Friday, September 28, 2012

My First Weeks In Taipei - October 1988

My First Weeks In Taipei

Before our apartment in Taipei was ready for habitation we lived in the Howard Plaza Hotel, which was in the heart of the business district in Taipei. At first I was hesitant to venture far from the hotel. The street signs were in Chinese characters. I knew nobody. It was as if I were adrift on a raft in the middle of the ocean.

One of the perks of serving an American corporation in Taipei was membership in the American Club.  This became the center of our social lives – a place where one could congregate with other English-speaking people and where we could enjoy familiar food. The German pastry chef made one of the best chocolate chip cheesecakes I’ve ever experienced. And, it was possible to order European or Australian wine with more than one bottle of the same label!

I was invited to a newcomer’s tea shortly after arriving. I’d been employed in the corporate world since just after graduation from university; so it was a foreign experience for me to consider how to spend my time as an unemployed dependent spouse. I was at a loss.

At the tea I was invited to play social bridge with a group of women the following week. Naturally, I said yes. Immediately, I looked for a bookstore that sold English language books that included an instruction manual on bridge. My only experience with bridge was an alcohol soaked endeavor while a student in the UK ten years previously. I found just the right tool- Goren on bridge. I sat in my hotel room at the Howard Plaza munching on banana bread and sipping tea pouring over the manual hoping I’d be able to fake it.

At my first bridge afternoon, I told all of those assembled that I was rusty because I hadn’t played since college. It wasn’t exactly a misrepresentation – I just omitted that it was a single instance under the influence of mind-altering chemicals late at night. Needless to say, I wasn’t just “rusty” – I was terrible. But, the fake it till you make it worked! Pretty soon I was not just a good player – I was a damn good bridge player. It kept my mind exercised!

The next step was….bowling. At my first bridge game I was invited to participate as a substitute at the expatriate women’s bowling league. Okay – bowling really wasn’t my thing. But….I was with other women in the same situation – and I was needy. So I went. And I bowled. I played bridge and I bowled. And then I was invited to joint a small expatriate women’s group in Tien Mu – an area close to where I was to live. And I embraced the group and the people and they became my family away from home.  And this is how I assimilated into the life of a dependent spouse overseas.

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