It’s Back [Year in Taiwan, Final Edition]

The past 72 hours have been a total mess.

Getting ready to take PUYUMAAAA.

Having barely enough energy to muster and feeling progressively worse, I had to cut my weekend Hualien trip short. It was my last trip in Taiwan before my emergency departure, which now had to be changed even earlier given my condition from Monday night to Sunday morning.

With my mom’s help to book the next earliest flight out of Taiwan, Hsuan and I fled Hualien ASAP. With hotel bookings, car rentals, and train tickets partially refunded, we made our way via Puyuma train (dare devils, eh?) back to Taipei.

Within several hours, I was out of Taiwan, face swollen from what I later learned was an even bigger mass that has been blocking my windpipes. Unfortunately, no, it was not bronchitis. My lymphoma has indeed returned.

Throughout the long 20-hour journey, I was scared. Carrying just my backpack and a light duffle bag around absolutely exhausted me. I had to walk at a snail’s pace through airports, while others were sprinting to catch their flights.

As soon as I landed, I called my oncologist fellow, who not only told me to go to the ER immediately, but also that the symptoms likely meant I’ve relapsed.

My sister happened to call after I spoke with the fellow, and as I breathlessly walked through the airport towards the exit, I started crying. Soon I had to take a seat before I could reach the exit to continue talking.

With my parents already outside, however, I cut the conversation short and walked out to see my dad. We walked to the car where my mom was waiting, and I bawled as soon as I saw her. I was speechless and just full of exhausted, hopeless emotion.

Dad’s home cooking 😛

Back home, everything felt more normal. I showered, chatted with Hsuan, and liked the feeling of being back in a familiar, warm environment. My dad cooked a delicious dinner, and I sat at the kitchen chatting with my parents, sharing the Hualien snacks Hsuan had bought for them, and savoring our time before going to the ER later.

Since the fellow advised going to my local hospital instead of Hopkins, where beds would be limited and the oncology urgent care wouldn’t be open until Monday, we made a quick drive to Howard County General Hospital, where the ER is a nightmare and we would never go again. Basically, I spent over six hours just to get lab work and poked with a 20mm needle seven times because five shitty nurses couldn’t draw blood and forgot to give me the IV before sending me to the CT room. I left crying and exhausted and indignant and just overall feeling even crumbier.

I finally got some sleep before 3 a.m., and the next day, my parents took me to Hopkins oncology urgent care, where I received an IV without a hitch, finally got a CT scan, and soon was admitted to start another chemo journey.

My private hospital room.

So this is where we are at now: I just spent the night here and will be getting one final ECHO cardiogram before RICE chemo starts sometime in the afternoon. I should be staying a couple more days. Details are scant, because the team of docs working on me are adjusting as we go, but thanks to some online research of my own and later asking about it, I may be getting a stem cell transplant, as this round of chemo should be more intense, but that also may mean there will be fewer cycles.

As for my mental health, I’m managing. I’ll keep you all updated, as yet another chemo journey begins and hopefully for the final time. I will fight this again, and this time, it will work for good.

Going Home [Year in Taiwan, Ed. 10]

Things have moved rather quickly since publishing my last post.

My mom was in town for most of the rainy week, which ended up making it easier to decide with her that I indeed need to return to the U.S. sooner than later.

Upon doctor’s request, instead of waiting until the end of this semester in November, I will be departing Taipei next Monday for what I hope will be at most a two-week leave—any more than that, and I cannot even begin to fathom the logistics, let alone the reasons.

Within hours of landing, I will be receiving some tests and scans and then seeing my doctor in an effort to get to the bottom of my declining health. Best case scenario is that it’s all anxiety and I can return to Taiwan ASAP to continue my year-long fellowship, maybe with some meds or at least tips on how to manage my health here better.

This past week, the one minor improvement is that the frequency of headaches has seemed to decline, but my coughing has turned from dry to phlegmy. And since the phlegm is so deeply lodged, this new kind of cough is even more uncomfortable and seems to be affecting my chest.

