Paul is a retired American expat living in Thailand. Besides being an English teacher and translator, Paul likes languages and most sports.
Good Times from My First Marriage 1973-1983
When I got married to a Taiwanese in Taiwan in 1973, I never envisioned my marriage and family life would be shattered by 1990.
In this article, after recalling how I met my ex-wife, I first recall my happy married life in Taiwan during the period 1973-1979. I then remember our move back to the United States in 1979 and my wife's adjustment to a new life initially in Toledo and finally in Maryland during the early-1980s. Many of our challenges and frustrations, as well as successes, are relived.
Meeting and Courtship of Ex-Wife 1971-1973
I met my ex-wife Mona in Taipei, Taiwan, in May 1971. That time, I had been living in Taipei since January studying Chinese and teaching English. I also had just realized that my Taiwanese girlfriend in Taipei who I loved very much did not want to marry me.
It was during this last week before I returned to the United States that I met Mona one evening in a restaurant. After crying on her shoulder for a long time about my girlfriend Susan, Mona took pity on me and said she wanted to be my friend. I saw her a lot during my last few days in Taiwan and gave Mona my U.S. address before I departed Taiwan.
Around June 1, I returned to my folks' farm in Wisconsin. A few weeks later, I received a letter along with pictures from Mona. I was pleasantly surprised because I had not expected Mona to write to me. At that time, I had no feelings for Mona at all.
After corresponding with Mona once or twice and then deciding that I wanted to continue studying Chinese at the University of Wisconsin, I decided to continue my relationship with Mona and get to know her better.
We started to get serious about marriage at the beginning of 1972 when Mona sent me a golden wedding band. Next, we both expressed an interest in a future wedding date. It would have to wait, however, until the summer of 1973 when I finished my Chinese language study at Wisconsin.
During this period, Mona never asked me for any money. In the summer of 1972, I sent her a small gift through a Chinese language classmate who was visiting Taiwan. In return, Mona sent me a package with a few Chinese records and a tape recording of the voices of her mother-in-law and her. I was very much in love with Mona at that time and could hardly wait for May 1973 when I would return to Taiwan.
I told none of my family members, relatives, and friends about my planned marriage to Mona. My reason for returning to Taiwan was to study Chinese at National Taiwan University in Taipei where I had been accepted for admission.
Marriage and Life in Taiwan 1973–1979
Toward the end of May 1973, I returned to Taiwan on a charter flight with four of my University of Wisconsin classmates who were studying Chinese with me. After a long flight out of San Francisco, we touched down at Taipei's Songshan International Airport around mid-evening. Mona and her younger sister met me at the airport and before I could say goodbye to my classmates, Mona had me whisked off to a small hotel just off Chungshan North Road.
The next day I spent in Taipei introducing my classmates to a Chinese friend who would help them find employment teaching English while they were studying Chinese.
Mona and I then took a train to Changhua in the central part of Taiwan. A short bus ride to Mona's home village followed next. There I met her parents, brothers, and sisters.
A few days later, we had a Taiwanese-style wedding in her village. Following this, we spent a night in a Changhua hotel before boarding another train to Kaohsiung in the southern part of the island.
We traveled to Kaohsiung and decided to live there because Mona was in the process of selling a property that she owned in Tso Ying, a suburb of Kaohsiung. After concluding the sale, Mona put the money in a bank and we moved to a small room off Chi Hsien Third Road in the downtown area of Kaohsiung. Since I only had a small amount of money that I brought from the States, I immediately got a job teaching adult and children's classes at an English cram school.
About this time, Mona told me about her Amerasian son, Mike, who was five or six years old. Mike was living with Mona's brother in her home village. Mona was worried that I wouldn't marry her because of Mike.
After I told Mona that I would welcome Mike into our family, we got legally married in court on June 21.
At the end of July, I got an English teaching job in a different cram school. The boss of this school offered to sponsor me for an Entry Resident Visa. He also helped me rent a small third-floor apartment above an electrician's shop not far from his two schools.
We now had room for Mike who joined us. There would also be another addition to the family because Mona was now pregnant.
In September, a student at the cram school who happened to be one of Mona's relatives helped me get an additional teaching position at a business college in Kaohsiung. He also gave me his old bicycle to use for transportation. I rode it to different schools and even remember Mona riding on the back of it when I took her to see a doctor.
Charles was born prematurely on February 1, 1974. He was born through C-section and I recall withdrawing money from Mona's bank account so that we could pay for the blood units needed for transfusion during the operation.
