And it's now found its home at ChaseAndre.com
It turns out Gabrielle and I share more in common besides being temporary-expats to Taiwan; not in the least is the fact that she is also from California. Beyond that, though, we share both a passion for travel (admittedly, she's much better at it than I), and a desire to give voice and face to the faceless.
We discussed life, and plans, and family, and God, and social justice issues, and the art that brings our attention to it, like the movies Crash and Blood Diamond and Hotel Rwanda.
She traveled with me by bus to my Mandarin class, and by bike to the school I teach at. We wound through the streets of Taichung not just discussing, but living life in a foreign land. At one point, we both hit our brakes hard, as a car cut through lanes from the left to make a right hand turn – a common practice in Taiwan.
“You get used to that sort of thing...” I said
“Well, T.I.T.” came her reply.
“...This is Taiwan” She smiled, and laughed a bit.
“Oh.. right” I returned the smile, sheepishly, a step behind her “Blood Diamond” movie reference.
Recently, Gabby and I got back in touch, and I was once again reminded of her insight and love for life abroad. I wrote her and asked if I could “interview” her about her time here. To all our delight, she accepted.
So here it is:
Could you tell us what brought you to Taiwan? When were you there, and how long did you stay?
I came to Taiwan to do an internship for my last year of university. One of my professors recommended me to stay and intern with the Atkins, a missionary family on the island with an Adult English teaching ministry. I stayed for three weeks, between Western New Year and Chinese New Year.
Was the experience all that it promised to be? (How did you do on your internship project?)
Once I got there, I ended up doing a lot fewer actual work hours than I had originally thought. It all worked out, though. Overall, I was glad to be able to experience a variety of different EFL styles and settings. This included observing in a CRAM school, guest teaching an adult English class and attending a couple classes with…Chase Andre, who is an awesome EFL teacher and great at navigating bicycle routes through cut-throat, sidewalkless streets, by the way! In a nutshell, it was not what I expected, but it worked.
(You're too kind.) So, it's been half a year since you've been to Taiwan. What do you remember as being your biggest Cultural Surprise?
I’ve traveled to many places, but this was the first place I’ve been where I could not understand any of the signs or literature. It really is a shock to step into a world where reading is hardly an option. This really gave me a renewed empathy for ESL learners who come to the USA for the first time and are struggling to understand their environment. Also, for anyone with latino friends or family, the non-touchy-feeliness of Taiwanese culture can come as quite a surprise. I was expecting it to be this way, but I still found myself wanting to give people hugs and handshakes.
Wait—I take all that back—I experienced the highest form of culture shock, by far, in my mouth, when I tried the stinky tofu. I really wish I was super worldly and could say that I loved it, but my gag reflexes totally betrayed me on this one.
Briefly fill us in with what you've done since Taiwan, and what you plan to do next.
I graduated from university (yay!) and earned a TESOL/TEFL certificate. As soon as I save the funds, it’s Spain or bust! I’d like to do a lot of things in the long term, but next on the agenda is getting some TESOL experience.
You said you've traveled before. What countries have you been to? What was your favorite, and what felt the most "foreign"?
I’ve been to Mexico (just Baja CA), Panama, France (1 day layover), Israel, Botswana, South Africa, Zimbabwe, and of course, Taiwan. It is way too hard to pick a favorite. The world is a beautiful place and I am always falling in love with new faces, food, languages, and landmarks. Most foreign—you know, when you’ve got the travel bug, you feel most foreign in your good ol’ hometown.
Your list is pretty diverse, but, what is one common thread you've found in each culture - including your own.
Love. Different cultures and individuals have different manners of expressing it, so you may have to look closely. All you have to do is open your eyes, be receptive and someone nearly everywhere you go is bound to light up your heart. I’m not talking about romantic love; I mean hospitality, sacrifice, appreciation—a gift given from the heart, helping those in need—these things represent love to me.
(Fantastic answer. Awesome)
Why do you go out of your way to learn about and experience other cultures?
I’m addicted! When you learn about other people and how they see the world, chances are your worldview is going to change, too. International addicts aren’t comfortable with one pair of bifocals.
If you had one piece of advice to someone (like me) who wants to travel as much as you have, what would it be?
Make it a priority. You may have to make material sacrifices to make it possible. Don’t go for the most expensive vacation trips. Go with a volunteer experience, an excursion, a study/work abroad program, or something like that. It will make it more reasonable cost-wise and, in my opinion, give you a richer experience.
