Jesus Lord almighty (am I meant to also capitalize “almighty”? Does the Lord and Saviour get his adjectives capitalized?)
Sorry I’ve been gone for TWO YEARS. It took about that long to sign into WordPress again. (SERIOUSLY. Is it my computer? It can’t be this dope, superfast Asian Wi-Fi. Is it WordPress itself? [Who am I kidding; I’m too lazy to set up a new blog elsewhere.])
Anywho. Rather than doing that thing where I talk about how I should write more and how it’s been ages – which is probably the content of roughly 40% of all blog posts on the internet – let’s get right to it.
How to summarize my last two years? Well, I’m still in Taiwan, which I did not think would be the case. I’m teaching older kids so I have fewer adorable stories. Although here’s one, here’s one:
Grade 4 classroom. Most students speak fairly good English, but one girl (I’ll call her Joy) does not. Joy is only a little bit bigger than the stray cat who yeowls outside my new apartment, and she speaks about 10% more English than said cat.
Somehow the topic of cancer comes up. (I don’t know how; I forget. I’m a fun teacher; we talk about light-hearted things.) Some kids know what cancer is, and appropriately solemn looks cross their faces as they say things like, “Oh no! Cancer is so BOOO.” (#booforcancer)
Joy, ever the eager participant who doesn’t know what she’s even saying, bursts out, “Some people likes cancer!…Maybe.”
Well, we got a good laugh from that. Cancer: two sides to every story! (I can see the CNN panel now: a la climate science discussions, they’ll present it as an equal 50/50 argument. CANCER: so BOOO or not so BOOO?)
Anyway. What else? I’ve started meditating, and I’ve come to the conclusion there are two types of people who meditate. There’s the person who organizes “full moon goddess peace gatherings” and washes her hair with kale and won’t eat honey because she’s just that vegan and sounds as relaxed as if she’s getting a massage in a bubble bath when she has her most heated, tense conversations. And when you find out that person meditates, you’re like, “Well, of course; that makes sense.” And then there are a different sort of meditators (not a word; let’s make it a word): when you find out these people meditate, you think to yourself, “Yeaaaahhhh…. you definitely should meditate.”
I’ve realized I’m fully in the second camp of meditators.
I’m a potato. I’m a stressed out, anxious potato who drinks too much coffee.
Which is actually why I’m writing again (thanks, coffee!). I’ve decided to “temptation bundle” (which I learned about from a Freakonomics episode – the only thing keeping all my neuroses and fears company up in this brain are the hours and hours of podcasts I listen to) my coffee consumption. I’m going to go to a cafe twice a week – Tuesdays and Fridays – and write. If I do this, I can have coffee. That’s the rule.
What I’m saying is, I’m a fun, loose, spontaneous kind ‘o potato who goes with the flow and takes each day as it comes.
In travel updates, I have visited Malaysian Borneo, Osaka, Hong Kong (twice!), Shanghai, and the Philippines since I last wrote. They were all great experiences, and Manila is potentially the worst city on this planet. (I lost my passport there, so I’m biased.) I’m going back to Malaysian Borneo this summer, because I was only there for five days last time – I’m going for a month with….
Oh, yes. That brings me to my love life. I’m dating a gorgeous, wonderful, kind, hilarious boy who brings me immense joy and frequent laughter. I’m not going to say too much about it right now, because I’ve actually been making a mess of things with him lately. I don’t want to think about that too much. I don’t know what’s wrong with me, what’s wrong with people, that when we finally get what we want – what we’ve been dreaming of! – we get used to it, we get whiny, and we make a mess. But we’ve been dating for over a year, so I guess it’s at least a longish-term relationship at this point. (My longest. His, too.) So hopefully this is just one of the down swings in a series of changing circumstances that we can get through.
Anyway, the plan is that we’re going to Borneo together.
I think I’m going to get a teaching certification finally, because I am not getting any more sure of what I want to do with my life, and I keep teaching anyway, and I seem to like it well enough. And how stupid is it to paralyze yourself with thoughts of, “What do I like best in the world what do I like best in the world what makes me feel passionate and productive more than anything what is my calling,” so much so that you don’t like anything in the world and have no sense of self left. Decisions can be good.
I’m reaching the blog-post-length that ensures no one will read through to the end, so I think I’ll end there. I’ll be back on Friday, void! Good talk.
At this time last year, I was hoping to be teaching English in South Korea at this point.
I’m not. I’m in Taiwan.
Before coming here, I spent a month visiting South Korea. Because I’ve been even more in love with Taiwan than usual lately, I’ve been thinking about how lucky it is I ended up here instead.
Here are some things I used to think made South Korea preferable to Taiwan.
