Showing posts with label downsides_of_expat_life. Show all posts
Showing posts with label downsides_of_expat_life. Show all posts

Monday, October 5, 2020

The Taichung City government is discriminating against foreign residents for no good reason

IMG_6228

It's time to complain again. I hate this as much as you do.


It was announced recently that the Taichung City government would be ending its program offering free public transportation for the first 10km of any ride to all passengers. Starting January 1st, the free transit is only available to some "Taichung residents". Of course, that doesn't mean all Taichung residents, only Taichung residents who are Taiwanese. 

Foreign residents of Taichung are out of luck. 

I'm not a Taichung resident, but if you are, you absolutely should complain. Here's a link to do exactly that. Pass it on. 


The policy will still include foreign spouses and students studying in Taichung, but foreigners without a local spouse will have to pay. 

Let's leave aside that Taichung public transportation is a bit of a joke (it's hard to get anywhere in a reasonable amount of time and every time I go I'm stuck taking taxis everywhere as I don't drive in cities). This is a shame, as good transit makes good cities for residents and visitors alike. The benefits are innumerable and undeniable. I'll be interested to see if the new MRT line improves the situation. 

Let's focus instead on the biggest impact: foreign blue-collar workers, typically factory workers and caregivers/home health aides. 

For "us" (relatively comfortable members of the foreign community who aren't going to hurt from having to pay a small amount for public transit), the insult is more symbolic. For me, it's entirely symbolic: I don't live in Taichung so I'd have to pay regardless, and I'm fine with that. 

For foreign residents who are routinely underpaid, work long hours and are more likely to rely on public transportation on a tight budget, the difference between being able to use the system for free like any other Taichung resident and being asked to pay is likely to exacerbate real struggles. 

As with every city in Taiwan, Taichung needs these workers. They are part of the backbone of a city's workforce. Here in Taipei, I don't know how my local community, full of senior citizens, would function without the large number of caregivers. Taichung's industrial centers surely need them as well. They are residents too, and it's offensive to treat them as outsiders, asking them pay for a service that's free for other residents, all while paying them below-average wages. 

Most visitors will bring or rent their own transportation, or use taxis like me. That means the vast majority of people asked to pay will still be Taichung residents -- just not Taiwanese ones. 

It's not a bad idea to charge for public transit, but it is deeply unfair to ask only some residents to pay, especially when so many of those residents struggle more than their Taiwanese neighbors.

Even though for us privileged foreigners, the issue is the principle and not the actual money involved, it's still offensive. We've been through this before -- again, again, and again. At this point, it's clear that forgetting that foreigners reside in Taiwan too, and we depend on the services that our taxes help pay for too, is either deliberate or deliberately obtuse.

In short, I am extremely tired of the whole "we forgot you guys existed!" game. It's getting old and it's got to stop. Especially when you don't know when the exclusion is deliberate and when your communities are just...forgotten. 

Plus, it reeks of a localist mindset - the only residents of Taiwan who matter are Taiwanese, apparently - that won't help Taiwan in its efforts to reach out internationally. Taiwan not only needs its local workers, both the blue-collar workers that basically keep Taiwan running and the white-collar ones who at the very least pay taxes and are an integral part of the economy, but we're also a strong source of soft power abroad. Some (like me) are privileged and some are underprivileged (a situation which really must be dealt with), but along with locals, we are all residents and we should all be in this together, and be a force that is good for Taiwan together. If the truth is "Taiwan for Taiwanese only and foreigners are only welcome to a certain extent, for what they can give us, but we'll shortchange them at every opportunity"...well, that's just not good for the country. 

And there's no good reason for it. Why can't Taichung residency be determined by the address on your ARC? Why include students (meaning that you're willing to include people without a local household registration) but not foreigners who've lived here for longer? If it's because "students are usually on a budget", well, blue-collar foreign workers are too because they're so underpaid so that's not an excuse either. I could understand making it free for all residents but charging visitors, but this is just plain discrimination as it's not going to be free for all residents! 

Yet it may be free for some visitors -- if your household registration is in Taichung it won't matter if you live in a different city, you'll get the benefit while plenty of actual Taichung residents won't. This isn't a "help Taichungers" strategy. It's an anti-foreigner one.

In short, Taiwan is never going to reach out to the international community abroad effectively if it can't even reach out to the international community locally. If it still forgets -- or stubbornly insists -- that we don't matter, or we don't exist, or that double-standard treatment for different residents is acceptable, or that some residents are more "real" residents than others.

It's not acceptable. It has to stop. 

Sunday, September 6, 2020

The Basin and the Hill

Untitled


Flights here arrive at ridiculous hours. We buzzed into town 3am as the hotel driver played a trumpety old song aptly named Yerevan, so we'd know where we were, I guess. It featured the the kind of vocals you'd belt out from a mountaintop. We rounded the main sights at the base of the town - Ararat, which is a brandy distillery, and Noy, which is also a brandy distillery. Then we started to climb.

All of Yerevan is built on a hill. There's a north, south, east and west, but also a top and a bottom. At the top, you'll find the Cascade, a massive limestone staircase and gallery space which echoes Art Deco but is actually Soviet '70s. Above that, where central Yerevan ends, the sword-wielding Mother Armenia. At the bottom is the Ararat distillery, and beyond that, across the border in Turkey, is the actual Mount Ararat. A mountain sacred to Armenians, sitting just opposite a man-made line that is completely open, yet impossible to cross.


IMG_2096



In other words, from the top of Yerevan, you can see clear across to another country. 

It was 2017, and I was just about to start graduate school at the University of Exeter. We arrived a month early in this far eastern corner of Europe, because I had always been curious about the country that lays claim to the culture I grew up around.

Although my ancestors were Anatolian Armenians from another mountain down on the Syrian border, and passed on cultural touchstones more reminiscent of the Mediterranean than the Caucasus, my cultural memory threads not only through Antioch, but also Yerevan. They were both places my mother had wanted to visit; she never made it to either. My grandfather's siblings had visited Armenia, but nobody from my mother's generation had. As of now, I'm the only one from mine to have made the trip.

Three years before, I had visited the US to attend the 'leaving ceremony' from the proton therapy center that had obliterated the tumor in my mother's lung. I remember her recovered laugh, renewed energy, refreshed skin, regrown hair. A few months after that, we enjoyed a laughter-filled phone call on my birthday. 


One month after that, she called again. The disease had been driven out of her endometrium, then her lung. Now, it was in her lymphatic system. And that, she didn't say, would be that. But we knew. We never had a real conversation again; she lacked the energy.

