Bullying Talks: Where to Draw the Line as a Teacher

Where should a teacher draw the line regarding classroom conversations about bullying?  Naturally, it depends on a multitude of variables, such as the age of the children, maturity, backgrounds, etc. However, at what age would it be appropriate to mention that at times, when students are bullied so much that they lose hope, that they may even go so far as to commit suicide?

Of course, so much depends upon perspective, so even before logging into WordPress this rainy afternoon, having just come from school to lounge at a cafe a while, I’m already aware that folks will immediately express an opinion upon reading this–based on their point of view–perhaps calling me out for being wrong orjust as readily maybe supporting the notion I’m about to express.

You see, this academic year, as a Grade 3 teacher abroad, my students and I have broached the bullying topic a number of times, prompted to do so not only because of the general importance of understanding the issue but also since we’ve experienced it firsthand periodically throughout the year.

We’ve also dealt with such topics as students’ exclusionary antics, acceptance and tolerance, peer pressure, etc., and, just yesterday, I felt it necessary to give some insights at a group circle gathering into acting “Chinese” and pulling one’s eyes farther apart while doing so, for some kids were doing it as we were lining up, with some hearty laughter as they did.

[With my own children being half Chinese, having seen in-reverse narrow-minded antics during my 13 years living in Taiwan and Japan, I felt I should address respecting all peoples. Yes, these are “just kids”, but it was a teachable moment, nonetheless.]

Needless to say, there have been numerous teachable moments this year, and I relish such opportunities more than I do teaching actual content.  I’ve long felt that way, and I’ve long stated that I would rather have students leaving my class at year’s end with a better sense of understanding of such things as responsibility, respect, a stronger work ethic, integrity, etc.

Indeed, I even mention that in interviews.

Regardless of having had a challenging year on some levels, I’ve hoped all along that this year would result in the same internalized objectives having been met. I still want my students to leave this year with a notion of greater open-mindedness and acceptance (I even just cringed yesterday when I saw two different boys in my class physically move away from other boys, whom they’ve expressed they don’t like during separate conversations–only when the other boy is simply being kind and friendly to them).

Thus, I’ve really taken some time to address bullying and fair treatment of others, and I’ve stepped in when I’ve seen it firsthand, always willing to protect the “little guy”.

Sporadically throughout the year, I’ve had a handful of students mistreating others. I’ve witnessed it firsthand.  I’ve additionally heard through the grapevine of what’s sometimes happening, through parents, through other teachers, through word of mouth.

Just as sporadically as it has happened, we’ve sporadically dealt with it in full class circle-sharing discussions, outside-in-the-hallways small group chats, or in face-to-face, one-on-one talks. Some emails with parents have even been exchanged

Yesterday, May 22nd, I’d gotten wind of it possibly happening again.

Having spent so much time on the topic already, I was surprised to hear of it.  Shoot, we’d even done an activity a few months back, for two days, based on Dr Seuss’ The Sneetches (focusing on the mistreatment of others, teasing, shunning, tolerance), so I was a bit surprised to hear once more that the topic needed to be addressed.

Having received an email from a parent, I thought it was serious.

Lo and behold, it also came on the day that we attended a school-wide, 7th-grade-led bullying rally, when students from primary and upper grades gathered to a sing song and wave some banners in the gymnasium.

Inviting my students to a circle, later in the day, I drew a line on the board, representing “crossing the line” and the idea of a fine line, proceeding to then draw larger stick figures with associated, similar speech bubbles on both sides.

On each side of the line, said main figures commented to a second smaller figure, “You are silly.”  Knowing that I’d better be careful of using stronger words (like “stupid” or “dumb” or “ugly”), I even explained to the children that the term “silly” could actually be anythingsomeone says to you.

My guided talks continued to explain that when your friends call you silly, tease you, joke with you, even possibly calling you names, but you don’t mind or you think it is funny(because, in reality, that’s what some friends do), then that’s all within the boundaries of being friends. I labelled that side as friendship.

However, I then explained that if you cross the line, and it is a thin line, that’s different.

To the left of the line, I wrote the terms “hurt,” “uncomfortable,” “dislike,” expounding further that “once someone crosses the line” by calling you “silly”, or something you don’t like, and if it hurts you, that it has gone too far.

To have someone do it again and again, when the “victim” (I also wrote on the board) doesn’t like it, crosses over to bullying.

As I went on, I’d stop to ask the group to share some ideas, eliciting some erstwhile concepts we’d brought up earlier this year.

They recalled that if someone says such things after you’ve asked them to stop, even once, that they have entered into the territory of bullying. If it happens again and again after someone has asked them to stop, it is surely bullying.

Our dialogue then delved into the options for a “first line of defense”, with children recollecting that one should say, “Stop it!” or, “I don’t like that.”  And if it persists, a victim of bullying needs to inform a teacher and then a parent.

I was happy to hear that some recalled those options for seeking help.

Others even called out some notions addressed in a video we reviewed a few weeks ago, such as “Take a stand,” when a counselor had even come to sit in our circle, then also addressing bullying and peer pressure.

Moreover, after the diagram on the board was finished, I came to sit in the circle, starting with, “Here’s a real story, Guys and Girls.”

“When I was a teenager, people teased me about my acne–and I used to get terrible pimples.  I didn’t like it. Some people called me ugly. I even had a woman once tell my girlfriend, ‘He’s handsome from afar, but up close, I didn’t think so.‘ I wish that I didn’t believe them, but I sometimes did.”

Even at 49, I can recall how hurtful that seemed–and how I let it hurt me.

I then segued into a fairly difficult topic to comprehend, but because we’d already conversed about it a few times, I wanted to remind the children, stating that, “One of your best defenses it to not believe whoever is bullying you.You may all experience someone being mean to you at some point in your lives, that you may have people call you things such as ‘stupid’ ‘ugly,’ or worse, but if you can be confident to say, ‘No, you’re wrong,’ or to believe, ‘No, that person’s perspective is not right,’ then you can protect yourself more.”

After sharing that, with a few students wanting to share more (I even had a more-mature-than-his-age boy comment, “It is okay Mr B to have pimples.”), I implored them to be nice to each other, even reminding them once again(as I’ve done so many times this academic year) that even if you’re not friends, you should still respect each other as classmates and be nice to each other.

I reiterated that bullying can really hurt people and that it even pushes people to go so far as to sometimes commit suicide (recalling that even a few weeks back some kids mentioned a boy who’d been pressured so much that he jumped in front of a train here in Costa Rica). Without skipping a step, I continued, “I’m even watching a Netflix show about how bad bullying got at a school and how hurt a girl was so hurt, even causing her to commit suicide,” mentioning that the name of the program was 13 Reasons Why.

We wrapped it up around soon after, moving on to another class or activity, and for the rest of the day, I didn’t spend any time thinking about the topic.

However, just today, I was told by an administrator, pulling me aside, that… parents had contacted the school to know why I had talked about suicide yesterday, with the explanation, furthermore, that some parents were “concerned”. I was initially dumbfounded, yet I tried to understand from their perspectives why they would feel so.

After detailing what had and how things had transpired, as I’ve done above, I stood momentarily wondering if I had crossed the line.  Did I?  Didn’t I? That is certainly going to be up to debate–and, of course, boils down to perspective.

The last thing I stated to the administrator was that, after she commented how maybe I should not have mentioned the TV show nor suicide to students, was that perhaps broaching this topic isimportant.

At the moment, knowing that I needed to do some further prep for my afternoon classes, I had to get back to my classroom, but I left a bit perplexed.

The conversation, obviously, left me wondering.

Do we shun such topics?  Or openly address them?

Did I cross the line? Or were things taken out of context? Or, conversely, was all totally acceptable, which, from my perspective, it was?

And at what age is it appropriate to broach? When is too young? When is just right?

You can be the judge, and I won’t judge you.

It is really all a matter of perspective.

 

 

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Day 3, USA: Repatriation Shunned

Originally posted on a newer blog site in June of 2018, I’ve transferred this entry here to merge all my online writing into one place.  This piece deals with having decided to NOT return to the USA, back in the summer of 2017, and the reasons why such an option wasn’t happening–and isn’t going to for some time to come, if ever.

 

Ever so recently, I surprisingly received an ever so ephemeral hug, professional yet sincere, from a colleague, one that created an ever so momentary sense of being understood. It was welcome, for, undoubtedly, I am certain there are some folks here who just do not understand (amidst those who simply do not care and the others who have no clue about) my situation.

Without sitting down and personally chatting with them, which I haven’t yet done, nobody will know the depths of the emotions I’m feeling and dealing with (and even then, it won’t be feasible to expect anyone to truly relate). Nor will anyone be able to comprehend the reasons I’m now here, a million miles away from my kids.  Moreover, the impetus that prompted another move abroad may even be unknown, and incomprehensible, to even long-term friends and family.

As someone joked a few months back, I may come off as the “mysterious Michael Brown,” but I have no intention of being unknown. Quite the contrary, I do want all to know, as my recent blogs have revealed.

Just as with all the blogging that I currently partake in (besides the favorite-cafés entries I’ve periodically made), I’m putting finger tips to keyboard this time as a form of release–for this man undoubtedly needs an outlet.

Yet, most importantly, I’m blogging to have a public forum of sorts to serve as a repository for my kids to, fingers and toes crossed, one day access. All needs to be known for me to have any sense of sanity, and channeling my energies into a diligent record keeping for them, at least on the surface, mitigates my haunting doubts that they’ll never know why I’m no longer in their lives.

As many an in-the-know person knows, especially those privy to my one-time blogs and YouTubes from my erstwhile hellish experiences, I left my ol’ life behind in July of ’17, completely, departing from Taiwan with literally no clue about what I was going to do.

Just a few shorts week before that, however, my tenuous-but-better-than-jumping-off-a-bridge objective was to move to Taipei, rent a pad, look for part-time work, and begin anew while still seeing my children twice a month. That could have been the perfect solution to be in their lives–until D-man turned 18, at least, old enough for them to make choices of where they wanted to be–and to at least get out of the same city that was haunting me, for a variety of reasons.

