re-cap

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I like closure just as much as I like boundaries. I also enjoy order and organization and experience minor bouts of frustration and anxiety when my expectations aren’t met.  I hate not finishing anything, but it’s been a few weeks – months now? – since I’ve picked up Yell Less, Love More or How to Deal with Your Strong-Willed Child; and quite frankly, I haven’t felt like I needed to. So I’m not going to finish the parenting books I’ve started reading. WHAAAT!?!

You see, life never happens the way we expect it to. It took me 30 years to learn that, which, when you think about, makes sense. And the unexpected, non-sequential path of my life has me laying aside unfinished parenting books and picking up another topic with which to feed my mind: pregnancy.

PREGNANCY!!!!!

Before I go on, however, I must rewind and quickly catch you up on how non-sequential my life has been. (Now, if you have been reading my blog or have followed me on Facebook, you might already know that I spent six years of my life in Taiwan after college.)

It all began the summer of 2015. I was home for a visit from Taiwan. I was scheduled to fly back to my lovely overseas life in August and start down the path of pursuing my Master’s degree. I never flew back to Taiwan. I’m still here, in fact.

After that drastic change of plans, I sought out therapy, which many do these days in the midst of crisis or life trauma. I started job-hunting, which made me immediately miss the easy work situation in Taiwan for native English speakers. And I re-learned how to live under the same roof as my parents. (It had been ten years.)

I was pathetically dependent on my parents for finances at the very beginning, which I hated, but I kept track of every penny I borrowed and paid it all back by the end of the winter of 2017.

Meanwhile, I had graduated from my therapy sessions and was ready to step out on my own. I was in American now, not Taiwan. Things were different. Coping with homesickness and culture shock and lack of closure with my family in Taiwan made things difficult; but in true fashion, it wasn’t long before I had filled up my time.

I had landed a job as a teacher, which kept me immensely busy throughout the week. I enrolled in a mountaineering class, so I could learn to climb the mountains of beautiful Washington State and meet other people who loved the mountains, too. I pulled back from church involvement. (Again, in true fashion, I had jumped in head first to help out and fill holes; but I was in a unique time of life – after a life of chronic ministry involvement – where I realized I actually didn’t HAVE to do anything. It was freeing!) And, of course, I was running a race once a month with other running friends and training for a full marathon.

You could say I hit the ground running  (literally and metaphorically) once I committed to the idea of living in America.

But that’s just it. Living in America remained an idea until some rather permanent things began happening. 

At the very beginning of April, I got on TINDER. (For those of you who may not know what this is, there’s google. For the rest of you, I had my reasons!) I’ve always been a loyal tinder-hater due to the bad wrap society gives it as well as the horror stories I hear from people using it. Well, I was on spring break when April started, so I actually had time to flip through and read the articles my iPhone likes to suggest on a daily basis. One of them happened to be about Tinder success stories. It was a positive spin on this dating app that I’d been hating on for pretty legitimate reasons. Come on, it’s basically a hook-up app!

Well, Tinder is free, and I like that, and I had already done my free trial on match.com and was not interested in paying a dime – let alone a dollar – to meet a guy. I was interested in meeting people but didn’t believe in subscriptions. So I started swiping right if liked the guy and swiping left if I didn’t. All you see are pictures the person made available and whatever blurb he decided to write about himself. These blurb bios were anything from “Call me ;)” to paragraphs about interests, personalities and work lives. “Matches” occurred when two people mutually swiped right on the other’s profile. I made sure the age-range and distance radius in my settings were appropriate. If something did happen, I wanted the guy to be relatively close in distance and age.

Being on Tinder was kind of a joke, and after a day or two of swiping and exchanging pointless words with my matches, I deleted it. The positive part of the whole arrangement was that no one will get my phone number without my permission and I can delete someone forever if I want to. Or delete the app altogether.

Don’t ask me why, but I decided to give it another chance a mere day later.
“Hi, Victoria! I saw ultimate frisbee and couldn’t help but swipe right!”

I had decided to mention personal interests in my own blurb, so anyone passing by on the Tinder train would know I liked running, hiking, and playing ultimate frisbee. Apparently, it worked, because those words began a conversation that has yet to end. And I don’t ever intend on terminating the life-long conversation I have begun with this man, who became my husband on September 10, 2016. 

Only a year earlier,  I had been faced with the proverbial “road not taken” and, “sorry I could not travel both,” made a rather difficult and life-altering decision. The life-altering part of that decision had just begun. 

As you can imagine, my time was no longer filled with mountain-climbing and running and late nights of lesson planning and grading. I was marriedNot only was I married, i was also a brand new step mom to my husband’s (then) 8-year-old daughter. Single life had ended; family life had begun.

