July 27, 2012


I’ve been thinking of late, about going back to Canada for a trip.

Most of the foreigners teaching in Taiwan, whom I have known over the years, were always able to ‘go home’ at least once a year.  Although I teach the same if not more than they have, and do make the same (thereabouts) in pay, you’d think I’d be able to go home for a visit once a year as well.  However, I’ve had a couple of obstacles.

Through the years, I’ve learned that there are two times of the year that schools and bushibans do their hiring.  The main reason is, summer is when elementary school goes on holidays, and Chinese New Year, since there is about a week where there are no classes – schools or bushibans.  This is an opportune time for foreign teachers to seek employment elsewhere, or return home.

One of my schools, over the years, would insist that I ‘make up’ the time that the school was closed, due to holidays or even MY taking holidays.  The one thing you have to understand is, if I don’t work, I don’t get paid – national holidays, my own breaks, sick days, ‘typhoon’ days – it doesn’t matter.  If I’m not teaching students, I don’t get paid for the time not in class.

There is one codicil to this:  if a foreign teacher is hired full-time, then the school is required, by law, to pay a minimum salary per month.  The larger schools, that being, those with multiple locations around Taiwan, do follow the law.  Smaller schools seem to believe that the law doesn’t apply to them. Therefore, they can or try to, get away with as much as they can, partly due to the fact that the foreign teacher may not fully understand the laws of Taiwan.

Over my working life in Canada, I tended to enjoy working for smaller organizations.  Even though the chances for advancement may not have been as available, employee relations and being able to talk to the boss/owner was a lot easier.  Contract negotiations were more personal, and at times, more lucrative.

Larger organizations were restricted by rules set out by unions and contracts.  Talking to your boss was okay, but you had to remember, your boss had a boss, who in turn had a boss, etc., etc.  Trying to change something, offer ideas and opinions, etc., were always referred upwards.  Decisions were not made easily.

Here in Taiwan, from my situation, I had somewhat decided, before arriving, to find the smaller businesses to work with.  From my dealings and work life with large organizations in Canada, I just figured life and work were fairly similar.  Surprise, surprise.

I’ve discovered that working for larger organizations is ultimately, much better.  Sure, they follow the laws of the land, but overall, this is better than the smaller organizations who don’t.  The underlying fact that everyone is out to make a buck or two is no different, but how they go about things, differs greatly.

The one school I worked with for almost 8 years, insisted that any time that I was away from classes, I was required to ‘make up’, put a great deal of strain on my personal life.  It also disallowed me to go back to Canada every year for a visit.  For a people who believe that family is paramount to even making a dollar, I found it surprising that this particular school could not see my view in wanting to visit my family back home.

My present full-time employer, understands this.  When I went home a couple of years ago, there was no issue of ‘making up’ lost classes.  In fact, they had the option of either canceling the foreign teacher classes for the duration of my absence, or hiring a teacher for short-term employment.  The great thing was, they didn’t ask me to ‘make up’ the lost time, and I was still employed upon my return.

So, since I have been working for the past couple of years without a break (other than those days the school was closed due to regulations), I’m now starting to consider taking another trip home.

I’ve actually thought of a couple of ideas.  One, is to just fly to my destination, stay for the two or three weeks, and come back.  The other option I’ve been considering, which I think would be incredible, is to fly into Vancouver, and take the Silver Bullet across Canada.  This could be done in one of two ways.  One, is to book the trip straight across Canada.  This would give me a sleeper car and the trip would take about 5 days to complete.  The second option is to buy a pass, which would allow me something like 6 or 7 days of travel, to be used within 30 days.

As I haven’t decided when I will actually go back, I still have plenty of time to decide.  I am leaning more towards the second option.  This would give me the chance to stop in various cities across Canada, but then it would also mean having to book hotel stays along the way.

Anyone want to join me for a month-long, cross Canada trip on ViaRail?

That’s it, that’s all… for now!

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