I hunched forward. My stomach tightened. I ran to the bathroom and expected the worst. This was the 3rd time I had made the quick dash that day. I was in the middle of my Taiwan Orientation, the all-anticipated, extremely painful – food poisoning. Saturday morning I woke up being stabbed in the stomach, not literally of course, but let me tell you that’s how it felt. With the deadline for planning looming over me I had no choice but to sit chained to my laptop, with a flask of hot water (fashioned into a hot water bottle by the use of a fancy pink towel) and rock backwards and forwards. Erin came in at noon, “fancy going downtown?” (you have to say it in your best Californian accent) and then 4 hours later – “you still coming to the comedy show tonight?” I tell her no to the former and yes to the latter – stomach contractions dependent. I really wanted to go, but the thought of having to meet a million and one new expats with this level of pain was looking more and more like capital punishment the closer the time got. I sucked it up.
Before I flew out here a wise woman told me to take any invite that gets handed to you, even if you feel like shit (which I did) because you’re here to make friends and enjoy it. So I took two of the strongest painkillers I had, had a shower, got changed and met Erin downstairs to travel half hour by scooter to Jhubei – a city just outside of Hsinchu.
The 30 minute drive at night through the city was incredible. Everything was lit up, the wind was in my hair/face and as we whizzed past the main river and Buddhist temple (they do not scrimp on their religious buildings, let me tell you) I knew I had made the right decision to go. We pulled up outside a sports bar and inside I saw a sea of foreigners. I ordered some fries, a sprite and spoke to a few of the punters. No other British people except for one, extremely over the top camp gay guy who annoyed the crap out of everybody. People were mainly American or South African and were surprised I was from England, let alone London and so young. I was definitely the youngest in there, with Erin being the closest one in age.
Unfortunately, the comedy show did not have much comedic factor. Out of 11 acts, which included a Hill Billy who spoke for 15 minutes about “masturbation-oh yeah-m*tha- fu**ker” and a guy who used flashcards with the tiniest writing that nobody could read for his prop; there were about 2 skits which were actually funny. One was a team of improv guys who took commands from the audience, and another guy who had a puppet (a really old, grumpy Rastafarian dog wearing dungarees and glasses). The main source of entertainment was watching Heidi get seriously drunk and attempt to persuade everybody to go onto another club downtown. To which I declined as my stomach did a good job of holding up for 5 hours as it was and I was not about to subject it to flashing lights and vodka shots. I said goodbye to my new foreign friends, Erin dropped me home and took a taxi back into town. I fell asleep instantly and had a solid 13 hours.
Which leads me to yesterday. I was invited to go “check out” the night market, back in Jhubei with Brad from school and his girlfriend Kera, who I briefly met at the hospital a week or so ago. I took a taxi (all by myself!) and with no cell phone (ahem I mean mobile) I had put all my trust in these guys, that they would meet me, by the big 7/11 at 7 ‘o’ clock. They did (thankfully, or else I was stranded in a city with no mobile or Mandarin) and the night market was incredible. It’s basically a huge car park which transforms into a million lights, food stalls, clothes stalls, games and bars every Sunday night. We wandered round for ages, taking in all the different snacks they had to offer us (literally everything you can imagine, but on a stick. Squid on a stick, pancake on a stick, French fries on a stick, I mean it… everything on a stick). Eventually we decided against the fresh shark that was sitting on ice as if it had just been caught off the Taiwanese coast and settled on some satay chicken (on a stick), fried vegetable dumplings (on a stick) and green peppers and mushrooms (on a stick). To wash it down we ordered watermelon smoothies and Brad and Britt (another foreign teacher from school who joined us with his Taiwanese wife) had 3 pints of beer. I bought a tiny bag of Chinese pot puree for my room and made my way back home.
After a wonderful day today with K2A (E wasn’t in so you can imagine how blissfully calm and quiet it was) and a semi-stressful time with P4A (I want to back hand the idiot round the head sometimes) I am just about ready to get out of school, come home, eat my free dinner (a giant piece of fried chicken… think KFC, but actual white meat, and more oriental sweet batter rather salty oily fat) and put a movie on. But, before long, Erin pops her head round my classroom door and says “hey, what you doing tonight?” (again, best Californian accents please). I tell her I’m knackered and that I’m gonna grab my free dinner, clock out and go home. “aw me too, I’ve got a free ticket to yoga though, if you fancy it? It’s downtown, wanna come?” I ask her if its in English. Its not. “But you just copy what everyone else is doing, trust me, its fun”. I give in, grab my dinner, dump my stuff at home and jump on the back of her scooter. Before I know it, I’m sat in a very dimly lit gym room, surrounded by a whole bunch of seriously hardcore Chinese yoga-ers with a very slender instructor speaking verrrrrry slowly to wonderful soft Chinese music. I smile to myself. I’ve never felt further away from home.
An hour later, I’m sat at home. Feeling so incredibly relaxed and weirdly energised at the same time. The class was absolutely amazing. I had no idea what she was saying. But copying everyone else worked a treat. I also was very proud at the amount of times she had to come round and correct my posture in comparison to everyone else. I guess that ‘Pilates for Dummies’ DVD I did religiously back home actually paid off. At the very end the lights went off, the music turned up and the instructor repeatedly said ‘for-so…….for-so…….for-so.’ I guessed it meant breathe deeply, or maybe just ‘breathe’. Whatever she said, I closed my eyes and switched off.
I still can’t believe I live in Taiwan. But going to a local’s yoga class has helped me feel like this really is my new home (as well as receiving my first parcel, eee!). I’m now sat at my desk, with my mango smoothie that we picked up on the way back (which is basically a giant tub of very sugary ice-cream/slush that cost me 50p) feet up and Beyonce on. Life is sweet.