Just as the sun sets on this Cijin palm tree, the sun is also setting on the era in my life in which I was unable to get a work visa. Now I can look forward to a life as a law-abiding, visa law-obeying foreign teacher with Hess!

This is a tiny lizard at my tao fang, blown up in the photo to several times its actual size (it's really the size of a bug).

August 1, 2009: Tomorrow I Go to Taipei for Training
Don't have much time to write this post. My time at the Internet cafe is almost up and I have to pack.

I'll be in Taipei for nine days for Hess training. I'll have a free hotel room that I have to share with someone else. I'll try to take pictures of some of the training/events if they allow it.

These are the things I need to do today or early tomorrow morning:

  • Pack.
  • Get a haircut.
  • Review my Chinese so I don't embarrass myself in Taipei in front of the other Hess candidates (although this is somewhat inevitable).
  • Get a shower and shave so I don't look like an animal.
  • July 31, 2009: I HAVE A JOB OFFER!
    HOLY SHIT, YES! Yeah, that's right, Hess e-mailed me with the following:


    Now, training starts on Monday. I should be in my hotel by Sunday, which is the day after tomorrow. The training lasts nine days, and my hotel is free. I have no idea where they'll place me or what contract I'll get (I find these things out at training) but I'm just so glad to have a job that anything's okay. I mean, we're in the middle of a worldwide depression, and I've just found a job that pays about $17.50 (American dollars) per teaching hour in a country that ain't exactly expensive. I feel like fortune has smiled upon me! Not bad for a guy with an associate's degree in Liberal Arts!

    I still think the employment situation here sucks and many hopeful teachers will go home empty-handed and with empty wallets, but at least I probably won't be one of them. I will do my best at Hess, keep my job, and at the end of it all, I'll have a year of bona fide teaching experience to put on my resume. Teacher Charles, ho!

    July 28, 2009: I Just Finished an Interview with Hess
    I'm going to say that my chances of getting employment with Hess are about 70%. The interview went pretty well. Not perfectly, but definitely an A- interview.

    J.C., the man who interviewed me, said that he's going to ask them to process my interview information quickly because I'm already in Taiwan and have my paperwork together and may be able to start at the next training session on Monday. That's a VERY good sign. He didn't say it expressly, but I got the feeling that he's probably going to hire me. I'm going to say that my chances of landing some kind of position with Hess are 70%.

    I may not be placed in Kaohsiung (he said they might be able to, but if not, I may be placed elsewhere), and I may not get the contract I want (they have A, B, and C contracts), but those things aren't as important as having a stable employer — as long as I am teaching English at least 20 hours per week with a legal ARC for a stable employer, I'm saved.

    It's not time to break out the champagne yet, but I feel like fewer people are competing for this position than with On the Mark, and my interview was just as good. I'm feeling good right now.

    If I get Contract A, I will just teach elementary schoolers. If I get contract B, I'll work a split shift with kindergarteners in the morning and elementary schoolers in the evening. This offers the most hours and hence the most pay, but takes quite a bit more time out of my day.

    Contract C, the one that I put in as my first choice, is for kindergarten only with maybe an occasional elementary school class. If hired to do that, I'll work 9-4 and have the rest of my day free. It has almost as many hours as Contract B but no split shift, and kindergarteners are generally easier to deal with than elementary schoolers.

    I hope I get Contract C (kindergarten) and Kaohsiung, but ANY position with Hess will do. And I had a good feeling from that interview.

    July 23, 2009: I Have a Job Interview with Hess, I Got My Health Check Yesterday, and I Have a Test Tomorrow

    The Results of My Medical Examination (no HIV/AIDs, Syphillis, or fleas, and better-than-20-20 vision in both eyes)

    Now that my medical check is complete and my diploma is out, theoretically, if I had a job today, we could submit all these documents and I could get a visa without going to Hong Kong. However, the chances I'm going to get a job by the end of today are about as high as being struck by lightning (and it's sunny out today). I'll probably need to make a visa run to Hong Kong, but that's okay, I've found a way that I can swing that, financially, if I really want to do so.

    Good news — I have a job interview from Hess on Tuesday! Hess is the largest English school chain in Taiwan, I believe. No need to worry about being paid on time if they hire me! Hopefully I can get the mega 30.5-teaching-hour contract and rake in the dough.

    Man, I really hope I can teach at Hess. I think that unlike many tiny rural schools with no set curriculums/managers who have business degrees and not teaching degrees, Hess will actually have some tools to help me improve as a teacher. If they can set me up in Kaohsiung, that'll be great. I don't know if they can, but I'd be willing to change places just to work for Hess.

    I have a Systems Architecture test tomorrow. I am on-track. Nothing to worry about. Maybe if I'm lucky, I can finish the entire course by Monday. +3 IT credit hours!

    July 21, 2009: My College Diploma Arrived in the Mail

    My Excelsior College Associate in Arts Degree in Liberal Arts with Focus Areas in Korean and History (click to enlarge, and by the way, the Focus Areas are only marked on the transcript)

    Now I can act like a condescending bastard to everyone who has completed only 13.5 years of school, because I have officially completed 14! Look at me! I'm better than everyone else! I have a free meal ticket through life! Yeah!

    That's the lesson that numerous BA and BS holders have taught me over the last few years. Guess I'd better find someone with slightly less education than me to flame in an Internet message board!

