My wife is exceedingly thoughtful and forbearing, though at times I have not been as gracious in return. We moved into the new house in “rural” Taiwan, and all the locals were staring at whitey, the street was very loud and filled with smoke from all the prayer money barrels, and there was no a/c anywhere in the house. I simply melted from the heat and no amount of water or beer seemed to help. (the temp inside the house was 31 during the day) I had a number of hissy fits about stuff like this. I didn’t sleep well and the food turned my guts to jelly… especially Ma’s cooking, for some reason. I also got pretty down on Taiwan and the crazy way things get done here, but I realiize I was a little too insulting and unfair the the place at times. For a while there I just wasn’t myself, but my wife and the family seemed to understand.
The upside of living here is having a free place to stay, so I’m not under intense pressure to find work right away. I’m taking a Chinese class in the morning during the week in K-town, so now I’m versed in the art of combat driving and am no longer afraid of driving to town. I have a routine of sorts, and a pleasant amount of free time. Having a few months to learn the language, look for work and establish a routine is what I get in return for being the provider in the UK for the last 15 months. I keep myself busy with household stuff when I can, which I would not have been able to do if we were at Ma’s. Housework keeps me plenty busy for now… busy is good.
My wife also takes time to act as translator so that I can have some social interactions in the neighborhood. So now the local A-Buh always has a kind word for me, and her son has me over to “he jiu” every now and then with another Da Ge, his friend. The people here have been great.
Though we’d probably save some much needed money by eating Chinese/Taiwanese for every meal,
I have been provided with a small stock of familiar food from Costco, and we have ADSL from So-net so that I can e-mail, and stream radio from the US and the UK. The ADSL was a hassle to arrange and set up, and it took away from my wife’s valuable work time to arrange it for me.
The downside of living here, not working, and not speaking the language, is that I’m nowhere near as useful or self-sufficient as I was in the UK, and it’s extremely frustrating. When I moved to the UK, I took two days off to move into our rental house, and went right to work the following Monday to support the household. I had health coverage right away, so I wasn’t afraid to go ride my bike and explore during my free time. Here, I’m reduced to having to ask my wife how to ask the laoban for “all-purpose-cleaner” so that I can clean the house! Whoopee! How exciting!
I made the mistake of not thoroughly checking out my options for health coverage in Taiwan, so for now, I’m without and I’m cautious about where I go/what I do. It’s limiting.
Even though we talked a lot about the house beforehand, there were still a number of things that were “not in the brochure” so to speak. At my request my wife’s little sister took extensive pictures of the house, room-by-room on the inside, and some views of the street so that I could get some idea of the space and the surroundings, which helped a lot. With those pictures I was able to get an idea of the floor plan of the place and to voice my preferences for how the place would be furnished, which was a great help.
In the end, a few decisions were taken by Ma which were both a waste of money and not to our liking. The first floor balcony, which had a nice view and would have been great for plants, got converted into a kitchen, and it’s hot as hell in there when the sun shines on the cheap aluminum walls. The walls leaked during the typhoons, and it’s been hard getting the contractor back to fix it. However, it was a decision that was made out of generosity and concern, so it’s hard to get upset. I could have saved her some money, and maybe even done a better job myself, but then again, it’s hard to talk Ma out of doing what she thinks best.
So, in addition to some mis-communication about how the house was going to be set up, there was mis-communication between my wife and I over the basics of what IMHO constituted a liveable environment. I took it for granted that Taiwan would be similar to Texas or Florida, where everyone has central a/c and lives indoors for a few months during the hottest months. After a lot of complaining on my part, we now have just two rooms in the house with a/c, and the kitchen has none, which is not at all what I expected. The tai tai is perfectly happy without any a/c at all, and I find this hard to understand. In the end, we spent a fair amount of my money to put a/c in the bedroom and my study, which required having a local a/c guy come and talk over the plans: more work for my wife, but for which I am truly grateful.
Ma had supposedly cleaned the place before we arrived, but when I got here, It was, to my standard, unacceptably dirty. I spent more than a week scrubbing tiles, washing the bathrooms, and cleaning windows. There were ants everywhere, and I had to ask for “Raid” ( tai tai: “what’s that?”) There are no closets here either, and only one dresser, and almost no shelves. Where would I store everything neatly? The one dresser we do have is one of those Camphor wood types, and I don’t want my clothes to smell like that, so I don’t use it. I found it hard to make myself feel at home when I couldn’t set up my living space in what I thought was a neat and orderly way.
We bought a car here, and that turned out to be somewhat unpleasant because of unwanted help/interference from her family in what I expected to be a private decision between my wife and I. I wanted to look at a Mazda 3, Ma wanted us to buy a car from her nephew the Toyota salesman, my wife’s nosey big sister wanted us to buy an SUV :loco: , and kept saying she’d haggle the price for us. In the end we went to Toyota, but I’m still feeling a bit frustrated about how the whole thing went down.
Last but not least, whenever any family decisions are made, I’m always the last person to know anything, because the information I get is translated from one source… my wife! Of course, the translation only occurs AFTER the discussions are had, the merits of each course of action debated, and the final decisions are made. Ma and my wife’s sister don’t always allow a pause in the discussion for the info to be related to me, or for my opinions to be heard. Finally, my wife sometimes says that she gets tired of translating for me! All this is a very strong incentive for me to learn Chinese.
Well, that’s a long post, but I hope there’s something in here that helps you. You should also bear in mind that I’m something of a fussy pain-in-the-a** , so with any luck you’ll fare better with your SO than my saintly wife has with me! Talk everything over beforehand, and look out for the stuff that’s “not in the Taiwan brochure”.