Saturday, October 29, 2005


Naha and O-Jima

This post is unedited and will be edited at a later date. Click on links at your own peril (you may be wasting your time).

As my fingers clasped the orbicular edges of some coral rock, it occurred to me that those fingers might be intruding upon a place a crab calls home. On the east coast of Okinawa Island, on the eastern edge of a road-linked island called O-Jima, waist-deep in the clear waters of a coral reef, I swam briefly and thought that the dreams of a typical Asia-Pacific ESL teacher must be exactly the same as the superb situation I happened upon.

Face up out of the water. 50 metres out, a brief flash of black dipping into the water. Was that a fin? Fish? Whale? Shark!?! Interestingly enough, it was a human diver. A few minutes later, a glass-bottom boat came by to impress some Japanese tourists with the underwater coral universe that exists so close and yet so far away.

Eyes glance further into the Pacific. What`s that boat out there? Looks like an American warship to me. Such is the political reality here in the Ryukyu (流球) Kingdom.

Ryukyu refers to the ancient people who lived in Okinawa. They are basically Indians, and not all that happy with foreign rule, be it Japanese or American. The Americans ruled Okinawa for more than 27 years from WW2 until 1972.

The diver surfaced and headed towards shore. Originally, I suspected the diver to be another foreigner out for a self-guided tour of some coral reefs, only with more equipment than I. As it turns out, the diver was an old Japanese dude. With. A. Harpoon.

He was a harpoonist he was, and a fine catch he had, about 7 or 8 50-60 cm long round, brown tropical fish. I asked him if his catch could be called sashimi, and he said no, so I don`t know what he was catching the fish for. I guess it was his part-time job?

I had enough sun, so I decided to pack up and head back to the bus terminal. It took an hour to get to O-Jima from Naha, but it took 8 hours to get back. This was partially due to my impatience when it comes to waiting for busses.

I couldn`t see any busses going in either direction. I got so bored of walking and waiting at different bus stops that I stopped in at a fine sushi restaurant overlooking the emerald ocean and had a 12-piece negiri dinner. The sushi was particularly special at this restaurant (and at many true Japanese sushi restaurants in general) because the good stuff is the same temperature as the chef`s palm. Along with an Orion Draft Beer (the Beer of Beers, according to the label), it made the perfect meal. I explained to the English-speaking waitress that I was an English teacher in Taiwan, and that was taken quite well. It`s kind of a new thing for me to be employed.

After the meal, I started walking towards Naha, a good 18 kms away, where my ryokan (Japanese-style hostel) is located. Of course I didn`t get anywhere near where I wanted to go, but I guess it was worth a shot. Eventually I got to a bus stop and waited yet again. It took me a grand total of 8 hours to get back to Naha from O-Jima instead of the 45 minutes it would typically take if you have a car.

Naha is a beautiful city, one that your average Vancouverite would enjoy. It`s got a monorail, eh? And boy did that put it on the map! The monorail even goes somewhere important: the airport. What can I say, it`s such a convenient place that I could imagine myself working here in the future.

I think Naha is what every North American ESL teacher who wants to go to Asia imagines their experience to be like:

Taichung is good, but when you`re by the roadside, all there is to smell is fumes and sewage, fumes and sewage, for kms and kms on end. Normally I wouldn`t mention that, but Naha makes that aspect of Taichung stand out like a sore thumb.

I tried to go to Heiwa-Dori, a traditional pan-Asian style market, but I got there too late. An amusing thing I discovered about Naha: even on a Saturday night, a lot of stuff closes early.

I got to Rock in Okinawa shortly before 10PM and the band, The Samurai Boys, only had two more songs to go. Don`t get me wrong, the Samurai Boys ruled. You can hardly get better J-Rock than that, but finishing at 10? Is this some special Okinawan thing I`m just not accustomed to yet?

After that, since I basically starved on Friday, I decided to go all out and get another meal. This time, it was some sort of East-West mix, Japanese rice with alfredo-like sauce with ham, tomatoes and lettuce mixed in, a curious but delicious creation. Now I`m using the internet at a hotel that I`m not staying at, just as any wiley yet poorish traveller would do.