Halloween 2017 is almost upon us. I will be 29 weeks pregnant this Friday. It’s been 2 years, 2 months, and 4 days since I was supposed to board an airplane back to Taiwan and start on the path of pursuing my master’s degree.  A lot has changed.

I’m not in Taiwan anymore, and it’s actually rather painful to admit I don’t know when I will be again. I’m living in little 2-bedroom apartment in the town of Snohomish, Washington, with my husband and step-daughter, expecting a baby girl to join us in January of 2018. 

So much for closure and boundaries. 

There you have it: why I’m laying aside the unfinished parenting books in exchange for pregnancy ones. The adventures never stop, but it’s like what Robert Frost wrote:

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for that the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.

 

 

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home sweet home

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It’s the age-old interrogative sentence that haunts all of at some point, no matter how physically far away we are from “home.” And where is home exactly?

Today in social studies, I warned my students that after the lesson they were going to want to leave America and travel the world for the rest of their lives. (Most of them are  more or less convinced I am from Taiwan (like literally of Taiwan blood), and they were rather shocked when I explained that I actually had roots right here in Washington and am, in fact, FROM America.) 

My lesson took them through a running tour of Taiwan, Mongolia, North Korea, & South Korea. I inspired them with time-lapse videos, geography videos, pictures, and horizon-broadening facts about each country. (I could tell the diversity of my presentation had everyone captivated; that’s a win in the teaching world!)

For me, this was actually the first time I had taught anyone about Taiwan. For years, I have been teaching people about America and the confusing and varying customs of the West and have even walked fellow-foreigners through the process of moving to Taiwan from their home country.

At first I was overwhelmed; where do I start, what do I say? But then the researcher mentality of an educator settled over me,  and the lesson I gave my students made me crazy homesick. And happy at the same time.

It felt like every part of me was glowing with unexplainable feeling as I showed them my home city of Taipei, the forever-long changing of the guard at Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall, and the video of my dragon boat team’s championship race. My students were immediately enraptured by the beauty and all the people, their fascination being expressed through words like, “It’s pretty!” “Coool!” “I wanna move there!” “I wanna go visit you!”

 

Mission accomplished. The seed of world travel and exploration and expat living PLANTED. 

I was simultaneously overjoyed to teach them about something so integral to my life and yet also so fiercely gripped with nostalgia. 

And the whole thing had me thinking…

6 years ago, I was torn to be so far away from all the marriage, birth, and even death that my friends in the States were experiencing. I wanted to be with them still, but I knew I could only be in one place at a time and was learning to accept that.

Over 6 years down the road, I’m undergoing the same extent of emotion; but now all the friends and loved ones I so dearly miss are in Taiwan. I want to be with them, but I know I can only be in one place at at time and I am learning that it’s not easy to know where you’re supposed to be in life.

I could simplify this issue and say I have two homes now, but I’m no longer sure that’s entirely true, either.

Home….. bittersweet home. 

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When the weekend really does end

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I’ve been meaning to publish this post all week; now it’s late Sunday night – so late it’s already Monday – and, needless to say, my weekend is coming to an end. Last weekend was different because it was the bookend of Christmas break, the vacation I get here in America as a teacher

Vacation.  A week off. A trip to some other part of the world. Christmas break. When life feels like a perpetual three-day weekend of awesomeness.

And then the weekend finally ends. And Monday comes. And Mondays right after vacation are the WOOOOOORST.

Fine, I’ll hand it to the people who are all excited and like to hit the ground running and all that junk, but let’s be honest. If you’ve been working for a while now, it’s almost cruel how awesome vacation feels. Going back to work feels like going for a run after Thanksgiving. But what am I saying? I ran a half-marathon after Thanskgiving.

THE POINT IS, the weekend that never ended is now over. And I need to go into work tomorrow morning, and then for 4 more days after that until another weekend that will end the same time this one did; and that cycle just keeps repeating itself until spring break.

So how does one survive this awful transition from vacation to work? I have a few suggestions but am completely open to input.

  1. RELISH YOUR TIME OFF. Nothing like a day off. Nothing like a week off! Even a foul weather day can come as a pleasant surprise.
  2. KEEP THEM SEPARATE. Keep firm boundaries for yourself as far as what you do when you’re in work mode and what you do in vacay mode. For example, binge-watching a TV series. If I do too much of that during the week, I put myself into weekend mode, and all productivity shuts down.
  3. EARN YOUR VACATION. Make every minute at work count. It’s going to make the days off feel that much better. Most of us have all probably accepted by now that work is a necessary part of life. It’s not our whole life, but it’s there; and there’s no vacation without it!
  4. GRAB ON TO THAT ONE THING, NO MATTER HOW BIG OR SMALL, THAT REMINDS YOU OF THE DIFFERENCE YOUR JOB IS MAKING IN THIS WORLD. I work in education, so you might think that’s a no-brainer for me. But after a few weeks of feeling like you’re changing the world one student at a time, the novelty wears off. I daily need to remind myself of how important my job is to my students and set that in front of me as I explain, for the seventh time, what a verb is.

