June 20, 2010

Okay, so things have been in a bit of a slump these past couple of days. I’ve had a lot on my mind, and unfortunately, writing has not been one of them.

There is no need to go too into detail, but this is the time of year when classes are ending. There are a lot of things to do, especially when one, such as myself, works at many locations. Kindergarten classes are ‘graduating’. Schools are having story-telling contests. New classes are beginning, and some are being disbanded. Students are finishing up classes, writing exams, parents are taking holidays… it is a very hectic time of year.

Some people, either don’t understand this, or refuse to understand this. No amount of explanation from me seems to get into their brains. Either that, or the simple fact that they are not involved with the education ‘business’, that they understand, so just assume that I’m being rude or whatever…

Francis E. Smedley once wrote, “All’s fair in love and war.” I was a bit hasty in finding this information, so I didn’t do any further research. I’ll leave that up to my readers. He was an English novelist, born in 1818 and died in 1864. He wrote a few books and magazine articles, but the one thing that he is known for, is the aforementioned quote.

Now, when I read and ‘interpret’ this quote, it tells me that in the ‘games’ of love and war, there are no boundaries. Anything goes. What does that mean? It means no actions or words are considered taboo, and that whatever happens, happens. Period.

Okay, well, I hope in my lifetime, I will never have to experience war. Sometimes I feel like I do, but not in the real sense of the word. We all experience love, in some form or another.

So, that comes to the next thing. What exactly is love? It may seem that I am going off on a tangent here, but hopefully I’ll be able to gather it all together before the end.

I remember in school, long, long ago, when the earth was green, we had these types of questions thrown at us by various teachers. Questions like: What’s more important – love or money? Which is better – to be rich, or poor? And another favourite, although not from a teacher – Is it better to have loved and lost, than to never have loved at all?

I remember one class discussing the LOVE issue. Of course, as students, we all sort of giggled at first, but then, as we got more knowledgeable about the topic, the giggling stopped, and the learning began.

In my [humble, albeit experienced] opinion, there are many kinds of love. You may or may not agree with me, and that is certainly your right. These are some of my loves, not necessarily in this order:

I believe in the love I have for my parents.
I believe in the love I have for my family.
I believe in the love I have for my work.
I believe in the love I have for my pets.
I believe in the love I have for my students.
I believe in the love I have for my friends.
I believe in the love I have for my country.
I believe in the love I have for myself.
I believe in the love I may share with another.
I believe in the love I have for a good book.
I believe in the love I have for my favourite food.
I believe in the love I have for life.

All these types of love, are certainly not the same. The love you may have for your work, is definitely different than the love you have for your favourite food. The love you have for your pet, is certainly different than the love you have for your country.

I may have been out of touch with my family for many years. Yes, I have been somewhat reacquainted and reunited, but there is still a part of me, that over all those years, I missed. I never, for a moment, not loved my family. Sure, we’ve been through good times and bad, but that doesn’t stop the feelings of being part of group of people who share your blood. No matter what time it is, where we are in the world – nothing will ever take away the bonds one has for their family.

Over these past few weeks of trying to get things organized in my life with the classes and wanting to get home, I’ve been asked a lot of strange questions from people. The funny thing is, in Taiwan, family is the epitome of everything this culture is about. Everything they do, everywhere they go, everything they read, all centers around family in some way. For those not living at home, either because of school or work, should a parent or a grandparent, or any family member call them and say they must come home, everything is dropped. Classes will be subbed, work schedules will be shuffled, because, the family wants to be together for whatever reason.

I think about my parents, and in particular, one of the articles my mother wrote on her blog. She was talking about the fact that she doesn’t see the family that often, even though they are only a short distance away. Work and their own families, take up their time. If we had been Taiwanese (or perhaps any Asian culture for that matter), a blog entry like that wouldn’t even be a consideration. The parents would call, and the children would respond. Simple, I suppose.

So when I hear people asking me, “Why do you want to go home? Don’t you like Taiwan?”, I have to stop and look at them a bit strange. My little bit of knowledge of Taiwanese culture rolls around in my head like stones in a washing machine! I have to question the sanity of such a statement. I’m not Taiwanese. I’m not Chinese. This is neither my country, nor my homeland. These are not ‘my people’. This is not my culture. I live here, work here, eat here, sleep here. That is all.

For me to want to go back to my family, my roots, my culture, shouldn’t even be a question. These people should understand immediately.

Now, back to love. I have a few very good friends here in Taiwan. People whom I’ve tried to learn and understand their ways of life. People who have helped me in one way or another. People who have been my translators, guides, helpers, people to help me adjust to this life. These people I certainly have a great love for. Without them, life would have been a lot more difficult than it is.