Getting into Okinawa was a whole nuther story, considering that it was Special Inspection Day. Let`s just put it this way: once you feel like a criminal, you will act like a criminal, and once you act like a criminal, you will be treated like one. Get treated like a criminal, and you will continue to feel like a criminal.

Okinawa is really, really awesome, but on the other hand, I`ve really got to get me a work visa. As far as I`m concerned, the work situation is terminal, but then I`ve always had escapist, doomsday tendencies, so nothing at all is out of the ordinary. More later when I arrive back in the Republic.

Thursday, October 27, 2005



Even before taking off for Okinawa, the first person I've met bound for that very same destination was the wife of a Marine. The Marine, of course, is stationed in Okinawa. The wife is eighteen years old from Tucson, Arizona. Sure is a different life down there in Tucson, I'll tell you that much. The poor girl couldn't buy herself any vending machine refreshments because "these machines don't take American money".

All her 18 year old friends are wives of Marines. All her 17 year old friends are engaged to Marines. She can't go out anywhere in her area of Tucson, because it's really too dangerous ("dead bodies on the street, gunfights, gangfights, you name it, we got it."). And now, she's here in Asia, at CKS Int'l Airport.

It really puts things in perspective, don't it?

It's a real good thing she's goin' to Americanized Okinawa, because I'll tell you what, even guava juice tastes funny to her.

I haven't got any first impressions of Okinawa considering I haven't landed there yet. That being said, I have a gut feeling that there'll be lots of more weirdness to come in the very near future.

I think I hear my plane taking off.



No time for any pretty-looking, well-edited blog entry right now as I'm going to be picked up and taken to the airport in less than 15 minutes. This weekend is my visa run to Okinawa, and it's 4 AM at the moment.

Today I loaded up on Japanese yen, put all my visa application documents together (passport, money, pictures, application form, bank statement, e-ticket to HK, invitation letter), and cleaned up the apartment like mad. Now it looks like I don't even live there. See the thing is, my gf's dad is coming over on the weekend while I'm gone to put in a spin dryer for us, but he doesn't actually know I live with her.

It's not like her dad would consider me living with her to be a problem per se, it's just that if he found out about the situation, I might just have to marry her, and fast. So what can I say, the apartment looks like I was never there! My gf and I agree it's better this way.

Anyways, that's all I have time for. I did manage to get myself on a scooter and drive into the mountains last weekend, but I'll have to post about that at some other time because as you can imagine, I'm quite swamped with travelling that needs doing. Ah yes, the life of another ESL teacher in Asia.

Sunday, October 23, 2005


Mad Scooter Trip

The first of many mad scooter trips into the mountains occured on Saturday, and boy was it eventful.

I visited "Bat Cave", a cave where no bats lived, and I hiked on "Green Frog Rock Trail", a trail that had no Green Frog Rock let alone Green Frogs.

Them mountain roads were crazy, what with the hairpin switchbacks, narrow sections, and crazy sports motorcycle enthusiasts with their Kawasaki styles, hugging the pavement on each curve. At the end of a an hour's worth of mountain scootering, the road ran smack perpendicular into another highway full of bumper-to-bumper tour buses headed for 埔里 Puli. Apparently there was a beauty contest there or something, and plus Saturday is a big travel day anyways.

I wasn't headed for Puli so I only had to stay on that busy highway for a brief period before disappearing back out to a smaller highway towards 國姓 Guohsing, a town known for its hotsprings. The town proper had nothing in the way of hotsprings, but there were a lot of political events going on, people wearing matching red hats with the candidate's name plastered across each one, shouts of "Dong suan" from here and from there. It turns out 馬英九 Ma Yingjiu, the Harvard-educated Taipei mayor of KMT affiliation who's running for presidency in 2008, was down in Taichung giving his support for the local Taichung KMT candidate who's running ing the upcoming December 立法院 legislative yuan elections. Thus, hilarity ensued, with KMT and DPP factions squaring off in the middle of 國姓 Guohsing.

