This Global Home | Day 16: Taiwan
Hello! I’m Kate! I live in Kaohsiung, Taiwan with my husband (Paul) and my two daughters (Anna and Lucy). I grew up as a missionary kid a couple of hours up north in Taichung and my husband grew up in Pennsylvania. We met in college and we’ve been married for 12 years. Prior to moving to Kaohsiung three and a half years ago, we lived in State College, PA for 7 years and, before that, we lived in Southern Tanzania as newlyweds.We moved to Taiwan because I was offered a teaching job at an international school. I had been working as a public radio reporter and loved my job, but when the opportunity came to move to Taiwan, we decided to go for it. It took me a couple of years to adjust from being a reporter to being a teacher (I teach high school English, Government, and Yearbook), but I’ve come to love it and we are so thankful to be here. It has been extraordinarily meaningful for me to share my culture and childhood experiences with my family, whether through regular stops at a tea stand or hearing them weave Mandarin Chinese interjections into their conversations.Connect with me: Instagram Blog
Our school generously provides housing for staff members. On our campus, there are two “staff housing” apartments, home to 18 family units (a number of staff members live off-campus). The apartments are relatively new and were designed with a Western sensibility — compared to typical Taiwanese apartments, we have massive kitchens and loads of storage. What feels very Taiwan to me are the tile floors, the heavy metal doors, the concrete walls, the resident geckos, and the near-constant humidity. We live on the ground floor of one of the two buildings and our living room overlooks the parking lot. That sounds terrible, but I don’t hate it! We lived on the 7th floor of a neighboring building for our first two years here, and while I miss the views and the natural light, I don’t miss frequently having to wait for the elevator! We know and love each member of our community, so being on the first floor, in the thick of the action, actually feels comforting.We shipped over the equivalent of a medium-sized UHaul’s worth of stuff but we procured the majority of our furniture here in Taiwan. This meant countless trips to Ikea the first few months. I’m thankful for the few pieces we did bring from the US — a dry sink inherited from Paul’s grandparents, a beat-up Craigslist dining table, a Moroccan rug Paul hand-carried on trains and planes as a college student. It’s nice to have a few pieces with history mixed in with all the new.My husband has a great appreciation for design (and frankly, he is the neater of the two of us), but we make a particularly good pair because I have ideas and he has the wherewithal to make those ideas a reality. He is unafraid to drill holes into our concrete walls! We had our gallery wall up within a couple of days of moving in — I just had to tell him where I wanted everything to go. I told him it would be nice to turn our small balcony (which houses our water heater) into a “secret garden” and I came home one day and there it was!Our apartment is, of course, a work in progress. I’m not super excited about the paint colors in the bedrooms — we picked colors based off a little paint deck at the hardware store and then had someone paint it while we were gone over the summer. I have also yet to find something to put above our bed.Our kids share a room. The school assigns apartments based on family size and we are technically “entitled” to three bedrooms, but none are currently available. Rather than find a three-bedroom off campus, we opted for a smaller place in order to stay in the staff housing community. There are so many perks to living here — we are a couple minutes’ walk from the school, the kids have built-in friends and so much freedom to run wild, and a missing supper ingredient is usually only a group text message away.We have also come to enjoy living in a smaller place. It’s SO easy to clean and it’s forced us to be intentional about everything we bring into the house. Everything has its place. While I miss our old house, I don’t miss home ownership. It’s liberating not to have to worry about repairs and I even love that remodeling isn’t even an option.As I mentioned before, our kitchen is luxurious by Taiwan standards (in fact, it’s larger than the kitchen in our Pennsylvania house!) and the amount of storage we have is virtually unheard of here. Growing up in Taiwan, aside from a bank of kitchen cabinets, we didn’t have ANY built-in storage at all. Our current apartment features a front walk-in hall closet, a large laundry room with a wall of pantry cabinets and a workbench, a hallway of cabinets, and walk-in closets in both bedrooms. We have more storage here than we did in our house in Pennsylvania! I have space to store kitchen appliances I would’ve gone without in North America.The library is probably my favorite room of the house. Before we moved here, we got rid of more than a thousand books. We only shipped two book boxes — one of children’s books and one with my husband’s and my books combined. I didn’t take me long to realize that, while I’m fairly minimalistic in most ways, I am 100% a maximalist when it comes to books. Paul and I have moved ten times in our 12 years of marriage and I can pinpoint that feeling of settledness, of “being home,” as happening when we have a bookshelf full of books to share. We’ve built up our current library relatively quickly by 1) allowing ourselves to spend money on books (books are expensive here!) and 2) reserving a suitcase on every trip back for books and only books.Of course, one can never truly have enough books, so here’s a tip for fellow expats — the Brooklyn Public Library allows non-residents to buy a membership for $50/year, which gives access to all online materials. I’m a recent audiobook convert and this has been life-changing.There are some downsides to our place — the tile floors reveal every hair, every speck of dirt. Since it’s hot here so much of time and the pollution outside can get pretty bad, we usually have our air-conditioner on when we’re home — I miss opening windows for fresh air. We frequently have overnight visitors and it can sometimes be a challenge to house guests without a guest room. That said, there are countless more things we love about our apartment and we are so thankful we get to live here.
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