I had hoped to maintain the (theretofore-arranged-by-the-family-court) two weekends a month–as the norm had been for 71 weekends prior (since signing divorce on the dotted line, begrudgingly, in 2014).

That all fell through in July last year, after all, and my life fell apart, with the ridiculousness of the family court’s farce and facade those last few hearings pushing me to the limits of my failing fortitude.

Hand in hand with the judge’s ludicrously false antics, all unfolded that horrific last  attempted pick-up weekend exchange (July 8th, 2017) that prompted me to give up on moving to Taipei, having decided that I never wanted my children to be torn again, stuck in the middle between their pseudo-maternal side and their Daddy.

I promised at that moment, all recorded and even posted on the Internet, that those gorgeous, sweet, innocent siblings would not have to endure a moment like that again, standing there 20 feet from their pseudo-grandparents and the only-deserving-to-be-called–the-“birther” birther and 20 feet from Daddy, looking back and forth, uncertain and confused.

After 71 wondrous weekends together, with flawless exchanges until that moment, nothing would have nor could have put them in that situation except for the cold-hearted maternal brainwashing, shameful influence, and deceptive manipulation she’d perpetrated for 3.5 years, slowly alienating the children against their daddy.

There was ZERO justifiable reason those kiddos would have stopped that morning.  The 71 weekend exchanges that preceded that moment are proof.

Alienated father, 101, is what I am.

Sadly, that’s my new identity.

Isabella and Derek Brown deserve, 100%, to have a father in their lives, but at the same time, they deserve 100% to never again be incessantly bombarded by the lies, deceit, and false-faced influencing that the birther was inflicting them with, evident to all.

With everything that was perpetrated by a corrupt judge, with the falsehoods belched forth by fraudulent court officials, I knew I was at a loss, never to earn a fair chance–and what was bound to happen (the unfounded, the ridiculous, and the fabricated) prompted my immediate departure (well, that is, after 3.5 years of having persevered in a slanted system).

To step away in order for the kids to never again be pummeled by the birther’s shenanigans, to have them never again face such hardships like those that are begotten when a parent cruelly interferes with a kid’s perception of the other parent, to never again allow them to be incessantly perplexed by how their maternal family’s deceit and lies contradicted Daddy’s truisms, all seemed like the right reasons to make such an onerous choice.

Ostracized and alienated I was from them already, hopeless that the court would rule in my favor (fuck, the woman committed a parental abduction of the kids for 189 days in 2014, yet three judges ‘ruled’ that it was “just a miscommunication” because “she didn’t know the dad wanted to see them”–when loads of evidence proved I was emailing them, calling them, texting them numerous times a week for six months, with videos showing me dropping off gifts at the complex’s front gate guard’s window, with him rejecting me on the third visit).

Miscommunication my ass.

Bias and prejudice, corruption and collusion was more like it.

When I learned that the appellate judge rejected my case in 2016, citing, “there’s nothing the mother did that was wrong because it seems like they just couldn’t agree on a time to meet the kids,” though all my communication for six months asked such questions about seeing them (and the ex, moreover, responded ZERO times in six months), I knew I was fucked.  The same could be said for when the courts accepted a falsified report from an assigned official, even though my secret recordings of her visit proved proved she blatantly lied and created utter, nonsensical fabrications. I had no chance.

Then in mid-to-late spring in 2017, I knew in my heart (and merely because of utterly logical thinking because the precedent for corrupt bullshit had been well-established) that the court was aiming for the jugular once again.

I was history.

That fact haunts me to the bone.

So what was awaiting me, and how did I get here?

During my last week of my total 12-year stay in Taiwan, I had heard from a friend that her husband was willing to lend a hand in securing my flights outbound, for a 50% savings, because he works for an airline out of the Middle East.  She had not only followed my FB postings of the hell I’d endured but also how I’d been pushed to the brink.

Being that there was a flight from Hong Kong to Abu Dhabi and then on to JFK, for a steal, I gave the go-ahead, without any notion of what was in store beyond a few-day timeframe.

Simply put, I just wanted to see family and old friends, not even knowing if I’d survive the nascent stages of the transition leading me from the unknown (having lost my identity of being a great daddy) to the greater unknown (having lost my identity of being a great daddy PLUS having no sense of where I was headed).

That transitional phase, thrown in my face as a bad stage performer gets pummeled by rotten tomatoes, could just as well led to my immediate demise, one that I was warned about by a colleague and acquaintance (using the term friend isn’t full feasible since said person hasn’t contacted me once since my departure, which to me isn’t very friend-like).

My last weekend in the city, I’d sat with said expat colleague at an outdoor, lakeside bar, bemoaning my situation a bit over a pint. That’s when he explained that he didn’t want to hear of my returning to the States and then taking my own life–for that would have meant to him that she, the ex, would have won. I could never let her win, he implored. Something like that had apparently happened to another foreign bloke who’d lost his kids in Taiwanese divorce court, etc., returning home in the end to then end it all.

Landing in JFK, having hurriedly asked my NJ-residing step-father a mere handful of days prior if he wouldn’t mind a visit, I figured out (truly without much forethought and very little preparation) the steps of getting to the middle of Jersey, jumping through hoops to put myself on previously-unfamiliar bus connections in NYC.

As a seasoned traveler, I was able to keep my wits about me even though I wasn’t quite sure of all the steps of getting to where I needed to go. Less than a year later, I can now barely recall the whole experience (and, indeed, I had to ask the friend whose husband helped with the tickets, at the time of commencing this blog entry, if I had actually landed in Newark orJFK).

Needless to say, it isn’t strictly based on my forgetfulness that I don’t fully recall.  With memory sometimes slipping, the fact that I don’t recall the departure nor arrival very clearly could be blamed on that.

In reality, I was numb for days.  All was shrouded in a disturbing fog.

My head utterly cluttered and in a daze, I somehow arrived late in the night at a small-town bus terminal in central-east Jersey, where Pops and his second wife Lo picked me up, awaiting me with open arms.

It was the first familial embrace I’d received (aside from my kids, of course) since a three-week road trip from CA to MN and back, back in 2016, so I welcomed the contentment and connection. Having just gone through a nightmarish year (after a full 3.5 years being battered by the ersatz court system), one full of outlandish bullshit begotten by a corrupt judge, biased officials, and a vindictive ex, it was lovely to be around family again.

To have left Taiwan and been separated from my children perhaps forever, having been stricken by a profound sense of hopelessness, having thrown in the towel after an overwhelming and on-the-losing-end-of-a-3.5-year battle, I needed to be home–even though “home” is and has never really been definable for this vagabond at heart.

On a side note, my last ‘real’ home in the USA, where I felt any sustained connection to place, time or people, was my childhood residence, which we’d moved out of back in 1985. Of course I’d lived in the USA for some time after that, and I’d established a close-to-home-like existence in Minnesota for a number of years, but before finally taking off to live abroad (18 of the last 20 years as of 2018), I’d not had a family home record to speak of since the mid-80s.

Home, in the closest sense of most folks’ definitions, as used two paragraphs above, was at best defined by the general borders of the USA. However, within the nation’s boundaries, there’s nothing tangible for this middle-aged man to label such a place.

Thus, when I arrived in Jersey, completely appreciative of my step-dad’s largesse and assistance, I was still rather lost and undoubtedly feeling uprooted.

Spending some quality time together, chatting in the eves with him and her, driving down the coast in his Chrysler convertible together on blue-sky days, stopping for some DQ, having a beer here and there, for the first few days, was all JUST what the doctor had ordered. I relished, and will long cherish, crabbing together, cruising the inlets in his boat, explanations of the past, talks of our former lives in NJ, CO, WA, and NY, etc.

If I hadn’t had them to fall back on, I may not have made it those first baby steps out of the gate (though my sister had also offered a place to lay my weary head in her neck of the woods).

Although I loved heading for burgers at a popular strip-mall-style joint, getting a slice (that’s “pizza” in East Coast parlance, y’all) at a beachside bar, visiting a suburban shopping mall for a haircut–all the while pleasurably reconnecting after years away–I felt out of place culturally.

To eavesdrop on locals wherever we went (their moments oft absorbed in chats about the latest episode of the Kardashians, lamenting the sizes of S-buck’s Frappuccinos, or commenting on the blonde’s false eyelashes at a nearby table), all generated some serious internal debates as to if I really could re-connect to the country I’d left in 2004.

[Part of the problem with the aforementioned is that I was routinely, thankfully sequestered from trivial chat topics, even when sitting in public places, while in Taiwan the six years prior because the din of Mandarin conversations often just blended together and I found myself surrounded by incomprehensible chit-chat unless I truly tried to pick out specific topics I could understand. My ears accustomed to blended, boisterous babel whenever out on the town, though I speak some Mandarin, I perhaps wasn’t prepared for the blitz of such seemingly shallow and somewhat mundane conversations.]

Did I belong?

Was it “right” to be there?

If I was going to stay put, I wondered, would I wind up settling in the East Coast (which I’d moved on from in 1991, heading to the Midwest which I associated a bit more with), or depart for elsewhere?

I had received invitations to Sis’ homestead in South Dakota, to friends’ refuges in Minnesota. I’d even contemplated AZ to be close to my biological father, but questions bombarded me about suddenly being back in the States in general.

Was I even truly American (the loosely permissible term many use around the world for folks from the USA)? Or is my identity nowadays more affiliated with being an expat?  Truly, though it is hard to even use this term (lest I sound pretentious), I am more international than national in my outlook.

In some ways, I simply wasn’t feeling the USA.

From what I’ve seen online, others who live abroad oft have similar doubts about their connections upon return.

Repatriation is one damn large horse pill to swallow.

To varying degrees, aspects of life there–that slapped me in the face as shocking–also exist elsewhere, but reverse culture shock was in my face like a schoolyard bully, blatant and pugnacious. Under the surface, I was constantly questioning my place and where I fit in, even when dropping off to sleep at night those first few days back.

