Hard is good

Once of the coolest things we ever did was live with a Taiwanese family for two weeks (when we were in Baton Rouge). That is such a good way to get to know people and learn. But this is not about one of the more important things we learned.

They showed us around their house when we first got there, and in the process showed us the bed in the master bedroom: plywood on cinder blocks covered with a sheet. We tried to get them to take some free mattress sets that we had access to (we were doing some hurricane relief work at the time). They were polite but seemed resistant, and we eventually gave up. I remember thinking, “Man, they must be in some tough financial times.”

But now, I don’t think it had anything to do with finances; I think they just like it that way. Why spend hundreds of dollars on mattresses when you could just cover a piece of plywood with a sheet and lay it on cinderblocks?

In Taiwan, hard is good. Hard is healthy. Spend the afternoon reading in the park… on a boulder. Better yet, take a nap on some rocks. We stayed in a furnished, temporary apartment our first two weeks here, and I thought we were sleeping on a boxspring. I was wrong – that was a mattress, and that’s how they like them. When we went to Ikea to get a bed for our apartment we tried lots of mattresses, and they were basically fabric-covered boxes. They had a few token soft ones – I guess for the wài guó rén.

It’s not like everyone sits on rocks all day. It’s just one of the little differences that pop up every once in a while – like drinking warmed water (and avoiding cold water) even on hot days or having soup with every single meal.

4 thoughts on “Hard is good”

  1. So I am looking at this blog post. It was linked to on another post (you write the best posts about China on the Internet), and I am curious about what you were doing with ESL students in Canada and it seems like you lived in Taiwan first? And then China? How did this blog get its start?

  2. Thanks for the kind words!

    About getting started… it’s kind of complicated. We graduated together in the U.S., didn’t have $ to do the full-time in-China language study we wanted to do, plus we’d added an extra year of intercultural studies. So we retreated to my parents basement in Canada just before Christmas, figured we’d work and finish school and save money before moving to China. Almost right away got a job offer through my old high school to teach full-time in Taiwan — didn’t even have our bags fully unpacked. We worked and studied a year in Taiwan (2006), then moved straight to China (2007). Since then we’ve taken two long breaks (8mo, 1yr) in Canada to have our kids — during that time I worked at my old high school teaching ESL, also tutored one-on-one (no shortage of Chinese in Vancouver). BEFORE all that, in 2005, between graduating and my parents’ basement, we volunteered for a couple months at a Hurricane Katrina shelter, and that’s when we lived with a Taiwanese family. Funny you ask, because the next post has a funny story about living with them.

    Started the blog to keep in touch with friends and family, but Facebook basically filled that role, so the blog just became my toy/coping mechanism.

    1. Yes, I read that :). I don’t have lots of free time, but I wish I could read all your posts. One day I’ll get around to it. I think write some of the most insightful articles I’ve ever read by an expat living in China. It’s weird to think 2006 was 7 years ago. That just doesn’t seem possible. I wish you were still here in Tianjin. I would love to have met you. Don’t stop posting!

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