Get Up Stand Up

We sick an’ tired of-a your ism-skism game –
Dyin’ ‘n’ goin’ to heaven in-a Jesus’ name, Lord.
We know when we understand:
Almighty God is a living man.
You can fool some people sometimes,
But you can’t fool all the people all the time.
So now we see the light (What you gonna do?),
We gonna stand up for our rights! – Bob Marley “Get Up Stand Up”

At this moment there are so many experiences and people who I can say have been a blessing to me. When they were happening, believe you me, a person-and rightly so- may have thought that I was possessed, by all the cursing I was doing and anger I had. Yet, having to deal with a current situation is enabling me to deal with it as holy as possible.

I have to backtrack here-in order to set the tone of this post. In December of 2004 I was fortunate to become friends with someone in Taipei whom I’ve become close to. But our friendship, as all do at times, hit a rocky bump. And while reflecting on the quality and value of the relationship, it gave me some insight I needed to see who I was as a person. Through this friendship I was able to see myself responsible for playing the victim game. The insight came during at a point where I was ready to give up being a victim but wasn’t clear on how I was being one.

Fast forward to present moment. I work at a prestigitious school in Taiwan. The previous semester, my first, was hell on earth. Very stressful-so stressful that I encountered feelings of suicide that I hadn’t felt since my first attempt over 10 years ago. Yet, I worked through it and found the faith that I had been seeking and praying for. It also, allowed me to see myself in a light that I never comprehended that I could see. I actually began seeing myself as a person that was capable of self empowerment, capable of tending to my needs and someone worthy of value. That whole dark period is serving me well at this moment.

Currently, I am back at the school and very happy-a word I haven’t used in a long long long time. I leave each day feeling fulfilled and accomplished, very much a first for me. Yet, the problem now with my job lies within my current contract.

When the previous semester was coming to a close, no contract had been drawn up. As they were still futzing around. My old contract stated that my employer would pay me a monthly salary yet deduct $5000nt from my salary as a bond. This is common practice in Taiwan even thought it’s illegal. At the time, I had signed it. I was lacking in faith that I could find something that paid me so well and also under the gun for meeting March rent. So, I signed it. Eventually, I asked my boss to alter the withholding. She agreed and gave me the $5000 out of her pocket every month, so she said.

I received the money every month, with the promise that when the semester was up she would recoup her loan by taking my bond back from the school. She did, and looking back a few days later, I realized that I had signed off on a paper that said she would get $15,000nt when she actually ‘loaned’ me $10,000. My loss and my fault.

The current contract I have states that the school would assist me in applying for my work permit, which they did, but I paid for. But they will not provide me with health insurance which is illegal. I pointed this out to my boss, but she ignored it and I didn’t push it. As long as I had the agreed upon salary, I figured I would just pay out of pocket for it.

This week my boss is now trying to renegotiate my contract. Altering my pay so that it is lower. In effect, I pay for the health insurance that they are supposed to pay for. Conversations began two days ago, and today it came to a head for me when they presented the new contract. This new contract would put me in the same salary range as a new teacher who has no teaching experience and who is fresh out of college. I initially refused to sign the new contract but as the day wore on, my boss came to me again, stating that she now ‘knows’ that she must give me health insurance. Something I told her over two months ago. I let her know that I have several years of experience, provide class supplements at my cost, as well as I have a teaching certification. I don’t know what she thought about my response as I had to leave for class and I didn’t stay around after work to discuss the matter again.

What all this boils down to is the Taiwanese’s need to validate themselves. Money is the form which one is able to determine their worth and power in this ethos. If you want to solve or create a positive situation/solution, best to do it with money. Also, you have to deal with the ‘face’ issue- which for the Taiwanese means resolving any issue in which they come out looking good or like a winner. It is a formidable force to have to deal with while you live here. I’ve seen it turn many foreigners into a spiteful, cynical, wiser or resigned person. For me, the saying ‘you will repeat certain lessons until you pass them’ applies very well to this situation.

As I shared earlier, all my depressive states, and experiences have occurred to serve me at this moment. I realize that through all that I have gone through serves as a salve to my soul. I have the strength and the faith to rest all this bullshit with God and even better, awareness of my own value as a person something that is so absent in this country. My story is one of many of foreigners who have come before me, are here now, and will come after me. It’s common and will continue until English teachers or foreigner laborers get up and stand up for their rights.

How this will all play out, I don’t care to know, because I am giving up worrying about all this. Taiwan hasn’t been the best experience that I had wished it to be, but it has served me in a way needed.

**Dedicated to Michael. Thanks for the encouragement and push.


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This entry was posted on September 15, 2005 by in Uncategorized.
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