October 17, 2011
Hello friends, family and onlookers,
So the good news is we are still alive and kicking. In a few days we will be at the three month mark in Taiwan and almost 25% of the school year has passed. A lot has happened in the few weeks but I will try and put it into context. Sometimes regular life and things just happen and it can be hard to decide on what is interesting to share. Back home you too would probably find it difficult.
The first thing that comes to mind would be to describe the Taiwanese people. The people here are kind, friendly, and curious. At this point having a whole room of people stare at me seems like the norm. Kito gets an amazing amount of attention wherever we go. It seems that every time we go out many people will stop us to talk, to look, or to touch Kito. Often I think in my head that if I were back in Canada I would feel apprehensive about people holding and touching my baby but here it is the natural thing to let it happen. It is in the end a good way to break the ice and forge a connection. Amazing to me that people will cross the room to say hi and tell us how cute our baby is. Old ladies will stare at us with their mouth wide open for long moments only to walk over and tuck into Kito’s shirt with a smile and some muttered words. I can say that when you are in a new place you often just need to accept and see what comes.
One of the few negative things about the Taiwanese would have to be their driving ability. The roads here are chaos in motion. The rules are there to be bent and broken at will. Daily I observe some of the worst driving that I could ever imagine. There are moment by moment close calls and to add to the stress of getting around, the roads are filled with motor scooters that weave around all the cars. When I drive I try to be a radar and keep myself as aware of everything around me as possible. The sad part is that I think most of the problems on the road are caused by selfish action. Everyone pushes into spots and waits for no one. People just force themselves in wherever they can. It is amazing however, that there is little horn honking in these conditions. Still it is normal for someone to cut you off to save them a few seconds.
The other group of people that keep us going are the teachers and family that we have connected with. Weekend dinners and gatherings help relieve stress and keep it interesting. I work with some great people and the laughter helps make the day pass by with joy and speed. There are a lot of talented people, despite the few odd balls. We play a lot of jokes on each other, help out where can and support one another when needed. When everyone is away from home close connections build quickly.
Of course for both Maki and I the biggest person in our life is the littlest. It must have something to do with the climate, but Kito grows by the moment. He seems to be a huge baby. Daily his personality grows larger with his voice. He has taken to shouting at the top of his lungs just for the fun of the noise it makes. It makes for some interesting grocery shopping moments to have a baby shout and laugh for the hell of it. Kito is a sociable little guy and seems to be enjoying all the people that come around. It would be nice to have more family here but we do our best to build community anyway we can. Last night we went to amazing dinner of Pilipino and Thai food. I think a good half of the party took a turn holding Kito. He just kept smiling at everyone.
Our days actually seem quite normal now which is I think a good thing. When you first get to a place the “new” of it all just blows you away. Everything amazes you and you walk around with wide eyes and an open mouth. Though I like this time I am always glad when it passes. I think when you settle a bit more into normal life real things start to happen. I am finding that we are meeting more interesting local people and having the type of conversations that I find interesting.
We do spend a lot of time wandering around and just stumbling upon things. Yesterday we were out by the little lake and found ourselves in a festival. We wandered around and tried loads of foods and drinks and walked into an agricultural show. The show happened to be about bananas and I met a nice guy who plays in a heavy metal youth band that promotes the local banana culture ?!?! Strange as it was I bought a great t-shirt and was invited to watch them play their next show…. (maybe I will end up playing with them on stage….)
So we are happy, healthy, and feeling good. The job no longer crushes me and I’m learning a lot. It feels good to be walking in the right direction.
Peace to all of you and yours,
Marc, Maki, and Kito
August 28, 2011
Some links to Kito videos:
It is getting to be a habit putting off posting. These days have been so busy that putting up a post has been impossible. As I look back Maki, Kito and I have now been in Taiwan for over a month. It’s been an age since I sat down to write about our experience. I feel that it is difficult to write about our life as there is so much and at the same time so little to comment on. Living in a place makes the extraordinary seem ordinary. Daily we encounter situations and people that inspire, delight, and challenge. Still as they are part of the fabric of our lives it is often hard to pick the threads out of the fabric.