Naturally, I will forever have a mental and emotional connection to my ‘home’ country, the good ol’ USA.  My  foundation exists there and was shaped there (though it is actually more internal than external, all spiritual and not truly geographical).

Although the USA will always define my origins, the chapters in the book of life that more outline my current moi can arguably be based on 17-plus years’ worth of accumulated experiences in Germany, Japan, Switzerland and Taiwan–even dating back eons ago to studying abroad in Mexico or even to my first backpacking adventure overseas at 23.

To compare my US-based formative years that shaped me against my more recent, adult-identified experiences abroad, trying to form a vague definition of my own selfness, is an exercise in futility.

Not to mention, to turn around and come “home” again, especially in such a forced manner, begets some deep fucking soul searching.

Repatriation, indeed, is not an easy process. For those of us who’ve opted to be abroad, especially for such an extended period, repatriating is chock full of challenges.

Groups exist online to deal with these issues. Books have been written. There must be psych professionals out there who specialize in these specific disorders.

Some can do head home; some cannot.

I couldn’t.

My head spinning, though simultaneously placated by the pleasant times with Pops and Lo as we re-bonded a trifle, I decided on Day 3, to leave again, jumping online, spending hours researching teaching opps overseas.

Admittedly, however, there was more to that frenetic deliberation and prompt decision than the aforementioned explanations.

Repatriation phobia doesn’t paint the whole picture.

You see, I actually was feeling that if I had settled in the States last summer, I would have suffered from not only an inability to reacclimatize (on top of the profound sense of losing to the unethical Taiwanese court system and losing my kids to their so-called maternal family) but I would also have lost a profound sense of the identity of whom I had been long before meeting my ex.

Yes, my identity as a father was shattered, which I’ve blogged about elsewhere over the last few years, but if I had resettled in North America, I had felt those first few days back that I would also have been losing my sense of being a forever-on-the-go vagabond and a global denizen (if one can assign such a term to one’s self).

With eights states and six total countries under my residential belt at the time (having additionally checked off some 50-plus countries and 48 states travel-wise, theretofore), I didn’t want to give up on that one former aspect of my being.

Without it, i.e., settling in the States, I had recognized I’d have become even MORE hollow. For someone who’d wanted to give up completely last summer, sinking to the depths of despair, I knew I would have had needed more to keep me afloat.

The fact is, although part of my identity stems from being a teacher man, too, that “world traveler” status is otherwise all I had left to give some satisfaction to at least the surface of my empty shell.  In some ways I had hoped that I could start filling the void with something special (which may or may not ever happen fully in the future)

Settling back into whatever role awaited me, merely domestically, would have further destroyed me.

Thus, for that short stay, I was internally swamped with an identity crisis, with much going on below the surface, things that nobody but myself could define or deal with.

On that third day, I even recalled the sense of loss I’d faced back in June of 2011 when my ex-wife and I moved back to Taiwan from Europe.

Even though the return to Taiwan was meant to be a one-year sojourn, which had been discussed through email (yes, even relying on electronic messages about important topics with my own wife, which is a long story), and though I had worked to get to another overseas job, landing a position in February of 2012 to teach in Myanmar that August, all fell apart further when my ex had cancelled her contract (to teach at the same school in Yangon), telling me “you can go on your own.”

No way was I going to leave then.

Despite the marriage being on the rocks already, nothing at the time would have ever been deemed, even with the most profound imaginings, enough of a hardship to push me away from my children.

That’s about the time I wrote my sister and mother that if divorce was on the horizon, I’d have to stay–and would stay–in Taiwan until the kids were adults.

With her cancellation of our move back abroad (although I was technically still abroad being in Taiwan) came the invalidation of my long-term dreams of bringing up a family overseas, traveling globally, raising third-culture kids in the process.

She shat upon my overseas dreams, but with the reality of being a Daddy, I focused 2012 and early-to-mid 2013 on being with my kids, even being at home more than she was because I had decided to tutor privately for two years to be with them (I even submitted to the courts former emails in which she wrote, “You see them more than I do”).

Spending so much time with the kiddos for that year and a half helped mollify any sense of losing my long-established identity of being a globetrotter. With a return to full-time teaching in August of 2013, and then in September when the marriage collapsed, I returned my focus to my profession a bit more, juggling nearly full-time court issues with a full teaching load.

For a while afterwards, my identity was somehow balanced and more defined (sans the hell of the 189-day parental abduction).

Fast forward to the summer of 2017.

Without my kids, without my worldwide existence (without even Taiwan, a place I grew to partially despise with every phase of the unfolding nightmare), sitting in New Jersey those few days, I realized I would nary be able to create a sense of purpose like I’d formerly fancied.

It become clear on day three that the USA couldn’t bring me what I lacked: a true identity.

But there was even more to it than the aforementioned.

Enabling myself to say “fuck her,” instead of giving up completely (i.e., putting myself ‘out of my pain’), along with permitting myself to regain a former slice of my traveler’s identity, I ALSO realized that the more globetrotting I could do, the more I could keep myself busy, which is one way of dealing with the hurt, filling the void of loss.

To keep myself forever on the move, bouncing from continent to continent for the last third of my life, might very well be what the psychologist ordered. If I don’t develop the coping strategies to healthily move on from all (which I admit makes me feel as if I am painfully replacing my children), I might as well be able to check off a few more exotic locales from my list of dream destinations.

It didn’t take much to understand that I would be better off psychologically and emotionally if I could spend my time exploring new frontiers, crossing distant borders, gathering new passport entry stamps.

A .50¢ bowl of pho from a grungy dive joint in Hanoi will forever trump Chipotle (and will trump Trump, currently and for the next 2-to-4 years, at the time of writing).

Traversing the Great Wall will always outshine hiking the Appalachian Trail.

Crossing over the border from Honduras to El Salvador will long be more enticing than driving across the state line from Minnesota to Wisconsin.

Staying at the Luxor in Vegas will never come close to seeing the pyramids in Gaza.

Without offense to anyone who would opt for the latter options of the above four choices, desire-filled comparative choices that I can still relate to, I merely wish to say I benefit more from being abroad, especially now.

My heart empty, my mind awhirl, when I returned to the States last July, I had obviously just jumped out of the frying pan–with no coping strategies to just “move on”. But move on is what I decided to do, at least geographically speaking.

Consequently, realizing that all, my initial casual browsing that morning, on the third day, sitting at a café, evolved rapidly into more enthusiastic purposeful searches in the afternoon.

Despite my being eager to find a posting overseas, nothing I was doing was being done enthusiastically.

Lo and behold, the initial hours-long effort paid off with my discovering openings, with my arranging Skype interviews, and with my lining them up and knocking them down, if you will. Over the next two days, I’d landed three offers after three online meetings.  A whirlwind of decision making ensued.

While visiting Virginia on the sixth day, having decided on a quick road trip to see a life-long friend, another offer was made that I didn’t want to pass up.

Despite being “satisfied” with my success, no sense of true pride came about (if I didn’t have my experience and a decently-strong CV to fall back on, I really would have been in trouble emotionally, not just professionally). Usually, for most folks, landing four offers in a short span would result in a bit of merrymaking. For me, those momentary achievements simply kept me afloat.

I didn’t celebrate; I didn’t gloat, for this chap was in no celebrating mood.

Just two weeks before, I’d said goodbye on a sidewalk, in tears, to my kids.  A million dollar jackpot-winning lottery ticket would have merited no more joy than the simple process of urinating into the toilet accurately.

Instead, I merely rejected the first three offers, accepted the fourth and final (for a place I’d longed to reside in even since back at my first overseas job fair in 2004–and in reality ever since my last college course), and crammed my one suitcase and my one backpack to the hilt, upon returning to Jersey a few days later.

Undeniably, saying farewells to Pops and Lo was distressing, for the older I get, the older they do as well.

As we hugged at the airport, at the curbside drop off, tears flowed heavily, with my doubts about where my life’s path will lead, when the next time would be to visit (always a challenge when my ultra-small family is spread from NJ to CT to SD to CA), or if I’d even make it past the initial transition, longing for my kids as I do, in my new “home”.

Yet, the urge to be on my way again, with the appeal of overseas adventures and life in foreign lands attracting me like a magnet to a wayward paperclip, further exacerbated my need to simply stay busy with this new phase of life.

Looking to redefine myself somehow, working to reclaim some sense of purpose in my life, having lost my identity of fatherhood, I can at least be empowered now to, at least symbolically, say she didn’t win.

We’ll, who the fuck am I kidding?  She won practically everything, but I won’t, at least, allow myself to be defeated completely.

On Day 3, I made that decision, and I’ll stick to it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Living abroad, The Divorce and Custody Hell | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Dating Locally, Logically: Single Expats Abroad

Michael, did you date me just to say you could ‘be’ with a Mexican girl?“, questioned a gal I was saying farewell to (because I was going back to the States after three months in a Spanish-language program, the final month of which we spent together).

Why on earth would thatbe my objective?  I dated her because she was funny, personable, attractive and bright, not to put a cultural notch in the headboard.

The German girls who date the American GIs here are usually sluts,” opined a close, English-speaking female German friend, chatting over a cup o’ Joe in a local, bohemian coffee house in Bamberg, Germany in 1998 (which was somewhat ironically stated, for just a few short weeks later, we started dating, a relationship that lasted for over a year before I shipped off to Kosovo).

But wasn’t that just a bit presumptuous ’bout an entire category of women?

All you guys here are just after Japanese chicks,” exclaimed a Brit, Catherine, at a party, a gathering of expats working there in the JET Programme in 2001. Her comments came during a discussion about how we’d all settled into our routines and lives (or not) in the boondocks of Aomori prefecture, after about two months there.

You’re just anotherdude living here who loves Asian chicks,” cynically commented a North American woman, whom I’d chatted with at a cafe in Kaohsiung, Taiwan in the mid-to-late Aughts, after I told her I was engaged to marry a local gal I’d been dating for two-plus years prior.