    On a serious note, though, look at it — HIGH HONORS! That means I had to have had a GPA of at least 3.75. My GPA was, in fact, 3.77.

    Now the rest of my life should be much easier, because I'm actually employable in far more countries than I previously was. This piece of paper is the key to working in Taiwan.

    Fortunately, the Hess school (the largest English chain in Taiwan) has reviewed my initial application and has responded with a questionnaire, so I wasn't automatically disqualified. Maybe I'll work for Hess. It would be nice to work for a large, stable company that can pay its employees on-time.

    Ivar and I went to the 85 Building yesterday to see a computer exhibition.

    July 19, 2009: I've Managed to Make Myself Unwelcome at Two Internet Cafes
    I'm so angry. TWICE now, I've managed to make myself "unwelcome" at Internet cafes, because there was an initial screw-up on the part of the Internet cafe, and then due to my limited Chinese, I wasn't able to describe the problem, and then I have too much dignity to pay when the Internet cafe screwed up, and then I am made "unwelcome."

    The first one was the Internet cafe near Taiwan Bank. I was using a computer in there, and I was making quite a bit of progress when the computer just shut down for no reason. I lost all my work for the last fifteen minutes. I was angry, very angry. An Internet cafe can't just have computers that shut down at random, that kind of service is not up to par. So I went to the guy who ran it, and wrote down in Chinese characters on a piece of paper "My computer shut down for no reason. My computer has a problem. I lost 15 minutes." I was hoping he'd give me 15 more minutes, that's all I was asking. It was HIS equipment that was screwing up. It was not my fault. However, he was somewhat thick-skulled and didn't understand what I meant. He pointed to his screen showing read-outs from all the computers and was like "it's back on now." I couldn't explain why I was so angry, so I just said "give me my 20 NTD." He said no refunds. I said "JUST GIVE ME MY 20 NTD." He gave it to me, and I left. I don't think I can go back there again. Basically, his computers had a severe problem, and I got frustrated trying to explain the problem to him, and now I'm probably not welcome there.

    The second one occurred less than an hour ago. I was at the Mega Internet Cafe. A girl walked up to me and gave me a piece of toast with chocolate on it. I thought it was a free gift. People give me small pieces of free food all the time. I smiled at her and said "Thanks!" You have to understand, in Asia, people give me free food all the time. If someone gives you free food, you're expected to eat it, so I did. Well then it turns out the girl was a waitress and had screwed up and delivered the toast to me by mistake. In an ultimate display of tackiness, the manager of the Internet cafe tried to collect the full price of the toast from me. I had Ivar try to explain to her on my cell phone why I didn't think I should have to pay (I thought it was a free gift, it was their mistake to deliver it to the wrong person, I hadn't ordered it). The manager got angry and said if I didn't pay the 25 NTD, I was not welcome to come back. So I said in Chinese "This is your problem. This is not my problem. I will not come back." Congratulations, I'm now unwelcome at two places.

    In conclusion, because of mistakes at two Internet cafes (the computers randomly shutting down, destroying my work, and a waitress screwing up and giving me food intended for someone else), _I_ have been held accountable for the money involved, and I refuse to pay when the Internet cafe makes a big mistake. As a result, I'm no longer welcome at either. I have to walk like 30 minutes to get to an Internet cafe. I can also use Internet at the tourist center, but that's very spotty Internet.

    These things were clearly said Internet cafes' faults, but it's also a problem with my Chinese ability. In the case of the first Internet cafe, had I been able to explain "Excuse me sir, the computer shut down for no reason and I lost 15 minutes of progress, can you please give me 15 minutes more time and switch me to another computer?" the whole problem would have never arisen. However, due to a language barrier, I couldn't explain why I was so irritated.

    In the second case, if I had been able to explain "Sorry, I thought the food was free. People give me free food as gifts all the time. I realize that I should have verified that it was a gift, but I still don't think I should have to pay full cost. I'll pay you for the bread and chocolate used to make it, but I won't pay the full price." then I might have been able to keep going there. However, communications problems kept me from being able to do that.

    I guess it doesn't matter too much, since I'm almost certainly going to move off of Cijin Island since there are no jobs in Kaohsiung. Even so, if I don't learn Chinese fast, these problems will pop up more and more (it'll especially be a problem with employers who don't speak good English). I want to learn Chinese, but lessons are expensive. I don't have ANY money to spend on Chinese lessons. Once I start working, I will, but I bet it'll be at least three months before I am financially secure enough to pay for Chinese lessons. Argh, I hate having this much of a language barrier.

    July 18, 2009: My Degree Has Been Sent Out, There's a Typhoon, etc.

    Woman in Cijin Processing Sugar Cane into a Drink that is 20 NTD a Bottle or 15 NTD a Cup

    My Cup

    Yesterday, Excelsior College mailed out my associate's degree with an AOF in Korean and an AOF in History. People love to condescend to associate's degree holders like they're a bunch of idiots, but I'd like to see someone with a BA in Comparative Literature who had to speak advanced Korean with 6,000+ words to get the degree in their subject. Yeah, right. Anyways, the process of getting my AA with an AOF in Korean and an AOF in History taught me FAR more than I bet many BA holders learned in university. I am VERY proud of my AA. I am seriously going to have it framed and put it on my wall. Not kidding. I suffered so much for that thing. I just hope I soon have a job so I can afford the picture frame.

