I just sent this update out to everyone on my mailing list. For those of you who don't get my e-mails but follow the journey on my blog, here's the latest.
This morning, I checked the weather in Taipei and in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where I am right now. There's a 60-degree difference (in Fahrenheit). And though the actual temperature in Taipei and that in Kipkaren isn't as vastly different (it's actually 6 degrees warmer in Kenya than in Taiwan right now), the world I'm heading to this weekend couldn't be any more different.
What? You're heading to Taiwan?
Indeed, I am. Though a university has been pursuing me since the time of my resignation from ELI, they have a hiring freeze brought on by the economic crisis, and thus cannot offer me a contract at this time. And so, I need to move on and find a position, earn an income, do what I love doing: Work hard.
Since I've lived in Taiwan before, since I know one can find teaching jobs there fairly easily, since it would be good to brush up my Chinese in any case, since the island nation is in the 10/40 Window and opportunities to have an impact on young (and older) friends abound, the decision to head back to the island wasn't too difficult.
But even with my bags packed, I still don't know how long I'll be in Asia. This morning, I realized again that God may have simply not allowed the university position to come through yet since he has something totally different he wants me to do in Asia. I don't know. But He does. When I arrived in Taiwan in 1995, I thought I wouldn't stay more than a year. I left almost 8 years later. So I simply don't know what to expect this time around.
What I do know is that life in Taipei honestly couldn't be more different than life in an African village. Here are some general differences.
In Kipkaren, everyone knows everyone. You hardly ever walk past neighbors without stopping and enquiring about their day, about their family, their farm.
In Taipei, many people don't even know anyone in their own apartment block.
In Kipkaren, most people live in homes made of sticks and mud, with floors that get a fresh coat of a cow-dung-and-mud mixture every week or so.
In Taipei, I'd guess less than 1% of the population live in single-family homes. Instead, most people live in high-rise apartment buildings.
In Kipkaren, you buy your eggs and milk from neighbors. You pick your lettuce from your garden, or buy veggies from the market in the village.
In Taipei, you buy staples at one of several neighborhood 7Elevens (or the Wellcome store - yes, spelled with two L's), but you also buy the freshest fish and freshly-slaughtered chickens (and great veggies) at the local wet market.
In Kipkaren, well, there's much more land than there are cars or people.
In Taipei, it wouldn't surprise me if there really are more vehicles than the 6 million people that call the city home.
In Kipkaren, most people call themselves Christian.
In Taipei, only about 2% of the people are Christian. Most are Buddhist or Taoist. Temples abound, as do little shrines in almost every store.
In Kipkaren, you cook your own meals. From scratch. Always. Unless you buy an ear of grilled corn on the cob on the side of the road. Or drop in on neighbors at mealtimes.
In Taipei, there were about 50 restaurants in my immediate (say, 3-block radius) neighborhood. It was often cheaper to eat at hole-in-the-wall restaurants than cook at home.
In Kipkaren, people speak Nandi and Swahili; some speak English.
In Taipei, people speak Mandarin, some speak Taiwanese, more and more can speak English.
In Kipkaren, most people have never used a computer.
In Taipei, nearly 70% of all people regularly use the Internet.
In Kipkaren, the staple is ugali, which people usually eat by hand.
In Taipei, the staple is rice, which is always eaten using chopsticks.
I can go on and on. And I'm sure I will frequently bring up the differences between life in Taiwan and that in Kenya in my blog over the next few months. So keep reading. I'll post photos and stories as always.
What about your studies?
I'm still on track with my studies and still hope to graduate next December. In fact, moving to Asia at this time seems to be ideal in terms of dissertation research in the field of marketplace ministry. I'll attend my next class in April, and will share more about that later.
What about ELI?
I frequently hear from my friends both in Kipkaren and Ilula. I miss my friends there. I miss the kids. I miss my quiet times in the gazebo by the river. I miss the simplicity of life in the village. But there are many things I don't miss about living a very secluded, rural life. I don't miss wearing skirts/dresses every day, either. I didn't pack a single skirt for Taiwan! :)
I still have peace that I did the right thing at the right time by moving on.
Will you keep sending out newsletters?
I don't plan to do so. Instead, I'll post frequent updates on my blog. Thank you again for being part of the incredible journey over the past few years. It truly has been an honor to share the joys and challenges with you.
Please do keep in touch! You can post comments on my blog whenever you want, or, of course, just go ahead and e-mail me! I don't want to lose touch with you.