Saturday the 14th of December 2013
My previous posts were adaptations of notes I had saved in my iPad. I tried to make them as detailed as possible. This is a post written today, it will contain bullet points in order to summarise the time (one month yesterday) I have spent living and working in Taiwan. How time flies or 光阴似箭 (guāngyīn sì jiàn)!
This is my Chinese name: 蒂芬妮。赫倫 It was given to me by the school I work for in Hemei Township or 和美鎮 (Héměi Zhèn).
On Monday 18th of November 2013, I was picked up at 4:30AM, outside my apartment on Zhōngyǒng Road by a TA, I climbed on the back of her scooter and she drove me up Zhāngměi Road towards Changhua City or 彰化市 (Zhānghuà Shì) where we were to meet another teacher at the bus station. From there we got on the 5:00AM bus to Taipei.
On arrival, we headed to the hotel but we were unable to check in until after midday, which meant taking our luggage with us to head office on the first day of Training Week. There were other teachers in the same situation, luggage under desks, coffee in hand. Some had arrived at the same time as us, others the day before, some were already living and working in and around the Taipei area.
Established in Taipei in 1994, Shane English School (SES) Taiwan currently operates six Saxoncourt-owned schools, three international kindergartens and almost 60 franchise schools. An active Study Abroad department also arranges overseas study tours to Shane Global Language Centres in the UK and other centres around the world. As well as operating the traditional private English as a Foreign Language schools and teaching methodology that proved to be so successful in Shane English Schools elsewhere, SES Taiwan launched the first Shane International Kindergarten in 1997, where children study English every day alongside their national curriculum classes.
Training Week involved spending too much money on food and transport, drinking a lot of Pocari Sweat, meeting teachers, wandering around, getting lost, observing lessons, lots of paper work, lesson planning, listening to interesting lectures on discipline, young learners, games etc. It was an overall great experience but I wish now that I had more free time to see old friends, to reminisce and to take in more of the culture.
The lectures made me feel like I could have been in any city, in any part of the world, yet outside the doors of head office was so much more. I thought they should’ve organised an extra day as part of Training Week, one less about teaching and more about Taiwan, the experience. I think being taken to a calligraphy class, flying beautifully ornate traditional kites or watching people make oil paper umbrellas might have been a nicer end to the week than rushing to get the HSR after a full day in a small room.
My favourite supermarket is http://www.supermarket.com.tw/ because it’s really close to my apartment. It’s not as big as Carrefour but the thought of travelling to Changhua City or 彰化市 (Zhānghuà Shì) on my bicycle every time I need to buy groceries is a little intimidating.
There have been a lot of things which have made me anxious whilst living in Taiwan. I think having to cut up two of my debit cards at 3AM after a Skype conversation with Natwest was really quite a daunting experience.
I still don’t have a passport as my ARC is being processed, that was pretty surprising for me, especially as I had to hand it in prior to Taipei, which made going out anywhere at night and even checking into the hotel more complicated than was necessary. I managed to get into a club (my first proper ‘night out’ in over a year) with my expired University of Liverpool student card. Also, I should mention that if you work at a franchise school, there are plenty of things not covered in Training Week that will never cease to confuse, astound and fascinate you. I think being thrown in at the deep end is probably the best way to learn. As they say no pain, no gain or 不入虎穴，焉得虎子 (bù rù hǔxuè, yāndé hǔ zǐ).
I have a favourite bakery here which I visit several times a week. It’s cheaper than the supermarket and it’s very fresh. They sell thick base (similar to hedgehog or tiger bread in the UK) “pizza” slices for about 10p… and they’re huge. They also have a loaf of bread with butter and jam already swirled through the loaf, I don’t have a toaster, which I imagine melts it perfectly but it tastes nice on its own either way. The lady who owns the shop is very nice, her child is a student at the school in Hemei Township or 和美鎮 (Héměi Zhèn). She gave me some free guavas.
I also got free guavas from the night market near my apartment, where I bought some bell fruit (water apple), Asian pears and Sharon fruit (I think it’s also known as persimmon). I was lucky to have one of the other teachers as my night market guide. She knows so much about Taiwan, I feel like I learn a lot from her, teachers teaching teachers. There are lots of wonderful markets here which sell very intriguing and delicious fruit and vegetables. Oh and nuts that look like moustaches, which tasted surprisingly good.