There definitely have been moments since making the decision to go back earlier than planned where I question such a decision. These moments are when my body feels somewhat normal, when my head is clear, when I believe that I am healthy. But these moments are short-lived. I soon face the facts that I tire easily, my chest feels tight, my cough is getting worse, and I have even lost some weight.

Although changing the flight turned out to be less of a hassle than expected, having to inform both my fellowship and school only makes me wish I didn’t have to leave Taiwan. I hope that years down the line, I will be able to look back and laugh at how much misfortune I have come across this year.

By this time next week, I will be on my way home, slightly terrified and not quite sure what to prepare for, but also the most relieved I will have ever been since arriving in Taiwan, knowing that answers will be coming.

I Am Enough [Year in Taiwan, Ed. 8]

A conversation with an especially curious fellow NTU Mandarin learner this past week made me reflect on one of my lifestyle choices that comprises mostly of solo adventures. What do I do in my spare time? Have I found an internship yet? What am I working on outside of classes? Have I joined any student clubs? Frankly put, she could sense that I choose a life of relative solitude, compared to other, more extroverted folks who seem to be constantly making and meeting new friends. Another classmate went so far as to add something about how she spends her time making friends, not-so-subtly implying that I do not and therefore have none. Keep in mind we were attempting to use only Mandarin, so perhaps the bluntness of such comments and questions actually would have been worse and more obvious in English.

At peace.

And to an extent, it’s all true. To them, I am a private, even enigmatic person. We met early in the semester, along with other students who belong to the same program but generally take different classes. Although I initially thought I would thoroughly enjoy hanging out with this group of ambitious, like-minded friends, I soon realized that perhaps we were not so similar after all; that my introverted self, who happens to be unavailable on weekends due to outings with the partner, not only rarely contributes to our LINE group chat, but also is hardly seen lingering on campus after classes.

Out of politeness, they told me that this way of spending my time, holed up in cafés or otherwise off exploring the streets of Taipei, is something they “admire,” wishing themselves that they could cherish some more alone time.

Is that what it is? Valuing alone time? Or is it the fear of revealing the fact that I had cancer? I often wonder if this cautious, standoffish aura that I apparently emit is due to the fact that I have gone through such a tough period earlier this year and feel that if I were to “get close” to anyone here, it would involve telling them about it, something I so far have managed to avoid.

Or is that just yet another excuse to justify my lifestyle choice? Because if I am being honest, each period of my life started and ended either without having made or without having maintained strong relationships, whether everyday platonic ones or the messier romantic ones. Whether in high school, college, or China, in terms of human connections, every chapter has started and stopped rather abruptly. Forever floating in impermanence, adapting to each new environment but choosing to do so in my own way, I find myself knowing no other way to spend my time.

This is partly why I find it a miracle that I met Hsuan and that we get along together so well, despite our differences. (I am sure my parents think the same way). Sure, my inability to be social is made particularly more apparent and uncomfortable with his circle of friends and family, but in the end, I honestly can’t imagine going through life, especially over this past year, without him. That much is certain.

So here’s the thing: given how the chapters in my life have consistently failed in keeping serious human connections, I fear how my lifestyle choice to live contently alone will affect our relationship. I think it’s because I let my insecurities take over and some inability to accept flaws in both myself and others dictate such connections. Of course, it tends to be easier to live with myself, literally.

But as I have told myself repeatedly, I am trying to improve so that not all chapters end by having people fall off a cliff, never to be bothered again.

As we age, such relationships will only get more difficult to make and maintain, since life just gets in the way. I guess it only makes the relationships we do keep that much more important.

Returning to what I do in my spare time: As much as we want to be changing the world and doing Big Things, can we just be content with mediocrity? I mean, is being on a year-long fellowship to study Mandarin between studying for a Master’s degree not enough? Do I also need to be curing cancer in my spare time? Like, damn, I didn’t realize how sensitive I was to such a question until poked and prodded about my lifestyle choices. Sorry, under-the-table English teaching jobs aren’t my cup of tea, but an actual cup of tea sounds pretty nice. As for making new friends, I am content with occasionally chatting with my classmates and language partner. As important as human connections are, being able to think that I am enough is equally so.

