Saturday, August 3, 2013


So I have tons of photos from Sun Moon Lake to post, and I'm working on a post about making idli in Taipei and another on the conflicting ideas of "we're all the same around the world" vs. "our cultures make us all diverse" (hint: they're both true and not even all that conflicting).

I'm also working on turning Taipei in Sepia and Blue into a story that could potentially be published somewhere. That's already happened with Spirit Mediums in Donggang, which will be published as a story called Gods Rushing In in an anthology of stories by expat women in Asia which I think is coming out next year (but don't hold me to that). least I know I'm not a terrible writer, even though my blog posts are riddled with errors, run-on sentences, half-sentences and all sorts of organizational problems. Yay!

But I seem to have a fair amount of bloggers' block, because I haven't been able to sit down and hammer any of this out.

It could be partly because I've been in front of the computer too much for other reasons - since I've given notice at work and started up as a freelancer I've managed to secure a pretty good seminar contract, and that required creating my own materials (for giving good interviews in English).

But I think it's mostly for three reasons:

First, I have four or five friends who are leaving or probably leaving Taiwan in the fall or winter. Two want to go back to Canada, one is definitely going back to the USA, one is likely doing the same, and one is moving to the USA to be with her fiance. Of course I'm really happy for all of them and I want only the best for them as they make their way in life! I just can't help but feel a little down that in the near future I am going to lose something like a third of my social circle. Obviously I'm not hanging on any one friend, it's just that losing five (well, not losing permanently, you know what I mean) at roughly the same time is a bit of a blow. As long as I don't guilt-trip or get all mopey-faced around these friends, I think it's fine to admit that this has me a little down, and it's not anyone's fault, and it's not like I would or want to make anyone change their plans. Add to this a friend who is moving to Kaohsiung, and damn.

I also am feeling acutely right now my lack of a female Best Friend - a BFF - (I mean other than Brendan, who really is my best friend, and that's not just a cliche) in Taiwan. It comes and goes - most of the time it's fine, sometimes I'm actually grateful to be relatively free, sometimes I feel like Brendan fits that role so well that I'm covered, sometimes I notice but it's no biggie, and sometimes I just really want someone I can call up and be all "I need margaritas ASAP. You free?" and I know she'll (I feel like this particular role is best suited to a woman in my case) either have time or make time, and that time'll be sooner rather than later. I've had friends who were like this but I don't now, and I'm feelin' it.

I know I'll get through it. I have other friends and I have Brendan.

Second, ever since the great weight was lifted off my shoulders when I gave notice at work, it's been hitting home how really and truly awful my workplace has been. It's not like I didn't know before, but just to keep myself psychologically whole while I toiled for those people, I relegated that knowledge to somewhere in the back-end of my amygdala, where I didn't have to think about it day-to-day. I've known I had to quit ever since they gave Brendan the shaft, and only stuck around long enough to build up a little savings and get permanent residency so they can't touch me visa-wise.

 (they have been known to accidentally-on-purpose screw up paperwork for leaving teachers to cause disruptions in their visas and residency permits, which causes all sorts of immigration issues and renders you ineligible for permanent residency, so this was really something I just had to grit my teeth and do so as to not risk that). Now that I'm mentally free to ponder to the fullest extent just how horrible they are, wow.

I don't even feel bad saying all of this publicly, although I won't name the company (under Taiwanese law they could sue me for that). If I need to work in an officially employed capacity again and a potential employer finds this, I feel that either they should understand what some bosses can be like in this industry in Taiwan, or give me a chance to explain myself further. If they'll do neither, I'm not sure I want to work for them. Or I'll just delete the post when it's time to look for work, if this freelancing thing doesn't work out and I need to seek it.

The problem is, what this is doing is causing me to feel bitter - hopefully temporarily but I can't be sure - about the entire English teaching industry in Taiwan, and about working under Asian (my former boss isn't Taiwanese) bosses in general. I label this as a cultural difference, and the issues here are differences in how we think based on our cultural upbringings. But it has just enough of a shine of racism to it that I don't want this thought lurking in my head to the extent that it is.

It has me not wanting to trust any potential boss who is Chinese (and I mean that culturally, not racially), especially any who own an English school in Taiwan. It has me thinking they're all awful, because every single one I've worked under has been basically awful, and most stories I've heard have also been awful. Awful in that maybe someone from the same culture could deal with all the bullshit, but I just can't.

And that is not good, my dears. That is not good at all. Not good for my career, not good for my psyche, not good for the whole "I don't want to be racist and this could be seen as racist although it's not about race, it's about differing cultural expectations" thing.

Anyway, this could be its own blog post, so I'll save the rest of my rant until then, maybe with a few happy posts - because I'm also happy, I'm not just down - as a buffer.

And third, the fact that lately, everyone I know seems to be having a hard time in Taiwan, or even openly hating it (this is related in some way to the fact that four or five of my friends are leaving or planning to leave by the end of the year).

The reasons range from "it's OK but I'm just not excited every morning to be here" to "I hate this place" to "it'd be great except for all the racism" to "I'm trying so hard to do well at work, save money and have a good time, but it's just not working out for me, I'm miserable and exhausted and I want to go home" to a Taiwanese friend who says her own people irritate the everloving hell out of her and she just wants to go back to Canada to be with her girlfriend.

And that has me down. It has me down because it has me questioning why I like it so much, and why my experiences have generally been positive - save my terrible work situation. Why do good things keep happening to me, and not to others? What is it about Taiwan that I see the good in, and they don't? I've had to think a lot about this. Also about the light that went on in my head when a friend of mine revealed that her issues stemmed mostly from her extremely racist boss, not necessarily Taiwan itself (or not only Taiwan itself). I haven't had to deal with that kind of racism, so it was a wake-up call that just because people are nice to me because I'm Paley McCracker, that it doesn't mean things are going to be all positive and happy for foreigners who are not white.

I think this - what do I see in Taiwan that others don't? Why have I had good experience when others haven't? Or why do I see great things where others are merely "meh" about it all? - also deserves its own post so I'll stop there, too.

Oh yeah, and there's a fourth. I've had a minor but distressing health issue these past few weeks that I'm currently being tested for. I'm awaiting the results (don't worry, it's not life-threatening or even long-term threatening) but the likely culprit is a hormone imbalance that is probably wreaking havoc on my emotions without my realizing it.

Anyway, that's where I'm at. A big ol' swirl of emotion. I'm not unhappy. Life is actually quite nice since I've given notice at work. I'm trying to travel more but not succeeding. I'm starting the DELTA Module One in September, online.

I've just got a lot on my mind and some of it is getting me down.

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