Despite its growing foreign population, Taiwan remains very much a homogeneous society. Children (and some adults) almost instinctively point at any non-Asian pedestrian walking by and say ‘Wai Gwo Ren” (which means ‘foreigner’ in Mandarin). It is not meant as an insult. (foreigners are often times treated better than Taiwanese citizens!) It is just a fact that separates us from the rest of the populace. Things have become less awkward as the foreign population grows. Nevertheless, we are the minority and feel as such.(I can remember a time when we were often stopped and asked to pose in pictures with people we had never met, let alone seen, before. A gesture that often left me a little overwhelmed. The tables had somehow turned and I was the villager in a small Thai community.)
It is this feeling of being an outsider that has created an almost instant bond between all expats living on the island. Things have changed over the years with a growing number of teachers and engineers living in Taiwan; nevertheless, there remains a sentiment of unity that makes it much easier to strike up a conversation and make a new friend. I have met people at restaurants, shopping malls, pools and even the gym whom I likely never would have acknowledged had I not been living in Taiwan. And that is one of the things that I love the most about living here!
The number of players in my life story has increased ten fold because of my venue. I have had the pleasure of meeting more people than I can remember. Some of these individuals were nothing more than a passing introduction. Others became acquaintances with whom I could share carless banter. And a large handful of these encounters have led to relationships that have grown from friendships to extended family. This gives Taiwan the feeling of home.
Unfortunately, it is also one of the things that makes living in Taiwan difficult. ESL teachers are a transient folk. Very few put their roots down for as long as I have. (Thank God some do!) Two or three years is the norm with a rare few staying longer. The day always seems to come when one of my ‘peeps’ who has colored my life decides that it is time to move on.
This was the case two months ago when two good friends left the stage of Taiwan. Cowboy, by Kid Rock, and Call me, by Blondie, are the songs that will remind me of a couple that has given our Taiwan family drama, calamity, love, joy, fun and a whole lot of memories. As I publish this post I expect that they are giving their vows and beginning their life together. To them I wish nothing less than peace, happiness and a lifetime together filled with gummi bears and adventure!
Cowboy youtube link
Call me youtube link