TYPE B in TAIPEI, PART IV: The Pursuit of Happiness

Temple in TaipeiSomewhere along the way, I must have made the right decision. In light of how things have turned out for me over the past few years, I really can’t help but believe that I’ve played my cards well. When I was a kid, I would often wish I lived or was from somewhere else, anywhere else. Well, not quite anywhere—a place where things happened would have been nice. Unless people have lived under the soul-crushingly oppressive boredom that looms over backwater hinterlands like southeast Oklahoma, they can never truly understand it. Seriously, I wouldn’t be surprised if “Hillbilly Deluxe” by Brooks and Dunn, which glorifies this drudgery, was written about my hometown. In fact, the only way to survive in such a place is to somehow inoculate oneself against boredom, or learn to partake in the the things which people in these areas do to occupy their time—things like shooting animals, satellite television, and driving back and forth up and down Main Street on Saturday nights. Obviously, I never quite succeeded.

Or, maybe I didn’t make the right decision. Maybe I royally screwed up at some point and if I had done things differently, I would be a famous, money-making powerhouse on par with T-Swift or J-Law, both of whom are the same age as I am and have accomplished far more in their lives than I can ever hope to rival. Maybe by now I’d have my own Manhattan mansion-in-the-sky and a fleet of Rolls-Royces and hot muscled adonises to wait on me hand and foot and yeah… I mean, let’s be real, probably not in this lifetime. But, even if I did manage to snatch a humiliating defeat from the jaws of victory, defeat has never tasted so sweet.

It’s been almost three weeks to the day since I returned from visiting family in America and finally became a resident of Taipei City and what a wild ride it was to get here. For those who may have been too busy to follow the events of the past few months that led me to this point, allow me to do a brief recap. While home for Christmas last year, I finally admitted to myself that it was time for me to leave Korea. Having made that decision, a back-burner plan that had been slowly bubbling in the back of my mind immediately moved to the fore: move to Taiwan. Things in Korea wound down for me around the end of February and I left in the first week of March. With the recent MERS outbreak and the latest mud- and artillery-slinging contest between Seoul and Pyongyang, it seems like maybe I made a fortuitous decision. From Korea, I went to Seattle and loved it so much I was looking for ways to stay until my planned move to Taipei later in the year when a Taiwanese recruiter contacted me about an unexpected teaching opening in Taiwan’s rural Yunlin County. On a whim, I took the job and flew out of Seattle a few days later. I arrived in Douliu City on March 23 and less than three weeks later was hired for a job in New Taipei City to start on August 1. Doubtless, the fact that I was already present in the country strengthened my application.

World, meet my main squeeze.

World, meet my main squeeze.

Living in Taiwan’s underdeveloped central region definitely spurred me to do a lot more exploring than is normal for me. I’d already visited all of Taiwan’s major cities on the west coast and fell in love with Taipei long before I officially moved here. I’d also already met and unexpectedly started dating a real cutie (see photo at right), currently a graduate student at Taipei’s most prestigious school of fashion. Anyway, maybe those of you reading can understand why I currently feel I’m the happiest I’ve ever been. It’s a really nice feeling, especially considering that five years ago this month I was heading into one of the unhappiest times of my life. But, anyway, that’s another story.

In the here and now, I’m slowly settling in to my new life in Taipei. There are some great restaurants and night markets around my place and I’m less than five minutes away from the Fine Arts Park and the clubs and pubs around the Taipei soccer stadium. I start orientation for my teaching program in New Taipei City on Monday, August 24, and the first day of school for the new semester is on Monday, August 31. The public junior high where I work is positively gigantic. With more than 3000 students and over 200 teachers, it’s easily the biggest school I’ve ever seen. I’ll teach around 18 classes a week and I’ll meet my co-teachers next Friday. Basically, I’m doing all right. The situational outlook is good and morale is high. Until next time, my friends, keep it real.

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