So now my weekend, like most of my weekends in the near future will be, is ending. In fact, it’s already over; I’m just staying up late to tell you all of my deep thoughts on the matter.

And I hope we all have a great week. 🙂

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Christmas: tradition, atmosphere, and the human spirit

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You may already be aware that I moved abroad weeks after graduating from college to Taiwan, a country where Chinese New year, not Christmas, is the time of year everyone culturally looks forward to for vacation, travel, and family. As a result, in the last 6 years, being home in America for Christmas has only happened once.

This year, I’m home. The tables have been turned, however, because my younger sister who has relocated to Los Angeles, California, is not. I am now experiencing what she experienced for several Christmases before I came home for one: beaming her in via the modern technology of facetime so she can be in the room with us while we open gifts, converse, listen to Christmas music, etc.,.

In Taiwan, I, along with my other Christmas-celebrating friends, have grown used to creating Christmas, taking all of our learned Christmas customs from our various family backgrounds and, in a combined effort, generating the Christmas spirit. We decorate, bake cookies, drink Christmas beverages, throw parties, go caroling, plan events for the church community. On top of all the festivities, we’re teaching our Taiwanese English students all about the joys of the holiday and celebrating it at school with co-workers through parties and various school-wide events. It’s been a lot of work over the years but always rewarding; then at the end of it all, we disappear to tap into modern technology by ourselves and connect with our own family and friends in their respective timezones.

That is the Christmas I know. Anyone who has lived for a time overseas, I’m sure, can relate. In a sense, celebrating Christmas this way for so many years has taught me a few things about this beloved and festive holiday, lessons that have come naturally and some not so easily.

Tradition. It seems all people – even nontraditional types, need tradition, no matter how trivially small or ceremoniously grand. If you’ve seen the movie Inception (a brilliant film you need to drop everything and watch right now if you haven’t already), you would be familiar with the idea of a totem, an individual’s grip on reality represented by some physical object as he or she navigates the precarious and unpredictable subconscious of the dream world.

The lesson here is that we all need a totem; and many times, a holiday like Christmas can provide that stability. The thing to remember, though, is that what provides stability can and will change, including traditions. Tradition can be a source of comfort, but tradition itself is not immune to the fluidity and dynamism of life as we know it. 

I learned this lesson the hard way. Now I understand that I shouldn’t be afraid of doing new things for Christmas, that changed plans and different people doesn’t mean the holiday is ruined. In fact, revisiting and remaking old traditions and new ones is what keeps any holiday alive. Yes, change can hurt; but the cliche is true: no pain, no gain. Try something completely new for Christmas and let me know what happens.

Atmosphere. Atmosphere is generated. A charismatic person is capable of carrying his or own atmosphere and spreading it to other people. My favorite example of this can be found in one the earliest Coke commercials (this one was produced before the hashtag craze):

This is how the atmosphere of Christmas is generated. Someone dresses up in a Santa suit and gives away free hugs and candy canes. A group of people go from door to door singing Christmas carols. Someone decides to bake Christmas cookies for all their neighbors. A generous employee brings presents for everyone at work. An airline decides to make their passengers’ wishes come true.

Buddy the Elf taught me everything I need to understand the atmosphere of Christmas in these 3 rules: 1) Treat everyday like Christmas. 2) There’s room for everyone on the nice list. 3) The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.

Rule #1 is essential. Christmas is a celebration of the birth of a baby that changed everything for all of us. God came down to the earth in a way everyone can relate to: as a baby. Babies represent new beginnings, new life, rebirth, life as the result of a beautiful biological union. This is what we can celebrate in our lives every day of the year.

The human spirit. Finally, holidays like Christmas bring out the resilience in all of us, if we let it. People like to rally around beauty and inspiration. Christmas gives us just that. Have you ever sang “Silent Night” or “O Holy Night” with a group of people acapella by candlelight? Have you ever witnessed a surprise marriage proposal? Have you ever gathered around with a group of strangers to pray for a person or a place none of you really know? The human spirit is powerful, and Christmastime is a chance for all of us to experience how it brings us together. If we let it.

I’ll be the first to admit that there have been times I’ve gotten in the way of Christmas. And it’s never a pretty feeling once the moment has passed. This year, even though the last 6 months have already been littered with the not-so pleasant unexpected and unplanned, I have resolved to not get in the way. So I’ve gone through the motions, I went to the parties, I participated in the festivities; and the whole time I tried not to get in the way. And I had a good time, despite whatever it was I was feeling that made me want to get in the way. 