Despite this, the first thing I want to share is that things here are going better than I could have expected. In every way I feel that the decision to come here was a great one. A lot of wise teachers say that you end up exactly where you are supposed to be. In my experience though sometimes they mean you deserve a hard lesson and some suffering to knock a bit of sense into you. This time I missed the stick and got a great big carrot. We live in a great place. Our home is comfortable and in an amazing part of town. We are moments away from so many things. The people around us are happy, friendly, interesting, creative, musical, and simply fantastic. I’ve never been to a place where a community has formed so quickly. All around us the Taiwanese are friendly and open to us. So many people go out of their way to help us and share a moment.
The second important aspect of my life relates to my job. Starting off at a new school, in a new position, with a way of teaching that is entirely different from the one I have trained for has been a challenge. I’ve been in training for the past week and a half. At times I feel as though I am learning a new language. IB teaching has few commonalities with the style of enforced education in Ontario. Instead of being told what to teach and what book to get the info from it is my job to focus on the skills of learning and the profile of a learner. A great deal of educators talk about the whole child and focusing on the why and how of teaching. Instead of talking about it we have to do it at this school. It isn’t easy and at times I feel way over my head. Still I am giving it my energy and putting all that I can into it. I’m excited that the school is investing in me and that daily I am learning and growing from the experience.
Just as I was writing this I got news that the first day of school is called off because a massive typhoon is going to hit our city directly. See everyday new experiences. We have been following the progress of the storm and up until a short time ago it looked like it would miss us but I guess a lot can change quickly. I’m sure that we will be fine through this experience. From what I understand the island gets hit a few times a year. People know what they are doing and don’t panic.
More to come!
August 14, 2011
It has been quite a year. Looking back 365 days ago there is no way I would have guessed all that would transpire. It has been a ‘phenomenal’ year, a time of great wealth, joy, and abundance in my life. As I look back at all that has happened I feel awe and gratitude. As I complete my 30th year I have been reflecting on all that has passed and thought I should make a major post to commemorate the happenings.
The year began on a sad note. On August 14th, 2010 I had a great birthday party with many friends in Sault Ste. Marie. Though Maki and I had been in Toronto for one year we went back to the Soo to share some time with family. I got two calls after the party. The first call was from my friend Vinay wishing me a happy birthday. The second call was unexpected. It was a call that my Grandfather had taken a turn for the worse and was being rushed to emergency.
My Grandfather had been sick for as long as I could remember. He had recently been moved to an old folks home and was having a very hard time with things. In the days leading up to this call he had had a number of his favourite things (roasted lamb, and a grilled cheese sandwich) he had also had a chance to see all his grandchildren and family and seemed to find some peace in this. I can say that he was ready to let go.
My Grandfather died very early in the morning. It was the strangest birthday I think I have ever had. Though he had died it seemed to me that this was the least challenging thing the man had faced in years. It was as if he just let go. I remember the small tear that streamed down his face as he let go of life. I was honoured to be present for this moment and to share it with my Grandmother. It seemed fitting to be there by her side and help her with what happened. The two of us have a great closeness and it was right that I should be the one with her.
The year started with a great change and transition for myself and my family. Though I wanted to stay longer and help out more I had to go. Shortly after, I returned to Toronto with the intention of completing my masters and learning as much as I could before the spring. After only a few weeks back Maki and I got the surprise of our lives. We learned that we were going to have a baby! Though we had not planned to have a baby so soon we felt that it was right and wonderful. There were of course a few challenges and some worries about the future but we just did the best we could and got ready.
It was during this time that I developed many friendships that inspired and challenged me. Though I connected with a lot of people the connections I made to Neil, Alemu, Duncan, and Hillary were truly wonderful. We had a lot of fun, shared a lot with each other, and made the winter a very close and warm time. Building community and connection has always been one of my great joys.
The school experience brought its ups and downs. I often felt like the odd man out with views that no one was interested in. Sometimes the program felt very cold and other times when I worked at my placement school I knew I was in the right place. I found myself inspired and pushed by many young people. I also found myself disgusted with some teachers and their lack of passion and inspiration.