I took a bath that night - filled a basin with scalding water and wallowed in it. I put my hands over my face until my vision went watery, so I wouldn't be able to tell which part of that liquid was coming from within, and which from without. The ceiling, painted white, was bubbling up with corrosions called "wall cancer" in Taiwan; spots of warped paint that needed to be scraped away and re-painted regularly. But they always came back.

I coped well, I thought. I did my job. I worked out when I would fly home before that. I called up a counseling service in Taipei, but they wanted me to choose someone from the list of counselors on their website, and there was no mental energy to spare. I had just enough energy for that, and not a drop more, so I never followed through. Because nobody can put that on a calendar, I ended up flying out well before my planned departure date, three hours after a desperate text from my sister. 


In Yerevan, on the verge of postgraduate study, some of the old shadows blew away. Stiff breezes swept from top to bottom and back again through wide streets, lined with trees and the more attractive type of monumental Soviet stone architecture.  Mom would have been delighted - not only visiting a country she'd always hoped she'd get to see herself, but starting down an academic path that she had always believed I would not just take, but excel in.

She had started a PhD program with high hopes, met and married my father, and found herself unexpectedly pregnant with me soon after. She quit, citing flagging interest in her dissertation topic. I've always wondered how true that was -- it's a lot of work and money to raise a baby, and I was colicky and difficult.

Looking out over that effulgent hilltop view, it was easy to get one's bearings. You can see well beyond a full day's journey. Eternity of a sort can be glimpsed, if you believe that Ararat is the home of the Armenian gods. You're a day's drive away from Turkey, Iran, Azerbaijan and Georgia, all in different directions. Because Yerevan is far from other population centers, one can see deeply into the world, but it's rather hard to get to you. 

From that distance, the snowy peak of Ararat looks like a chunk of rough white quartz fixed in the middle-distant sky, like the kind I used to find in the yard of our Hudson Valley farmhouse as a child. On hazy days it appears to float above the city, and you can inspect is folds and enscarpments.


IMG_2008


I wanted to tell her about the language, which was familiar to me even though neither of us had learned to speak it. About the informal singing in an ancient church which made me cry even though I'm an atheist. The beauty of flowerpots and jewelry decorated with pomegranates, the rugs, the gusting mineral-scented winds past Soviet-style stone buildings. The round theater, the Fuck Azerbaijan graffiti, and how there's one metro stop at the bottom - Republic Square, which is also round - and another at the top, near the Cascade. I wanted to tell her not just about Tavern Yerevan with its massive portions of lamb-heavy dishes we could not possibly finish, but also the lahmacun shack near the top, all of which reminded me of Nana. Armenia is a stony land; they say that's what makes the brandy so good, and Yerevan is built almost entirely from that stone.


IMG_2099



Mom and I shared the same blue eyes; I wanted to tell her that while I had to explain my Armenian heritage in great detail as I don't look the part, that the person who sold me apricot brandy finally conceded that blue-eyed Armenians were possible.



IMG_1946
"Blue eyes on an Armenian? I suppose it is possible."


Instead, I wrote postcards to all my relatives.

The truth is, though, that I didn't choose to live on a hill. I chose a basin. It's printed a Taiwanese English textbook somewhere - even adults can recite it to me as though they've memorized it for a test.


It's laid-back - you can wear sneakers to decent restaurants. But it's also dense, a node in a tightly interconnected web not only within the country, but across the region. Almost every walk is a flat and humid one. Sometimes you feel like you're pushing the hot damp air away as you plod along. Tropical plants grope across damp old bricks, pavement tiles don't always match, and the buildings are an eclectic muddle of styles. It smells like urban and jungle, but not quite urban jungle. I love the place.


Untitled


When I moved here in 2006, I hadn't expected that my mom would only be alive for eight more years. I visited once a year or so, but the truth is, I spent those eight years a continent away. I ask myself - if I had known that...? 

Of course, being able to move abroad at all is a privilege, but that doesn't negate the cost I hadn't even realized I was incurring.

I did well over the next few years. Work and school kept me busy, and my professors were pleased with my work. By 2019, I was nearing the end of the program; only the dissertation remained. I couldn't work on it. Whatever dark peeling bits were scraped away by the winds and views of Yerevan had peeled afresh. I tried walking and just walked aimlessly. I tried working out and cried on the machine. 

I asked a Taiwanese doctor friend for a recommendation so I wouldn't have to navigate the impossible corridors of help alone. The diagnosis was General Anxiety Disorder (but not depression, to my surprise). I told my doctor I'd had migraines and mild insomnia all my life - which is true - and he intimated that I might have had it all this time, with the dissertation merely exacerbating something I'd handled fairly well before.


IMG_2397


Perhaps that's true. Certainly, I have always had the associated insecurities. But I know when the peeling started, and the dark began to creep in. 

Back in late 2014, the hospital called the morning after I arrived in the US. "Come right now," they said. 

When it had become clear earlier that she would not make it, someone asked mom what she really wanted. It was to have her family around her. So when the complications from the cancer - too many to name - finally reached her heart, they gave her a high dose of something that would keep her alive long enough for us to get there, but not much longer than that.

We surrounded her, and told her that we loved her. I know she could hear it, because the very last thing she ever did was raise up her arm and make a gesture asking for a hug. So I leaned in over the tubes and bed rails and machines and simply hugged my mother. 


I closed my eyes; it was black. And that was that.

The next morning I stayed entirely under the covers - head and all - for hours longer than necessary. I dozed but didn't dream. It was December, and cloudy. I didn't open my eyes, so I wouldn't be able to tell how much of the darkness came from without, and how much from within.

In 2019, my paralysis in the face of a dissertation seemed to stem from classic perfectionism. You know - the fear that hard work will still produce an imperfect product. This is of course a lifetime indictment on your whole being, so the best way to avoid it is not to work at all. Makes sense.

But if anything, Lao Ren Cha has proven that I'm quite willing to create and publish imperfect work that might be praised, shared, slammed, or ignored. I'm fine with that. So that's not it.


It's that the only thing I want in the world is for Mom to be here for it. There are a lot of complicated feelings wrapped up in completing a thing the vagaries of life prevented your late mother from accomplishing herself, and that she so badly wanted for you.

I want her to know that while we might never have seen eye-to-eye on religion (she was Christian; I was forced for a time but it never really stuck), I try to keep our Armenian cultural connections strong despite being three generations removed. I don't just cook dolma like Nana and pilaf like Grandma, I actually went to Yerevan. I looked across a ridiculous border and saw Mount Ararat with my own eyes. I bought her favorite brandy (Ararat) at the actual distillery and enjoyed every drop.

If I were Christian, I could end on a maudlin note about how our loved ones look down on us from heaven. But I don't believe that. That's not a border I believe anyone can cross. 


