Sunday, June 26, 2016

June 2016 Check-In


This blog didn't start off to be exclusively about the books I'm reading, but those posts have dominated 2016. While the #52BooksIn52Weeks challenge is great, there is more to me than just reading. So for my imaginary long-time readers I figured I'd take a moment or three tonight to check in. I should make an effort to check in more regularly and, you know, keep my blog active. If you're just here for the books, though, go ahead and move along.

If you're sticking around, I'm using the Something New, Something Notable, Something Nifty format again. Warning: I'm gonna talk about depression a little bit.


I'm still in Taiwan, which means that I'm on a new contract. Ok, so my job isn't exactly new, but I am living and breathing in a foreign country. It's pretty crazy. No, I haven't learned even survival-level Chinese yet, but part of that is my fault, and part of that is the fact that Mandarin is not an easy language to learn. Now that I'm officially in my second year here, I am making an effort to learn more. Next month I'll be moving into a shared apartment with other teachers here, which will result in me socializing with humans and going out more often.


Depression has reared its ugly head again in my life. Yeah, well, these things happen. I'm not a terribly happy person. Outwardly I appear to be, but that's just because I put on a good act. I'm getting older, my life hasn't turned out the way I want it to, I'm much more concerned with (and critical of) my appearance, etc. Let's unpack those just a little bit:

I'll be 36 next month and life is certainly not quite where I want it to be. I wanted to be married, enjoying my family, getting established in my teaching career, writing more, etc. I am enjoying Taiwan and I really like my job, but this is not where I planned to live, and this isn't the sort of teaching I lost my marriage over went to school for. I have some wonderful students and a few of my classes are genuinely fun and rewarding (my Thursday afternoon class is THE BEST CLASS EVER), but this is not what I got my degree in. However, after this experience I have decided that I need to get ESL certified when I return to the States. It would open up new doors in the educational field, and it's something I'm kicking myself for not doing while I was still getting my degree.

My appearance. I'm short, I'm fat, I'm not particularly attractive, I'm bald, and there are other things I dislike about my body. There's this wonderful body-positive movement out there, but it's focused solely on women. Certainly, as a man I am subjected to less criticism about my body, there is less body shaming. Or is there? If I put my height on a dating site I'm ignored. If I put my body type down as "a few extra pounds," I'm undesirable. Women don't want to date a short, chubby guy. Of course, I've had many girlfriends, I was even married, so I'm exaggerating slightly, but the fact remains that a guy who is 5'3" and 160 lbs. is not most women's "type." That's frustrating and it certainly impacts my feelings of self-worth. Add to that the fact that I'm the "fat teacher" here, and it makes me scrutinize and detest every minor flaw of my body. I am, however, actively trying to lose weight, so I guess that's good.

I have a strange relationship with, well, relationships at present. I miss being in one and I would very much like to date. The previous paragraph shows a few reasons that I'm finding little success. Being in a foreign country where I don't speak the language is a huge hurdle. I was on a few dating apps that are popular here, but very few of the users were from my area. Most of them were in Taipei, and even though it's only about an hour by bus to get there, they have plenty of local options. I, on the other hand, do not.

"But Mikie, if you focus on learning the language and get out there, maybe things will change." Of course, but I'm not really one for "getting out there." Let's face it, I'm a homebody. Most of the things I do for fun are done at home. I could go read somewhere, I could bring my 3DS and play video games somewhere, but why pay for drinks to sit in a café when I could drink for free at home and not be required to wear a shirt? And even if I decide to become a regular at a local tea shop or the one bar in my town, the fact remains that I'm balt, short, chubby, and unable to communicate in the native language. Also, I'm not one for dancing, so I'm not about to go clubbing. I am, in short, failing at this.

"But Mikie, you are in Taiwan! You have the opportunity here to reinvent yourself." I see your point. But I'm Mikie. Shouldn't I want someone who wants the genuine Mikie experience?

"Mikie, you're hopeless!" I know.

On top of that, communication with my baby-mama and (most importantly) my son has mostly stopped. Below is a screenshot of the last time we Skyped. That particular call was dropped due to tech issues, but it has now been six months since we had a video chat. We have chatted on Facebook, I have tried to get her to commit to a time to Skype, but after continually being denied, I stopped asking. Her excuse is, "I figured you would tell me when you're free." I've told her repeatedly that I'm willing to set an alarm and wake up in the middle of the night to chat with my son if she'd just set a time. I don't go out much, so when I'm not at work I'm home. If we're chatting on Facebook messenger, I probably have time to Skype.

I get pretty frequent updates from my ex via Facebook. Occasionally she'll message me a picture. I have purchased my son both a Nintendo 3DS and a Nintendo Wii U with the intention of playing games with him. He has since lost his 3DS. I've suggested more than a few times that it would be fun to play Mario Kart 8 with him on the weekends, and asked his mother if that would be possible, but she's always busy. If she's working or dating or whatever, he's at his grandmother's house. He's not available to game. So that plan backfired.

The saddest part of all this is the son I once knew and loved is growing into a little boy I know very little about. I could ask his mother a bunch of questions, but interviewing her to know my child is just awfully depressing. Things happened. The marriage ended. She took my son to Germany, knowing full well that travel is cost-prohibitive. What is done is done, but there are plenty of things I think about in regards to my son that result in soul-crushing despair. I find solace in alcohol, in sleep, in Skyrim. I'm certainly not finding it in life.


Things are not all doom and gloom, and I don't want anyone reading this to get the wrong impression. When I'm not feeling down about myself I'm enjoying my me-time. I'm reading more, I'm doing a lot of work developing and refining my role-playing game, and I'm exercising more. I'm becoming better acquainted with who I am, what I want, and where I'm going. Yay for character development!

Living and working in a foreign country is an amazing experience. I'm exposed to new foods, a new language, a new culture. It's truly a different world. Every morning I bike past National Ilan University on my way to work, and there is a part of me that longs to be enrolled there. I like learning, and I always wanted to study abroad. The cost of college being what it is it's unlikely I'll be able to afford much more of it, let alone a semester abroad. That makes me sad. Whoops! I want to end on a happy note.

Amazing experience. Right. I work with some great people. While my contact with the locals is limited, I have had opportunities to chat with members in my community. I've been to a few tea shops where I can sit down and drink tea with the owner, chatting and sipping tea and not buying anything. It's a really interesting experience. The guy my coworker goes to speaks very little English, so my participation in conversations are filtered through a translator, but I'm still present in the moment, and it's wonderful. Sometimes I'll see a student outside of class, like one of my kindy kids at the convenience store, and that's fun.

I'm living in Taiwan in the Year of the Monkey, which is my year. So that's pretty awesome.

I can do "normal" things here with minimal stress and/or culture shock, like going to the theater, the grocery store, or just biking around town. Restaurants are tricky since the only words I can read are door, people, exit, and mountain. Some restaurants see my pale Irish skin and can provide me with a menu in English, but many of the smaller venues and street vendors cannot. Those are, of course, the best places to eat! 

As I continue to improve my Chinese, my experience here will become more enjoyable and meaningful. On the days when I can cast off my depression I find myself productive in working on my own projects, reading, gaming, etc. Those are good days. I value my "me-time."

Anyway, I've prattled on long enough. It's well after 1 a.m. and I have to teach in the morning. Goodnight, MAColytes. I'll try to keep this blog updated with more posts like this (though less depressing) in addition to my posts about books.

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