So yes, I may come off as a private person, perhaps not doing “enough” for others, but living in a different country, studying its language, and loving a man who accepts me and my flaws, are more than enough for me.

I am enough. We are enough.

Raohe Night Market, Taipei

Written in the Stars? [Year in Taiwan, Ed. 7]

Cheesin’ at my favorite night market in Taiwan, Raohe.

As the idiom goes—or as Tinie Tempah rapped about in 2010, are things in our lives written in the stars? What exactly is under our control, and what isn’t?

Perhaps it tends to be easier to relegate extreme events to fate, and everything else to our choices, or lack thereof.

This past week, as soon as I returned from Kaohsiung, I was in such a funk, headaches included. Classes were a blur; social interactions kept to the bare minimum. It was one of those not-infrequent periods in which an opaque cloud of sadness so strongly enveloped me that genuine smiles felt impossible to muster. For as long as I can remember, this intermittent cloud (never before with headaches, however) would creep up and stifle my ability to share my feelings to any concerned witness, instead rendering me paralyzed and further marinating in a toxic concoction of negative thoughts and confusion. (I shudder to think that this sounds Alzheimers-like.)

It wasn’t until my sister later told me of similar low moods that I wondered if (don’t jest) our astrological signs being the same could help explain it all. Either that or that time of the month about to come. And not knowing exactly why, as you know, can be incredibly frustrating in itself. So it has reached the point where I hope I do get my period soon, to have at least the satisfaction that all this moodiness was perhaps not for naught. #womanproblems

Speaking of, what is going on with America? In light of what has been flooding my social media feeds, I will be preparing my next Chinese presentation precisely about sexual assault in the U.S. To me, it has increasingly been a sensitive topic, because as a woman, I am inclined to believe and support Dr. Ford. So when my boyfriend upon being informed of such news for the first time, asked—although wisely and innocently— questions (e.g., “Why now?”) that I couldn’t help but see as doubt from a male’s perspective, I fumed. And fumed even more when accused of being partial, having “already taken a side.” While true, it felt and still feels wrong to not support Dr. Ford. We can try to be as unbiased as we want, but in this case, the bottom line is that Kavanaugh is not fit to serve in the law’s highest position and subsequently determine the fates of others, let alone women. So as if an already moody week needed this line of borderline-unreasonable and frustrating questioning, it clearly has been a rough week.

The lows aside, these days haven’t been all bad, having done tons of walking throughout the rainy but pleasantly cool streets of Taipei and enjoying life during what still is an incredible period to be alive.

This little guy was so calm at a yummy smoothie bowl place I discovered this week. 
NTU CLD class

A Double Life [Year in Taiwan, Ed. 6]

NTU’s Chinese Language Division treated us to pomelos and Taiwanese mooncakes.

Despite the not-so-old custom of BBQing for the annual Mid-Autumn Festival in Taiwan, this past long weekend, I instead celebrated with Hsuan and his family with a day trip to the beach town of Kenting and a relatively chill weekend in Kaohsiung. And though we skipped out on the meat, we did indulge in Taiwanese-style mooncakes (much better than the traditional Mainland/Hong Kong ones, IMO) and pomelos—among many other snacks.

Because of the vast differences in how I spend my time during the weekdays compared to the weekends, I have come to appreciate both worlds—the language-learning student living by herself in a foreign city of 2.7 million people, and the American girlfriend following her heart with an amazing Taiwanese boyfriend.

In both of these worlds, I am both part of something and an outsider. At the so-called “best” university in Taiwan, I am taking classes but only officially in language, meaning while I have access to certain campus resources, I can’t register for the university’s other courses, instead limited to auditing. On the other hand, after one semester, I have the freedom to either stay and register for the next semester or switch to another university or private Mandarin-learning center. Still, despite being on campus every weekday for three hours of classes, it is quite easy to feel the disconnect. Similarly, spending time with Hsuan touches on this theme of dichotomy within a double life. In one sense, we are like any other couple, enjoying every moment with each other, especially as a reunited long-distance couple. In another, to his social circle and family, I am that foreign girl who only recently appeared in his life and enjoys his guidance and newness of life in Taiwan.