106986437_10158690737226202_5653231336482966509_o


"How can you be so connected to Armenian culture, where religion is such an important part of life, and not share the Christian faith?" an uncle once asked. Well, like being a blue-eyed Armenian, it is possible.

With time, I've come to remember that Taipei may be a basin, but I chose to live here. I want to live here, even though in 2006 I didn't know how dear a price I would pay for that.

Yerevan might have views across sealed-off countries and the food of my ancestors, but it's also distant, rarefied, a place I visited - it's not where I live. Taipei, to me, is every little thing we do each day which, added together, make a life. You make your choices and pay your prices without knowing what they'll be in advance. It's a place that says you're free to relax, but where you might find ways to give more than you take, if you're willing to do that work.

I remind myself that this basin also has hills; one of them is a volcano. You can climb them, if you want. They have been painted and mapped beautifully by generations of people who have called this city home. Taipei may be a basin, but it is a geographically stunning one, with more complexity than the label implies. 


I'm still overwhelmed - glomming through life in that basin so humid you have to practically swim through the air. But it's hard and meaningful work. It may come to nothing; then again, it propel me to a situation where I can be of more practical use.

And I've been able, after some time, to excise the rough black stone that settled inside in 2014. It's heavy, but I can hold it in my hands now and examine its facets, its spikes and valleys and worn crevices. In my mind, this rumination takes place at the top of Gold Face Mountain (金面山), one of the peaks above the Taipei basin, although in reality I'm usually at home. 


IMG_7504
 


I've learned that that thing - more like volcanic glass than jet - when turned in the right way, in the sun, there is a hint of fleeting translucence. I can't set it down - I have to carry it with me, probably forever - but at least I can interrogate it, know it, perhaps have a drink with it now and again.



IMG_2013
A piece of art on The Cascade which looks a little bit like my drinking buddy,
which is a craggy black rock of bound-up anxieties and griefs


There is news, however. I handed in my dissertation today. I dedicated it to my mother. She's been gone for 5 years now. She would have turned 67 on the day I started writing this. 

It's a weight of a sort off my shoulders, although the stone is still embedded somewhere inside. 

Once I hit the button, I suggested we go to my favorite Japanese restaurant. We ate lushly: duck liver sushi, a scallop stuffed with crab and sea urchin, topped with caviar and wrapped up like a seaweed bao, more than that even. I drank a small bottle of sake on my own, and we teetered into Jason's across the street to buy fancy chocolate for dessert. 

Walking home down a tree-lined street, I recalled what a privilege it was, and is, to live in this city. It's been so good to me -- living here is a part of why I was able to do this degree in the first place. As much as I will try, I don't know how I can ever properly repay that in kind. It's not fair to describe it merely as a basin; that feeling came from me. When one can't get one's head together, it's hard to know sometimes what is inside, and what is out. 

There is, however, a maudlin ending: I know that she would indeed be proud. I do know she would - the Mom who lives in my memories tells me so. 

But the Mom who is on the other side of a border that doesn't have an other side? Well, nobody can know that. 


One might visualize finishing a degree or working through grief as a mountain to climb, with perhaps a view at the top. There's a clear up and down. But it hasn't been that way for me -- it's more like wading through a basin. I'm in a different place now, but at the same altitude. A different point across the same circle. I'm reminded of Vikram Seth's An Equal Music - the narrator's life doesn't have a clear forward trajectory so much as it resembles a fugue, with motifs surfacing and sinking, disappearing for awhile only to resurface; sometimes played in this line of music, sometimes that. Sometimes high, sometimes low. If there's a climax, it's all those motifs coming together, perhaps playing a little louder. It's not some new summit, it's not uncharted territory. It's up and down but ultimately swings around to come back again.

I key up Yerevan on my playlist and try not to think about it too much. 


Saturday, June 20, 2020

Schools in Taiwan bear more responsibility for racism and native speakerism than "market demand"

Untitled
There is no reason for these doors to be closed. 


When I first moved to Taiwan, I worked at one of the big chain cram schools. Every Friday, I had a class of rowdy upper elementary school kids. I wasn't very good at my job - frankly, I should not have even had that job - and they overwhelmed me. My co-teacher was an Indonesian woman who was simply amazing. Better than me, for sure. She probably still is, even though my teaching now would be unrecognizable to anyone who knew me then. The kids were awed by her; they listened to her. 

That school treated her well, though I will never know if we were paid equally (I can't be certain, but probably not). In the years after, I came to realize something: such respect is rare from schools in Taiwan, for both teachers of color and non-native speaker teachers.

These are two distinct groups - non-native speakers can be White, and native speakers are often not - but the way many schools in Taiwan think about both groups is rooted in White supremacy. Many will prioritize hiring, or only hire, White teachers. Others will hire only native speakers, but not native speakers of Asian heritage. Or they will define "native speaker" ridiculously narrowly - as though the term is possible to define at all.

Native speakerism is as wrong as racism in language teaching, an issue I've gone into before. The qualities of a good teacher include experience, quality training (which may not be the same as a certification, though some certifications are better than others), an appropriate level of English, the ability to plan and execute useful lessons well, preferably over the course of a complete syllabus, and who has good classroom management practices, and an open-minded, hardworking, growth-oriented mindset.

This is already well-known in Taiwan. However, when confronted with the issue, these schools will say it's "the market". "The market" demands native speakers. "The market" prefers White teachers. "The market" will take teachers who are not White, but no Asians. "The market" wants native speakers, but will take a European non-native speaker over a native-speaker teacher of Asian heritage.

The schools never examine their own role in how discriminatory the entire system is.


However, starting from that first year in Taiwan, it has become clear the market is not the main problem. Yes, one will meet racist or native speakerist parents and students; I don't deny they exist. But good teachers - wherever they come from and whatever language they learned first - tend to build strong relationships with their learners. Good teachers are usually successful in the classroom - even more so when the schools that hire them stand by them.

While some parents and students are unreasonable, for the most part, when asked to open their minds to a teacher who looks different or has a different accent to what they expected - they do.

The biggest problem, then, is likely the schools. Why do they insist that students and parents will only accept a certain type of teacher, when that's not necessarily the case?

For some, it's simply that they're businesses and don't prioritize education. As such, they're not willing to stand by quality teachers and take a leading role in changing the minds of the "clients" who do make racist or native speakerist demands.

For others, I suspect it's a manufactured preference: selling your "clientele" on the idea that White or 'native-speaker' teachers are somehow inherently superior, even though they aren't.

By the way, there's research to back this up, too.

