Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Decision Time

Brendan encouraged me to write down the various reasons why and why not I would go to Japan or Taiwan.

The main reason I want to go back to Taiwan is to stay involved with Fo Guang Shan (the temple I was at), and the Woodenfish program. I hope I will be able to return to the program again next year as a teacher/assistant and also help out throughout the year coordinating the program. With the school year as it is in Taiwan, it may also allow me to travel before and after the program next summer, to visit friends, and to possibly volunteer in the Beijing Olympics or in the Woodenfish teaching program in mainland china. If I am in Japan, I will not be able to do that very easily, because I am away from Taiwan, and because the school year does not end until the beginning of August, though I may be able to go to Beijing Olympics/Woodenfish Teaching Program. I could end my contract early, but that would result in me paying ~$1000 for the cost of the plane ticket to Japan. Staying involved with Buddhism is important to me personally, but I also think that having spent time near, in, and around Buddhism will also help me if I go into academic Buddhist studies as I plan to. While there is Buddhism in Japan, I don't think it will be nearly as accessible to me as it would be if I were in Taiwan.

Another advantage to Taiwan is that I would be able to learn Chinese. Again, this would be beneficial if I decide to go into academic Buddhist studies, and would probably help my reading ability for Japanese as well. Having some Chinese would also help out if I work on the Woodenfish program next year. However, in order to learn Chinese properly, I would have to make an effort to take formal classes from someone at the monastery, something that would consume a lot of free time.

One disadvantage is that I think i may be a burden to Pu-men High School (in Taiwan). I don't think they are prepared to take on a foreign English teacher who doesn't speak any Chinese, and has no previous teaching experience. Also, I'm not even sure about the details of my employment contract, namely how much I will be paid, and if my plane ticket will be paid for. I'll be going in cold, with almost no training; it's bound to be a really difficult year, but I think that I can help them a lot, by being the "guinea pig" for an English exchange program. But maybe it could wait until next year...

Another disadvantage is that I feel I'll be letting some important people in my life down by going to Taiwan instead of Japan. Of course, I'll make it to Japan eventually, hopefully through the Shansi program next year. But, if I do re-apply for Shansi next year, I'll be competing with a bunch of my very-qualified friends from Oberlin, but if I don't get it, I'll once again be jobless, searching for employment in Asia. I won't be able to re-apply to JET next year, because I would have turned down placement this year.

For a long time last year, part of me really wanted to go live in a monastery rather than teach English. This may be the best of both worlds...

Well, for one thing, it's been my plan all along, but unlike Taiwan, there isn't one primary thing that draws me to it, but rather a bunch of important things. One is that I'll be close to some friends, and in the city I'm in, I will probably have a lot of opportunities to make new friends. Of course, I'll be making friends in Taiwan also, but in a very different context-- the monastery rather than the bar. Then there's the issue of women... probably have a better shot in Japan than in Taiwan.

Also Aikido. I suppose it's a pretty unfounded assumption that Japan = Good Aikido, but at least there will probably be more Aikido in Japan than Taiwan, and part of me feels like Aikido is the reason I got interested in going to Japan, and everything else-Buddhism, Japanese, etc, in the first place.

I do eventually need to go to Japan to get good at Japanese-- a personal goal, and also important if I continue on to Buddhist studies in the future. Now is clearly the best time to do this, since I've just come out of formal study in college. I can take the JEES (Japanese Proficiency) test next winter, and on a similar note, get my TESOL (English Teaching) certificate.

Japan: I guess it's not everything I ever wanted. But maybe it's where I ought to go...

Decision making is very hard. This is something that is nice about living in the monastery. All decisions are made for you, and all the effort and energy that you put into making the mundane day-to-day decisions can be geared towards more important things like helping other people.

We often find it liberating to be able to make decisions. In fact, that ability may be exactly how we define "liberty" or "freedom." At almost all points along this road to getting a job have I thought that some decision that I made would relieve the stress of decision making, thus liberating me to do as I please, with that firm decision behind me. However, I have found this not to be the case. That neither the ability to make decisions, nor the actual decision itself to be liberating. There's still always the element of doubt, and the inability to let go of whatever option I have to leave behind. I think it has less to do with my own inability, though, and more to do with the idea of a decision. Mainly, that a decision only becomes a decision when it becomes put into action. For instance, in this case, I've realized that I won't have actually made my decision until I actually send my passport to San Francisco for processing at either the Taiwanese or Japanese consulate. The decision happens when I act on it, rather than when I make up my mind. So the reason this process is so difficult is because I've been waiting months and months now to act, to really decide. Up to that point has been tenuous speculation and mind-games about what decision I will make, and how I will act, with no real action. A decision is only moving my attachment from one thing to another thing. There may appear a moment of freedom in this moving, but it's still attachment, nevertheless.

Well whatever. JAPAN OR TAIWAN??


1 comment:

Jim Sensei said...

japan....and spend your free time (vacations and whatnot) in a Japanese Zen Buddhist Study program or monastary. See, that wasn't so hard, was it?