What I do know is that the sense of disconnect is natural. We become different people in different settings, as only glimpses of our lives are presented in any given scenario. To feel like yourself in most situations is difficult, but things like being part of something take time, and I wonder when or if it will be possible to feel belonging during this brief year in Taiwan.

Hatless [Year in Taiwan, Ed. 5]

Lately, any girls I would notice on the streets with pixie or buzz cuts would give me that much more inspiration and motivation to take off my hat. Having worn hats for the better part of this year so far, including the first week of classes, it felt monumental, freeing, and almost effortless to walk out of the door and face the world like this:

Mental hurdles like this one, not only to classes, but also to spots I’d frequented previously only with hats, meant so much to overcome this past week, at last.

While the wigs ended up being useless, I sure used the hats I’ve gotten well and can confidently say I am a hat person for at least the next three years, as my hair very slowly grows out. I am sure I will find many occasions to don a hat now and then, but it was great proving to myself that I can go au naturel. F i n a l l y .

In other news, I started auditing some classes at NTU and found one that I absolutely love. Even better, it’s all in Chinese, so I am absorbing so much, even if I often have to look up words I hear during lectures. I felt ecstatic after the first lecture with the awesomely frank professor.

As for settling into a daily routine, I haven’t yet figured that out. A particularly busy language partner of mine seems to have every hour of her every day scheduled and planned, with concrete goals to accomplish over the next year—which makes me think: What are my goals? How do I block out my days?

In my natural habitat.

For someone who likes recording certain parts of her life so publicly, I sure need guidance on figuring out how to live my life to the fullest. But what does that mean for me, as someone who is already on a fellowship abroad and in the same country as her long-distance partner? I guess there is always that sense of insufficient use of time—perhaps some dissatisfaction with how one is spending the limited time we do have on earth and wherever we are now.

Sure, we can feel grateful about where we are now, and I certainly do given this past year alone, but planning for the future as best we can remains a nagging necessity. I am realizing the importance of contributing to a never-ending list of goals and checking in on them every once in a while, likely revising them as our attitudes, feelings, and situations also change.

I like taking little steps, such as simply going hatless. I also aspire to be more ambitious with my time here in Taiwan. Luckily, some peers of mine have been quite inspirationally impressive, so I plan to give more time to devising concrete goals and steps toward achieving those goals.

Until next time.

Language Learning Pains [Year in Taiwan, Ed. 4]

Classes at the National Taiwan University (NTU, 台大) have finally begun, and what a mixed bag.

It’s hard to believe that I started learning Mandarin about five or six years ago in college, but the extended breaks that equal to almost three years total within that period mean that the inconsistency of language learning continues to set me back every time I begin again.

I modestly remain somewhere along the intermediate range across speaking, writing, and reading skills, but my exposure to the language especially over recent years has also meant my listening skills are deceivingly better than one would expect.

So this week has felt particularly disappointing being placed in what I would say is an intermediate-low class, which NTU claims is the highest for practicing speaking, with the two levels above me focused more on reading. Unfortunately, NTU has a very strict seven-person class size limit, so I was unable to switch up. While I could have jumped to the highest class, I realized it would be better to review my foundations and teach myself traditional characters, thus making class substantially more challenging.

With difficulty, I came to accept that I would rather have the certainty of earning a grade of close to 100%, than jump into the struggle of keeping an A while grappling with traditional characters. Yes, given my experience last summer in Tainan, I am sure that I can earn a final grade of close to 100%, especially since this NTU teacher treats us like kids, with the first day of introductions actually leaving me in offended disbelief:

NTU CLD Far East 3 class

Our PPT slides are all LINE sticker-themed, and worksheets are outlined in cartoons. Even if targeted at the younger students, such childish, elementary teaching materials and irksome slow speech would be offensive to an 18-year-old adult, let alone a 25-year-old. I came to feel regret for not choosing to study at a different language center this season, but I still have a year, and I am seeking private tutoring to challenge myself further.

