Taiwan: Settling In

First Impressions: As my plane landed at TPE airport in Taoyuan, I was excited at the possibilities that awaited me here in Taiwan. I was greeted outside the arrivals by a pre-arranged pickup, and to my surprise he drove a black Saloon; a current model Camry if I recall correctly. I was a little surprised as I didn’t expect bigger cars to be as popular, and most of the cars at the pickup section were in the same class. The drive from the airport to my hostel was almost an hour and at this point I was quite happy that I had a lift rather than have to figure out public transport right away. However, this couldn’t be further from reality. I was not able to communicate to the driver, who spoke only Chinese, that I had actually changed my reservations to The Cats Pajamas (cool name isn’t it?) for the first few nights as my original hostel, Taiwanmex, was full. Fortunately, I had picked both locations due to their proximity to MRT stations and I was able to navigate to my destination relatively easily given the circumstances***.

The Cats Pyjamas was located in a hip district next to a night market. I quite liked the place which has helpful attendant, lcd Tv, kick ass showers and a common kitchen. The next place i went to was Taiwanmex, which i discovered was because the owner was a Mexican man who had moved here about a decade ago and opened up shop with his Taiwanese wife. The location of this hostel was ideal because it was right hear ZhongShang MRT and the busy streets around it.

cks memorialIn my first few weeks in Taiwan I was able to see the National Palace Museum. It is regarded as the best museum of Chinese history in the world, since it was the old Chinese Nationalist Party (the KMT) led by Mr. Chiang Kai-shek had the greatest treasure exported to the Republic of China (Taiwan) when the communist party was gaining steam in the mainland. I also went to a couple of night markets, had lots of local food, including my fair share of the typical Taiwanese lunch boxes that usually contain 3 portions of veges and 1 meat. Saw the iconic Taipei 101 and started my training with Hess.bullet proof cadi

Hess is the language cram school that i signed a contract with to teach English for 1 year in Taiwan. I secured the job online and they are one of the only companies in Taiwan that will guarantee a contract before you even land. The initial training I had with the company was in Taipei and only a 15 minute walk from my hostel. Hess paid for the hotel during training so i checked out of Taiwanmex and moved into the First Hotel located on Nanjing Rd. It was a mid level hotel but still a step up from a lot of the hostels i had been staying at for the past 2 months, and it was complimentary so there was no way i was turning that down. Initial training (HITT) lasted for about 2 weeks during which i learned a lot about the Hess way of teaching, their curriculum and met a dozen other teachers that would be doing that same thing as me for the next year. The training days were really long but that’s about all i care to mention about training. After the HITT, we all moved to our respective branches, in my case this was the Sun Min branch in Taichung.

mango shaved ice - taipei

Taichung is a city located in central Taiwan, about 200 Km south of Taipei. Although i took the bus to Taichung, there is a high speed rail connecting all parts of Taiwan and the ride from Taipei to Taichung my HSR is only 45 mins going at about 300 km an hour. I intend on using it next time to go to Kaohsiung all the way in the south (also 45 mins) or back to Taipei. The hotel they put us up at (There was three of us, Heather, Miles and myself) was Huang He or something. It was quite a nice hotel and i had my own large room with TV, fridge, large bathroom, queen size bed, writing table and not to mention and awesome view from the large windows. The branch manager Frances took one another new teacher Micheal and I for dinner with two other people from the branch our first day at Little Italy, which is restaurant here and not a district. Its was a nice place with all the Italian stereotypes you can imagine come to life. After the meal she took me around to look at accommodation the next day and I settled for a place that the old teacher (Wesley) I was replacing was going to move out of. I’ll be sharing the 3 bedroom apartment with him for this month and one other teacher at my branch who already expressed interest will move in as soon as Wesley moves out. Its quite a nice place, lots of windows, air conditioning in all rooms, large bathroom and kitchen. Although there is no TV, cable or internet which really sucks (and is the reason why i’m in an internet cafe right now. On the bright side its located between a day market and a night market which means there’s always an awesome selection of food located just a short walk away and the internet cafes in Taiwan are really really cheap at about 15 NT an hour (50c/hour) when you pay for a 3-5 hour block.

adam gilian & grantThe people I’ve met at the branch are nice so far and I’ve gone out with them a few times to places that i don’t really recall specifically other than Ala (live band), the elementary school bar (a karaoke bar with towers) and Freedom (a popular foreigner bar/club that plays a selection of pop and hip hop music.)

