In India, on January 12th, around one thirty in the morning, back from a long day of filming which had involved over nine hours of driving, I fired up my iBook just before going to bed. Thats when I got the email that would turn our lives upside down: I had been appointed as assistant professor of indigenous studies (Chinese version) at National Dong Hwa University in Hualian Taiwan!
I couldn’t have been happier. This is a job I had only dreamed of. I had come to Taiwan last summer just to see whether or not it would be possible to find such a job. I had been especially lucky in that the department had posted a job search the very week I arrived in Taiwan! Even more lucky that a friend of mine happened to see the posting and forwarded it me. Because I was able to visit the campus and meet with people then and there, it was then possible to later conduct my job interview over the phone from India. I had interviewed at a lot of schools in the US, but none can compare with the offer of working at a Taiwanese university just forty kilometers from my field site! It isn’t a matter of choosing between teaching and research because I will be able to learn so much just from working in this department!
The only thing is, the job was for the Spring semester, which starts on February 21st in Taiwan. That means I had one month to wrap up the film shoot in India, return to New York City, pack up all my things, move to Taiwan, find a place to live, and prepare my courses for the semester. (I’ll skip over describing that experience. Suffice to say that I barely managed to get my books and papers packed up and had to leave the rest to Shashawati…)
It simply didn’t seem real to me. I still can’t believe I am here. I didn’t want to make any public announcement until I had the office keys in my hand. Well, yesterday I picked up my office keys, and I snapped this picture of the plaque outside my door. That’s my Chinese name on the top, followed by the word “professor,” with the word for “study” on the bottom (as in a room where one does research, or an office).
I can’t begin to tell you how happy I am about this wonderful opportunity. At the same time I have some trepidation. I am supposed to lecture in English, but most of my new colleagues are fairly dubious about the English abilities of the students, especially the undergraduates. And the student’s will be able to write papers in Chinese, which I can read, but I’m having difficulty imagining grading papers for a class of 40!!! Hopefully I’ll make it through this first semester in one piece, and I’ll have a better sense of how to handle things next year.
Shashwati is still in New York, and will be joining me in about six weeks. I have a lot to do to prepare for the semester, so blogging will remain light. However, I will try to write some more about the university and my new home. As you can imagine, future blogging on Keywords is likely to focus much more Taiwanese issues than it has in the past. And to help improve my Chinese writing I am considering starting a Chinese language blog as well… all in good time.
Till then, please enjoy some nice pictures of the relatively new (est. 1994) Dong Hwa campus I found on the web: here, and here. My office is in this building. And here is the university in Google Maps and Google Earth. (Via this cool service.)