Certainly if I weren’t able to challenge myself by writing test answers in traditional characters, I would have jumped ship immediately. But I don’t want to come across as “holier than thou,” like another student who, during introductions while everyone else in our class expressed interest in improving speaking, directly told the teacher that she, in fact, did not need to practice speaking since she “lived in China for two years,” and instead wanted to improve reading. By the end of the week, she left for a higher level, and I wish her good luck.

After all, I hadn’t studied Chinese this entire year, and the one semester at Georgetown last fall did almost nothing to improve my speaking. So it makes sense that I would want to spend time reviewing at a slower pace.

There’s also a pain point that I perennially feel awkward about: my Taiwanese boyfriend with whom I speak English. While I dislike having to defend myself, I just feel so helpless sometimes when the extreme awareness of how bad my spoken Chinese is prohibits me from having any confidence in speaking in social settings. It’s a mind-numbing cycle that both prevents improvement and further diminishes any confidence.

It’s always easier in shorter daily interactions with strangers, but I often worry when I will ever feel comfortable enough to contribute meaningfully in larger social situations (a challenge even in English TBH).

So although classes are simple, this first week of September was tough psychologically and physically. The persistently high temps and humidity have me longing for dry, fall weather…and taking naps and two showers almost daily. I also haven’t had the balls to take off my hat during classes this week, but my hair has grown to a point where I could and should. For the past month, I have been telling myself “maybe next week,” but I actually think next week is the time, at least for a day, heh.

One piece of good news is that I was able to see the final proofs of my two (!) articles in the September issue of AmCham’s Taiwan Business TOPICS Magazine, to be published within days!

New normals take time to figure out, and thanks to those who take the time to read about my highs and lows.

Goodbyes & Popularity [Year in Taiwan, Ed. 3]

京鼎小館 TaipeiWhile seated on Taipei’s Dunhua Main Line bus heading home, next to a Caucasian man restlessly swiping through a dating app whose UI I didn’t recognize (Grindr came to mind but a Google search shows yellow not pink), I nearly missed my stop, stumbling down the aisle and likely shocking the mostly elderly passengers with how I managed not to trip and fall as the bus screeched to a halt at my last-minute press of the button signaling to stop. I fumbled for my coins, as I had forgotten my EasyCard pass in my other bag. I didn’t want to see if the bus driver looked annoyed as this absent-minded girl with iPhone in hand finally alighted.

I’d like to think this behavior isn’t like me, because rarely do I find myself both as deep in my thoughts and so urgently cognizant of such thoughts as to record them immediately.

In short, I was crafting this tweet:

Is it a lost cause to reconcile the hyper self-awareness being bad/awkward at goodbyes with actually being decent at it? Whether daily casual ones or the heavier adieus, goodbyes mostly suck, but I also am convinced a “good goodbye” exists & I somehow respect such people more.

My dad and I had just said our goodbyes, after his five-day trip to Taipei before stopping by Guangzhou to visit his relatives. And while Dad will be Dad, my rushed goodbye to catch the bus brushed aside whatever annoyances I had during his visit and brought to the forefront the things we still had yet to discuss, particularly a family issue I realized too late that I still felt needed a discussion.

And as if personal issues did not consume enough of my thoughts, I caught myself tapping through Instagram stories before bed, something entirely too toxic for mental health and yet feeds the Fear of Missing Out on societal trends and conditions of which we would otherwise be ignorant. At the very least, that sounds like a decent excuse for the superfluously odd mix of emotions felt when using social media.

When I saw Instagram stories from a particularly popular girl of a birthday party with her carbon-copy girlfriends, especially a video of all of them standing on chairs holding phones to get that aerial shot of an apparently Insta-worthy table set-up, I rolled my eyes.

While I cannot totally dismiss social media like some people (because after all, social media remains an incredibly useful tool for learning from important scholars and, yes, celebrities you admire), I do find that so much of society exists as a popularity contest, where those who grew up privileged with money, class, education, etc., are particularly competitive and often even blind to what has become a natural part of their lives.