    There's a typhoon situation right now. There isn't actually any rain falling, but the winds are very high, and lots of rain is predicted for this weekend. The wind and rain and thunder was so loud last night, I kept waking up, but that's not a problem. I like rain.

    In the pictures above, you can see the processing of a sugar cane drink. I bought a 15 NTD cup of it just so I had an excuse to take a picture (I even got the woman to push sugar cane through the machine while I was taking it on the condition that I buy a drink). It's drinkable, but I probably won't get it again. It's the same price as a bottle of Fanta from the restaurant, and I like Fanta better. I don't know why, but in the Chinese sphere of influence, especially in hot weather, Fanta REALLY hits the spot.

    By the way, I was rejected from On the Mark. Mark was very nice about it and said that I was in the top two, and he had trouble deciding who to hire. He said we'd both make great teachers, but the other guy had a little bit better of a teaching demo. He said I could call him anytime and ask for advice if I wanted to, and that I was a "really cool guy." So even though I wasn't hired, I have a fairly high opinion of Mark — he's definitely a nice guy. And making it to the top two in an interview for such a competitive place (good pay, paid preparation time, co-teacher all the time) means I could probably hit #1 for a lesser school.

    The trouble is that almost no one in Kaohsiung is hiring, period. I could have a PhD and 10 years of experience, but if someone ain't hiring, they ain't hiring. Randomly contacting schools has been entirely ineffective. The only callbacks I've received (two) are from places that posted ads. This tells me that it is pointless to walk around Kaohsiung, write down phone numbers, and ask "Are you hiring?" because none of them are until a couple months down the road.

    I'm going to have to start applying outside of Kaohsiung. It's come down to that. I have applied at 11 places in Kaohsiung and called/contacted probably 20+. Almost nobody's hiring here.

    I'm going to widen my search to include Tainan, Taitung, and Pingtung, which all border Kaohsiung and are in the southern part of the country. If I get a job in one, I'll probably eventually move.

    As for good news, I still have an A in ITE 221 (Systems Architecture). I have taken two of the four proctored exams. My goal is to finish the entire course by next Friday (the 24th).

    Here are some other computer-oriented goals I hope to accomplish aside from ITE 221:

  • Make an entry for Omnimaga's Z80 programming competition by August 24 (a platform game).
  • Make an entry in the Mini Game Compo 2009 by October 14 (4K division, I intend to write a game in 6502 assembly for the Nintendo Entertainment System). My plan is to write a zhuyin quiz game to teach myself zhuyin. I don't intend to win the competition, only for my entry to be accepted. A zhuyin-teaching piece of edutainment doesn't exactly have mass appeal, and I'm well aware of this.
  • Finish C++ Programming for Game Developers - Module II and enter a game in a monthly competition at the Game Institute, written for Windows, by the deadline (which has not been laid down yet, but I expect it to be in mid-September).

    My goal behind entering these four competitions is to increase my skills in the following areas:

  • Technique regarding programming a platform game. So far, the most action-oriented game I've released is Hung Pong, which is very rudimentary in comparison to a full platform game.
  • Cement my knowledge of assembly language programming by programming something in 6502 ASM for the NES.
  • Program my first-ever game for a video game console (all previous things I've written have been for PCs and graphing calculators, I've never written anything for a game console before).
  • Cement my knowledge of Windows GUI programming. Although I have written and released one Windows-requiring game on my programming site, it ran in console mode, not GUI mode.

    Why am I self-imposing a deadline of October 14 for the last goal? Because I started C++ Programming for Game Developers - Module I around the 14/15th. If I finish all my goals before then, this will have truly been a YEAR OF COMPUTERS FOR CHARLES WETZEL.

    July 16, 2009: A Bad Omen

    Does this dead dog in Cijin Island's beach symbolize something bad to come?

    I visited the hospital yesterday and got my checkup for my teaching visa, when and if I find a school to sponsor me. It takes a week for the results of the checkup to come out, so I figured it was high time to finish it.

    My vision is 20/17 (better than 20/20). My weight is 76.4 kilograms, only a 300-gram change from almost a year ago (I had my previous checkup on July 26, 2008). I hope my blood tests don't come back with any surprises. I'm otherwise healthy, say the doctors.

    I still haven't heard back from On the Mark, but that's to be expected since they aren't open yet, and they told me they would call today. No call expected yet, and none received yet. I hope the news is good. I hope I made it. If I didn't, I have five phone numbers for other schools in Kaohsiung that I gathered last night when I got lost. However, I'm going with On the Mark if they hire me — their package seems much better than most other schools out there. Other schools don't offer western management, paid training, pay for preparation time, etc. but On the Mark does.

    By the way, Yahoo! has its own brand of potato chips for sale at 7-Eleven.

    July 14, 2009: My interview went well, I think!
    This post has been moved temporarily.

    July 13, 2009: A Scare, but Good News
    I got a call back today from On the Mark, which seems like the most promising English school because it's western-managed. They want to interview me tomorrow at 4:30 PM.

    I had quite a scare though. The owner, Mark, called the Taiwanese Ministry of Education to make sure I could get a visa, AND THEY SAID I COULDN'T BECAUSE I WASN'T BORN IN AMERICA.

