Homeward Bound

Thursday, August 02, 2012

Sunset out the dining room window
So I realize I haven't said much about Taipei since I've been back, other than my encounters with ants and never-before-seen insects. It's been three-and-a-half weeks now, and the days are just creeping by, slow as can be. The reason for this probably has much to do with the fact that I'm not doing much of anything these days. I'm on a self-directed study schedule, currently reviewing all of the Chinese characters and phrases I've learned (and forgotten in the 6 weeks I was gone) while here.

I was originally planning to take up some English teaching, whether it be through the form of an established private enrichment school here or just putting out ads. I did apply to a bunch of schools and heard back from two, interviewed with one, got a non-committal "yes" for casual tutoring and possible administrative work for one come September. But the general consensus is A) they won't need me until the school year begins in September and B) most schools need a commitment of at least a year. My intention was to return home for the holidays, which got moved up to Election Day because, gosh darnit, I want to vote!

On top of that, even with my visitor visa, I need to leave the country every 60 days ... which means that unless I was hired by a school that sponsored an "Alien Resident Card" for me, I would have to leave in early September. Which costs money. And probably not even the amount I'd make through private tutoring. So ... I'm leaving before my 60 days are up. The ticket is booked.

In the meantime, I have a set routine. Every morning, I go to my local Dante coffee shop and have breakfast with coffee and study for a couple of hours before getting lunch and returning back to the air conditioned apartment to hide and (if I can focus) study more. I've become extremely fond of this particular Dante shop -- I think the baristas all know me now, since I go there practically every day. Coffee shops here are much more laid back than the ones in the U.S. -- or at least the ones in New York City. People can order a cup of coffee and nurse it for hours with a newspaper. Hours. And no one will say anything or give anyone a dirty look. I love it ... everyone in New York City is always on the go.

I love the energy at Dante -- it's not frenetic or crowded like the Starbucks nearby, and there's a regular customer base: the old guy who brings the same two books and jacket every day but naps at Dante, the Eurasian girl who teaches a middle-aged Taiwanese woman English every Tuesday, the middle-aged woman who reads the newspaper until 11:30am, the college-aged girl who is never without her stack of paper and highlighter. And then there are the others, who come and go ... the girl whose friend comforted her for 2 hours after she discovered she was being cheated on, the grandson who accompanied his hard-of-hearing grandmother ... I could go on and on. I really love studying at Dante for all the excitement of everyday happenings ... set, of course, to Celtic music heavy with longing.

The Taipei 101 building out my caged window
One of my friends thinks that I'm learning more about the Chinese language and Taiwanese culture from sitting in Dante than I could from any textbook. This might be true, but I did come here with the intention to really strengthen my reading comprehension. Still, it doesn't hurt that I'm learning about cultural differences just by ordering coffee.

Summer in Taipei is miserable. Probably as miserable as it is down South. It's humid, so humid. The temperature on an average day is about 93* or 94*, often more like 97* or 98*. And I can't walk more than 20 minutes without exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion (probably more my problem than Taiwan's, because this has been happening to me since I turned 25). So I stay indoors a lot now.

It's a weird feeling to be here now, sort of aimless. Part of me just wants to go home right now and "save" the money that I spend on food every day, save myself from any misery that I might be feeling ... but when I think about it, I think the relief of being back in New York City will be short-lived. The same problems I faced before I came here will rear their ugly heads eventually. 

My time here, and in Australia and New Zealand, have made me realize how transient I feel right now in my life. Sometimes this is a real blessing, like when I feel like I should move to Nashville for school, or live with my friends in Sydney and help them start up their business. But when the thrill is over, I sort of feel like maybe it's time to settle down and just make a decision already. The past 4-5 years have been a lot of maybes and what ifs. Now is the time to stop thinking so much and start doing!

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  1. Know that you are certainly not alone with this transient feeling you currently have. Would you laugh if I told you that I've contemplated moving to L.A. again... graduate school has kind of reinforced the same old things for me (but with a bit of a twist or new approach perhaps!). Anyway, while it is certainly time to start doing, I still feel like we are at an age where we can still take a big leap into the unexpected if need be... Like, maybe helping a friend open up a business in Sydney or going to school in Nashville :)

    1. You know, L.A. is probably a good place for you to be with your new degree :) ... that or NYC or London or ... who knows what other cosmopolitan city haha. My father's been giving me more and more pressure lately about settling down, at least financially, but nothing's a guarantee these days. Someday I hope to get out to L.A. ... though it may take me a while. Maybe I'll see you there. ;)



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