A little background on Jay. He moved to China in 2004 to study Chinese at a university in Xiamen. After a semester there, he moved back to the US, but in 2007 he was back in Shanghai skating and studying Chinese. Jay lived in Shanghai from 2007 – 2018. During that time, he filmed a full part for Something Sinister, got sponsored by Vans China, and opened an American-style breakfast restaurant called Homies.
In 2013, when Instagram was becoming popular, Jay started posting photos of skate spots with the hashtag ‘shanghaiskatespot’. His intent was to document the spots, and to inspire others to go seek out the spots for themselves. He might not have been the first to use the hashtag, but he believes he’s responsible for at least 25% of the initial 100 posts.
In 2018, Jay relocated to Taipei where he now lives with his wife and daughter. We recently called him up to talk about spot hunting, filming for Something Sinister, Shanghai skate spots, and life in Taipei. Read on for the full Q&A below.
Erik: You remember in the beginning, I asked you if I could use some of your photos for that skate spot map?
Erik: Those actually made up most of the photos on it. Your knowledge of all these spots played a big part in the development. I guess we want to ask some of the first questions about where did this whole ‘Shanghai skate spot’ thing start? It just started with you or was there anyone else that you would spot hunt with when this whole thing began?
Jay: Shanghai skate spots…that hashtag I don’t think I made up. I went back through Instagram and lurked really hard, but I can’t find posts of the first Shanghai skate spot. I don’t think that was me, honestly. But I saw it and I was stocked by it and inspired, and I wanted to put a thousand [photos] of my own. That was pretty much it. That was my goal: a thousand [photos of] Shanghai skate spots.
Spot hunting was kind of already a thing with other people. I just kind of, because of them, got into it. It wasn’t really me being like ‘yo!’. There was a point in time when it became me sometimes being like ‘yo!’. There was a huge community. I’m not the dude who started the whole thing. That could be Justin or Henrik or Tommy. I was just there, and I got caught up doing that for Instagram. People focused on that. I wasn’t the one pushing to spot hunt all the time.
Manny: How did you go about looking for spots?
Jay: It evolved over time. In the beginning, I would go to big, fancy-looking apartment complexes, and then Baidu came and street view, and people we’re starting to post photos online of all these different spots. When you’re in the city, yeah, you’re biking around and you’re looking, but there came a point when I didn’t see anything new anymore downtown. I’d already been on every block. You have to really choose whether you want to go to a spot and mission, or do I want to scout it first. So, I began to scout using Baidu maps and street view and satellite images. I would look for parks, find park names, look it up online on Baidu, and see if anybody had posted any photos of inside the park. So, when I went out, in the end, I had a map of where the possible skate spots might be in that area. A lot of the time I already knew exactly where the spot that I wanted to skate was. It was a lot of time just lurking online on Baidu Maps. Shanghai University, that ridiculous pyramid. Things like that. That was me lurking online and seeing it and being like ‘wow’.
Manny: When you think back to hunting for spots, are there any spots finds that really stand out to you?
Jay: Yeah, sure. Pretty much the first epic spot I found in Shanghai could never be compared to anything else I ever found, and I was looking for something as epic after that. It was this spot called ‘the dust bowl’. It was way up north in Shanghai. It was kind of near Fudan University. It was in this apartment complex that was, like, 10% occupied, and it had this empty pool with these perfect cement banks around it that you could pump like a bowl and hit this corner. Oh my god…it was amazing. Tommy [Zhao] made a video of it. I took him there. He made a video called Deep In Your Puxi. You look that up. I’m sure you can find that video. You can see the spot [in the video] and how amazing it is. It was chill. No one ever kicked you out. Later, our homie, Nate, lived in that apartment complex, and I stayed with him for a while, and we would go down and skate that every day.
Manny: Is this spot still around?
Jay: It could be around still, but it’s pretty rare to hit it up, and, nowadays, if you want to get into the apartment complex there are security guards there, and they want to know what you’re doing.
Erik: Yeah, that’s the other thing. Security at all these places has been a really big change. I don’t think you could just walk into any building anymore, let alone an apartment complex.