You probably don't believe me yet, so instead of droning on about it, I'm going to turn my platform over to a group of teachers with varied stories, but who have all experienced some form of marginalization in English teaching in Taiwan. Note the key commonality: when their employers stood by them (and even sometimes when they didn't), these teachers all managed to build strong rapport with their learners, and in some cases the learners' parents. The so-called "market" was often open to instructors from a variety of backgrounds.

Let's start with T.'s story of a new colleague:


At the [school] a few years ago, they had a [private] practice of not considering Asian Americans for English teaching positions. Not that it was public. As the only female instructor, I felt it was essential to replace me with a woman, especially since three-quarters of our students were female: it's hard to prepare adult students to socialize in international settings without access to a female perspectives, experience, or role models.

I was disappointed--and incredulous--when someone told me, "no women have applied." Another employee showed me that several women had indeed applied, but that they had Asian names. I wrote an email to the entire office celebrating the fact that women had applied for the job and explaining why it was so important.
Because of the nature of the organization, and  Taiwan's constitution forbids racial discrimination, and because the director was a humane man, the administration took it seriously, interviewed Asian Americans/Canadians, and hired one.
Conventional belief had it that students would be dissatisfied with Asian-looking teachers, doubting the quality of their English. Instead, the new teacher was extremely popular with the students who valued her perspective of being of Asian descent in Canada and the U.S. The fact she looked Asian probably made it easier for our female students to imagine themselves navigating international business environments in English. So the belief that "customers" will be dissatisfied with teachers who are of Asian descent is outdated.
Even if it isn't, it's unethical and cowardly to give in to that as a business strategy--even when the problem is that parents of kids going to buxibans are unable to assess the authenticity of someone's English. Management needs to educate these "customers" and support their teachers, not cater to racism that sometimes exists primarily in their own imagination.
"Market demands." It seemed people were assuming they know what the "market demands," and were mistaken.
People will justify racist decision-making by saying they are doing it because someone else asked them to, as if they have no responsibility themselves for perpetuating racism when they enforce such "demands." It's not their own racism, it's someone else's that they are enforcing. It doesn't matter what they do or don't think if they enforce racist requests.


P. is from India, and holds a Master's in English Language and Literature. He's a native speaker just as much as I am; the only difference is the variety of English that he speaks.
Having completed by BA Honours in English Studies from a top university in India (2nd for Humanities and Social Sciences), I interned at a school through AIESEC in Taiwan in 2013. I was asked to teach some English lessons and share insight into Indian culture for a primary school in the outskirts of New Taipei City. It was a great experience and I got along really well with fellow colleagues and students overall. I was subject to occasional comments from students about how “black” my skin is and got questions asking me to clarify.
Wanting to pursue teaching in Taiwan, I started looking out for job opportunities. I was a young graduate, who was well travelled and spoke English as a first language – I thought the world was my oyster. I was reminded very quickly in all these ESL jobs forums on FB that I’m a “non-native” speaker of English, I have no knowledge of the “culture” to teach it and should go back to where I came from. These harsh attacks from both Taiwanese and White people in Taiwan.
I found myself a scholarship to do my MA in order to stay, and then looked for jobs. I was so disillusioned for 2 years. There were no opportunities. When some interviewers spoke to me on the phone, they would be so thrilled to hear about my qualification and experience. But when they saw me in person, they were surprised that I was not white. “We didn’t know you were black. Sorry we don’t hire black people.” 

The kind of racism I faced from White teachers was even more shocking. I expected them to be better allies, but they merely saw me a rat coming in to destroy the ESL market and reduce their wages. Even people I considered friends refused to let me help them cover their classes when they wanted time off – they too told me I was Indian and non-native so not good enough for the job.

I tutored math to a kid; I wanted to tutor the kid English instead, but they said I’m Indian so I should teach math, and they chose a white French woman with questionable English to teach him instead. Then I got an online teaching gig where I had to lie that I was Canadian or British. That was my entry point into teaching – I already had a student visa so they were happy to give me the job after a demo and a blatant lie about my father being a Western man. I did this for a few years.

After completing my MA, I started a PhD [but still had trouble finding a teaching job]. This gave me an entry point into universities as a lecturer. I must add that I only got this job because a White female friend left her post there and recommended me. I cried for hours wondering if it was real.

While students took some time to get used to me, we shared a really special bond every semester. They appreciated that I had a unique outlook to my teaching, brought creativity in the classroom, taught ESL through literature and had a more communicative approach in my teaching. Soon I found another part-time gig at another university. I was doing very well there too. I think I can say for sure that I was probably the only, if not the first, Indian to lecture at an English department in Taiwan. While this felt really amazing, it also came with its challenges. There was no scope for development, full time jobs at universities are non-existent, and no PhD means goodbye, eventually. They paid terrible wages for such a position.

This is why I eventually left Taiwan after 5 years. While I saw some success, the cost of it was much more than I could handle. Having moved to Vietnam, I make twice as much money, have professionally developed so much and work at an international organisation where my identity is seen as an asset rather than a liability or something to cover up.



R. is a teacher from Southeast Asia who speaks Mandarin, and whose English is indistinguishable from what some would define as a 'native speaker':
[I experienced discrimination at] one of those big high school chains. I had to take a test (which I aced) and an interview and the other two people they hired they literally just grabbed from the street because they look foreign. The job was to grade essays and we finished early. The two were allowed to leave early. I had to assist the front desk until my time was up. 

[In another job], I was told I spoke English too quickly at the interview. Then they went and called me a “bilingual” teacher and offered me 550 (with my 10+ years of experience) and said to my face that if a white person rolled in fresh out of college they would be offered 600. This was the moment I decided to stop speaking Chinese unless necessary. I made it my goal to be indistinguishable from a native speaker, a goal I reached maybe a decade ago. 

I don’t get repeat students too much because I teach mostly test prep so it’s usually one shot and done but I do get some students through word of mouth. And my business English students requested more classes when we were done with our first round.

Basically, the students I’ve had seem to like me. The problem is getting through the interview process because I’m often vetted for my ethnicity and passport.

C. has had issues with parents preferring White teachers, but once in a teaching position with school support, was able to be successful, showing that it is possible to fight the racism that exists in the market if schools would take a leading role:

I was born, grew up, and graduated university [in the USA]. I don't know how anyone could argue with me being American after that.

The first school I worked at I didn't know better, but I later found out that white teachers were often paired with a Taiwanese local teacher so that there were two adults to wrangle 30 students. Since I spoke Chinese I had to juggle my class on my own. I also discovered that the White teachers were paid an additional 20,000 NTD per month. I quit.

