Sunday the 28th of April 2014
Saturday the 19th of April 2014
I woke up early today; I showered, got dressed, stripped my bed and opened my door. I walked into the corridor of my ground floor apartment, a corridor I share with seven other people. There is a washing machine at the end of the corridor and the main doors into the building at the other end. The washing machine is something I tried to use once, failed and decided never to use again. However, my landlady insists it will only cost me NT $20 and that I should follow her four steps, put the money in, press the red button, put the clothes in, add detergent and decide how much water you want, close the lid and press the green button. I say four steps as she told me about the NT $20, the red button, the green button and the water amount. I just presumed the detergent and clothes should go in before the water…
I opened the washing machine lid, there were clothes inside. Wet clothes, belonging to one of my neighbours… now, I don’t know how long they’ve been in there or whether or not I should’ve taken them out but I genuinely felt like I should’ve just washed all of my clothes, by hand, as I had been doing previously rather than attempting to use the communal washing machine of doom which has thus far been nothing but a disappointment to me.
It’s 11:30AM, I don’t have any exams to mark this weekend (a rarity), I don’t have any presentation cards to write and I don’t have anywhere to be which means, I have plenty of time to read and write. Reading and writing? Aren’t you an English teacher? Yes, I am but there is nothing worse (ok, there is) than feeling as though your own vocabulary is slipping as you constantly repeat the words “blue, Sue, glue, true…” etc. day in, day out, for six months.
Six months? Is that how long I’ve been here? It is.
…man first of all exists, encounters himself, surges up in the world - and defines himself afterwards.
However, I should come clean and admit, publicly, that I handed in my letter of resignation on Sunday. There are a number of reasons for this, all of which will surface at a later date. Nothing causes you to evaluate your own existence like moving ten thousand kilometres from home. The above quote refers to man, meaning either man or woman. I feel as though I should point that out as it bothers me when people (usually women) make ridiculous comments about use of the word man. There’s something about blog trolling pseudo third-wave feminists, as it were, that really grinds my gears. Have another quote:
Think about the moments when you have been happily lost in a task - unaware of time passing and impervious distraction. That’s when you’ve experienced the absorption and concentration that psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi famously identified as “flow”. Such moments point the way to goals that are fulfilling because they’re tied to your identity. Contrary to conventional wisdom - which holds that the harder the goal, the greater the accomplishment - flow leads you to consider where you already excel and to build your goals from there.
(Streep and Bernstein, 2013)
I have been thinking a lot about my own goals recently, specifically who I am, where I live, who I want to be and where I want to live. I have come to a number of interesting conclusions. The first being that I no longer want to be here, I’ve said this plenty of times this week but it’s just not for me. I’m a great teacher, my students are wonderful (most of the time) and in terms of their language skills, they’re improving greatly but it’s just not for me.
I studied art for ten years, three years in high school, three years in college, three years at university and then a one year post graduate course in focusing on aesthetics, art theory, the philosophy of art, curating and cultural institutions. It feels as though, although over one hundred and eighty job unsuccessful applications forced me into this position (travelling to the other side of the world to ‘find myself’, just kidding, to ‘find work’) and I don’t regret it, I would’ve been better off (financially) had I been on the dole… I make about £500 a month here. My rent is about £110 a month and it’s really hard to save money and live like a normal person if you plan on eventually leaving Taiwan.
I’m currently in the process of eating everything (dried, powdered, condiments, etc.) in my apartment so that I can start to live off fresh food that can be kept in the fridge rather than the cupboard as I’m already trying to wrap up my life here. My boyfriend bought me a toaster, I feel as though I should bring it with me. I need to clean it today, I love toast but the bread here has so much sugar in it that it’s not doing my waistline any favours. Oh, I should probably mention I’ve been eating said sugary bread for about five out of the six months I’ve been here, almost constantly, every day. The bakeries in Taiwan are amazing; they’re full of the most incredible confectionery.
Saturday the 19th of April 2014
I realise now that a few inconsistencies here and there on this blog in terms of date styles, italicising subheadings, punctuating titles, having titles at all and worrying about paragraph sizes is probably good for me. I’m actually starting to like it, some of the inconsistencies seem to be becoming consistent and those inconsistencies seem to be creating a more compelling blog. It feels more honest than previous blogs, not allowing me to go back and delete, correct or obsess over the posts contradicts every blog I’ve ever kept and speaking as an award winning blogger (Degrees Unedited Blogger Award as featured in A-N Magazine’s Degree Shows Guide, 2012), I’ve kept a few blogs over the years. I also enjoy posting and reblogging images I find visually appealing.
Today is the first day I’ve had to myself and by that I mean, all to myself. No work commitments, no social arrangements, no appointments and no errands outside of my apartment. It’s bliss. I understand how I’ve been affected in such a hugely negative way by this job, days like this are scarce and I’m the kind of person who really values self-reflection, this is to me what yoga and meditation are to others. I’m calmed by the screen. I’ve managed to catch up on Season 3 of Suits, I put chickpeas in water to soak for tomorrow, I cooked garlic and olive spaghetti, spent time blogging, pinning, writing, laughing, crying, singing, all in front of my laptop. As I mentioned earlier, I did go into the corridor to use the washing machine…
After waiting an hour or so I decided to bite the bullet and take the neighbours clothes out of the machine. I found the nicest carrier bag I could find and put the clothes inside. I placed them on top of what could possibly be a dryer (which I don’t know how to use). However, it wasn’t full of wet clothes as I had expected. It was a coat that stank of urine. Now, I couldn’t tell if it was human urine or that of a dog but I know that it made me very uncomfortable to have to lift it out and place it in a bag. I should’ve wiped the machine down more thoroughly than perhaps I did. I placed my bedding and clothes in with detergent, I put in two NT $10 coins, I pressed the red button, followed by the water and then finally the green button. As soon as you put the coins in, a countdown begins. Nothing happened. I went back to my room. I waited a few more minutes before deciding that not seeing water fill the machine meant that I should turn the tap at the back of the machine on. It worked. I held my breath and went back to my room.
