When I go to a 7-11 or when I see one it often reminds me of Apu from the Simpsons. If you have seen the Simpsons you know that his Kwik-E-mart you can do anything there. Here in Taiwan that one stop place for almost anything you can possibly need is at a local 7-11. I know many of you may have heard of the possibilities of what can be done there. I will assume we are on the same page on what we heard but man I heard you can do even more while I have been here.
In a local 7-11 here it looks like your basic convenience store. They sell snacks, candies, drinks, alcohol, tobacco and hot foods. They also have either bar style seating or tables sometimes both. You also see two ATM machines one is an ATM machine the other offer other services, and a copy machine. If you turn on your phone you can get free wifi but the catch is you need a local number to access the free wifi.
At a 7-11 you can do the following:
·Pay your bills
·Sit there and eat
·Have stuff delivered there
·Have your clothes cleaned
·Refill on prepaid minutes
·Sit there like it’s a café
·Pay with an easy card (metro pass)
·Copy and fax
·I was told you can get a sim card there
·Buy liquor, it’s a small section but it’s there
·Buy health and beauty products, they have more than shampoo.
This is everything that I was able to find out so far as to what you can do at a 7-11. I’m sure I may have missed a couple of things. As many people say here, “You can do almost everything at a 7-11.” I believe it too, I was told to go pay for my utilities at 7-11 every month.
In the midst of training I was still able to go and observe part of local life the best I can. When I go out with colleagues for dinner or do errands, we got a lot of stares. I don’t know if it was because they were white or that I was the only Asian among the group, maybe both. It got interesting when an individual want something specific; the vendors were looking at me to speak Mandarin to them. Then I get locked into this stare with the vendor unintentionally, I feel like they are thinking “Do you really not speak Mandarin?” After multiple accounts like this I would here and there drift from the group to not have these “awkward” stares. The struggles are real.
I have also noticed how open the LGBT community is here. I know it has become a cultural norm in Western society. It seems Taiwan has followed suite in this area. As far as I know no Asian country has an open LGBT community. I have not checked on the facts but I have heard that Taiwan is the most liberal Asian country and possibly with be the first Asian country to legalize gay marriage. I also learned from oneof my tours that there was a park back then that gays would go to to feel safe and find someone special. There are still remnants of that today in the park.
Transportation not only in Taipei but the whole country is by scooter or moped. I learned that Taiwan has the highest scooter per capita in the whole I was surprised. They are everywhere. When I was in the main office for training I would look down from the 8th floor and see a massive flood of scooters weaving through traffic and waiting a stop lights. They have a special law for scooter drivers. If you want to make a left turn you have to turn right and go into a marked box that is white. The white box is in the lane(s) that is going straight to the road you want to turn onto. This is the legal way to make left turns on a scooter, unless your bike meets the require cc power to make the left turn. You also have your bus, cabs and metro lines.
When I went to the local Taiwan banks to exchange money I ended up going to three different banks. Bank one took all the money I had and gave back most because it was too old for them to take it and exchange it. Bank two told me that the bank across the street has a higher exchange rate. Bank number three took the rest of my money to exchange it and charge a $2 fee for the unacceptable bills that I had; but still took it to exchange them. So good looking money only if you physically bring in bills to exchange in the country.
There are also temples and altars almost everywhere; more than one would think. I walk past about 3 when I walk to the huge store in my city and it’s only a 20 minute walk. Everyone the southern part of the USA is known as the Bible belt and that’s one of the best ways to describe the temples and altars. They are Taoist, Confucius or Buddhist. On the street you will often find metal can like small garbage cans outside. It is often used to burn money to ancestors. I have witnessed two in my three week period here.
I’m a little slack in my updates but training has been officially since the 22nd of this month. I’m glad to be done it began to drag a little bit after day three or so. There were so much information shared with us, I hope something was retained in my mind during the duration of training. When you sit for 7-8 hours, a lot of information is shared. Then you go and hangout with colleagues at least for dinner, it can take a toll on an individual. As draining as it was I also enjoyed it and hopefully made some lasting relationships with some colleagues.
During training there were quite a few people with an English accent, not all from the U.K. After interacting with them for the past week and a half, I picked up some of their intonations and accent in certain words. I don’t think it’ll stick with me though.
Now that training is over I will no longer be in Taipei, I have been placed in the district of Taishan which is in the Sanchong area. During training some people have decided that this wasn’t for them and left the training; this happened after we have received our assignments. Then the team had to readjust some things and I was offered the opportunity to change branches if I so desire to. I asked for information about the new place. I was told it is a large city of about 1 million people and still in development. When I was told this I was surprised because I considered that to be a huge city since large cities in the US don’t run that big.
After weighing out my options and choosing it solely base one what they tell me only I chose to move my assignment to Taoyuan. I figured I will be city enough for me and having been in a small town my whole life a little change won’t hurt.
Now begins my adventures in learning how to be a functional citizen in Taiwan. As of posting this blog I have found a place and got lost on my first day walking to work, in the rain! Man was that an adventure, when every alley looks like the last one you was just looking down. The confusion is real.
