The International Student Experience

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中山大學 – The National Sun Yat-sen University, my Chinese school for six months

Being an international student is a constant series of hellos and goodbyes, mixed with alcohol, parties, street food, and heartbreak.
At least that was my experience.
August 2017 and I was heading back to Taiwan to try my luck at studying Chinese for at least six months. For you see thanks to the bounty of the Taiwanese Government I had received a three month scholarship. So with my bags packed I headed back to Ilha Formosa, the beautiful island country of Taiwan. This time I was headed for the southern city of Kaohsiung, a port city and an up and coming global city. The new tram (which for us urbane, sophisticated Melburnians is simply a form of public transport) was always packed on Saturdays and Sundays with Taiwanese parents bringing their children to look at the new attraction and the lines of photographers stretching into myth. A relaxed city, Kaohsiung is much more like Melbourne than Taipei where I lived for a year the first time I was in Taiwan. Kaoshiung residents live at a slower pace. Maybe it’s just because of the heat and humidity that everyone finds the air harder to move through. But regardless it is a lovely place to live for a while.

Did I mention I picked the university I did because it is on a mountain, next to the beach and has monkeys. Because that’s why I picked it.
A friend of mine was letting me stay at his house until I found my own place (which turned out to him assuming we would sleep together, kinda an icky situation). Anyhow I finally found my own place with the help of a new friend and moved into this fantastic little studio apartment near my uni with an awesome landlord.
During this time I was also having the most amazing time I have ever had studying a language with the best Chinese teachers ever: 楊老師 and 吳老師. This really was the most amazing three months studying a language. Every week was the same and yet every week was different. Monday, Wednesday and Friday 楊老師 took us for beginner Chinese, and in Chinese from straight away. It was an incredible experience and also helped me work on how I teach English. Tuesday and Thursday 吳老師 would take us for beginner conversation, which is as scary as it sounds when you really can’t speak the language at all. And yet despite the constant routine every week felt better than the last. We could feel ourselves improving in out Chinese skills.
While studying I was of course being a proper international student and hanging out with new friends, drinking and doing bits of travel. One of the great things about Taiwan is its compact size and really good train network. This legacy of Japanese colonialism, combined with a new high-speed rail line up the west coast, makes most parts of the island accessible within 4 hours of travel. It was great to be able to visit old friends in 台北 and of course 新竹.
Exams rolled around and I did pretty well. And I had enough savings to extend my stay for another 3 months of study. This second term was harder than the first, study-wise, with greater expectations on us by our teachers. This led to the unfortunate situation where I felt that the course was overloaded with content and we rushed through it a bit. If there was one aspect of the classes that I could really find fault with, it was the lack of actual conversation practise in class. There was a lot of being drilled by the teachers, but not as much actual conversation practise, which I believe is essential in building confident language users.
I also returned home for Christmas at the behest and largesse of my parents, as this was to be a Christmas to remember.
And so it was.
The whole family was there and it was glorious, aunts, uncles and cousins. I haven’t had such a good Christmas in a long time.
After 3 weeks back in Australia catching up with friends and family, and carrying an extra 2.5 kg of Brice around, I returned to Taiwan to continue my Chinese studies.
A week returned and I decided to apply for a Master of International Relations at Monash University back in Melbourne, the university I had studied my undergrad at, and coincidentally had all of my grades on file to make the application really easy. COINCIDENCE! This decision, you may have noticed, was relatively impulsive as are many of the decisions I have made over the last two years or so, but the next day I received a positive response and I decided to return to Australia three weeks hence.
It was towards the end of my Chinese course and obviously I wasn’t really upset about missing the exams. What upset me was the close bonds that I had made with a number of my classmates there and how I would have to leave them. I really hope to meet you all again somewhere round the world.
One would think that this would be the end of this international student experience for me, and so it should be but for one glimmer, the possibility of moving to Shanghai next year to complete my Masters degree and improve my Chinese.
It is an option that has been weighing on my mind due to the various considerations, but I think ultimately it would be a fantastic opportunity for me to expand my options, experiences and expose me to new ideas.
Who knows though?
Thanks for reading my ramble.

