Monday, February 14, 2011

Arrival in Taiwan

I wanna take you all back to my arrival in Taipei, Taiwan and my search for a job here.  I tried to get some work before I left England, but most places wanted to interview me first and would not do this through the phone or the Internet.  The only people who would do this didn't want me so I was jetting off to Taiwan with no job, nowhere to live, and a little bit of money to see me by until I got a job.

When I moved to Taiwan, one of Jen's best friends said I could sleep on her floor until I found a job, and a place to live however long that may take.  So I was sleeping on Jen's best friends floor.  This was totally fine however because her best friend is really, nice, kind and friendly.  Right about now I should maybe tell you her name, she is called Olivia.  I was really shocked when Olivia told me that she got me my own set of keys cut for her apartment, this showed that she really trusted me in her home.

Entrance to Olivia's apartment building.

The lane which Olivia lives.

The street that leads to Olivia's apartment.

Olivia lives in an old style mid rise apartment.  Inside her apartment is huge, but it only has one bedroom.  So I said I would just stay on the floor in the front room.

When Olivia heard about this she told me "no! It's too hot now!"  With it being the middle of the summer and her front room having no air con she insisted that I slept on bedroom floor so that I would be able to keep cool in the evenings and sleep well.  I was a bit worried about this at first because I didn't want to intrude in her personal space.

The view from Olivia's apartment.

After some time of sleeping on Olivia's floor and staying in her apartment helped us to become good friends.  This was good because staying in such close proximity to someone you don't really know that well could either make you hate each other or become good friends, and I am happy to say that me and Olivia became good friends.

The area where she lives is quite OK, good for getting cheap food, as it is a big residential area.  It is also very close to Shilin Night Market (which is for another blog.)


While staying at Olivia's apartment most of my time spent there was spent on looking for a jobs and going to demos.  Jen was not only my girlfriend at this time she was pretty much my agent, manager, demo coach, and personal assistant.  She was helping me to arrange all the demos, and making sure that everything was taken down in order and arranged so we could easily check which demo we had to be for, and when!  This was a great great help to me because I am a very un organised person, so she has helped me to become more organised than I ever was in the past.

We were getting around two to three demos for every day of the week.  I didn't know what to expect from the demos and didn't really know what to do in them at the beginning it was like learning to do interviews all over again.  I would ask them on the phone but a lot of employers here in Taipei never wanted to tell me what they expected me to do.  They preferred the element of surprise it would seem, to throw the new would be teacher in their school.  This entitling the employer to see how the new employee would think on their feet, but their thought process is flawed because you can't show how good you will be in 10 - 20 minutes.

I would turn up to demos not knowing anything, but I knew one thing I had to find a job.  Otherwise I would run out of money and time.  Then I would of been back on a flight to England with my tail between my legs.

After doing about 10 demos it finally sunk in what employers here wanted you to say and what kind of things they were looking for.  So we would practice at night, with my fake students of my girlfriend Jen and my temporary house mate Olivia.  The reason I had to do a lot of practice and research was because in the eyes of employers here in Taipei I had a lot of faults and I knew I was going to have to improve very quickly and very fast!

The faults I had were endless according to employers here, they complained about my writing, that I was nervous, didn't make animal noises to the kids (when trying to tell them animal vocab,) didn't explain things clearly, wouldn't be able to manage the class, etc etc the list really was endless!!!

Then we (well I should say Jen, but I am taking some credit to, because if I was not so shit she would of never had the idea) had another good idea.  We would set up a class room in Olivia's bedroom for practice.  So every night I would have to plan and pretend I was going to give a demo and do it the night before in the room.  It was really embarrassing, but it helped me a lot to become more confident in a demo situation and helped me greatly to getting that first job here.

This is not my white board!

We went to Taipei main station and bought notepads, board markers, and the key ingredient a small white board.  This was to practice my writing and Olivia and Jen would be my practice students.

My new office.

I done demos at just about every buxiban (extra school, normally for things like English, Maths, etc etc.  To specialise more in one subject.) and a lot of the small private owned cram schools here in Taipei.

I just kept believing in myself and stayed determined I knew I was good at working with kids.  I knew from all the past experience I have in England, Germany, and America.  I had to stay determined because I would not be leaving Taipei that easy. As this was the start of my friendship with Taipei.

Keep on keeping on!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Sky Lantern Festival - Pingxi.

We had decided during the week that we were going to go to the Lantern Festival in Pingxi.  We had to make sure we would  get there as early as we could though because it was going to be really busy, because Jen told me the biggest Lantern Festival is in Pingxi.

So after work finished today, I rushed back home to drop of my bag and pick up my cameras as me and Jen were heading to the sky lantern festival. I had arranged to meet Jen in Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station but she called me asking me to meet her for food at Nanjing East Road.  I agreed and then proceeded to get there as fast as I could.

What I didn't encounter was sitting on the bus from work to the MRT station in Xinpu for about 25 mins, a ride that normally takes 10 minutes.  This was going to make me a little late but I thought if I could be quick I could make it.

