Thoughts of a Canadian Exchange Student

An Experience with a Taiwanese Guy (Part IV)

Posted in Chinese, English, Learning, Miscellaneous, NTU, Phone, Taipei, Taiwanese People, Thoughts, University by J on September 19, 2007

After consulting some Taiwanese people about what they thought was going on, I decided to make it clear that I didn’t really want to participate in a language exchange with him.

So, in a text message back (SMS) on the evening of the 15th, I said, politely, as I learned it isn’t nice to give a straight out refusal here, that I was already busy that weekend. Also, I wrote that I already had someone else to practice with (which was true).

Lastly, the most important of all the things I’ve learned from this experience with him was this phrase: “You are a nice guy.” (你是個好人) Basically, this means that, “you are a nice guy, but I have no interest in you.” Apparently, this is very quickly understood by Taiwanese guys. So, I put this at the end of my SMS to make the situation very clear. Useful phrase. Let’s hope that I don’t have to use it again.

If he really wanted to have a language exchange with me, he could’ve cleared things up with me after this message that he had no sort of intentions that followed along these lines. On the other hand, he could be quite embarrassed about it all, but if he could just ask me for my cell phone number (a foreigner, to boot!), I have reason to think that he’s quite bold.

To justify my actions: I think those were the vibes that I was getting from him, but if this happens again, I think that my “Taiwanese Feelings Gauge Radar” (TFGR) will be more fined tuned. Everyday, my TFGR gets better every time I talk to anyone Taiwanese. =)

So, to finally, finally close this long story:

I haven’t heard from him since.

P.S. I heard that the Taipei 101 area has some good looking guys (帥哥/shuai ge). Haven’t been there yet. =P It’ll be perfect to practice using my radar!

An Experience with a Taiwanese Guy (Part III)

Posted in Chinese, English, NTU, Phone, University by J on September 19, 2007

The next day, I got a call from him.

Shock!

He just wanted to know how my day was going, if I got to see the clubs at NTU or not (it was clubs day), if I had free time that night to go out for dinner, if I had time to go out on the weekend with him, that he would help me with any PTT troubles I had… What?!? Remember, I thought I’d never hear from him again after the dinner from the night before.

(PTT is this really MS-DOS or mIRC looking bulletin board system that is the hub of NTU internet life, basically an old-school forum)

Umm…

I made an excuse to get out of going out. Yay! I was in the clear!

Yeah right.

Later that night, I got a text message from him asking if I’d like a Chinese teacher and if I could teach him English. Uh… What a baffling situation! It sure didn’t feel like he wanted to practice English. Yes, he could be shy about his English skills but to be able to just ask someone for their phone number after a few minutes, in my book, takes guts… so, my gut feeling said, “no, sorry, no way, no how”.

Then, I forgot about the text message until late Saturday night.

Getting a Cell Phone and the ARC

Posted in ARC, Chinese, Exchange, Miscellaneous, Phone, Taiwan by J on August 31, 2007

As a foreigner, it’s a bit harder to get a cell phone in Taiwan because you need a bunch of identity cards to get a SIM card. Despite that, it’s not impossible (bring someone who knows Mandarin! I brought my volunteer, or rather, my volunteer brought me). I got a SIM card with my passport and a secondary identification card even though they ask for the ARC (Alien Resident Card).

So, a form or so and 300 NT later, I was now the new proud owner of a cell phone that worked in Taiwan! The 300 NT is for the prepaid plan at Chunghwa Dianxin (中华电信 / 中華電信). I don’t know about the contract plan, but I think that may be harder to get than the prepaid plan. Also, you have to sign up for two years usually, but I heard that you can sign up for one.

The ARC bit wasn’t too bad. Just go to the right building, I forget which, take a number, fill out the form, bring your passport, pictures, student ID / admission letter (this will work if you don’t have a student ID yet), 1000 NT and wait. If you don’t have photocopies of your passport, there’s a machine there that you can use. When it comes to your turn, after checking through all the forms, you’ll be told to come back a week later to pick up the ARC, and that’s it! Hmm, the building’s not too bad to find because there’s a lot of foreigners that come in and out of it. Make sure that you bring someone that knows Mandarin for this part because it’s difficult to do if you don’t know Mandarin…

The Rest of the Day

Posted in Bicycle, Chinese, Looking Taiwanese, Money, NTU, Phone, Shopping, Taipei, Transportation by J on August 28, 2007

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My bicycle.

Let’s see, where did I leave off? Oh yes, being frustrated and bitter after a fruitless search for that Holy Grail of a bank. Maybe I am cynical but I know that I’m definitely sarcastic.