As a note the first version of this post deleted itself, so I had to rewrite it all from memory, so please excuse any mistakes, I am tired.

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Tears Unshed over the Salt and Sand

Flying over the northernmost reaches of Australia on the way back to Singapore, then on to Taiwan you would not think this the place to be emotional. Not for me anyhow. This was the 4th time I had made this particular trip, so why this time as we cruised over the salty, sandy coastline was I suddenly getting teary eyed?

Perhaps it was the music playing in my ear, the melancholy strains of the Hope Suite gently but insistently tickling my emotions? But I had heard this piece many times before and it had never affected me so. True it always got me thinking, but not so strongly. Music has be one way that I find it easiest to project my feelings (as many do). The music I chose to listen to reflects my state of being, my thought processes and heartbeat. But rarely had music so moved me to tear up, that would be new.

Maybe it was my thoughts turning to my homeland, now left behind me on a fast retreating horizon? But I had left Australia many times before with nothing but excitement and wonder in my heart. The thrill of exploration always tingling my nerves down to the fingertips. Traveling makes me feel alive in a way permanence never has. Travel forces me to keep my eyes and ears open at all times. I have to constantly be in the now so as not to get lost, not only in a literal sense, but also metaphorically in losing my way in the world. The danger of travel for me is the desire to keep going, forever.

I haven’t decided if that is good or bad yet.

Perhaps it was my friends and family I was leaving behind, until our next meeting an undetermined time in the future. But I had left people important to me before, yet never felt this pang of sadness that nestled in my chest. And besides I was heading back to people that are important to me, why should I feel this?

Was it because I am feeling lost? My place in the world once again uncertain. I have been confronted with a number of options for my future, options that would in many ways let me live a lifestyle I would really enjoy. But I don’t know which way is for me. How do I want to spend my life, and what do I want to spend it doing? Do I go the academic route that may allow me to do more, in the future. Or do I go the more practical route that allows me to get started sooner, with guarantees of promotions and raises, but with relatively monotonous work. Amazing workplace, very similar work, day in day out. Maybe I should go the language route and become properly fluent in one or more languages? This leads to possibilities as a translator, but also in the business world, public service, NGOs. But leaving Australia before I have been lost and unsure of what I wanted to do and where I wanted to go. Is this time different?

Maybe it was because of love? Love, which I fall into far too easily and too often. Love, which we are taught needs to be exclusive and jealous when I just don’t feel that. Love, that makes us do so many amazing and terrible things. Maybe this was the cause of my melancholy. Being pulled around and forced into other people’s definitions was allowing doubt to creep into my heart, or was it? Maybe I was wrong in what I felt? I shouldn’t allow myself to be so heedless and fearless when it comes to love. Should I instead be selfish and singular? Should I do what others want to fulfill what is expected of me?

Loved ones, friends, casual acquaintances, denizens of the internet who have stayed up far too late and fallen down a hole to find my dinky little blog I have no answers, for myself or for you. Truly this is not how writing should be, with no conclusion. But then I have no conclusion, not yet at least.

Maybe it was a combination of all the above stated.

Maybe it was fleeting, like a teardrop. At once to appear, and then gone, never to be shed in joy or sorrow.

The shadow of a tear unwept.

I am sure the mysteries of my own internal struggles will stay mysteries, even to myself.

Perhaps I will have a glimmer or an inkling?

Interlude Sixteen – Doing What I Think Is Right

I wanted to write a year in review blog post. Talking about what has been between my 26th and 27th birthdays. But that will have to wait for a few days.

Why do people feel that no one is more deserving than themselves to get or own something?

This line of questioning has often been in my mind over the last six months as events in and around my personal life have played out. When people feel that they are owed something (legitimate or otherwise) then they will be hurt and upset when they don’t get what they feel they are owed. However when in the opposite circumstance they still feel that they are the ones who are in the right. They are never wrong and the world always owes them.