I arrived at Nanjing East Road at 1.10, then called Jen to ask her where she was, turns out she was only at Zhongxiao Fuxing station, so then I ran back over to the other side and quickly got on another MRT back to Zhongxiao Fuxing.  When I got off the MRT at Zhongxiao Fuxing I got a call from Jen to ask if I was getting off the MRT, I got another call from Jen saying she was getting on the MRT and I should come to straight to the back and get on the MRT.  The only problem with this plan was, that I was at the very front and their was a lot of people in between.

So off I trudges, trying to barge my way through people to get to the back, then I heard the noise the doors shutting and I could not see which car Jen was in, I was still barging through people but then the doors closed.

Then I got another call from Jen asking where I was, and after we had a chat we arranged to meet up at Taipei Zoo, so I followed her on the next MRT.

Afterwards, I thought bloody hell man, I should of just got on the damn MRT instead of looking for the exact one that Jen was on!!

At Taipei Zoo, they had free busses heading up to Pingxi for the Sky Lantern Festival, standing in the que the bus staff were offering us free drinks.  How nice is that!  The cost of the ticket for the bus was 50 Taiwanese dollars which works out at just over £1.  The bonus of taking the bus was that it dropped it you right in the centre of the festival.  Another added bonus to taking the bus is that they give you the return journey for free, happy days then!!!

When we got of the bus, I made a mad dash for the toilet.  As you do after a mad dash journey with no toilet stops.  Just thought I would share this with the whole world!!!  My pea sized bladder ha.!

After the bus ride and the pit stops, we wondered around the food stands looking for something to eat.  Jen got the boll rolling with some corn on the cob, it just looked OK however so I didn't eat any of it.  Then I got a Taiwanese style pancake which I think are awesome.  Some kind of egg thing mixed with soy sauce and something else.  It tastes awesome though.  Then I got a small corn dog.  This was one of the best corn dogs I have had in Taiwan.  They were much better than the ones next to my home in Ximending.  Next up Jen got some dumplings which were shared they were awesome but a little small, and I also got some Beijing Duck which is always just OK in Taiwan but I keep trying and hoping I will find an awesome one.

Food stands at Pingxi 

We wondered down towards the old street.  The old street was like a lot of old streets in Taipei county, really small and narrow.  It was completely crowded but that was just because it was the lantern festival today.  All the buildings in the street looked like they had never been updated once, which is really nice to see because in Taipei City there is not much of that to see, as most the buildings look updated to some sort of degree.


Pingxi Old Street

Then I seen loads of people walking across a bridge up a height, it looked great fun and a little bit dangerous. It was one of those really old buildings that you see in old war movies and such like, with wooden planks.  I would say the drop was over 50 ft high easy, and they had no barriers or anything on the side.  Me and Jen started to walk across, but then Jen got got scared.  That's OK though cos it was so height and you could see through all the wooden wooden planks.  I just walked across alone and checked out what it was like, it was really fun and everyone was looking up and taking pictures of us walking across the top.  I understood why Jen got scared when I was right in the middle and could feel some of the wooden planks move a little bit, also the rain was lashing down making the wood slippy. I made it to the other side anyway happy days, and it was good fun.  I then went hunting Jen, so we could go and buy our own lantern.

I want some of that walking across the bridge action!

The sign says no one is allowed on the train track.

Heading to cross the bridge.

Walking across the bridge.
The height of the bridge.

We decided to go to the school were the kids were selling the materials to make the lanterns so that they could go on their graduation trip.  In hindsight I think this seemed like a mistake because there was not much space and the kids didn't seem to help you so much, but that's just because they were kids I assumed.  Me and Jen wrote on all our wishes like you are supposed to, and Jen was getting totally pissed off with the people next to us I was too, but there was nothing we could really do about it.  Was because the people next to us would not wait until we were done and just pushed right into the same space as us.

Making our lantern.

Then we waited until the people had time to help us, but they were taking ages and kind of ignoring me, I think it was because they were too shy to speak in English, anyway I said to them come here! In Chinese, and Jen said I said it to them a little angry but I was sick of them ignoring me.! ha!.....So we were lighting our lantern and it ended up hitting the young girl that helped us in the head on the way into the air, that's what I call karma baby.  I was glad our lantern flew up really high, apparently it is bad luck if the lantern does not go up high.

Setting up and letting of our lantern.

Then when our lantern went away, we stood around and watched other peoples for a while, then on our way back to take the bus back home, we seen that in a few minutes they were setting off 100 huge lanterns, so we quickly went to watch and we just got there in the nick of time because as soon as we found a space to stand they let the lanterns off, and it looked totally awesome, one of the best things I have seen here in Taiwan.

Look at all the umbrellas!

People setting away their lanterns.
Peoples lanterns in the sky!

100 big lanterns set off for the festival.

Then we ended the night, with a lovely meal at Tasty which again cooked the steak totally amazing.  I can never believe how they always manage to cook the steak so well at Tasty.

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