My first full week here in Taiwan has not been eventful but a lot of learning. I have spent my first three days looking around the Taipei area. When day four began, training started for me. The week of training with Hess was pretty intense. There were forty of us over the course of the week a couple of them realized that teaching English to kids was not there thing.
We learned so much during the week, we were all exhausted from all the learning and demonstrations we had to do. Luckily today they gave us a full day off from training which in turn allows me to be away from people and recharge. Briefly my daily routine was like this for the week: wake up, breakfast, walk to the office, training/demo, lunch, training/demo, walk back/or grab dinner. Next week will be the second week of training for me. I hope it doesn’t feel long like this past week.
They took us on a bus tour, which I don’t really remember. I spent most of it being fascinated by what I saw as we drove not what I heard. I recall there being some history being shared as well as the Western’s go to places in the Taipei area; I only remember IKEA being pointed out.
Throughout the training week I interacted and met with many people from all over. I have come to only interact with a couple of people instead of the myriad of people there. I’m glad that it’s like this that way I am able to know them well and develop better relationships with them. Although we will be placed at different branches, it’ll still be good keep those relations so when we to feel at home we have each other.
I’ll be posting a blog about my own thoughts soon when I have collected my thoughts.
Day three is Sunday here. I spent last night trying to figure out what to do on this first Sunday in Taipei. I decided on contacting a person from my alma mater to see when church begins for them. I haven’t met this person but was connected through a mutual friend that we have. After service at Taipei International she had asked what kind of time I had to spend with her that day. Technically I had a tour planned with some colleagues but I opt to skip out on that to spend the day getting acquainted with a new person.
We went out for lunch, up to Yangmingshan Park; which is a range of mountains in northern Taiwan and has a hot spring nearby. You can imagine the smell of sulfur in this area, it is strong. We continue to the calla lily flower farm and grabbed dinner. I had a really great time getting to know a new sister. We talked about our upbringing and where we are in life. Discussions of what should we do next, life being unfair and should we still continue down the path that we are going.
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This day has been my most relaxed day since being here. I needed a break from interacting with the mass of different people and the city. I was glad I was able to have a day like this day. I also am missing southeastern Asian food already and I haven’t even been here for a week yet. I think the food struggle is going to be real this time.
Day four consisted of the first day of training with Hess. It was nothing to major today getting some administrative work out of the way and got to meet more people. After training we couple of us went to go grab dinner. Now all of us are foreigners to this country no one speaks mandarin and we go out for food. Granted it was a restaurant next to the hotel and there where English with their menu.
We are seated and decide what we are eating, but we sit there for a while. I knew that some places have a list for you to mark what you want to order and this place was one of them; but no one knew. No one saw the waitress put an order book down with us until one guy said “oh yeah there’s this book thing here.” So we go to order our food but the checklist is all written in traditional Chinese. We all struggle to match what we saw on the menu with the paper. In the end it was successful we all got what we ordered. The only exception was that we got a drink and didn’t know who it belonged to, but it was still successful for no one not knowing how to speak Mandarin.
Yesterday was day two in Taipei I spent it looking for a coffee shop, going on a tour and hanging out with future colleagues. My roommate and I made our way to Ximending to find a coffee shop a friend told me about, The Aroma. When we got to Ximen there were lanterns still set out from the festival they are having; I think today is the last day for them. I was excited to go to this coffee shop because I haven’t had a good cup of coffee since I have been here. I am a skeptic when it comes to Asian own coffee shops; I haven’t had a good cup from one.
We made a big circle before we were able to find the place. When you are in a new area there’s nothing like guessing which direction you ought to go. The coffee shop is a nice cozy place, it has two floors. The first floor is the barista work area with outside seating and the second floor indoor seating. I think I will be coming back to this place if I’m not relocated to far from it.
Around mid-afternoon we joined other colleagues on a group tour with an organization called tourmeaway. You can check them out here https://www.facebook.com/tourmeaway/. They do free tours but do take donations at the end. We toured what they title “Old Taipei”, where we walked from the east gate to the west gate. It was informative because I don’t know much of Taiwan’s history. It also happened to be lantern festival as well so there were more people than expected in some areas during the tour.
We end around dinner time. A few colleagues and I went to Raohe Night Market to go grab some food. I had some killer dumplings it hit the spot for me. The market itself is one street maybe 3-4 blocks worth of walking. I will have to say it is the most dense night market I have been to. I think because the walk way is more narrow compared to the other ones I have been to. As we were standing around waiting for some individuals to finish their food. The volume of the group got louder and I began to feel embarrassed to stand with them. Those eyes looking at you when they walk by and the face made with it. My first hand experience as to why countries think Americans are loud and obnoxious.
Yesterday was my first full day in Taiwan. There is nothing like wondering the streets of Taipei when you are tired and hunger. I learned how to use the MRT (subway). I will say that was the easiest thing that I learned so far my first day here. I wondered the streets with my roommate who ironically is from SC. She is a character and also knows more Chinese then I do. Together we navigated through Taipei. She spoke the Chinese, I was the map.