Christmas is not about me. It’s about the hope of redemption and peace that all of us can have here on earth.

So Merry Christmas! And may the tradition and atmosphere and spirit of the season carry you and your loved ones away to the place where we can experience peace on earth. 

 

 

Into the Wilderness

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Into the Wild is one of my favorite movies.  The film’s nihilistically artistic feel triggers that human longing of wanderlust, and through McCandless we vicariously experience an escape from the world of disillusionment and materialism. But that’s not why I love the film.

A lot of us, like McCandless, want something more, something that we can’t find at Target or the grocery store or the nearest Redbox.  Many of us scratch the itch through travel or the great outdoors, only to return a greater void than when we left.

Yet a journey into the wild to discover life’s meaning lies in the people around us and to be reminded to be thankful for what we already have is not practical for the average working global citizen. As a result, many people walk around with a gaping and painful sense of emptiness and lack of purpose.

I’ve encountered a few of these people and have watched them change, and witnessing their journey made me realize how largely I have taken for granted the sense of purpose instilled in me when I was very young.

IMG_0432In recent years, that sense of purpose my parents and the Church imparted to me through the sacrament of baptism has come into question. A few years ago, I remember expressing to a group of females at a Bible study that I was so certain my life was complete in God that I could die tomorrow without feeling like I’ve missed anything. Wow, I felt that way!? I believe I did, but those words no longer ring true me right now. Have I lost something?

Is it time for me to escape reality as I know it and re-ignite the fire that once lit up my life?

Into the Wilderness

An average audience of human beings might consider a movie that ended with the main character that gave up in the face of great hardship and pain a sad but true scenario. But it’s the character who rallies back to life that triggers something deep within us. It’s the character who forgives unforgivable wrong that makes our spirits feel uncomfortable. It’s the character who chooses life in spite of death that brings us to our feet in praise.

We can all be this character. It starts with a journey into the wilderness. 

This journey isn’t really an exciting venture. In fact, we can’t even plan or pack for it. There is no neat itinerary or dream destination. We don’t even get to choose if it’s a one-way or two-way trip. It is simply guaranteed to change your life. You will never be the same. It is in the wilderness of pain and loneliness where we meet God.

God is essential. Without Him, we die. Without something greater and more powerful than us to give meaning to our life, we are simply that movie character who gives up in the face of great hardship and pain. And we all know what that can look like.

I read in a book that it is through relationship we experience most of life’s pain and also how we receive the most healing. I think there is more than one human being  out there who would affirm the accuracy of this scenario. Here’s the point: we’ve all heard people in real life and the movies declare that they’ve met someone they can’t live without.

I can’t live without God.

That is the realization I need to come to. Without realizing this, God will mean nothing to me. And the only place I will actually experience is this in the wilderness.

In the wilderness, there is no water, no food, no supplies, no other people. You even come up short in your knowledge of the local flora and fauna. Everything you once knew or loved will feel far away. All is stripped away. You will have no choice but to call on God. Or die.

10277910_599868852589_8579413871069486351_nAnd here’s why we don’t need to plan this life-changing journey: it will happen, whether you want it to or not. You remember the childhood game, hide-and-seek? “Ready or not, here I come!” The wilderness experiences of life are like that.

I’m still in the wilderness.

God doesn’t wait for us to be ready, but he will always be there when everything starts to fall apart. In fact, he’s always there; we just tend not to notice when life is good.

He is waiting for you there in the wilderness, just as he was waiting for Christopher McCandless.

Responsibility

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I’m sitting here, on a Friday night, in my 8-ping studio apartment (don’t ask me how much that is in square feet cuz I couldn’t tell you), free of responsibility yet feeling the weight of yet another month come crashing down on me. Why? Because I’m never free of responsibility; I’m responsible to myself, to other people to the maintenance of this apartment. I’m responsible to family, friends, church, future goals, obligations and commitments.

As I feel the weight of May hovering over my head, waiting to fall with full force, I’m also sensing my responsibility to people outside of Taiwan, outside of the country I live in. I’m reading about society’s ever hot debate on homosexuality and watching footage of a wrecked Nepal. I’m reading facebook statuses of those who have seen better days. This only the tip of the iceberg of current events. All of this, on top of my own personal flood of issues, is rushing in on me as I sit on my sofa on a Friday night.

I suppose one could say this is adulthood; this is what it’s like not being a child anymore, no longer free to play and dance and innocently love everything around. And yet some children can’t even do that anymore. One could also say this is the “real world” with all it’s  problems. One could even say this is all an illusion, a lack of inner peace and contentment in an otherwise stable universe.

The term “responsible” defined as the following:

responsible

[ri-spon-suh-buh l]
adjective
1. answerable or accountable, as for something within one’s power,control, or management (often followed by to or for): He is responsible to the president for his decisions.