No wonder teachers here hook up with each other; no local Swiss are dating teachers like us,” joked a bloke from the USA at an American school employee cocktail gathering in 2011. He wasn’t fully kidding, for at least that particular year, no teachers were dating local folks, as far as we could tell or anyone admitted to.

I cannot wait to move to Europe, where I can finally find a date,” rejoiced Paula, a bubbly South African gal who’d been working at an international school in Taiwan for the previous three years. In 2014, she was hoping to find a more interesting lifestyle awaiting her in Amsterdam. Three years in Taiwan were a tormenting drought apparently, and another departing American colleague mirrored similar sentiments at the same going away staff gathering that day.

Why are you on Tinder? You’re an expat here, so you shouldn’t have a problem getting dates just with women passing by,” stated a recently-met-through-Tinder Taiwanese woman, sharing stories over a beer at a Taipei bar in the early summer of 2017.

Latinas love the expat guys here, but, then again, so do the Latinos love us expat women. It is so easy to meet locals on dating apps if you’re a foreigner, too,” giddily celebrated a new female Canadian colleague, both expounding on how we’d met someone local rather soon after moving to Central America.

Dating Abroad, The Ins and Outs, Ups and Downs  –

As one can see above, it seems like a trend has occurred over my years of living abroad, a total of 16-plus of the last 18 years of my life, and even dating back to studying Spanish in Mexico some 24 years ago. No, the above quotes are notprecisely recorded evidence of such ongoing occurrences, but because I’ve had similar conversations over the years with others choosing the same lifestyle as me, I’ve surely gotten them down accurately enough to not misquote, yet with a change of names thrown in, to boot.

The reality of the aforementioned, from-real-life-discourse excerpts and the context from which they stemmed is that they’re not, obviously, mere one-offs for one particular guy (moi), nor are they the only notably pertinent comments made during my 16-plus years spent partially around the world.

Honestly, my ears have been privy to countless quotable comments, periodically, over what increasingly seems to be eons of international living.

Furthermore, to fully understand the frequency with which such topics are broached by those of us dwelling overseas, one must multiply, exponentially, the frequency of said oral observations, because, surely, anyone who has spent time living in a foreign land has been on the receiving end of related questions or perhaps even uttered such statements themselves.

Additionally, those of us who have discussed these matters undoubtedly are not the only ones to have ever born witness, over the course of humanity, to these dialogues–and that’s going back to centuries ago when travelers, merchants, conquerors and explorers started spanning the globe.

Sprouting from such endeavors, commonly, is the intermingling of cultures. Therefore, complaints or judgments have transpired in equal measure ever since such mixing began.

One can easily imagine how a brother’s feathers got ruffled because his 20-something sister in Rome hooked up with an Egyptian merchant peddling wares some 1,900 years back, or how some New World village chieftain raged on about a budding romance between a nearby foreign settler and his ready-to-wed daughter some 500 years ago, or how a Sicilian mother lambasted her lascivious teenager for bringing home a Scandinavian tourist after meeting on a sunburnt beach back in the 1960s, and so on and so on and so on.

[No, dear trolls and naysayers, this isn’t a historical commentary, and, no, this isn’t to serve as a breakdown of the horrid atrocities that have occurred over the history of mankind. I’m not unfairly alluding to the pillaging, marauding hordes sacking villages, torturing and raping the indigenous folks in each conquered territory, with women screaming and kicking as they were carried off to homelands far away, though perhaps some expats who’ve married a local have had similar reactions when he/she asked their spouse to move back to ______________. I’ll leave it up to you to fill in the blank of some horrendously boring city; I’d written Cleveland, as an example, but I didn’t want to offend anyone from there. It’s really a city on the rebound!]

Intercultural dating and the choice to do so,the point is, has been happening for time immemorial–and some folks either don’t get it or don’t accept it.

For a handful of others (for the hundreds of thousands, or more, like me), it is the norm simply because we opt to exist outside of our homelands. Thankfully, there are others who do not question things, accepting it as one would accept any other’s business as being none of their business.

I’m simply using the aforementioned examples to say that this is, without question, nota new dialogue to be had, but rather an ongoing set of occurrences in this one individual’s journeys abroad–and how they relate to what countless others who’ve chosen to work globally have experienced.

Yet why do I write this now, today? The reason: the topic keeps popping up in different contexts.

With that out of the way, the relevant dialogues about the choices one makes while dating in foreign lands, which I’ve found most irksome, are the one’s that entail and venture into veiled-to-outright accusations that one is specifically seeking out locals only, as if one is clandestinely racially motivated to do so, as if we’re collecting postage stamps from each country visited or setting out heat seeking missiles on one particular ethnic target, only.

Such cynical conversations also oft include subsequent, direct or indirect allegations that those of us who date locally are somehow consequently dismissing expats of the opposite gender (or of the same, if that’s where you lie) who may find themselves in coinciding situations, i.e., being single, hoping to find another to share our lives with while away from ‘home’ (wherever and whatever that means), not wanting to go out to eat beef chow mien solo, for example.

Disparaging remarks such as “you’re just into Asian chicks,” or “you guys only want to date local women” are, at least in my opinion, by and large, unfair and illogical, though there are people in this world who may be so closed-minded as to be discriminatory or selective in this regard, sadly.

In fact, last year I learned through a female coworker who was hired by a school in Thailand–as was relayed to her during the hiring process–that many international educational institutions in Bangkok tend to hire married couples and single women to help weed out dudes who are just looking to live in Thailand for ‘selfish’ reasons.

Opens your eyes a trifle, doesn’t it?

Though I’d like to believe in the goodness of all in choosing to seek employment in other countries for altruisticreasons, to partake in adventuresome living, to engage in learning new languages, and to absorb cultural happenings for one’s own personal development (and of course to make a living), I have to dismount from my high horse to accept that there are a minority who want to intentionally indulge themselves in other aspects of internationalization.

I suppose the unwritten rules of Thai schools to not hire as many single western males proves that point.

Pathetically.

Perhaps that’s why I take a stance against such tactics and defend my choices earnestly.

When faced with scrutinizing sarcasm about my dating life during these past 16 years, when bombarded with questions of, “Why are you only looking for local gals to date?”, I have often retorted that my dating endeavors in becoming acquainted with someone new, i.e., looking for a partner, are NOT exclusively reserved to one group or one ethnicity, adding that because, when one is living in a particular country, such as Taiwan or Japan (13 years of my life, hitherto), one is prone to most easily meeting a local from that country and not other expats!

Of course there are variations or degrees in how accurate that statement is based on location, location, location.

To illustrate my point, while living in Japan in 2001-2002, working in public schools there through the JET Programme (before returning to do an MEd and licensure program so I could get a certified teaching job at accredited international/American schools elsewhere), I was, as far as I could tell, the ONLY expatliving in a quaint town of 10,000 Japanese, way up in the northernmost prefecture of the main island of Honshu.

In my time there, I never once met another foreigner living in the sametownship. Of course I wasn’t easily–if ever–going to meet another foreigner in that town.

Thus, wasn’t it clear, my eyes open to meeting someone, I was bound to only meet a local (this was a pre-smartphone apps era, peeps, and dating opps via the internet were not yet a thing).

Thus, when I once was invited to a food fair by a 65-to-70-year-old adult student from my once-a-week evening English conversation class at the community center near my home, and was consequently introduced to her younger acquaintance, it was not because I was somehow selectively honed in to target local women.

Undoubtedly, I wasn’t ready to drop my payload on one specific bulls-eye pettily based only on race.  That night, after returning home, I was giddy about meeting a woman, NOT about meeting a Japanesewoman!  Not once did I think, “Cool, I met a Japanesegal.”

I merely met awoman.

To have done so was because I was in the right place at the right time, which, if you come to think about it, would have been exactly the same process (pure happenstance) as if I had been attending a food fair in Ames, Iowa (in the middle of nowhere USA; no offense to Ames, it’s a charming place!).

Nobody would have labeled me as a “looking-for-an-Asian-persuasion” type of guy (I despise that judgmental concept and equally judgmental term) if I had met some local white American in the middle of Iowa under those same circumstances.

People would have matter-of-factly stated, “Oh, you’ve met someone,” if I’d merely been acquainted with a white woman in Ames or in Japan, for that matter.

Yet, throwing a racially-generated label on me was exactlywhat some female expat teachers did at a JET participant gathering when they learned I was hanging out with someone.

I’d met a woman, by only being introduced to her, yet I was somehow to blame for being “a falconer” because she just happened to be Asian.

Such expressions are akin to the equivalently idiotic “once you go black…” comments someone once made to me when I met an African America girl at a party in high school. Literally, at 17 years of age, I wasn’t learned nor confident enough to counter their narrow-mindedness back then, but I’ve certainly grown tired of it over the years, wanting to shed light on it now.

Why are many people so quick to judge and assume?

Accusing a dude (or gal) of being “oriented” (or “horny for”, as some have superficially chimed in during such discussions) only to a specific racial group simply because one temporarily lives amongst the people of that particular society is NOT fair nor level-headed thinking.

When you’re living abroad and you’re surrounded by and immersed in the culture and the people, and you just happen to meet someone, others need to cease automatically degrading it and classifying such relationships as something somehow ‘wrong’.

On that note, if an international teacher, such as myself, meets another international teacher and they date while they’re living in Morocco, for example, nobody turns around and labels the relationship (or the reason for entering into it) as stemming from some misguided incentives or flawed dating patterns.

For me, the gal that I met and started to date in Japan was attractive for a few reasons, for her pleasant personality, her smile at first sight, her sense of humor.  To mislabel an initial attraction and subsequent outings as being racially motivated is shallow.  I once dated a white woman in college whom I had been attracted to immediately, yet nobody characterized the experience as being for similarly trivial reasons.

The only difference?  The judgements that folks made in Japan were far different because of assumptions and narrow-mindedness merely based on her ethnicity.

In reality, nobody should have brought up anything about race or ethnicity at that party, just as how I shouldn’t even be compelled to write this blog about the topic–for such distinctions should, ideally, never be made in the first place and no discussion about said themes should need to be had.

