Xi Ling

Xi Ling is one of the first friends Jeremy made here in Taiwan. She is sweet, lovely, and dreams of owning a hostel in Hualien. She has also been nothing short of helpful, especially the other day when she was sweet enough to model for me on a somewhat overcast, cloudy day.  🙂

Image by Laura Smith

Image by Laura Smith

Image by Laura Smith

Image by Laura Smith

Image by Laura Smith

Image by Laura Smith

And then the sun came out right before dinner for just a brief moment, and it was glorious.

Image by Laura Smith

希, 謝謝!


Life Lately

…has been a bit of a struggle. A struggle between the things that I need to do, the things I want to do, and the things that I feel I need to do. Life in Taiwan (for me) is interesting in this respect. See, as an ESL teacher, I find myself with much freedom to travel around and do things I feel like doing. But I don’t do them as often as I would like – or feel I should. The way my brain works is that I believe that I can’t do anything like that until after I have accomplished my main priority for the day, which is why I tend to procrastinate on certain projects (like this blog) or certain little things that are probably easy, which, depending on their necessity in relation to the rest of my day. So, because none of my classes start until the late afternoon, I feel as though I should not be going out  anywhere or doing anything until that is taken care of. Basically until 11PM when I return home. (What?!) (Oh, yeah, did I also mention I’m a morning person? lol)

My personality is also one to say, “Wait, you have things you should be doing; so, you cannot have fun until those are done.” I’ve been working on overcoming this, but it follows the same lines as above. Instead of exploring, I’ll think about how I should do the dishes or score those essays that aren’t due for five days, despite that this may be the only sunny day of the week here in cloudy Taipei, or despite my quiet internal voice saying, “Hey…I wanna read…pleeeas?”
So, what happens? I continuously check my email to see if my boss has comments on the previous essays I scored or if I can find new material for my classes or come up with new ideas for my tutoring sessions…or nothing productive at all. The things that I need to do or want to do because I’m “addressing the things that I should do” never seem to come before those things that are taking top priority in my life – the shoulds, and of course the actual musts.

Which leads me to my next point. Taiwanese work way too much and way too long because their bosses say that they should, and it’s so easy to get sucked into that lifestyle, as I’ve mentioned before. Seriously. So, despite wanting to change the way I plan my day and do things on a day-to-day basis here, I haven’t yet because this one (at least seems) a bit tougher. When so many people around you don’t, it’s hard not to follow along. And with so many people expecting me to be working on something all of the time – in other words, appearing relatively busy – leads me to think that if I’m not working on the aforementioned shoulds, then what am I “wasting” my time on? Nothing…and everything. (Obviously.)

See, in a culture where the bosses assume/know you only work work at your desk for 1/2 the time you’re there, they make you practically work double shifts so that you work the appropriate amount of time. E.g. 8AM-5PM is the normal working time, but that means you have to work anywhere from 8AM-10PM so that you’re working-working at least 6 hours of your day. Seriously, I’m not kidding. Thankfully, I’m not under the same requirements as a foreign teacher, as our laws are a bit more precise, but the ideology is there. And this idea has nestled itself so neatly into my mind over the past three years that now I have begun to think that if people don’t see/think I’m working, then indeed they may think I’m not a good employee or doing what I’m supposed to be doing either. (This is also why I don’t take vacations even though an advantage of my employer is that it’s easy to. Ugh)

Which brings me to my wants. There are things I really want to do throughout the day and my time here (and just in general), and I think that because of all of these other ideas and beliefs that float around in my mind, there are so many things that I’m missing out on because of it all.

  • “I want to go out and explore both new and familiar places again – really sit/walk and enjoy them.” I realize I have priorities and things I must do, but, “Wait, there may be some speaking tasks that need to be scored that come in today,” should not be one of them.

Other excuses that follow this logic include:

  • “I want to go outside and read.” “Well, then read that TOEFL book for class prep.”
  • “I want to go out and enjoy some time with friends.” “Wait, what? NO – you have to clean the apartment…”
  • “I want to write/blog.” “Well, good, ‘cuz I’m sure some essays will be coming in for you to edit.”

There are so many more excuses and other wants to go along with all of those excuses and wants, but the main point is that I really want to quit this habit, and obviously, the only person who can do that is me. I want to take the time to enjoy life here and really grow because, while in some ways I feel like I’ve changed and I feel like I’ve experienced things, there are also many ways in which I feel like I haven’t actually grown that much either. In fact, I actually sometimes feel like I’ve regressed in some areas. But maybe that’s part of showing progress? I don’t know, but for instance, now I’m not so much afraid of public speaking anymore, nor am I afraid of being rejected during interviews, or of trying new, strange foods – well, usually – but in the same respect, I don’t feel I’m as outgoing as I was in college, and sometimes I feel like parts of me have become lost. I know this is somewhat common to different degrees in people, but for me, I do believe this is [at least partially] because of all of these shoulds I keep telling myself.