Despite this intense journey at U of T I knew that I also needed to focus on finding a job. There are simply no teaching jobs in Canada. In our position we needed to find a great place to live and work. It would be a challenge as a new teacher with a family, many schools were not interested in looking at my C.V. I applied to every school I could find. I tried and tried. There were some leads, a lot of dead ends, and a couple of promises that materialized into nothing. I went to a job fair and had one of the most depressing experiences of my life. I was not interested in working in Syria or Bahrain. Most of the interviews I had convinced me that I had no desire to work at those schools. At the end of the conference I left with some soft offers for jobs that I would never take. It felt like I had failed. With few connections left and one long shot I kept writing schools.
Out of the blue I got a write back from a school in Taiwan. They wanted to interview me. I spent hours with them on the phone. I liked what they said, felt that it was a good school, and got an excellent contract. I checked with Maki and she thought it would be a good place to live. Obviously, we wanted a safe place with security for our baby. Taiwan fit that and would also be close to Japan. In short order I accepted the job and our direction was set. It was around this time that the terrible disaster struck Japan. It was hard to hear of such suffering and destruction. Our hearts and minds went out to the people of Maki’s country.
Shortly after that Maki and I had our wedding. We wanted a small simple celebration of our lives together. Neither of us is particularly religious and I personally did not want any aspect of Christianity involved in our ceremony. We were very lucky to be able to hold our ceremony in our friend’s yoga studio. We were also lucky that our friend Andy was willing to share some Buddhist teachings. It was such an honour to share with our family and friends the joining of our lives.
Just after our marriage I had to return to Toronto on my own to complete my masters. In a few days I put the finishing touches on my research and completed all the projects. It was a little sad to close up our life in Toronto. We had such a good time exploring the city and having good times with our friends. As a person who grew up in a small town and spent much of my adult life travelling the country side I was happy to find that I could also enjoy city life.
Of course the biggest happening of the year was the birth of our son Kito. Kito was born on April 22nd and that day will live forever in my mind. It was the most intense thing I have ever been involved with. Makiko is such a strong and courageous human. We had a plan to have a very simple and natural birth. This plan went out the window. In the end we had to make a decision between a forceps or caesarean birth. After hours of difficulty and pain we decided to try the forceps. We were so lucky that Kito was born perfectly healthy and happy. His full name is Kito Mate Mesich. Kito ( Tree Man in Japanese ) takes from Makiko’s Ki. Matte is the name of my Grandfather. As he passed from this life Kito began to develop in his. I believe that they have a connection and so the name fit.
We spent our summer in Sault Ste. Marie. It was a time of challenge. Having a new born baby brings with it a lot. There is a lot of lifestyle change and adaptation. Of course you have no idea what you are doing when you first bring the baby home. Stress levels were high and we were sharing space with my Mother and Step Father. I wish that we had been able to create a more peaceful space but we did the best we could. During this time we were able to share our lives with many people. Friends and family in the Soo were always present. Many came to visit us and share our experience. It was a time that I won’t ever forget.
Now a few months down the road we have moved to our new home in Taiwan. Many people have told me how brave we are for moving across the world with such a young baby. We also had our fears. So far I think that things have went better than I could have expected. People have been very good to us. The school has helped out a lot. We have found a great new home. Last night we had a huge party to celebrate our now home and my birthday. It amazes me that after such a short time in this country about 20 people came over to celebrate.
So it is with a tremendous sense of positivity that I will begin my 31st year. After such an amazing year I can only wonder what this year will bring. I know that I will be starting my journey as a teacher. With my family I will have a chance to explore a new country. It is my hope that we will meet many people, explore a lot of new territory and continue to make the connections that guide us to ever greater experiences. With joy the journey continues.
August 12, 2011
It has been about a week and I feel that it is time to update people on our life. Things have been going very good. Most of our time has been spent settling into our new place. There has been a lot to do and buy in order to make our space comfortable. Though the condo was furnished, we still needed to get a lot of things to complete the place.
One thing that I didn’t expect was the cost of home furnishings. In general things in Taiwan are very cheap and in Kaohsiung they are particularly inexpensive. Our three bedroom apartment in a brand new building is much less than the dirty old box I lived in while in Toronto. Food is about half the cost of Canada and we can pretty much eat out anytime for well under 10CDN. Even so things like pots, sheets, and towels are probably double the cost you would expect to pay in Canada. I think I am probably missing something and just don’t know where the locals go.