2. involving accountability or responsibility, as in having the power to control or manage: promoted to a responsible position in the firm.

3. chargeable with being the author, cause, or occasion of something(usually followed by for): Termites were responsible for the damage.

4. having a capacity for moral decisions and therefore accountable;capable of rational thought or action: The defendant is not responsible for his actions.

5. able to discharge obligations or pay debts.
6. reliable or dependable, as in meeting debts, conducting business dealings, etc.

To me, it seems like ducking responsibility is escaping reality, but not only that. It’s also refusing to engage in life, to deny the cycle of cause and effect, and to stay locked up in selfishness. 

Reading the newspaper or keeping up with the news is never enough. Making a donation to charity is never enough. Calling in a drunk driver’s plate numbers is never enough. It will never be enough if you’re the only doing it. And you’re not. We’re not alone. All of this makes a difference.

I will admit I’m preaching to the choir here, as I am mostly writing this for myself and anyone else who thinks they need this message right now. As I sit here on my couch, in my 9th floor studio apartment, on a Friday night, in the city of Taipei, in the country of Taiwan, on the continent of Asia, I know there is prostitution going on in the city down below. I know there are people who dig through the city garbage cans looking for something to eat. I know there are people with secrets and shame so big they’re ready to end everything – or end someone else. So what can I do? Where does my sense of responsibility come in?

I can wake up every morning.

I can stop feeling sorry myself.

I can have a place in my budget for random acts of kindness and generosity.

I can smile more.

I can look for ways to help instead of passively accepting tasks here and there.

I can start a conversation with the lady I buy ____ from every morning.

I can give something away without expecting anything back.

I can be someone’s friend.

I can donate money, blood, and time.

I can write all my missionary and pastor friends a letter.

I think I just made myself a list, which implies responsibility, which leads to being a better person that can potentially impact the world around me. And how does this help the prostitute or the destitute or the orphan or the hurting? I’m going to answer that question this way: It’s when you start caring about yourself that you can start taking care of the people around you. None of us should doubt our own impact, as big or small as it may be. Take yourself seriously. Where does your sense of responsibility come in? 

Twas the Day After Christmas

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My own studio apartment to decorate, finding real potted Christmas trees at the grocery store, kindergarten Christmas program at school, Christmas pancakes for my small group, a weekend full of Christmas bustle at church, planning Aroma’s first “children’s Christmas program”, a Christmas-themed book club-like gathering, Christmas Eve treats, Christmas movies, Christmas Day, working on Christmas day for the first in Taiwan (!!!), making new Christmas playlists. Feeling a little more nostalgic since I got to be home for Christmas last year. Christmas can be a chaotic time of the year for a lot of people. 

Living in Taiwan has taught me that things like Christmas are truly a matter of the heart – and truth. Holidays are external things, but we must choose to let the true meaning of times like this to ignite our Christmas Spirit, especially when the world around you doesn’t feel like Christmas at all.

So I “re-wrote” a classic Christmas poem to express and describe my the feelings I experienced about Christmas this year, specifially here in Taiwan. Enjoy.

Twas the Day After Christmas, when all through the house
All the lights were still blinking, none of them put out.
The stockings still hung, and evergreen infused the air,
Pieces of gift wrap evidenced that St. Nicholas had been there.

The children were nestled all snug in their beds,
While they clutched their new toys and dreamed of what was ahead.
And family in America, and I in Taiwan
Were settled in front of screens to get our Xmas chat on

When out in the world people were scattered
Spreading Christmas cheer and getting fatter
I sat in my bed listening to the voices
That described my family’s Christmas gift choices

Outside on Taipei City the rain fell
Where the Christmas holiday was hard to tell
Christmas day had certainly appeared
But people don’t pay much attention to that here

Bus drivers, driving across the city precariously quick
Donned Santa hats to dress up as St. Nick
And store fronts put up trees and lights
So people could stroll about enjoying the sights:

Red and green and pink and purple
Festive hats glued to puppies and turtles
Christmas shows and Christmas songs
Were thrown and played to please the throngs
Ribbons and glitter manipulated for the season
Pictures were taken in front of fake trees for no apparent reason
Figures of reindeers, Santa and fake snow
All danced together in a synthetic holiday glow

I sat on my bed under the covers
Listening to the voices of my sister, father, and mother
My window of technology had been blurred
And for the poor video connection there was no cure

And so twas the day after Christmas, when I sat in my house
All the lights were still blinking, none of them put out
I wished my family a Merry Christmas and laid back down in bed
Visions of past holiday festivities danced in my head

And then I thought how the story of Christmas is indeed truly sad
The savior, a king is to be born, by a virgin to be had
When in accordance with Roman decree an inconvenient and long journey suddenly lies ahead
Upon reaching the destination, the expecting mother doesn’t even get a bed

