Marilyn is my first friend.  I’ve know her probably since I was born.  We don’t keep in touch like we used to, but she has been so excited about me being here.  In fact, she has a co-worker ( Frances) who is from Taiwan and she put us in touch with each other.  Frances contacted me immediately, giving me email addresses and phone numbers of people I should contact here and offering to help me as much as she can.  She’s been in Toledo for 3 years and is still having trouble adjusting, so she can imagine my plight.  Now, she speaks English quite well and has a great job so don’t you wonder why she would still be having a problem adjusting?  Yeah, she may from time to time miss the food and the daily nuances of life.  But there is so much more of Taiwanese culture that I’m sure she’s missing!  People here are so tremendously hospitable!  If I ask someone for help, they will go overboard to do whatever it is that I need.  If we ask how to get to a store, we will be taken there.  If we need to buy something, it might be given to us.  We have to be careful what we wonder aloud about because it will be seen as a request and I dare not complain!!!  If I did, a community of people will work together to solve the problem.  There are no secrets and folks do not act independently.  It quickly became obvious to us that what we were just mentioning to one person was quickly shared with everyone.  While we value privacy, others value community.

You can really tell what a country values by what they put on their currency.  You know what’s on one of the bills here?   A image of a group of children looking at the globe, learning about the world.

How deeply a foreigner is accepted into this community depends entirely on the individual, how much of Taiwan they’re willing to accept and how much they’re willing to open up and offer. I don’t know if we really realize how much we do on our own in America.  How independent we are.  We have such a strong sense of individualism!   I don’t know that we realize how gracious people are to us in other countries.  They do so much to help strangers!  I don’t speak Mandarin, but the people here go out of their way to communicate with us!  Shouldn’t I be the one making the effort to communicate?!  People in other countries will invite Americans into their homes, help them on the street and do whatever they can to help.  If the teachers at my school cannot reach us by phone, they come to our apartment and wait for us!  They’ve supplied my kitchen with cooking utensils and keep asking about what we like to do to keep us entertained.  They’re amazing.

So, are you beginning to see what Frances is missing?  In three years in Toledo, she hasn’t managed to find any sense of home.  It sounds like adjusting to life in the US is far more difficult than adjusting to life overseas.