Jay: Yeah, times have changed like that. Before, when we were spot hunting, I’d hate to pull the foreigner card, but you’re just walking past these security guards, and they don’t know what to do. We just barge in. But nowadays they know a little bit better, so finding spots in really dope apartment complexes where you’re not supposed to be…you might as well not even try anymore because people will be all over you. It’s not worth it.
Lunch break kickflip into the bank
Manny: In your interview with Alex Greenberg on Observing the Process, you mentioned that you sometimes charged people money to take them on spot tours. Do you mind sharing what your rate was for those spots tours?
Jay: It really depends on what you’re doing for them. If you’re just sitting and leading them from spot to spot then the price is way less, somewhere like 50 bucks [USD] a day, 100 bucks a day. But if you can work a camera, make yourself super useful, and translate, then maybe 200 bucks a day, maybe 300. It really depends. Somebody like Tommy [Zhao] or Charlie [Lanceplaine] – if you’re paying him to lead you around town, they’re gonna pay him a lot more because he has way more ability. If you’re like ‘hey, I’m the skater and I live here’, then they [the visitors] might not even try to give you money. That’s the thing. I did it for free for tons of small crews. It’s fun meeting people, but at some point you’re like ‘man I could totally be somewhere and have just as much fun and not be with people that I don’t know’, so you gotta charge a bit.
Erik: Yeah, you’re providing a service.
Jay: Yeah, tap that resource.
Erik: Was there anytime when that was your primary job?
Jay: (Laughs) Never. There was no way I would be like ‘yo, I’m just a professional skate tour guide’. That’s way too niche.
Manny: I’ll give you guys sandwiches during lunchtime. I’ll hook up the water bottles.
Jay: I’ve had to do that, but that’s still same price. There’s no way I could quit my day job for that. How many skate teams do you think were coming to Shanghai during that time?
Manny: I imagine not many. Guangzhou and Shenzhen really popped off between 5-10 years ago, but I don’t get the sense that as many crews were coming through Shanghai.
Jay: That’s weird that you mention it because a lot of crews seemed mystified that they were there. They didn’t know that Shanghai was so good. Everybody was always surprised. They were like ‘what?!’, whereas they roll into Guangzhou or Shenzhen, and they’re like ‘oh I know this spot, this spot, and fuck this’.
Erik: Yeah, those spots [in Guangzhou and Shenzhen] are quite familiar.
Erik: Something Sinister was one of the first videos that started to put Shanghai skating on the map. You had a lot of footage in there. What was filming for that like? Was there already a vision laid out for it, or did it just come together in a more natural way?
Jay: That was really Tommy. That was all Tommy’s thing. He already had all this vision in his mind of the name of it and everything. He started filming other people first. He had his homies in mind, like [Brian] Peacock, [Brian] Dolle, and ‘Jiba Dan’ [Dan Leung]. The crew of really heavy skaters around him. He was kind of filming them first, and then I got in on it later. I filmed a couple tricks, like the no-comply big heel down the Zhongshan double-set, and then he [Tommy] was like ‘you should have a part in this’. I kind of came on board later in the project. It was totally Tommy’s thing. I was trying to catch up the whole time to get enough footage and I never really did, but I tried to make it work. It sucked because I filmed the best tricks right in the beginning, and then after that, I never really lived up to that [laugh]. I was struggling to fill the rest of the part.
Manny: Your part [in Something Sinister] sticks out in a lot of peoples’ minds. When people have mentioned Something Sinister, the context has [often] been a trick you’ve done in your part. One that comes up is the Science and Tech wallie switch nosegrind down the hubba. That one seems to stick out in a lot of peoples’ minds.
Jay: Thanks man. I’ve skated that Science and Tech hubba 30, 40 times. That’s the kind of trick that comes up when you can’t think of anything else to do. But it’s cool. Lurk the spot enough to feel it out.
Frontside 180 fakie 5-0 at Science & Tech hubba
Manny: Last time I went to that spot the security guard was quickly on us and I don’t think we were there for more than 15 minutes. What about the no-comply big-spin heelflip? How did that go down? Was that something you had to work for?
