Change of Plans

· 2 min read

My routine monthly visa renewal went awry.

Less than 10 days after writing about my uncertainty of being able to stay in Taiwan for another year, it became my reality. The news was surprisingly easy to accept. There are some options available but I’ve decided that a return to Canada is the best given my particular circumstances.

I forgot how much is involved when preparing for an international move though it should be a lot easier than it was to get here. I didn’t acquire much but everything takes time to find a home. My dehumidifier is an easy sell but there aren’t many people in the market for a brakeless fixed gear bicycle.

My original goal was to be able to communicate in Mandarin like a 5 year old. Children that age are really shy and don’t say much. I have more conversations with children aged 8-11. They usually make fun of my pronunciation but we understand each other.

It was only one year ago that I was struggling with basics such as finding and ordering food, paying for things, or remembering how to say I don’t need a bag. I would rehearse before leaving home and review again before approaching the checkout.

Yesterday, I cancelled my Costco membership without English, translation software, or any other assistance — playful small talk included. Today, I tested out of the entire Duolingo Mandarin course even though it uses simplified characters and Beijing-centric phrases.

Other times, I still can’t understand what is going on and I’m unable to express myself. It depends on the situation but day to day life is comfortable. I’ll have to carve out the time to study and practice as it will no longer be part of my daily life without intention.

Without getting into details of my life plans, I’m not sure much really has to change as a result of this. Obviously my physical location is affected in the short term, but there is still a possibility I can return for the end of the year. Maybe, and maybe not.

I tried surfing for my first time a few weeks ago.

Experienced surfers understand how to listen and respond to the rhythm of the ocean. Ignoring or otherwise not receiving the message can cause a lot of pain — even death.

I thought this was a beautiful analogy for life. I had previously learned this lesson emotionally. I was humbled as I relearned the same lesson physically. Nothing gets the message across like being dragged by the ankle under water, unable to breathe until you crash into the rocky shore.

I’m not returning to Canada out of fear or defeat. I’m listening and responding to the rhythm of life.