Monday, May 11, 2009

Catching Up: China, Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan

For reasons far beyond my control (i.e. world politics) I couldn't write a whole lot of in depth insights from China. And so, I sort-of lost touch for a little while.

After two weeks packed with lectures, visits to historical and contemporary places of interest, my friends and I parted ways. I was off to the next thing: meetings in Shenzhen, which is in the south of China.

However, I had only been given a 2-week visa, which meant that on the Friday that our trip ended, I had to hop on a plane to Shenzhen and from there on a bus to Hong Kong. I tried my best to get the visa extension over the weekend, but alas, I have a passport that limits my travels quite a bit. Hence, on Saturday afternoon, I hopped on the ferry to Macau. (Taking ferry to Macau and staying with acquaintances is far cheeper than staying in Hong Kong. Plus, in all the years I had lived in Southeast Asia, I had never made it to Macau.)

And so, on Saturday afternoon, I met up with Jana Hoobler, someone who also has strong ties to Cedar Rapids. And thus I saw a bit of Macau through Jana and her friends' eyes on Saturday and Sunday.

An interesting place, that is. Macau used to be a Portuguese colony, so signs are in Portuguese and Chinese. But a few years ago, they reverted back to Chinese rule, as did Hong Kong. So technically, Hong Kong, Macau and China are all one country. But since the former two are called "Special Administrative Regions," they are self-governing, and I have different passport stamps for all three places. (China considers Taiwan to be a similar region, but that's a whole nother can of worms which I won't address.)

After two nights in Macau (and more than two of their famous egg tarts), I hopped on a ferry back to Hong Kong on Monday morning, handed in my visa application, and headed to Sai Kung, a fishing village in the northern suburbs of Hong Kong. There, I spent the night at Sue and Dave Eitemiller's place. I know them from my previous years in Taiwan.

Tuesday morning, back to Wan Chai (on Hong Kong island). Picked up my passport. Hopped on a bus to Shenzhen, China. By late Tuesday afternoon, I was back in China, and started learning all about what was to be a new part of my life--a writing job in the world of baby goods manufacturing.

I spent a week writing press releases about diaper bags and pop-up cots (or pack 'n plays, as Americans call them). I learned a lot. And after a week, I came to the conclusion that if I'm going to be a writer, I'd far rather write about things that I am passionate about, such as travel, or leadership topics. Not diaper bags. I thanked my friends in the baby-goods business for the offer to let me join their world, and moved on, understanding a bit more about the way forward, and a lot more about the manufacturing industry!

Hence I am now marketing myself as a freelance writer/photographer. And a teacher, of course. Since being back in Taiwan, I've been subbing a lot at the school. For two days, I was a swimming couch. Today, I'm a Kindergarten teacher. Later this week, I'll be teaching first grade for two days.

What a love most about this job at the school is the fact that I'm gaining invaluable insights in a WIDE variety of challenges teachers face at different levels. I'm also getting fun face-time with kids, and learning a lot from them, too.

As for my studies, it's going very well. Three classes are done. I'm currently working on my paper for my fourth class. After this, I have three more really intense classes, and then I'll be on to my dissertation. If I can remain focused, I might be able to graduate by next summer... But a lot has to happen before then!

By the way, I've moved. I was offered an opportunity to rent a room from people whom I've known for years. The apartment is right against Yangminshan, (a lush, green mountain), though I can also see the sprawling city of Taipei from my window. I cycle to school every day, which is a good workout, though it's not terribly far.

Since school will be closed for the summer, and since I do not have to be here for any other jobs, I'll be going to the US for June and July.

I'll offer a one-day workshop on "Joy at Work" at House of Hope at the end of July, so if you're in Cedar Rapids area, keep your eyes open for announcements regarding the workshop.

It's time to head home. The kids are back from Chinese class, and I get to walk them to the lobby.

Tomorrow, who knows, I might be teaching high school!

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