Jay: That was totally, once again, Tommy. He came up to me. I was really into that trick on flatground, and I could do it down the LP 3. He came up and he was like ‘yo you should totally do this down the Zhongshan double set’, and I was like ‘dude no way’. But I kept thinking about it, and I trained on it for a couple months, just kinda feeling it out and taking it down bigger stairs. It was a mission. We went one day, and I didn’t get it, and another day and I didn’t get it. And the third time we went, we went with Dolly and Peacock. They all got tricks for Something Sinister that day, and I was stressing to land one as well, and then I finally got it after they landed their shit. Like an hour after they landed. Dolly stomped a fakie frontside flip and set the session off. And then Peacock landed the switch bigflip, and I was like ‘oh man, come on. Can you imagine the party that we would have if I landed this trick right now?’ That kind of motivated me. And from what I can remember, it was a pretty good night. But at that time my board was completely chipped. My tail was almost gone. It had no griptape left on the tail.
It looks like that in the clip. It almost looks like your tail is broken.
Yeah, just from so many tries. The board chipping and hitting the ground, it [griptape] peeled completely off. I just got so lucky. It popped the right way that time.
No comply bigspin heelflip down the Zhongshan Park double set
Manny: You did it good. You rolled away probably as perfectly as you could.
Jay: I’m just glad I don’t have to do it again.
Erik: Having to go back a fourth time…
Manny: The worst. Just thinking that if you don’t put it down this time, then you’re going to be so bummed the rest of the week or the month.
Jay: I mean that’s how you feel the first or the second time. You know where you’re saying ‘this is my last try’, and then you keep saying ‘no, for real, this is my last try’. I was beyond that point where I was over it for the day, but just throwing it out still. I was ready, in my mind, to accept the fact that I was not going to land this trick that day, and it was a bummer. But, shit, it worked.
Manny: Your restaurant Homies was really close to The Center. When that was open, and you were running that, were you skating that spot a lot?
Jay: First of all, let me say that Homies being there did not blow up that plaza. That was something that came later after they banned you from skating LP. Those two were totally different time periods – the plaza taking off and my restaurant being there. But when people were at the restaurant and we wanted to skate some nice flatground, we would go over there and cruise. Or when we closed at night, we would go over there and skate a couple ledges. But it wasn’t like ‘yo, let’s meet at the spot and mission for the day’. People would go there and kind of cruise around, but it was never as big as it was later.
Manny: People weren’t skating the ledges?
Jay: People kind of were. It was there. It wasn’t like ‘every Sunday I roll by and there are 20 skaters there’ kind of thing. That would have been nice. Had Homies been there at that time when the plaza was going off… wow.
Manny: It would have made for an interesting vibe.
Jay: Yeah, it would have been an amazing vibe. It was still really good though. How good is it to have your own restaurant and to skate 2 minutes down the street to perfect flatground.
Erik: I think we took that place for granted when it was skateable.
Jay: Yeah, in hindsight, maybe we did. But we got it pretty hard when it was good.
Syrup and butter are overrated yo
Erik: Skating these central spots has become a lot more of a challenge nowadays, partly because of the security, partly because they’re making new rules for using these public spaces. What was your experience with security like back in the day?
Jay: It was relatively chill way back in the day. I think maybe it’s because we were way out there on the outskirts of town, and security guards first encounter with skateboards. It was relatively chill. I felt this pressure building with security over the years. I don’t know how to explain it, but it’s this whole process of the whole society and their job. They recognize that this is going to happen. I got it when it was good.
Manny: Shanghai, like any city, is constantly undergoing change. The skate scene changes quickly. Spots come and go as do people. Do you have any thoughts on the future of skateboarding in Shanghai?
Jay: When I left I felt it was headed in a really good direction. They had this new indoor skatepark that was popping. They had a cement park that they built. Foreigners come and go. New foreigners are adding fuel to the fire. They’re trying to go find new spots that they’ve never seen as well. It’s just kind of a cycle, so I think the future is bright. It’s only going to get better.
Manny: Let’s talk about Taipei. What brought you to Taipei and what are doing there now?
Jay: There are a couple reasons I moved to Taipei. I was spinning my wheels in Shanghai after a while. My girlfriend, now my wife, lived in Taipei. I wanted to mix it up. I kept going to Taipei to visit her and just kept liking the vibe more and more. At that time, I realized that, besides skating, everyday life [in Taipei] was more how I like it to feel. It’s way more chill. I don’t know how to explain it. The environment is totally different. I figured it was about time to mix things up.
