August 28: I arrived in Taiwan at 6 am on Sunday morning (6 am Saturday, Calgary time), bereft of a day, bleary eyed and excited. The recruiting agency I went through to get my teaching job sent a driver, so I was met by a tall, very quiet Taiwanese man who maneuvered all my luggage and me into a deliciously air conditioned black sedan with black leather seats. It was so nice, I felt like I shouldn’t be touching anything. It was still early so there wasn’t much traffic and I floated on a leather cloud into Taipei. Along the highway, I had my first palm tree sighting. Palm trees makes me so happy: signifies me being warm. And warm I was. Already, at 7 am, it was 28 degrees, and humid as a greenhouse.
Janice picked me up from my hostel later that morning, and took me on a mini-tour of Taipei. We had a pre-lunch at a little dumpling stand and fruit shakes on the way to meet her friends for lunch. Lunch was more dumplings (one with a filling called “loofah”, which was actually quite good and not at all like the mental image it conjures), wontons in hot sauce, chinese cabbage, egg roll looking things with slices of meat and cucumber, and for dessert, coconut tapioca pudding with chunks of taro root, and a crepe like thing with red bean paste filling. After lunch, the typhoon that had been blowing in for the better part of the day opened up and it started to rain like it was going out of style. Which cooled things down a bit, although it remained extremely humid. Rain so far hasn’t really phased me too much, it’s not cold and I’m damp all the time already.
August 29: The typhoon was blowing Monday morning when Jan, ever the incredible hostess, took me to the high speed rail station so I could get to Taoyuan, and when I did arrive at the school, the children had been instructed to stay home. My first “typhoon day”. Sounds so much cooler than a “snow day”. Apparently, there are about three that can be expected during typhoon season. But there wasn’t too much untoward weather going on – it was windy and rainy but nothing scary. The storm was concentrated more on the southern bits of the island. But better safe than sorry with all the little ones.
So I spent the morning at the school, going over paperwork and class schedules and the like, feeling more and more in over my head.
Still jet-lagged, I had trouble sleeping through the night, and started to have a bit of a panic attack. And I prayed for another typhoon day; anything to get me out of teaching the next day. Why did I ever think this was a good idea?!
Good part: I met my roommate, Madalyn, who had also just started teaching at my school, and we are going to get along famously. Right now, we are staying with one of the Taiwanese teachers, Bella. She has two extra rooms, so that worked out pretty well. My room is essentially a closet, but the living room is sizable enough so as not to be completely claustrophobic. The location is good: 20 minute walk to and from school, and close to everything I could want or need. There is a martial arts studio next store, and a Buddhist temple on the corner. And further on, all kinds of convenience stores and restaurants and street food stands and fruit stands and bubble tea joints. It’s great.
One of the more interesting parts, so far, about living in Taoyuan is the garbage collection. On my first night, Madalyn asked if I wanted to go and take out the garbage with her. Being a cheap date, I said okay. So we took a couple small plastic bags of garbage out to the corner, and there were a bunch of other people doing the same. And then I heard this tinkling, tinny song coming from down the street, like an ice cream truck. But a little bit more sinister. People follow the music, with their little bags of garbage. And sure enough, it’s coming from the garbage trucks. It’s playing Mozart. A creepy, kind of terrible Mozart. Apparently, Taiwan has a very efficient garbage collection system. There are even separate canisters for compost and regular garbage on the trucks. And the recyclying system appears to be really thorough as well.
August 30: First day of teaching. Unfortunately, no typhoon day. Technically I didn’t have classes until 1:30 today, but I didn’t know how to get there on my own yet so I walked with Madalyn to be there for 9. I intended to grab some books and go wandering for the morning, but when I got there, the school decided to let me sit in on some of the other foreign teachers, Martins’ classes for the day. I figured that was a really, really good idea. Martin is a great teacher. He’s from South Africa and he’s been doing this for 5 years. He’s animated and goofy and kids just adore him. He is a giant help to Madalyn and I.
The morning passed pleasantly, and we broke for lunch at 11:30. Classes are structured a half an hour of instruction, 15-20 minutes break in between until after 5 when classes are 40 minutes. And then one of the directors (there’s the overall director of the school and then two subdirectors, one for primary school and the other for kindergarten) tells me that they actually need to me to teach the K4s, my main class, this afternoon. I held it together surprisingly well for how completely unplanned my lessons were and how much I had been freaking out the night before. I think it helps when you don’t have a night to overthink it. When you only have a couple of hours, you just plan the lessons and hope for the best. So I taught my first two classes. And it was not nearly as bad as I expected. It was even… fun. The kids are adorable, and this class was so eager to shout out answers that it was hard to get them to stop. There were a couple points where I lost them and needed to change course, or lost my train of thought and just stared at the book for a minute. But not as nearly a big a disaster as I anticipated.
I can do this.