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.

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