Well it’s taken a little time but I’m getting there. The sprawling metropolis of Taichung is no longer a scary concrete wilderness, having morphed over the space of a few days into a wonderland of surprises and distractions. One by one my initial apprehensions and misgivings about the whole new job, new life, new country, new language kerfuffle have faded into the background, replaced with a healthy if understated optimism and a genuine drive to discover what makes this city tick.
The past week has been spent mostly in Taipei, undergoing the mandatory training program to prepare me for life as a Shane English School teacher. Ever the cynic and anti-authoritarian I was exceptionally skeptical about this venture. I can teach already, what are they going to teach me? And isn’t it just going to be a glorified corporate advert, brainwashing us into the drones that such an expansive organisation requires? I’m glad to say I was proven astoundingly wrong and enjoyed a week of games, education and other shenanigans with a mostly cool crew of fellow recruits. Obviously there is the corporate element to things but it’s kept very much in the background with the emphasis on really helping you to become a better teacher, something I’m now profoundly grateful for.
Yesterday saw me finalise my schedule for the next few weeks with my boss, Eric. He had already warned me that it would be busy and he wasn’t kidding but I’m getting eased into things with only a few actual teaching sessions this week, a few observations and a lot of time off to allow me to explore the school and materials as well as getting more settled and exploring some more. With 25+ teaching hours in my week, not including prep and planning, I’m going to be a busy bunny but thankfully I get weekends off – a rarity at Shane schools apparently – and currently only have one class on Wednesdays. I think I can live with that.
As well as the schedule session Eric also lent me his 50cc scooter until I can arrange my own transport. Having braved the traffic in Thailand I’m not too scared here but driving on the right and their bizarre system for left turns is going to take some getting used to. The main problem here though is the pollution – this is a densely populated city on the densely populated coast of a densely populated island. That means lots of traffic which in turn means after five minutes on the scooter I felt like I’d just licked the inside of an exhaust pipe. Not fun. However the plan is to buy a cheap-ass road bicycle and face mask next week so we’ll see if that makes a difference.
Today found me wandering down to the fine arts museum and enjoying the tree-lined walkways and sculpture gardens which lead you there. The building is beautifully designed with a natural flowing interior surrounded by wide open spaces dotted with all manner of artistry. My travels were interrupted – most welcomely – by a phone call from Em, cheering me up for the rest of the day and reminding me that I have to get this city sussed by the time time she arrives. Time constraints cut the visit short but I’ll be back, and soon.
The rest of the day involved joining the gym – always a boost to energy levels, happiness and the like – sampling yet more of the local food delights, revisiting my local juice bar, discovering the local electronics/photography bazaar and taking the camera back to People’s Park to capture the afternoon’s festivities. Every day I spend here opens something else up to me yet simultaneously seems to shrink the city to a more manageable size. What was once a faceless expanse of skyscrapers and apartment blocks is becoming a familiar friend with eateries and sights around every corner and even a few locals who now welcome me by name. And I haven’t even started teaching yet.
I think I’m going to like it here…