April 25, 2007

Episode XXIII: More Than a Game


In February 2007 I have joined the football team based in Kaohsiung. All of the players are foreigners and I am the first Pole to play with them. Some of those guys lived in Taiwan for over ten years. Name of the club is 100 Pacers and I am proud to be their friend.
In primary school in Poland I used to play basketball all the time. I was representing my school in some games and even scored few important points. I was obsessed with NBA basketball at that time, which was and still is the best in the world. I was a stats nerd and a fan of teams from New York and Orlando.

I had a football in my wardrobe when I was a kid but not many chances to kick it. There was no place around my house to play it. Only thing I used to do was running around the room with it during some exciting games shown on a TV. Probably World Cup 1994 was my first real football experience, which launched my passion for the discipline.

In secondary school I seriously started my interest in it. My father and grandfather were fans since I remember and it helped me a lot to learn about the game. Dad used to describe legendary players to me and great games he have seen in the past. That worked for my imagination and gave a good background to become a true fan of football.
I loved to watch, read and talk about it but hardly ever play. Than when I went to a university at one point I started to play with my friends. Outdoors during the spring. During autumn and winter indoors. There was where I picked up basic football skills. I have never reached a dream level but there was not the most important factor.
I did not expect to find a football team here in Kaohsiung that I could join. It came out all of a sudden. Accidentally I met one of the Pacers in a pub and I was told about the chance to have a game so I immediately agreed and that is how easy it was.

During the fourth weekend of March 2007, football tournament took its place in city of Taichung. Sixteen expatriate teams from all over Taiwan participated in it. One was formed from African players, another from Japanese. Truly an international company.
Weather was great, atmosphere and venue as well. Humors were positive but unfortunately we did not manage to win any trophy. That is the unpredictable nature and beauty of sport. You can never tell what is going to be a final result.Time spent with my friends from 100 Pacers is always top class. It is not only about football. It is something more and that is why it is so valuable to me. Hail Pacers!

April 20, 2007

Episode XXII: Ride the Country


I'm a very lucky person to have lots of good friends here in Kaohsiung. Sometimes I feel like I have not enough time to go out with them and do things together because of my duties at work and also because of a number of friends. If I want to spend time with all of them regularly I would have to take some days off, which is very unlikely to happen.
Third weekend of March brought me a great opportunity to have a wonderful time outside of Kaohsiung city. Friend from South Africa whom I usually play football with took me for a cycling trip. Previously I only rode the bike once here in Cijin Island but the crowd of people wandering around spoilt the pleasure a bit.

This time we went to the country side. First got to Pintung city and from there we started our cycling towards the mountains. Whole tour was a little more than 50 kilometers, which is not that small for a person that does not practice quite often. Thanks to my mate Guy, anytime I needed a break we stop. That does not change the fact that after returning to Pintung I was totally pumped out of energy.
Fantastic thing about going to the country side is that you can see the fields where pineapples and papayas grow. For somebody coming from Poland, a relatively cold place, that is an unusual view to see those exotic fruits in their natural environment. Another good thing is you can enjoy fresh pineapple bought straight from the local farmers, which is an excellent addition to the whole scenario.
Flashing green rice fields supply relaxing landscapes. Orchard of palm trees makes the route look interesting and inviting.

Air is definitely better than in highly urbanized areas. Not as many scooters or cars as in Kaohsiung but still there are some. Those 23 million of people must live somewhere. Finding really empty place is almost impossible in this part of the world.
Cycling brings me joy so it does to my friend Guy. According to this there is a big chance soon we will organize a further trip with an overnight stay maybe somewhere in area of Maolin. That would be a memorable event. Hope fully we will make it in the nearest future!

April 09, 2007

Episode XXI: Island of Plenty


Food and weather are not the only things that make a difference between my home-country Poland and Taiwan. Being brought up in Eastern Europe I am used to daily lack of opportunities in terms of looking for a job or finding entertainment without spending much.

In Poland for young people like me, main problem now is to find a job that would match with ours educational background. Most of the people, if they are lucky enough to get any employment, work in other field that they should. That does not lead to anything good.
I am sure that Taiwan is not a paradise and there is also unemployment but for sure nowhere that massive as it is in Europe. Especially for English-speaking foreigners settling in Taiwan it is not that hard to find a job. As long as people will remain interested in learning the language they will try to answer for a demand.