I worked at a language school as the administrative staff at [a well-known school for teaching foreigners Chinese]. Initially the school was hesitant to hire me because they said students wouldn't know who to go to if they had questions to ask in English. I suggested I should have a sign that read "English secretary". One more than one occasion the parents of a fellow overseas Chinese would come with the student to the office and demand to speak to the 'white lady' they'd spoken to on the phone. It sometimes would take me about 5 minutes to convince the parents that was me.

I have had parents and students quiz me about my English. One mother insisted my English wasn't adequate because she walked into the break room to see me eating a [typical local food] and a real native speaker of English would never eat that.

My current school generally doesn't print my last name on our public roster because of security reasons and because they've discovered my enrollment is higher when parents and students don't see the last name is [a common Chinese name]. My problem wasn't always hiring. My problem was staying the job, typically once the parents met their child's English teacher (me) and complained to the school about my Asian-ness.

Currently, I'm employed at [a language center at a major university] where my clients are the students themselves with minimal parental interference.

I got along great with my students. Currently I would say my students like me a lot too, I have several who have continued on with me for 4-5 years. It's a continuing education class so students can continue to enroll as long as they like.

In previous jobs my problem has been more parents, but it's also schools being too lazy to defend their teachers and just bowing to parental pressure. I mean, if a teacher (me) can help students score well on the TOEFL or win speech contests the school should go to bat for this teacher. Instead they let me go and hired a White teacher because that was the parental demand.


B. is a qualified non-native speaker who was denied opportunities as a non-native speaker, but whose nationality and first language were not an issue once hired:

I've faced this a couple times in person in my years in Taiwan. I'm from Mexico and that was enough to be denied opportunities.


My story is not particularly shocking or entertaining to retell, but living through it felt surreal. The contact person at one school (a private primary school, if memory serves me correctly) and I had exchanged a few emails, she had seen my CV, I went to the school for an interview, and she was very happy with our meeting. Everything pointed to me getting offered the job. Then she went away, left me in that office for a while and when she came back she said she could not offer me the job. I asked why and she matter-of-fact blamed it on my being Mexican. 

Alas, I couldn't get answers. It didn't matter when I pointed out my perfect [English proficiency test] score, my education at an international school, my experience teaching for many years, my teaching certifications - nothing mattered in the slightest. I was told one time at a teaching job interview, almost certainly at this one but I can't be sure, that it wasn't the hiring person's choice but the parents’.

I told her that her reason was insulting and absurd. She didn't budge. She didn't seem nervous or ashamed. Just matter-of-fact. This insensitivity was more than anything, what I found most confounding. I tried to keep my share of the dialog exchange short and calm to give her a chance to explain, to coax a better rationale, but I couldn't take the conversation anywhere. It was as if she simply couldn't muster enough empathy to stay present in our conversation.

I'd had many jobs before and since. I loved the two teaching jobs where I worked for the longest (at least six or seven years). I have experience teaching at all ages, kindergarten to high school, children and adult language centers, large class rosters and small, individual tutoring of children and adults, almost always English because that's where job offers are in constant supply, but occasionally was happy to accidentally land Spanish gigs too.

I first taught at that buxiban when I subbed for someone else. When they were ready to offer me a permanent part-time position they were unsure about my nationality. They asked me to take a test, perhaps it was the the GEPT, and when the perfect result came back they put aside all their concerns — if any customer ever asked they could proudly show them my score. So my nationality really was only ever an issue during job seeking.

Relationships with parents were rare but when they existed I always felt we had good rapport, and when we weren't in complete agreement about something it might be because they're surprised when I tell them their kid's participation in class is an asset. "my shy kid? That’s the first time I’ve heard that!" Perhaps people underestimate how different we can be in another language. I can't think of a single instance where a conflict with a student was at all related to my native-speaker status or nationality.

I tried hard to give them cross-cultural perspectives on linguistic prescriptivism, emphasizing that certain pronunciation of grammatical differences are normal for different communities, but I don't feel like they needed to listen to that from me in order to recognize that whatever linguistic differences were discernible in my own speech didn't take away at all from the quality of the education they were receiving.



S. is a Black American woman and talented teacher who has faced discrimination from "the market", but has been successful and popular with students when working in more professional settings:
I haven't worked at a school that was racist against me for the same reason I don't have friends who are white nationalists. They kinda already exclude me from their lives. [Years ago things were worse], but most schools that discriminate against black people nowadays tend to be [low quality] schools that are below my standards.

[In some cases] I lost performance points for things like "not smiling enough" and for losing students from a class where the parents were actually racist. [I know that because] they sat in the back of my classroom, chatting in Chinese so all the children could hear. They got pissed when I reminded them it was an English immersion classroom, even though I didn't comment on the fact that they were bitching about the Black teacher.

There were schools where kids came back to the school or skipped grades just to be in my classes, and where school owners put their kids specifically in my classes. There is optimism about good schools. But unfortunately it's not easy to find them - not unless you know what to look for.

And for non-white teachers - we don't have the freedom to walk into any job and play glorified babysitter while nursing a hangover like a white person can because those kinds of schools tend to be only about appearance over quality.

Fortunately, however, many of those schools closed down when parents and schools realized that schools that put effort into an effective English program were better than some place whose entire "curriculum" revolved around hitting flashcards with sticky balls and squeaky hammers.

As the quality and expectations of parents have risen, especially under the fact that parents now tend to only have one or two kids who they invest a lot of time and money into with the dropping birth rate, they are seeing through the façade of some unqualified dude who looks like he just stumbled in drunk from an all-night pool party (which more often than not was the case) to wanting to know the results and seeing more professionalism.

N. turned down a job with an online tutoring service because of their discrimination against others, a "business decision" that appears to have been made based on exactly zero market research:
I had a job interview for a curriculum director job. It was a tech company that was developing an online tutoring service. In the interview, I was told I would also have to find and hire teachers. The following conversation won't be 100% accurate, but it is a faithful representation of what happened. 

(Keep reading past the British bit. I'm including it because the racist bit appeared to be a lesser concern for them.)

“There is one problem, we can't use British teachers, only Americans.”
“Because of the accent?”
“Yes. We're launching this service in China, and they're not familiar with British accents.”
“OK, I understand that.”
“Oh, and we can't use Black people.”
“Sorry?”
“Yes. Because we're targeting second-tier cities in China, we're worried that people won't accept Black teachers.”
“Right, I can't do this job.”
“We know it's not...polite, but we have to do it.”
“It has nothing to do with being polite. This is wrong.”

I forget what I said, but I tried to explain why it's wrong. The interview ended.


The same company, but different person, contacted me last year to see if I could teach for them. I couldn't but asked about the policy. They said they had no idea what I was talking about, but more importantly, told me they hire people of all different races.


