Being fair of skin, with a healthy serving of freckles and a side of strawberry-blonde hair, I think it’s safe to say that you may notice me waiting in line in a crowded night market or making my way through the throngs of people at a bustling MRT station, which in my opinion is just about as chaotic as a kicked anthill. Among a flock of black-haired sheep I’m not exactly hard to pick out…okay, so I stick out like a sore thumb, happy now?
(Fear me puny Earthlings!)
To tell the truth though, I have been living here so long, I feel like it’s home, and it’s easy for me to forget that I am different here. That is until I see a toddler staring at me on the train like he’s just seen Marvin the Martian. And then there’s my students, who like to stroke my arm hair…it makes me feel like a pet! Funny story, I once taught a kid who called me a golden monkey because of my blonde-hair! But I digress.
“Why did you come toTaiwan?” is a question I have heard countless times, in fact it is likely the most common question I get when I meet anyone for the first time over here. And I still don’t have a good answer; in short, it’s a long story.
I first came to Taiwan shortly after graduating from college, and at that time I really had no idea what I was going to do with my life. I had a bachelors in education, and I had always loved traveling and learning about foreign cultures and languages. So I decided to spend a year abroad. But not in Taiwan.
Originally I had looked into living abroad in Ireland, as I have always wanted a chance to further explore my own cultural roots, and I had been to Europe and really liked the atmosphere. But that was a no-go. As it turned out, I wasn’t able to get the teaching job I had looked into because I lacked a European passport. Oh well, back to the old drawing board.
Not long after my Ireland bubble burst, I started talking with a friend who also wanted to live abroad and teach English for a year, and we settled on Japan. We filled out online-applications and waited eagerly for our phone-interview. After getting off the phone with the recruiter, I felt excited and I knew this was what I was looking for. After preparing a lesson and waiting impatiently for the big day, a few weeks later we met representatives from Japan who were in Austin, Tx to interview prospective teachers. I was really nervous, and the interview didn’t go as I’d planned. My friend was accepted into the program, but I wasn’t! Curses, foiled again!
So after getting turned down for he second time, I was pretty down. But to quote Chumbawamba, “I get knocked, down but I get up again.
You’re never gonna keep me down.” So I got up, dusted off my jacket and applied to another recruitment agency called Reach To Teach. This time I wanted to get a job teaching in China. I once again filled out an application and had an interview with one of the company’s representatives. The interview went great and they started sending me job offers from several different schools right off the bat! I was feeling really good now, and ready to set out for my adventure! Well…not quite(see, I told you this was a long story!).
(Hanging out in the teachers’ room before class, still fresh off the boat!)
The first few schools that I had offers for didn’t pan out, and eventually the agent I was working with told me of a school in Keelung, Taiwan that wanted to hire me…but where’s that? Well, I did my research and read as much as I could about Taiwan and I decided that it sounded like a great place to spend a year abroad. I was emailed a contract, read it over, signed it and faxed it back. About a month later I said my goodbyes to friends and family and my dad drove me to the airport. I remember him telling me that I didn’t have to go and nobody would think any less of me if I decided to stay in TX. It was tough, but I said goodbye and boarded my flight. And little did I know I’d still be here nearly five years down the road!
Though the path I took to get here was long and winding, I believe that it all happened for a reason, and my life would not be the same today if I hadn’t gotten on that airplane. I wouldn’t have met my fiancé, Ruby or raised our dog, Popcorn and our cat, Pumpkin, nor made all of the wonderful friends I have here. When I came to Taiwan I was looking for something, I just didn’t know what it was. But I found it!