    Of course this is preposterous because I am a full-blooded American, my parents were in the Netherlands on diplomatic service when I was born (they are both Americans), and my family extends back in US history to at least the Civil War when one of my ancestors fought for the Union. I can't speak Dutch, and I left the country before I was even one year old!

    Fortunately, Mark described my circumstances to the MOE and they said it would be okay. Thank goodness. I might have had to leave Taiwan!

    The job interview is tomorrow. Here are the details:

  • I get off at the stop after the World Games Stadium Station, the Oil Refinery School Station.
  • I take Houchang road (I think that's how you spell it in pinyin) by going right, and go straight for ten minutes.
  • It's Lane 797.
  • Turn left at the Domino's Pizza and it's #57.
  • The director's cell phone is 092-952-9595, just in case.

    Information consolidated.

    July 12, 2009: I'm Broadening My Search
    Although I've only applied to ten places, I'm getting the idea that job-hunting in Kaohsiung is really tough right now. I just talked on Dave's ESL Cafe with a guy who manages a buxiban here in Kaohsiung, and he says he has 30 applicants for one position. Outrageous!

    Therefore, I've decided to broaden my search. Honestly, although Cijin is all right, I wouldn't mind moving to another part of Taiwan. I mean, the beach is really nice in theory, but in reality, the lifeguards keep people from going out more than waist-deep because so many Taiwanese can't swim. Never mind that I'm not Taiwanese and CAN swim, I can't go out far enough to have any fun, so it kind of defeats the purpose of living on the beach. Therefore, I could move to another part of Taiwan without shedding too many tears.

    I realized something GREAT today — transportation from Point A to Point B in this country is QUITE cheap. In fact, I could get all the way to Taipei (ON THE OTHER END OF THE COUNTRY) for about 14 or 15 American dollars. What this means is that I can apply to any job in the entire country via Tealit and just use my tao fang (small apartment) in Cijin as my base of operations. I could pack a bag and go to the teaching site if it were in the upper part of the country, or if it were in the lower part, I could sleep at my own tao fang. This country is so small, all this is possible.

    So basically, today, I came to two very nice revelations:

    1. I don't NEED to live in Cijin. The tropical island thing is nice in theory, but in practice, these beaches ain't that great due to the overly-protective lifeguards/jellyfish.
    2. Due to the low-cost buses that go to other cities, I could theoretically continue to live here and commute every day to another city, or at least do that until I know the job is good, then move at my own pace.

    I think I will drop off 15 more resumes in Kaohsiung in the hopes that I can find a job here, but if not, start hitting some of the country's badlands (you know, those places that hire high school dropouts and Russians who speak "pretty good" English). Try to find a job and start working by the end of this month.

    I'm sure SOMEONE in this country will hire me. I've decided I want to shoot for as close to 30 teaching hours as possible, because it's by far the most efficient way to earn money (private lessons pay little more per hour than normal teaching hours, and there's a big commute, so it's definitely more efficient to just teach more hours at your base buxiban).

    July 7, 2009: I Have a Job Interview on Thursday and Two Exams on Friday
    I'm going to be really busy. The kindergarten here in Kaohsiung (but not on Cijin Island) wants me to do a teaching demo. I'm fairly confident I can pull something together and am not too worried, except that it's such an open-ended assignment. What do they want me to teach? I have asked them if there's anything in particular they want me to teach, and I'm still waiting for a reply. At least I have a job interview now.

    I have TWO exams on Friday. I'm going to estimate that each one will be one hour, from 10:00 AM to 12:00 PM (although I hope to finish by 11:59 AM for reasons that are too complicated to explain). Computer architecture should be easy except for the end-of-chapter review questions, I am completely caught up in the course. However, UNIX I is a different story. I will need to do TONS of work to catch up in UNIX I.

    Basically, the rest of today, I should only worry about doing my reading for UNIX I. Tomorrow, I should worry about preparing for the kindergarten teaching demo and UNIX I. Thursday should be basic review for Computer Architecture and EXTENSIVE UNIX I.

    The good news is that I can put the job hunt on hold until Thursday, since if I do well, I can get this job. However, it's just a part-time job. They claim they can get me a working visa, but it pays only about 1/3 of what I need, so if I get this job, I'll probably work two hours a day at this job and do tutoring to make up the difference. Anyways, I better go, my Internet cafe time is almost up.

    July 5, 2009: I Captured a Jellyfish on the Beach, Bought Cool Taiwan Beer Sandals, and Mastered Writing All 500 Elementary Hanja on Mabeop Cheonjamun
    Yesterday was a fruitful day. I captured a jellyfish that had washed up on the shore in my latest Charles-captures-an-exotic-animal-and-photographs-it exploit. Mabeop Cheonjamun certifies me for being able to write 500 traditional hanja, but I'm sure I've actually well surpassed that because I know many Chinese characters that are higher than Level 5 and/or not in Korean hanja. However, the game now certifies that at one time or another, I could hand-write 500 traditional hanja if given the Korean pronunciation and meaning in Korean. Feels kind of good. Here are some pictures of the jellyfish I caught:

    The Jellyfish in a Styrofoam Cup

    It looks like it's swimming, but only because I shook the cup. Nevertheless it was probably dangerous, because nematocysts can sting weeks after the jellyfish's death. So I made sure not to handle it with my skin. Observe the brown tentacles.

