I walk up to the counter at the grocery store and decide to pay with cash since it’s a small order. The cashier rings up my items, and it seems like any other routine transaction.
But then I attempt to count out exact change.
The quarters look like 10 NT coins from Taiwan, and the pennies are almost identical to 1 NTs. Things get very confusing to my non-mathematical mind very quickly. I stand there apologizing to the cashier for taking so long, stammering that I just recently moved back to the U.S. after living overseas. After I’ve finally found the correct change (or given up trying and handed over a larger bill), I awkwardly exit the store.
I am a Triangle
This scenario is just one of many that regularly remind me that I don’t completely fit in the U.S. after living in Taiwan for the past seven years.
There’s a great illustration in the expat community about what it’s like to leave your home country and eventually repatriate. The story goes like this: A woman from Circle Country travels to Square Country. She adapts to Square Country some, but she doesn’t completely become a Square. After living in Square Country for some time, she returns to Circle Country only to realize that now she’s not completely a Circle anymore either. She’s something in between: a Triangle. She’ll never completely be a Circle again, but she’d never truly be a Square either. That’s where I find myself right now: I am a Triangle.
Being a Triangle is not a bad thing (in fact, it’s pretty special), but it does make life a little more confusing at times. I feel at home and alien in both the U.S. and Taiwan. There will always be things that I miss about each country when I’m in the other. I think the hardest part about being a Triangle in America is that I speak clear English and I dress like a typical middle class American, so unless I explain to people that I’ve spent nearly 1/3 of my life in Taiwan, they’d never guess that my story is different.
The Re-Entry Process
My husband and I have moved back to the U.S., and we will be here indefinitely. We are open to moving back overseas someday, but for now, this is where God has us.
So, now we go through a long period of repatriating or re-entry. Now we count the change; we notice all the little things that surprise or confuse us as we get used to life in America again. We mourn the loss of things we love about Taiwan: the extra-friendly locals, successes in speaking the language, delicious food on every corner, and the ministries that we loved. But we also celebrate the things that we enjoy about being back in America: being closer to family (that’s #1 by far), easy interactions with people in our own language, not having to make international trips several times a year, and generally a little less stress in daily life because it’s our home culture. As we are counting change, we thank God for all the experiences He’s given us in Taiwan. We will miss Taiwan during this new season, but we are also excited to embrace life back in the U.S.A.
For those who are wondering what our specific plans are, here’s a quick run-down. We have moved to Beaufort, South Carolina, and we will be living in the home where my husband grew up. His mom will move into the garage apartment; this way she can downsize and we will be close enough to support and care for her. Though my parents are all the way in upstate New York, we are still closer to them than when we lived in Taiwan! We are so happy to be living closer to family and are looking forward to visits with everyone throughout the year.
Recently while I was anticipating our move “home,” I lamented the fact that I don’t feel like I truly fit anywhere anymore. In response to my comment, a friend reminded me that this world is not our home.
“For this world is not our permanent home; we are looking forward to a home yet to come.” Hebrews 13:14 (NLT)
Isn’t it good to know that though we probably all feel a sense of homelessness or restlessness in this world at times, that’s because we are not made for it? We were created for heaven, and that’s where we’ll find our true sense of belonging someday. But while we’re still here on earth, we can find our rest and our home in Christ alone. No matter where I am or how “Triangular” I’m feeling, I know that I have security in Christ.
This season is full of change, and it is not easy. There will be many times that I won’t feel at home here in the U.S., in South Carolina, in Beaufort. There will be many moments that I miss will Taiwan, that I will yearn to be back. In fact, this is about the time in July when we would usually be traveling back to Taiwan to begin a new school year. We would be doing our last-minute shopping and packing our bags and making the long journey home. It seems surreal that we’re not going back now. And yet, it is refreshing to be staying here. We are settling and putting down roots. Unpacking in our new home, learning to shop the local stores, and planning for jobs to come.
As my husband and I attempt to settle here at home, we also hope to keep our eternal perspective, remembering that heaven is our true home.
Where is your home? What cultural experiences have influenced who you are? Do you ever feel like a Triangle in a Circle or Square world?
2 thoughts on “Counting Change”
I completely understand this feeling of being in between cultures. I too lived oversees for 12 years in Argentina. My wife is from Argentina and our children born there. Our family’s first language went from English to Spanish as I became fluent. I went to this beautiful country to support my wife, but God had other plans and I studied theology in Spanish and later ordained as a pastor and serving as a missionary. I became another adopted son of that nation and loved the people that I served for God’s glory and honor. Corrupt police robbed our family twice and threatened to kill my family if I identified them. Things escalated and my family had to flee for safety to the USA. We arrived with only suitcases. It was very difficult to adapt back to my native culture as a Texan. It was even harder to find a job after serving God for 12 years my resume had no value to potential employers. Thank God today I have work and we are fairly acclimated after 18 months being back. Amen!
Thank you for sharing your story. It sounds like you and your wife have truly followed God’s leading in your lives. I’m sorry that you had to leave Argentina on such difficult terms; I’m sure that really does make the transition so much harder. I’m glad you’re settling back in and have work and a sense of belonging. May you have much joy and peace along the journey!