Taichung Trip and Reflections on a Month in Taiwan

October 1, 2006

I just got back from a weekend in Taichung.  Five people from my original training group live there so five of us from the Taipei area headed down for a visit.  Unfortunately I work until 6:00 on Saturdays so it was a very short weekend, but it was definitely worth the trip.

Saturday night we all went to KTV. For those of you not fortunate enough to have had a KTV experience, I’ll explain. KTV is karaoke Taiwan style.  A group can rent a private room with microphones and a big screen to play the music videos and all other things required for karaoke, like beer.  The videos were ridiculously random things like buildings in Switzerland, birds cleaning themselves, or girls roller skating.  After a few hours of that corniness we went to a club for a while.

Sunday we went to the Taichung Botanical Gardens and otherwise just hung out and immersed ourselves in our favorite pastime: complaining about work.  More on that in a minute.

I took a train to get there but on the way back we all took the Aloha bus.  What an experience.  Huge, comfortable, massage chairs, drinks and snacks, blankets, TV…  I could get used to traveling that way.

I really liked Taichung.  I felt like I could actually breathe there.  Many places in the city were attractive and there was even space to walk on the sidewalks most of the time.  None of those things are true in Luzhou. 

After a month in Taiwan (exactly; I arrived in Taipei on Sept. 1st),  I have very conflicted feelings about being here.  Going to Taichung and talking to my friends about their experiences isn’t what started me thinking about these things, but it certainly intensified it.

 I don’t know if I like it here.  I honestly don’t know, and that’s strange to me.  And if I don’t like it, I don’t know how severe the problem is.  I don’t know if what I don’t like is entirely related to my job or if it’s being here in general.  I don’t know if there’s any action I could take that would make things better. I don’t know if any of my concerns are worth worrying about or if I’m just going through mandatory one-month culture shock.

I spent the entire bus ride back going over all the possibilities in my mind and came to the only conclusion I could come to: that I just need to patiently wait and see what happens in the next few months.  Too bad I’m about as patient as my kindergarteners. In any case, I may not know a lot of things but I do know that fun plans with friends are the best use of my limited free time.  So mission accomplished this weekend.  Next up, Canadian Thanksgiving.


  1. Hey, I found your blog through google blogsearch (search words “taiwan teacher”.) It’s been an interesting read about your experiences on the island…I’ve an interest in TESL myself, but I’m not really sure how to pursue that interest. How did you get the teaching job you hold? Was it through a certain recruting company? I hope you don’t mind me asking.

  2. Hi Kaitlin! Wow, what an experience! I really admire the fact that you are teaching in Taiwan, even though it sounds like it is extremely challenging and not always fun. 🙂 You are so brave! I pray that it will get easier for you – and more fun!

    And last but not least- Happy Birthday! I’ll post a note on your facebook too.

    Love, Chelsey

  3. Hi Kaitlin,
    A couple things I thought about when I read your last two entries was the tactics I employ to make a home away from home. I haven’t lived anywhere for a year, but some of my trips have been close to a month long. I have little rituals I practice that I don’t need other people for. It affords the opportunity for a lot of self discovery which is really cool. Nice to see you also discovered the joy of little kids. Those little Asian kids must be really cute.
    Happy belated B-day!.
    Uncle Donny

  4. Hi Kaitlin,

    Hope your cold is better. Ask a Chinese friend to show you how to make the boiled ginger remedy. My roommates gave me some when I was soooo sick and the result was truly amazing. My cold broke over night and I was a new person in the morning! I don’t quite remember how to prepare the concoction anymore, but basically it’s taking ginger root and boiling it down to a very black essence and then drinking that just before you go to bed. It really worked. (It probably cleanses way more than just the cold from your system!)

    Has the really cold, damp weather set in just yet? I remember being colder in Taiwan than I had ever been in Minnesota. Our dorm had no heat (as was the case with almost all places then) and since it poured rain all the time, everything mildewed so my roommates opened all the windows for cross ventilation.(!) We just froze our butts off all winter. There was always a HUGE pot of hot water boiling at school and giant tea cups. We all would fill our giant cups to the top and sit with them inside our coats to keep warm in class. Then we’d get soup for lunch and have “la” sauce (fiery hot sauce) ladeled on to start the internal stove to keep warm.

    I had not brought a really warm coat (because I thought Taiwan was tropical and warm!!) so I simply wore all my clothes all the time that winter.

    By the way, the culture shock blues were a big deal for me. I thought I’d died and gone to the “H” place during my first month or two there. Slowly I fell in love with all the boring cement buildings and the open sewers (then) and the “different” smells and the State Fair-like concentration of people everywhere I went (including the buses) and the rooster crowing in the middle of the night somewhere in the block of my dorm. Where that rooster lived (and chickens) was beyond me. But when I fell in love — I fell in love and there is a romance still in my heart today that is Taipei and Taiwan. Odd as that may sound to you now…..it could happen! (Maybe it already has.)

    Bless you, Kaitlin. You are an excellent writer. Your blog is a treat to read and a treasure you are creating for yourself and for all of us.


  5. hmmmm, might have to try that ginger remedy since so far nothing else has worked.

    It’s still definitely warm and sticky over here, but everyone keeps warning me about the cold. I packed some warm clothes but I guess we’ll see if it’s enough.

    Haha, I also wake up to roosters crowing all the time. I know where they live though. In little cages over by the street vendor that sells the chicken feet at night, go figure.

    Thanks for commenting!

  6. Whoa! Don’t like the idea of the chicken’s feet being sold right off them in the middle of the night!! I guess I assumed they were living on happy chicken and rooster ranch somewhere in the cement block of our city block. (Naive me. I mean, the chickens hanging by their feet all up and down the street should have been a hint, I guess.)

    Have you seen chickens hanging upside down by their feet from the back of moving scooters? (Maybe they don’t do that any more.)


  7. Hya Katrin,

    The only thing i can tell you about the little experience that i’ve had in India and Taiwan is to seek for people.
    To seek for foreigners who have been there for long time and can explain you how to view and understand your environment (i saw that you read M. Turton’s blog), and to seek to make few good taiwanese friends who will then open you their door to a lot more.

    I actually got the chance to lead a dragon procession (i was carying the fireball at the front), the experience was extremely interesting because the interaction with the people was very intense, religious (it was for Matsu’s birthday, she is the taoist goddess of the sea) and really fun.

    So dont stay too much with other english teachers, and go out of the city!

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