Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Monday, July 01, 2002

Ok yesterday's entry warrants some further explanation...

My dilemma about living in Taipei or Kaohsiung is nothing new. In the past few months I’ve been looking at different job opportunities in Taipei. I’ve had an offer and some impending interviews, but in the end there were complications with work permits and just plain bad timing. There have been new regulations allowing individuals who have lineal blood relatives (who are Taiwan citizens) to obtain work permits. It’s such a new immigration law that it took almost an entire month of asking around to understand the conditions of obtaining such a work permit. No one seemed to be familiar with the new law or with how to apply it! Sometimes it’s amazing how the most routine things often become such a complicated process in Taiwan.

Other positions were promising, but my interview dates didn’t materialize due to timing. In one case I was asked on a Monday to go to Taipei for an interview that Tuesday or Wednesday (!), but I was teaching and couldn’t arrange an interview until the Friday of that same week. The next day (Tuesday) they called, as I expected, to confirm my Friday interview, but instead told me that they just filled the position that day!

So it seemed to me that things were conspiring against me to go to Taipei. Or just call it fate. Perhaps if I had my mind firmly set on relocating to Taipei, I would have launched a more aggressive job search. So I thought about my quality of life in Kaohsiung and what I could accomplish here during the remainder of the year, because I knew that I’d have to give the college a firm answer about teaching there next semester before the end of June. Other steady teaching jobs have come up too.

My conclusions were:

I like the flexibility that teaching offers. I don’t have to be somewhere 9 to 5 and I can do my work (preparing lessons, writing and grading assignments, quizzes and exams) on my own time in my own way and at my own pace. During the fall semester I’ll be able to take Mandarin Chinese classes in morning or during the day. If I had a 9 to 5 job, I’d have to take evening classes, making for a long day. If I teach I’ll have some slots of free time during the day to pursue other interests, like the possibility of doing some volunteer work with women’s organizations. I’m interested in doing some work related to women’s health or women’s rights eventually.

Having the summer off is a nice luxury. By not taking on a full-time job, which would require me starting immediately, I’d be able to relax this summer and be more leisurely. But, I’m not getting paid this summer since I’m not full-time at the college, but I have some part-time teaching jobs and I’m still studying Chinese. I’m thinking about using my spare time to do some traveling, learn how to make various handcrafts or to pursue visual art in some form or another.

This summer I’m also thinking about possibly taking a short trip to somewhere in Southeast Asia with my Mandarin Chinese language exchange partner. She’s an English literature Master student at Sun Yat Sen University and we’ve become fast friends! Our conversations are often hilarious with me stumbling over Taiwanese, Chinese and English, sometimes all in the same sentence! I’ll also be able to take some 3-4 day weekend trips to explore different parts of Taiwan- something I really haven’t done since I came last year. It’s always different when you are living in a place vs. visiting. I haven’t really felt the urge to snap up lots of photos or to go sight seeing all over Taiwan, but there are still plenty of places to be seen here.

I had almost scrapped my idea for writing a practical English textbook for the Airline Management Department at the college where I teach. I was loosing motivation quickly because there really wasn’t much long term benefit for me in writing the book. Selfishly, we must often ask ourselves, what am I getting out of this whole thing?!

Writing the book would be a good experience in it of itself, but is that enough reason for me to forgo a huge chunk of my personal time that could be well spent on other pursuits? I had thought that writing the book would be a good experience if I were working full-time at the college. If I were full-time I’d certainly have more incentive to publish, but I don’t know how much longer I’ll be at the college (i.e. Would I still be working at the college by the time it got published, or would I even ever teach from it, etc.). As it turns out, their requirements for teaching staff have recently been changed, leaving me out of the running for a full-time job (another long story which I may attempt to explain at a later time).

Writing a book is no small feat that requires dedication and time (and perhaps my time could be better spend working towards other personal goals; Did I want to dedicate my free time to a potentially long process that might prevent me from doing other things?) and so on… I really did want to pursue this book idea, but just didn’t have the energy or incentive to do it on my own. In fact I have already put a considerable amount of time and energy into brainstorming ideas, collecting relevant materials (I even initiated contact with the head of ground staff services at EVA airlines at the Kaohsiung International Airport!) and writing an outline for the book. So with great lament I shelved the book project.

Recently, I was talking to another full-time English teacher at the college who had heard about my plans to write the book. He’s had some experience with writing English textbooks. It turns out that he’s thought about doing a similar book and seemed really keen about the project, so I suggested that we could collaborate on it together. Why not? I had basically tossed the idea, but was still mourning the idea of it, since I had already invested a good amount of time on it. But now I’m very excited about this alliance. Now I know that the book will be definitely used as a teaching tool at the college if and when I leave. It’s a mutually beneficial relationship. For me I’m eager to write and learn about the process of organizing and publishing a book and for him he welcomes another opportunity to publish. We’re meeting next week to discuss the outline and will start working on it this summer. I’m finding myself rooted in Kaohsiung with many things to look forward to here too.

So I decided to continue teaching at the college next semester for all the reasons above.

And then most recent call for an interview came last Friday, causing me go into the frenzy I described yesterday. It made me realize that the urge to go to Taipei is still strong and that when I’m ready I’ll have to be more steadfast about my choice to move there. It's been a difficult decision to stay in Kaohsiung because I have so many friends in Taipei; I realize that I'm often inspired by the positive energy of people around me. But my networks and resources in Kaohsiung are changing and growing. There will always be many potential opportunities in Taipei for the taking but I also realize that I’m enjoying the lifestyle I have now and that I want to follow through the opportunities that have materialized for me here in Kaohsiung.

I'm resolving to stop complaining about this dilemma. Kaohsiung ain't that bad and I'll know when I'm good and ready to move to Taipei.


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