Thursday, September 27, 2012

Making the Decision to Move to Taipei, Taiwan in 1988

Making the Decision to Move to Taipei, Taiwan in 1988

I was living in Plano, Texas and working in Richardson at LBJ and Grenville when my then husband invited me to lunch at Houston’s, a place who served at that time “to die for salads” and advised me that he’d been offered a sales position in Taipei, Taiwan.

Needless to say I was flummoxed. While we’d discussed the possibility of accepting an international position, I’d always dreamed it would be someplace like Rome or Paris or  Rio or Australia or someplace where the USA had diplomatic relations. And to top it off, I’d recently accepted a promotion at work that had resulted in another person being demoted to give me his job. Note, this was in 1988 and women in management were still less than customary in conservative industries such as insurance.

However, I knew that to refuse to go would not only cripple my husband’s career, it would deprive me of an adventure. Never mind that Taiwan wasn’t in the top 50 places I wanted to visit. Actually, it wasn’t even on the list.  But I knew that if I said no, I would regret that decision the rest of my life.  The only real regrets are those of opportunities not taken!

So, I agreed to go. I gave my notice at work, decided what to send to storage, insisted that my shoes be send by air, and embarked on an adventure that ultimately lasted 5 years – with my living 2 years in Taipei and 3 in Hong Kong.

The experiences of those 5 years taught me to appreciate the differences in cultures, that flexibility was the key to survival, that all peoples do not think the same way or appreciate life the same way, that change is good and contributes to growth, that the American way is not the only way and not always the best way, that the US government can sometimes act like a bully, that American citizens cannot always rely on the US government to assist them in times of trouble, that there is beauty in the world that I’d never imagined, that the Chinese artisans of past centuries created treasures by hand that modern technology could never hope to recreate, that ground pigeon can be tasty, what it means to be a minority, that sometimes one must eat things outside our comfort level so as not to offend a host, that I could feel compassion for a snake, even poor Americans live much better than the average citizens of some other countries, and that I was not just a survivor but one who can thrive in situations outside my comfort zone.

While ultimately my marriage did not survive our time as expatriates, I will always be grateful to my former husband for affording me the opportunities to see a part of the world I would not have otherwise seen and to make friends with folks I wouldn’t have otherwise met.

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