In any case I think that there are some things that you can’t skimp on. A good pot or knife is the kind of thing that you can keep for as long as you want it. By buying good stuff you can also reduce the risk of poisoning yourself with lead or other horrible chemicals. Anyway, after a week of seeking out things for the house and dropping a load of dollars the house is just about set. It is a nice feeling to have a big clean space. I think we will probably be spending a lot of time at home over the first months so having the place feeling right is important.
The other positive things all revolve around the school. I have met some great people and feel that it was a good decision to pick this school. The people I have encountered so far have been creative, interesting, and friendly. I spend over an hour last night talking to one of the head of schools. He seems to be a very good thinker and I like his attitude towards life and teaching. I sense that he will be a good person to work for. I hope he will teach me a lot. Through our conversation I could see that he has spent a long time thinking about what it means to be a good teacher and how to mentor others towards that.
Tomorrow is going to be our housewarming / birthday party. There will probably be over 20 people stopping by the house. It is going to be nice to get all the new teachers together and see them in a relaxed setting. It will also be nice to spend more time with Derek and Amy. Derek is one of my oldest friends and having him at this school just makes me feel positive about what will happen.
For now I’m off. Be well!
August 6, 2011
Hello friends and family,
It has been a bit of time since I have given you an update. The days pass very quickly and time just slips away here. I find that a week has passed and we have not sent any news. Since we have been very busy with picking out a house and exploring our community it is difficult to know where to start.
Kito has been very good. I am amazed at how well he has adjusted to living in this new place. We have been out and about almost every day with him. Kito just looks around and takes in all the sites and sounds of his new home. Many people have told us that he is a very peaceful baby. I think we are lucky that we are able to take him to all these new places. It will be so much fun when he is able to talk to us and share what things about it all. I’ve also been learning a bit about parenting for third culture children. Imagine a new global youth.
One of our first days in town we were able to meet a very nice man named Yung. Yung works at the organic supermarket and owns a small farm. He invited us to come to his farm to see what he was doing. It was very interesting to see what he was growing and to walk around his area. The farm focuses on fruit trees and we were able to try fresh guava, passion fruit, and papaya. I don’t think I have ever tasted such fresh delicious fruit.
Yung was very nice to show us around his community. Many of his family live in the area and we were able to see a bit of the nature in Taiwan. He was also nice enough to take us out for dinner and a tour of a local night market. It felt good to have made a friend from the area. Yung did a masters degree in the states and is very interested in organic farming and sustainability. I am always amazed at the connections I am able to make with people from around the world.
Over the last days we have also made a nice friendship with an Australian family. Having some friends with young kids is really good for Maki and I. It gives us a bit of a heads up for what is going to be coming around the bend. Cal and Kim are very laid back, relaxed people. We have shared a lot of laughter together. It is also always nice to share exploration of a new place with people. So far I have to say I am very happy with all the community of teachers. There are many creative, open minded people.
Other than exploration we have tried hard to find a good place to live. I have seen some amazing places. Some of these places were just beyond what I thought I would ever live in think penthouse condos, in brand new buildings with amazing furnishings and facilities. When it came to it I decided to rent out a nice three bedroom apartment in a great area. The place is notas huge as some that we saw but the difference in price will pay for a car in a few months. Even so it is still by far the nicest place that we have lived.
Friendly people, great food, super hot weather, and a whole lot of searching for a home. Now we have our place and will be moving in a few days. I will post some pictures of our place once we get it all set up.
For now keep well and enjoy,
Marc, Maki and Kito
July 29, 2011
So friends, family and, curious creatures we have been in Kaohsiung for a few days now and are starting to get the feel of this place. I’ve wanted to put down a list of our first observations but things have been a little slow to form in my mind. I think when you first move to a new place and especially a place that is very different from where you came from some big changes happen in your mind. When you first leave your culture and enter a new one it is a time when your mind is very open. Generally due to this openness it is an easy time to connect with people, experience new things, and grow. There are a lot of things in this world that can make this happen but entering a new place and culture is a sure bet to an opening. It can be a lot of fun but it can also be a little scary and frustrating at time too. Still it is one of the things that I love about travel and that has brought me again and again into new cultures.