Anyways, my volunteer (notice the lack of names?) saved my butt. Really. I think I may have given up and just got a ticket home had we not agreed to meet up.

We met at SL (Shen Li / Victory) which is a “we carry everything” type of store. Very close by too, which is a great thing. So, across the street we went and back into the same bank as yesterday with the same greeter and same teller. The irony! Or just regular work hours. Taiwan Fuban Bank. I could also be from Hong Kong, apparently. So, my traveller’s cheques were finally changed after taking off about 300NT of my 400USD in fees. Whatever. At least this time, I wasn’t told to go to some far away (read: sketchy) place to get them changed, by the same teller, no less! All in all, it was a very long process. However, I did get what I needed, and that is the bottom line. Note to self: Look more foreign.

After this and a quick scooter ride (they look so sketchy and dangerous. But it was fine riding on it because my volunteer’s a good driver), we arrived at the bike shop. There, I bought a second-hand bike at 900NT, a lock at 100NT and some foot rest add-on thingys (80NT) so a person can stand on the back of your bike which you ride. As I found out later, they are quite useful. The bike shop is fairly close to the IYC/Guoqing dormitories, maybe a 6 minute walk. It runs on the road that is parallel to Xin Hai Road and is on the left side when you face up the road.

After, we went to get a cell phone, but alas! I need an ARC (Alien Residence Card) to get a SIM card. However, I bought a cell phone for about 2000NT and will get the SIM card afterwards. This shop is just outside the Main Gate of NTU. Again, very close.

And that basically wrapped up the afternoon of my day which was, by far the most productive of it and not wrapped up in frustration and lack of understanding of another system, another way of doing things.

A Quick Overview of these Two Posts:
So, in total, these two posts covered:
– Changing Traveller’s Cheques
– Getting a second-hand bicycle
– Getting a cell-phone
– What the dorms look like
– Some other dorm stuff
– Where to buy stuff you need (Shen Li / Victory)

The First Few Days

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Hello!

I’m finally here in Taiwan!
What to say…

I like it so far, but it’s extremely frustrating at times because of my inadequate knowledge of Chinese. That and I don’t really like to ask for too much help, but it looks like I will really have to or I will run out of money. Cash is the best thing to have here, and the easiest too. What’s really neat about Taiwan is that there isn’t any tax. All of that is included in the price, so you pay what you see.

I must make a comment about the weather and time zone change. I was jet lagged but by staying up until it was dark, I think I’ve adjusted quite easily to the time change. The weather is warm… very warm in fact, but I also think I’ve adjusted quite well.

So, the frustrating bits now. The money was difficult and I’ve made some boo boos (not about money). Like walking over 5km to get to a store and then buying stuff (bulky I might add and unnecessary to walk so far) and not having a bag to bring it back in. In Taiwan, or maybe just the stores that I went to, they don’t give out shopping bags. Edit: It seems that if you buy enough, you’ll get a bag… but what about that day I bought a pillow, 4 bowl noodles, 2 bags of pads, flip flops and pens from that 5km away store?? I’m thinking I’ll need to get a bike. A VERY good idea because I’ve walked so much in the past 2 days that biking seems like a very good idea.

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The First Day

The plane ride was great! The plane had 2 levels to it and was enormous and very smooth. I had the chance to sit beside some Taiwanese guys (brothers) from Kaohsiung during the long 12 hour flight (which passed by quickly because of all that sleep I got). Fun to talk to them.

The first day I was here, the day that I landed, I was hit by the heat and humidity. Think of stepping into the Aquarium’s tropical zone. Whew! Interestingly, you can only get your baggage after you get through the passport checkers. They don’t tell you that you’re supposed to fill out a disembarkation card. So! What happened was I got to the head of the line, and without a word, I was sent back to the end of the line to fill out one of these babies. It was a long line.

After getting my baggage and stuff, my volunteer and my volunteer’s friend picked me up. They’re a lot of fun to be around and they’re really nice. =)

The parking lots are huge and the spots are narrow. Very narrow.

So, the day was spent eating a bit (the food didn’t bother me! Just the heat was a bit much on the first day.) and getting daily usage stuff. For example, a laundry hamper and some hangers.

Then I got to meet my volunteer’s friend at a restaurant. Hehe! The food was supposedly not spicy at all, but for me, it was quite spicy. Tasty though, so I sacrificed a few taste buds in the pursuit of tastiness.