    Here you can REALLY see its tentacles and reddish markings. I flipped it over for this picture.

    Here is the jellyfish flipped over in the styrofoam cup. I think it naturally rights itself, so I had to hold it in place with a cue tip.

    My NT$100 Taiwan Beer Sandals

    July 4, 2009: The World Games Come Out of Nowhere
    Today I was just eating my jiroufan (shredded Chinese-style chicken on rice) and soup and minding my own business when suddenly there were these huge deafening explosions! They sounded like cannons firing! I asked the restaurant owner what it was, and she said something that sounded like the Korean word "un-dong-hoe." In fact, it sounded so clearly like "un-dong-hoe" in Korean, I figured it must be a cognate. The trouble is, "un-dong" in Korean can mean many things. It can mean sports. It can mean an exercise (a demonstration/protest "exercise" or a military exercise). Really, understanding "un-dong" tells me very little. The "hoe" at the end makes "un-dong-hoe," or "sports meet," but that made very little sense in the context with the deafening explosions. However, as it turned out, it WAS a sports meet! The World Games 2009! Unbeknownst to me, the World Games 2009 are taking place in Kaohsiung! I ran home, got my camera, and took all these pictures and the video.

    This is a float for the World Games opening parade. The World Games are designed to contain sports that the Olympics does not contain. The World Games have been held since 1981. The next World Games will be in Dusseldorf, Germany. However, this year, I have the unexpected pleasure of being in the exact same city as the World Games that are being held.

    Another Float with Female Drummers

    An H2


    SUV in the Parade

    Click here to view a 16-second video clip of the parade outside of Tien Hou Temple with sound!

    This and other screenshots of Mabeop Cheonjamun in action are contained in the review!
    July 3, 2009: I Just Finished Mabeop Cheonjamun DS ( DS) and Wrote a Full Review
    I just finished Mabeop Cheonjamun on Story Mode. This piece of edutainment, programmed for Korean children, is very useful for anyone trying to learn the first 1,000 Chinese characters who is also functional in Korean. So I guess most of my readers won't really benefit from this, but maybe a few of you will. :-)

    How is this relevant to Taiwan? Well, they use traditional Chinese characters in Taiwan, too.

    Here is the review.

    July 2, 2009: I Took Some Beginning-of-July Pictures Yesterday and Today
    Over the last two days, I've taken some neat pictures of some other things on Cijin Island. Take a look.

    This is a lizard I caught last night and transported home in a discarded soda cup with ants in it (the lizard ate some of the ants). Then I photographed him in a laundry basin and let him go where I found him. Apparently the Mandarin word for this kind of lizard is "bi4hu3."

    Some pretty indigenous flowers.

    A temple that is not Tien Hou (however it's near Tien Hou) and some palm trees.

    A seafood stall with prices marked in NTD (New Taiwan Dollars).

    They had squid in Korea too, of course, but not served in quite this fashion.

    June 30, 2009: Just Killing Time at the Internet Cafe
    I paid for 44 minutes, but I wouldn't naturally use that many, so here I am killing time by updating. Not much is new. Drank on Ivar's roof last night and met his friends/roommates David and Freddy. Got to see the night market. Learned that the Taiwanese jokingly call the act of walking "the #11 bus" because your legs look like two ones.

    What do I hope to accomplish today? I don't know. Last night I finally got past a stumbling block in Dragon Quest VI, maybe I should keep playing Dragon Quest VI. I sort of have this half-assed goal to complete the whole game by July and then buy Dragon Quest IX at the Japanese import store which calls itself "PLAYSTATION 3." I don't know. I don't really have the money to do that, but it would be cool.

    I don't think I should bother to print out any resumes, because apparently most places want you to e-mail them instead. However, one way in which Taiwan wins in terms of convenience is that I now only have to walk five minutes to a printer instead of 20. They have a printer at 7-Eleven. Just walk in, stick in your USB memory, and print — $2 per page for black and white, $10 per page for color (Taiwan dollars of course). Not bad at all. I won't need to buy a printer.

    I was really on the borderline as to whether to put this post on my Boring Blog or on the Interesting Blog. I ultimately decided on the Interesting Blog only because of the reference to the #11 bus.

    Oh, I just saw a little girl (about three feet tall, I'm going to estimate first grade) try to open the prize case at this Internet cafe/game room with what appeared to be her mom's car keys. Very funny. She was trying each one on the lock and getting a disappointed look on her face every time one didn't work. All to get to large stuffed Lilo & Stitch characters, or the stuffed moose, or whatever she was angling for — or was it the Hello Kitty keyboard?

    June 29, 2009: I Elected not to Start Job Hunting Today
    I would just like some extra time to consolidate my Chinese and take care of some other urgent stuff, first. For example, I have to find a proctor for my Extended Learning Institute courses, or I'll be dropped from them. The job hunt is actually less urgent since no matter how quickly I find a job, I won't be able to get a visa for it until my degree comes in the mail (and the date this happens is not up to me). Therefore, there's no point in rushing the job hunt when there are more urgent things I should be doing (namely finding a proctor).

    Today was an adventure in trying to find a proctor for my exams. The adventure took me to a university called Kaohsiung Maritime University (well, something like that). It's the only university on Cijin Island.

