It doesn’t take much to scare me, a simple medium sized cockroach or broken speed limit will normally suffice, and I’m known to be fairly dramatic over rather trivial issues that most people would let wash over them. Knowing this, you can imagine my shock, horror and total panic when I was told I needed to get 10 passport photos taken (for my working visa, resident visa and school ID) and in order to obtain these I would need to ride on the back of someone’s scooter through 5 lane 80mph traffic. (They call them scooters, I call them scary ass motorbikes.) I’m not too sure if I’ve mentioned it, but roads in Taiwan are not exactly what they are in Britain. Sure, there are lanes and the odd set of traffic lights, but the general unstated rule is just to drive from A to B and not hit another vehicle or human being in the process. As a pedestrian, the rule is the same. If you want to cross and you are waiting at the zebra crossing (which stretches across the 5 lanes by the way) you will be waiting forever. The trick is to actually walk out into the road (holding your breath and making high-pitched squealing noises of course) and put your trust in maniac drivers, hoping (slash praying to the almighty) that they will stop, or at the very least slow down. They won’t. So you’ll have to run, dodge, squeal a little more and then sprint the rest of the way. Once you’ve done that a few times, then you’ll be ready for a ride on a “scooter”.
We left the school and zoomed towards the cross roads to make the lights before they turned red and the 80 second digital timer over head restarted. Because we were last through the lights there were people in the road and I swear to God I shut my eyes a few times and prayed there would be no dead bodies on the ground the next time I opened them. My supervisor (the maniac driver) could feel my grip tightening around her waist. “Relaxxx Sawfie” she said through her plastic visor covering her mouth and laughed. To her, this was second nature.
We arrived at the bright yellow photo processing shop. I got my photos taken and then tried to explain what blu-tac was in a local stationery shop, “its like clay, but its sticky. You put on the back, and then stick. Ta daaa! You have?”, “ah yes sticky tape!”… I gave up. Turns out the school had some I could have to decorate my new apartment.
That’s right baby! Sophie has an address in the city and officially lives in Taiwan. The viewings were like something out of a movie. A lady from the school picked me up from the hotel yesterday and drove me to the building. She said it was perfect because it was only 30 seconds from school. We pulled up outside the building, it looked like something from the depths of the Bronx (not that I’ve ever been, just going on what J-Lo tells me). Mainly built out of plastic, the door was a luxurious panel of shiny steel (think prison visits in movies) and through it, the washing machine (which was outside and covered by a sheet of plastic) was going round violently. There were shirts and skirts hanging to dry from the bright blue plastic make-shift ceiling and I’m pretty sure at that point I saw a naked man close his door. Nice. She showed me the room. Me and my colleague fell silent. It was a box. A bright white (the walls had been freshly painted), single bedded box. The bathroom was an equally depressing state and as I turned to the landlady the look on my face must have said it all. “you like something higher?” (she meant upstairs) I said yes and frantically nodded my head. As we went higher my heart was sinking, was this my life for the next 12 months? A bright white box in a building made of steel and plastic? The door opened. I saw a huge bright white room, a high ceiling, 2 double beds, 2 desks, 2 wardrobes and a window probably the size of a double bed. We looked at each other. Thank f*ck. “2 people staying here?” I asked (I’m trying to simplfy my English with EVERYBODY here, not just the kids). She spoke to my colleague in Chinese and made a huge range of hand gestures. The translation was good news. “you can stay here with someone, or by yourself. That second bed turns on its side and it’s a bookcase and if you don’t need the second wardrobe they can take it out for you.”…. “perfect” I said – I’ll take it. I suddenly felt my back muscles relax and I put my extremely heavy bag down on the bed I didn’t want turned on its side.
24 hours later, here I am. The room is huge. I have way too much storage space and nothing to put in it (yet) I am probably more like 10 seconds from school and best of all, ITS MINE. All for the grand price of £166 a month. I love Taiwan.
This morning I went into school to meet my class (K2A). They are still on summer camp and the semester doesn’t actually start until next week so no planning was needed, I was just instructed to “get to know and love them”. Well, let me tell you, that took place within about 30 seconds. There are 20 in my class, but only 12 are here for the camp. I learned all their names within about half an hour (I have a weird talent for remembering names) and when I attempted to teach them ‘heads, shoulders, knees and toes’ they speeded up, overtook me and then laughed their heads off. “Miss Sawfie, you beautiful but so slow” a 2ft cutie told me. The rest of that half an hour consisted of me trying to defeat them and get to the end of the song before they did. To this, they were literally in hysterics and unable to breathe (when I say’ they’ I actually mean me, haha!). We had lunch together, brought round by the ‘aunties’ who are basically the resident dinner ladies, although this term does not give them justice. Their cooking is out of this world, and as a member of staff I can request meals for my class a few days in advance, sweet!
I have an autistic boy (undiagnosed but I can spot these children a mile off) who likes to kick, scream, punch other children and cry uncontrollably. However, thanks to the wonderful people I met at my last job, I am very confident that within a few weeks I can calm his behaviour. One colleague told me he was evil and at one point my assistant (how cool does that sound) removed him from my lesson. My strategies are far less isolating/mean, and when I gave him a soft A4 puzzle piece (which I bought for £1 and which he won in a game we played) he held on to it all day and behaved brilliantly when I said I’d take it away if he carried on, he used it as a cushion and as a pillow. I’m also going to make him his own corner and allow him to go and sit there if he feels angry or upset. Watch this space for how that goes.
Lastly, I got told that every semester the school has 3 grand events (greaaat, hello late nights/early mornings), the first is Halloween/parents day. I have the honourable job of deciding on my class’ contribution to the production (song, poem, skit) and ensuring every child has a costume. That’ll be interesting… any ideas/contributions welcome guys!
Right now, I’m just chilling in my new pad, listening to Beyonce (obviously) and singing along loudly (obviously) whilst eating chinese take out, bubble tea (who run the world? Girls.) and making a shopping list for things for the apartment (who run this mutha), I need a lamp, and possibly a rug (who run this mutha). All in all, its been a whirlwind 48 hours, and I could probably write the same amount again about all the mini adventures I’ve had, like going to the mall with a colleague to have dinner yesterday and being asked if I knew the queen, or having the landlady’s children knock on my door and give me cakes and teach me chinese. Cuties.
Tomorrow I’m on a field trip to the zoo with the school and then off for my ‘medical’, (full body check) a requirement for my ‘Resident Alien Card’. Bring it on Taiwan. (Who run the world? Girls.)