When I came to Taiwan, there were a few things that I told myself I would or would not do during my stay. The first and foremost reason for being here, is to teach. I put my life in Canada on hold (supposedly, temporarily), and studied and learnt to be the best damn teacher I could be. I think that 9 years has proven that I have done that. Sure, like anything else, there are times that one questions themselves, but overall, these years have proven that I am capable of doing this task.

My second thing was not to get involved with anyone. Okay, so that may sound like a bit of a stretch, because no matter what happens and no matter how long you may be in a different place, you still have to be involved with people. My involvement was of the heart. I had been through three ‘affairs of the heart’ in my past in Canada, and I wasn’t about to start something in Taiwan. Yes, many foreigners come to Taiwan with the sole purpose of meeting their soulmate. That was not part of my plans.

My third thing was not to have pets. I had had two cats previous to leaving Canada. Mhoram, my cat of 19 years, had to be put down about a month before I was to leave for Taiwan. It broke my heart. I don’t mind admitting, I cried for a long time before leaving for Taiwan, and for a long time after arriving. A cat. A cat that had, up to that point, been with me for 1/2 of my lifetime! I loved that cat more than anything else in my life. At my lowest points during our 19 years together, he was the one thing that loved me unconditionally. Well, as long as he got fed!

So, here I am. I’ve fulfilled, to the best of my abilities, my first ‘goal’ – to teach. I have a full schedule by most standards. I work a 40-hour (plus) week, not including travel and lesson planning time. Add in all those hours, and well, we’re looking at close to 70-75 hours a week that is devoted to my work. When you figure there are only 168 hours in a week to begin with, you can see that this is a major part of my life. As it should be.

On an average day, I get about 5.5-6.0 hours of sleep a night. I also have about 2 hours per day of what I like to call, “BILL TIME”. This is where I get to do things like, watch T.V., or now, the stuff on Facebook and blog entries. Now we’re looking at another 45-50 hours a week on this. Hope you’re keeping track. We’re now up to about 115-125 hours a week on just these two or three activities.

Therefore 168-115=53 hours. Spread that over 7 days, and you’ll get about 7.5 hours per day. ROUGHLY! This is the amount of time I have per day, to get anything else accomplished. All housework chores (laundry, cleaning, etc.). Also, the bit of time to spend with friends. This could be anything from going to night market, a movie, or KTV. However, since every day is not the same, the times available are not the same.

In trying to be with friends, I have to juggle around a lot of other things. When people ask me to cancel classes just so I can spend a day with them, it is fine on one hand, but not a good idea on another. Yes, it is probably easier for me to cancel a class, rather than a friend juggle his or her work schedule. However, then I am left with trying to explain my reasons for cancelling. Students, and more particularly, private students, depend on my services. They are wanting me to help them improve their English language abilities for a variety of reasons. I can’t simply cancel their class time, because I want to go somewhere for the day. If that was the case, I should have just scheduled their class time for another time.

For someone to not understand this, makes me really mad. Whenever I have asked people to cancel out their work time, or reschedule their shifts to accommodate me, it is unheard of, and unacceptable. Their workplaces would never, ever allow them the freedom to do that. So, people think because I am ‘self-employed’, I can just do what they want me to do!

As I said, I love my friends. I love my work. I love my life. My first love though, is my work. First, foremost, and unquestionably, the first thing in my life here in Taiwan. If people cannot understand that, than they don’t understand themselves! Since it is not convenient for me to drop everything for my family, then for me, the next in line is work. Get this through your brains. My work is NUMBER ONE!

Secondly, my pets. Okay, I didn’t want to have pets when I came here. That is now not an issue. I have six cats. I have agreed, on some level, to care for them. To feed them, love them, give them a good life. I feel that I have done that as well. Third, is “BILL TIME”. I need this time. Whether anyone understands this concept or not, there are times in our day/week/month, that we need time to ourselves, that does not involve anything but sheer, greedy, needful, personal time.

Fourth, I need time to get things done around my house. I want to live in this house. It is a big house. It is not a small apartment. I need to clean floors, do laundry, and various other tasks that come up. Whatever time is left, that is the time that I will spend with friends.

If anyone cannot understand this, I am truly sorry. This is my life. This is what I have vowed to do for myself. The only person, IN MY LIFE that matters, is ME. Yes, this may sound very egotistical or selfish, but don’t think for one solitary second, that anyone else, except for Mother Teresa, is any different!


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