A chronicle of the obstacles unique to a bi-cultural interracial marriage would be a book, not a blog, but since I am in the early stages of one specific challenge, I thought I would write about it. When one spouse is from the United States and the other is from Taiwan, time away from each other is just a part of the deal. Currently Manyu is in her fourth week of an extended visit to Asia. When she visits family members who are spread across Taiwan, mainland China, and Thailand, her trip is never just for a long weekend. Usually she is gone for seven or eight weeks. This time it will be for six months. The lengthy stay is because she needs to be in Taiwan now for a family matter and wants to be there in February for Chinese New Year. Ordinarily these two commitments would involve two separate trips, with a return to the United States tucked in the middle, but because traveling during the pandemic is so difficult, her trip turned into one long visit instead of two shorter ones.

My state of mind during her travels tends to pass through three stages. The first two weeks are a great joy at having time to myself. The last two weeks are an hour-by-hour longing for her to return. The time in between is a neutral numbness where I’d rather we were together, but I get along fine. The problem this time is that Manyu’s absence is nearly twice as long as any previous separation. For all I know, there may be a stage I’ve never experienced before. 

If the world was a normal place right now, I’d join Manyu in Taiwan for part of her visit. Currently, however, foreigners without essential business are not allowed into the country. Even Taiwanese nationals returning home from abroad have to spend two weeks in isolation followed by a third week away from restaurants, hospitals, and other public places. These protocols may seem extreme, but Taiwan has almost no COVID. 

Manyu’s time away has been made easier for me because Clare is home. All of Grinnell College’s classes are online, so she is back in the house. This puts the Simpson diaspora completely out of whack. My wife and I should be together, but we are apart. My twenty-one year old daughter should be anywhere except with either her mom or dad, but here she is studying in a room down the hall.

Still I should not complain. Life for me during the COVID crisis has been easy. No one dear to me has been sick. My pension and Social Security checks continue to show up every month. My daily routine (e.g., writing, walking my dog, riding my bicycle, fishing) is largely unaffected by social distancing. I have been extremely lucky in terms of the pandemic. The worst impact is having my wife on other side of the world.

Steven Simpson