There have been so many things that we have seen in the last few days that I am not exactly sure where to start. I think that I will let the pictures guide my writing:
1) The amazing world of food in Taiwan:
This amazing dish contains a load of sweet juicy mango, shaved ice, ice cream, and sweet milk. It is probably the delicious thing that I can imagine eating. Since Taiwan is very hot dishes like this in a number of variations are popular. Maki has wanted to eat since day one but it took us a few days to get around to it. Food like this can bring a lot of joy.
Of course we have been eating a lot of things other than desert. Though we don’t always know what we are doing and have little ability to speak, Makiko is able to read a lot of what is on the menu. I have been amazed at how far she has been able to get with Japanese Kanji. I think we would be hungry without this. Last night we went a new place and were having some trouble figuring out what to get. The young girl ended up speaking very good Japanese and helped us order some amazing healthy vegetarian food. Just as we sat down a huge group of Buddhist monks and nuns wandered in and ate the same food we ate.
One of the amazing parts of the food here is that they have made all these dishes to taste like their meat equivalent. The veggie meat is sometimes so close to the texture and taste of real meat that it makes me worried. So far I think the best food we have eaten is hot pot. Its a great idea, very delicious, and fun to cook your own soup. It also feels good to eat a lot of hot soup in the sweltering weather.
We have also had a lot of fun trying some of the different drinks from the stores. Taiwan has some strange drinks. So far I have tried out a terrible tasting asparagus juice and a very delicious green tea milk. Who would have thought to make a juice out of asparagus?
Anyway, we have been enjoying eating a lot of different foods and are excited to get into the community and explore even more. There have been a few challenges to find vegetarian friendly food but despite the huge language barrier and the lack of understanding we have found our way and done well. We are far from hungry and have enjoyed the tastes and varieties of food so far.
2) House hunting is hot and humid:
We have spent a few days out looking at housing. I have seen some very nice places and some not so nice places. The first day I looked at a bunch of places which were very close to the school but very far from everything else. Because these places were in the middle of nothing they were huge and spacious. The views from the two story condos were great but the building seemed a little run down. I was also shown some huge houses in the same area. One was a massive five stories with a disco ball room and full western kitchen, and an entire floor rife with mold from water damage. (Pass) The second house was a lot smaller but it was very nice. We decided to pass on these because they were just too far and out of the way for our daily living.
Since that day we have looked a bunch of places downtown. They are all newer condo buildings and in much better areas. The only drawback to living right downtown is that you of course get less space for the money. Some of the places are smaller two bedroom set ups. Not bad but so far no place has felt exactly right. There are two maybe three contenders so far.
In any case the search continues today. I think that we will find the right place in time. And if the first place isn’t perfect we have still already found two good spots.
3) We live in Taiwan’s version of Disney land – E DA WORLD:
This is one of the oddest parts of our experience by far. We are staying in this resort typed place with amusement park, massive mall, 5 star hotels and housing and anything else you can think of. It is a bit like Las Vegas without the casinos but with all the artificial pomp.
It has been good to be in this place for the first days but I think moving into the city and a space that is more real will be a good move. We have to take all our meals in restaurants here, there are no practical shops and everyone around us are Taiwanese tourists. Though the nature is pretty I think we will enjoy the city.
4)Kito is super cute and Taiwan loves him:
Be well and keep happy!
Marc, Maki and Kito
July 26, 2011
Well as any of you might imagine moving around the world might involve a number of challenges. In our case it was the first time traveling with Kito. We would be getting on three different flights with different airlines, passing through two of the worlds major airports (Toronto and Hong Kong) and would need to go through three different security checkpoints. It was also the first time we traveled with far more than we could carry about 10 bags in total with a weight of around 500lbs. So based on the high difficulty rating of the trip I have to say that we did very well. I’m still able to walk and my back seems just fine. After a day of mostly sleep I might even say I’m feeling good.
One of my biggest worries was how difficult the trip would be with a baby along. I spent a lot of time reading others stories about travel with babies. After covering a few of these I knew that it was going to be 100% up to Kito how the trip would be. If he decided to cry the entire trip there was little we could do. Since he had never been in a situation with so many changes and challenges around him we just had no idea which way it would go.
We were very lucky that the school decided to pay for an extra seat for the baby. Because of this on our longest leg of the journey we had an entire row of seats. We were able to make a little bed for Kito and he slept well. I think the other major difference is that we flew with an amazing airline. Cathay Pacific does a great job of making you feel comfortable. The airplane was very new with huge seats, the service was great, and they managed to get all of our bags to their final destination. In the past I have flown with a huge number of airlines and I have to say this was probably the best flight I have been on.
