Jess Gosling reflects on the silver linings as the pandemic hits an all-time high in Taiwan. (Written in early May 2022)

It’s our turn

So, it’s finally happened, Covid has hit Taiwan at a magnitude level, and recently our new infections topped 23,000. By mid-May, there will be a rise to more than 60,000 cases per day. Taiwan is now experiencing what the rest of the world went through over two years ago. PCR tests are being rationed, and an element of panic has returned to the island. Masks continue to be compulsory everywhere and yet, despite all my searching, I can’t find children’s masks.

As a result of the number of infections, my school has been led by the government in suspending classes and year groups. I have not been to work for over a week so far.

Online teaching… again

All my teaching has moved online – this is not new to me. Last year, with 100 cases per day, schools were closed – beaches were off-limits, hikes and walks were covered with yellow tape. Possibly the worst for me was that playgrounds were closed (I have a young daughter).

With the move to online, my mood has changed. I feel loss, lack of clarity, confusion, and exhaustion most days. I have been unable to write for some time now. I often start a task and forget what I am doing halfway through it. I fear meeting with friends, as they are all teachers. If I meet them and pass on Covid, they may spread the infection and have their school/a section of their school close. I can’t deal with that worry. So far, I have seen one other teacher friend, socially distanced in a park.

The only thing I seem able to keep on top of is schoolwork. The constant ‘binging’ of an email moves me in another direction.

Part of the continuum

However, a turning point came yesterday. I received a call from a close friend in Sweden, whom I hadn’t heard from in a long time. I also reached out to another friend via a voice message and a colleague via Facebook. I explained how I was feeling: totally isolated and without an anchor.

The colleague wanted to be part of my next Zoom session. She brings fun into everything she does and I know she will help my sparkle return. My friend replied to my voicemail with excellent advice,

“Look at this time of your life as part of a continuum. It will get busy again. Try to enjoy this moment.”

When my daughter returned home, I had finished all my school work. I was there at the door, just how I would have been when she was very young and I stayed home. I had the energy to listen to her. I found out that her first day back (after a week of online learning) had not been an easy one. She’d had an argument with her best friend and had spent both playtimes alone. We chatted about this throughout the night, we played Jenga and cuddled. I had the time and energy to contact the friend’s mum and talk through my daughter’s anxiety. For this one day, I was who I wanted to be as a mum.

Small moments

This morning, I got up with my family and supported my daughter as she felt anxious about going back to school. There were no harsh words said and later regretted – just calm. I wasn’t stressed trying to push her out of the door, constantly watching my clock. I felt no anxiety about the time as I am not in school. I am online teaching today.

As she left, I reminded her to always talk through her problems with her friend, as ‘that’s what her daddy and I do and we are still very much in love.’ At that, her eyes sparkled and she resounded with a cheeky ‘Oooo’… A moment of return to herself.

How differently today could have gone: rushing out of the house, anger and stress over worries about being late, strong words said that wouldn’t support her and would make her feel worse. The guilt I would feel about that as other people’s children tumble into my classroom. When I looked at my phone just now, there was a simple message from my husband. Thank you so much for your support this morning. For today, I will take all of this and be grateful.

Yes, our world here in Taiwan has changed. Undoubtedly it will only get more difficult as the numbers increase and our departure (in 9 weeks) will be more difficult and more heart-wrenching. A leaving/birthday party for our daughter will be unlikely to happen; friends would be too worried to attend. But for this moment, I will be grateful for what I have been given back through this situation. Finding these small moments of positivity in a difficult time is a key to wellbeing.

A chance to breathe and re-connect with those I love the most.

Author

  • Jess Gosling

    Jess is an Early Childhood Educator and Author, with a passion for international teaching. She has taught in the UK, Egypt, Vietnam, and Taiwan. She aims to provide insight into the world of international teaching, in the hope to inspire other teachers to have the confidence to change their lives.
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