Political tensions are running a bit high here at the moment as all opposition parties are trying to wrestle power away from the president in order to control the relationship with the mainland. The president is a lame duck in this regard, only able to travel to the US and other areas of the West (he was at Pope John Paul II's funeral, for example). 馬英九 Ma Ying Jiu, on the other hand, has a very good relationship with the mainland government. He is favored in China to win in 2008 now that the KMT and the Central Communist Party have officially ceased hostile relations and have openly declared affiliation to each other. Hence the panda gifts.

Anyways, I travelled far past the Han political activities, and onwards towards the hot springs. Got there and found out they were a bit pricey, but the price gets reduced if you enter after 2PM. So I went and ate lunch at a quaint homestay (where they invited me to stay the night, for a fee of course), and decided to follow the signs to Huisun Forest Park for some hiking to eat up some time.

Now when I see the word park, with special brown road signs giving directions for it, I expect to find something similar to a national park, with expensive parking fees, a visitor's information centre or two, and maybe an overpriced restaurant. Instead, I came to a toll booth and had to pay it just to drive on the road. There's something about paying a road toll that makes me want to drive even faster and crazier, with the excuse that "well, I've just paid 8 bucks for the privilege, so I might as well enjoy it."

Anyways, I finally did manage to find a trailhead and started up the switchbacks. Actually, this 送風山步到 Songfeng Shan Trail that I ended up on was pretty impressive. I wish I had my camera. It takes you right up to the top of a mountain in the middle of the confluence of two river valleys, which creates a spectacular panoramic view of forested mountains. Orange-brown soil aside, it looked exactly like many areas of my province.

青蛙石步道 Green Frog Rock Trail was also very impressive, taking me right down to a river bed below the mountain I just climbed. The elevation change was fantastic in and of itself. Now if only the Green Frog Rock hadn't fallen into the river just last year... bah, what's in a name anyways? It was a great trail...

Then I scootered on back to the hot springs and paid for the entrance ticket only to discover that I had lost my backpack that had my bathing suit in it, and this was a bathing suit-required type of hot springs. After a lot of doubling back to places I had stopped earlier in the day, I ended up not being able to find it, and thus didn't manage to actually go in a hot springs after all that scootering and hiking.

I fell off my scooter once on the way back while trying to pass a car on the sandy outside shoulder of an steep hairpin. Luckily I just jumped off, got back on, and that was it.

Got back to Taichung, went to some bars with some friends, and came to the conclusion that I should be making more money than I am. I make as much (or as little) as other teachers who don't have a degree in Linguistics, don't have a TESOL certificate, don't have any idea about Taiwanese culture and don't speak Chinese. It's not about meeting more people. It's about meeting the right people. Should I move to Taipei or what?

Wednesday, October 19, 2005


More Enjoyable with Time

Taichung, unlike Taipei, is a place that gets more enjoyable with time, rather than less. Except for the occasional typhoon weather in the summer and short torrential downpours at random times, it's sunny literally every day. It's been sunny for three weeks now!

I've got my ups and downs here, but you can probably tell that I'm pretty content at the moment. This is because I've been chatting with recent arrivals who don't speak Chinese, and boy oh boy do they run into hordes and hordes of trouble. It reminds me how well I understand my surroundings.


125 CCs of Pure Bliss

CN runs a scooter rental service catering specifically to foreigners. Owing to a rowdy going-away party in the works for one of his friends and a busy teaching schedule, I met CN with beer in hand at a bar. I must say, it's quite the business he's got going.

A fellow Canuck, CN's been here for four years, wheelin' and dealin' the two-wheeled demons as boss of the scooter business that he bought off a friend who bought the business off of a friend whom I rented a scooter from briefly during my first trip here as a young 18-year old buck.

So we talk business, and it turns out that he'll basically work with whatever budget I've got. If I want to buy a scooter of his, that can certainly be done, if the price is profitable. Rent-to-own options are also available. He doesn't mind. After all, most foreigners end up selling their scooters back to him when they leave anyways, so he's always turning a profit.

