Saturday, December 22, 2007

Pre-Blogger email: First big email from Taiwan

We arrived in Taiwan two weeks ago today. We were picked up at the airport and driven to what was supposed to be our new apartment for the coming year, not far from the school at which we were both supposed to be working. Similar to our Korean experience, it was all a bit random. A couple of the girls who worked at Kid Castle and their friend told us that the school was no good. We had gotten the impression during our negotiations with the recruiter that we were going to be on the outskirts of Taipei somewhere near some trees and hills where we could go hiking and enjoy a bit of clean air but the school turned out to be 10 minutes from central Taipei, very noisy, dirty and generally not pleasant with very few, mostly sad-looking plants and trees. We didn't want to be there for a year so after about 24 hours we were ready to tell the head teacher at the school that we would give it a miss (despite having signed a contract for 12 months). Among other things, the girl whose apartment we were staying was about to return to the US, quitting 4 months into her contract.

One night we were kept up by the Sugar-Glider that Erica was keeping as a pet in a small plastic cage (very sad). Apparently they are very common here as pets and she bought it at the local marketplace. I had to corner it in a room and somehow get it back into its cage.

We went reconnoitring and checked out some of the other cities in Taiwan. We got to Tainan and really liked the feel of it, despite its being twice as big as Jinju which had been a nice, manageable size, and after a couple of days we decided to give it a go.

I have had and treated a urinary tract infection for which I had to go to a hospital. None of these things are easy in a new country where you don't speak the language. You've got to go to the tourist information service and ask about hospitals and maybe get them to write a translation of something so that you don't need to mime it when you get to the hospital. You also need to call the company through which you are insured for travelling to find out where you need to go and what you should do and also to inform them of the situation. They might give you the address of a preferred medical organisation and you might need to ask at the tourist centre for directions to that place. When you get there you might have trouble overcoming the language barrier with the front-desk staff. And so on.

I was going to write a big summary of what has happened since we got to Taiwan 2 weeks ago but I actually started this email 2 days ago and didn't have time to continue until now. After abandoning Kid Castle in Taipei we have decided to settle down in Tainan which has a population of about 700,000. A few days ago we moved into an apartment with a few other guys. Incredibly, when we met Derek, who Andrea had contacted about room for rent, he turned out to be a guy we knew from Korea: he had taught at one of the camps at Gyeongsang University where we were working. We're back to square one or square two with a lot of practical things, having to learn how things work here and trying to achieve what you want.

That will do for now. We're both looking for jobs and have had a few job interviews. I have another tomorrow while Andrea is ready to choose from a couple of promising job opportunities. We should both be working soon.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Pre-Blogger email: Quick update, Adrian and Andrea in Australia

This is a long-overdue update on our situation but I will have to make it brief because we have a lot of work to do (when do I ever have time to expand on things and wax lyrical these days?).
Andrea and I got to Taiwan two days ago after I was flat out at home with the move from Collie to Donnybrook. We came to start a job for which we signed a contract a few weeks ago but it is not what we were expecting and last night we had dinner with the head Taiwanese teacher after sitting her down and explaining that we weren't going to be working at Kid Castle (the English academy). Now we are here on a 2-month visitor's visa with no job commitment. We have started looking for another job and are lucky enough to inspired the pity of some of the foreign teachers we were going to be working with and we are staying at our friend Erica's apartment not far from Kid Castle. Depending on what we turn up tomorrow, we might take a trip to another part of Taiwan, out of Taipei, on a job-hunting expedition. The future is uncertain but that is definitely preferable to the certain misery we would have endured had we stuck to the original plan and worked at Kid Castle.
Another update soon.
I have to tell you that if you reply I might not get to it straight away but I think everyone is used to that by now.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Pre-Blogger email: October update