To put this in context. Someone was doing me a favour. They didn’t ask for anything in return and initially I didn’t offer it. About half way through the favour I offered them a favour in return, as I felt it only fair and just. Of course the other person accepted and we all carried on with our lives.

Right at the end I changed my mind. I realised that someone needed the favour that I was offering more than this original person.

Do I like doing this to that person? No, of course not.

Do I feel terrible that I am doing it to them? Yes, of course.

Does this change my mind on what the right and wrong thing to do is? No, it doesn’t.

I believe the amount of good that will come of my change of mind is much greater than the amount of good it will do to the original person I promised it to. This original person with whom I have shared many ups and downs in our lives. Many situations like this from both sides. But this person seldom listens at the time and instead just gets very angry. It is really upsetting that I am expected not to do the greatest good that I can because it may impact negatively one person in a small way.

It really upsets me that this person will in all likelihood be very upset with me for quite some time and then it will all disappear when they need something from me. This is again not the first time this has happened. Nor will it be the last. And I usually put up with it and accept it because I do love this person. But sometimes what I think is right will not please that person at all, because they will feel like they have been adversely affected.

The other scary part is that I am unsure how this person will react, as when they get emotional they tend to lash out and react in a way that only hurts themselves and the people they love in the future.

Is this how I wanted the day before my birthday to go?

No.

Does it change how I feel about that person?

Also no. I still love them. That won’t change.

Do I wish that person took the time to try and understand what and why I am doing it rather than just being hurt and lashing out?

Of course I do.

But regardless I will still love them.

Interlude Fifteen: The Elusiveness of Motivation

Melbourne CBD from the Shrine of Remembrance – 6/03/2017

To prove to you how hard this is, I started writing this three weeks ago and got 10 lines before giving up.

I started jogging.

Like, regularly.

Once every two days at least.

And it has shocked me because I have kept it up, like for a month now.

You may not be aware, dear ones, but I am not the athletic type.

I believe my reports from PE in high school were:

Brice shows a distinct lack of any redeeming qualities and we recommend that he is not required to continue the compulsory PE classes. The gymnastics equipment is starting to laugh at him.

We recommend immediate and complete cessation of any and all physical activity that Brice is required to undertake.

Needless to say, this was not encouraging.

But like a plate of jelly running under its own power I continued to be top heavy and not eaten in polite company.

And more recently I started wobbling in public… Jogging that is

My point, as vague as it is is that I find it very hard to stay motivated over things. I function well learning things in a class like setting because I am required to finish them. Left to my own devices I do very little. I don’t study unless I have a clearly defined goal.

For example: my Chinese study. I keep buying Chinese study books to go through, complete exercises and generally try to improve my Chinese before I return back to Taiwan this coming August with the express purpose of studying Chinese.

I think there is a layer of dust on the books so thick you can see variations in the seasons.

I maintain determination for maybe a week, and then I just… Don’t. I know once I am back in Taiwan and studying this won’t be a problem as I will be in class and completing assignments. But until then I struggle.

And yet, I have kept up the exercise, more or less. I have even been adding to it, doing more and more exercises as well as the jogging.

I don’t like this new me, with determination and goal-setting.

Oh and guilt.

Much guilt.

Many of the guilts.

I now feel guilty if I don’t jog everyday, even though I set myself the task of jogging every two days. Let me repeat: If I don’t do physical exercise I feel guilty and go and do it.

I don’t know what has happened to the real Brice, but he has been replaced by this impostor who has motivation and drive, and I am not sure I like the change.

I believe this is what the kids are calling a humblebrag…

Interlude Fourteen: Perspective and Personal Responsibility

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Yallingup, WA – 17/02/2017

It has only been within the last year that I have truly felt happy with myself. Being alone doesn’t mean being lonely and I have had far too many solo adventures to believe anything else anymore. I also have come to the realisation that in order to be truly happy with someone else you have to be happy with yourself.

Something so many people don’t realise and aren’t.

They use others as an excuse not to try and make themselves happy. So many believe that other people will fill some emptiness in their soul. That they are incomplete without someone with them at all times. To those people I say, “Bullshit!”

