When I was applying for an international teaching job, I had my cover letter edited by a career counsellor. She was extremely helpful. She handed me my letter and said, “It’s excellent.”
There was red pen everywhere. Not one sentence left untouched.
Still, she assured me (/lied), it was excellent. One (of a million) suggestions she made struck me. She told me to remove a line where I mentioned wanting to work in a classroom rich with cultural diversity. She warned me that many schools I was applying to would have classrooms where most students share a similar culture or background.
She was right. All this goes to say, I get stared at a lot in Taiwan. On account of Taiwan being an island, the population isn’t quite as multicultural as Ottawa, Canada. This means that the foreign teachers at my school stand out.
The locals are very friendly. Everyone assumes (correctly) that I speak English, so if I’m walking down the street and hear someone say “Hello”, it’s a safe bet that they’re talking to me. A couple of times, people have asked to take a photo (a couple of other times, people take photos without asking). The best is whenever anyone says, “Welcome to Taiwan,” just out of the blue.
This is mostly very sweet, though difficult to get used to. Sometimes I’ll walk down the street, facing 20 scooters, and 40 eyes stare back at me. I wouldn’t mind too much, except Taiwanese heat means I look like a complete mess 99% of the time.
I just consider all of this to be part of my wonderful culture shock experience. After all, I did come here to push myself out of my comfort zone, and what’s more uncomfortable than being stared at all of the time?
Really, though, I love this country. The people, the food, the opportunities and the kids I work with everyday. I’ve already had some pretty amazing adventures.
I absolutely miss home and my family, but I’m learning how to find my own family here, too. The teachers at both campuses of my school are excellent–I adore all of them.
I also take comfort in visiting my favourite places surrounding my apartment. The friendly Family Mart staff, my favourite lady at my favourite dumpling stand, the girls who work at the tea shop down the road who always giggle when I order the same thing everyday in terrible Chinese. These interactions help keep homesickness away.
I’m also so much more familiar with the city. When I first arrived, I was sure I’d spend all year getting lost. I didn’t think I could ever learn the streets or figure out how to get around, but I work hard and improve everyday. Taichung is an incredible city.
I do miss Canada so much. I miss cool summer nights, the sexy accent (oui, c’est vrai), Montreal bagels and talking hockey. I also really miss Canadians (though Taiwanese people may actually be even friendlier).
It’s okay, though, because in Taiwan, I feel more and more at home everyday.
I put together a video of some of my experiences so far. If you need to be reassured of how awkward I am, it’s definitely worth watching.
And if you’re not completely and totally sick of this song, here’s my adorable class being adorable and adorably singing “Let It Go.”
Feel free to mail me some peanut butter m&m’s.