These stories all point to the need for schools to examine their own role in perpetuating racism and native speakerism in language teaching in Taiwan. The demand for White, native-speaker teachers exists, but it is not a given and is certainly not immutable. I do believe if these traits were to cease being advertised as some 'special' qualities of teachers in various schools, students would adapt.

If the focus were instead on hiring quality teachers, advertise that and stand by their staff, language education in Taiwan would improve overall. Market demand for White, native speaker teachers would reduce considerably. Schools could take a leading role in this change, and the success that good teachers who don't have the right 'look' or 'sound' have found in their roles shows that such a shift would be largely successful.

Instead of excusing away racism and native speakerism with "but it's the market", we should all call on schools to change the part they play in perpetuating these prejudices, and call on ourselves to be aware and reflective as well. 

Monday, June 15, 2020

Foreign residents in Taiwan should get stimulus vouchers, too (and the government is specifically seeking to exclude blue collar foreign workers)

Untitled
I don't have a related picture so please enjoy this old gate

(Update) Thanks to a friend's helpful link, I'm able to include video evidence that not only do the stimulus vouchers not cover foreigners who aren't married to locals, but they specifically aimed to exclude foreign blue-collar workers (that is, the majority of the foreign community from Southeast Asia). It's in Mandarin, but watch at around the 1:04:25 mark, and you'll see that the reason given for not allowing all foreign taxpayers to get the vouchers is "因為我們有很多移工" - the rough but I think accurate translation being "because we have lots of migrant workers".

That's disgusting, and the government should honestly be ashamed. 


(Original post)

A few weeks ago, the government unveiled a plan to provide stimulus vouchers to jumpstart the economy as Taiwan copes (spectacularly well) with the CCP Virus. People with low incomes will be able to receive the vouchers free of charge, and wealthier citizens could pay NT$1000 for NT$3000 worth of vouchers. I'm not clear on the details, but there are also apparently specific voucher plans in the works for things like cultural activities, as well.

Here's the thing, as with the Ma-era stimulus plan in which citizens and those married to citizens received NT$3600 to bolster the economy, foreign residents with no local spouse are not eligible for any of these programs, either.

If you're wondering whether anyone's asked the government why they craft policies like this, the answer is yes. The response will sadden but not surprise you. From the link above:



When asked the reason for this policy, she [Su Wen-ling 蘇文玲 of the Ministry of Economic Affairs] said that the vouchers are "only meant for Taiwanese citizens," with the hope that they will spend more money on the economy.

This quite literally amounts to:

Q: "Why are foreign residents, who pay taxes just like Taiwanese citizens, not eligible for all of the benefits of those taxes?"

A: "Because they're not."



It was not only a bad answer, it was a non-answer, and Ms. Su should feel bad for giving it. She may as well have stuck out her tongue and blown a raspberry with lots of extra spit for emphasis.


The whole attitude is frankly ridiculous, for two reasons. I'll give you the less important one first: we pay taxes. It's also our tax money being spent on measures to improve the economy, and our money spent in Taiwan is just as good as the money spent by citizens.

If the purpose of this program is to help the economy, then more money being spent by more people is a good thing. You get less, uh, stimulation if you give out fewer vouchers, so why isn't every taxpayer eligible?

There's simply no reason to exclude us. Including all foreign residents (so that means not just the middle-class people like me, but also the far more sizable Southeast Asian workforce) wouldn't even amount to that much money when compared to the cost of the entire program. And, as any savvy business knows, giving out coupons entices most people to spend even more than they would have without the coupon. 


It's just bad policy, crafted for no reason, and "defended" with a joke of a non-answer.

That said, it's not like I need the stimulus money. I don't, and you probably don't either (though I suppose we could all benefit from it.) It's not really about the money - it's about being treated like a normal taxpayer, and about making better economic policy. Nobody's looking for a charity handout.

However, there's a more important reason why foreigners should be included.

Let me tell you about my community. We have a lot of elderly residents, which means there are a lot of care workers in the area, most of whom are from Indonesia and the Philippines. This means that my community has a higher-than-average concentration of shops that cater specifically to this community, at least by Taipei standards. here are three Indonesian markets within a 2-minute walk of my apartment.

They sell goods and provide shipping services that other foreign residents from Southeast Asia purchase and use (I also shop at these stores, both for ingredients and prepared food, which is generally excellent). I have never seen a Taiwanese person shopping in any of them - if any do, it's not common. 


What I'm trying to say is this: they are threads woven inextricably into the community life and economy of my neighborhood. They have value - providing needed goods, services and employment - and deserve the benefits of economic stimulus plans just as much as any other businesses frequented by Taiwanese.

But because the people who shop there won't get vouchers, and the people who get vouchers don't shop there, this entire sector of the economy will almost certainly see no benefit whatsoever. They bring so much value to this country, are owned by taxpayers and employ people who pay taxes, selling goods to people who pay taxes, but won't get the benefit of those taxes when the government feels the economy is lagging.

My neighborhood may be a little unique for Taipei, but the rest of Taiwan surely has areas where businesses such as these are a notable feature of the economy and streetscape.

I have to wonder, what other sectors of the economy that the folks at the Ministry of Economic Affairs have clearly not considered are going to be overlooked by this stimulus program?


I'm sorry, but that's not right, and someone really ought to tell Ms. Su and her colleagues, and demand a real answer. 

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

CECC speaks out on discrimination against foreigners by businesses in Taiwan due to COVID19

Untitled
I don't have a good cover photo so enjoy this picture of an interesting gate. 


Since it became apparent that some businesses in Taiwan were discriminating against foreigners due to COVID19, many have discussed what could be done about it. Foreigners and Taiwanese incensed by unfair and irrational policies by these businesses - stepped up and called these businesses out on their behavior.

Publicly laying into such businesses was less effective than messaging them privately and asking them to change their policies, pointing out both the discrimination issue and the irrationality of the policies. I'd guesstimate that roughly 8 out of 10 businesses I messaged were willing to change their policies. I don't know the success rate of others - certainly I wasn't the only person doing this. That speaks well of Taiwan: it's not a perfect country, but there are a lot of countries where the majority of businesses would simply ignore such requests and continue discriminating.

This was also great as it meant local businesses rarely had to be called out publicly. When it did happen, I was pleased to see plenty of local support.

There was talk of getting local media reporting on it, or having a local reporter ask the CECC at their press conference about the issue. People respect Chen Shih-chung (陳時中). If they say it's not okay to discriminate, businesses will listen. I can say that this idea came from a local, not a foreigner.

Taiwan News eventually reported on the issue. That report focused on a single nightclub, but drew attention to a wider problem.

