|Taiwan Journal 2|
I just want to make it clear that when I arrived in Taipei, I did so with absolutely no preparedness at all. I did not know where to stay, and I did not have any clear idea of how to get work teaching English in Taiwan. All I knew was that my teacher in Greece said that youth hostels were good places to stay and also find work.
As you can imagine, I was pretty nervous getting off the plane. I did manage, however to find my way to the counter listing accommodations in Taipei. Standing at the counter were two young American women, a blonde and a brunette. I introduced myself, and learned that the blond was Denise, and the brunette Keri. They had recently graduated from college, and had come here together for the same reason as I - to teach English for a while. They too had no concrete idea of what to do, but were looking for a youth hostel as a place to start.
What a relief! They had heard the same things about teaching English as I had. Suddenly, the whole affair seemed much more plausible. We decided to hook up in our adventures. At worst, if we had been misled about opportunities in Taiwan, we would at least have each other.
At the hotel counter was a booklet that listed all of the hostels in Taipei. For each hostel, there was a set of photographs showing the interior of the place. We chose a hostel called Rockís. Like all of the hostels, there were no private rooms - rather a set of bunks in each one. Rockís though, had a sizeable lounge, featuring a pool table, which seemed amazing to us.
Now that we knew where we were going, all we had to do was get there. Luckily, our problem was already solved for us. It seems that Denise had caught the eye of an army colonel while they were waiting. He offered all three of us a ride to the hostel from he airport. I was a little anxious, not knowing the local customs at all, but it seemed unlikely that he was going to try anything on the three of us. We accepted, and sure enough, he drove us to the hostel. During the whole time, he made conversation with his passable English and tried to hit on Denise. A little creepy, yes, but certainly cheaper than a taxi.
We drove into Taipei at night, and I wasnít able to get much of an impression of it. I could tell that it was certainly a big city, and it was quite modern. Neon was everywhere, and large buildings loomed overhead. The downpour of rain made the whole scene quite mysterious.
The ride was thankfully uneventful, and the colonel dropped us off at Rockís Hostel, where we learned a lesson about the deceptions of advertising. It seems that the pool table had been removed, and the room in which it stood converted to beds to hold more inhabitants. The only social space was a small foyer in front. Rooms consisted of bunk-beds crammed together in rooms separated only by sex. Looking back, the living conditions were pretty bad, but I learned to adjust. One thing I learned quickly was to defend food against the roaches. I bought a loaf of bread, had a few slices, and then sealed it up as tightly as I could by tying the wrapping into a knot. Well, a knot wasnít good enough. By the next morning, the bread was full of tiny roaches that somehow found their way inside. Food had to either remain unopened or in the refrigerator, where the roaches didnít seem to venture. Needless to say, most of us ate out a lot.
The price at Rockís place couldnít be argued with, however. I remember it being about $20 dollars a week. There was even a discount for members of the International Youth Hostel agency. I wasnít, but I tried to bluff my way using an ID card that I had gotten in Israel. I figured that none of the Taiwanese there were going to be able to read Hebrew to find out that I was really showing them a swim pass. Well, it seems that the IYH folks had thought of that problem already. Every legitimate card had a symbol on it, and all one had to do was look at that symbol. Needless to say, I failed pretty badly in my attempt to con the hostel people.
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