The best thing is, he really knows scooters inside and out, and they are kept in extremely good shape, so if I'm renting from him, I can get any and all necessary repairs done at his Taiwanese friend's shop for free. After I've bought one though, it costs a bit of money to get them fixed.

So I am renting out a nice 125 CC from him, black, sleek, comfy and fit for the mountain roads. The only thing I'm lacking now is a licence, but at least the scooter registration is taken care of by the rental company because the cops here don't seem to have a problem with people riding other people's scooters as long as the scooter isn't reported as stolen.

It turns out that legally, the worst that can happen to me for driving without a licence is a reasonably hefty fine (less than $300 CAD, if I'm not mistaken). I'll have to be really nice to them cops. Some of them accept bribes, but I sure the hell ain't offerin' one until they ask for one. Maybe I just won't go out at night. They always come out at night.

Once I have my ARC, I can get a Taiwanese scooter licence. Apparently the test is so easy as to be farcical.

When you see green light, YOU GO!!!!!!!!!!!!

And when you see red light, YOU STOP!!!!!!!!!!!

From what I've heard, the only hard part is when you have to balance on a fairly short, thin line for a minimum number of seconds without falling off, in order to make sure that you have a satisfactory ability to stay balanced on a scooter.

Saturday, October 15, 2005




Ask me about how I've been pulled over by the cops three damn times already in the past two weeks. I wanna make a podcast about it. It could be really funny. That being said, I hate the Taichung cops. I never got bugged by the Taipei cops when I lived there. What's the deal, huh?!?


The McDonalds of the ESL World

I've recently figured out a good analogy for my work situation.

I studied Linguistics and TESOL and then got a job akin to babysitting.

"Well it's in the ESL industry. What more could you want???"

I studied Culinary Arts and then got a job at McDonald's.

"Well it's in the food industry. What more could you want???"

Yeah, okay, it's a J.O.B. and that's exactly what I need at the moment, but holy crap, jobs for young people more or less suck no matter what country you're in.

I hope that one day, young people will, like, change the world... or something...

Thursday, October 13, 2005



There has been a death that has affected me a lot. A close relative of my girlfriend died recently.

Death is a strong taboo in Chinese culture, and now I am in the process of finding out what that means on a very personal level.

My girlfriend will be staying with her family for the next week. During that time, life will just carry on for me.

Childhood is over. I feel like an adult now.



It pays to be migrant worker.

There are times when you get to enjoy the beauty of exotic locales. There are times when you are even able to get somebody to pay your airfare to such a locale. This week I managed to talk myself into such an opportunity.

My franchised branch manager is letting me go on a full weekend visa trip to Naha, Okinawa! Wooooo!

Basically, as my branch doesn't have a business license yet, the one other teacher at my branch has already taken two visa runs, one to Okinawa and the latest one to Osaka. Normally a boring daytrip to Hong Kong would be the typical visa run, but one franchise manager (who also opened his school just recently) discovered that the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Naha, Okinawa gives out 60-day visitor's visas while the one in HK only gives 30-day ones. Since Okinawa airfare is just less than twice as much as HK airfare, it makes sense to do Okinawa over HK from an economical point of view. The teacher misses less of his own classes.

The thing with TECO Okinawa is, they will only issue a 60-day visitor's visa once per passport, so the Okinawa visa trip can usually only be done once per passport.

Yeah, so from Friday October 28th to Sunday October 30th, look out for my Okinawan updates. It will probably be my first of many trips to the island chain, because it's beautiful, exotic and not too far away.

Chinese New Year in Okinawa, anybody? I'm also thinking May in Hanoi, Vietnam.

Sunday, October 09, 2005



The Purple County of Shinshe

Up, way up in the hills of Taichung County, there is a place called 新社紫色鄉 the Purple County of Shinshe. It may be called 紫色鄉 the Purple County because of its fame as a region that grows purple-flowered vanilla. In addition to vanilla farms, the 新社 Shinshe region in general has grape, mushroom, tomato and sour plum farms, all of which produce extremely fresh products for your gastronomic enjoyment.