Then to print out my dorm and internet fee bill at NTU’s computer science department with my volunteer. Apparently, we’re expected to print out the bill ourselves as exchange students, but we don’t have internet or access to a printer. Strange. Edit: I checked my handbook again, we’re supposed to go to the Student Housing Section of the Administration Building. Whoops. Oh well. The computer science building’s nice.

The next significant thing that I did was go for a night walk by myself. I thought that I was immune to mosquitos. Apparently that was not to be because the next day I found many, but thankfully, I’m not ballooning up as much as I do at home. The pills might be helping… or I have something built in. I like to believe the latter. Yessss…

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The next day…

I spent the day looking for a place to change my traveller’s cheques to no avail. Yesterday was the day I did the very long trek to that store (over 2 hours of walking). I think the bus or MRT would have been better. Anyways, I figured out by the second day that flip flops are necessary, especially for the shower (which has a detachable head). The toilets are interesting, but I do say that I got tired of squatting over one and my legs almost gave out. I’m glad that they didn’t.

I also met my new roommate, again from France like the one that just departed this morning. She’s quite nice and easy to talk to.

Other than that, after cleaning out the wardrobe and closet thingy, I finally moved my stuff into the room. I can’t run away as easily anymore. Exchange students are friendly. I think it is because for the most part, we are all alone and want some companionship. I’ve noticed that people with similar backgrounds tend to band together: Just like at home.

Today

After anther long walk and looking for another bank to go to, I was told that this bank, Hua Nan Bank (on campus) wouldn’t change my traveller’s cheques. To do this I’d have to go to Taiwan First Bank. Which I looked for and couldn’t find. Sigh. I really need to ask for help, and I will. I need to. Save me from myself and my so-called independence!! As that phrase echoes and rings down an empty hallway.

On the bright side, I found places to eat at on campus and well as got a general feel for Taida. It feels bigger than my campus at home, but probably because walking feels more difficult. I think I will miss autumn.

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Commentary

Taiwan is so green! It reminds me a bit of Hawaii in how the trees cover the hillsides. But what was most shockingly duplicated many times over was the contrast between the prosperity between the rich and the poor. There was this gleaming new building, like Aberdeen mall, however, directly across the street from it were these old, decrepit looking housing things. I saw this throughout my travel into Taipei and during my walks around. It’s so different because the poverty and ugliness isn’t shoved away quite so much like at home. However, I haven’t seen many bums around. Perhaps this is because Taipei is in transition.

I must say that I don’t think I’m in that honeymoon stage that people talk about when one arrives at a new place. I’m not jumping for joy that I’m here, but I don’t loathe it either. It’s like living at home almost, except in Chinese because I do pretty much the same things as I did at home. That is, I go explore by myself and do whatever I want. I’m trying to keep level-headed about everything so I don’t have that “loathing/superiority stage” that people say happens after the honeymoon stage.

People can’t tell that I’m not Taiwanese. Which is good for my Chinese but horrible if I really need something complicated to be done. I want to seem like a foreigner at least!! (What a contrast to my previous thoughts that I would stand out too much.)

Also, in the IYC dorms, where I live with the rest of the exchange students (we all mostly live on the second floor and regular NTU students live on the higher floors) English is the lingua franca basically. I’m envious of those that can speak English, Chinese and their own language among others.

The room itself is okay. It’s not quite as small as I thought it would be but it’s too white for my tastes. Slightly clinical. I have the upper bunk, a bit hotter but I think it’ll come in handy during the ‘cold’ season because I get cold easily. Which should explain why I brought a scarf and fleece. Thank goodness I didn’t bring my long underwear. That would have been unnecessary.

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Closing

So! Bring cash, lots. Or have easy access to getting some. The banks will readily change American dollars (cash) into Taiwan dollars, but not traveller’s cheques. Also, get a bike. Unless you like walking for a long, long time to get to places. Or learn how to use the bus and MRT. Which I will soon. Oh! And make sure to get phone cards to call long distance and locally. They somehow don’t take coins to make calls at the pay phones or anything. The long distance card I bought was 500NT – not too expensive. The local card I bought was 100NT. And the food place down in the basement of this dorm is pretty good! It’s cheap (25-30NT) for a nicely cooked ham, egg and stuff sandwich. I like the sweetness of it. And the Lo Pak Go is good too. Mmmmm… I think I should go eat now or I’ll skip lunch again. Bye!

Oh, last thing of note: I love the water machine. It has water come out cold, warm or boiling (100 degrees Celsius) which is VERY VERY handy. Although, buying drinks on campus isn’t too much either, today I just bought a bitter tea thing for 17 NT. Not bad.