Miles from Home

China Commentary– Youthful Musings on the Environment, Culture & Development

Archive for June 2007

Iraq War Coalition Fatalities

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I was fully disturbed by the time I had finished watching this.

http://www.obleek.com/iraq/

What if each of these had been a micro-loan to an entrepenuer pursuing a sustainable small-business business venture? Would we have lost money rather than lives?

Also see this.

Written by Miles

June 29, 2007 at 12:38 pm

Miles, ya damn hippy…

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I was accosted by a group of what I assumed to be drunkards a few months back. I firmly recall not being the drunken one when myself and an acquiantance were accosted by a swarm of young women and a few straggling guys. “We’re having a hugathon!” one of them chirped, giggly. So, hugs we shall have! We hugged. I saw the dude in the background looking a little maligned for his next embrace, so I dealt him one out as well. It was fun. It was innocent, it actually made me feel a little better. Then, I stumbled upon this website today and it all started to make sense.

Written by Miles

June 27, 2007 at 3:55 pm

Some Photos of my 小朋友

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Here are some pics of my students for the goo-goo-ga-ga crowd.

http://picasaweb.google.com/jmiles.mckenna/MilesFavorites

Written by Miles

June 27, 2007 at 5:15 am

Buying in or Selling out from the Other Side of the World

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I spent last weekend just outside of Manchester, Tennessee on a 700 acre farm.  Over 3 days, i personally witnessed 35 live musical acts with 80,000 other music lovers.  In short, it was fucking awesome.  I apologize for the language but that’s the truth.  About 10 hours after my physical arrival, I noticed my spirit had arrived.  With no shirt, my trademark Mickey’s hat, and a bottle of Bud clutched in my left hand, I started dancing to a band called the Cold War Kids.  You know those moments in life when that shiver of energy moves from your toes up through the hairs on your head and there’s the sense that everything is right.  This was one of those moments.  I proceeded to spend the next 72 hours destroying my liver and rocking out.  Sleep was not an option.  Only after you fell down and could not regain an erect position was it acceptable to take a few hours of much needed rest. 

I returned to Denver after midnight the day after the show ended.  I was covered in dirt, I smelled and looked like shit (sorry to the people who sat next to me on the plane), and I felt like my brain had been shut off.  I just wanted a shower and my own bed.  On my drive home from the airport, I remembered the conversation my boss and I had the day before I left for Bonaroo.  I have been fed up lately over my lack of responsibility at work, not to mention the lack of pay.  Maybe I have cause to feel that way, maybe I don’t, but that’s how I feel.  So, I walked into the man’s office late in the afternoon to voice disapproval for my treatment. 

“What’s the timeline for me moving up in this organization,” I asked.

“Not for a long, long, long, long time,” he responded.  “At least another three years before you stop being the ‘junior guy.'”

Not exactly what I had wanted to hear.  But at that moment, I didn’t care, I was off to an epic music festival.

While in my car coming back from the airport, I recounted the conversation in my head, and I had another one of those moments when something clicks.  A huge grin spread across my dry, cracking lips.  “I’m going to quit,” popped into my brain.  Now, I’ve thought I was going to quit before.  Just ask my girlfriend.  I’ve said that phrase to her a hundred times.  She usually responds with “so do it already or shut up.” 

I called my best friend in the world and told him the news.   He laughed and said “I’ll believe it when I see it.”  I guess my girlfriend’s not the only person who I have said I’m planning on quitting to before.

I told him, “Alright J. Peso, I’ll see you on your front porch next week in the middle of the day, cause I’m serious.”  He told me he’d have a coldy ready just in case I wasn’t full of it.

I am writing this post from the desk that I’ve spent every weekday and countless weekends at for 13-15 hours at a time over the last 2+ years.  I’m still just as serious as I was when I was pulling onto I-70 on my way home from DIA.  I have been cleaning up the stacks of papers that surround me in between meetings.  I really am going to quit.

I’m breaking every rule they tell you not to break when quitting in corporate America.  I have no next job lined up.  Hell, I don’t even have a resume put together.  I have no plan beyond spending time with my girlfriend, my best friend, my family, and my dog.  I’m not giving 2 weeks notice.  I’m not sucking up to my boss to get a gravy letter of recommendation.  I’m just re-entering the world that exists outside of corporate America. 