In March, Mona and I started working together to develop our new home English teaching business. This was in addition to raising a family which now had two boys.
When our business started to take off in 1976, we invested half of our earnings to buy a small unit in the new Chi An Building which was starting to be constructed a few blocks away on Chung Shan Second Road.
In 1976, I helped Mona apply for and secure a United States green card giving her permanent alien residence in the States.
After a trip to Wisconsin in July 1978 to meet my parents and other family members, Mona and I decided to move to the U.S. in the summer of 1979. This was done primarily for the future of our two children.
Around the middle of July 1979, Mona, Mike, and I departed for my parents' farm in Wisconsin. Our youngest boy Charles did not accompany us because I was making this big move with no job offer or home of my own in the United States. I only had a few possible job prospects and a good college friend in Michigan.
Mona's nephew was tasked to manage our English teaching business in Kaohsiung until Mona returned to Taiwan a few months later.
Living in Toledo, Ohio 1979–1980
Oddly, Mona and I returned to Wisconsin in 1979 with no fear and a lot of optimism. After all, my parents were a safety valve and an ex-college roommate in Michigan had offered to assist me in finding employment.
After dad helped me buy a used car for $500, some bad luck occurred when I was visiting my friend Jeff in Adrian, Michigan. On the same day that I learned both Jeff and an Ohio state employment service could not find me a job using my college training in chemistry, the oldest boy Mike was seriously injured while riding a bicycle on a major road. I sent him to a hospital in Toledo for treatment and there we settled until December 1980.
While Mona was busy furnishing our second-floor apartment with used furniture, I got a job first as a security guard and then as an English tutor for the foreign-born in the Toledo Public Schools. Mike entered the fifth grade in a neighborhood public school.
Right after Thanksgiving, Mona returned to Kaohsiung because she and I were worried about Charles and our business in the Chi An Building.
During the time Mona was gone, I applied for employment with the Department of Defense and also enrolled in secondary education classes at the University of Toledo. I planned to become a high school teacher of chemistry and Chinese if I weren't hired by the federal government.
At the end of May 1980, Mona returned with Charles from Taiwan.
By November, I was making good progress toward teacher certification and was on track to get it by the spring of 1981. At this time, Mona found a small house in the neighborhood that we liked and decided to buy. I did this because I thought my chances of getting the Department of Defense job were slim. A few days later, I was pleasantly surprised to get a job offer from the federal government in Maryland. My wife and I decided to accept it because I knew the government would pay me a lot more than teaching.
After a successful house-hunting trip to Maryland over the Thanksgiving weekend, we made preparations for the move to Maryland. Besides arranging to ship our personal effects to Maryland, we found a renter for our newly purchased home.
Living in Maryland 1981-1983
My initial marital problems occurred after we moved to Maryland during the first week of December 1980. They stemmed from the headaches of managing our business and property in Kaohsiung and also Mona's adjustment to living in a fairly secluded area.
Mona's nephew badly mismanaged the English language teaching business after we departed for the U.S. in 1979. While he was living in our unit, my two employed teachers quit and I lost all of my students.
Another problem was the rental management of our unit. Mona entrusted it first to her cousin and then to her younger brother. Trouble quickly ensued and Mona was convinced that her brother was cheating her out of rent collected from the tenant. My phone bill for international calls to Taiwan was outrageous during our first two months in Maryland.
We lived in an area of townhouses a few miles outside of Fort Meade where I worked for the Department of Defense. There was only one convenience store a few blocks away and we were three-five miles from the nearest town. Mona felt frustrated because she couldn't drive and we lived outside of the city. We also had bad neighbors who tried to sue us over our dog biting one of their children.
This all got on Mona's nerves and she often took her frustrations out on me. She was very high maintenance at this time. When not working, I had to take Mona to play bingo, watch harness races, visit friends, or go shopping.
In April 1983, we finally found a detached home to rent in a nearby city. Mona was happy there with our Afghan hound until the landlord found out and forced us to either get rid of the dog or move.
In the fall of 1983, Mona decided it would be best for us to stop renting and buy our own home. With VA benefit aid, we closed on a house at 383 Jay Bea Ct. a few blocks away and moved there in December.
At the beginning of 1984, we owned three properties — two in the U.S. and one in Taiwan. Our marriage and family life were good and I could never imagine the future events leading to our divorce in 1992.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2019 Paul Richard Kuehn