The Habit of Work

From the time we relocated to Tainan (from Kaohsiung) in 2007, my work day began most mornings at 8AM when I arrived at the college chapel to do simultaneous translation. For a few years it began even earlier when I was scheduled to teach an  8:10 AM class at a university about 30 minutes’ drive north of town. Being retired in America now, it’s become difficult to know when things begin. Without “work” to go to, it’s hard to form a new set of habits.

This was drawn to the front of my mind last week at a lecture about conditions in Bosnia. The presenter is involved in a program that brings Bosnian students of diverse ethnicities to a leadership training and “getting to know you” conference in the summer. A few of those students also become eligible for a few weeks’ residential internship in or near Kalamazoo, MI. 

She told how her family had hosted one of those students last year, and how, among that student’s observations was surprise that everyone in the household got up in the morning and went out to work. This was not, as might be supposed, because “Dad has his office and Mom takes care of the home,” but that everyone had jobs.

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Since the terrible war that raged in Bosnia after Yugoslavia broke up in the 1990s, unemployment there has been high. Even now it hovers above 30%. Students now in university have grown up in homes where “having a job” was not very likely for ANY member of their household. Somehow they and their families have survived, but certain habits and expectations have disappeared. 

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In Taiwan, with which we’re much more familiar, the unemployment rate hovers below 4%, making it hard to even IMAGINE there not being a job, or even JOBS in a household. For young people in Taiwan, to have parents even sit still for a few minutes is about as unimaginable as it is for Bosnian youth to imagine someone going out to work regularly each day. 

Our perspectives get skewed by where we are.   

David Alexander now resides in Holland, MI after 39 years in Taiwan.

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