So, today I took a small step forward. I did something I wanted to do in spite of those shoulds. I took some white wine outside and a new book I found and have been waiting to indulge in, and I read. I took time to read and enjoy myself on this rare sunny day. (Don’t worry, it was 3PM – no morning drinking here! lol.)
And it was grand.

Image by Laura Smith

What do you do when you are confronted with all of those shoulds? Do you ignore them and do what you want, or do you succumb to those excuses, too?

The Rhythm of Every Day

Every day I walk, get on a bus, get on the MRT, go to work, MRT, bus, walk, repeat. Every day. Part of what I’ve been trying to do is get out more, to actually break that rhythm because it is so easy to get sucked into that kind of lifestyle here. The work ethic here is crazy so to speak. It’s insane how many hours people spend in the office here, and how it becomes so incredibly easy to follow suit because of the homogeneous cultural aspects of Taiwan.

This brings me to my third prompt for my Picture Black and White class. Rhythm. It was beautiful to find this crosswalk dappled with sunlight on my regular walk to work the other day, breaking up the rhythm that I’ve been falling into all too often over the past few months.

Image by Laura Smith

Black and White

Today I thought I’d share the first couple of images from my class that started this past week over at Big Picture Classes, Picture Black and White with Tracey Clark.

Like my previous classes with her, we are given prompts that allow us to explore the world around us, but this time in black and white. I’ve enjoyed it thus far, and hope to begin to develop more of a “while I’m shooting” kind of sense about which images work best in a black and white format.

Image by Laura Smith

Day One::Mazhong Tiles Lined Up

Image by Laura Smith

Day Two::Shaping Up

One thing’s for sure, I had excellent light for the first few days; spectacular! 🙂 Oh, how I miss beautiful, gorgeous light on a more than weekly basis!

Lessons From a Dog :: Make Time to Play

Image by Laura Smith

Last week was quite a task for poor Scout. She was spayed, so she wasn’t able to enjoy her daily play time and exercise. Sure, we had short, small walks, but that is not enough for her. She loves to run. Fast. A couple of days ago she was able to start running and playing a bit, though, which greatly improved her mood and left her feeling complete.

As I mentioned previously this week, I really haven’t made time to blog like I originally wanted this year, and it is entirely my fault when I think about it. Really, I have been busy, but that’s not an excuse for not blogging or doing those things that I enjoy because those were my excuses. Of course we have deadlines we have to meet and work to accomplish daily, but it really is up to me to make sure that I’m also scheduling time for the important things, the fun things, and the things that are good for us in general. Making time for those things that make us healthier mentally, spiritually, and physically is just as important as doing work and necessary daily tasks. I remembered this life lesson while I watched Scout run after her tennis ball, rushing back to do it again because she knew it was what she was really needing. This post is only the beginning of these types of changes. I hope you’ll make sure to schedule some play time into your life, too.

Image by Laura Smith

How do you schedule your “me” time and make sure that you are taking time to do the “other” important things in life as well?

Getting Back on the Blogging Track

It happens. Often. Probably more often to me than others. (Or maybe it just feels that way.) You have major plans for achieving a certain goals, and somehow, someway, they fall through. *cough, cough* Facebook *cough, cough* Somehow those plans lose momentum and are left incomplete. Then, a few months later, your mind grapes (30 Rock) reveal a sliver of a reminder, and you realize it’s still a goal you want to achieve. That’s me. With blogging. I love writing, but I so often find myself journaling that I forget to add happenings here. Poor little blog…

This particular blog was originally started to keep track of my progress throughout my online photography classes and to connect with my classmates. I definitely want to keep incorporating that, but now, with a limited amount of time left in Taiwan, I want to make sure that I document more than that. That’s something that I love so much about photography (and writing!) – the documentation, the story, the memories, the celebrations (even of the everyday!). So, a change in style is coming, but more importantly, content. You’ll be seeing more travel posts, daily life, as well as personal work and/or experiences here during the last leg of our journey and life in Taiwan. I want to document as much as possible, to remember all the great (…aaaand maybe not-so great) times here. 😉

Image by Laura Smith

Starting this Thursday, be ready for more content more often!

(Thanks Kelly and Jamie for the motivation!)