I've made it to Taiwan after 20+ hours of travel and am easing back into the world from my jetlag/melatonin haze. the last few days in America always feel so conflicted... and I decided to be a bad blogger but a good wife/daughter/sister/friend and pay more attention to my real life.
to break the silence here, I'm going to tell you a little story about our travels back to Taiwan.
we had an amazing summer. we traveled A LOT, and were able to see so many of our loved ones. we ate a ton of food and spent way too much money. there were kitten snuggles + slumber parties, weddings, barbecues, runs on dirt roads, and one night of intense margarita drinking. but when the time came to head back home to Taiwan, we were ready to go.
packing, as I have mentioned before, is always a trial for me. I had high hopes this summer of only bringing back one extra suitcase. we would have been fine on space. but I seriously underestimated the weight of everything. and since an overweight bag costs more than checking an extra bag under 50lbs... we ended up checking 4 bags in total. [after, of course, I had a Unikitty rage moment about it.]
we arrived to the airport and each paid the extra $100 to check an extra bag [Delta only allows one 50lb bag per person] and I was not in the greatest of moods when we approached the bag drop counter. the attendant asked for my passport and visa.
I should stop here to explain a little about visas in Taiwan, and my particular situation. laws have changed in the past few years and Americans are allowed to enter Taiwan with a 90-day tourist visa. this is given upon arrival in Taiwan, and requires no special forms or paperwork. for the previous two years, I have been in Taiwan under a residential visa [which required a LOT of paperwork] tied to my Husband's work visa provided by his school. unfortunately my Alien Residence Card [or ARC] was unable to be renewed before I left this year. you see, I can't have mine renewed until my Husband's has been renewed, and I left the country before that happened. an ARC lets me skip the long line for nonresidents and to leave or enter Taiwan with minimal hassle. the person in charge of visas at our school told me that I should return to Taiwan on a tourist visa [since my ARC was no longer vlid] and instead of renewing we would apply for a new one upon my return.
I explained this to the check-in attendant.
I'm not sure if she was unfamiliar with the new law that allows visas on arrival, or if she thought I was trying to illegally immigrate to Taiwan, or if she was simply having a bad day. but her response to me was "you're not allowed to do that. they probably won't let you in, or else you'll be deported." I again tried to explain that I was following the course of action recommended to me by someone who knew what they were talking about. "I guess I don't know about Taiwan... if you were trying to go to Japan you would be deported for sure." I refrained from mentioning that Japan also offers visa on arrival... and that I had been there 3 months ago with no issue.
I was 98% sure that things would be fine, but her certainty that I would be refused entry flipped my panic switch. Husband quickly started messaging our contact to double check I would be ok to enter the country while I did my best not to have a meltdown.
the attendant then proceeded to make a huge hassle out of weighing and checking our bags. first I wasn't loading them on to the scale properly, and then one bag was magically 4 pounds overweight [though we had weighed them all at home and made sure they were under.] of course, it was the last bag and so we couldn't just rearrange things to another checked bag. I frantically pulled out what I thought was 4 pounds and put the bag back on the scale. "oh, now you took too much out." the attendant informed me. I resisted the urge to scream and shoved a few things back in the suitcase, tying the rest into a plastic Target bag to carry on.
the attendant handed Husband back his passport with a "well I know you'll be fine." and gave me mine with a very doubtful sounding "good luck."
while Husband frantically messaged with our contact in Taiwan, I tried not to picture being thrown into a holding cell and shipped right back to the USA after spending 20 hours making my way to Taipei. we were reassured that entry would not be a problem, so long as I didn't whip out my expired ARC and try to use it. consolation came in the form of a soy caramel macchiato and being sent the new Taylor Swift video from my BFF.
2 flights, 3 screaming babies, 4 really annoying toddlers, and several almost panic attacks later... we arrived in Taipei.
delirious from lack of sleep, I waited in line for 20 minutes before I was directed to wait at counter 25 at immigration. there was man in his early 20s in from of me, American. he was having trouble with the officer because he hadn't indicated an address of stay for his time in the country, didn't have a phone number of a friend or even know the name of town the was staying in. my heart started racing as the officer called another man over and they took the American off... well I don't know where they went but I was terrified I would shortly be following.
I stepped up to the counter and handed over my passport. he asked me to take off my glasses, look at the camera, and squinted at my face to be sure I was really myself. he started flipping through my passport. "you have been to Taiwan before?" I don't know if he saw the expired visa or just the dozen or so stamps of entry/exit I've accumulated. "yes. my husband is a teacher at an international school in Hsinchu. I'm just here on a tourist visa though." I could see Husband standing on the other side, having gone through his line in about 3 minutes.
for a minute the officer thought I was with the American they had taken away, but I clarified that my Husband was already through and approved, and waiting. he stamped my passport and let me through.
we made our way back home, found six dead cockroaches in the apartment, went on a late night 7-11 run for some water, and melatonin-ed ourselves to sleep. the next day we met up with friends for [what else] some xiao long bao and card games, and have been slowly trying to unpack and adjust.
school starts next week, which means we will finally be getting on a somewhat regular schedule. this fall I am going to be teaching a blogging class [or really "activity time"] for a handful of students and I am both excited and nervous. I also have a lot of work to do with editing and completing my book manuscript, and of course I'll be blogging and sharing more of my summer adventures with you.
until then, xo.