However, I was talking to my soon-to-be-roommate and found out that the Internet guy was coming on Friday morning. And she couldn’t be there. And our other roommate is still in the UK. So they might have to move back our installation to next week sometime. Which meant that I wouldn’t have Internet access at home when I arrived on Monday.
So I did what any self-respecting digital nomad would do:
I canceled my trip to Bali and instead dropped four hundred bucks on a flight back to Taiwan the following day (Thursday), so I could be present on Friday morning for the internet guy.
Let me repeat that, to make sure you caught it:
I just canceled my vacation to Bali… TO BE HOME FOR THE INTERNET GUY.
I can’t make this shit up.
I think I deserve a gold star for this one, though. I feel like I reached a new “level-up” for making that decision and following through with it. I hopped on the plane the following morning at oh-stupid-o’clock in the morning, raced through a couple of airports, grabbed a bus from the Taipei airport to the High Speed Rail station, zoomed along at 300 kph (200 miles per hour) down to Tainan, and got picked up by a friend and delivered to my new apartment an exhausted but content 18 hours later.
And the following morning, I was present when the Internet guy showed up, and even got him to run an Ethernet cord directly into my room so I could have a wired connection instead of just Wi-Fi, thank Ghu.
Honestly, though, it wasn’t that hard of a choice. I had been in full-on travel mode for several months, with moves every 1-2 weeks, and spotty Wi-Fi everywhere. I had just finished two full weeks of vacation, and a great retreat in Thailand. I needed to start getting work done, but Bali was going to have yet more spotty Wi-Fi, and I was feeling homesick for Taiwan. Plus, I was broke. Again.
So I went with my gut, which said: “go to your happy place and slow down for a minute.” And I felt thrilled about the decision.
Larson Family Mortuary
So in that light, I signed my new independent contractor agreement with Larson Family Mortuary (LFM) while in the Bangkok airport. Yeah, it sounds sexy and jet-setter, and I definitely did feel kinda cool (okay, maybe super cool) at the time.
But in reality it was just doing what needed to be done, where and when it needed to be done. So I sipped my coconut, ate my ridiculously expensive Pad Thai and dickered amiably over email, text and FaceTime with my brother about the contract details. Oh, I didn’t mention that earlier, did I? My brother is the business owner, and had asked me to help out with their money and books a month or two earlier, but I was too busy/not interested.
But when I thought about it, it really did seem like a good fit. A challenge. A puzzle. A job that can be done completely online. A reason to seek knowledge and information that I will need for my own business when it gets more profitable. Working with someone I trust. Need to work every week/month, but not every day. Yeah, when I put more thought into it, it seemed ideal. So I snapped it up.
Anyway, back to the “negotiations.” It didn’t take much, because it was a fair contract/deal to start with. So we ironed it out and I signed on the proverbial dotted line, and boarded my plan 30 minutes later. I am officially LFM’s bookkeeper slash accountant slash office manager slash “money person.”
After the dickering, I bought myself some Coldstone ice cream as a treat. God I love the Bangkok Airport. I’m not even sure why; it’s not particularly great as big airports go. But it’s extraordinarily convenient, I feel like I go there too-often-for-my-own-good and they have Coldstone. Apparently that's enough to be a winner in my book.
Settling Back In To Tainan, Taiwan
Two days after accepting my new "financial consultant" role with nearly zero experience in financial management or accounting, as I was beginning to get good and anxious as to how the hell I was going to pull it off, my new roommate casually mentioned that she was the Teaching Assistant for a beginning Accounting course at the local university. She invited me to come sit in to her class, which started the following day.
I showed up for the course with her, and it was exactly what I needed to learn.
A few days later my air conditioner went out. Naturally, it did so when it was 34° inside our apartment (that’s 93° for all you Fahrenheit folks). Aaaaand I ran into a bunch more problems on the same day, and may have had a meltdown or three. Blech.
But it all worked out, and I got to reconnect with some of my friends, and feel content to be where I am.
Just like being home.
#Add1Challenge - Mandarin
So this time I decided to “go big.” I joined over fifty other language learners in the #Add1Challenge for ninety days of socially-motivated-and-supported language learning. There are three or four other people learning Mandarin with me, and at least 20 other languages represented among the learners, from the usual mainstays (e.g. Spanish, German and Japanese) to less common ones (e.g. Polish and Czech) to languages so rare I had never even heard of them (Lingala and Kurmancî).
We have a secret Facebook group, daily emails, freebie study tools, intra-language study groups and inter-language Mastermind/how-the-hell-do-we-do-this groups. Our goal is to have a 15-minute conversation with a native speaker by day 91, and we have to do this on video.
In fact, I had to make a video to apply to get into the #Add1Challenge, and you can watch my video here: Samantha Mandarin Add1Challenge Application.
I set a harsh punishment for failure to ensure I don’t fall off the bandwagon this time. I went to a website that helps you with achieving goals/habits called StickK and gave them my credit card information. If I fail to meet my goal and upload a 15-minute conversation with a native Mandarin speaker by day 91, StickK will automatically make a contribution of US$250 to the National Organization for Marriage, the #1 group opposing “gay marriage” in the United States. Or, as many people in my social circle like to call it: “marriage.”
This is an exceptionally effective motivator for me both personally and socially. I am living on a shoestring, and don’t have any money to throw away. And I certainly don’t want to give any of my hard-earned cash to an organization that directly opposes many of my friends’ loving relationships, and now marriages, thanks to the US Supreme Court’s recent decision.
Because I shared the above publicly, several friends and family members have started directly participating in my Mandarin challenge by asking me how I am keeping up with my language learning. I’m not sure if it’s because they don’t want me to fail or have to pay the money, or support the above group, or all three, but in any case I’m grateful for the support.
And I’m not going to let them down.
I’m averaging two hours per day of study with tutors, podcasts, listening exercises, TV shows and walking-around-Taiwan-and-trying-to-make-myself-understood. It’s the first thing I do when I wake up (study vocabulary on my iPad), and often the last thing I do before I go to sleep (watching my favorite shows’ Chinese-language versions, such as “Voice of China”), and usually sprinkled in between. I have set up my learning pace so that I can continue it sustainably, and intend to treat this as a marathon, not a sprint.
Let’s do this.