However, we’re human. It happens. I get it.

Not really.

Furthermore, those same expat women complained at the party (a gathering of teachers who had to drive anywhere between 30 and 60 minutes because our rural residences were so far apart) that it was “not fair” that we (men) could date locals but they “could not”, which brings up a whole new set of complex issues and an entirely debatable set of understandings about why they felt they couldn’t play the field, if they’d wanted to.

At that same expat party was a 20-something British bloke who was also accused of “being into Asian chicks”.

He had told me at our orientation in Tokyo earlier that school year–or was it on the plane from the capital to Aomori prefecture–that he had studied language in a Japanese studies proram in uni and that he was hoping to really immerse himself in the culture of rural society, away from the main urban centers of central Japan.

Yet because he’d already met a young gal there by the time of the party (two months into our stay), the American and British females sitting around the living room tagged him as also being a falconer, hunting for easy prey, somewhat tainting his otherwise wholesome attitude about life there.

After the party, a bit perturbed by the conversation about his alleged discriminatory dating choices, he remarked to me that it was bullshit that the gals had said such things, chalking it up to “bitterness, because theycouldn’t find anyone,” and even labelling them in reverse with even more closed-minded comments than they’d delivered about our dating “preferences”.

Naturally, I understood his being appalled at the judgements that had been made, with both of us on the receiving end of blatant negativity during the hotly discussed exchange, but I also tried to see the side of the women who’d expressed their frustrations.

If I quickly dismissed their complaints as being based on what hesuggested, then I also would not have tried to truly accept or understand why they felt the way they did.

Much of this could boil down to perspective, to some degree, and perception.  Or could it?

Working to understand both sides of an argument at least goes a long way.

A handful of the females, whom, like most of us, had been placed into rural public schools around the prefecture, bemoaned that they were not able to meet “eligible men”, and, unfortunately, in their opinions, that meant Japanesemen (unhesitatingly encapsulating allas unsuitable suitors).

Some stated, quite openly, that they felt they were “intimidating to local men”, that they were “too outspoken” or loud, coinciding with a stereotypical notion that “guys in Japan like quieter, more passive, subservient women” (though that’s surely not true of an entire nation, and generationally there are changes already to those cultural norms–and there are always exceptions to the rule, anyway).

Some even described how their European or North American frames were physically much larger than dudes they could meet, precluding them from having relationships because they feared men would not be attracted to them or, conversely, that they weren’t interested in men of such small physical stature, either. Some even joked of towering over potential dates.

Of course, other stereotypical wisecracks about size sproutedforth during the discussion, pardon the pun.

Entering into the conversation were comments, too, of how men there, especially in more rural communities and smaller townships, were more traditional in their thinking, that they expected a woman to be less career driven and more bound to the home. Women who have stronger opinions or who more openly express themselves may be taken as a turn off, they expounded.

All sorts of topics were broached, none of which were necessarily right or wrong because–in reality–much of it boils down to perspective and how one perceives such inputs.

Right?

Still it remains quite questionable, however, if any of those women were right in their assumptions. Couldn’t they have all just simply dismissed stereotypes and tried to find someone?  Wasn’t there someoneavailable for them, or did they just blindly banish all local men for being non-date-worthy?

Wouldn’t going out on a few dates have possibly opened up their eyes or mindsets a bit more (perhaps even opening other attributes), to potentially set aside some of the obvious cultural differences or norm-based dating expectations, in order to then be able to search out the more positive characteristics of local chaps?

Who knows, then some bonehead could have coined the term, “Once you go small, your emotional state never will fall!” (Hey, now now, we’re talking STATUREfolks! Don’t read between the lines!)

On a serious note, if one of them wound up dating a Japanese, it can most assuredly be said that the expat blokes would not have ridiculed them with converse “Asian persuasion” criticisms.  Sadly, that expression doesn’t appear to exist in reverse and appears to be uni-gender, uni-directional in its usage.

I’ve never heard of someone teasing a woman who’s dating an Asian man with that same “persuasion” quip. Odd, isn’t it?  It’s alwaysdirected at guys.

Even for me, dating my girlfriend there, I had to accept certain aspects of her culture that seeped into the relationship, aspects of Japanese society that I didn’t fully accept, in order to focus on the positives that she offered as a human being, as someone I cared about.

For example, I was initially flabbergasted by the curfew she had had, with her parents demanding she come home before 11pm Sunday through Thursday, and by midnight on the weekends.

Though I was around 31 and she was 27, we still had to abide by the obligatory scheduling her parents had set.  There was no way around it lest she truly rock the cultural boat, but for many yet-to-be-married women there, familial expectations and cultural norms are often that they still live at home and abide by parental rules until they’re married (many women in the department of education in my town were 40-somethings and still living under their parents’ roofs).

[In fact, I had to pick her up and drop her off just down the road from her folks’ place, for she feared they would complain that she was dating a foreigner.  Doing so, I frequently wondered what I was getting into, but overall, I accepted such aspects of dating locally.]

If female expats there put aside some aspects of the traditional Japanese cultural leanings, couldn’t they have settled into longer relationships, too?

One could even go into the topic of the comments made by some British and American gals then that “Japanese men aren’t that attractive,” but that would be opening up a whole other can of judgmental worms.

Yet this isn’t just a living-in-Japan phenomenon.

Until this day (at least up until departing the country in 2017), female expat colleagues in Taiwan also often grumbled about “not being able to find a date”–and regularly definitely emphasized that it was “much easier” for expat men, naturally adding that we men were somehow miscalculated in doing so.

Colleagues and acquaintances there in Taiwan revealed that they’d periodically hook up with other North American, South African or European overseas workers (teachers, engineers, etc.), but by and large, the majority would lament they were forced to spend immeasurably more time with girlfriends going out or hanging at home, compared to back in their homelands especially.

They bemoaned the (perceived) lack of desirable local men, though in reality the city we lived in was of a population of well over a million (one would hope some of whom were eligible) inhabitants.

Indeed, mixed-culture and mix-ethnicity dating in Taiwan was a lopsided affair.

Once, after my marriage to a Taiwanese, I commented to her at an outdoor birthday gathering that not only were all of the couples present then mixed-race, which is NOT a bad thing, of course, but also that, oddly, there were onlywestern men and their Taiwanese spouses present.

There were at least a dozen couples with kids running about, yet it was as if some unwritten rule had permitted only such pairings to attend the party, ruling out local men with foreign wives or even Taiwanese couples or strictly expat pairings.

The fact of the matter was that for my 12 years of living in Taiwan, I personally knew of only one married partnership between an Aussie woman and her Taiwanese spouse (whom a few expats seemingly needed to label as “cool” and “more western” in his thinking).

Why is that?

What drove expat gals in Taiwan (and Japan) to dismiss so many single nearby men?

Why the one-sided pairings?

On that note, the latest trigger to finally prompt me to broach this topic in such a format (after quite some time pondering how it would come out or be received) happened just this weekend (Feb 3-4, 2018).

I had noticed that in an overseas school-related FB exchange group posting that a female teacher had listed out her top choices of employment after attending a hiring fair. Surely, important aspects of living abroad were noted as what needs to be weighed in accepting an offer of employ in a foreign land, yet it was more notable that one attribute of making the best decision was the availability of dating options.

Not that she focused too much on it (for it is just one facet she’d dwelled on, apparently), but rather that a few posters in the thread subsequently highlighted it as potentially concerning, addressing specifically China and working there.

Moreover, as I read through the threads, questions naturally arose as to why China, as a whole, would be rejected as a teaching location or categorized as not having enough dating options for an expat woman.

With a population of well over 1.3 billion, with some 98% being male, one would think that there just has to be someChinese men worthy of dating, right?

In no wayis my mentioning her carefulness and wariness demeaning, for quite a few female members alluded to similar concerns, but I admittedly, automatically wondered if I would specify “dating possibilities” as a factor in selecting a job in a foreign country. That mindset is not based on my gender, I don’t believe, but in my opinion, the opportunity to live in a new culture entails so much more than that.

Thus, how much of a factor, overall, should it be (of course it boils down to perspective)?

With that said, if I couldn’t date, get laid from time to time, or fall in love during the whole 2-3-or-4 years of living in a new country because the local community is somehow closed off to that, making the potentiality of dating limited, rare, or impossible, I’d hesitate if such forethought allowed that knowledge beforemoving to a new overseas locale.

However, I don’t believe I’d completely scratch a place off my pros and cons charted alternatives for one reason.

Or would I?

Who is to blame in this regard? Or is no one to blameand this is somewhat a fact of life for those living overseas?  Do such occurrences just come with the territory, depending on the territory?

Are expat women being too picky?  Judgmental? Intolerant? Simply expressing dating preferences? Are their dude-ly counterparts somehow wrong in going out as they do, as accusations sometimes allude to (or blatantly attempt to highlight)?

Are there really barriers that exist in the opposite direction, in that “Asian” men (quite the generalization since Asia is humongous) won’t accept a western or expat girl while abroad? Or are these sweeping rationalizations merited?

All I know at this point is that these in-my-face debates about eligible locals, etc., no longer appear to exist (or at least haven’t yet transpired), for I relocated to Central America six months ago, now enjoying a lifestyle without a lopsided blame.

Here, from my experiences so far, based on what colleagues have admitted to, explained, and hinted at, both expat men and woman are activelydating locals, without the members of one gender group self-sabatoging one’s own dating options while here.

Apparently, however, I’ve been told to be on the lookout for “visa hunters”, which is a term I’ve only just learned of since moving here six months ago.

There seems no escape from such related-to-dating topics, even when escaping the beaten path by choosing to lead life abroad.

[Whether the notion of “visa hunters” is accurate or not, or the reasons why an expat may be “more sought after”, can easily be another blog entry.]

Regardless, Twain was correct in saying, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness, all foes to try understanding.” Yet that notion doesn’t apply to conversations about dating during such travels, apparently.

