The last week
07.03.2009 16 °C
I finished working a week ago and realised, for the first time in so long, that I had time to think and to process how my life has changed since I moved to Taiwan over 2 years ago. I have a feeling that the full impact of my time here won't hit home until I actually leave though.
I left the UK with aspirations to travel, to see new things, meet new people and explore a new culture. There was nothing unique about my goals and I have realised that most English Teachers abroad tell a similar story. Some people, like myself, had always wanted to travel but had to wait for the right time in their lives to do it. Others made a quick decision and acted on it. Some people ran away from problems at home and some moved abroad to save money to pay off debts.
I have met a lot of people in Taiwan, some good, some boring and many weird! Culturally I find Taiwanese people difficult to relate to, which is probably why I have less Taiwanese friends than foreigners. In my work life I have encountered many irreconcilable situations, which are often based on our differing perspectives on how things should be done. I liked working at my last school but I believe strongly that work conditions fall well short of those in Britain. School managers use bully tactics (more on the Chinese staff than on foreigners) to get what they want and have completely unrealistic expectations of their staff. In general Taiwanese completely lack directness, which means there is often very poor communication in the workplace.
Teaching English in Taiwan has not allowed much travel to other countries, partly because I wanted to save money for a big trip but mainly because most schools offer unpaid holidays that are only around 3 weeks per year. I have done a little travelling within Taiwan, and enough to gauge the difference between city and country. I'm on the whole disappointed that there is no pursuit of beauty in Taiwanese architecture or any sensitivity to the environment. Formosa is the original name of Taiwan and it means 'beautiful country', but I believe the days where that was true are long gone in Taiwan.
It's not possible to simply sum up my experience of living in Taiwan. In preparing to leave I have realised that I don't hate the place like I once did and spending an extra year here has led to a familiarity and comfort with Taipei. There are not many people left here that I would call good friends but I will really miss my Taiwanese ex-flatmate, who has become like a sister to me. The best thing to happen to me here is meeting my husband. We married in Hong Kong in February and will be having a ceremony for friends and family in the Philippines in March.
The next chapter begins with the big trip to Thailand, Cambodia, Kenya, Tanzania, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, South Africa, the US and the UK. Then my husband and I will be moving to Egypt in August, for the next 2 years.