    They called in this guy named Ivar (not my typo, it really is spelled with an 'r') to interpret exactly what I wanted. I have no idea if the university will consent to proctor for me or not. They're sending the proctoring request to their English professor for clarification. If they deny the request, I might have to drop the courses. I had intended to take these exams before leaving Korea, but the Extended Learning Institute rejected my proctor request (the financial officer at the Graduate School of International Studies isn't good enough for them, apparently).

    Whether they decide to proctor for me or not, Ivar was a cool dude. Apparently he selected his name from a list of English names years ago that his English teacher gave him. I suspect it was probably "Ivan" and he thought the 'n' was an 'r.' Afterward, Ivar showed me his lab where they work on things related to marine engineering. Pretty cool. Dudes design things like boats and submarines in this air-conditioned lab and sleep shifts on a couch with a sleeping bag on it (apparently if someone isn't at the lab and the phone rings, no matter how late into the night it has become, the professor gets mad).

    It was an interesting day, but not particularly productive. However, when I walked in the wrong direction to find the university, I happened upon the following three things that will make my life in Cijin much easier:

  • A supermarket — I had previously thought these didn't exist on Cijin; I had been under the false impression that I had to go to mainland Kaohsiung to access one.
  • An ENGLISH SCHOOL. Interestingly enough, rather than calling them "English schools," I've noticed that Taiwanese use the characters for "Mei3yu3," or "American language" far more than "English language" ("Ying1yu3"). Hopefully if I can apply to this school on Cijin and get a job there, things will all be solved, because I can bike five or ten minutes and be at work, not even having to leave the island. That would be nice, wouldn't it?
  • A machine that provides seven liters of clean water for 10 Taiwan dollars

    Man, this Internet cafe is addictive. They have air conditioning here. Not so in my apartment. I wonder how much it would cost to spend all my leisure hours here instead of the hot apartment? Come to think of it, it would cost less, because I'd be using a computer constantly and not be thinking about eating. I'd save on my food bill. Air conditioning and a reasonably modern computer for $0.41 an hour. Tempting.

    I've got to start thinking about how many hours a week I want to teach English. In all likelihood, I'll be able to choose several jobs ranging from 20 hours a week to 30 hours a week or even more. The most common options seem to be 25 (most common), 20, and 30. I've calculated that each additional five hours that I put in per week is +$4,000 (American) in post-tax salary. So if I could theoretically juggle 30 hours a week, then I could net over $1,400 a month after living expenses. However, if I only elected for 20 hours a week, then I would net a mere $735.55 in savings. Basically, increasing hours by 50% increases savings by 100%, so it makes financial sense to work longer hours, but will I have time to study if I do that?

    I'm going to have to weigh how much my free time is worth. I think I'll go about it this way: I will shoot for 25 hours a week. If I can work 30 hours without adding on a working day (just doing one more hour per day), then why the hell not? However, if doing 30 hours requires working on Saturday, forget it. I think I should make the decision to surpass 25 hours based on how many days I work per week.

    Of course, another school of thought says that I should go for the bare minimum, 20 hours, and then stack up a whole bunch of private lessons with college students and working adults. It would diversify my income (make me less reliant on one source), and let's face it, teaching adults via free talking for 10 hours is not nearly as stressful as 10 hours of kindergarteners. On the other hand, I'm not quite sure of the legality of doing private lessons. I've heard that it's completely illegal, and I've also heard a source say it's legal if you file the correct paperwork.

    June 24, 2009: Two Ailments from the Sea
    Please note that I originally intended to make this post about four days ago, but due to a glitch/my error/whatever, it never uploaded. It's old news, but maybe worth a read.

    This morning, I started itching like crazy for about 20 minutes. I kept scratching, but eventually, the itch went away.

    Then I started itching again, and I was scratching like crazy. It went away again.

    Then, the third time, I started itching LIKE CRAZY. It was so bad, I exited the subway before getting to my stop because I needed to get something to put on my skin as soon as possible.

    At that point, I thought it was my sunburn. After all, it afflicted the upper half of my body where my sunburn is.

    I was itching like absolute fucking crazy, it was hell. I could not maintain my civility and tolerance. I yelled at the clerks in the Watson's "WHERE IS THE LOTION? I NEED LOTION NOW!" I couldn't afford to be patient, it was the itchiest I've ever been in my life. Seriously, it was hell. Don't laugh, it was one of the most uncomfortable situations I've ever experienced in my life. It wasn't pain, it was THE ITCH. I yelled to the clerks "WHERE IS THE BATHROOM? I NEED THE BATHROOM NOW!" I'm sure everyone at that point thought I was a crazy American who had absolutely flipped out of his mind.

    I went into the bathroom and put on the aloe lotion like crazy, but it didn't help. It was HORRIBLE. I would do ANYTHING to make the full-upper-body itch go away. Anything. So I opened the door a crack and yelled "CALL AN AMBULANCE!" I didn't care what it cost or the embarrassment I was incurring on myself, I JUST WANTED THE DAMN ITCH TO GO AWAY.