Though a beautiful and mysterious star hangs in the sky to announce the baby king’s arrival
Only astrologers from a far away land follow the sign and unknowingly bring good news to a rival
This leads to the execution of babes all over the land
Because King Herod will not be replaced by an unknown man

But through the hardships that faced Joseph and Mary
The Angel Gabriel shone his golden light and bade them not to be wary
God in heaven, the father of the baby, could be trusted
He would protect them, the courage to believe they must muster

Choruses of angels singing of the Savior’s birth
Astrologers from the East gifting a child with frankincense, incense, and myrrh
An Israelite man raising a Son that would not carry on his line
All of this proving the prophet’s words, “The people walking in darkness have seen a great light.”

And so I sat there, surrounded by a sea of modern Christmas noise
Another December 25th had come and gone, more money had been spent, children had more toys
But the true meaning of Christmas rose above all this
The meaning that all of the lights and music and presents so often miss

Thank you, Father in Heaven, that your Son was born
Thank you that He died so that the dividing curtain was torn
Thank you for the miracle of life that is every birth
And the resurrection that has made this miracle possibly for everyone here on earth.

Merry Christmas!

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16

A Tribute of Thanks

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Thank you, God, for all the big things and the little things, for all the successes and the failures, for the beautiful and the ugly, the frustrating and the fulfilling. Thank you for life and death and for dealing it out justly. Thank you for all the moments of color and the moments of dullness. Thank you for what each days reveals to us about ourselves, each other and you.

Thank you that even when we don’t see you, you’re there. Thank you for dreams and how they pull us forward, regardless of whether not they come true. Thank you for knowing us, for knowing the desires of our heart and not withholding them from us. Thank you for the pleasant and unpleasant surprises. Thank you for pain and comfort, for weakness and strength.

Thank you for granting us a multi-layered existence, for language and emotions and psychology and spirituality and sexuality and intellect and culture. Thank you for our physical forms that allow us to experience our world aesthetically and through our senses, forming a relationship with everything around us.

Thank you for the people who accompany us in life, thank you for the people who, most days, we take for granted. Thank you for the friendly faces and the mean faces, the quiet and the loud voices, the affectionate and the spartan. Thank you for putting in all of us a need for the other person.

Thank you for my conscience, for instilling in me a sense of when things are right and when things are wrong. Thank you for allowing peace when all is well but also allowing restlessness and sometimes anger when all is not. Thank you for the sense of justice you’ve impressed in our souls. Thank you for the ability to feel both the familiar and the unfamiliar and for what our reactions to these things teach us.

Thank you for the elated joy I felt when I learned how to ride a bike. Thank you for the anger I felt when I witnessed fellow students fighting. Thank you for the utter sadness I felt when my pet dog died. Thank you that there are always more opportunities to constantly learn and feel and then relearn all of it through another lens.

Thank you for weaving all of these together and giving us life, a living and breathing stream of existence in this universe, one day at a time.

Thank you

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Thank you in other words.

“I couldn’t have done this without you.”
“You’re amazing.”
“Touche.”
“You’re right, I’m wrong.”
“I honor you.”
“You’re a good person.”
“This is great.”
“Your contribution has made a big difference.”
“I need you.”
“I love you.”

How do the words “thank you” make you feel? How do you think you make other people feel when you thank them? How many times have you said “thank you” today? How many times have you been thanked?

It’s up to YOU to spread the spirit of thankfulness. This power IS in your hands.

THE MOST CURRENT INFORMATION ON HOW TO GET YOUR APRC AS AN AMERICAN CITIZEN

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The alternative titles for this post were “My Journey to Becoming a Permanent Alien” and “Permanent Alienship.” However, I decided to stick with some practical and direct, because I want to save every other American out there time and money in the processing of getting an APRC, or Alien Permanent Resident Certificate. I spent 6 months doing a lot of research and paper work, and my process ended up being EASIER and even involved LESS STEPS than some of the blogs and other resources I found suggested.

So here we go: this is for all fellow Americans who want to apply for permanent alien residency here in Taiwan (the closest I’ll ever get to dual citizenship!) May you find this post extremely informative and helpful.

First of all, here are some useful facts, just in case you’re super confused about aliens and Taiwan right now:

Having a job here in Taiwan as a foreigner gets you an ARC (Alien Resident Certificate). Companies usually issue this out to be good for a year, and if you stay longer than that year you need to renew it, which will keep your ARC going. (Some companies will issue ARCs that are good for 2 years or more.) If you keep the same ARC (with the same ARC number) for 5 consecutive years and stay in Taiwan for more than 183 days a year during that 5-year period, AND you made more than 450,720NT on your most recent tax statement, you can apply for the APRC (Alien Permanent Resident Certificate). 

