I landed in Taiwan in the summer of 1999. I was on summer vacation from a job at a high school in Colorado. I wanted to learn more about life in Asia. I was walking out of a McDonald’s when a woman approached me and asked if I’d like a job teaching English. I was young and interested in seeing the world. I signed on for a year.
Taiwan in August
I started work in August. Teaching was difficult. I slowly learned how to break information down into small pieces and then how to present it in a way that my students could understand. This is a skill that I benefit from even today. The summer was hot, but it rained every day at 5:05. I would leave work at 5:00 and dash home on my motor scooter hoping to beat the rainstorm. I always arrived home soaked but refreshed. On the weekends, I explored on my own.
Then without knowing it at the time, I changed the direction of my life. I took a Chinese class at Providence University. The instructor was amazing. The harder I studied, the more she challenged me. I found that I learned Chinese quickly. The tones were difficult and took practice, but the grammar was easy. The class lasted 3 or 4 months, but it was my first step into a much bigger world. Not long after the class ended, I saw the instructor on the street. We had coffee a few times and eventually started dating. We were married and had our daughter in 2003.
In time, I started understanding basic conversation around me. I could connect with my neighbors who all told me my Chinese was excellent. My Chinese wasn’t very good, but they appreciated my effort. Over time, I started understanding the culture more deeply and began noticing the social blunders I was committing at work. I became more efficient at communicating with my Chinese co-workers and over time progressed to attending business meetings held in Chinese.
Life in Taiwan
I taught English and managed the school. My role shifted to managing the relationship between the Chinese management and the foreign staff. I served as a buffer and cultural translator. I helped the Chinese management get what they needed to run their business, while helping the foreign staff understand how to succeed.
Life in Colorado
In 2007, 8 years into a 1 year trip, we moved to Colorado. In 2008, we started offering classes to adults. Business people found us and started taking classes. Before long, our focus had shifted to primarily offering classes catered to business clients. In 2010, a corporation hired us. The CEO had been lost for 5 hours between the airport and his hotel. We found that many corporations lack the knowledge necessary to succeed in China. Our goal became to provide corporations (and their staff) the language skills and cultural awareness necessary to compete in China. We now provide classes at our office or on site training for corporations that do business in China.