I guess I’ve always organized and remembered my experiences based upon who was around me at least as much as upon what I was doing. My first couple of years in Taiwan were difficult in several ways. That time ended when I started working at Modawei, though. More than anything else, I valued that experience for the people I met. At the time I considered pretty much every teacher at the school a friend, and Mike, Nathan and Martin were very good friends. After moving to Guishan, I lost touch with Mike. Nathan became an even better friend that year, but he eventually left Taiwan and became a philosophy teacher at a community college back in Michigan. And now I’ve recently learned that, Martin, my best friend in Taiwan, will be leaving very soon.
Despite all the frustrations I had with the management and the curriculum at Modawei, I’ll never regret working there. The people who were working there were the very antithesis of the stereotypical “low-quality foreigners” that Daniel has written about. Every single teacher there was intelligent and successful in some way or another. All of them could speak Chinese well enough to run a class of absolute beginners without the help of a co-teacher. Two had philosophy degrees. One had a near perfect undergraduate record as a bio-chem major. Most of all, I didn’t meet a single co-worker there who had an overly negative attitude towards Taiwan. They all enjoyed living here, they were all interested in the local culture, and they were all interesting people to talk to. It was the first time I’ve ever liked all of my coworkers. We went out after work together almost every single night.
Since then, I’ve had good experiences working elsewhere, but the social element has been missing. Ron was a great boss, but the two of us were the only teachers there. Similarly, I get along with Simon well, but we have quite a few work related things to talk about in the office, and we usually aren’t even there at the same time. This isn’t to say that my social life has suffered. On the contrary, writing this blog has been wonderful for it. I must have made a dozen friends that I’ve met and hang out with offline, just due to this site.
What does seem to be a constant, though, is the ongoing churn of the expat scene. An old co-worker goes home, while an old teacher moves here as a diplomat. An old classmate from college shows up in Taiwan as a Chinese student, while another old friend packs his bags to leave. It just doesn’t stop. Old faces are constantly being replaced by new ones. I don’t feel sad. I just wish that time would stand still for a moment so I could look around and take everything in, exactly as it is right now.