About friends, and other personal reasons

Background to the texts “Advice about staying or coming back,” “Slave to the word” and “About friends and other personal reasons”: A good friend of mine who was also living in Kaohsiung at the time mentioned via email during her vacation in Cape Town that she felt like staying in South Africa. I suspected that this was only emotion speaking, but I nevertheless took the opportunity to say certain things.




Maybe you haven’t even read the last letter, but to entertain myself, and to clear up uncertainties in the one before that, I decided there was room for a Third Letter.


You mentioned in your email that friends are an important motivation in your possible decision to come back. What I want to say here and now is that friends are not a sustainable motivation.


We enter this world alone, and most of the time we go out alone. People – family, friends, spouses, lovers – are part of our lives, for short or long periods of the journey. We all know we need other people. We also know that we have to be good to each other while we share each other’s lives, partly because it says something of our own nature, and also because we have to carry both the pain and the fellowship with us on our journey.

So it is with us who know each other here. We used to be strangers, but with the passage of time we began to need each other to remain standing for however long we decided to get stuck here.

But – this is not our country, and none of us has immigrated here formally. We must at some stage go our own directions, even if some of us stay here a bit longer than others.

My personal reasons for staying here have expired, although I’m still grateful for those who have kept me standing for the time I’ve been here. If I don’t get on that flight on Thursday, 4 March, it will be to give myself a better chance to visit my sister in England, and to be able to mail more than five boxes of books home.

However, as I mentioned yesterday, I no longer have any illusions about cabinets and tables and exercise bikes that have to be taken along for the journey forward. This is the new state of affairs – for financial reasons, and because the conventional sequence is to, at least temporarily, establish yourself first, and then to start collecting furniture. The simple fact is I’ve never been able to admit that what I’ve been doing for the past five years have, for all practical purposes, amounted to me having established myself here.

The price for the lifting of my self-imposed exile was exceptionally high until now, partly because I might have wanted, subconsciously, to get clarity about who and what I was before I continued my life in my own country. These questions have been resolved.

The price for repatriation is now lower than ever before. If I still choose not to pay the price now, it will mean that I attach a higher value to staying here, right? What value could I conceivably still attach to staying in Taiwan? Even more so if I lecture my best friends on why they should leave their own colourful walls behind for an undefined future in the Land of Family and Barbecue in the Backyard.

My own beliefs on the subject of “voluntary exile” in a foreign country, and the reasons why it is sometimes necessary have been well formulated by now and documented in dozens of pieces of text. Little remains to be said … on this subject.

A question does force itself on me: Can we, even though we are the best of friends, ever really understand why one person is so desperate to leave, and the other so convinced of the need to return?