It is quite a beautiful place, a place of big sky nestled up above the Taichung basin. In contrast to 新社紫色鄉 the Purple County of Shinshe, the Taichung basin is a geographic bowl that is more identifiable as the home of a city full of narrow streets crowded by ugly, dirty, tall, monolithic apartment and office buildings. During Taichung's development, one thing that certainly was not considered was sightlines, and this can leave the denizens of Taichung with an extreme craving to view any type of land that could be called wilderness, loosely defined.

It's Saturday morning
And who's gonna play with me?
It's six in the morning, baby
We got a whole big, fat world to see


(You do realize that I'm actually writing more of a podcast and less of a blog, right?)

So I piled onto my girlfriend's 小五十 little 50 CC and headed out for the hills. I heard that there were hotsprings out in them thar hills, but sadly I failed to find any on this particular day.

A purple place of grape vineyards and vanilla farms must certainly be full of sunshine, and this Saturday was no exception. Up I fled, away from the huge bland buildings of 台中市Taichung City, past the hiking trails of 大坑風景區 the Dakeng Scenic Area, beyond even 東山樂園 Dongshan Amusement Park, a supposed getaway for forlorn, stressed-out Taichung families. How anybody could consider an amusement park to be a getaway is beyond me.

Oh, but wait! 東山樂園 Dongshan Amusement Park has hot springs! Not natural ones, of course, but surely the existence of hot springs must definitely make it fall into the category of getaway. I'll let you decide how to categorize such a hideous beast of an amusement park.

The scooter puttered slowly up the side of a valley, up towards the big sky of 新社 Shinshe. The town itself is nothing to shout about, but the surrounding area is loads of fun if you've got a scooter and a free day to putter about. I just wanted to find the end of the road, which can be a long ways if you just keep going and going. You might end up in 太魯閣 Taroko Gorge if you're not careful, and that's a long ways away from home to be stuck on a scooter that has run out of gas... or worse. After all, I am on my gf's 小五十 little 50 CC.

I whizzed past the mushroom dealers, the vanilla farms, and daydreamed to myself that perhaps I am travelling through 新社 Shinshe and its Purple County much as Mario travels through different worlds in Super Mario World. Mario's exploits include a vanilla world, animated mushrooms, and of course, a trusty steed named Yoshi. Likewise, my exploits in 新社 Shinshe and its Purple County were full of vanilla farms, mushroom vendors, and of course, a trusty scooter named 小五十 little 50 CC. It was certainly a big change from the Star Wars surface-of-the-death-star X-wing fighter chases of Taichung City.

Anyways, to make a long story short, I found a quaint, little coffee shop at the end of the road/game path that I happened to choose. It wasn't exactly a princess or anything like that, but that's okay because I've already got one of those wink wink.

I'll keep you posted about any further efforts to amuse myself. This is truly a time in my life when I have to put in the hours, do the time, as it were. That is to say, I gots to get me some veritable experience on my resume before I start asking to get paid particularly enormous rates for my time.

On the other hand, there are weekends and there are scooter trips to wacky yet relaxing places like 新社紫色鄉 the Purple County of Shinshe.

Thursday, October 06, 2005


On Why Principles in the Workplace are Important

Principles are important in the workplace environment not because we ought to be more idealistic and aspire to a greater vision of a harmonious utopia where everybody shares work equally and nobody owns anything. Hell no, principles are important in the workplace so that if and when a dispute arises, everyone involved can make decisions based on previously agreed-upon principles, instead of decisions based only on self interest and/or the interest of profit.

In cases where a worker is a foreign guest and especially when that worker is assigned work that is definitely illegal, it is imperative that management and employees come to a prior agreement about some basic principles to abide by. A vaguely written contract is not enough, given that a contract for illegal work would itself be illegal and thus non-enforceable.

When a foreign worker looks at the visa in his passport and sees that it is a VISITOR'S VISA, what should he do? When he knows that management cannot provide him with a work permit in the near future, what should he do? If he sees that his co-worker has been told to lie to government inspectors by saying that he is only "in training" and hasn't taught any classes when in fact he has, what should the foreign worker do? If the foreign worker has signed a contract that claims to offer LEGAL employment and then in reality it turns out that he is working illegally, how would he go about taking the high road in such a situation?