    Finally, one of the staff at Watson's escorted me to a hospital which, fortunately, was right across the street. After asking me some questions, the doctor concluded that it must have been something I encountered while swimming, and I got two injections of antihistamines in my buttocks. I have never looked forward to a shot so much in my life! I was practically begging the nurse to just stick those damn needles into my butt (and to her credit, she was very good at it, I didn't feel the first one, and the second one was only a tiny pain, but a beautiful pain, because I knew it would give me relief). The doctor also had me take a cocktail of antihistamine meds.

    The hospital fee: 500 NTD (about US $15). My itching was down to a bearable level within minutes. So my first impression of the Taiwanese hospital system is VERY good. I mean, I didn't even have insurance and all they needed from me was pocket money. They even gave me two days' worth of antihistamines.

    After the doctor's visit, I decided to apologize to the store clerks for yelling at them (I was in crisis, true, but I still felt sorry for acting like an asshole). I bought them each a sandwich from 7-Eleven and said I was sorry, and drew a picture of a jellyfish and explained it was probably what had stung me. I think they understood.

    On the way home, I met a Cuban-American surfer named Javier and his Venezuelan-American wife named Jessica, and described my problem to them. They knew exactly what had happened to me.

    Javier examined my arm and said it was sea lice, a very common thing after typhoons. Sea lice are actually not lice at all, but microscopic jellyfish larva. I had the telltale red marks. Javier said he gets sea lice all the time when surfing, especially after typhoons, because the water gets all stirred up. He said that due to osmosis, if you use fresh water to rinse the area, the tiny jellyfish's stingers fire, and it gets worse. Javier has also been hospitalized, like me, for sea lice.

    I was hoping that I was over the sea lice, but I was wrong. As I wrote the first part of this article, the sea lice stingers were still firing and my antihistamines were wearing off. I began to itch like absolute crazy again, and was swearing and yelling. That's when I discovered the way to ease the pain.

    The problem is, none of the Web sites I've researched really tell how to treat the stings, just NOT how to treat them. You can't use fresh water. You're supposed to use non-infested seawater. Well, how am I supposed to know they AREN'T going to be in that sea water? I could just make the problem worse. So I found a solution. I filled a bucket with very hot water and poured a bunch of cheap salt into it to create my own sea lice-free "sea water."

    If you splash almost-scalding water on yourself, it provides very good relief to sea lice and the whole osmosis/firing the stingers thing isn't an issue since the salt raises the osmotic pressure. Within a few minutes, I went from yelling, cursing, etc. to thinking "wow, this treatment I came up with really works, I'm a genius."

    Apparently sea lice can last for days, even weeks. Whatever you do, do not put the infested clothes back on. Even after they have been laundered and dried, the stingers remain because they are non-living.

    So the moral of the story, learned at the cost of my dignity, the Watson's staff members' sanity, and about 15 American dollars, is that:

    1. Especially after typhoons, swimming in the water around Taiwan puts you at great risk for jellyfish stings, especially sea lice.
    2. If afflicted with sea lice, bathe in hot SALTY (not soapy) water and don't scratch. Scratching makes it worse, but hot water is okay and provides the same relief that scratching does.
    As for my second ailment, I got sea water in my right ear and had some pain and possibly an infection, but a mere two eye drops bought from the local pharmacy for less than 3 American dollars have solved the problem. The pain is gone. It no longer hurts to stick my finger in my ear.

    In conclusion, avoid ear infections by squirting two eye drops into an ear that has had water in it, and if stung by tiny jellyfish, use hot, salty water.

    As for whether I go swimming in the waters off Taiwan again, I'm going to have to think about it and observe my symptoms. If I didn't know a way to sooth the pain, I'd seriously never swim in Taiwanese waters ever again. However, if it's possible to overcome the symptoms in one day by meticulously changing clothes and using hot, salty water, then maybe I could swim/surf on Fridays and Saturdays and be in tip-top shape to teach my students when Monday rolls around. I will have to observe the symptoms and see how it goes.

    June 23, 2009: The Beach is Open
    Whereas on Sunday and Monday it appeared to be closed (I got a whistle blown at me when wading in the water twice and nobody was swimming), it is now open. So for the record, the official date is June 23 — that's when Cijin gets its lifeguards in red bathing suits, its surfers, etc.

    It seems we can't swim. We can only wade and play in the water about 20 feet from shore or less. This kind of sucks, but maybe I can find a time of day when the lifeguards aren't there, or another beach on the island where it's okay. However, if you're surfing, you're allowed to go out quite a ways. I hope to learn to surf during my stay in Taiwan. That'll lessen the problems with the restrictions on going out too far.

    By the way, I think I've covered enough expenses here in Taiwan to have a basic idea how to budget. After all, a basic budget is basically composed of lodging, food, and miscellaneous, and I already know what the former two cost. I will be very conservative on the former two and very liberal on the latter to make sure I have enough money. Here's the plan for what I will spend each month:

  • 5,000 NTD per month on housing: in case I move and can't find another place that's as cheap as this one, I will budget slightly more than I currently pay towards this. If I don't use it, great.
  • 5,000 NTD per month on food and beverages: once I get a single burner and a pot, I can boil my own water and not have to pay for expensive bottles of water/soy milk from 7-Eleven. I can also cook at home and make my own rice in the pot (thanks to Mijung teaching me how to steam my own rice back in Korea).
  • 10,000 NTD on miscellaneous crap: I expect this to cost about twice of my rent and food combined. Miscellaneous expenses are always popping up. Need a 100 US dollar application fee for something? It comes out of this budget. Need to make a trip to go to Taipei? It comes out of this budget. Because these things are often unpredictable and extremely expensive, I'm going to budget a mighty 10,000 NTD per month to miscellaneous. That's over 300 US dollars per month. This may seem extreme, but experience has taught me that rent and food costs are trivial compared to things you can't predict.