I waited for an hour when I heard a beeping noise. It was done. I looked in the machine to find all of my clothes washed and spun to dry out a little. I have never been so happy to see clean clothes in my entire life. I mean, they weren’t as clean as perhaps they would be in my parent’s washing machine (based on the cleanliness of my neighbours) but they were clean, cleaner than they’ve been for a few months due to me washing everything by hand. Especially the bedding, being able to sleep on clean bedding is such a good feeling and it’s almost impossible to wash bedding by hand as often as one might like to. I should also point out that my bed is huge so it makes for an even more challenging task. It’s 5:00 PM now and I’m hungry, I think I’ll make some cereal. I ate the spaghetti for brunch as it was between breakfast and lunch. I might try to get my camera fixed tomorrow, I’ve owned it since 2008 (it was my eighteenth birthday present) and the flash is stuck, the card cover is broken and it really could do with a new lens and some TLC. I was told that Carrefour has a camera repair shop so I will try there.
Tuesday the 1st of April 2014
I was introduced to a really tasty steak, egg and spaghetti dinner by one of the other teachers. We went to the night market (two minutes from where I live), it cost about £2.30 and was served on a plank of wood with a sizzling hot plate in the centre. There aren’t any rules here about storage when it comes to night markets, they just pull the steak right out of a bag of meat but it’s cooked well and in front of you so you know it’s less likely to make you ill than some restaurants.
I posted two tweets and status updates this morning, the first looked like this:
Where the Wild Things Are, Written by Maurice Sendak, Adapted by Tiffany Horan, Interpreted by CEI15! I’ve finally finished the play!
The second looked like this:
The children we teach today are the future of Taiwan’s tomorrow.
I started to write a play, I got mad; I deleted it and adapted Where the Wild Things Are instead. It was a good idea and my class absolutely adore it. We’re going to make crowns and claws. They’ve memorised Let It Go from Disney’s Frozen and I have a feeling that the play we put on in May is going to be pretty amazing. I’ve decided that although I have no information other that I’m supposed to put on a play; I might as well enjoy myself. I take everything I do so seriously and I let things upset me so easily. I’ve decided that from now on, I’m just going to do whatever I want to do, within reason. I work for a franchise school, so as well as the stuff we’re supposed to do, we also have blue folders and these blue folders consist of writing, reader theatre and science. Blue folders require more preparation than anyone is willing to admit.
The second status was about how much I genuinely care about teaching. Education is so much more than the subject you teach. I teach English but I could just as easily be teaching art theory to undergraduates at the moment. It doesn’t matter, it should be about instilling a desire to learn, intent to progress, an aim to discover.
The teachers who aspire to inspire, who feel influential and appreciated, are probably the best kind of teachers. I hated school and I was genuinely told (by my teachers) that I would never amount to anything. Well, here I am, eight years later (I left school at fifteen), in Taiwan, with two degrees, doing exactly what I wanted to do because at the time, I felt like doing it. It’s easier to change something when you’ve been directly affected by it, education, particularly university, made me realise how important it is to keep going, to keep fighting for the things you believe in and to keep struggling through everything that makes your life difficult because at some point, it will all be worth it. Life should be about the stories you’ll be able to tell, not the ones you wish you’d told.
I chose to move to Taiwan because I had to do something, I wasn’t getting anywhere sitting in my room in the UK, living comfortably but feeling depressed but that’s what happens to people. It’s just too easy. An opportunity arose and I took it. Last week I was discussing child labour with a private student and we began to talk about legal working ages across the globe. When I moved to the UK, I tried to get a paper round; I couldn’t so I started serving polystyrene cups of coffee, tea and soup at a gun club. I was thirteen.
At fourteen, I replaced an undergraduate in an engineering company during my two week work experience organised by the school because when I arrived the administrative team had confused me for someone older, they thought I was a temp sent from an external agency, I didn’t correct them, I just did the job and left after two weeks. I didn’t tell the school, I didn’t complete the journal we were supposed to write documenting our time as I didn’t have time. I wasn’t licking stamps and making tea, I was sitting in board rooms pretending to understand what was going on around me, making suggestions using jargon I’d heard around the office. It’s just too easy. “Didn’t you get the memo?” I’d say.
I enjoyed that job a lot, I used to meet my friend in the mornings and we’d get coffee, I don’t remember where she was working but it’s one of my favourite memories. I often wonder if any of my students (the ones who are about fourteen) do the same things I did at their age and then I remember that I’m in Taiwan and it’s probably not as easy to just walk into a company, sit at a desk and start working. I’m having a reflective (throwback) Tuesday. I say Tuesday, it’s now Wednesday, 00:18AM.