What are the benefits? Every year, you need to go in and get a health check and collect paper work to renew your ARC. The APRC does not need to be renewed! Ever! (I’m honestly not super clear on the requirements of maintaining the APRC, but I will definitely do my research and update everyone on that. For now, this post is about GETTING one.) The APRC also no longer ties you down to the company that is providing your ARC. This means more freedom and flexibility in the employment opportunities. The APRC also does not require the annual health check which the ARC does. With APRC in hand, you are free to travel, work, study, do nothing. You can just live here, granted you have the money to fund your life, of course. 

And now for the meat of this article, broken down in nice little chunks, each one titled with bold lettering for clarity and entertainment purposes.

WHEN CAN YOU APPLY?

Many sources suggested this as the very first thing to do. I, however, already had an idea of when my ARC would hit the 5-year mark, so I acted accordingly. By accordingly, I mean that I wanted to apply for my APRC as soon as possible, not another few months after I become eligible. My eligibility for application commenced August 25 of this year. You can find out when your ARC hits the 5 year mark simply by going up to the information counter at the Immigration Office (you don’t need to take a number). Ask when, present them with your ARC, and they will provide you with a date and very useful document you can use as checklist for all the other documents you will need. You might also be able to make a phone call, but then you won’t get that oh-so-useful and current document. 😉

HOW MUCH IS IT?

10,000NT. It’s true: money can buy your permanent alienship here in Taiwan.

WHAT DOCUMENTS ARE REQUIRED FOR APPLICATION? 

I hate paperwork, so I’m going to write this next section as clearly as possible in the most simple of terms for anyone else out there who hates paperwork and becomes easily overwhelmed with an array forms and applications they’re suddenly required to fill out. Here is what you will need:

1) THE APPLICATION FORM

This is easily required at the Immigration Office and takes 5 minutes to fill out (10 minutes, if you’re super slow and paranoid about filling out official government like I am). It’s the same exact application you have to fill out every year to renew your ARC. But this time, you get to check the APRC box! If you would like to fill it out in advance, it’s available for download here. All such applications can be found on the National Immigration Agency’s Website.

2) PICTURE

If you’ve already been living in Taiwan and going through the ARC renewal motions, you know what picture I’m talking about. The passport photos that you can get done in a shop or at a photo booth. Just make sure it’s recent – that is, it’s been taken in the 6 months prior to applying. Photo booths will spit out 8 of these babies for 150NT. You only need one for the application!

3) YOUR ARC: THE ORIGINAL AND A PHOTOCOPY ON A4-SIZE PAPER

I photocopied both sides, just to be safe. The Immigration Office does have a B&W copy machine that charges 2NT a copy for your convenience. This is where I did all my photocopying.

4) YOUR PASSPORT: THE ORIGINAL AND A PHOTOCOPY OF THE BASIC INFO PAGE, AS WELL AS EVERY PAGE WITH A ENTRY AND EXIT STAMP.

I basically photocopied every page of my passport and handed it in. They want copies of any visas or anything in there that are related to Taiwan as well. Just photocopy all of it. It’s only 2NT a copy! Pretty much every page in my passport was splattered with Taiwan.

5) FBI REPORT

I’m calling it an FBI report here because that is what your “national level criminal history report” is called in the case of America. The FBI makes it really easy to obtain as well. All the steps are outlined out on the website: www.myfbireport.com. It’s all there. Get this going first; also take note that this process can only be done IN AMERICA, that is – within our beautiful country’s borders. However, the good news is that this process only takes 1-2 months, contrary to what many sources basically said would take up to 6. You yourself do not need to be in America, but you’ll have to have someone on ground there helping you with the footwork I will now explain below.

a. fingerprinting. Part of the application process for your FBI report is getting your fingerprints done. This is actually a very simple thing to do here in Taiwan. Simply download and print out the Standard FBI Fingerprint Form, officially known as the FD-258 on card-stock like paper. (This form is available for download on www.myfbireport.com.)

The Immigration Office provides professional fingerprinting services! (I would recommend NOT trying to do your prints yourself.) Simply go down to the basement and walk up to the counter that is labeled “Fingerprinting” or something close. No line up and no need to take a number. For a fee of 100NT, they will register you and do your prints.

b. authentication. As the website explains, your FBI report can only be sent to a U.S. address. My report came back within a month. Now you need to have the report AUTHENTICATED BY THE TECRO OFFICE IN WASHINGTON DC. TECRO (Taipei Economic & Cultural Representative Office).

step 1: Download and print out the application form for authentication available on TECRO’s website.

step 2: Send the COMPLETED APPLICATION FORM, your FBI REPORT, a 15USD MONEY ORDER (personal checks are not accepted; I can tell you from experience that they will send it back) and self-addressed and stamped envelope to the following address:

T.E.C.R.O.