I wish he’d also concluded that travel should befatal to the debates about why one would date abroad and with whom one would choose to partner with while overseas.

If it isn’t so common to question another’s dating preferences back home, one would expect that the open-mindedness that traveling allegedly permits would make such deliberations obsolete.

So the next time you see someone dating a local, internationally, let it slide without judgment. Perhaps those living around the world can even promote dating overseas as a way to break down erstwhile barriers and to bridge unfounded cultural differences. No, that’s not a promotion of seeking out someone intentionallymerely based on race or ethnicity (for then those accusations of selectively targeting a particular type would be validated), but if it happens more often and naturally that we intermingle, or at least be open to it, we’ll all be better off with greater worldwide diversity and less prone to judgment.

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Living abroad, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Where Will Marrying Abroad Take You—Or Leave You?

So you’ve decided to work abroad, allowing yourself the enviable opportunity to see the world, soak up several cultures, partake in language learning.  The list, surely, does not stop there.  Your head full of hopes, you focus on the open horizons ahead, counting your lucky stars that you’re finally taking that leap of faith to live in a foreign land.

Upon arrival, if you’re single, you’ll be bombarded with decisions about dating,  an ever exciting process of meeting Mr or Mrs Right.  How will you meet new people?  Are you aiming to be club going, café lounging, gym-bound, or app surfing, and will those avenues open up opps to be swept off your feet? 

Without a doubt, however, you may struggle to meet others, with so many variables making it a challenging course, of course depending on the local culture and norms, language barriers, or even if you can tolerate a first date fumbling with chopsticks over a bowl of stinky tofu. 

On the other hand, you may find love overseas, perhaps in a heartbeat, getting swept up in the moment of that charming French lad’s accent or the welcoming wink of a Latina at a local cantina.

How many have done the same before you? What’s happened to all of those couples, over the eons of dating cross-culturally? 

If you’re bound for discovering love abroad, then what?

Although dating back home, locally, entails decisions that we’ve all faced (ifyou’ve dated, of course), such as what loop of the freeway is best to use at rush hour to expedite seeing each other for happy hour, the process of dating while you’re living in another country opens up a whole new set of curiosity-filled questions, numerous unknowns, and fresh-to-us endeavors.

Naturally, the run-of-the-mill issues that happen in any couple’s lives come about, prompting heartfelt discussions about said topics, but of course, there will be a slew of new issues to broach and queries to pose, especially about cultural differences and how one another’s perspectives and norms shape and guide our decisions in a relationship. 

Since we are subject to so many underlying, from-birth cultural norms, bi-cultural, bilingual partnerships are at times faced with complex challenges that don’t exist in a regular ol’ relationship back home.  With hopes, you overcome the biggest obstacles that stem from said differences, discovering, in the end, that love is love and we’re all human, it turns out, regardless of both superficial and overt customs and habits.

Yet once a relationship is firmly established while in a faraway land, such adopted-but-still-foreign environs will necessitate more potentially complicated decisions about the next step. 

Will you marry?  If so, where?  Back home?  Whose family succeeds in seeing you more often?  Where will you settle?  Whose eventually-going-to-age parents will benefit from your being close?  One way or the other, there will be some sacrifices made with regards to being far from the family and friends of one of the partners.  Taking the loop or local subway to visit one set of in-laws on the weekend won’t happen; they’re a 9-, 12-, 15-hour flight away.  How about home and property purchases?  Retirement down the road? 

All such topics will, and open dialogue should, surface, but most importantly, where will discussions about having and raising kids lead you?  Then what?

Once an overseas partnership leads to marriage, and once a marriage (or not) leads to kids, inevitably, a couple will have multitudes of other doors to open that may or may not allow the expat abroad to return to their passport country.  Yet for those fortunate, those raising children in a marriage abroad, the one who’d decided to stay overseas to do so will still benefit from traveling the world, soaking up those cultures, partaking in language learning.  Ideally, your reasons for taking that leap to live internationally in the first place are still pursuable, along with raising kids within the realm of marriage overseas.

Falling Out of Love, Overseas

If you’re planning on finding love and falling in love—during your world-embracing teaching career, you must take the time to at leastwonder about what might happen if you fall OUT of love while no longer in Kansas any more. Then what? 

If not married, that’s fairly simple; if married, a potentially dramatic far-differentstory.

Of course, chances are that all could end peacefully, allowing the splitting off onto separate life paths to be smooth and well-graded.  An expatriate partner would have the freedom to choose what horizons lie ahead, wherever that may be. 

Yet consider, if married with children during your global adventures, all the complexities of what potentially could arise when divorced. Did those of having taken such a step or those who are contemplating it really consider all that a negative divorce could encompass? 

Of course nobody feels very comfortable pondering potential pitfalls, for we all want to believe in fairy tale endings, male or female.  However, I’d like to promote that if you’re reading this and have plans to perhaps tie the knot while in a far off land, that you stop to assess the risk–even if marriage shouldn’tbe labeled as a risk.  

More often than not, one partner will again be faced with challenges and issues that exist far beyond the scope of a “normal” path(i.e., back home in Kansas). 

Divorce courts, custody hearings, lawyer-hiring-processes, childcare, translations and interpretations, etc., and every process to navigate such steps, will all be impacted by or result from being abroad (for one of the two adults involved). 

With that said, I’ve been there done that, a nightmarish journey that left we with nothing, an experience that, as an overseas educator who has lived 18 of the last 20 years internationally, tainted my last three and a half years in said country.  Faced with insurmountable odds, being pummeled by incessant biased farce—to the point of provablefamily court corruption, having unfairly lost my children, having lost $30,000, I threw in the towel.  In the end, I had no choice, pushed to the brink of despair, hopeless, and I left my overseas home.  Now alone, without my kiddos, as a heavy-hearted alienated, targeted father, I focus my energies on again setting out in a new culture, a new nation.

Considering continuing life overseas, since I cannot fathom repatriation at this time, for I’d already been stripped of my identity as a parent and I couldn’t stand losing my identity as a traveler and expat, also—I too must now rethink all that dating overseas entails, and where it may lead.  Knowing I am not the only one to experience this debilitating process, I still have hope that global horizons hold something rewarding, romantically—at least for matters of the heart, as I set out on this new international journey.   

If you, yourself, are hoping and expecting to date abroad, look further down the road, far past the excitement and romantic stages of dating, far past the various phases of long-term love and relationships, and consider your choices and what could happen if you settle for some time internationally, both positive and negative. 

Keep faith that mixed-culture relationships can and do work, yet always make your decisions with the realistic notion of what might happen if all fails—especially if children are in the mix.

 

 

[The author, who has taught in Europe, Asia and Latin America, is a seasoned international school teacher, one who is now considering what countries lie ahead, sans family, while on a literary-minded sabbatical. The afore-written post is simply to bring light to such a topic, but the author is setting out now to commence a detailed book on divorce and custody abroad, a difficult process that many have faced since travelers, migrants and expats first began falling in love internationally.  He’d love to hear of similar stories from overseas experiences.]          

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A Benefit Worth Little

This entry was originally posted to my private, family-only blog in November, 2015, months after divorce, as I was going through a hellish divorce case.

I’m going to be blunt in this blog posting, which was started a few months ago but left unfinished.  If you are offended by any mention of sexual acts, don’t read any further, but I am assuming I am writing to an adult audience, so I’ll proceed with writing as I wish, to get things off my chest, to help sort thoroughly through thoughts as I am doing so.

Yet, such scribbles aren’t as much about these nascent lascivious goings on as they are about the fact that I am actually afraid of the transitional phase that I’mnowgoing through. How odd that an adult man, a middle-aged man for that matter, is hesitant and concerned about becoming sexually active again after a two-year hiatus–after almost nine years with the same woman.

My head full of relative excitement and my spirit somewhat rejuvenated, I apprehensively step into a new phase of my post-divorce life–wishing, wholeheartedly, that I had my kids in my life every day, insteadof the pseudo-freedom I’m finally feeling.

This August, nearly two years after my initial separation from my ex-wife, my big sister sent me an email, one which encouraged me to ‘move on’.  She’s followed my story intently for two years, she knows the outcome of all court dealings, and she realizes that I’m just barely making it emotionally. A realist, she recommends that I start over (not in giving up on my kids, but letting go of all the bitterness and making life good again).  For the last 24 months, however, I’ve not been able to do that–nor even come close to doing that.

Since the early stages of separation from my ex, I’ve spent nearly two years in a constant state of focus on getting my kids in my life, fighting off absurd accusations, defending myself in numerous court cases, and presenting myself in claims against her. Without a doubt, I’ve been all-consumed by and self-absorbed in the trails and tribulations that the end of a marriage entails (with custody and property battles, to boot).

However, I’ve recently started to let go, as my big sister implores, and in some ways, that strangely scares me.

[In reality, when I started this blog entry a few months ago, that newly-found ability to let go a little has somewhat abated, and I’ve recently found myself full of stress once more.]

During these last 730 days, I’ve been trapped in a cycle of bitterness and, admittedly, hatred.  Added to the mix is that I invested nearly every afternoon and evening for this stretch, the vast majority of weekends (when not with my children), and even mornings before work, often doing documenting from 6:00am until 7:45am.  I couldn’t let go if it, fearful that I’d lose my shirt and lose my kids.

And if a social opportunity availed itself, I shot it down, telling myself I’d never let myself live it down if I lost a case because I simply didn’t prepare enough.

Admittedly, I also had no choice but to stay away from dating the first 10 months of separation, for we weren’t officially divorced yet–and even since the divorce was finalized, I’ve really not been available, either.

With the aforementioned stressors and demands, I surely wasn’t putting my best foot forward in looking “available” or finding someone.

However, it was more than that.

I’ve also been intimidated into not entering the dating scene here because my ex has lied repeatedly to the Court that I exposed my kids to alleged affairs after we separated and that I am going to ruin them because of my “women”, she claims. She lied in Court documents that I’d even slept with women at my house while my kiddos were there. Nonsense, indeed, but the last thing I needed was for her to get wind of my being back on the market here (it is a small community of expats here in this land abroad–which I call home).