Maybe it’s all a terrible idea.  I don’t think so.  I know I’m breaking the rules, especially the one about having a plan before you quit a job so you don’t end up lying on the couch until you want to shoot yourself.  I don’t care.  I don’t lie on couches like that.  I know I don’t.  In college I spent my free time running trails in the woods, reading philosphy, writing my thoughts.  I know this will be very different than my college life.  I also know that it’s what I need to do. 

I believe there is a voice that exists in each of us, I believe that voice is guided by the spirit that exists around itself, and I believe that to ignore your own voice is a mistake that inevitably leads to unhappiness. 

So here’s to you my friend Miles.  I congratulate your unadulterated ability to follow your own voice (see posting directly below).  Please, do not feel you have to apologize to those friends that you have left behind.  I suspect most of your true friends are following their own voices, and if they’re not, well they should reconsider.

Written by bianj

June 21, 2007 at 8:37 pm

Buying In or Selling Out?

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“Why are you leaving?”  That’s the question, logically, for those on this side of the world.

“Why aren’t you coming home?”  That’s the other one.

It never becomes easier looking friends in the face and answering.  Whatever the answer is, irrevocably, it implies our paths are parting.  Likely, for a good distance of time.  I’m forced to balance friendships with my own self-interest.  Occasionally, I feel selfish.  Or foolish.  But I have been a fool enough times in my life not to fear potential fates.

I am leaving Taiwan.   It’s a fine place, a good place.  In some places, it’s great.  Like any other place, it has its pros and cons.  It has left me wealthier, wiser, and more curious.  Still, it just isn’t good enough, for me, forever.  I mean, forever?  What is that?  Three years is forever in Tawain, to me.  After 18 months, it is a good time for me to move on and explore another opportunity to “find my place.”

I could have studied Mandarin here.  I had intended to.  I still could.  But Taiwan offers you many paths.  I chose to make a bundle of money, by working long hours and focusing on the next move.  That being formally learning Mandarin.  I justify this by the fact that learning Chinese is not a simple task.  I want to learn a functional version of the language as quickly as possible.  And, as much as my Taiwanese friends hate to say, mainland simplified Mandarin Chinese is that version.  Learning traditional Chinese would only benefit me if I intended to inhabit the only place in the world still officially using it, Taiwan.  A tiny island of 23 million people compared to 1.4 billion people?  Which one is more functional?

Saying this is selling-out Taiwan.  I struggle with this.  Taiwan is in such a shitty position.  There aren’t many other words for it.  Taiwan continues to do everything the Western world could ask for:  elections, strong trade, stability.  And yet, the West locks Taiwan in a closet like an orphan child hidden at a family dinner.  It has become evident the world no longer has the collective interest to challenge China.  China continues to claim Taiwan, with no legal justification.  It threatenstotal destruction based on some ancient hyperbole.  Here I am leaving a country fighting for its existence as a free nation to live in its sworn enemy, because I feel the latter represents the future.  Ouch.

I’m not coming home, either.  I have lost that loving feeling with the States.  I cannot help feeling America is on a wayward course.  Each day it’s respectability wanes.  Its word is carries less and less weight.  Uncle Sam is drunk and wobbly.  It disgusts me to see Americans live on in Lala-land.  Education enables one to evaluate.  The more I evaluate myself and the country I represent, the more I feel those two conclusions do not equate.

I am not sitting here waiting for America to change itself, get all hunkydorey and I’ll roll back.  Hell no.  I am trying to anticipate how I will be able to make an impact at the proper time in my life.  And even this sounds like bullshit.  Why not act now?  I have to say that I think I am acting now.  I need a few years to tune-up my skillset.  Moving to China is not choosing the alternative.  I am not forsaking my citizenship.  I cherish it.  But I am not ready to return to the established mechanisms of young adult life in America.  I am not a young “professional.”

I am not sure that what I want to become will carry the title of professional in its American sense; in the sense that I work for a decent company to build a resume towards continuing my own corporate course.  Professionalism is the way in which an individual conducts himself.  I want to see different rewards for my actions.  At present, a house in the suburbs with a shot of stability to drown the duldrums isn’t sufficient.

Am I buying in or selling out?  I don’t even know.

Written by Miles

June 21, 2007 at 12:35 pm

Catching me on the rebound…

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(Still tweaking with the optimal photo upload… )

Calligraphy Artist

Dragon Boat Festival has come and pass. I failed to see a dragon, a boat, or a festival. Still, I fiddled the four days into a pleasing tune. Recentered, took some needed rest and resumed a positive path. The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step, ain’t that right Lao xinsheng?

