March 29, 2014 @ 11:23 am - posted by Dominic Brendell

Having completed a CELTA certificate before leaving on my travels, I decided to start looking for a job teaching English. It didn’t take long and within weeks I was heading to Taiwan after a brief stop in London, with no idea of what to expect.

After 16 hours up in the air I have finally made it to Taiwan!

The flight with Singapore Airways was OK, nothing special and nowhere as relaxing as the Etihad Airways flight from Thailand. The first flight went quite quickly and the food was OK – although my first selection was not available. I managed to move from a row of 3 seats, all with people, to a row of 4 for just me; so managed to stretch out, which was so good! The turbulence wasn’t too bad but enough to make me feel sick, especially on the 2nd flight. Although I think that was more a combination of the food and being awake so long. I managed to sleep for most of the second flight, which really helped.

I was then met at the airport by my driver who was a friendly chap; the car was a big brand new Toyota, which was a very smooth drive to the school. I met the school manager and then had a quick tour of the school. First impressions were how noisy all the classrooms were where all the kids were learning English! All the teachers at the school were British except for one who’s from Australia. After a quick tour I was taken to my hotel and given a carton of roasted Oolong tea to drink on the way. I met one of the teaching assistants who’ll be helping with some of my lessons and also offering general help in settling into life in Taiwan.
The hotel is nice. There’s internet in my room, a massive TV and air con; all essential I would say. Sadly I don’t have any windows but that’s not too bad as it made it easy to go straight to sleep. I got two hours rest, which was very refreshing, then I took a hot bath, which was hard for me to fit into – suspect I’m going to find that a lot; and that everything is designed for smaller people than me.

Taiwan apartment

Then a girl from South Africa arrived, called Mariza, who is staying in the room next to me and we’re both going to be on the same training course. We met up and went out for a brief walk and grabbed some food. All of the shops looked the same with bright neon signs in Mandarin. There’s definitely a language barrier when it comes to communicating but a lot of people just whip out their iphones with a translator app on and we communicate through the text – amazing, I really should get one!

Food wise we had some won-tons and then went to a different place for a beer and some barbeque. I almost choose the chicken heart kebab, thinking it was pork – that was close. Mariza has decided to go vegetarian while over here, which sounds like a good idea as the meat tends to be more on the adventurous side! It was then back to the hotel and I managed to go straight to sleep.

Taiwan breakfast

Getting up this morning was hard and breakfast wasn’t that great – soggy rice, some strange toppings and luckily some cheap white bread. I went for the bread with jam (no butter was available) and that was all washed down with some kind of instant coffee. Luckily there’s a 7/11 nearby so I went straight out and got some refreshing orange juice.

fast food Taiwan
Today I get to relax this morning, then lunch followed by looking for an apartment – which I’m really looking forward to and hope to see a full range of properties. Tomorrow I go for my medical and open my bank account followed by training next week. Then I guess I’ll be setting up my apartment over the weekend; or maybe that’ll be the following weekend.

Well, it’s been a busy couple of days and full of adventure but I’m going to concentrate on my accommodation to begin with. It’s been a bit of battle sorting it out as I haven’t been able to find many places to see. It started off with the school showing me The Grace Hotel, which is basically a hotel room you rent long term. It had an alright sized room, a grubby looking bathroom and no kitchen – well, a surface and sink in the corner of the room. It was cheap and close to the school but you had to sign a 12 month contract and there is no way I would be happy in a hotel room for a year. I got the impression that the school likes for the teachers to stay at the hotel as it’s close to the school but not all the teachers stay there. After a bit of me digging my feet in about not staying at the Grace Hotel, I got shown a website with other places and saw a place in a complex called Tokyo Life. My guide from the school was quite obstructive by saying it was far away and too expensive. I got her to show me on the map and it’s about a 30 minute walk or 15 mins on a bike. Also I learnt later from the school owner who understands about living in nicer properties that people really don’t like paying higher rent and live in older properties.

taiwan bikes

I finally managed to get a viewing and thought the place was great. Having only seen two places and extremely different, from basic to luxury, I thought it would be a good idea to see a few more properties; however it seemed like there were none available and again I got the feeling that my guide didn’t want me to rent the Tokyo Life property. Time kept ticking on and I wouldn’t agree to anything less than the best. Finally the school owner called and arranged for me to sign the contract at Tokyo Life. She said I had a great deal and that it’s important to be comfortable. She also said that because the apartment is on the 8th floor at the front of the building, it will be very quiet. We arranged to meet at the property and sign contracts.

Taiwan appartment
The owner of the school came and picked me up and took me to my new apartment where we sorted out the contract and paid the deposit all very efficiently. She then took me out for a great lunch: we went to a Teriyaki restaurant where they cook the food in front of you and it was delicious. We had a good chat and she told me all about how the locals don’t like paying lots of rent but she prefers to live in a comfortable place like myself. Now, about my expensive rent – some people live in an old style hotel room for 8000NTD a month (£186) my rent is 12000NTD a month (£279).