I know myself at least twenty English teachers living in Kaohsiung area. Most of them coming from England, Ireland, Canada, States, South Africa or New Zealand. Some arrived to Taiwan with the plan to stay for a while but after they found a good job, tasted gorgeous Asian cuisine, met local hospitality and beautiful women, there was no question about going back home. It seems that life here suit them really well. That does not surprise me. Modern western world live with high tempo, lots of pressure at work and huge everyday expenses. So much opposite to a life of a foreigner in Taiwan.
Some people leave London for Kaohsiung. It could sound as something crazy but after a deeper consideration, reasons of such a decision are understandable. Less stress, more chances for leisure and tourism.

That is no secret that Taiwanese society, market and lifestyle are pretty Americanized. It is quite clear to me because in Poland that process is not that visible as here. By Americanization I mean easy access to plenty of things. Let's start with shopping. Almost anything can be purchased in Taiwan. There is only the question of money and knowledge where to look for it. In Poland some things, like for example exotic food, do not exist on the market. Simply cannot be found. Taiwan is full of European or American products. Maybe it is not Hong Kong yet but it is far ahead of Poland, which is not the thing I am happy to admit.

If somebody is looking for a venue to do particular sports, I am very sure it is not a problem. Basketball courts are extremely popular and located everywhere throughout the whole city. Football pitches are available at most of the schools. Practicing golf, baseball or softball is even easier since those sports belong to favourite of Taiwanese people. If team disciplines do not attract you, why not to join the group of people that do dancing or tai-chi classes in the evenings at the museum or park areas.
I am sure that Taiwan offers extraordinary occasions for having a wonderful time, while also make a living. Definitely it is worth of giving it a try. But there is a danger of falling in love with it.

Episode XX: So Long


When I have arrived to Kaohsiung in August 2006 I obviously was not thinking about the moment of my departure because it was just the beginning of a great adventure. It was too distant and actually without much sense to do so. I am still around and not going anywhere for a few next months but one of my close friends already left and that is the reason I would like to talk about her today. Let it be some kind of a way to say good bye.
Her name is Satoko and she comes from Japan, region of Nagoya city. She came over to Taiwan at the same time as our friend Chiara from Italy and me. A bit later more people joined us. We have spent half year together working on a few projects in Kaohsiung. Also exploring the city, its secrets, surprises, streets, people and atmosphere. We went outside of the Kaohsiung, which was the happiest time for all of us.

Visiting Kenting beach and the park, Fo Guang Shan monastery, Cijin Island or Hong Kong city together was extraordinary and brought lots of great experiences, emotions and smiles. Although Satoko is back to Japan within the first week of March 2007, the rest of us are still here in Kaohsiung. It is not the same without her but we keep on working and save all the wonderful memories in our minds.

Satoko is a kind of a person that you simply cannot dislike. She is the last one to make any harm to the others. Her friendly and bright face was always offering a smile. She represents an example of a positive personality. Humble, warm-hearted, open-minded and smart. Surely it is a great loss to our team that she cannot be with us anymore.

Japanese people are well-known for being reserved. I think that was the issue with Satoko at first but actually only for a very short period. Soon under an influence of a group of our international friends she became more western, whether it is good or bad.

Satoko has got deep emotional nature that corresponds with her inner beauty and uncommon sensitivity. Spending time with her I found relaxing and quite often illuminating. Also chatting with her on various topics is always interesting. Satoko is a particularly intelligent person that does not like to show off with it. It is a sign of a real modesty. An authentic example to follow.

It is very sure that all of us will miss her a lot but what we have done together will stay in our hearts and will not be forgotten. Most important thing is to stay optimistic and keep the fingers crossed for our future reunion.

Here in Kaohsiung Satoko used to be everybody's favourite. I have never met anybody that would not like her. That is not a coincidence. This is a true her.

After she left Satoko told me that it is fantastic that people coming from totally different places of the world can understand each other and be good friends. Like we all did in Taiwan! Thank you Satoko! So Long!