Manny: I’ve been there a couple times now and yeah…
Erik: Yeah, I love it too.
Jay: There’s something about it, yeah. It’s good. The spots have a totally different style as well and that’s what I like about it. Mix it up. Different architecture, different materials.
Manny: How does skating in Taipei compare to Shanghai? I know when I was last in Taipei I was skating that spot under the bridge a lot, and also hitting up some skateparks here and there. And just pushing down the streets because the streets are smooth. There’s traffic and the motorbike traffic is kinda crazy at times, but it’s relatively flat, and it’s pretty easy to push down streets for good distances.
Jay: For me, in terms of spots, it’s like apples and oranges. Taipei has more bank and tranny style spots, and Shanghai has perfect ledges. For me, I’m not really a ledge skater. I like spots that are really weird. It’s just a better match. I wouldn’t say there are as many foreigners as there are in Shanghai, but that doesn’t really make or break it for me. In general, I would say foreigners [in Taipei] that skate are a little bit older than the local skaters and it’s really hard for me at 36 with a daughter to hang out with people who are in their early 20s and have totally different priorities in life. Our time doesn’t match up when we skate. Things like that. It’s kind of hard to find a super solid crew and find the time. I’m busy. You gotta grow up.
Ollie into the bank
Erik: Who else should we be watching out for from Taipei?
Jay: There’s this crew…there’s like Xiao Yi, Mark, and Ke Jia En [Kyle Ke]. He’s so slept on. He’s such a good skater. He’s never really had a full part. That whole crew – they’re all really good at skating.
Manny: Again going back to that podcast you did with Alex Greenberg. In that podcast, you said that before you moved to Taiwan you would swear in Chinese a lot, but that after you moved to Taiwan some people called you out on your language. Do you mind sharing some of the more explicit words or phrases that you would often use while in Shanghai, but that people in Taipei might find rude?
Jay: I don’t think that people would ever find what I say offensive from swearing and not. In my observations, I say these things and people kind of get uncomfortable because I’m referencing the mainland so hard and they don’t know how to deal with me about that. They don’t know where I’m vibing. I’m sure if somebody who looked like they were from the mainland and had the accent – exactly spot on – and they’re swearing like that, they would totally respond differently and be incredibly bummed. But, in general, because I’ve been here a little bit longer since the interview, I’ve used it with coworkers, like ‘cào’ and ‘tāmāde’ – things like that. Or even accidentally saying mainland words – like trash. If you say ‘lājī’ instead of ‘lèsè’, it will all bring this reaction in Taiwanese people that’s like instantly linking to the mainland. But they think I’m joking or not in the know. But I’m sure if somebody actually from the mainland was talking like that, they would definitely be like ‘this guy is so rude’, and ‘I can’t believe his language’, and ‘oh my god – mainlander’.
It was my girlfriend, when I first moved here, that called me out and was like ‘have you noticed the people around you aren’t talking like this’, and I was like ‘oh’. It’s true. Sometimes you can’t help but swear, and you’ll drop it a couple of times, and people will kind of laugh at it, and be like ‘well you know this, like, you know, niúbī’. And then they’ll actually try to use it with you as a joke, and it’ll become a thing. I don’t think it’s rude necessarily, more than it’s connected to the mainland.
Manny: And because it’s connected to the mainland, it’s taboo?
Jay: It’s sensitive. It’s very sensitive. You only have to feel out why you’re talking like that, or where your loyalties are if you chose to use those kinds of words. You can speak here and have a conversation for 15-20 minutes, and then you’ll accidentally drop one vocabulary word from the mainland and this whole thing [conversation] is over and done, so you have to be really careful.
Manny: Isn’t ‘xiǎojiě’ a word that you can use out here [in the mainland] that you can use to address a young woman, but either here or in Taiwan it’s [also] a prostitute.
Jay: Yeah, I don’t know. I’ve never heard anybody called that. You never call somebody in a restaurant any name ever. You just kind of look at them. You’re not like bellowing out in a restaurant. People will definitely notice you. I just try to stay unnoticed as much as possible. But even things like ‘bicycle’. If we say ‘zìxíngchē’ instead of ‘jiăotàchē’, people will be like ‘what!?’.