I read this Twitter thread also before bed, and it wasn’t until now that I came to connect its relevance to how I felt after seeing those girls Instagramming the same shit.

I highly encourage you to read it. Basically, the academic believes that journalists, as well as those in circles across professions, often write not for the public but for other journalists. To me, that can extend to friends using social media, whose purpose is literally to share not to the public but for their friends. How natural it is to boast about one’s oft-mundane life and various “achievements.” Don’t get me wrong—I myself am guilty of it, but there are crucial differences that admittedly sound elitist when spelling them out, so allow me to be more vague when I say parochial mindsets are only further pronounced in tight-knit groups. Yes, similar interests are the foundation of many friendships, but it is also why I appreciate situational or childhood friendships so much more. It is not about how you all love Instagram or are all self-proclaimed foodies; but rather, it’s because enough values align that a bond can be formed and maintained without people becoming annoying copies of each other, trapped in a gilded bubble.

Anyway, this post was a bit of a mixed bag, and while I had planned to share more about my dad’s visit, I am content with having ranted about what seems like actually a fixed aspect of society. In other words, bubbles, whether gilded or not, are part of life. We feel comfortable and trusting in these bubbles, but sometimes the frustration gets the best of me. Also, I should get to crafting a “farewell formula” to pull out whenever needed. You know, the crucial things to say before parting so as to seem like a put-together human being. Any tips would be appreciated 😛


A Summer Reflection [Year in Taiwan, Ed. 2]

As we all know, time flies when you’re having fun, and while I knew this idiom would be especially pertinent this summer, it truly is hard to believe that this second consecutive summer in Taiwan has come to an end.

Just like that, the whirlwind of starting a temporary year abroad is settling down and transitioning into my next chapter: school.

While I enjoyed relative freedom this summer, embarking on various adventures and concluding with a brief escape to Japan with Hsuan, I must prepare for what I am really here for. This morning, as Hsuan returned to work, I spent nearly three hours at National Taiwan University’s Chinese Language Division taking written and oral placement exams. Soon, my class schedule for the next few months will be confirmed. A new reality is beginning to take shape.

Kumoba Pond, Karuizawa
A somewhat rainy yet still pleasant stroll around Karuizawa’s Kumoba Pond.

Up until now, there is naturally much to reflect upon. From my first Taiwanese beach BBQ experience to celebrating Hsuan’s and mine one-year anniversary before visiting Japan together, these past two weeks alone have been extremely valuable, especially in terms of learning about Taiwan, myself, and relationships.

Beginning with Taiwan and greater East Asia, I am learning again and again just how much I do not know, all the books I never read, all the entertainment media I did not consume, all the celebrities whose names I hardly recognize, all the trends I did not follow, and especially all the history that may help to explain why Taiwan is the way it is. (Do not even get me started on the politics.)

HSUAN <3Luckily, I am learning and, at the very least, slowly gaining exposure to the “common knowledge” stuff any Taiwanese person would possess, mostly thanks to Hsuan’s patient introductions and explanations.

…which leads to my next point: I love the patience, perspective, guidance, and much-needed mirth that Hsuan brings to life and our relationship.

As cheesy as it may sound, I finally understand the meaning of a partner being a “rock,” confirmed both by and despite our unique challenges. Although people say relationships are hard work, I also think that it feels easy being with Hsuan and that’s how it should be most of the time for any relationship. Whether it’s simply spending time with him or experiencing a new journey together, the positive feelings such as happiness and comfort far overshadow the work that does come with maintaining a good relationship. (I’ve written something similar before.) So Japan with him was an amazing way to mark the end of this summer, having visited various attractions such as the Ghibli Museum and the very city featured in Netflix’s Terrace House, having experienced the Japanese tradition of waiting in long lines for food and ice cream, and having captured many, many memories that I will always cherish. Please feel free to ask for a more specific itinerary or travel tips if you’re looking to make a trip to and around Tokyo!