In fact, I’ve recently explained to people the whole concept of the six-degrees of separation (or Kevin Bacon, if you will), and that here in this city, it is more like two-degrees.  Seemingly, everyone knows my ex somehow.

Various variables have existed that kept me off the market, yet, with two loses in major cases in the last three months, I’m recently been more prone to giving up now on all the cases and staring life anew (though that does NOT include giving up on the custody case).  Loss after loss somewhat diminished my motivation from August until October, but I regained some of that drive, especially after hearing of a new case against me for financial gain, one which is full of lie after lie (its a counter suit to my filing against her for the money she clearly owes me, which she stated she would pay back in an email exchange before and after separation).

So, back to the idea of feeling defeated and how it has been challenging, to say the least, to enjoy life:

On a recent Sunday morning, I, lounging at a Starbucks, bawled after getting off of a Skype call with my daughter.  Sitting alone at the coffee shop, I tried to hide my tears, attempting to stop my heavy sighs.

Having recently lost a big court case, I was in a state of despair, influenced more so because communication with my two wee ones has become increasingly more difficult–which is a whole other story in itself.

The call was the first successful one of that week, with all previous attempts failing miserably, for their grandmother claimed one night that the kids were sleeping (much much earlier than normal), and another night met with busy signals and then no answers immediately following the initial busy signals. Then one evening ended in frustration that my son didn’t come to the phone and my six-year-old daughter was supposedly not home yet (at 9pm), again.

I also, for the first time in 1.25 years of such calls, somewhat went off on my ex-mother-in-law in her language, Mandarin.  I asked why they didn’t have my six-year old at home yet on a school night, so late, and why they didn’t know that the children need to be home at that time.  She then vacillated and claimed my baby girl was sleeping, instead.  Her reckless changing of her story irked me.  The whole ordeal has left me on edge, impatient with the bullshit they’re perpetrating.

So, of course, I texted my ex about the lack of communication they are forcing, additionally telling my kids in the same text message, for the umpteenth time, that I was waiting for them to call me back or for them to at least let me know when I could catch them.  No such return calls or texts came in response, just as they haven’t come in nearly a year (the ex has responded TWO times to my 150-plus texts over the last year, asking about the best time to call them back or when they’d be home).

Thus, solo at the Starbucks (at first solo), I sobbed because, during the 8:30am call, my daughter seemed totally aloof, perhaps tired because of just having gotten up–but surely short-answered.  Attempting to sound giddy, I asked her about her week, her weekend activities, and what she wanted to do their next weekend with me.  All answers were terse.  She didn’t reveal any enthusiasm in talking to me, so I let her go after just two or three minutes.  Immediately, tears flowed down my cheeks.

Other calls (all recorded for the Courts, if need be) do reveal her happiness and energy, but this call was different.

That Sunday morning, for the first hour after the tears flowed, I sat sullen, alone, thinking I was solo in this struggle, with all family abroad, with deep friendships here in this foreign country alluding me.

Yet…

That Sunday night, in the dark shadows along a row of hedges in a park, I received fellatio from a woman whom I’ve recently started seeing.  It was a bold move, for people had already walked close by to where we sat on an elevated wall.  It was the most adventurous sexual encounter I’d had in years, for those more-risky experiences had died out in my marriage a long time ago.

If I could have had the day with my children instead, without any doubt in my mind, I would have chosen them over a dozen such moments; over a hundred or more, really. In fact, I’d give the latter up forever if I could be a full-time daddy and get to raise my kids for the next umpteen years.

Without any hesitation, I would opt for having been able to tuck my kids into bed that night, instead.

For the duration of all these troubling months since separation back in October of 2013, I spent most every evening sorting through 1000’s of emails, searching for evidence, creating court documents, receiving and collating translations of my paperwork, etc.  But that one night, I was getting blown in the park–and for a moment, I lost track of my burdens.

Surely, that moment in the park was intense, pleasurable, exciting. However, soon after, I suffered a mental self-lambasting that I shouldn’t have engaged in such things, not because it was “wrong” or shallow or low-class (hey, when a new relationship is developing, there is nothing wrongwith such arousing activities), but because I could have been involved in preparations for future hearings or scouring more emails from years passed.

Or I should have been with my children.

The reality is that I’m being placed into a single guy role that I hesitatingly accept, for it isn’t what I truly want. Being single again, being able to date, is a worthless benefit in many ways.

Not only my sister, but two other female members of my family back home have sent encouragements to merely “move on” from this fiasco, explaining to me that I should hope that in another 14-15 years, my children will realize what their mother did so wrongly to attempt to destroy me and my relationship with them.  Family (and friends) hope that perhaps one day my kids will choose to have a closer relationship with me over their mother, which they weren’t allowed in their younger years (the present-day stage of their lives and, I assume, for years to come after the pending custody verdict).

That’s all a ginormous, sharp-edged pill to swallow.

My relatives mean well, and perhaps they are right, but to “move on” prompts me to feel I’ve failed.

Anyone whose read my posts here and on FB knows that these divorce- and custody-phase tests and trials have oft beaten me down.  Pages upon pages of tumultuous goings-on have filled this chapter in my book of life.

When I read the latest results from one hugely important case [now two to three months ago], for which I lost allclaims, it sent me tumbling even farther into a mindset of defeat, forcing me to inch closer to simply accepting my losses and licking my wounds (though that changed in mid-October when I learned of the new case she’s fabricating evidence for, once more–and I’m now back to the grind).

Does this all mean giving up on my kids and on trying to get them in my life (which could range from full custody to merely seeing them twice a month on two Sundays, which my ex has promoted in her custody plan)?  Does the advice that folks have given mean I should give upallhope?  Can I move on (mentally and emotionally) simultaneously–yet still fight for them?

Accepting the pending custody decision, one which will, with a 99.9% chance, mean she gets sole custody, and giving up on the other cases still ongoing, is no easy task.  From August until October, though, my gut was telling me it is best.  I’ve invested so much time and energy (and nearly $15,000US in cash) these two years that I cannot afford, spiritually, emotionally and financially to offer much more.  I’ve spread myself too thin.

I’m still holding on, but my grip is tenuous.  Visions of myself, fingers bemoaning their pain, gripping a precipitous ledge a mere inch thick, fill my thoughts more often than not.  Nowadays, those mental images also entail me letting go, falling. Failing.

How far will I fall?  Or do I allow myself a worthless benefit from time to time?  Time will tell.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Virtual Dating and Unsolicited Dick Pics

In 2003, having relocated from abroad back to my home country, and then having moved from one state to another a short time later, I decided to use Yahoo Personals as a way to meet someone, instead of the old-school, more “traditional” ways of trying my luck: praying desperately for hours while on a church pew, hoping friends would somehow introduce me to their fifth cousin in Poughkeepsie, pleading to startled, random passersby at local shopping malls, and doing a pseudo-rain dance of sorts when the stars were aligned just right, to name a few.

Okay, it was neverthatbad, but online dating sites kind of added a new dimension to meeting others back then: It was at least a guarantee that approaching someone online was at least done so with the basic notion already in place that she, too, was looking to meet someone.  It didn’t mean an automatic match was made in heaven or that the person would reciprocate interest, but at least online datingdoesmean that members are hoping to meet others (as compared to the uncertainty that surrounds helping out a damsel in distress to pick up a knocked over basket of Golden Delicious at the supermarket on a Saturday night–and then serendipitously finding you’re attracted to each other–or more often than not, not).

Twelve years later, I’ve given online dating a go again, two years removed from separation from my ex-wife (and a year-plus into divorcee status), too challenged by whatever variables exist here in this foreign land in which I live, wanting to meet others without the typical stressors of approaching someone from out of the blue.

The initial results are such a mixed bag, but one recent, ephemeral acquaintance-making was a quirky enough experience to blog about here.

[Let’s cut straight to the point on this one: I am not sold on it all yet, and part of the reason is that the male type folks who use such sites can really taint it for others.]

Last month, I had coffee, twice, with a recently-divorced lady in her late 40s.  In fact, she’d written that she was single on her profile, but after two conversations, it turns out her divorce is notfinalized yet.  Moreover, in a recent threaded chat on a free messaging app here, she stated that she was worried that her ex was coming home from his business abroad–and because he is a jealous type, she was worried that her plans to meet an Australian man would be interfered with. Yes, she was explaining to me all of herdating woes, and she openly shared this story on our second coffee (andlastcoffee it should be–especially as a result of her quirky stories).

Her willingness to reveal her recent virtual trysts was intriguing, for I could at least detect that she was forthright about her life (as compared to an outright liar), but how she dealt with an online pursuer left a distaste in my mouth.

Over coffee she explained that she’d been communicating with an Australian bloke and that he was coming to visit her soon.

“Oh, cool, that’s great for you,” I replied, trying to remain open to all she’s about since one shouldn’t judge so early in any given relationship (friendship or otherwise), and she surely owed me nothing, of course, in terms of showing any level of commitment to me (we’d justmet).

“Well, he said he wants to move to this country, and he wants to buy a house here, all just for me.”

“Really?  Has he been here before?”

“No, not yet.”

“But how does he know he would like to live here?” I queried.

“Well, I don’t know, but he said he will move here forme.”

“Oh. Okay. But do you trust him?”

“Yes, because he said many nice things to me.”

“To be honest, I cannot believe that a man told you he is willing to move to a country and buy a house–when he hasn’t even met you yet, let alone been to said place.”

“But online, he is so nice to me.  Here, take a look at his messages to me,” she explained, showing me her cell phone.

As I read through them, my jaw dropped.

One message read: “I would walk to the end of the earth for you.”

That’s one damn long way for a stranger, isn’t it?

Another stated: “Every morning I awake, I smile because I have you in my life.”

In your life?  How is that so?  You’ve never met!  And how much does virtual chatting allow you in someone’s life or vice-versa?

Yet another quipped: “You are the reason I smile when I wake each morning.”

