Being Irish in Taiwan During COVID-19

There’s been one analogy to explain the relationship between the world and COVID-19. The world is the Looney Tunes coyote running off a cliff, and only by failing to look down, does the coyote fail to fall.

Well, that’s pretty much the state of the world as of October 2020. Spikes of COVID-19 across the world look like rolling hills, with each proceeding hill looking higher than the one before.

Hence, it’s no wonder Ireland is now in the highest level of lock down, level 5, and everyone is worried about having jobs, pints, and Christmas. COVID-19 might just be the Grinch that stole Christmas.

I can thank myself four years when I decided to move to Taiwan. There haven’t been news cases in Taiwan since so long ago, nobody in the media has commented on it. The world looked to Taiwan with astonishment. Just how did a small country located next to the epicenter of COVID-19 not become one of the most devastated countries to be hit?

Well, people listened to their CDC, who in turn didn’t mess around. Meanwhile in Ireland, despite the daily increases of cases going from 100 to 1,000 over a few weeks, people decided to have house parties, not wear masks, and even protest.

Anti-mask campaigners hold sit-down protest on Grafton Street

Anti-mask protesters on Grafton Street on October 3rd. Selfish people trying to make a point, but just spreading COVID-19.

When I see news like this and more, I feel a sense of guilt. I’m safe in Taiwan. I can enjoy my pints in my local that’s a 15 minute walk from my office. I get to eat out, travel freely, and most importantly, not fear if the wanker on the MRT who can’t wear a mask properly will infect me with a virus that’s killed over 1 million people worldwide.

Having a Sense of Guilt

It’s stupid. I know. There are many immigrants like me in the safe pockets around the world that didn’t screw up their response to COVID-19 quite like Europe and North America. Right now, the world looks like it has acne every time you look at the spread of COVID.

It’s hard to see family and friends have to stay indoors over months, and still hope they don’t come across someone that’s infected. Hell, even people that are supposed to be in quarantine in the UK & Ireland are still leaving to nip out and do a bit of shopping.

Here’s the kicker, from March to September, nobody got fined. You could be in contact with a family member that was sick, be told to self-isolate, and do whatever you wanted. Pint with the lads, grand. Nip out to the shops for some milk and bread, no bother. Hide in the bushes in Stephen’s Green and pretend to be a slug, fair play.

People weren’t issued fines. Why? Self-isolation and monitoring one’s health weren’t mandatory. Neither was wearing masks indoors. In other words, masks and self-isolating were mandatory, but not required. Now that’s an oxymoron.

Having to Constantly Hear a Worsening Situation

Every morning, I’d wake up and wonder, “what’s happened today?” Most mornings it’s the usual increase in cases and constant discussion from anti-lock down voices versus lock down voices. I listen to NewsTalk, a radio show in Ireland, on a daily basis. It’s how I keep up to date on news and discussions, along with the general public discourse that’s hard to gauge if you’re only seeing things through r/Ireland and Irish Simpsons Fans page (the best Irish meme page I might add).

What I see is people arguing that lock downs are causing more harm than good and that life must go on. To them, the long-term damage to our health services will mean vital services won’t be given to people that will need to tested for life-threatening illness or conditions, and in 2021, we may see a rise in cancer-related deaths as a result.

However, without sufficient lock downs to act as a reset for the Irish state to allow track and trace initiatives to be implemented, Ireland’s healthcare system would be encumbered with COVID-19 cases, and there would simply be no services at all.

Well, you can see what I’m always thinking about. I’m worried about Ireland and my family. I’m prone to feel a sense of guilt to be away from the situation, but also thankful I am too.

With numbers rising consistently to over 50,000+ cases so rapidly, I am fortunate to be in Taiwan

Being so far from the situation, it’s too easy to indulge myself to keep checking for the latest news, and look into the most trivial of matters. I’ve been listening to all government announcements regarding COVID-19. I didn’t even listen to a single government spokesperson during the Great Recession 10 years ago, but now I’m addicted to hearing how screwed Ireland is now.

Well, when your family, friends, and home is at risk with an immediate danger, you do tend to be more invested than when the situation was about a bunch of bankers screwing up the good times for everyone.

Learning to Switch off the News

After a while, I realized that I wasn’t keeping up with news to stay up-to-date on developments. I was doing it as some sort of penance for being so far away from Ireland while there was a crisis. It was a pill I swallowed, but I didn’t care. I still watched the news, caught up on radio shows, and kept engaging with stats and figures.

It was my way of being part of the crisis while be away in a place where the biggest crisis I face at the moment is deciding whether to go to Hualien or Tainan for my next holiday.

Worrying the way I was did nobody favors. Least of all me. I was keeping myself in the loop so much, it wasn’t natural. We all suffer from over-consumption of media, but my consumption went a bit too far.

Instead, I switch off the news, and just catch up when I can in the evenings to just make sure things haven’t gone Mad Max level of terrible, and then I go about my own business.

Being Irish in Taiwan Is a Blessing

There really isn’t much to say that I haven’t said already on my Facebook page. I’m blessed to be in Taiwan, even before the global pandemic. Taiwan is my second home, and although I’m saddened to not have been able to visit Ireland in May 2020, I still can’t complain about where I am. A country that actually knew what it was doing.

There needs to be more praise for the people of Taiwan that came together and collectively worked towards safeguarding this island against a pandemic that could’ve devastated the elderly and economy.

With that said, I’m going to continue to be grateful, but watchful of Ireland.

Nihao's It Going?

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