This journey as a whole in Taiwan nevertheless is just beginning. More (mis)adventures and opportunities to learn and challenge myself await, and I hope you will continue to join me on my (our) journeys. ❤

Shiraito Falls

Maokong Gondola ride in Taipei

Would You Believe? [Year in Taiwan, Ed. 1]

Maokong Gondola ride in Taipei

Time for my first update! As mentioned before, so much happens every week that It’s impossible to fit it all in. The first few updates will be lengthier to make up for all the weeks missed so far, but hope they are entertaining enough 🙂

1 — The Red Bean Popsicle Incident

Looking back at what has become my most hilariously pitiful moment yet, I wonder if I could have laughed about this as much as I did if it had not been for all the other health-related shit I have been through.

One particularly hot evening led me to a 7-11 to purchase a red bean popsicle, which Hsuan had introduced to me previously. Then alone at my apartment, all I remember while biting on the ice pop was the sound, the horror, and then the panic as I saw what was literally one of my front teeth in my hand.

Now let’s back up a bit. Said tooth has caused me trouble for most of my life, it having endured two root canals and a veneer over what has become a shell of a dead tooth. And for an impressive 10 years or so, I have accepted it, forgotten about how delicate its foundation is, and happily enjoyed various foods.

So for it to break with my veneer, leaving a cosmetically embarrassing gap in my smile, well, I’d like to think this was bound to happen sooner or later. In fact, as if fate willed it to happen, at least two dentist offices were located within a minute’s walking distance of my apartment. And so having finagled the broken tooth back in my mouth, I rushed into the fancier-looking one, frantically described my emergency, and made an appointment for the next morning—leaving the office dejectedly with tooth in plastic baggie at how I couldn’t get it reattached immediately.

Well, I ended up getting a minor surgery to take out what was left of the tooth and then received a dental implant with my old veneer before I can get the permanent one in a couple months. Look closely, and you may mistake the temporary glue used to ensure the tooth stays on for food in my teeth. Nope, just actual glue.

2 —Starstruck with Influencers

波浮 habu juice&foods
Delectable smoked salmon and cream cheese baguette sandwich from 波浮 habu juice&foods in Taipei.

I’ve been working on a piece about café culture in Taiwan and used the excuse to reach out to my favorite foodie influencers, photogs, and even local café owners. Yes, of course I already have my favorite cafés.

This past week I surprised myself by conducting interviews both in person and via email using Chinese, albeit mixed with English. After one particular chat with an established photographer, I felt like I was on cloud nine. It just felt amazing that people so much more talented and cooler than me be willing to talk. Earlier that day, I had coffee with an Instagram influencer who has more than 105,000 followers, and two days before that, I met a 23-year-old owner who makes the best quiches.

While I do not see a career in journalism for myself, what I do love about it is the ability to connect with the most admirable and interesting people.

I look forward to sharing the article with you guys soon. ❤

Duomo Café in Taipei
A chill afternoon watching Netflix’s Terrace House at a cat café near my apartment.

3 — Fitness Fun

Much of life here reminds me of some of the better times in Guangzhou, including regular escapes to fitness classes. I tried two weeks of unlimited cycling classes at a private studio, as well as a UBOUND trampoline class, before deciding that they were too expensive. Instead, I’m choosing to be a regular at Da’an Sports Center, where entrance to the pool—complete with steam rooms, saunas, showers, and whirlpools—cost just NT$80, or under US$3, each time. This is an unbelievable deal and inevitably means that there will be crowds, but they’re manageable and even entertaining (ahem, gossipy sauna grannies).

4 — Language Partners

To fill my time before officially starting my Chinese classes this fall, I have been meeting locals (only female, lol) found via Facebook language exchange groups to chat and practice my spoken Chinese. It hasn’t been easy for me to overcome this mental barrier I have created for myself when it comes to chatting comfortably, but I have been increasingly willing to, as evidenced by my interviews in Chinese.

It will take time, and I am grateful for the strangers that have been so willing to help.

5 — Weekends

I feel so lucky to have been able to spend every weekend with Hsuan, whether in Taipei, Kaohsiung, or somewhere in between. I always look forward to the moments we get. More details to come soon.

Cijin, Kaohsiung