Monday, September 14, 2009

"I would rather be a chicken's head!"

Not a big running track, but this track at the nearby Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages has a good surface and is completely surrounded by buildings so one doesn't hear the sound of cars. So far I haven't seen people use it (the summer vacation is very hot after all), but I do hope to try out my running shoes here as it gets cooler. I will need to bike home (5 minutes) to have a shower, as I haven't seen those outside showers like we had in Hawaii.

There is a well-known saying in Chinese that states "I’d rather be the head of the chicken rather than the tail of the ox." When I first came to Taiwan, I had not had much work experience before (as in the U.K.), but what particularly surprised me was that most people who gave me name cards had the title of "President" or something similar. Of course, a few might have been big powerful bosses, but the vast majority were "one-man bands" or else very small businesses with just a few family members as employees. However, it was these "small businesspeople" who had a huge part to play in Taiwan's phenomenal economic success story.
The Library at the Wenzao Ursuline College of Languages is less than five minutes by bike from my home. This is a great place to work at in the mornings, although one is never sure of being let in as they limit the number of outsiders who can use it on any given day. However, the library is full of books in French, German, Spanish and Japanese, if only I had the time to read them. If I cannot get in, I can usually bike to the Golden Lion Lake reading room (see below) in at most ten minutes.

When I finished college in England, I did not have a clear idea of what I wanted to do as a career, and at the time the only options were to be an employee of any firm that would employ me. Hopefully, the firm I joined would help me further my career, but invariably the firms I joined were at most stepping stones to an uncertain future and were usually quite slippery, meaning that I did not easily make it from one stone to the next.
The Golden Lion Lake, five minutes by bike from my home. This is the view from the bridge I ride across to go to the reading room where I often work late afternoons.

Even in Taiwan, after going back to school for a few years to study Chinese, I looked for a job that would give me a steady paycheck, and while I had some nice working environments (like well a air-conditioned office, and even a plush carpet in one case), I was generally in one of two situations. The first was where I had a steady, not-too-demanding job, but where it was not really possible to save much money or advance my career. The second was where I had a very demanding and challenging job with quite good pay, where I was able to save, but I had little security for the future as I never knew quite what would happen next.
The Golden Lion Lake reading room. This air-conditioned public reading room is open six days a week from about 8:30 am to 7:45 pm. A place I often go to from 5 pm until it closes (when there are few people). I can spread my work out on the table.

I guess that, apart from issues like job fulfillment, pay, career development, etc., I have never been a good team player. In most group activities, whether in paid or voluntary work, I have always tended to be at the far back of the orchestra, and in such situations I have felt frustrated, unable to follow my dreams and have felt my life has been wasted.
Burning paper money to appease the spirits during ghost month. This is so much part of the traditional Taiwanese culture here, that these kinds of fires are being seen all over the place.

So for the time being, I am "doing my own thing" as regards work, supporting my family and preparing for the future. I strategize and make plans on my own, and I mostly work on my own. I am not trying to further the cause of any organization, save my own reputation. I am, however, seeking to pursue excellence in what I do. In fact the work I do is little understood, perhaps not surprisingly since it involves the Chinese language, but I am convinced that if I can keep pace with the new developments constantly taking place, I am confident that as a chicken's head as opposed to an ox's tail, I can still continue to find my way in this increasingly integrated but at times unsteady world.
Tables laid out for an offering during the ghost month outside a temple next to the Golden Lion Lake.

I continue to swim regularly, although with both children now in full-time education, I am currently unable to devote as much time to sports as I would like, and work is often a higher priority. Hopefully, my swimming will not slow down too much before I have the chance to visit Hawai'i again.


ShirleyPerly said...

Good to write these thoughts down. At times I too have felt that I have not succeeded the way I wanted when I was younger. But later I would decide that did not mean I've failed or have wasted my time. I have simply changed. Some very successful, career-oriented people have terrible health and no family life. Sad, IMO.

michelle said...




Joi said...