And one last question: In one paragraph (3-5 Sentences, for the readers who aren't teaching English...), what does "The Journey is the Destination" mean to you?
I suppose it means that though we may have an idea of what we are working toward, we can’t just focus on the future because we will miss out on the present. Our lives aren’t like movies where we reach that one goal and then the sappy music plays and credits start rolling. It goes on and there are always multiple destinations we are headed toward, whether we are aware of them or not.
Is this it? Is this what my life has come to?...That was also the exact moment I knew I'd survive.
- At least once every day I shall look steadily up at the sky and remember that I, a consciousness with a conscience am on a planet traveling in space with wonderfully mysterious things above and about me.
- Instead of the accustomed idea of a mindless and endless evolutionary change to which we can neither add nor subtract, I shall suppose the universe guided by an Intelligence which, as Aristotle said of Greek Drama, requires a beginning, a middle, and an end. I think this will save me from the cynicism expressed by Bertrand Russell before his death, when he said: "There is darkness without and when I die there will be darkness within. There is no splendor, no vastness anywhere, only triviality for a moment, and then nothing."
- I shall not fall into the falsehood that this day, or any day, is merely another ambiguous and plodding twenty-four hours, but rather a unique event filled, if I so wish, with worthy potentialities. I shall not be fool enough to suppose that trouble and pain are wholly evil parentheses in my existence but just as likely ladders to be climbed toward moral and spiritual manhood.
- I shall not turn my life into a thin straight line which prefers abstractions to reality. I shall know what I am doing when I abstract, which of course I shall often have to do.
- I shall not demean my own uniqueness by envy of others. I shall stop boring into myself to discover what psychological or social categories I might belong to. Mostly I shall simply forget about myself and do my work.
- I shall open my eyes and ears. Once every day I shall simply stare at a tree, a flower, a cloud, or a person. I shall not then be concerned at all to ask what they are but simply be glad that they are. I shall joyfully allow them the mystery of what C.S. Lewis calls their "divine, magical, terrifying and ecstatic" existence.
- I shall sometimes look back at the freshness of vision I had in childhood and try, at least for a little while, to be, in the words of Lewis Carroll, the "child of the pure unclouded brow, and dreaming eyes of wonder."
- I shall follow Darwin's advice and turn frequently to imaginative things such as good literature and good music, preferably, as Lewis suggests, an old book and timeless music.
- I shall not allow the devilish onrush of this century to usurp all my energies but will instead, as Charles Williams suggested, "fulfill the moment as the moment." I shall try to live well just now because the only time that exists is just now.
- If for nothing more than the sake of change of view, I shall assume my ancestry to be from the heavens rather than from the caves.
- Even if I turn out wrong, I shall bet my life in the assumption that this world is not idiotic, neither run by an absentee landlord, but that today, this very day, some stroke is being added to the cosmic canvas that in due course I shall understand with joy as a stroke made by the architect who is called Alpha and Omega.
"...you've got 5 minutes. Hunker Down.
Don't try to run."
I say "Thank you" in Chinese with out thinking about it.I still avoid soda and lean towards tea. I purposely walk places. And I even fight responding in Mandarin when I'm with my native-English-speaking friends.
I say "Hello" in Chinese about 50% of the time.
I drink more tea than coffee
I don't drink soda
I enjoy walking (20 minutes) to the school
I'm starting to wake up earlier
There's also a few habits in the making:
I'm starting to go to bed earlier (it helps with the waking up part, I've found)
I remember to grab tissues to use in the public restroom before I get there
I'm figuring out a routine of when and where to take off my shoes in the house
I'm starting to not go back to sleep after I wake up early...
"I couldn't imagine being a mother in Africa or in India somewhere and holding a baby like this and having to watch it starve. But that happens, every day. What are we doing about it? We can do something about it!"This is an international community that genuinely cares about the world and the people around them. They breathe compassion. They truly believe, as Boston Paul's mantra goes,
"Community will Change the World."...and I have to agree with them.
-Faye Blais, "Canvas"
the people i meet are fantastic
they teach me things i never knew
some happy, some sad
each, a perspective to be had
they share with me while I'm on my way
How rich are you? >>
I'm the 773,071,647 richest person on earth!