I woke up yesterday and discovered a big Nebraskan uber-american poking his puffy-eyed face out the door to my guest bedroom. My buddy Mike from Kaohsuing had told me he would be here around 4 or 5. I had foolishly assumed he meant that following afternoon. He and his girlfriend Sunny must have managed to convince my security guard that foreigners generally don’t steal unless they wear business suits when occupying another country.

It was good to have them here. We did a few of those things one can only do when guests are visiting from out of town. We went to those pop-spots absumed by the bustle of daily life, spent some time in the markets, along the coast, on scooter through the ‘skirts of town until our shins were black with soot.

They forced me to re-appreciate Taipei, and it was needed. I had fallen through the city’s trap door, and all I could feel were the footsteps. Stampeding. Tromping, stomping, never stopping; consuming, eating, littering, dying, decaying. It was all impersonal. Two of my best friends have left the island, another has withdrawn himself. Time continues ticking, with each sunset, each empty evening, as all things begin to feel hollow.

People wall themselves off when confronting the future, I see it now, personally. Initially, there is excitement; there is a drive for new beginnings. But in the end there is nothing but the present, left in anticipation of a climax only attainable through the removal of all time. The present is a void. It loses meaning, just like a clock counting down becomes a countdown and not a clock.

Fear not! Through some small feats of fortune, I believe I have rebounded. I helped a few people in need, redoubled my effort to keep people smiling around me, and focused on the positive. But it took Mike and Sunny coming to visit to really release the demons.

I have discovered the great joy in having friends stay with me. It reminds me how blessed I am to be in a situation in which I can share my life with others, even if it is just the shelter of my humble abode. It feels good, man. Cooperation in contained space. Energy. Life.

I love seeing people’s bags, they remind me of motion in life. Luggage is a physical embodiement of our existence, those items we take with us on the journey are the tools we choose to create hope and combat fear. We envision a future of possibilities and we prepare; we strive on. In this, in these often minimal, countless journeys, I can rekindle my belief that the world and its inhabitants remain in motion, ceaseless and exploring the voids of time.

Written by Miles

June 19, 2007 at 11:53 am

‘Bout to be Broadway Up in Hurrrrrr

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Jerry and Selena Rockin’ Out

Graduation is approaching. This year I have put my days as Peter behind me and am focusing on recreating The Ancient City of Agrabah. For those not so Disney-inclined, we are rockin’ Aladdin as our theme this year. I figured it was contemporary and timely to involve the Middle East, ha.

My co-teacher and I devised a brilliant two-script, two-grade show. My group, the kindy Seniors, will headline the show and come on as the main act– a 30 minute production of lights, laughter and love. I wrote the script, cast the characters, have revised and rehearsed tirelessly… the entire play and all of its choreography is imbedded in my fiber optics. I come home carrying a sword, humming “A Whole New World!”

It does surprise me how little I have mentioned teaching here. As an English teacher in Taiwan, your identity is bound inside this box. There is a stigma attached to teachers, and rightly so. I remember when I first came here I read a blog in which some weasely faced nerd wrote about how he hated foreign English teachers in Taiwan. This guy looked more hermitty than Bilbo Baggins, so I didn’t give him much cred’. In retrospect, he was on to something.

As my initial recruiter and friend Mitch told me, “There are an equal number of really bad teachers as there are really bad schools.” In 18 months on the island, I have seen ample evidence of this. I cannot even begin to rant about privatized education and the schools themselves. Another time, indeed. But I will say that I have come across plenty of worldly-losers who wash ashore on this island from whatever society shunned them in the first place. There are a lot of druggies, a lot of idiots, a lot of people running from reality. These teaching jobs can be so easy, any monkey with a native English tongue could take up the task.

So, occassionally when people ask if I am an English teacher, I cringe. For those of us who don’t show up at work drunk, blow off events, or cheat the children and blame it on the system– it can be taxing. This leads to inevitable and seemingly unstoppable discussions on teaching practices and improving what we (the self-proclaimed good guys) are giving. You can get so wrapped up in teaching, in the humor, the difficulty, the individual students, that you have to seek some solace, a breather. And I credit this for my lack of discussion here.

I have met some of the most intelligent, intellectual, compassionate, and adventurous people of my entire life here. With the bad comes some brilliance. I salute teachers. And now I am saying my salutations. This play is going to be the bright shining star of my final act in Taiwan.

Written by Miles

June 15, 2007 at 4:33 am