Obligations are obligations, but the law is the law. It looks like I'm quitting my job tomorrow, conveniently after a wad of cash falls into my hands.

Email is public, right? Soon I will publish some interesting email exchanges that brilliantly illustrate the point(s) I'm trying to make. This will be for your entertainment only, given that, in 24 hours from now, I will have said all I need to say to my dear managers. Actually, I feel quite sorry for them, and of course their names won't be revealed.

Monday, October 03, 2005


A Short Comedy in Three Languages

So this whole time, I've been living with my gf. She told me on the very first day I moved in, "don't talk Chinese to other people you meet in the building. Some of them are strange. Just say English and try not to answer too many of their questions or else might cause problems for landlord."

Yeah, I know, it sounds sketchy as all hell, but what the hell. It's none of my concern just as long as I can come and go as I please.

The Ambush

Translations in italics. Direct references to written Chinese in bold. Things I didn't understand at the time of the utterance are in CAPS. Staging cues in (round brackets).

Kai: (to audience) So last night after work, I pulled into the parking lot in front of my apartment, which is better described as a mess of scooters than a parking lot. Two ladies were watching me from the main entrance of the building as I locked up my gf's scooter that I had been driving. It turned out the two ladies had been waiting for me. They had been planning to ambush me, and ambush me they did, as follows.

Lady 1: 你住幾樓? What floor do you live on?

Kai: Seven.

Lady 1: ?? 幾樓? What? Which floor?

Kai: Seven. (Kai counts on his fingers) One, two, three, four, five, six, seven.

Lady 1: 這樣. 住幾個人? 四個人, 是不是? Is that so. How many people live with you? Four, right?

Kai: (pauses with confusion, suspicion) Two people only. Why? What's the problem?

Lady 1: (small pause) 幾個人? 四個, 是不是? How many? Four, right?

Kai: 沒有啦, 兩個人而已. Not at all. Only two people.

Lady 1: 那你互管理會了沒有? 以定戶管理會. Well, have you VERBED the NOUN? You must VERB the NOUN.

Kai: (pauses with incredulity) 什麼? 我不太懂. What? I don't entirely understand.

Kai: (to audience) It sounded like they were saying that they wanted me to pay them the maintainance fee directly and immediately to them even though they hadn't even introduced themselves and my gf had told me that we've already paid the maintainance fee directly to the landlord.

Lady 1: 管理會啊. 以定戶管理會. 你知道嗎? 不是這個"會", 是管理"費", 這邊寫. 喔喔喔, 不是這個"會", 是另外一個唸"費". 找錢的意思. 你需要找錢給我們. Management meeting! You must VERB a management meeting. You know? I'm not talking about the character meeting, I'm talking about the character fee. It's written here (points to a sign). Oh, oh, oh, not this character meeting (on the sign), but a different one fee (not written anywhere). It means pay money. You have to pay money to us.

Kai: (to audience) This part requires some explanation for English speakers. The consonant system of the Taiwanese language lacks an "f" labiodental sound of any type. Thus, Lady 1 was speaking guan li fei maintainance fee as guan li hui management meeting. The character she was trying to say fei means fee, but the one she was actually saying hui means meeting. Additionally, meeting 會 was also written on the sign that Lady 1 was pointing to, even though fee 費 is the one that should have been written!

So, it sounded like I needed to attend a management meeting rather than pay a maintainance fee! This is all due to the influence of Taiwanese language on the spoken Mandarin and written Chinese here in Taichung. The influence is so strong that characters with Taiwanese pronunciations but Mandarin meanings are written on signs. You can only understand those signs and those people if you know how Taiwanese native speakers try to pronounce Mandarin.

Kai: (to Lady 1) 小當一下. 我打給我室友. Just a second. I'll call my roommate.(into a cell phone): ann could you come down here, please? I have some... friends... here... who want to speak to you.

ann: oh, okay, can they come up here?