Manny: What about crosswalk? Like ‘rénxíng héngdào’? But in Taiwan, it’s ‘bānmăxiǎo’?
Jay: Bānmăxiàn. Yeah, it depends. You have to pick up on all this. So, you have to pick and choose. When I’m in the mainland I try to speak as much mainland vocabulary as possible just cause I don’t want to slow people mid-sentence and have them think about random stuff.
Manny: You’ve done a few quarantines, right?
Manny: What’s that been like? Have you had to stay in a hotel? In the mainland, now and since March [of 2020], if you come into the mainland from outside of the country you have to do your quarantine inside of a hotel. I’ve heard that in Taiwan it’s a bit different. What have your quarantines been like for you?
Jay: Taiwan’s quarantines – super serious and super chill at the exact same time. As soon as you get off at the airport you have to pre-register before your flight. As you’re going through all the security you’re scanning barcodes and registering your phone. The taxi cab driver that you ride with has your phone number written down and he has to register all this stuff because they know exactly where you’ve been or he’s been. Then you get home, and they’re tracking your phone so you can’t leave the house, and then within the first half day they come to your house and deliver this box, and it’s like masks, munchies, food, and all this random [stuff] – a care package. Incredible.
Manny: That’s cool. You can still to this day do that [quarantine] in your home?
Jay: You can do that in your home. But you have to have your own apartment contract signed, and however many people are in your apartment is kind of whatever, but you need to have your own separate bathroom and your own separate room to lurk in. My girlfriend was in our main bedroom, and I was in our spare bedroom. She showered in our main shower, and I showered in our 2nd bathroom with a hose.
Manny: Was there contact between you guys over the duration of that?
Jay: No way man. Do you think I want to be the guy getting blamed for bringing the coronavirus into Taiwan?
Manny: No, no. But you’re in the same apartment. I would imagine over the span of two weeks it would be really challenging not to [make contact].
Jay: Naw. Not really. If we want to talk and look at each other, I’ll go out onto the balcony and I’ll sit way out on the back end, like 5 meters away from her out in the open, and she’s on the other end, and we’ll talk there. But the rest of the time I’m in the room scared to death. You hear about these fines, and you know that Taiwan is doing so well with this, and I just don’t want to be ‘the guy’. Later on, in Taiwan, there was ‘the guy’. Some pilot went out and partied when he wasn’t supposed to, and now we’re here quarantining. And he was out cheating on his wife and he got caught because of that.
Manny: What happened with this dude? He came back from Thailand?
Jay:Naw, this guy is an airline pilot, and airline pilots don’t have to quarantine as long. So he came into Taiwan, and within 3 days he was out in the city partying, and he saw his mistress, and then his mistress got it [covid] and contacted him. Through all these news articles blowing up about who the two people were, who brought it, the pilot’s wife found out. He lost his job, got fined tons of money, lost his wife.
Manny: Damn. Taipei recently saw a pretty big spike in cases, but it seems like recently it’s mellowed out. What’s it like now? Is the city still under some sort of semi-lockdown?
Jay: Definitely. It feels really different here now since the last couple of weeks, and they haven’t let down on that at all. You go into any store and you have to scan your phone with your barcode…tell the government where you’ve been…wear a mask outside all the time…no school. It’s like a ghost town. This is my first time dealing with, and I’ve never dealt with it before. It’s insane to me how the world has managed to not destroy each other.
Frontside grab on a steamy day
Manny: Taiwan was doing so good for so long. It seemed like they had it under control.
Jay: Everybody got too used to it. They let their guards down.
Erik: It’s that one dude who had to go party.
Jay: That dude! And in Taiwan they keep track of it so much that they know it’s that dude. But it’s good. Taiwan is way ahead of the game in terms of staying safe with this. We have an app from the government that tells us exactly where anybody who’s had the virus has been in the city and when. Pretty cool.
Manny: Are you still skating as much nowadays? When a city is on lockdown, it’s a pretty good time to get out and skate, but it depends on how risk-averse you are.