1. They pay English teachers a lot.
Like, a lot. I read online once that the average English teacher in South Korea can expect to save around $1,000 USD a month. That’s a lot of extra money just floating around for virtually unqualified (like me!), just-out-of-college English teachers. I was in love with that idea. Lemme tell you.
2. Korean cities have quite the active nightlife scene. (And you’ve heard of soju – right?)
It’s a common stereotype that Asian culture doesn’t encourage drinking as much as Western culture does. Not so in South Korea. First of all, everyone stays up all night. All the time. Saturday nights, even Korean families are out and about, hitting the town with their 3-year-olds at midnight. And the folks WITHOUT three-year-olds are seemingly always down for another bottle of dirt-cheap, poison-strong soju and a trip to a KTV for some drunken tunes.
They’re just doing their part, contributing to their country’s impressive rate of stomach cancer – the highest in the world.
3. All the Koreans I have ever met are incredibly fun, nice, and friendly. (And beautiful.)
Seriously. They’re beautiful. And yet? They call you beautiful all the time. And drink with you. And stay up late on the beach with you.
4. Their language is pretty cool and has an alphabet.
I trust languages with alphabets. It’s working for us, isn’t it? English? Germanic languages? Romance language? All of the languages with which I am even slightly familiar? No characters to deal with. No tones.
5. Did I mention how much they PAY?
6. The food is incredible.
Kimchi for days – I’ll take it. Weird, crunchy, ice-cream filled tubes. Something amazing called a “potato tornado.” Fried chicken – somehow, weirdly, very different and way better than your average fried chicken at home.
And now, here are some things that I think make Taiwan preferable to Korea. This list is admittedly unfair because I’ve spent more time in Taiwan than in South Korea.
1. They don’t pay as much, but they let me work here.
South Korea has incredibly strict rules about criminal records. I have a driving-related offense on my criminal record (from a very mild incident in which no one was hurt and no major property damage was caused) from a couple years ago, so realistically? South Korea was never an option. At this point, I hear even arrests – sans charges – will preclude you from getting a visa. Coming to Taiwan, this wasn’t a problem. Getting an FBI check was unnecessary altogether, which also meant that I saved money, time and stress dealing with the paperwork mess I’m sure that would’ve been.
Plus, I still make enough money to save a few hundred USD per month. And I live comfortably.
2. Taiwanese temples are better. Hikes are better. Landscapes are better.
South Korea was gorgeous, but I paid for nearly everything I saw – even things like waterfalls and temples. Taiwanese temples are so much a part of everyday life here, I think people would find it quite absurd to charge entry fees. And as for getting outside? Some national parks charge entry, but I’ve found less of that – as well as fewer stairs and beaten paths. I feel like here I can really hike in a way I couldn’t in South Korea.
3. Taiwanese food is awesome.
Korean food is, too, but NO ONE COOKS FOR THEMSELVES IN TAIWAN. As a single person living alone, it would be bizarre for me to have meals in. I love that, because it means I get to eat out every day.
4. It makes more sense to learn some Chinese than some Korean.
Just. You know. Objectively. More people in the world speak it. Taiwan is also the only place you can really immerse yourself in traditional Mandarin at this point, since mainland China has switched to simplified Chinese.
5. Taiwanese people are also great, friendly, aaaand… less beautiful.
Plastic surgery is less commonplace in Taiwan. If I need to explain why that’s a good thing, get outta here. We have nothing in common. My life is greatly improved by the fact that I don’t have to hear my teenage female students talking about upcoming surgeries their parents are getting them for their birthdays or whatever.
I also feel less like an ogre living here than I would in South Korea. Everything is relative, right? If you’re larger than you’d like, don’t stand next to Gisele Bundchen. If you’re shorter than you’d like, don’t stand next to Michael Jordan. If you’ve ever known insecurity, don’t stand next to a Korean. Ya know?
6. Better travel spot.
I’m a closer plane ride to a lot of cool places. Na-na-na-na-na-na. Catch me in the Philippines or Vietnam or Bali OR MYANMAR OR CHINA OR ANY NUMBER OF PLACES
…if you can.
Taiwan! See? No tickets to see waterfalls here. JUST PUT YOUR BODY IN IT
Jim and his older brother hang out in the office of the school after class while they wait to be picked up. They chat with us – (me and the other two foreign teachers) – in English, tear apart our desks, draw us pictures, practice writing their English names with us, give us basic vocab lessons in Chinese…
Today I was out of the office for a bit and came back to find this note, which my co-worker had lovingly dictated, letter by letter, to an unwitting Jay.
Oh, I’M the “traim” wreck, huh, Speller Of The Year?
(…To be fair, I totally can be. Me going all the way home after work only to realize I’ve forgotten my wallet and keys on my desk has become a running joke.)