Case 1: Loca.. From Thailand, 30 years of age, high school graduate. Works in a Chiayi County furniture factory.
My home is a farming village near Chiang Mai. My father escaped the troubles in China and settled down in northern Thailand when he was young. My mother is Thai. I learned to speak Chinese fairly well, so when I came to Taiwan to work, I got the job of translating for the Thai laborers in my factory.
Life isnít particularly easy in northern Thailand. My family raises crops, fruits for the most part. Helping out at home, I donít earn more than 30,000 baht a year ( less than US$1,000). Also, my mother is quite elderly, and my two younger sisters are still in school. After I saved up enough money to pay the agent, I came to work in Taiwan, so that they could live a better life.
When I first got to Taiwan, I found it very hard to adjust. The winter was colder than Iíd ever experienced in Thailand. The food was mostly Taiwanese cooking. For us Thais who are use to eating tart, spicy food, it certainly was an annoyance. But these were all small things. The part I found hardest to take was missing home. It never got so bad that I secretly cried under my covers at night, but almost all the extra spending money I saved every month went on telephone calls back home.
The boss and our Taiwanese coworkers have all been very good to us. The work is hard, but we get by. The factory is in the county, so besides going to Chiayi on days off to have a look around, we usually stay in the dormitory that the factory provides. The dorm has TV and Thai-language newspapers and magazines, but it still feels a little dour and dull, so everyone likes to drink a little and chat, to break up the monotony. The factory is worried that if we drink too much, we wonít have much energy the next day, and accidents could happen more easily. So they watch over us and make sure we donít drink too much.
Iíve been in Taiwan for nearly three years now. During that time Iíve been back to Thailand two or three times, once because my father passed away. He had often made the special request that we use a headstone made in Yunnan Province in China, so I stayed in Thailand for more than a week to take care of all the little details before I came back. Taiwanís laws say that foreign laborers can only stay for three years, but thereís a new regulation that if a foreign workers performs well, he can be hired to work in Taiwan a second time. Because the factory wants to keep employing me, when my time is up, Iíll go back to Thailand and wait for the factoryís notice that Iíve been rehired.
I donít have a clear plan for the future, but I want to earn a bit of money while Iím young. Later on, when I go back home I can do a little business, help my mama live a good life, and marry my girlfriend, whom I love.
Case 2: Maria. From the Philippines, 31 years of age, college graduate. Domestic helper.
I came to Taiwan for the first time in 1994. I worked legally for a little over a year, and then ran away. Then I worked illegally for over two years. After I was caught and deported, I went back home. Then half a year later, I changed my name and came to work in Taiwan for a second time.
Before I came to Taiwan, I worked in a department store in Manila, but because my father passed away, the responsibility to take care of my younger brother and sister and support their schooling fell on my shoulders. So I took out the savings Iíd built up over several years, paid the agency fee, and went to Kaohsiung to work as a domestic helper. The first time I came to Taiwan, I gave almost my entire earnings to my family. Because I wanted to save a bit of money for myself, I ran off before the term of my contract was fulfilled, and started the life of an illegal worker.
I changed three families in a row. They all had children. I had to take care of the kids, and they slept with me at night, so I felt very tired. Then I started to working for a father and his daughter, which was more relaxing. But I only work for two months. Then I got afraid and gave myself up, and was deported back home.
After I returned to the Philippines, it was very strange, but actually felt the environment that I had grown up in since I was a kid was unfamiliar to me. After I had been away for four short years, I just couldnít get used to the food or the weather in the Philippines. I waited a full half year in Manila, then I finally came back to Taipei and went back to work for my original employer. My work is fairly relaxed-washing clothes, sweeping up, and looking after Aliceís papa. Sometimes I pick up a little extra cleaning work, and earn some more spending money.
Every Sunday I get the day off. Early in the morning I go to church for mass. In the afternoon I get together with friends and go window-shopping. Although some friends have me to some Filipino guys, and even some Taiwanese ones, I havenít liked any of them. At any rate, my life is going fairly well. I donít want to go out of my way to seek romance. I have friends who have married Taiwanese men. There doesnít seem to be too much to their lives except work. It doesnít seem so interesting.
My work contract is up in 2001. Afterwards, Iíd like to go to other countries, maybe somewhere in Europe, or Israel, to experience the customs and cultures of different countries, to give different lifestyles a try. But the agency fees for foreign workers in these countries are really high, and with most of them you have to enter the country on a tourist visa and work illegally. So Iím working hard to save money, and waiting for my next adventure.
Do I miss home? Of course I do, but I hold my future in my own
hands, donít I?