Massive Missive – The Ideas of March

Apologies to the Bard.

Not really. He cracked more than a few puns in his career, and took more liberties with the language than a texting teen on a cellphone. Of course, Shakespeare’s material was imminently more readable than the traditional “c u l8er m8, good crack 2nite, your gr8!” garbage that passes for communication amongst the IQ deprived. So, the Ideas of March.

They say that things come in threes. Obviously, most people have never submitted short stories for publication. Rejection letters don’t come in threes. They come in droves. All of them politely worded and politically correct, and ultimately, saying the same thing. “No.” In my experience, things don’t come in threes. They come until you stop making them come. Which is why March is looking to be a busy month for my wife and I.

You see, we’ve known for some time that Taiwan wasn’t going to hold us for long. Granted, every time we come to Taiwan, it holds us for a lot longer than we ever anticipate. But even so, the time is drawing near when we will once again be leaving the island. I first came to Taiwan in 2002, an over-sized and pretty much ignorant foreigner with no Chinese speaking ability and no real idea of Chinese culture past a chicken chow mein and bad kung fu movies. I’ll be leaving Taiwan in 2011, an over-sized and still pretty much ignorant foreigner with a smattering of Chinese and a much better idea of Chinese culture. (Still like Chicken Chow Mein and bad kung fu movies though!)

Taiwan is the ultimate comfort zone. If you are able to get beyond the mild xenophobia that exists in Taiwan, you are going to lead an excellent and interesting life. Incidentally, I MEAN xenophobia. The Taiwanese are no more racist or classist than any other nation I have known. And while they might get embarrassed when speaking to foreigners, or feign a lack of understanding to avoid a potentially embarrassing situation, it is far more usual to hear negative comments levelled at the Taiwanese by foreigners living here. One big plus for the Taiwanese is that they are uniformly tolerant of all religions. I have received far more criticism for my atheism in the west than I ever have in the east. Perhaps it is that Islam and Christianity are young religions (As compared to most of the Eastern religions) and are still focusing on proselytizing. Whatever the reason, the Taiwanese are relaxed about virtually everything except work and the traffic.

The “Chinese work ethic” is something that gets bandied about by managerial types over mocha-frappe-choco-lattes and power meetings. And in every case, the speaker has little or no idea of what they are talking about. I am not saying that western people don’t work hard, far from it… I have a father who nearly worked himself to a standstill to provide for us, but by and large, the sheer dedication and amount of hours put in by the average Taiwanese shames western workers. I believe that most of it stems from an inherently Confucian societal work ethic. It can get swiftly frustrating as a foreigner working in that environment. My first instinct when asked to take work home over the weekend is “No.” It certainly isn’t that way for them.

Traffic is, however, the greatest failing of modern Taiwanese culture. Traffic lights are not optional, but they ARE open to negotiation. In a metropolitan area with over 5 million residents, Kaohsiung has some pretty hairy traffic snarls. And scooters, well, they are legion. It is not uncommon to come around a blind corner on a busy road, scooters ahead, behind and around you… only to find some hapless moron driving against the traffic on his own scooter. And the usual suspects are to blame…youngsters and drunks. Youngsters are a particular problem here. Instead of driving a crappy Honda Civic with more plastic skirting than a collection of Goth Barbies, they drive souped up scooters. And of course… there is the issue of hair. The current trend for Taiwanese youngsters is a hair-style akin to a manga series. Spiky, and omni-directional. Said style requires a monstrous amount of hair-gel and time to apply, and thus, they tend to be hideously afraid of wearing helmets. Fast driving and a lack of helmets… well, there is an argument of Darwinism.

But I digress. I was saying that Taiwan was a comfort zone. And it is. In terms of salary percentage, a full-time foreign teacher is sitting pretty. The average salary for a full-time teacher runs anywhere between NT$55,000 and NT$65,000. (If you’re earning less, change jobs… you’re being taken advantage of.) Let’s call it NT$60,000. My wife and I live in a nice part of town, in a four bedroomed, two bathroomed, twin balconied, furnished apartment. We pay NT$ 16500 per month, including all guard and door fees. (That included garbage removal, building cleaners and security BTW) That’s 44k left over to eat and play with. Very comfortable indeed. We know that our move to the UK is going to result in a big change to that standard of living. Taiwan is a great stepping stone to Asia, and with return flights to Hong Kong starting at 10K, well, there is plenty of opportunity to play.

And yet… we are moving to the UK. Why? And the answer is family.

There is no better destination in life than to be with family. (Assuming that you like yours, of course.) My family has done a fairly good portion of the globe over the last few years, and this move will mean that everyone is permanently on the same continent for the first time in nearly a decade. Which is awesome.