True happiness can only come when you are happy with who you are, what you do and why you do it.

Why should someone put up with you if you don’t like who you are? Why should that be a burden that someone else should have to shoulder? To try and cajole and coddle, berate and banter you into being a better person.

I feel we refuse to accept this sense of personal responsibility. That by filling some spiritual needs with material desires we as a society have given up on improving ourselves mentally, and perhaps in some spiritual way.

This I am sure is not a new observation about the human condition (there is not much thought that hasn’t already been thought and I am certainly no new fount of wisdom, more like a bathtub of fetid cliches) but it is one that has been ricocheting around my head in the last few months.

Why do so many of us (myself included, I hasten to add) find it so difficult to accept responsibility for our thoughts and actions? What is it about accepting our mistakes that we find so difficult?

I think it is time for some backstory here dear reader:

Some of you of course know me on a personal level. Some, perhaps a larger segment as an acquaintance or just as a random person throwing his ill thought out ramblings onto the internet. For those who have, at best, a limited knowledge of my personal history allow me to elucidate.

I was not a happy child. From the ages of about 10 until I was 16 or 17 I had very few friends. I was a fat, nerdy loner who craved to be accepted, but really never was. I was also considered at risk, the risk being I would commit suicide. I mention all of this only to set the scene. I had a long way to climb to get out of the ravine I was in. In many moments I identified as the victim. I took on the role of the shunned and unloved.I felt safe here

Nothing could hurt me because I was nothing. I would always be nothing. In the words of C-3PO:

We seem to be made to suffer. It’s our lot in life.

All of this was not true. I had parents who loved me. A brother and sister who both have been there, despite the length and strength of certain rocky periods where we did have trouble.

But it is the attention and love of others that we always crave, and it was this dearth that almost pushed me over the abyss.

I also wish to state it clearly that I understand despite what I have been through I have had a privileged life. In white, middle class, went to private school, had the opportunity to attend higher education and so on. I never had to worry about coming home wondering if my parents would be there. I am not part of a visible minority. I have been so lucky.

But that doesn’t matter to a 14 year old boy who is thinking only of darkness. Whose thoughts continue to dwell on how unlucky and unloved he is.

Logic doesn’t matter.

Coming out the other side has been an ongoing process. The past always shapes our future, all we can do is acknowledge where we have come from and work towards making our future one we are happy with.

It is not good enough to just accept who we are, to wallow in our own unhappiness as if we have no power over it. It is our job to improve ourselves despite the adversity we have been through.

It has not been until very recently that I’ve had such a dose of perspective about my life and it has really changed how I see myself, and how I see others. I am a work in progress in that regard, I think slowly becoming a better person.

Less selfish.

More concerned about others.

I am trying guys.

And sorry for sounding a little preachy. I was in a mood.

Quite The Year: 2016

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Taipei and New Taipei from Junjian Yan – 28/02/2016

And I thought 2015 was a crazy year: The Beginning.

2016 was a year of unexpected surprises personally, followed by terrible global events and far too many important people dying.

New Year’s started in the best of ways, throwing up in the lobby of a hotel. I was still living in only my second place in Taipei at that point.

Two more to go guys.

From there it was a rollercoaster of a January. I moved into an apartment with a friend of mine from university. He was the one who suggested I should move to Taiwan. Then Malaysia boy…

Maybe we could call 2016 the year Brice falls in love with lots of boys.

So we had been chatting for ages, since 2014 when he was on a stopover in Melbourne Airport. For you see he actually studies in New Zealand. So we figured nothing could ever happen. But we got along so we exchanged details and chatted throughout 2015. But again no chances to meet. Then I moved to Taiwan and he mentioned he had an aunt and uncle living there, so maybe, possibly he could find a reason to come over. But little thought was given to the idea.

