Saturday the 16th of November 2013
My first solo bus journey occurred yesterday (Friday 15th of November 2013). I actually got lost in Hemei Township or 和美鎮 (Héměi Zhèn) in the morning when I got off the bus from Changhua City or 彰化市 (Zhānghuà Shì). I walked in circles for about three hours; in and out of alley ways, past temples and abandoned buildings, every dusty street looked the same to me, every tea shop and food stall similar, a barrage of sun-bleached signs, colour faded and confusing. With my extremely limited (almost none existent) Chinese and Taiwanese I attempted to find the school. Everyone I spoke to was surprised I intended on walking there. I saw my first real glimpse of betel nut stained teeth, wild dogs and extreme poverty. I realised that this is not the kind of place I should be walking around on foot as pedestrians are in a dangerous position here; there are no pavements/sidewalks anywhere, scooters are fast and recklessly driven and a lot of the cars are so high up the drivers mightn’t even see you as they attempt to reverse in the middle of a busy road.
The beeping of horns, the humid air, the dust, the combined smell of street waft (drains), Sway Jeow (boiled or steamed dumplings) or 水餃 and Jen Jeow (fried dumplings), the buzzing of scooters and the roar of megaphones caused me to finally realise what I’d done. I had moved to Taiwan. I was lost in Taiwan. Luckily, someone eventually took pity on me and helped me find the school via a business card I had in my wallet.
So, today (Saturday 16th of November 2013) was an interesting day, I was able to (with the help of my manager) replace the bedding originally bought for a single bed (the old apartment I never slept in) with double bedding (for the new apartment). I bought a plug adaptor (from the cheapest electronic store imaginable) so I could use my extension cable to simultaneously charge my laptop, toothbrush, phone etc. We then visited a supermarket so I could buy a towel, laundry detergent, hangers, instant noodles, bin liners, shower gel, shampoo, etc. and an afternoon market where I purchased the biggest apples I’ve ever seen (NT $100 for three) and some delicious tomatoes.
In the evening, I organised my clothes for the Training Week in Taipei (Monday 18thof November 2013). I took an amazing shower in my new apartment, I then watched Meet the Robinsons (2007) followed by Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) in my pyjamas.
Sunday the 17th of November 2013
I enjoyed experiencing a 拜拜 (bài-bài) today with my manager and her family. I burned ghost money or 金紙 (jīnzhǐ), ate some really delicious traditional food, met some really wonderful people and visited an ornate temple in Changhua County or 彰化縣 (Zhānghuà Xiàn). I’m looking forward to spending next week in Taipei City 臺北市 or 台北市 (Táiběi Shì). Being here has taught me that anything is possible or 死馬當活馬醫 (Sǐ mǎ dāng huó mǎ yī) and that taking chances in life is more important than sitting at home, wondering what could have been. Meeting the other teachers was truly inspiring, it takes a certain kind of person to throw themselves into another culture the way people do here. Three weeks ago, I didn’t know where I was going to work, where I was going to live, when I was going to arrive and how long I’d be staying for. I now know the answer to all of those questions and more.