Monday the 30th of December 2013
I had managed to finish work, plan tomorrows lessons, visit the supermarket, take a long shower, put on my pyjamas, eat a tube of pizza flavoured Pringles and generally relax in my apartment, all before 21:00PM. This is the first time since moving to Taiwan that I’ve been ‘ready for bed’ early, in the UK, this is probably my usual time to wind down. Although, it’s 13:36PM in the UK at the moment, it’s probably taken my body this long to figure out a regular sleeping pattern. I am a creature of habit, I like routines and I like feeling organised. So, tonight, I feel calm enough to write a blog post which isn’t a mass collection of everything I’ve been up to over an extended period of time.
I bought a new water bottle today; I decided that the one I purchased when I first arrived was (and still is) absolutely perfect for milk. Every time I run out of milk in the fridge, I make my own using powdered milk (KLIM) and the refreshing ice water from the cooler on my floor. Usually, to make cups of tea or noodles etc., I use the water from the tap in my bathroom. I’m boiling it so it’s perfectly drinkable. I bought various other things too but the second water bottle was definitely a good move. I like that most water bottles here also double as measuring jugs, I’ve discovered a world of multifunctional products since moving here. Did you know you can actually boil an egg in a kettle?
Saturday the 28th of December 2013
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.
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.