    I will make two withdrawals per month of 10,000 NTD each. That'll be my money for the month. If I have any left over at the end of the month, half of it goes into the bank, and half of it goes to fun things (video games, beach equipment like a surfboard, etc). Under this plan, I should be able to save about $1,000 a month and live acceptably.

    As for things I need to buy that will save me money in the long run, this is what I need:

  • A single burner: I'm not sure whether to go with gas cylinder-based or a hotplate yet, but I have to have something with which to cook and boil water. This will save me money on food and on water.
  • A pot: for boiling water, and use it without a lid to cook things as if it were a frying pan. Since they still sell kimchi in the supermarkets, it looks like I can continue to make my old favorite, tuna and kimchi fried in a pan.
  • A Nintendo DS charger that works on 110 volts: my current one works in Korea, but not here. I need to keep learning my Chinese characters with Mabeop Cheonjamun, so I'll need a Nintendo DS charger to play Mabeop Cheonjamun.
  • A prepaid cell phone: this will be invaluable in helping me get a job in a couple of weeks. How are people going to call me back if I don't have a cell phone?

    I'm still debating with myself whether I should learn Chinese strictly through self-study or whether I should sign up for a once- or twice-a-week class. I'd really prefer to self-study it and save the money and learn what I want to learn more efficiently, but I'm not sure if I can keep up the motivation. I certainly stand a decent chance since it's directly relevant to my daily life in this place. By the way, I learned a new word today: chou doufu. Stinky tofu. It's 35 NTD (just over one American dollar) and is made of stinky fermented tofu, a dark brown sauce, and a side of veggies. Ice tea is sometimes free. Good deal.

    June 22, 2009: I Took 15 Pictures of Cijin
    As the title says, I took 15 pictures of Cijin Island. Here they are.

    A Bungalow Near the Beach on Cijin

    A Traditional Taiwanese Aboriginal Canoe

    Cats Playing Outside a 7-Eleven

    A Coconut

    A Crab I Caught Last Night (and eventually let go, after transporting it back to the beach in a sock)

    The NT$ 15 Ferry Between Gushan and Cijin Island

    A Friendly Dog (who became friendly when I gave him part of my NT$ 22 Big Bite from 7-Eleven)

    Huge Spider Outside my Apartment, the Size of a Child's Hand

    Lanterns at Tien Hou Temple

    Lone Palm Tree

    Pack of Stray Dogs

    Man, you can tell we're not in Korea anymore...

    I woke up this morning between 5:00 and 6:00 AM to the crowing of roosters right outside my apartment. This is one of them.

    The Entrance of Tien Hou Temple

    View of Kaohsiung City from Cijin

    June 21, 2009: I Came from Korea to Taiwan and Have Accomplished a Ton in the Past 24 Hours

    Kaohsiung from the Air

    The Bedroom in My Apartment which Is Only $106.45 in US Dollars Per Month

    I got on the plane in Incheon and flew to Kaohsiung. I have accomplished a TON. Here is what I've done since touching down at Kaohsiung International Airport less than 22 hours ago:

  • Found a hotel.
  • Did a little survey on groceries, and found that both soy milk and natto, two things I like, are much cheaper than Korea. Restaurant food is also considerably cheaper. I got stinky tofu with a side of vegetables and all-I-could-drink sweet ice tea for 35 New Taiwan Dollars (just slightly over $1 US).
  • Found a cheaper hotel.
  • Rode on the Gushan <-> Cijin ferry. It's only 15 New Taiwan Dollars (less than 50 cents) each way, and is awesome. You get the spray of the ocean in your face, and when the gates open up, people ride their motorcycles off the boat, over the gangplank, and out onto the road in perfect unison like some kind of convoy from hell!
  • I found an INCREDIBLY cheap apartment. Bathroom and main room (both of which combined are at least eight times the size of the room I rented in Korea for a higher monthly rent). It's only $106.45 per month, and I get my own bathroom. It's less than half a mile from the tourist beach. The landlady who runs the place is a bald Buddhist monk who cannot speak standard Chinese, only Taiwanese. She seems nice, but I hope no problems arise, because I never plan on being able to understand Taiwanese.

    I found this Internet cafe. Unfortunately my apartment doesn't have internet, but for just over 50 US cents, I can use a modern computer with a big LCD monitor that is on the island.

    Oh, and did I mention where the apartment I'm renting is? ON CIJIN ISLAND. Yeah, not kidding, for less than $107 a month, I'm renting an apartment ON A TROPICAL ISLAND WITH PALM TREES IN THE PACIFIC OCEAN WITH MULTIPLE TOURIST BEACHES NEARBY. There's also a fisherman's wharf nearby. Do I win at life or what?

    Tomorrow when the weather clears up, I'll post some pictures of sandy beaches, palm trees, and fallen coconuts near my abode to make all my readers jealous.


    The Main Area of My Sub-$107 Apartment, which I Plan to Sector Off Using Cardboard into a Living Room