*** Two days before I left Thailand, my own alcohol and adrenaline induced bad judgement led me to participate in the fire show on the beaches of Koh Phangnan. My nemesis: the suspended fire rings. Its difficult to judge the biggest reason for my failure, whether it be my blunted reflexes or the lack of stability of ring, which was being suspended by two Thais on elevated platforms. The first jump was successful for what its worth, which inspired the second less stellar performance highlighted by my right leg wrapping around the rope for what must have been about 4-5 seconds. That was just enough for the flames to leave black charred marks on along the back of my knee, calves and ankle as well as just above my right elbow. Although it didn’t hurt that much in the moment, this led to much pain and discomfort in the coming weeks.

1st: The first remedy for this burn was to jump into the ocean and “disinfect” it … Well it helped with the burning anyway. About an hour after the incident the pain started to get unbearable, so i had to leave the party and head back to the guesthouse. On the way back I stopped at a pharmacy and picked up some Povidone Iodine 1% in this little orange bottle and some paracetamol. I disinfected the wound with the iodine and called it a night, the amount of alcohol I had in my system allowed me to sleep through the night. The next day I tried to rough it and walk it off, however this turned out to be easier said than done.

2nd: Later that evening I went to a clinic and got the advise of one of the nurses and simply tied a cotton wrap around the wound and tried to keep it dry. As a side note she advised that i just tie the wrap at the end rather than use tape or a clip and I rather liked this tid bit of ingenuity. I did a little more research on burn wounds and my own diagnosis was that it was a second degree burn as it affected the skin tissue, muscle tendons and ligaments, caused discoloration but did not make it through to bone or deep into the muscle. There was no standard protocol to treat this type of burn or the expected healing time from the material I could comprehend online, however, i was able to find a general guideline that stated anywhere from 4 weeks to 2 years… this was not the reassurance I was looking for.

3rd: When I got back to Bangkok the next day I went to the pharmacy (at the 7-11 🙂 ) to buy some more cotton wraps and the attended advised that I use the Iodine cream instead of the liquid and clean the wound out with an alcohol disinfectant first, i took his advise for the cream but not the alcohol as i had read an article advising against it the other day.

4th: The Watsons at BKK airport suggested that i apply low adherent, highly absorbent swabs to the wound before applying the wrap and i gladly accepted the advise, as i felt the skin was tearing off as i removed the wraps daily.

5th: When i went to restock bandages I’m in Taipei now at Cosmed and the clerk suggests an antibiotic cream in addition to the iodine i was already using, although I was hesitant about using antibiotics on it at first, i really didn’t want to run the chance of getting the wound infected so i gave in started applying that on my next dressing. After using the cream for two days and popping in far too many paracetamols (which were now almost 10X the price i used to pay for them in Thailand; 120NT vs 15Baht per strip) I decided to see a doctor the next day.

6th: I went to the NTU hospital since it was the most convenient one, with its own MRT station. Medical service is extremely cheap in Taiwan as i discovered. The consultation and prescription of 2 tubes of Silver sulfadiazine only cost about 660NT or about $25. The doctor also advised against the antibiotic cream mentioned in the 5th remedy. He didn’t give me any pain killers though. That was the last remedy I really needed. I kept it up for about 2 more weeks and by than almost all the wounds had healed to the point where my body had either made a natural cover or the skin was starting to heal.

All in all, it took about 3 weeks for the wound to “heal” enough for it to not require any extra care on my part. Although there is still discoloration and marks on my leg and arm, no further action in required. Lets see how long it takes to fully heal.


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