Illness is me. On and off since arriving in Taichung – more on than off – I’ve been congested, lethargic and coughing up glowing, glutinous masses that resemble bad guys from old-school Doctor Who episodes. As yet there’s no definite cause, although now that I have my official Resident’s card and can take advantage of health insurance I’ll hopefully get some answers. It’s a possibility that I’m just picking up some new bugs from the kids in my charge – this is a hands-on job after all – and if that’s the case then a few pills should sort things out.
A more worrisome possibility is that it may be an effect of urban Taiwan’s omnipresent pollution. I’m a well-travelled guy and have seen cities in every corner of the globe but I can say without doubt or hesitation that Taichung beats them all hands-down when it comes to plumbing the darkest, most acrid depths of air quality. Apparently Taipei is worse still; the mind boggles. If it turns out that the fumes are the culprit then I’m in a sticky situation – the only option to improve things would be to stop cycling to work, thus reducing my air (I use the term lightly) intake and possibly alleviating the problem but at the expense of one of my few current pleasures. There are ten months left to tick off on this contract but it wouldn’t take a hellish big straw to break this camel’s back and send me looking elsewhere. I suppose there’s no point speculating until I hear the doctor’s verdict – and don’t worry, I’ll be going to an actual doctor, not one of the cranks who’ll try to cure me with a nice cup of tea and some powdered tiger’s cock.
It’s not all doom and gloom though, fear not. Despite the ever-present pox sapping my motivation and morale as it sucks at my energy reserves and despite my melancholy at the recent relationship status downgrade I’ve been making strides to get out and about and actually enjoy my time here. First step along that road was volunteering with Taichung Paws, a local dog charity who help educate people about proper dog care, give advice and assistance with re-homing animals and more besides. A couple of weeks ago they held a fundraising pub quiz which inspired me to help out that weekend with their monthly trip to a shelter in Tsaotun, an hour outside town. I wasn’t sure what to expect but everyone was so welcoming and friendly when I turned up, it was great. Armed with some bright orange wellies and aprons and, in my case, the most ridiculously gay light blue and pink sleeveless shirt, we descended upon the shelter to scrub the floors, clean the bowls, walk the dogs and dish out as much love as humanly possible. I’ve missed my old dog Cara so much and it’s just not practical to have pets while leading such a mobile lifestyle that any chance to adopt pseudo-pets, no matter how briefly, is something to be jumped at. Within a couple of hours we’d worked up a good sweat, tired the dogs out and managed to get the place looking pretty damn fine – it felt good. Next weekend is a barbecue at their shop so I’ll be heading along to hang out and play with pups and people alike. Happy Cannonball.
Aside from this work my weekend adventures – the current work schedule prohibits most mid-week jollies – have mainly been based around the camera. At every opportunity I hop on my trusty bicycle, Furious George, and set off around town exploring Taichung’s many parks. In Taiwan, Taichung has a reputation for being a green city – I have no idea how this came around as my moaning about pollution will testify – and part of this stems from the small but varied verdant enclaves dotted around the district. On a good day these often peaceful refuges, whether plain grasslands, carefully sculpted collections of lakes and fountains, bridges and hills or the wonderful sculpture gardens, will come alive with throngs of citizens out to make the most of the sunshine and some time off work. Photo opportunities abound and thanks to the sheer volume of photography enthusiasts here most people are remarkably laid back about having their picture taken, a stark contrast to back home and the west in general. I’m posting some of my favourites here so feel free to have a peek. I’ve got a wide-angle (well, 24mm) lens and a tripod at the top of my shopping list so hopefully I’ll be taking more and more soon as my collection of toys grows.
Final bit of fun news is a somewhat frivolous purchase. I’ve been pulling the purse strings pretty tight in true Scots fashion for the past few weeks but finally managed to stop being such a tight-arse and have some fun. So, this morning I wandered around the neighbourhood to find a needle and thread to stitch my shorts back together – no, not because I burst them – when what should I pass but a shiny guitar emporium boasting rack upon rack of cheap, high-quality Asian knock-off instruments. Not ten minutes later I was walking out carrying my previously purchased four bags of fruit and banana shake, only now with my guitar starter pack weighing me down in the blistering heat. One very reasonable, lightweight acoustic – blue for Scotia – as well as bag, strap, capo, fret polish and the most fantastically awesome tuner I’ve ever clapped eyes on for the grand total of about £75. Cue a swift return to a thankfully empty flat where I proceeded to belt out every Biffy Clyro and Frightened Rabbit tune I could remember at the top of my lungs. Never did find that needle and thread…
So that’s all for now. Ill but still getting by. The rest of today, if it goes to plan, will involve a viewing of Thor, a burger at Early Bird and a chat with the lovely waitresses there and probably two or three more episodes of Fringe Season 3 before bed. Then back to the grind for another week of gym, teaching and wondering when I’ll actually get round to saving any money 🙂
Oh, and did I mention that I won a pub quiz? Whoop, back to form! And the answer that sealed the deal was ‘Uranus’, it was meant to be…