To make our move a little easier, the wife and I are beginning studies in TEFL. Nothing serious, but it would be nice to have a UK recognised diploma that reflects the experience that we have gained over the last 8 years. That entails part-time study over the next 3 months. Which is the same time period where we are trying to

a) Emigrate

b) ship a household full of stuff to the UK

c) apply for jobs in the UK

d) wrap up everything here and

e) arbitrarily relaunch a personal blog.

Yeah. Perhaps that Chinese work ethic has rubbed off a little. Or perhaps I am just a sucker for punishment.

Is it all going to last? I hope so. If nothing else, the next Missive will be a little more personal, and a little more immersive.

If you have any comments or questions, observations or grumblings, leave a comment.

– Yeti

(Written on March 17th, 2011.)


About TheValentineYeti

Dragons slain. Dreams pursued. Horizons attained. Words written. Books read. Blogs posted. Life enjoyed. Friends appreciated. Stories composed. Novels completed. Submissions abundant. Rejections collected. Confidence unshakable. Positivity maintained. View all posts by TheValentineYeti

7 responses to “Massive Missive – The Ideas of March

  • Nigel Blackwell

    Well said, but I for one, will be sorry to see you both go.

    • TheValentineYeti

      Well Nige, it’s impossible to make a place your home for eight years and then leave it without some regret.
      But if there is one thing that life has shown me… well, there is always the chance that we will be back.

  • Evan

    As for your move I’ll withhold with comments pertaining to that for a later date.

    That said more and more I find that I want to appreciate, and I mean really appreciate, the time I have with friends and family.

    As for leaving Taiwan, well I’ll let Al take care of that one

  • lielu

    Soos my oupa sou se “goedige fok! Hoog tyd!”
    Lekker om weer n MM van jou te kry grootseun. Mis jou en vroutjie sommer tonne.

  • Steve

    Well, I’ve met you a couple of times, but I don’t really know you so I hope it’s not presumptuous of me to disagree with your decision to leave.

    I am British, I lived in Canada for 8 years, and I’ve been in Taiwan for 11 now. I’ve come to realize that I’m not going “back”. This is home now, and each time I go to the UK to visit family I can see it more and more. Yes, family would be the biggest reason for me to move to the UK, but given my background and skills the chance of me finding a job near them is next to none. In fact, I’d probably find myself being put on the next plane out to China.

    Maybe living in Taipei is quite a different experience to Kaohsiung. The traffic here tends to be better (drivers actually stop at pedestrian crossings) and I find the city eminently livable. The air pollution situation in Taipei is much more tolerable too. And when I can’t stand the city anymore, beautiful Hualian is a two-hour train ride away.

    In terms of giving me the comfort and the financial wherewithal to pursue the interests I want to pursue (scuba diving, travelling, purchasing large quantities of toy soldiers, saving plenty of cash and not being taxed to death), I don’t think Taiwan can be beaten by the UK or Canada.

    It looks to me like you’re chasing after something. I hope you find it. I realized some time ago that I no longer need to chase anything because I’m perfectly happy right where I am.

    • TheValentineYeti

      Hey Steve…

      Presume away. 🙂 You at least have met me in real life. There are a lot of people here who haven’t.

      You’re correct. I am chasing something. I’ve wanted to be an author my entire adult life. And I have been writing, if not with quality, then at least with quality for a long time. Becoming an author is the dream, it’s the Want with a capital W. And living in the UK will go a long way to facilitating that dream. All the major publishing houses and periodicals are there. All the major agents are either there or in the US. Staying in Taiwan, I am forced to submit internationally, which at the very least makes the process more expensive, and slower. Likewise, an agent that represents me in the UK is likely to charge 10 to 15 percent commission. Simply by living in Taiwan, the commission goes up to 15 to 25 percent. And of course, touring bookstores is a LOT more easily accomplished in an English-speaking nation than in Taiwan.

      That said… Taiwan has been a fantastic place to live, to experience and to remember. The disposable cash is, as you say, superb. Where I live in Kaohsiung, air pollution is minimal and noise pollution is low. Kenting is 2 hours away.

      But. Living in the suburbs of Berkshire is a LOT cleaner. And a LOT quieter. I hold that to be indisputable. And where a teacher in Taiwan (A buxiban teacher like myself) is lucky to get 2 weeks vacation over summer and 12 days over Chinese New Year, UK teachers get massive, PAID holidays. Which means that instead of taking a weekend in HOng Kong, I can take a week somewhere European.

      Don’t get me wrong. I am not knocking anyone that wants to stay here indefinitely. I’ll be leaving several very good friends behind. But for me… new horizons beckon. And I intend following. 🙂

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