Ben Goes to Taipei, Chapter 2: Ben Writes a Second Mass E-mail; Grandparents Reportedly Quite Pleased

So, this e-mail has had several false starts, because there's just so much to SAY about my stay here in Taiwan.  I mean, I've been here for nigh on a YEAR.  If I'd kept up to date on these e-mails, it wouldn't be such a big project.  So I've decided to break it down to manageable e-mails.  I think this first one should focus on how I'm doing NOW, maybe one about what I've DONE (not much), and then I can send updates as interesting stuff happens, or I just have something to rant about.
 

Yeah, so…I'm like…still here…and stuff.  My original plan was to come to Taiwan for ONE year.  This, in my naive expectation, would be enough to learn Chinese fluently.  I am amazed that no one died laughing when I told them this, since it is impossible.  (More on this in a later e-mail.)

I am still teaching English.  I have switched schools, however.  I am now teaching for a company called Jordan Language Schools, which is a better deal for me, time-wise.  I teach about 20 hours a week for them.  This means that (gasp) I only work about 20 hours a week.  I am the only foreigner and native English speaker working at this school.  So what I do is just spend an hour a week with each class.  I walk in at the beginning of the hour, the Chinese teacher tells me what to teach, I think about what games to use, I teach for 50 minutes, then I go on to the next class.  No grading, no homework, no extensive preparations…the perfect teaching job.
The only problem with this company is that they didn't have their paperwork in order when I joined them, so they couldn't sponsor my visa properly, which means I had to take an emergency trip to Hong Kong to get a new visitor's visa.  (They've got their act together now, and are in the process of getting my resident visa processed.) I actually took two trips to Hong Kong, because the first time I went I didn't have the right documents, according to the Taiwanese "travel office" in Hong Kong, which apparently follows different rules than the Taiwanese Foreign Ministry's website.  (Apparently, this lack of standardized policy is fairly common among Taiwanese and Chinese government offices.)  Anyway, I now have the correct visa, and should have a work permit soon.  I also have learned that Hong Kong is not a great tourist destination.  It's probably a fun place to LIVE, I think, but it's really not an amazing place to visit.  However, it is one of the cheapest places to fly to from Taiwan, the flight is just over an hour in length, and the office there can get you an expedited visa on the same day, if you apply before 11am.

That's actually the only traveling I've done while I've been here.  I've been so focused on Chinese class and working, that I haven't even had time to travel around Taiwan.  I've only seen stuff in Taipei.  Luckily, Taipei is really cool, so this is OK.  (More on this in a subsequent e-mail, too.)

I've also got a job at a kindergarten, three mornings a week.  I was just hired by them on Friday, and I won't start teaching until Monday or Tuesday, so I'll let you all know how that goes.

My social life is alright here.  I have a few small circles of friends who I hang out with on a regular basis.  Most of them are Taiwanese, but I do have some foreign friends.  Unfortunately, most of the Taiwanese friends speak fluent English, so I don't practice my Chinese with them as much as I should.  One Taiwanese family has invited me to go with them to their hometown in the south of Taiwan for Chinese New Year in February, which I gratefully accepted.  Chinese New Year in Taipei is BORING.  You'd think it would be pretty cool, but actually everyone just takes a week (or two) off of work and stays home with their families the whole time.  Which means that we foreigners just end up hanging out at home all week, since most restaurants and other businesses close for the whole week, as well.  So it'll be great to go out and a) see what a native Taiwanese family does for Chinese New Year b) practice my Mandarin and c) learn some Taiwanese, which is VERY different from Mandarin.  (I may go into this farther in some later e-mail.)

No girlfriend yet, either.  I've had a few dates, but nothing that progressed farther than that.  If this keeps up, I may just start trying out the local dating websites, and see if that works for me.  It's worked for several of my friends so far (two of whom got married to each other this year), so maybe it'll work for me, too.

Of course, maybe once I've gotten rid of this paunch the ladies will be a little easier to entice.  I started the Atkins diet again, and have lost about 10 pounds in the last three weeks.  I've also started playing tennis, and running and biking regularly, so hopefully the next time you see me I will be far less of a man than I once was.  But much, much sexier.  Oh yeah.

Anyway, I think that's a pretty complete update on the current status of the Ben unit.  To follow: Stuff Ben has done, Stuff he will do, and various Rants About Taipei.

Love you all,

Ben

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