Damn, you’ve got one sad life!  So you never smiled before that?  Was there never a reason to smile before meeting this woman online?

Reading her texts with the bloke caused me to recollect the movie Herfrom two years back. Creepy shit.

I commented, somewhat incredulously, “Uh, do youbelievehim?”

“Yes.”

“But you’ve nevermet him, right?”

“No.”

“Wow.  Okay.  But I honestly believe these are things you say to someone whom you’ve known for a long time, or with whom you’ve had interaction.  Not just something online. Do you two sometimes chat on video, too? Or just text message?”

“Oh, just twice on video calls. He said he cannot always Skype,” she clarified.

“Well, maybe he cannot video chat because he has a wife and kids at home, or something suspiciously perpetrated like that.”

“Well, he is on business a lot so he just uses his phone to text with me, he said.”

She wasn’t listening to my suggestions.

“Where does he go?”

“All over the region to different countries,” she admitted.

“Do you think he meets women online from those places, also? And that maybe he’s telling those women in those countries the same things as he tells you?”

“Oh, I don’t think so. He’s just a businessman.”

“Oh.”

“And he said he missesme,” showing me texts where he said that.

“But can you miss someone you’ve never actually metbefore? To me, the emotion of missing someone is special, and it comes about because you depart ways for some reason, and you have a place in your heart for him/her that is void because of time or distance away from each other.  I just don’t think ‘missing someone’ is possible when you’ve not even been face to face before. Do you think he just says those things, all of these things, to impress you?”

“Well, women want men to say nice things.”

“True, but if he is planning on coming here to meet you, then maybe he is just trying to ‘butter you up’ to get you to believe your special in his mind/eyes. Maybe you arespecial, but does he know all that from just texting back and forth?”

“But he expressed that he lovesme.”

My Adam’s apple stuck for a few moments in its position of rapid, forced decent.

“Oh, wow! But does he truly mean it?  And, by the way, how long have you “known” him?” (I have a hard time using the term “know” when it comes to virtual relationships.)

“Just a month.”

“Huh?”

I think I smacked my own cheek, thrice.

“So when did he say he loved you?”

Skimming through his texts, she found the first time, replying, “After two weeks of knowing him.”

“Oh. Uh. Er. Do you think he says that to other online friends so quickly?”

Maybe it is just me, but it usually takes months (or longer) to employ the term or develop such emotions.  Even though I believe in the notion of love at first sight, online dating just doesn’t permit such understanding, even if it is the it-just-felt-right-from-the-start type of intoxication that can happen–IN PERSON!

“No.  I don’t think he says that to others,” she defended.

“Do you think that because you have been married for 25 years and are recently alone (when you’re soon-to-be-ex-husband is away for weeks or months at a time) that you needto hear these things?”

“Well, he says the right things. Women want to hear those things.”

“Sorry, but can I know if you said ‘I love you’ in response?”

“Yes.”

“Why? Do you?”

“No. I don’t think so.”

“So why say such meaningful things if you don’t–or you don’t know?”

“Because he said it tome. I think it is nice.”

“But how can he love you if he has never held your hand when you’re afraid, seen you breathe deeply while watching a romantic film, watched your impatient reaction to a traffic jam at rush hour, tasted the softness of your earlobe, or heard you snore like a grizzly bear?”

[I used similar examples to point out those little moments in new relationships that let you just know.]

She thought about it a bit, but wasn’t totally sure how to respond, other than, “I just want to hear those things.”

“Well, can I ask you a personal question?  Has he ever sent you a photo of himself naked?  I’ve got two female friends who’ve told me that many men post dick pics through dating site chat rooms. Does he dothat.”

“Yes.”

“Do you tell him not to?”

“No.”

“Don’t you think it is offensive to get unsolicited penis photos? Or are you okay with it?”

“Well, he wanted to send them,” she admitted.

“To be honest, if that is what you want, that’s okay.  If you want sex or virtual sex, that’s your choice.  We’re adults. If you are okay with him wanting that, and he does it openly in a way that isn’t devious or tricky, and you’re wanting the same, there is really nothing wrong with that.  But what do you mean he wanted more?”

“Well, he did something else on video camera.”

“Oh.  I think I know what you mean. So he wanted to masturbate?”

“Yes.”

“And did you watch?”

“Yes.”

“Did you really want to?”

“No.  But he wantedme to.”

“Hey, please think about that. If you oblige, but you don’t actually want to see it, you’re giving him false impressions of you as a woman–and then what happens when he comes here to see you?  He is going to expect that you’re totally open to those things. Again, if youwantthat, and you are looking for a man because you’re lonely or needing attention in that way, that’s your choice, but if you don’t want to watch him, why on Earth would you… watchhim?  He is going to come to visit you and want so much more.”

(If two consenting, desirous adults are making such plans, then I am not the one to judge, but she showed enough uncertainty and hesitation about it all that I couldn’t help but wonder if she was being taken for a ride, pardon the pun.)

“What should I have done when he asked?”

“Of course tell him ‘no’!”

“But that’s not being nice to him,” she stated.

“Not nice? If a woman doesn’t want to see a man’s penis, let alone watch him jerk off, then why not tell him? By the way, have you received many other pics from strangers on dating apps or sites?”

“Yes, of course.”

“And what do you tell them?”

“I don’t say anything.”

“Why not?  You should! The more women say ‘no’ to such pics, the less it would occur over time.  But if women don’t say anything, then such creeps will continue to not get the picture and continue such unsolicited antics.”

“But that would cause them to lose face.”

“Huh? You mean that telling a man no across cyberspace can cause him to lose face? Huh?”

“So I don’t say anything.”

“Please, promise me that you’ll say ‘Don’t do that; that’s inappropriate and I don’t appreciate it,’ and then block them. But again, if it is actually what you want, then that’s your prerogative.  Yet it doesn’t seem like you want it, right?”

“No, I don’t want to see them.”

After our coffee, we walked to the nearest corner to where she caught a taxi.  I wished her well in her choices and strength in figuring out what she wanted, dealing with her supposedly-soon-to-be-ex, and making the right choices when the Australian phone-fondler comes, pardon the pun, again.

We’ve texted a few times since, but this chap ain’t feelin’ it because the aforementioned discussion should make anyone cautious as hell. The last thing I would need is a man returning from months of working abroad to find dating site dick pics on his not-yet-ex’s phone and then find my number and accuse me of being one of them!

That’s not the kind of evidence I want to submit to defend myself.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Post This to Your Social Media!

If You’re a Racist, Take This Photo

On October 10, 2015, at 10am, I was sitting in a café near the Art Museum with a paid translator, side by side, typing a Chinese document into English, with her help. The meeting was actually paid work for her.

At 8pm on October 10th, that very same night, I walked down a sidewalk in town with a platonic female friend, having just eaten dinner. We passed through the outdoor seating area of a Donutes café and went to a nearby shop.

At around 815pm, the platonic friend received a Line message from a gal she knows, and that gal had sent her a photograph via Line. Astonishingly, the photo her friend sent was a photograph of her and me walking through the Donutes seating area 15 minutes before! How on earth did that friend get a photograph of the two of us?

Then that very same friend immediately sent my platonic companion a second photo via Line, but the second photo astonishingly was of me and the translator from 10am that morning, working at a café in the Art Museum area.

How on earth did her friend have a photograph of me and the translator with whom I was working? The whole event was mindboggling unbelievable.

Lo and behold, the friend who had sent both photos had been given the photos from her husband. It turns out that the husband is a member of a Line chat group whose sole purpose, apparently, is to post pictures that group members take OF FOREIGN MEN IN KAOHSIUNG SEEN WITH LOCAL TAIWANESE WOMEN! That day, someone had posted the morning photo taken of me and my translator to the chat room on Line, and later that evening, someone else had posted a photo of me and my female friend walking through the Donutes café on MingChen Road at night.

Later, my friend and I walked passed the Donutes again, and there we saw five men sitting. We noticed the clothing of one man was the same clothing pictured on a man’s arm that was showing in the photograph of my friend and I that was posted in the Line chat group. It was clearly the same guys who’d taken our photo. My friend departed, but I turned around and returned to the table: I opened the photo on my phone (which my friend had sent me) and went up to their table. I pointed at the man’s clothes shown on my phone—and then pointed at the same man sitting at the table, and I asked in Chinese, “Is this you here in this picture? Why are you in this picture on my phone and my friend and I are shown here?” I pointed at the phone. I pointed at them. The men knew they’d taken the photo. The angle of the photo was clearly from one of that man’s friends across the table.

Instead, the man looked away from me, looked at his friends, and in Chinese said, “What’s this foreigner saying? I don’t understand.” He and their group refused to even acknowledge me. They repeated to each other, “What’s he saying?” but they didn’t even look at me. A group of five men didn’t have enough courage to explain themselves. They didn’t have the balls to admit to their wrongdoing. I walked away because I knew they would not even discuss what they’d done wrong.

My friend later told me they’re probably the type of Taiwanese men who sit on computers playing video games all night and cannot get a girlfriend, so they have nothing to do but complain about Taiwanese women who spend time with foreign men—and then they erroneously label women here as “western dick girls”, “western menu girls”, and “CCRs”. Their behavior is stupid. Its narrow-minded ignorance. Such actions are xenophobic. Such men are racists. Posting such photographs is libelous, and it hurts the people involved, people who have done nothing wrong. If you take a photo of me and it is plasters the Internet, make sure you post if to social media and news agencies with this message:

Stop the ignorance and get over the fact that some foreigners live here! I cannot wait for the day that the world (and this includes Taiwan) is so diverse and internationalized that racism and intolerance is at a bare minimum. The more expatriates from all over the world move to Taiwan, the more diversified the society will be, and this should lessen the racist ignorance! For now, open your mind! IF YOU SEE A FOREIGNER WITH A FRIEND, SPOUSE, COLLEAGUE, ACQUAINTANCE, LOVER, ETC., GET OVER IT. POST THAT TO SOCIAL MEDIA!

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