We navigate our way to Elephant Mountain, where we also learned how to get a MRT (subway) card and accustom ourselves to how the system works. I still do not understand why there are stairs when you climb a mountain. This gets me everytime and will probably always get me when I climb a mountain in Asia. When we got to the top it is a beautiful view I only wish it wasn’t cloudy that day.
When you wonder the streets right after getting off the plane you get hungry. Airplane food doesn’t match up to eating fresh food. I was looking for places that had some English while my roommate was looking for characters she can recognize and say. We were able to get steamed pork buns, dumplings and Taiwanese Turkish food. At a 7-11 I was able to get Mr. Brown Coffee brand for .74 cents USD. I did not buy much food for the first day but I spent only $7 USD for everything that day.
I would have to say not to bad of a first day after a 13.5 hour flight. I know that the struggles are real and will set in in a couple days. I am a non functional being in Taiwan right now and I don’t like it.
Here in Taiwan I am and will enjoy my time here. When training begins on the 13th it will still determine if I can be a successful employee with my school Hess. Successful training is employment for the next year. I believe I made myself nervous but I think the nervousness will subside by then.
While I am writing this paragraph, I am waiting for my departure from Atlanta to San Francisco. It is suppose to depart at 1935 but has been delayed by a hour so now I am looking at possibly missing my connecting flight. I was told I will have about a 40 minute window to catch my connecting flight.
The plane from Atlanta departed at 2035 but once we got to the runway we are delayed by another 10 minutes because we have not been cleared for takeoff yet. At this point I am thinking I better not have to rebook another flight. The plane lands in San Francisco at about 2308 and now I am looking at the time okay I still have about 30 minutes to get to my connecting flight; it departs at 0005.
I get off the plane and begin walking fast. I am walking in boots carrying a bag that weighs about 15 lbs, a large Bible, Lotso and a laptop bag. I am not one to walk fast so this was pushing it. I get to the train to get to the international terminal and I look at the time, there’s 25 minutes left to takeoff. I begin walking fast to the international checkpoint to catch my flight; suddenly the guard said I needed a new boarding pass. In my head I was saying not pleasant words. I go and get a new boarding pass with China Airline. The night crew that was still there said that they’ll have to see if the gate is closed or not since it was boarding already. The manager comes out and says they are waiting for me so I have to go fast.
I begin running from the check-in counter in my boots and carrying all those stuff. I go through the checkpoint then have to get a pat down because of technology error. As the lady is doing the pat down, I ask her how far A9 is from here she said about a 5 minute walk. After being cleared I grab my stuff from the conveyor belt and begin putting stuff in pockets so I don’t miss my flight. A lady ask me where I was going I told her A9, she said you better hurry they are waiting for you. I begin running down the airport carrying all my stuff and people looking at me like “she should have arrived a whole lot early.”
As I near the end of the wing I see 7 and 8 but I do not see 9. I got closer and saw that it was downstairs. I go downstairs and the night crew is all standing there waiting for me. It is cool that they held the plane for me but at the same time they didn’t have to. After I boarded and got settled in I looked at my watch to only see that I got there at about 2350. I was impressed despite the amount of obstacles in the way. I really appreciated the fact that China Airline waited for me so I didn’t have to wait for another flight. I thank God that despite these different obstacles that came with this flight I was still able to make all of the departures on time. All this to say that I have made it safe to Taiwan.^^
I had recently accepted a position to teach English as a foreign language back in November, now as time draws near to my departure to Taiwan; I am filled with emotions of excitement and nervousness. The move fills me with excitement because I will be starting a new adventure in a new place where I know nothing or anyone. I am nervous because I will be going to a place where I do not know how to be a functional person in that country yet. Let alone I will be teaching English as a foreign language which I did not formally prepare for nor ever thought I would do this.
As I clean and pack, the thought of “I am really moving out of the country” and “What did I just do for the next however long with my life” is hitting me. I have also been hanging out with friends, former colleagues and those that I consider to be family to me; it has made me realize some things about life. The amount of time that I have known these individuals I will miss the uniqueness they bring to the conversations and interactions that I had with them. They helped share perspectives and wisdom which I would probably not have gained until later in life. The myriad of jokes told, discussions, working, studying, laughter, coffee runs, eating food and so much more; I will miss doing these things with them. They have imparted knowledge into my life that has allowed me to think about life differently, whether it be in a subtle or big way. There is still more that can be said about them but I will end it here. I can only hope that I was able to do the same for them.
Some people have asked me what my goal(s) are while I am over there. Frankly I do not have any and it is perfectly fine. I do know that I am going to enjoy this opportunity that I have been bless with and see where it will take me. I have been asked if it is an indefinite move, I cannot say. The unknown is uncertain and I think that a solid answer cannot be given but only hopes of things turning out the way one desires them to. If I were to put a goal on this experience it would be to see if this is the can food that I should to be eating for the next however long in my life. If it is not, after the first can is empty or when enough is consume; it will be time to try a new can food.
I think that this is God’s way of showing me that what I currently have planned is not the only way to have that dream job. I have consumed enough corn during this period of life; it is time to try the black beans for this next part of life.