Tag Archives: chinese

“Why do you speak Chinese so well?”

Other than “Where are you from?”, this is the question I’ve been asked most frequently in Taiwan. I’ve met dozens of people in both Taichung and Taipei this summer, and invariably within a few minutes of meeting me, they either say, “Oh, wow, you speak Chinese really well,” or “How come you speak Chinese so fluently?” Here is the long version.

I was born in Beijing, and grew up speaking and reading Mandarin Chinese as my first language. My parents, both academics, had many books around the house, and I was a voracious reader from the start. A very memorable photo shows me at age five poring over a dictionary of Greek mythology while holding a dripping chocolate ice cream cone. I went to kindergarten in Beijing, and afterwards, took the exam to go to elementary school. And yes, there was an exam for elementary school, and I remember clearly that one portion was to add together two-digit numbers mentally (for example, 18 and 35) and tell the proctor the answer.  Continue reading “Why do you speak Chinese so well?”

Earning an honest living (under the table).

A long time ago, when Steve and I first conceived of our world trip (okay about 8-9 months ago for real) we brainstormed all sorts of ways to earn our keep. Most of them revolved around me getting a job in Asia that would utilize my language abilities, but in the end, we decided against most of them for a) not being in my career plan and b) not being conducive to a life of flexible travel, which was what we were most interested in. What we settled on was that Steve would try to do some contract work, like making mobile apps or websites, and I would try to tutor English. I even made some spiffy business cards and picked them up before I left Chicago. While we hoped to earn some cash, we would operate at a net loss overall, and sure, spend a large amount of our savings, but the trade-off, we theorized, was being able to do exactly what we wanted.

Fast forward to the beginning of our third month abroad, and since we arrived in Taiwan, we’ve been buried under personal projects, a crushing inability to get out of bed before 10 am, trying to make our social lives work in a country 14 hours ahead of most of our friends, and a lot of graduate school applications (okay, that’s just me). So far in Kaohsiung, I have succeeded in passing out a sum total of two business cards. So it came as a surprise that our first opportunity for honest income was today!

Continue reading Earning an honest living (under the table).