Then suddenly I had a week’s notice and he would be arriving and could he please stay with me? I will of course remind you that until this point we had never actually met. He was even too shy to video chat. But of course I wanted to meet him so I said yes. He flew in at 12:30 AM and got to mine at 2:00 AM. Well I say mine. He rang the wrong bell and woke up our grumpy Taiwanese grandpa neighbour. He was not happy at all. And Malaysia boy was very confused. I, being the soul of chivalry, waited until my grumpy neighbour had gone back inside before letting him inside.

Again, this was the first time we had met.

In a country foreign to both of us.

In my living room.

At 2:00 AM.

It could have been really awkward. But it wasn’t, it was amazing. We really got along.

He went to his aunt and uncle’s the next day. On the weekend I went down to Chiayi where they live and the two of us went to Alishan (an old Japanese logging town). It was so amazing, even though the weather was truly awful.

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Fenqihu, a mountain town near Alishan – 17/01/2016

All too soon I was back in Taipei. Malaysia boy came back and stayed for a few days before leaving. That was the last time I saw him.

While I was on the High Speed Rail back from Chiayi I was speaking to another friend of mine, Aussie guy who lives in Hong Kong, video journalist. Anyhow we had met once when he was in Taipei covering the election. I mentioned to him that I had nothing to do for Chinese New Year as Taipei becomes a ghost town, everyone goes back to their families down south.

Out of the blue he invited me to stay with him in Hong Kong.

Again, dear reader, we had met exactly one time.

For a drink.

That’s all.

I had to ask him repeatedly if he was sure that I could come, cause I needed to buy tickets.

Yes he was sure, not to worry. So I bought tickets to Hong Kong.

What could go wrong?

A week before I was supposed to fly out he messages me urgently:

Him: So… There’s a little problem

Me: Umm, I have already bought the tickets.

Him: So I have to go to Japan for two weeks as one of the producers there has quit and they need someone to cover.

Me: That’s a great opportunity for you. But but but, what about me? I ALREADY BOUGHT THE TICKETS!!

Him: Don’t worry, you can stay at my place by yourself, I’ll hide the key in the fire extinguisher cabinet.

Me: WTF are you sure? That is amazing!

Him: Yeah no worries!

I would not be that nice with friends of mine let alone someone I had only just met! Such a great guy.

So I spent the first week of February in Hong Kong. It was a cool place but I think I expected it to be more… Like Taipei? Less western anyhow. Have a look at my thoughts on Hong Kong here: Hong Kong – In My Short Time Here.

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Hong Kong Island from Tsim Sha Tsui – 7/02/2016

The week I got back from Hong Kong the news came through. My sister had had an MRI that had found she had fluid build-up in her brain. Maybe not too big a deal. We would hear more soon.

The following Sunday a friend of mine from Aus flew in to stay a few days and explore Taipei. It was really good to see him!

The day after he left we found out that my sister would need brain surgery, pretty urgently. Like within two weeks urgent.

I had to be there, so I flew home.

At the time I wasn’t sure what I would do now. Would I go back to Taiwan or would I stay in Melbourne?

Melbourne: Where the Hell Am I!?

March was my return. Flying through Singapore is less fun when you can’t stop over and, in fact, have to run to your gate.

Most of March was spent in Australia, being a live in Uber driver for my sister. Looking after her and catching up with Aussie friends.

As soon as I got back to Australia I knew that I wanted to be back in Taiwan. So that was a positive thing to know, right?

It was really good to see my family again after 6 months. But also we spent so much time Skyping that it didn’t feel like we hadn’t seen each other. It just felt like we picked up where we left off.

My sister’s operation came and went and it all turned out alright, so I booked a flight back to Taiwan, with a week spent in Singapore.

This time in Singapore was different. I had been before. It wasn’t the exciting new experience that I had had the first time. But it was still fun. And do repressed people know how to party or what!? One of the best parties of my life there. Met so many people that I am still friends with. It was great. Also got to catch up with some old friend in Singapore, as well as my cousin! So great to see him again. Twice in 6 months.

Reflections: Singapore, Again Again

And so I returned to Taiwan, exactly 6 months to the day after I had landed there the first time. I felt… I don’t know. I felt like I was back where I was supposed to be. I know it sounds strange, considering how I was feeling when I left Taiwan, but it felt right.

