Very soon our home was going to be somewhere down south, 9000 kilometres away from everything we knew. At 20 kilometres a day, it would take us nearly a year and half to walk that far. Even from the relative comfort of an aircraft, we faced a journey into the unknown, and were full of curiosity and excitement.
People emigrate for many reasons; it may be better education for their children, unhappiness with the government, or perhaps just wanting to have an adventurous life. “Taiwan is no good for children to grow up in,” as most Taiwanese parents would say. The increasing crime was one of the reasons, especially kidnapping – so popular at that time it was a full time occupation for those who wanted to become rich quickly. Those who were doctors and had children were the most worried, as they were considered the ‘rich population’. My father was one of them. Sometimes after school, we would hang out with friends and come home a little late, and he would become so worried that he could not see any patients or eat. He had to wait for our return before he was able to relax. It was such a stressful time for him.
Our childhood memory of our father was not a particularly fond one. He sometimes would fight with Mom and we would be so scared and hide under the blankets. We understood that he had a lot of pressure from work and inevitably would explode sometimes. We always felt that we were much closer to our mother. She was always there when we needed her, and she is a very kind and gentle mother.
My father however has always been deeply dedicated to his family and works very hard for us to have a good lifestyle. He once told me that when he was little, he often felt miserable when his family couldn’t afford the things that he wanted to have. He always said to himself that he would not let the same thing happen to his own children and would always ensure what they needed would always be given. Before we came to New Zealand, love from my dad was material more than physical.
Dad worked very hard everyday. We hardly saw him or talked to him even though his clinic was just downstairs from where we lived. We used to get up at 6 o’clock for school, and by the time Dad woke up we were already at school. We usually got to see him during dinnertime, but he would go back to work right after dinner till 10 o’clock at night, and by that time we were already at sleep.
My father always looks ahead into the future and he is a decision-maker. He silently made a daring decision to get out of Taiwan, as he thought to leave was the only way to peace of mind. But it takes a lot to make a decision like leaving ones motherland. Strangely, at that time immigration had become very popular (1988); many people who had the ability considered leaving Taiwan, in most cases, for the well being of their children as well as for a better lifestyle. At first my father wanted to send me away to Canada because he was reluctant to give up his job, especially when he was only in his 40s. He felt that he was not ready to leave his career behind, which he had spent almost all of his life building.
My reaction of leaving Taiwan was all positive. I did not enjoy schooling in Taiwan at all. I used to feel pressured and it was such a big torture for me. I was ranked below average in class and almost always received physical beating from my teachers. Going to school felt like going to war. My sister was a far more outstanding student than I was. Teachers would not believe that I was the brother of this talented girl. My sister received numerous certificates from all aspects of her study and I had only ever received one, for improvement. Nevertheless I wasn’t jealous at all of my sister for being so much ‘better’ than me; I guess the reason was because I thought at least someone in the family was making my parents proud.
New Zealand at that time had opened its gate for immigrants. This act by the New Zealand government offered us another option besides Canada to think about. The impression of New Zealand at that time was purely geographical: green grass, farm animals and sheep. Nature and freshness were the first two words that came to our minds. We didn’t yet know anything about the people.
We stopped going to school as soon as decisions had been made about coming to New Zealand. It was the happiest time of my life; it was as though a long war was finally over between the teachers and I. However we didn’t stop learning because Dad hired an English tutor to teach us English. I took a friendly approach and added ‘Hello’ as my first word to my still growing English vocabulary. We often saw Westerners on TV, and they seemed quite normal, but the experience of actually meeting a real Westerner was totally different. The English tutor gave me my new English name, Joseph.
Please also see the ‘Graphic Design Visual Representation‘ of this chapter