4201 Wisconsin AVE. NW

Washington, DC., 20016

The TECRO office will send your FBI REPORT back within 2 weeks time. You will notice a colorful seal/sticker thing on the back of it. Congratulations! That means it’s been authenticated and can now be accepted by the Taiwan government!

If you DO NOT have a criminal record in the USA, you DO NOT need to have your FBI REPORT translated. Also note that your FBI REPORT is only good for 6 months.

6) THE TAIWAN BACKGROUND CHECK

This is officially known as a CCRD (Clean Criminal Record Document) that is issued by Taiwan. Please note that your criminal record must be clean. This process takes even less time than the FBI report: 2-5 days! Contrary to what all blogs and sources and were telling me, YOU DO NOT NEED TO TRAVEL ALL THE WAY TO TAIZHONG TO GET THIS!

Simply go to the Taipei City Police Department, address: No. 96 Yanping S. Rd, Zhongzheng Dist,. Taipei City 100. If you’ve ever filed your taxes in Taiwan, which you probably have if you’re reading this for the sake of getting your ARC, the the police building is right around that same area on that big road right next to Ximending. You can visit their website here, and here’s a picture of the building, just as it is on Google Maps (Take note that the address is a little funky, even though it’s the one they provide), for the clearest communication possible:

Taipei City Police Department

Office hours for obtaining your CCRD are 8:30-17:00. 

As soon as you walk into the building you’ll see the signs and the desks and the application forms AND the volunteers all put there for your current purpose. BRING YOUR ARC AND PASSPORT. You can fill out the application there or fill it out ahead of time by downloading it here. The process literally takes less than 10 minutes and costs 100NT. You can go back the very next business day to pick it up OR, for an extra 26NT, have it mailed to your house. In that case you’ll have the document within the next 3 business days. 

7) YOU DO NOT NEED A HEALTH CERTIFICATE OR DO ANOTHER HEALTH CHECK IF YOU HAVE NOT BEEN OUT OF TAIWAN FOR MORE THAN 3 MONTHS.

If you leave Taiwan for more than 3 months, then you’ll need to go through that process again, which you should be more than familiar with by now if you are or have ever been an ARC holder.

8) A RECENTLY ISSUED EMPLOYMENT CERTIFICATE + A PHOTOCOPY FROM THE COMPANY OR SCHOOL YOU WORK FOR

By recent here, I mean it needs to be no more than a month old. I asked my boss about this, because the the most recent one was issued to me in April. She printed me out another one, and I brought in both just in case but actually only ended up using the new one. Ask your workplace about this to make sure you can a recent certificate of employment. You DO NOT need more than one employment certificate, just the most recent one from your current place of employment. 

9) YOUR MOST RECENT TAX STATEMENT + A PHOTOCOPY

This is that blue piece of paper you should have received when you filed your taxes in April or May or March. Make sure it says you made AT LEAST 450,720NT, because that is the salary requirement for the APRC application. 

There you have it! Those are the documents you need to present along with your application form. Those are the exact documents I turned it TODAY, along with 10,000NT, and ran into no problems. Once you have all of these together, simply make your trip to Immigration, take a number (make sure you hit APRC service button!), and wait.

I went in today at around noon. My number was 595; I had to wait 2 1/2 hours. I used this time to fill out the application form and make photo copies and do one last run-through of all the documents I needed. I even went back up to the information counter to confirm that my salary certificate and tax statement were indeed the same thing and that I INDEED only needed my blue tax statement. To be perfectly honest, I was pretty nervous. Applying for my APRC is a big deal! What if I was missing something or didn’t get something right!!!??? Or was rejected at the counter!!!?

Well, I am very happy to announce that I went through ALL of the steps I just outlined above and am now awaiting approval and pick of my APRC. PERMANENT ALIENSHIP HAS NEVER BEEN SO CLOSE! Which brings me to the very last step.

At the counter, you are asked some questions to confirm that you are indeed exempt from needing a health certificate, if that is the case. Then, once the immigration officer has gone through all your paperwork, you will be asked to print and sign your name on a piece of paper. There are also some words on their you will be asked (and required) to read. Don’t worry, it’s all in English! After you hand in your 10,000NT (alienship ain’t cheap!) you will be given THE RECEIPT FOR PICK UP.

Finally (and this is where I’m at in the process right now), you wait 6-8 weeks for the notification of your APRC approval to come in the mail. (More nervous waiting!) When that arrives, bring your RECEIPT, ARC and PASSPORT to the information counter at Immigration to pick your APRC.

I would say THE END, but I’m not even there yet! Good luck!

If you have any questions about my sources and other blogs I came across in my research for all this, feel free to contact me via email: crowleyvictoria@gmail.com.