Kai: Ummmmmm, no! They can't. I mean, they are some... people... here... who want to talk to you. Can you just come down here please?

ann: oh, okay.

Kai: (to audience) Then there was this long conversation between ann and these two ladies, who were the resident managers of the place, lazy as all hell. Turns out our landlord was collecting the management fee from us without actually paying it to the resident managers. That's why he wanted me, the goddamn foreigner, to keep a low profile, so he could keep his skimming of the management fee under wraps. And that's the fucking reason why I had to keep a low profile this whole time! To save somebody else from paying his proper dues!

So now the resident managers have our landlord's phone number (supplied by ann, who explained that we already paid the management fee to our landlord), and they will be hunting him down for the fee. I just hope I don't get kicked out for being a goddamn foreigner. I will be moving anyways, but that's a whole 'nuther story.

To make matters even more ridiculous, it seems as though the resident managers are making a huge profit for doing just about dickall. We don't have a security guard and the hallway lights in the main corridor aren't even turned on at night. The only thing that works is the elevator, usually.

In other words, I get the impression that resident managers and landlords are lazy as all hell here. In terms of real estate, Taichung is a shithole of apartments that are poorly managed, if at all. Don't get me started about the nightmare stories coming from some other teachers I've met. I've fared relatively well compared to some. My gf did all the searching for apartments!

The Ambush doesn't have an ending yet. I'm not talented enough as a writer to wrap it up in an exciting way. Any suggestions?

Sunday, October 02, 2005


Dragon King

Where else but Taiwan can you get buzzed on fruit wine (approx. $5 CAD/500ml) and watch hurricane force winds blow through your apartment?

Typhoon Dragon King (Longwang) stormed into Taiwan early Sunday morning, causing moderate flooding in Hualien and other areas on the east coast. In Taichung, a few people got blown off their scooters and that's about it.

Kai was holed up in his gf's 7th floor apartment after an acquaintance's boisterous karaoke birthday party, alone with a Boddington's, some fruit wine, a can of Pringle's Sour Cream and Onion, and a variety of instant noodles. He found out too late that there was actually a space between one set of kitchen windows and the wall above it where the winds could sneak through.

The important thing is that no windows broke and thus, no flying pieces of broken glass were sent sailing towards Kai's eyes and skull. Another important thing was that the power stayed on the whole time, meaning that Kai was never in danger of resorting to a diet of Pringles, beer and fruit wine. Indeed, instant noodles provided that extra little kick he needed to get himself through the hard times...

Hard times without internet, cable, or the right to own and drive a scooter.

The branch of the school I work at doesn't yet have a business licence, so they cannot make an Alien Resident Certificate available for me. My franchised branch manager is paying bribes to the Taichung County government, but the bribes only speed up the process of getting a business licence; they by no means make the process instantaneous.

Therefore, I am left with unkept promises. I was promised an ARC and legal work. All the other teachers I went through training with in Taipei now have ARCs. Only the other teacher at my branch and me are left without our respective ARCs. The other teacher, he's a poor fellow. He's a qualified teacher who had to take a visa daytrip to Okinawa. Of course the company paid for it and Okinawa's pretty hip, but it's still a situation I find rather unacceptable. I did not come half way across the world with a degree in Linguistics and a UBC TESOL certificate to take visa trips. Nope, that wasn't the deal. That wasn't in the contract, either.

Of course, I have stated all this (albeit much more gently) to the head honcho in Taipei, but I sent that email to him on Friday and still haven't heard back from him. The person I feel most sorry for is my branch manager. She has had to spend a ridiculous amount of money to get this franchise started, and I have a great level of cooperation with everybody who works at the school, so it's really unfortunate for everybody that their teachers are technically doing illegal work and therefore have no legal recourse if anything goes wrong.

I might have to leave my job shortly after payday (next week) if they can't tell me when I'm going to get an ARC. I'll be happy to keep working for them until they can replace me, provided that they pay me CASH DAILY. They are already subracting tax from my paycheque that they may not even have to pay if they don't end up employing me legally. Oh the joys of sketchy work in a foreign country...

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