It's been more than a month and a half since I announced that I'm heading to Taiwan for 2013. I've been here now for three weeks. It's been quite the ride and my blog is way due for an update!
Here's what I've been up to so far.
Two Weeks in a Hostel
My girlfriend and I arrived in the middle of December. We stayed at a hostel right next to Shilin market. It was busy and chaotic, but we soon adapted. We've been slowly edging our way into all the delicious foods on offer in Taiwan. My first impression of Taipei was a bit mixed. Due to the rainy/humid weather here, most buildings were a bit more grimy and dilapidated than I expected. But I got used to it very quickly.
We saw this amazing rainbow one afternoon from our hostel window. [It even made the news that night on TV!]
My girlfriend was really lucky in finding a job teaching English to little kids quite quickly. I've been hunting for jobs, but have been going slowly. This week I'm going to pick up the pace a bit. I've got a few leads to follow up soon. I use Tealit and then just go schools themselves to ask if they have vacancies.
Finding a place to stay
During the two weeks in our hostel, we looked for jobs and also an apartment. By some lucky chance, my girlfriend found this beautiful place with an amazing view on a random Taiwan classifieds website. The landlord speaks pretty good English. The timing of the previous tenant leaving was perfect for us. We could literally go with our bags from the hostel straight to our new apartment.
It is situated in Zhuwei, which is a suburb of Danshui district in New Taipei. So it's a bit north and bit more from the city than I expected to settle in Taipei, but the view and modern facilities is a nice comfort. My girlfriend works close by in any case and the subway trains give easy access to the city.
Here's our view:
Xmas & New Years Eve
It was the first time spending the festive holidays away from my family, so I was a little bit sad. Luckily, I had my girlfriend with me who cheered me up. We ended up going ice skating at Taipei Arena, which is not our normal Xmas tradition. In South Africa it's full on summer during the festive holidays. After that we went Christmast lights in Banqiao District.
For New Years Eve, we did not make any plans beforehand as we just moved into our new place and have been very busy with exploring and hunting for jobs. We decided to just head down to Taipei 101 and see the fireworks. We heard there were going to be lots of people, but did not expect THAT much people. Wow. It was unreal.
We wanted to get into a club, but all was sold out and way too expensive. We just drank some beers from 7-11 on the street and watched the festivities around Taipei 101. The fireworks in the end were beautiful. We then tried to head home... woops. Mistake. We only ended up getting home at 2h30am!
It did not spoil the evening, but for future reference we will try and organize something before: like a club, or a party at someone's place.
Meeting up with Jake & Olle
One of the big reasons for coming to Taiwan, and specifically Taipei, is because I knew that there are like-minded Chinese learners here. Two of these are Olle (Hacking Chinese) on the left & Jake (iLearnMandarin) on the right.
I met up with them in the first week that I was here. We went for some delicious 热炒 and 啤酒. It's fun to talk about languages and linguistics with them as they are both more advanced than I am. I learn a lot. We might consider starting a project in the future. You'll have to wait and see.
Now here's the topic you're all probably most interested in.
For the first three weeks, I've been slow in my Mandarin. I'm still settling in and try to find my routine. However, as everyday goes past, the language around me is slowly becoming clearer. It's as if all the knowledge that I have learned up until now is slowly waking up and getting ready for action.
The switch to traditional characters has been no problem for me. I know enough simplified characters to understand the traditional characters in context. I still have to figure out my exact plan of action (I need a job first!), but as soon as I get one I'll let everyone know.
I'm excited for 2013!