Well I'm exceedingly glad to be able to tell you all that our travel agent (or Cathay Pacific) came through and we were just about to leave the small mining town of Mt Magnet and quickly checking our email on the single dial-up internet connection at the town visitor centre when we read the email telling us that we had been refunded almost all of our money. At our next stop down the highway we bought expensive icecreams to celebrate. Huge relief.
We're in Exmouth up the WA coast right now. We got here and saw the sea for the first time on our trip the night before last. We had to drive very slow for the last 40 km into town because it was dusk and there were a lot of kangaroos and sheep near the highway. We came from Karijini National Park in which we swam in the Gorges and it was beautiful.
Cheers
Ado (a deer, a female deer)

Monday, September 24, 2007

Pre-Blogger email: September update

Just a quick update on where I am and what I'm doing. But as usual I have to begin with an apology to those people who have been trying to get in touch with me and have sent me an email or left me a message on Facebook or tried to phone me and haven't received a reply. I'm sorry for not spending more of my time in front of my computer writing emails or adding details to my Facebook profile. However, if you have sent me a message or tried to contact me I will get back to you, I promise you. It is just a matter of time.

I have set aside a portion of my time today for emailing and trying to reply to people because I know that soon I will be having trouble getting to internet. In two days Andrea and I will be leaving my hometown of Collie to travel northwards on a roadtrip into the outback, and I might not be able to do anything about emailing or the internet very much.

I'll backtrack a little... start at the start, you know. Forgive me for repeating myself if you have heard some of this before.

So we finished working at Summer English camp at Gyeongsang University in South Korea. We left a few days later, but only after a painful experience at the airport. The wrong airport. Yes, we went to the wrong airport. We went to Incheon Airport near Seoul instead of Busan airport which was on the other side of the country and on the front side of our e-tickets. My luggage started to burst open on the (long; 5-6 hours) way to Incheon airport and so I had to repack it and then get it secured before going to the check-in counter where we found out that we had come to the wrong airport. Wacky hijinx then ensued. Much running around with multiple Cathay Pacific staff trying to help us get to Australia. Here is a quick summary:

Secure my luggage W5000 (AU$ 6.25)
Travel agents downstairs all just closed for the day.
Bought new tickets - W900,000 each. (AU$1,128.63)
Paid excess luggage fee - W600,000 ($AU752.42)
Andrea's credit cards wouldn't work.
Time running out to catch only relevant plane to Hong Kong.
Andrea uses Australian spending money to get ticket. I contribute difference - have to withdraw cash from Australian bank account - transferred all money from Korean account to Aust account that morning - AU$ 20.00 in ATM charges.
Rushed through checkpoints and finally get on plane feeling quite stressed only to realise that the ticket they just sold us from Hong Kong to Perth is on the same flight as our original tickets, on same flight at same time, so we spent lots of money on something we already had.
Get to Australia, go straight to hometown of Collie, rain everyday for one week.
Organise refund for plane tickets we never used.
Korean travel agent charges us refund processing fee - AU$ 76.00
ANZ bank charges me transfer fee to pay for refund fee - AU$ 26.00
Refund will take about one month. Still waiting to find out how much we will get back.

Since we got to Australia we have spent time in Perth, Collie, Busselton, Bunbury, this general area.
My mum recently bought a house in another town so besides travelling around and being a tourist (Andrea has never been to Australia before) I have been packing up my stuff and been trying to be useful and moving some of it to the new place.
We also got our picture in the local newspaper. I'll try to attach the article.

So anyway, I'm sorry again if you've been waiting for a reply from me or wondering how I can be so busy that I don't have time to write you a few lines. We're in and out of home so our internet access has been sporadic as well. If you have written to me then I will reply when I can. Please be patient. If it is something urgent or important to you then let me know and I will make it a priority.

Bye for now
Adrian

PS - Andrea says hello to all.
PPS - I have to and clean out some lockers now so that we can move them to the shed at mum's new place in Donnybrook later today (if the weather is good).

Click on the image below to get a high-resolution version of the article that appeared in the local newspaper.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007