Thursday, July 28, 2005

Whatever and Ever, Amen.

I will leave Taiwan forever, hopefully, in about 1 day. Scooter, Tim, and I will leave this place together for a new life in Canada. I'm not going to get sentimental, but I have enjoyed this place, and I enjoyed the blog for a little while. Future visitors to this site might be interested to know that I lived here from January 2000 to July 2005, but I only bitched about a year of it. Everything is in place, and I am tremendously drunk, as is only fitting. Goodbye, and peace.

--Jason Tucker (yes, my real name, posted on the internet. )

Saturday, July 09, 2005

O, Canada

When I arrived in Korea in 1997, Asia was still a new adventure for me. And likewise, all the people who I knew there felt like they were part of the same adventure. It was the first time for almost everyone we met. People who’d been in Korea for more than a year were the “long-timers.”

One of the biggest differences between then and now is the advent of widespread Internet use. My fellow expatriates and I had almost no way to find information about anything, unless we asked our Korean bosses for help. Where can we get cheese? Where is a good place to have a drink? How does the bus system work? Where is a movie theater? How do I make a phone call? Where are the other foreigners? What does that woman shout in the hallway every morning? Though there we weren’t the first ones there, we still kind of felt that way. Foreigners actually smiled at each other or started conversations with strangers. We were stunned little puppies, wandering lost and alone through our adopted home—nothing like the bold, intrepid adventurers of times past. But compared with the vast amounts of information and communication now being moved about instantly, it really was a different century. All of my correspondence with the agents and entities that handled my journey to Korea was done through the telephone and the postal service.

Sometime in 1997, I heard about free “Hotmail.” I trekked across town to an “Internet Café” to set up an account. I’d had e-mail in university, and the only people who had e-mail were the ones who were still there, using their school-provided accounts. I wrote my mother a long letter and made a phone call or two, all for the purpose of convincing her that she should go hang around the campus and use the free computers to set up an account of her own. You know what the next few years brought, of course. Now I deal with almost everyone online—we’ve all learned to check our e-mail.

Now, after 5 years in Taiwan, I feel too old. Everyone I know here has been here at least 3 years. I feel like the city is being overrun with foreigners, racing around like demons on an endless parade of scooters, because they know almost no cop will ever stop them. Everyone can find their own little community right off the plane, because more than likely they’re staying with someone who’s already here, well established in their own cliques. The pay is good, the expenses are low, and so are the expectations. We all make more than enough to live here, and everyone has as much right to be here as I do. Well not really--I’m here legally earning taxable income, which is not necessarily the case for a large number of foreign nationals “studying Chinese” or “visiting” here.

But sadly for my own personal satisfaction, the thousands of other expatriates I now see around the city have considerably diluted my sense of specialness and adventure. Now that there are dozens or hundreds of websites advertising thousands of jobs doing exactly what I do, the only barrier to entry is the price of a plane ticket (unless you go to Korea or Japan, where they’ll likely even pay for that.) No complicated job search. No tedious waiting for a work visa. No waiting for a week for mail to come back from Busan, South Korea. Just get on a plane! Enter as a tourist, find a job, and take a “visa run” out of the country overnight every 2 months or so. Make fat cash! No taxes! Choose your own hours! Get almost everything you could get at home! That’s nothing like my first year in Korea, when we begged our coincidental neighbor, a lonely, gay Boeing executive, to let us go shopping on the U.S. military base for potato chips and cookies.
It has its downsides, but if you don’t have any particular plan, it’s very easy to stay as long as you like. Or at least until you get so old that your face doesn’t induce parents to sign their children up for your classes anymore. So, I’m ready to leave now. If it’s going to be this easy, I need something else to make me feel good about myself.