However,

The night I get back my Aussie roomie tells me the landlord is kicking us out in two weeks, because she doesn’t want to rent to foreigners anymore.

Yay us.

So a frantic two weeks was spent looking for a new place to live. My fourth house, for those keeping score at home.

It was back to my old routine, teaching the kiddies English (in as much as I was allowed to teach, rather than instruct) and eating.

I discovered that I love being able to be catch up with people really easily. I enjoy being super social. And the three weeks I was back in Melbourne made me realise how difficult it is to be social if you live in the suburbs. Living in Taipei city was just far too convenient.

Middle of April and I was moving for the last time in Taiwan (although I didn’t know at the time) to Ximending. The gayest, busiest and most fabulous place in Taipei. Signed a 4 month lease so that if I needed to I could move house more easily. I kind of had vague plans to move… I don’t know where. Like I said, vague plans. Driftings of perhaps growing up, moving to Singapore and getting a real job as an engineer. As you are probably aware I didn’t do that.

Then my sister’s mum passed away.

Yeah, when it rains right?

I decided not to go back, as there wasn’t much I could really do. And if I had gone back I would have been staying in Melbourne for the foreseeable future. I couldn’t afford to keep flying.

This was the start of May.

I had to do my Taiwanese Tax Return, not a fun exercise, let me tell you.

And reading over my diary entries for May I notice I was particularly neurotic and worried about the future. I think that something this year has taught me is that I need to learn to live more in the present.

The highlight of May was going to Kaohsiung for the first time: Reflections: Kaohsiung, Heading South for Spring. I didn’t really know until then that a city in Taiwan could be… Pretty. But it was very pretty. I also met up with a friend there who showed me around. That was really awesome.

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Kaohsiung harbour from the former British Consulate – 1/08/2016

May also consisted of my Aussie friend telling me that he would be moving back to Aus soon. This set off some thoughts in myself about what I should do. He mentioned that he found some parts of Taiwan very frustrating, and I could completely see that.

But yes, May was relatively uneventful.

But June, June was a month of many things.

First off, a few friends of mine from Singapore came and visited Taipei, so I showed them around a bit and generally we had a great time. But the important bit was that Saturday night.

So monthly in Taipei there is a gay party called CUM (don’t think about it too much). Anyhow it is a really fun event at a place between the Fresh Water Museum (I know…) and the river, underneath a freeway. There are a few food joints as well. It is generally a really cool place.

So we (friends from SG and I) decided to do pre-drinks at the Red House, an area full of gay bars in Taipei. Another cool place and only a 5 minute walk from my house. So off we toddled. There we had planned to meet some of my friends and some of their friends. One of the guys coming was someone I had met once ages ago, but I didn’t really know very well. Anyhow he and I were basically inseparable that night. Hanging out the entire time.

He stayed at mine the next two days before heading back to Tainan, where he studies.

The week following he took a bus up to Taipei and arrived at 3:40 in the morning just so we could hang out for the day, before going back again. You might say it was getting kind of serious.

Then my work decided to cut my hours further. They had a history of doing this, cutting people’s hours and then hiring new people. My boss there was my most useless waste of space ever.

The next weekend a Japanese friend of mine came and stayed with me in Taipei for a bit. Ignominiously arriving on a later flight because he got drunk the night before and slept through his original one. Anyhow it was good to see him.

We had met in Melbourne where he was doing a working holiday. He mentioned to me that he always wanted to visit Taiwan, so I invited him to stay with me for a few days. I had a fun time playing tour guide, again. By this stage I had it down. I knew all the places to take him to explore.

Also in June I had to do my first overseas vote, just working out how to get into the building was hard enough. But once there it was all good.

July started with me going down to Tainan for the first time. Tainan guy picked me up from the HSR station on his scooter and we rode back into town. That was an, exciting experience.

Tainan: The Possibilities, or What Could Have Been

The first thing we did after dropping my bags off was go had have the most expensive, worst, haircut of my life. But I suppose it had to happen sometime. Had dinner at a night market, which was lovely. It was also the night of the election back in Australia, so not so good there.

