July 31, 2014
Goodbye Taipei, you crazy! After 15 days in Taipei it was time to travel to my branch city, Fengyuan. Per usual with HESS I was up at the crack of dawn to be checked out of my hotel room by 8:00am. Now I spent hours packing my large suitcase and carry-on when I left the United States, but when it came time to re-pack my stuff I pretty much just shoved it all in the suitcase and called it good. I re-packed so poorly that I had to open this additional zipper on both my bags to make them larger, and sit on my bags so I could zip them shut. This made both my bags ridiculously awkward, to the point that they couldn’t even sit up properly. 8:00am rolled around and the Central Taiwan group had to say their goodbyes to the rest of the group. When I decided to come to Taiwan I never thought that I would meet such awesome people in just two short weeks. We had all come to Taiwan for different reasons, but we all knew how it felt to be away from home, in a new country knowing very little Mandarin, and starting a new life in a new city. Quickly, Rhein (one of the Human Resources people from HESS) had six HESS teachers and all of our luggage shoved into three different cabs and off to the train station. At the train station we were given our tickets and wished a safe trip. This is the first time I have ever been on a train so I was not even sure how it worked. Plus, my other group members were getting off the train in a different city so I was by myself in one of the cars. A quote someone had told me the 2nd day in Taiwan flashed in my mind: “If you get lost by yourself it is terrifying. If you get lost with friends it is an adventure”. That quote couldn’t explain my feelings about getting lost much better. I asked a person next to me on the platform if I am getting on the right train, and when it pulls up I see there is no number on the train. I stepped towards the train praying that I was getting on the right one.
Now imagine this. This lady foreigner with two heavy suitcases trying to get on a train with a very small opening. Every time I set my carry-on down to move my large suitcase the carry-on would fall over. I get stuck in the aisle halfway to my seat because my suitcase is so large. In one attempt I put my really heavy carry-on in the overhead racks the train has. Then with the help of a Taiwanese woman, that was about a fourth of the size of me (!), I finally get my large suitcase shoved behind a back seat on the car of the train. By this time every person on the train car is looking at me. I can only imagine their thoughts. “What does this foreigner lady think she is doing, trying to bring luggage onto a small train?”.
Two hours later I arrive in Fengyuan. Once again I am struggling with my luggage. I almost dropped my carry-on luggage on a little old Taiwanese woman’s head, but someone quickly helped me. I grabbed my suitcase and dragged my stuff off the train. As I stood on the platform it was kind of like one of those “Toto, I don’t think we are in Kansas anymore” moments, expect I didn’t have a cute, adorable dog to accompany me. A train official started speaking to me in Mandarin and pointing at this platform mover thing and pointing to the other side. He is talking so fast I cannot catch a word so I just do as he says. When I finally get to the other side another train official helps me with my luggage. I walk out and I meet my Branch Manager, Patricia. I feel really bad because it took me so long to get my luggage figured out that she thought I had missed the train or had not gotten off.
With my luggage shoved into a new vehicle Patricia took me to the HESS Branch I will be working at. It is an adorable school!
The school is currently on a little break because they just ended a semester, but normal classes will resume on Monday. While I waited for Patricia I noticed a little boy walking around and looking at me. I later found out that the boy was one of the Administration Managers at the branch so that is why he was there. After a little while Yale warmed up to me and started speaking English with me in full sentences and with no accent. I had just been told over and over again how smart these HESS kids were and how quickly they learn English, and here was the perfect example right in front of me. When we went to lunch he came with as well and we had the silliest conversations in English. By the way, lunch was delicious!
After lunch Patricia took me to look at apartments. The prices ranged from 6,000 to 8,500 NT. What I thought was going to be an easy choice ended up being very difficult. One apartment had horrible lighting, and others had very little furniture. Not to mention it was very hot so I was sweating the entire time. Patricia noticed that I was getting tired, but I said we should just look at one more apartment. We walked down this alleyway with odd structured buildings to a brand new apartment. While we waited for the landlady to show up all I could think about is how much this apartment was going to cost. For a brand new apartment that was fully furnished it would cost 8,000 NT, plus some utilities, so it would only cost me 300 USD to live in an apartment by myself in Taiwan. With the added security that the building offered I was really happy with what I saw. It is interesting in Taiwan. One-bedroom apartments do not have kitchens. Only one apartment I looked at had a kitchen, and by kitchen I mean a sink and a counter space to put some dishes and things on it. I’m a little sad because I really do like cooking, so now I am not quite sure how that is going to work. Luckily food is cheap here if you know the right places to go. All apartments do come with a mini fridge so that is nice.
The apartment search was finally over for the day. Patricia took me to the hotel that I was going to stay in for the night. The hotel was realllyyyyyy nice compared to the one I stayed in in Taipei. My hotel room in Fengyuan is three times the size of the one in Taipei, and has a big bed. Needless to say that my branch has been treating me very well so far. I spent the rest of the night resting, something I had not done in two weeks.