Standing at a red traffic light, wondering what *not* to do next



Okay, I admit it: I may have thought adult life would be easier.


In my own country, I would have been trying to get another part-time job as soon as possible, seeing that my current employer cannot or does not want to give me more work.

Unfortunately, my legal situation in Taiwan is similar to that of peasants in the Middle Ages. Like them, I cannot just walk over to the next district to sell my labour there. My work permit ties me exclusively to my current employer: I can be punished – including getting deported – if I work for anyone else without permission, even part-time. (Of course, I have little choice but to do it anyway a few hours a week, regardless of the risk.) Even my current residence is linked to my employer – I don’t have to rent this apartment, but it is my reality at this stage.


An image: Me standing at a traffic light with a sign around my neck: “Will teach for money.”

That is how I feel about the idea of self-marketing.

Okay, two more images – difference this time is that I will focus on the person inside the car.

Image two: It’s a hot day. Cars are steaming up at a red traffic light. You step closer, with a sign that says, “Will sell ice cold cola for cash!”

Image three: A blinding dust storm just ended half an hour ago. The air is dusty, but the wind is still. Motorists at the red traffic light hang from their windows frantically wiping their windshields with handkerchiefs or any other piece of cloth they can lay their hands on. You step closer with a sign around your neck that says, “Will wipe windshield clean for cash!”


Look at 1916 through the eyes of someone born in 1840.

Look at 1956 with the eyes of someone born in 1895, not with the eyes of someone born in 1975.

Look at 1823 with the eyes of someone born in 1770, someone who remembers “simpler times”.


It is as if this subtropical summer rain, and the warm, humid air that keeps clothing and towels and bedding damp all the time intensify my internal problems – problems with myself, what I do for money …


Life is a process of elimination: friends, tertiary education, career, town or city, home, address, lifestyle, partner, the next step. It is just as much a choice for what you do not want to do next as it is for what you do want to do next.