Wandered around Tainan the next few days, it is more historical than Taipei I found. More remanets of Dutch settlement, which was cool.

The best and most romantic part was when we went to the beach at night (and we almost got thrown off the scooter cause of a massive pot hole. Seriously it was more like a cave) and watching a massive thunderstorm to the north. It was just beautiful.

Tainan boy and I kept seeing each other after I was back in Taipei. He came up the next weekend and we hung out.

It was also by this stage that I had decided I would be going back to Melbourne when my lease was up on my apartment. August 6 would be my last day of work. Apparently my boss was completely surprised that I would be quitting as he had no idea I was unhappy or how terrible the working conditions were.

Useless.

So it was onto my last three weeks in Taiwan.

I had a little birthday party with friends at a pizza restaurant run by a friend of mine. So that was good. Then went down to Tainan with Tainan guy and stayed the night at his before going to Kaohsiung to have a job interview… ON MY BIRTHDAY!

Really good school actually. But unfortunately the timing just didn’t work out for when I could get a visa etc.

So it would be back to Melbourne for me.

Spent the last two weeks catching up with friends and saying good bye to people. It felt so weird that this little interlude of my life would be over. How could I go back to my life in Australia when I had discovered there was so much more to explore?

August came and so did my final trip to Tainan. After a night of heavy drinking and clubbing with friends I caught the bus down to Tainan. It was so great to see him again. And we had an amazing time! We went to Kaohsiung on scooter and explored around there for most of the day. That was super great. We also went past the National Sun Yat-sen University and saw a monkey!

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Looking south from the former British Consulate in Kaohsiung – 1/08/2016

We also went to the Chi mei Museum. There are many things I expect to find in Taiwan: humidity, trees, Taiwanese people with no spatial awareness at all. I don’t expect a classically inspired French Palace. But there you go. It was there. It had an amazing collection of European and Asian artifacts, we spent quite a while wandering around there.

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Chimei Museum in Tainan – 2/08/2016

Then it was time for me to leave Tainan for the last time. I would like to tell you that we were sad, copiously weeping into each other’s arms. But the truth is we were running late for the bus. So I only had time to kiss him on the cheek and then get on the bus.

My last day of work at that place came and went with little fanfare except that they said they would not pay me the full amount due to me breaking contract. I reminded my boss that under Taiwanese Labor Laws that it is illegal to withhold pay due to breaking a contract if given the proper amount of warning (which I did) and that of they did not pay me I would report them to the Department of Labor. Magically the money appeared as if out of thin air.

Tainan boy came and visited me the Saturday before my flight and we went up to Maokong for dinner. It is a beautiful mountain area full of tea plantations that overlooks Taipei. It also was coincidentally Chinese Valentine’s Day. There were fireworks far away in Taipei.

It was beautiful.

Interlude Twelve: This Last Year From 25 to 26

Then it was back to Melbourne and reality.

What I noticed most about being back in Melbourne was that it had become, if possible, even more hipster. Even the old people were hipster now. It was really rather horrifying.

My brother and my dad picked me up from the airport. It was really great to see both of them.

The next few days were spent catching up with friends and family. Just like last time. Though there was less urgency about this time.

So I got back to Melbourne on a Thursday morning. And that Sunday we were up skiing.

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The Kiewa Valley and Mt Beauty (the Town) at the base of Mt Bogong and Falls Creek – 17/08/2016

I have a very difficult life as you can probably tell.

It was great just seeing snow and cold again after a year in a relatively tropical country.

Then two weeks later Tainan boy was in Melbourne for a three week holiday.

It was pretty amazing that he had come all the way just to see me. And we spent the three weeks just living in our own fantasy world, where we would always be together and have time together. It really was one of the happiest times of my life so far. No thought about tomorrow, only in the moment and having a good time.

All the while I was helping my sister get her house ready to sell. Whilst I didn’t have a job I was a busy bee.

Then October rolls around and I get an email response to a job I applied for in July: Would I still be interested in a job? Hells yes I would. But I played it cool. Said: I would be open to an interview.

