Person of Interest: Maddie Work

In the series “Person of Interest”, Annie and Juliet interview people they find interesting and want to learn more about. Check out other interviews here.

Name: Madeleine Work
Occupation: Communications Strategist
Undergrad: Boston University
Born in: Minnesota
Grew up in: Minnesota, Massachusetts and New York
Currently living in: Taipei, Taiwan

How We Met
I hired you at Starbucks! And taught you everything I knew about the fine art of combining steamed milk with caffeine.

How would you describe yourself if you meet someone new? How would you introduce yourself?
My name is Madeleine Work, like you go to work. I’m big into being outside of the house, huge fan of fresh air. Running, hiking, biking, yoga, travel—all things I love. I like being in the middle of a group of people, and being in the middle of a book, and especially being in the middle of a foreign country (read: not America).

What sparked your interest in Asian culture?
My mom had a mid-life crisis when I was in elementary school and decided to find herself through Buddhism and meditation, and get an advanced degree in Anthropology. Eventually those two things converged, and she’s now a leading expert on Cambodian studies. So basically my mom put Asia on the table, and I ate it up. I came to Asia for the first time when I was 14, and I just loved it… and then after that I just couldn’t stay away.

Why did you decide to come to Taiwan?
My decision to come to Taiwan is a long and winding journey. I’ve always felt rushed to answer this question in 15 seconds or less, so I’m actually going to take the time to fully answer this question.

I didn’t fully understand the link between development and environmental degradation before I went to Cambodia. America moved its factories across the ocean, and uses raw materials from countries like Cambodia to fuel consumption… and now you can’t really see the environmental impact of it. But in Cambodia, it hits you right in the face — there’s trash everywhere, rivers are full of sewage, and the streets are full of farmers who had their land taken away. In the US we collect our trash and dump it in landfills that nobody can see, and we have sewage systems that whisk away our waste in a flush. We don’t really even see farmers. Now that I’m thinking about it, I don’t think I know a single American farmer.

That’s a long winded way of saying I became interested in environmental issues. After I became interested, I vaguely decided that I would learn Chinese, move to China, solve all of the environmental problems and save the world. I quickly realized China had no interest in some chick from the States turning up to solve their environmental problems for them. That’s the short version of my relationship with China.

And then I shifted my focus to Taiwan, and realized that was exactly what I wanted. Beautiful mountains ready for climbing, and a huge interest in being outside. Which, as I mentioned earlier, I am an avid supporter of.

What’s your experience living in Taiwan like so far?
Taiwan is 10/10 amazing. I love that you walk outside at 9:30pm and there’s an entire parade of people walking in the park. You have 2 year olds falling on their face, and then you have 90 year olds doing Tai Chi. I love that.

Taiwan also has an excellent fruit and vegetable selection that nobody could ever tire of.

And there are mountains! Everywhere! People regularly “climb mountains” on the weekend. Because Taiwan is fun-sized, so if you want to go “climb a mountain”, you’re going to be driving 3 hours tops, and then there you are.

What is the best decision you made in the recent years?
Hiring Annie Chiang to work at Starbucks. Hands down.

Also moving to Taiwan, that was a good call.

Also… I was dating this guy, Henry, and also considering graduate school in Taipei. And I was very conflicted because Henry and graduate school were in different parts of Taiwan. I couldn’t ask Henry to move to Taipei for me if I weren’t sure about the relationship, so I decided to become sure about the relationship first. And so…yeah we’re engaged now, so that was a good call.

What does happiness mean to you?
Being with people I love. And also chocolate.

Three sentences to sum your 25 years of existence.
I was born in Minnesota. I’ve done some stupid things and some smart things in the meantime. A lot has changed since then.

Any upcoming events that you’re excited about?
I feel like I should be excited about my wedding, but I’m more worried about getting everything done in time. Maybe my honeymoon. Yeah I’m excited about that that’ll be nice.

What things have been on your mind lately?
Thinking about all the changes in my life and the future and the mistakes I’ve made and what books I should read and where I should travel next and what I’ll do there and when I’ll see my family next and if my family is doing okay and other things like that.

Check out other posts in our Person of Interest series!

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