Though Kito did cry a few times he was generally in a great mood the entire trip. He ate about 100 liters of milk but even still both Maki and I were so happy with how he did. Maybe travel is in his genes? We found that because of the baby we got special treatment everywhere we went. We were usually the first people onto the plane. As an example of the treatment we received at Hong Kong a very nice flight attendant even helped us carry a lot of our bags off the plane. He told us he would be a Dad in a few weeks and wanted to know if I took part in the birth. I told him that it was one of the most amazing things in the world to share and if he missed it he would regret it for the rest of his life. He was not planning to take anytime off work. I hope after I talked with him and he met Kito that he decides to share in the birth of his first child.
So because of the kindness of others, and the easy going temperament of our baby we made it. We arrived in Kaohsiung, got through customs and immigration with no problem, and were immediately picked up by the staff of my school. They brought us right to a very nice hotel and got us checked in and helped us carry our ridiculous amount of stuff. The entire area is owned by the same person that owns my school which is by the way, is giant and unbelievable. The place includes the largest shopping mall in Taiwan, a university, a hospital, a golf course, an amusement park and three large hotels. I guess the guy has a little bit of money.
Over the next few days we will be getting ourselves set up but at least for now we are staying in a great place and exploring the area around us. So far I can say that the Taiwanese people are very friendly and love babies. So many people come up to us and want to talk or touch Kito. I think these people are very kind and outgoing. The actual city is hot and tropical. It looks a lot like south east Asia. Though there are parts of the city with a lot of industry the area around the school is essentially jungle. I think this is going to be a good new home.
Since it 4:30AM now I’m going to end here. Stay posted for more as we explore the city and country.
July 24, 2011
Today has been filled with the final touches for our journey. When a family decides to move around the world there is so very much that needs to get done to make it happen. I feel like the last month of my life has been eaten up with the preparation. There have been many minor details that all took time and effort but were essential to making the trip happen. Events like a massive postal strike and delay in documents authentication put the trip in jeopardy and pushed my stress level to the maximum. To add to this organizing and packing some 400LBS of stuff takes a lot of time and energy. (both of which are rare to find with a newborn)
For those of you who knows us, you know that travel is not exactly new. Makiko and I met on the road in Thailand. We spent many years backpacking together and have lived in a number of different countries. This time things are different. With Kito (just three months old yesterday) there is a lot more planning that is required to make things happen. I think our days of traveling by the seat of our pants are over. The other major difference this time is that I will be starting a new career and teaching at an international school. The reality of starting this new type of job with larger responsibility is exciting but also can weigh heavy on my mind.
At the moment however, we are about six hours away from departure. The bags are 96% ready to go. They only weigh a few pounds more than they should so I shouldn’t have to use too much charm to get us through the airport gates. All of the goodbye parties and meetings have happened and passed. Many meals have been eaten, drinks consumed, hugs given, and emotions both happy and sad experienced. At this point I can say that we are “ready” to go.
My previous trips to Asia have all provided amazing opportunities to experience other cultures and places. They have been moments of intense growth and learning in my life. As I am about to leave on my fifth trip around the world I can only hope that this journey will bring myself and my family more of the same. When I think about it this is actually the hardest departure I have yet had. Usually I am so excited to go that I don’t have a care in the world.
This time as I am about to leave I find my mind filled with memories of the wonderful family and friends who we have connected with over the last few years. As a family dedicated to building bridges to others, there have been so many wonderful connections. Both Makiko and I feel so rich and honored to have so many inspiring, loving, and just amazing people in our lives. We will both miss all of you so very much and hope that you will come and visit us and share our new experiences.
We wish all of you great love!
July 23, 2011
As we are about to embark on a new journey I thought it would be a nice idea to start writing again. In the past I have spent a lot time putting my thoughts onto paper and recording the journey of my life as it happens. As things have gotten busy and I have found myself more stationary this habit has fallen away. It is my hope that by starting this blog I will get back into writing. I also hope that I will be able to share my experience and perspective. It is my wish that this writing will be of benefit to those who read and for the writer.