Jay: Yeah, I can’t be too risk-averse cause I have a kid. Once again, I don’t want to be that guy. Since the coronavirus came last year, I’ve slowly gotten to this funk of skating – not really exploring the spots that hard, not really trying. I don’t know. It’s almost like PTSD or something after Shanghai – it being so good, and this whole huge community of skaters – coming here where it’s way reduced down. I wouldn’t say it sapped away all my passion for spot hunting, but it became a lot harder. Starting last year, I took a break from Instagram, just to know what it’s like to not care about that all the time. So, when I don’t have an Instagram I’m even less motivated to go find skate spots cause who am I going to tell about it anyway.
Actually since you asked me about ‘am I was the first person to post the ‘shanghaiskatespot’ hashtag’, I reactivated my Instagram just so I could go back and look, and I’m still not sure. At least of the first 100 ‘shanghaiskatespot’ hashtags, I have maybe half or 25%. I’m not the founder, but I was there. I was into it. I was one of the early investors in ‘shanghaiskatespot’.
Manny: How’s life changed since bringing a kid into this world? I imagine that your time is more limited, but are there any other ways in which you’ve noticed your life has changed. Maybe you’re more involved in school stuff. I imagine if you don’t have a kid and you don’t work in a school, then school stuff is not a big concern to you at all. But if you have a kid and they’re in school, then that’s something you kind of have to be concerned with.
Jay: Right. I just got full custody of my kid a year ago.
Jay: This whole school thing was totally new to me. It’s really confusing doing school in Taiwan as well, being not a school system that I grew up in. It’s just a mission every day to keep track of what homework she has to do. Lately I’m trying to teach her poetry for class, but I don’t even understand what this poem really means. It’s really challenging. A lot of my day now, since the coronavirus and she’s homeschooled, is trying to instruct my daughter in homework. I can totally understand why other parents are super bummed on the epidemic because a lot of us are not meant to be teachers to our own children. It takes a special person. It’s really frustrating and time consuming and you’re like ‘this is why we pay other people to do this’. ‘I got things to do’. Obviously, that’s changed a lot. And that combined with understanding a school system that I do not know is…by the time that’s done, my energy is totally down.
So, we’ll go out and cruise and skate in the afternoon all together as a family. I’m teaching my kid how to skate. She rollerblades a little bit, and we cruise along the river. I’ll do some switch flips, but I’m not like ‘yo! I want to go and film a no-comply big heel down another double set tomorrow!’. No. Low impact skating. I’m trying to go the way of ADee [Lu], like flatground.
Manny: The other thing about skating big spots is that more often than not you’re going to break yourself off. At one point, you gotta be like ‘do I want to have a broken body for the next couple weeks?’, or could get just as much satisfaction just skating some flat or cruising around. I can imagine you’d get a lot of joy teaching a kid how to skate. It’s fun.
Jay: I think if I was together back in Shanghai and all of a sudden the entire crew, like all the homies having a session, then I would totally go off and try to break myself to hype the crew. But, nowadays, I’m not surrounded by people that I’m feeding off their energy or want to get buck because the session is going off. That’s what I’ve always needed. I can’t be the only person getting buck. I just don’t really have the desire to get buck anyways, so it would take a lot for me to go insane.
Erik:I think we all feel that way. Well, I don’t know about Manny. He seems to be able to fakie flip down that 3-block by himself a lot. But I definitely need that energy from other people if I’m going to throw myself down something.
Manny: You need somebody to shout out ‘this one!’, otherwise your just kind of like…
Jay: Yeah, exactly. It needs to be the people who know how your progression has been building up to that point. They know that you can’t do this trick, and that you’re pushing yourself to do it. It needs that special kind of skate homie.
Manny: It’s almost like your homies are your directors, and they help guide you through a trick you’re trying.
Jay: Yeah, they see something that you’ve never landed before and you know they’re going to get hyped. Like ‘Yo! Everybody needs to witness’.
Manny: What’s next for you? Right now, you’re in the midst of a lockdown in Taipei, but do you have any near future plans on anything?
Erik: You ever trying to come back to Shanghai or the mainland?
