“Try to rain on me now, Taiwan!”
July 17, 2014
*Beware: horrible jetlagged writing ahead!
I’m finally in Taiwan! I was very lucky because had smooth flights and arrived in Taiwan right on time. Going through the airport was a smooth transition. I had no problems going through immigration. They stamped my passport with a 90-day visitors visa, and off I went. I felt kind of fancy because I had a driver waiting for me with a “Ms. Vanessa Burggraff – HESS” sign. It was kind of like “hey, that’s me! Take me to a bed please!” The driver took me to the hotel and I was in bed within an hour. What I thought was going to be an evening of putting my head on the pillow and crashing ended up being a very restless evening. I think I woke up almost every hour. It didn’t even matter that I had to get up at 6:00am because I was already beating my alarm clock to the punch.
(Subsequently I have been waking up at 5:00am repeatedly. Don’t ask me why. At the moment I am now working on this post at 5:00am.)
Right away in the morning we had breakfast and then the start of orientation at 7:45am. The HR department of HESS reminds me a lot of HR departments back in the US. A bunch of lively and energetic people that is ready to help you get set-up in Taiwan. While some of their quirkiness is rather amusing I am also very grateful for their energy, optimism, and willingness to help or answer any question. With some of the people being from South Africa, Zimbabwe, or England I feel like I have accents stuck in my head. Which is rather amusing and strange at the same time.
Now that I have been with the HESS group for a day I have seen all the different types of people that have decided to do the same thing as me. Our group is made up of all different ages, singles, couples, and people from all over the world. From what I have picked up from there are people from the United States, Canada, England, and South Africa. What is even more encouraging is to meet all these people who have loved HESS/Taiwan so much that they decided to stay and have now been working and living in Taiwan for 3 or more years.
My group was the first one to go to the hospital to get our medical exams. Since health care in Taiwan is socialist it was very efficient and feels kind of like you are being shuffled along like cattle. I think the whole process of talking to the doctor, taking blood pressure and weight, paying for the exam, getting blood drawn, and getting an x-ray only took about 2 hours. And that is with almost 20 people all getting an exam! Also, my exam only cost $69 USD and I do not have insurance in Taiwan yet. Overall, it was a good experience at the hospital and I really don’t have any complaints about Taiwanese health care thus far.
The first attraction we saw of the day was the Xingtian Temple
This temple is located right across from the HESS main headquarters building.
The HR people told us that the owner of HESS built it across from the temple in order to bring wealth and prosperity to HESS. It must be working because so far HESS seems to be doing very well for themselves.
Next was lunch. Our big group went to a restaurant that served us food family style. All the dishes were placed in front of us on a round circle that we could spin. All very decent food. After just one day of being in Taiwan I can see how easy it can be for me to be a vegetarian here if I was to choose to. I have also realized how much Chinese I am lacking. It is definitely easy to get by, but it is just an added hassle than if I knew the language.
On a tour bus we were shown the city and all the different places one could go to. We then stopped at the memorial of Dr Sun Yat-Sen. Dr. Sun Yat-Sen was known for dedicating 40 years of his life to revolutionary activities in China. There are guards there that protect this monument and do changing of the guards just like some of the memorials located in Washington D.C.
Taipei 101 happened to be very close to where we were in location. This is known to be the 2nd tallest building in the world.
Next stop was another monument. Here we did see the changing of the guards. I respect those men for standing in that heat and humidity in full gear. Currently, the Army is in charge of guarding this monument. Right next to this monument is two theater halls. They were both large and magnificent.
The day with HESS was finally over and we went back to our hotel. (The jetlag was starting to affect me even more by this time so I was really ready to lie down). I relaxed and ended up taking a 15 minute nap. That nap seemed more like hours of sleep. After the brief amount of sleep me and some other teachers met up with a person that had been in Taipei for a week. We walked around looking for food. The best part about Taiwan is the alleys. In America you usually avoid alleyways because they are sketchy. In Taiwan alleys hold hidden treasures of food and night markets. After walking around for a bit we found a place to eat that had an English translation of the menu. We all just ordered together and our meal came to a total of 240TWD or $8 USD, so I just paid for a meal for $2. I am really glad that I was eating with more adventurous people than myself. There was “fish balls” on the menu, and I personally was a little weary hearing the name. But they were actually pretty tasty, and I am pretty sure it was fish but rather pork.
After dinner we did find a small night market. There I was able to buy an umbrella for $3USD. All the HESS supervisors kept warning about rain and how in Taipei “when it rains, it pours”, and they mean literally. So as Rachael so lovely quoted: “try to rain on me now Taiwan!”
I realized a few things by the end of Day 1 in Taiwan:
- I need to get better at using chopsticks.
- My Chinese sucks (oh wait. What Chinese? Haha. That’s right I don’t know any.).
- It is so freaking hot here. It isn’t even so much the heat but the combination of the heat and humidity. At least at night it gets a little more bearable since dusk starts around 6:00pm here.
- I really don’t know anything about Taiwan. All the things I thought I knew coming here seem to be so irrelevant now. While this is a little discouraging it is also okay. It just means more things to learn and adapt to.
- Writing a blog is work. With so much to pack into what happened in one day it can take up to 3 hours. But I really need this to reflect and I hope that soon the distance between me being a stranger to this country and me being familiar to Taiwan will change.
- My sense of time is totally out of whack! I am ahead of the Midwest by 11 hours, so I am still adjusting to the time change, when I can talk to everyone, and what day it is back at home. Already I have missed saying happy birthday to a few people and a few other things. While I know everyone back at home understands I still feel a bit guilty.
- I miss my phone. I just want to be able to Google where to go to get somewhere, and also be able to text people at a reasonable time instead of at 4:00am(US time). No one is going to answer me that early in the morning. I believe on Tuesday I will be able to get a Taiwanese SIM card and get my phone up and running.
So far everything is very new, exciting, and overwhelming. I am just trying my best to go with the flow and look at as many things as possible. But at least I have an umbrella now 😉