From there, the issue made its way to the CECC. I won't give details, but there are many Taiwanese committed to fighting discrimination who deserve credit. This isn't just angry foreigners with torches and pitchforks - it was a group effort with local support.

And today, this happened, reported in ETToday:



中央流行疫情指揮中心指揮官陳時中今(6日)特別強調,病毒攻擊不分什麼樣的人,不要因疫情造成人與人間的對抗,大家多有點同理心,抗疫一定做得更好。 
Chen Shih-chung, leader of the Central Epidemic Epidemic Command Center [and current Minister of Health and Welfare], emphasized today (the 6th of May) that the virus does not distinguish between different kinds of people. The epidemic should not cause person-to-person confrontation. It would be better for everyone to have a little empathy. [Translation mine].

People do respect Chen, and generally have been happy with the CECC's handling of COVID19. So, I do think this will have an effect. Addressing this issue publicly, at a national level, will hopefully cause businesses to abandon discriminatory policies or, if they were considering them, scrap their plans.

Chen is respected in great part because he's got class, saying a little to accomplish a lot without mocking or scolding. Some foreign residents might have been hoping for more of a ‘rebuke’ or ‘reprimand’ in his statement. However, while Chen's language might sound mild to foreigners, but the meaning of those words - the illocutionary force of a reprimand: don’t do this! - will be understood in Taiwanese society. And he will be respected because he didn’t act like a scolding father, but a leader. Trust me, his meaning is clear in this cultural context.

For those that don't, we can point to Chen's statement as a potent antidote to the poison of discrimination - what can a business say when the CECC itself is asking them not to discriminate?

That this was able to happen - the right wheels turned, the right gears ground, people came together - speaks well of Taiwan.


Now, if we can that kind of effort together to fight discrimination against non-white foreigners (predominantly Southeast Asians), that will really be cause to celebrate. Let's keep fighting. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Discrimination against foreigners by Taiwanese businesses rises due to COVID-19 (but there's good news!)

Screen Shot 2020-04-18 at 5.37.02 PM

Updated (4/19/2020):

Friends are reporting that the Zhongxiao East Road branch of 東京燒肉專門 is not allowing foreigners to enter unless they show a passport with entry dates. Here's a link to their discriminatory policy. They say they don't discriminate, but it's stated that only foreigners need to show this, which...is discrimination.

It's also impossible - what on Earth is in my passport that I could show them, for example? How do they know who is and isn't a citizen based on looks (or even language ability) alone?


Screen Shot 2020-04-19 at 7.07.36 PM

Discrimination against foreigners in Taiwan is still going on - and this time around, there are more places that people are reporting as not serving foreigners at all, often citing a bogus "police document" or "government policy".

Something needs to be done about this - it's not just the bad logic. It's not just the discrimination. It's that these businesses are lying about government policy and "police documents" to justify discrimination, which is disinformation and harmful to public health.



93409449_3675736272496756_7741636997231411200_o
This club isn't named, but it's just one example of using "the police" as an excuse to discriminate


You can report discrimination in Taipei City to Taipei Urbanism, which will follow up with the business in question as well as pass the information on to the government. You can also send a petition directly to Taipei City government. Outside of Taipei, there are surely petition systems for other municipalities. You can also email the Executive Yuan - if they receive enough emails, perhaps they will make a statement about this trend.

If you're wondering if I'm wrong about this and it really is some sort of policy, please remember that Mayor Ko specifically asked businesses not to do this in a tweet in late March. Furthermore, I asked a friend who works for the city government, who asked colleagues in the relevant departments, all of whom said it is not a "government policy", at least in Taipei.

There are also some discriminatory businesses in Taichung which are named in the comments. 


Untitled



It's become apparent in recent days that several businesses in Taiwan have begun to discriminate against foreigners, using COVID19 as an excuse. They are either outright refusing service to foreign customers, or requiring foreigners (only foreigners - not Taiwanese) to provide passport and flight details. In some cases, this is due to rumors that COVID19 carriers had visited these bars, although some of these stories have turned out to be false.

The Bird in Tainan has also published a long, pointless rant defending its banning of foreigners from the premises after receiving complaints on the anti-foreigner policy in the screenshot below (update: they have since changed their policy).



Untitled
Point #5 says that foreigners are not allowed to enter this nightclub.


Such policies are discriminatory, and acting on them is is illegal (a friend who is a lawyer pointed out to me that the policies themselves are not actionable but if they were caught turning away a foreigner simply for being a foreigner, that might be.)


They are also illogical, as most people who have entered Taiwan from abroad in recent weeks have been Taiwanese. Foreign visitors are not currently allowed in, and the foreign resident community isn't traveling much. We're not the ones pouring in bringing COVID19 with us. Most new cases have been Taiwanese returning from other countries, not foreigners. It makes no sense to target us.

Though I'm avoiding using the word "racist", there is a racial element to the discrimination. A Chinese-speaking person of Taiwanese heritage with a foreign passport who had recently been abroad would certainly not be checked. A foreign resident who has not left Taiwan in years probably would be, even if they had an ROC ID (a very small number do). Such policies absolutely target people based on their appearance.


This trend seemed to start in restaurants and bars, but is now making its way to hotel and airbnb rentals:


Untitled

Untitled


Here's the good news: since the foreign community began complaining about the discriminatory policies, some of the businesses implicated have either taken down the posts stating that foreigners would receive discriminatory treatment (I have screenshots but will not post them if the policy has been changed), or issued corrections and apologies (update: here's the most recent policy change and apology).

This is exactly the point of speaking up: directly calling out discrimination and requesting that policies be changed can work. The goal is not to hurt these businesses - we're all facing difficult times during this epidemic and nobody wants to make that worse for anyone else - but to spur positive change. It also serves to put other businesses on notice: if such policies become widespread, we will notice, we will respond, and we will tell our local friends. I don't want this to become a trend, so we have to put a stop to it now by making it clear that the foreign community will not tolerate it.

Before changing their policies, two of these establishments said they were "merely following government policy". If it had been one of them, I'd assume it was a face-saving excuse and nothing more. But when the second business said the same thing I started wondering: is some bad actor spreading disinformation? Is this an intentional campaign (not by the government) that has convinced a few business owners that these policies were necessary? Did some Youtuber blame foreigners for COVID19, causing this reaction?

Here's another restaurant doing the same thing: Indulge Bistro is requiring foreigners to provide entry stamps on passports to be served.


They don't seem to realize that, because foreign visitors are banned from entering Taiwan, almost every foreigner in Taiwan right now is a resident. We enter on our ARCs, not our passports, and most of us use e-gate. That means the vast majority of foreigners do not have entry stamps.