Jay: I would love to come back to Shanghai, but I need a job. I have not worked for so long. I’ve been doing random online things, like transcribing English, but I need a solid job and I don’t want to go to Shanghai to do that. And with Taiwan, and the school system, and me being so overwhelmed by it, and the epidemic here, me and my wife, I think we’re going to move to America in half a year, so I can be around my family and they can help with my daughter. I can be around my parents cause my Dad is not feeling well. I think it’s about time that I wrap it up in Asia for a little bit and go back home and stack and be with my family for a little while. That feels about right. I can get my kid into an elementary school, and after I pay for whatever house I’m going to buy, then I’ll think about what I’m going to do next. But I need the stability. Honestly, I haven’t worked a 9 to 5 job for more than 6 months in my entire life. It’s impossible to stack cash and have any sort of stable life if you don’t have a stable job. I cannot find work in Taiwan, so that’s what I want to do.
Erik: Weren’t you doing production or video editing for a while?
Jay: Yeah, I was doing video editing for a little while, but its pay was really low. It was like 1,000 USD a month. Man I can’t live off that. And with a daughter in school – in Taiwan she was only in school half the day – I wouldn’t be able to see her at all. With the time being, she [daughter] just moving to Taiwan, and me becoming her full time Dad, I can’t be gone all day everyday, so I had to quit that. I think being close to my family – they can help with Nova. There’s a school system that understands, and their instructions are in English.
Manny: Where would you move back to?
Jay: I’m from Michigan. I would love to move back there because it’s the best place ever, but I can’t. I have to move back to where my family is now, and they live in Iowa, so I gotta move to Iowa. I’ve been looking up jobs, and it seems pretty easy to find. In fact, I even applied to be a Mandarin-speaking police officer.
Erik: What!? In Iowa?
Jay: Yeah, dude. I saw this job posting online. They need a police officer at the same university that my sister works at, so I was like ‘yo’.
Erik: You’re going to be the only one in Iowa.
Jay: Yeah, for some reason they posted they needed somebody who speaks Mandarin – I guess to handle the foreign students there. So, I was like ‘yo, ok’. This sounds interesting. Yeah, so why not. I have an interview tomorrow for it.
Erik: Just don’t kick out any skaters if you have to.
Jay: I don’t know. It’s an interesting change. Me and my wife want to get into some side hussles as well. Like buying stuff from Goodwill and exporting to Taiwan – second-hand goods.
Manny: That’s cool. When I sometimes think about where I would move back to if I were to move back to the States it’s kind of hard to settle on a place. There are the places that my family is at, but I also think ‘well would that place work for me?’ or would I prefer to move to a bigger city. That right there is one of the biggest challenges. Like where are you going to go back to in your home country cause you have so many options.
Jay: The choice between family and where you want to be is really hard.
Manny: Yeah, it is. You know in your mind…you’re like ‘these are the places that I would thrive in’. But, at the same time, would you really thrive in that place? It would take a while to lay some roots in that place. Probably best to get close to your family at first and then use that as a stepping stone.
Jay: With my budget, and all that, and the help that I need – still easing into fatherhood – I definitely need family around me. This is not something me and my wife can totally do alone surrounded by a group of friends who don’t have any kids either. If we moved anywhere in the States, aside from my family, the struggle would be completely the same as what we’re having here, so it doesn’t make any sense to move anywhere but there. You’re right, it’s a starting stop. Once you get to America, it’s way easier to pack yourself into a U-Haul. But moving international…everything needs to be laid out pretty well. You just can’t show up at your friend’s apartment and sleep on his couch.
Manny: No, cause one month later your visa is going to expire and you’re going to have to figure it out.
Jay: Exactly, so everything needs to be way more organized to the people following me around. Trust me, back in the day I would be totally cool to move to America with a suitcase and whatever, wherever. Like you were saying, you have to establish yourself for a little bit. But we could establish ourselves wherever. I mean, you’re in Shanghai. Think about that.
Manny: Yeah, it’s easy to build a network in Shanghai. For me, probably one of the easiest places.
Erik: Definitely. So easy. There’s a community of skaters. People are always coming and going. Whether it’s Chinese or foreign, they’re used to people that are new to the city. People want to make friends. On top of that, it’s also pretty safe. It’s easy to get around. It’s cheap. We’re all really lucky to have spent some time here.
Jay: Totally. What a time.
For more from Jay, you can follow him on Instagram @jaymeador