Friday, September 21, 2012

My Week of "Building Character"

So I am going to get straight to the point.  Living abroad isn't all wonderful food, fabulous people and fun.  There are a lot of things that are extremely hard to deal with.  Besides the obvious hardships of feeling alone and missing family and friends, there is the possibility of getting sick, really sick, and not knowing what is wrong.  Not knowing what is wrong AND barely understanding any of the language.  For the past few weeks I have been in this situation: sick, tired, getting the wrong diagnoses, and slowly getting worse.  Finally, a week and four hospital visits later I was diagnosed with a kidney infection and am luckily getting better.  

... And still it gets worse... Besides missing friends and their weddings, how about your office shutting down right after accepting a position there?  Oh, because that happened too.  

My school shut down just a week and a half after I started working there, and after I resigned from my former school. 

The first week at said school was bliss. I loved my co-teacher.  The kids were a challenge, but I liked that, because I was the same as a child.  I got lunch and nap-time, which has been a life long dream of mine ever since we stopped getting nap-time in pre-school.  Naps are just a good idea.  They know whats up in Mexico with siestas.  Naps are the secret to happiness and all of life's problems.  I am convinced.

Then I come in on Monday for my second week and my co-teacher starts telling me the owner is missing and its good for us, because she is crazy.  OK, thats fine with me.  I don't need any crazies around.  The problem is that the school needs the owner, because it needs funding.  Monday was the day that all of the teachers were supposed to be paid, the rent for the building was supposed to be paid, food for the students was supposed to be funded, and so on.  

Tuesday, my co-teacher asks me if I have signed a contract.  She tells me that there is something really wrong with the school, but that she shouldn't say anything.  I figure it’s not too bad and brush it off.  All will be fine I think. I will talk to the manager about signing the new contract on Wednesday.  My previous school hasn't canceled my work permit, so it’s fine for now. 

Wednesday, I walk in and the manager says she needs to speak to me and the other foreign teacher in the reading room.  We both sit down and wait for the manager to come sit with us.  She tells us that the owner of the school has disappeared and that they have to close down the school on Thursday.  Apparently, the owner took out too many loans from some bad people, and owed a lot of money.  So, she took the tuition from the parents, and ran.  We are not getting paid; in fact no one is, because there is no money.  The parents won't be seeing refunds.  It’s a loss for everyone. 

Tears come to my eyes.  What the hell am I supposed to do?  I think about my work visa.  They were supposed to renew it.  I loved the school too.  It is just so sad.  I wrote down my number and gave it to my Taiwanese co-teacher, who begins to cry and gives me a long hug.  "This is what I was I was talking about" she says, frowning and trying to hold back tears.  I tell her everything will be ok and to keep in touch.  I walk to the front door and on my way I see the manager breaking down into tears.  I feel so bad for them, even worse for them than I do myself.  They have been with this school and the kids for years.  It's just heart-breaking for everyone.  

I leave the school and break down and cry.  Seriously?  After all of the health problems I have been facing?  I am loosing my job?  I am so far away.  I miss my family and I miss my friends.  I start to think that maybe these are all signs.  That Taiwan is not the place for me anymore.  This day was a bad day.  It was a breaking point and test in my life.  

I was upset and I cried.  I thought of all the options.  Of leaving taipei, leaving taiwan, moving to Vietnam, moving back to the US.  I was afraid.  

What I didn't expect was to wake up the next day empowered.  I CAN DO THIS.  I love Taiwan.  I am not finished here and I will find something better.  I am healing.  I know what was physically wrong and my body will be ok.  Now, the next step: finding a job.  That will be easy.  There are so many jobs here.  I have so much more to do here, so many more sunsets to watch from my roof and flowers to paint.  I need to finish my Taiwan painting series that I have only just started.  I need to learn Mandarin.  This week has been hell, but it has also been a re-awakening.  

I am strong, I am on my own, and it feels good.  

Today, I met with a recruiter, who saw my school on the news.  She couldn't believe that had happened to me.  Apparently, this is the first time something like this has happened.  I have interviews set up for next week.  So, send some good vibes my way.

Keep on keeping on. 

Thanks for the picture Danielle!


  1. You've got the right attitude so good things will come your way. That's how the universe works!

  2. It's another Saturday morning and time for a great adventure.

    It's not the size of the dog in the fight that matters, it's the size of the fight in the dog.

    You are never alone - You are so loved.


    "Your living is determined not so much by what life brings to you as by the attitude you bring to life; not so much by what happens to you as by the way your mind looks at what happens."

    Khalil Gibran

    We are so proud of you.

    Big Hugs.

    Love. mom and dad

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

    2. Thanks mom and dad! Love yall so much!

  3. How sad for you and all those children. Keep up the good works Helen! And get some strong antibiotics and always wipe front to back! Xoxo mayzr

  4. It's 6:00am and I'm on the Clark bus north to Andersonville, catching up on all your adventures. I read this and started balling. E'eryone be looking at me like I'm a freak show haha. Anyway, I'm so proud of you and love you so much. A positive attitude pays off!!

  5. You are an inspiration! So brave. Go Girl!

    1. Thank you Gigi! Hope to see you sometime soon!