They do not require the same thing of Taiwanese - though they do say they won't serve you if you've traveled in the past 14 days, there is no stated requirement for Taiwanese to prove this - only foreigners. This is a form of discrimination.

Screen Shot 2020-03-27 at 11.10.36 AM

91243704_2987917517935241_2802498909765632000_o




Some establishments have still not gotten the message despite complaints on their Facebook page for several days: Abrazo still has language up on their Facebook page that discriminates against foreigners. 

Screen Shot 2020-03-25 at 10.48.41 PM

This part (體溫檢測超過 37.5°C則謝絕入場或上班,並要求到外籍客戶入店消費前,也需出具有清楚標示最近一次入境日期的護照證明正本) says that people with a temperature over 37.5C are not allowed to enter, and foreign customers must produce a passport with a clearly marked entry stamp. 


If they want to be safe and check travel histories, there are blanket policies they can create which cover everyone, not just foreigners. These would be more effective, as most people who have traveled in the past 14 days and are now in Taiwan are Taiwanese.


My gym requires everyone to sign in, leave contact information and record their temperature. This is quite fair, as the policy applies to everyone. This would be a better approach for these businesses, and I strongly urge them to change their policies immediately.
Untitled
This is one of the apologies in question.
Clearly, calling out these establishments has a positive effect!

Generally, I feel welcome in Taiwan and I do believe that most Taiwanese are happy to have a dedicated foreign community here. However, actions like this make us feel very unwelcome indeed. If Taiwan wants to retain its reputation as a friendly and international nation, this sort of attitude must stop.

So far, the businesses in question are mostly bars and nightclubs, although some other business have been implicated as well,  including a hotel in Tainan rumored to have refused a room to a foreigner, saying "you should be in quarantine".

Another hotel in Guguan, a pharmacy and a popular dive shop in Taiwan have also been found announce discriminatory policies (e.g. only serving Taiwanese citizens, only selling to foreigners online, or allowing bookings by Taiwanese who've traveled recently, but not foreigners). However, after discussion with the various owners, these have generally been cleared up.


This pokes at a deeper fear that a lot of foreign residents in Taiwan have: what if Taiwan faces a medical triage situation? Again, I'm aware most Taiwanese would not treat me any differently than a Taiwanese patient, and I don't expect priority treatment. I'd be more likely to let those in greater need be treated first. But what if I am assigned doctor or nurse who decides on their own that caring for me is less important, because I am a foreigner?

It's unlikely, but not impossible. This attitude does exist in Taiwan, as these businesses have shown with their anti-foreigner sentiment.

Has a business in Taiwan discriminated against you, as a foreigner, due to COVID19? Do you have proof? (I can't name names with a story). Let me know - I'll add them to the list of places that do not welcome us and are hurting Taiwan's reputation as a country that values equal rights for all residents.

It is important that we call out these discriminatory practices, and more importantly, that we request changes. Although Indulge and Abrazo have yet to respond, and the complaints about hotels and airbnb bookings are just coming in. Ideally, the government would circulate a public service announcement that discriminating against foreigners who are not in quarantine and reside here legally is not okay and may even be illegal, to counter whatever fearmongering the people engaging in this practice are absorbing. 

Friday, March 20, 2020

Thoughts on the "Expanded Overstayers Voluntary Departure" Scheme

90429285_10157165494038295_7429389932759613440_o
I cannot imagine a poster with more Taiwanese-style design choices



I'm still forming a full opinion on this, so my position is subject to change.

At the moment, Taiwan has a program running where visa overstayers can voluntarily turn themselves in until 30 June 2020. They'll pay a minimal fine (NT$2000) and face no detention or entry ban.

Please be aware: anyone caught by authorities will be subject to full penalties which may include a ban on re-entering Taiwan. That includes being caught at any time, including the "voluntary departure" period.

There is no promise that the immigration authorities will not conduct checks during this period, and if you are caught you will be deported with full penalty. 
In other words, this program isn't aimed at helping you stay - it's aimed at convincing you to leave by making that option relatively painless. The government is not saying "you can overstay your visa", they're saying "you can't overstay your visa, but if you do, we'll make it easy for you to get out".

Therefore, "taking advantage" of the amnesty program is a huge risk. Do this at your peril: I can't in good conscience advise it. If you are an overstayer, you may get caught, and you may be deported.

It's quite clear that if you turn yourself in, at that time you will be expected to leave, so this is not a "you can stay" program. It's a "if you leave on your own before we catch you, we won't punish you" program. Bear that in mind.

On one hand, this is more than most countries do for people whose visas are running out, or who may be in the country illegally. It feels like a very 'Taiwanese bureaucracy' way of saying "in practice, you can theoretically stay until 30 June, which is our intention, but we have to pretend to be tough on immigration for appearances' sake".

It's not perfect and it doesn't reduce anxiety, but we really must recognize that the vast majority of governments would not do this. Taiwan did. That counts for something. 



90410205_10157165493633295_6991840440127324160_n


It also gives them leeway to decide to extend the program for as long as the CCP Virus rages. So, there is humanity in it. It offers options to some of the people who otherwise might have none.

Of course, there is no guarantee that the CCP Virus will have abated by then (do not believe the data coming out of China) and no guarantee that the program will be extended. There's no guarantee that a cheap, regional visa run will be possible at that time.

On the other hand, there are a lot of people it doesn't help. People trying to get paperwork through that would allow them to stay legally, but won't be processed by the time their visas run out and might have to wait out the CCP Virus in a far more dangerous country where they might not have a clear place to stay aren't offered much here. People who do regional visa runs (like the Honduran man in my last piece who wants to marry his Taiwanese partner, but can't) can use this program as an unofficial extension, but face uncertainty after that date. Illegal workers, especially those who are scraping by in Taiwan, might not have the resources to leave if they do turn themselves in.

What bothers me about it, I suppose, is that philosophically it's still in the "go home!" camp, and a lot of people facing visa issues in fact consider Taiwan home. As a supporter of open borders, I'd prefer a "you are here, we'll shelter in place together" approach. Instead, it's a kinder form of trying to kick people out.

Allowing all landing visa holders to convert to a visitor visa would be the real game-changer, as those visas would start running out at about the same time, but would grant temporary legal status rather than giving people anxiety for choosing to overstay. It looks a lot less "strict" but it would be a more progressive approach.

And yet, at a time like this, can I really expect a perfect response? 


It's hard to say I like this approach, but I have to recognize that it's a slight improvement in the situation with some practical benefits.

However, it really doesn't solve the issues faced by those who are affected by the travel ban as their legal stays in Taiwan start to expire.

Thoughts?