Tainan: I came to Tainan, Taiwan to work at an international American high school. I had grown tried of living in Vietnam despite having a high quality of life but things like pollution, communism, and the treatment of people, the environment, and animals pushed me to leave and find a new adventure.
Random Facts About Living in Taiwan:
1. Every receipt is a lottery ticket with 8 digits printed on the top. The lottery is every two months countrywide.
2. Garbage trucks don’t pick up your garbage, they drive around with a song playing like an ice cream truck and you bring your trash to them.
3. Taiwanese don’t consider themselves a part of mainland China. It’s a longer story but essentially Hong Kong and Taiwan don’t want any part of the government that runs China from the censorship to the normalized communism. They want their freedom and independence.
4. Taiwan only has 3 bills: $100, $500, & $1000. They also have a $200 and $2000 but I’ve never seen it as it is seldom used similar to America’s $2 bill or $1 coin. Generally speaking, $100 TWD is just over $3 USD.
5. Taiwan cuisine is probably best known for their beef noodles, stinky tofu, and milk tea. However, finding foreign food is definitely easy from Mexican to Italian to American.
6. Motorbikes have their own reserved spot at the front-right of a lane facing traffic lights. However for motorbikes it’s illegal to directly turn left at major intersections even if you’re in the left turning lane. Instead, if you are on a bike, you must wait until the light turns green then merge into the lane facing the direction you wanted to turn left to and wait again for that light to turn green as well. They have special spots reserved for these riders as well directly under the traffic lights.
7. Taiwanese people are kind but will be especially considerate if you speak Taiwanese as opposed to Chinese. The dialect is somewhat similar but a significant distinction is made with the vocabulary somewhat similar to U.S. vs British English or Spanish in Spain as opposed to Mexico or Puerto Rico.
8. Something you’d never think about Taiwan is that the country is filled with buildings hosting nothing but claw machines boasting a variety of prizes from computer mouses to full-length novels. They are super popular with the locals and visitors alike but behind closed doors it’s believed that Triads run many of these businesses as a form of money laundering considering one play on a machine is 10 Taiwan dollars (33 cents USD) and couldn’t possibly create a profit as the businesses never have more than a few customers at a time.
9. Taiwanese gas stations all have attendants who pour your gas for you. Tipping isn’t expected and is considered unnecessary.
10. You must pay $1 TWD (a fraction of a penny) for each plastic bag you want at checkout in a grocery store.
11. Taiwan beer offers a lot of fruit selections such as grape, mango, and pineapple beer – I hate them all. They do a simple beer called Taiwan Gold Medal which is relatively good though.
12. Generally speaking, you cannot cross over the center of the island because of the mountainous terrain. For example, to get from the northwest to southeast you must go either clockwise or counter-clockwise around the country, not straight through.
13. The Triads run Taiwan. Don’t cross them and know your place and you should be fine. The golden rule in traveling is if you go looking for trouble you’ll find it.
14. Taiwan takes recycling very seriously, if you don’t sort your garbage out, the garbage men/women will call you out on it.
15: Drinks like coffee milk, Buff energy drink, Coca-Cola Clear, & fruit flavored milks like papaya and apple. It took me some getting used to but essentially all are just loaded with sugar yet taste great.
Tonsils: I was unlucky enough to get a fever and sore throat my first month of teaching at my international American school in Tainan. The following week it progressed into what I later learned was a tonsil infection called tonsillar abscess which is when pus deposits collect behind your tonsils. It was excruciatingly painful trying to eat, drink, and talk that even swallowing became eventually impossible. I went to the hospital and was misdiagnosed with simply a severe sore throat, after being unable to sleep for two days straight I opted to go to a specialty doctor with a translated message describing my symptoms.
Upon inspection he immediately knew what I had and began to put on gloves and collect a set of metal surgical instruments. He explained to me in broken English that he needed to pop, sterilize, rinse and suction without any sort of anesthesia or pain relief. I simply said fuck it and braced myself, tightly squeezing the armrests in my chair throughout the procedure. I wasn’t initially worried until I saw the nurse’s worried face who grabbed a trash can and a handful of tissues. The procedure consisted of him shoving different metal instruments down my throat gagging me to the point that I was puking a mess of blood and pus into the trash can repeatedly. Easily, one of the most painful experience of my life.
I was prescribed seven antibiotics.Getaway to Kaohsiung: Having been in Taiwan for just under three months I’ve already encountered an earthquake and now my second monsoon. One of the more popular cities in Taiwan is Kaohsiung which is popular for hiking and less than an hour drive from Tainan but I was unlucky to be caught in constant downpours because of the monsoon.
Moving to Taichung: Taiwan hasn’t been good to me unfortunately. Many schools here believe in working overtime, many public and private schools exercise forms of corporal punishment behind closed doors from screaming at students at the top of their lungs to making them stand on one leg for a period of time. The teaching methods in many schools are outdated, not using technology, not being project and group learning based but relying on paperwork and packets instead and overcrowding their classrooms with fifty students to the point where it is a norm for a teacher to speak using a microphone.
Currently, I am based in a big city called Taichung in the center of Taiwan where I am teaching junior high and high school students – I hate my job to be blunt and plan on leaving in the near future and exploring if I want to stick it out in Taiwan or move on to a new adventure.