Taiwan food

This is what I get for the extra money I’m spending: The area where I live is down town so I have all the shops and restaurants nearby (unlike the Grace Hotel); a 10 minute walk gets me to the bus and train station and the central area of town. On a Saturday night they have various performances such as ballroom dancing, salsa etc, singing and music for free in the open stage area. I have a 24 hour convenience store opposite my building and a supermarket 10 minutes around the corner. When I enter my building I swipe my key fob for entry and pass the manned security desk. There is then a water feature in the entrance lobby (very important); to the right are some stairs up to the gym area. Straight ahead is the lift, where I scan my key fob again and only have access to the 8th floor (my floor) and the 10th floor (the roof where you can dry clothes and hang things out – I haven’t checked it out yet but will later today). When you walk into my apartment you have cupboards on the right; one to hang coats up in; the other has a double shoe rack (this apartment is full of cupboards). On your left are the stairs to my second level which is the bedroom area – it’s massive with a double bed on one side and a big open space on the other, which once I have a desk in, will be my office area.

taiwan appartment

There are windows either side but no view at the back, just a building; although the front overlooks some of the town of Hsinchu. The bedroom area is surrounded by cupboards and draws for just about everything, so has a minimalist feel to it, where everything has a place and is shut away. I have a wooden floor upstairs and tiled one downstairs. Heading back downstairs by the entrance I have my living room area which leads into the kitchen. The living room is quite narrow but big enough for me. It has a sofa, coffee table and a big flat screen TV on the wall, plus more cupboards for storage. The living area leads into the kitchen, which has a big style American fridge freezer so loads of storage space. Next to the fridge is my sink and above the sink is something that looks like a small dishwater but is not – it’s actually a dish dryer; never had one so have no idea if its use compared to just drying things by hand. I then have a small worktop area with one electric hob built into the work surface. The kitchen is decorated in clean white and black tiles, which I think looks really nice. At the end of the apartment on the kitchen side I have sliding doors leading onto my balcony, which has the washing machine and a small standing area. It’s not a beautiful view but looks across the tops of the buildings over town; plus I can just about see the sunset, which shines afternoon sun onto my kitchen wall. Opposite the kitchen is a door that leads into my bathroom – a modern layout of a loo, sink and large shower area – it even has a mirror with a plug on: I have plugged it in but nothing happens apart from a small orange light coming on. I’m guessing it’s a heated mirror to stop it from steaming up while having a shower – I’ll test that out, although it’s quite pointless for me; a bit like the dish dryer.

The school has been really helpful when it came to negotiating the contract and managed to get my internet and cable TV included in the rent which is worth about 1000NTD a month. I didn’t really want cable TV but it is nice as although I have 80 Chinese speaking channels, I also have National Geographic, the Discovery channel, AXN, which shows the American shows like CSI Miami, Prison Break and I have just watched the first episode of Heroes (think I will get into this). I also have various film channels, not bad for a bit of down time. I have an AC unit above the sofa and one upstairs as well but will have to be careful on the bills for this place as I am paying higher rent. Bills will still be cheap but I have to stop converting as I’ll be earning local currency.

  Taiwan money

The school’s also been great with local information and translation, which really helps to make things more straightforward and a great resource for the future.

Yesterday the school took Mariza and I to a massive store to kit out our apartments. Something I totally didn’t think about but we have had to get loads of things like saucepans, stuff for the kitchen, bedding, a kettle, and I went for a few extras like a fan to have on at night instead of the AC; and also a speaker system so I can have music and also set up my DJ system. There are many more homely things I need to get, but will stagger that all out over the coming months. My total bill came to just over a 100 pounds, which isn’t too bad for all the things, and now I have a basic home set up!

Taiwan store

As you can probably tell I’m very happy with my new place and think the extra rent is totally worth it. I’m off for a week’s training next week in Taipei – which is going to be really helpful in how to control classes and also the system the school uses for teaching. Then when I return I think I’ll pick up a second-hand push bike to ride to school on. Later today I’ll be visiting the supermarket and stocking up on tins of tomatoes, etc, and start making pasta sauce with vegetables. I also want to look into getting a combo microwave and oven so I can heat up food and also bake/roast things.

Well that’s the massive summary on where I live. I’ve finished my morning coffee and need a shower, then it’s off to the supermarket. It’s a lovely day, bright blue sky and temp is probably in the high 30s. It touched 40 degrees yesterday. WOW!

Taiwan kids (1)

It just keeps getting better and better. Just finished my week’s training in Taipei. What a city! Makes England feel so dated and old fashioned. Have made friends with a cool guy from Canada who lives in the next town to me. He’s really into photography and is up for checking out the climbing centre. We’re planning on going on some photo trips and just heading up into the mountains at the weekends – FANTASTIC.

A typhoon is meant to hit tonight, which is exciting. We get around twenty a year and the season is just starting; think this one’s going to miss Hsinchu though.

Teaching in Taiwan

No typhoon yet but a thunderstorm has started this morning. Not sure if that’s part of the typhoon or not but has helped bring the temp down so no air con so far! Hope it stops raining though, as I need to go shopping again today. Training was only for a week so now I’ll watch a couple of classes at the school, then start teaching! I have quite a light schedule to begin with, which is good but apparently the summer gets really busy, which will be good too.

Taiwan really is a beautiful country. The towns feel quite congested but once you get out into the countryside and up into the mountains, it’s stunning. Really going to take some time exploring as much as possible and looking forward to getting a motorbike again.

Teaching seems quite straightforward. It was a bit of a stress getting used to it but once that part was over it’s turned out to be a lot of fun, with lots of support from the school. The most important thing is to make sure the students are having fun and learning English.

Taiwan kids

About Dominic Brendell

Dominic Brendell has just returned from 3 years of travelling around Asia, he left with a budget and a plan to be away from the UK for a very long time. It only took 6 months to exhaust his funds and left him in the choice of either becoming a drug dealer or an English teacher to avoid returning back to the UK. Having seen the same old story over and over again on Channel 5's “Banged Up Abroad” it was an easy decision to go with teaching English. This helped him fund another 2 years of travelling in Asia and also to develop himself as a DJ. Please feel free to message any questions regarding travelling or teaching abroad at www.facebook.com/ukdproductions

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