically Jesus’ favorite restaurant, so it’s a real bummer that we are totally deprived over here. There are times in your life when you just need waffle fries or a cookies-and-cream milkshake. I guess this is where the “fasting” part of prayer and fasting comes in? (Mostly joking, guys… mostly…). If you are looking for a sign that your calling in life is to open a Chick-fil-A franchise in Taiwan, this is it.
As Josh describes it, the road system in Taiwan is like a river- the cars are the big fish and the scooters are the minnows. As long as you go with the flow, it doesn’t really matter where you swim; the others will move around you. Since that is totally his personality and not mine, I thought driving here was going to be really stressful for me. But actually it’s very freeing to realize that the driving rules are more like thoughtful guidelines which people around you may or may not follow, and nobody has a problem with it. Now I just have to get my scooter license so I can really test my skills!
What I Didn’t Know Would Be Hard
As soon as we got to Taiwan I started getting more and more familiar with the many things I don’t know. It’s an impressively long list, and growing every day. And there were so many aspects of life here which I just had no way of predicting, including a lot of things that are sometimes downright hard.
I didn’t know that the sounds of the baby toys we brought from the States would jolt me into memories of cozy winter days spent with Hosanna and her buddy Josiah playing in our living room.
I didn’t know that when I glanced at our cheap IKEA porch rug I would feel a pang of sadness missing the many friends we enjoyed so many evenings with sitting on our porch on Kenyon Avenue.
I didn’t know that living in a country surrounded by native Chinese speakers, it would still be a challenge to find opportunities to practice speaking and listening in Chinese. (I am excluding conversations which involve someone saying to me, “Your baby is so cute” more than three times.)
I didn’t know how much I would miss worshiping surrounded by people who sing in my heart language. (I now tear up watching hipster worship videos on Youtube.)
I didn’t know how much I relied on my passion for and calling to ministry to fulfill me- I am relearning again how to rely on Jesus alone for my joy.
This past month hasn’t been super easy. Don’t get me wrong, nothing bad has happened, and from a logistical standpoint things couldn’t be better. But it can be hard to accept that things (and places and people) we loved in the States are out of reach now. To those of you who have emailed, messaged, Skyped, and snail-mailed, thank you. To those of you who continue to faithfully support us financially every month, thank you. To those of you who pray for us without us even knowing your names, thank you. As we grieve the things we’ve left behind (poor Josh is still struggling to come to terms with the lack of a Lowe’s or Home Depot around here), it is SO encouraging to be reminded of your love for us, and your love for our Lord who is at work in all things and all places!