Anyhow I went to the place, an English Language School in Melbourne and had the interview. Very awesome place. Great atmosphere and staff. So I said yes and would start working as a cover teacher for a month until they had enough classes and I would move onto being a permanent teacher. That was a Thursday.

Friday evening I got a phone call from my soon to be new boss with a frantic request: Could I please start as a permanent teacher as they had had so many new students enrolling.

I, of course said yes. I was always open to being promoted before starting a job.

I made the right decision and the last three months teaching there have been the happiest I have had in any job I have ever had.

Those next three months flew past, and yet didn’t.

I went to Sydney for 5 days and met up with a Singaporean friend there. I had a good time, but I am glad that I live in Melbourne. Just the people and the environment here are more to my… taste. My sister sold her house and moved. I found a place with a friend in a nice area of Melbourne, right near the city and have been living here happily. I really don’t think I could move back to the suburbs for a while. I am enjoying living in the city far too much. It is so convenient.

Christmas with my family this year was great. Felt so good to be with them even if I had the worst allergies known to mankind up at my parents’ farm. Everything was leaking. And I take anti-allergy tablets daily. Must have been powerful grasses and pollens.

The year started with me having no clue about my future and worrying about it, and ended with me being ok that I am not sure where my future is going.

And feeling so much better for it.

So what does the future hold for me?

At some stage I want to go back to Taiwan and study Chinese… If I get a scholarship that is.

Other than that I am really learning to live in the moment more. Take it slower and not worry too much about the future.

When I think back on 2016 I see how much I have grown personally, the friends I have made, the tragedies that have happened.

For me 2016 was not terrible, it was a crazy year full of adventure and discovery.

Thank you to everyone who was a part of my life so far.

Love you all.

Hope From the Ashes

This is different. This negativity that has been unleashed in the West and beyond. Around the world we can see people turning to despots, demagogues and hatred.

In the Philippines people are shot on the street.

In Malaysia LGBT people are jailed.

In Australia we are trying to ban asylum seekers from ever coming here.

In Europe we see a rise of neo-Nazi groups pushing racist, sexist, homophobic and xenophobic messages.

China is pushing more and more to become an imperialist oligarchy.

The UK has voted to remove itself from the largest progressive political system in the world.

And the US has elected a racist, sexist, misogynist, homophobic, anti-intellectual as President of the world’s remaining superpower.

We used to look to the US as a beacon. Not a perfect place, but a place to look to for personal freedom, a long lived democracy that usually helped promote peace, safety and security in the world. They didn’t always live up to this ideal, but they strived for it. It was an ideal to work towards.

The idea of American exceptionalism was one that pervaded the West. Maybe we didn’t believe it. We didn’t actually believe Americans were better than others, but it provided a backbone to our culture. Something to aspire to. That despite how divided they may be internally they always thought of themselves as Americans first, that they could help. They would always try to do better.

That is dead.

America has proven once and for all that it is no better.

When given the chance to stand up and show the world that they would not let a bully marginalise minorities?

When given the chance to show the world that they would support those who need it?

When given that chance to show the world that friendship, inclusiveness and multiculturalism are strengths and not weaknesses?

They failed.

They let us all down.

We world citizens are right to feel afraid of exactly what Trump can do. What he will do given the chance.

Make no mistake, this affects us all. All of us, everyone living on this Earth is affected by the way a group of angry white people who cannot handle a changing world voted.

Instead they idolise a 1950s America that never existed. An America that was built on the back of systematic racism, sexism and oppression.

Like Brexit the older generations by and large are taking the future away from their children.

And none of us are safe.

I can’t say it won’t get worse, it probably will.

I can’t say what to do next, I don’t know.

Remind the people you care about that you love them.

Remind those closest to you that if they are ever in need, they can come to you.

Remember to treat everyone with love and kindness.

Stand up against discrimination, in whatever form it takes.

We can all still make a difference, we just need to remember the power we all have to improve even one other person’s life.

Together that can change the wold.