Wednesday, 14 December, 2016
We’ve reached the end of another chapter and this one was a bloody long one – I’ve been in Taiwan for three years.
In that time, Donald Trump was elected to be the president of the United States of America (still so frigging weird to say), David Cameron has emerged as a pig fondler and the world threw buckets of ice over its head for charity.
A lot has occurred.
Many things have changed in my life too. For a start, I turned twenty-eight – which was my most important birthday to date.
Naturally, I had been nervous all year. All the best people usually die at twenty-seven – Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin. Wow, it seems that having a forename beginning with J is also a big factor. I guess I need to thank my parents for going with Daniel rather than Janiel. So, yeah, most importantly, I made it through that ordeal.
I also dedicated a year (well, gave two hours on a Tuesday morning) of my life to learning Mandarin, but I’m still bloody tragic when speaking it.
My initial priority was learning how to swear. This is always ranked number one when it comes to attempting a second language. While step two should always be ‘hello’ and ‘thank you’ – manners can make all the difference.
Honestly, there was a period when the only sentence I could put together was, ‘Hello, dick. Thanks’. And I wasn’t exactly pestering locals to test the strength of my pronunciation with that line, for obvious reasons.
Talking of tests and locals, I felt like I was bloody sitting an oral exam most mornings on the bus to work at my last job. An older man, eighty-four years of age (my hard-working year of studying allowed me to uncover that bit of information) would sit next to me four days a week and want to get a bit chatty in his native tongue.
I never found out why he doesn’t get the bus on Fridays. I asked, but didn’t understand his reply – I considered a few possibilities but always ended up at the same theory each time. Logic undoubtedly points to him being a regular at The Brass Monkey’s Thursday evening Ladies Night. This would of course result in him not being able to face the world the following day.
At the point we started catching the same bus, I was beyond ‘Hello, dick. Thanks.’ Although, not by a great deal. I was basically at ‘vagina, breasts, head, dickhead, beer, sorry, left, right’ level.
I did reasonably well at first, because on day one he kept things pretty simple – in other words, he was asking about my nationality rather than my views on climate change. Unfortunately, getting a gold star on our first shared journey, did not benefit me long term.
I had cemented my place with the professionals. Mr. Eighty-Four was now convinced that I was fluent and it appeared that nothing could occur to alter his mind on that.
The next day, he had advanced to detailed views on climate change (probably) and I rarely understood anything he said. However, apparently first impressions do go a long way and I was not considered the weak link in the conversation. He believed that he was the issue – personally I think that he was being a bit hard on himself.
Therefore, when I was struggling, which was more often than not, he started talking incredibly loudly and slowly – oh, and there were also hand gestures. The actions were by far the most entertaining; he almost flapped right out of his seat and into the next chair when trying to act out the word ‘eagle’.
His behavior made people frequently turn around, and I would guess that they were usually pretty surprised to see that I was actually an adult rather than a three-year-old child. After all, there was an old man slowly shouting the word eagle at me while flapping his arms.
Regrettably, I never told him that I was leaving – I couldn’t face watching him acting out the tears.
I left my job two weeks ago. Obviously, there are the usual loose ends I’ve needed to tie up – the boring necessities. However, I also used that period to see sections of Taiwan that I have never seen before. I went to the very south of the country to visit a little seaside town called Kenting.
Kenting was the one place I had yet to visit that I really wanted to see – it’s one of the most popular holiday spots for locals in the summer and the beaches are frequently regarded the best in Taiwan.
Friends often tell me that the place is packed to the rafters in the summer. However, December is far away from peak season and I virtually had the whole place to myself.
This offered quite a few benefits. I was happily waking up at 11am, strolling down to the beach and having my pick of the deck chairs. There was none of that waking up at 5am to lay down a towel nonsense on my trip. Who doesn’t want that from a beach holiday?
It was a pretty windy few days as well, so sunburn was never going to be a concern. The water was too cold to dip your feet into, so there wasn’t a single occasion on this trip in which I felt irritated about sand getting stuck to my feet.
Sure, the atmosphere could have been better in the bar – I was the only customer – but from a more positive perspective I didn’t have to queue once. So, swings and roundabouts.
It is a cool seaside town and I’m glad that I made the effort to check it out. It is a lovely place to walk around. Although, should I ever end up in Kenting again I may choose to visit in a different month.
So, that’s it – kind of a wrap up Taiwan blog. I’m opting to exit the country before I get dragged to another bloody wedding. I have been to four in three years. I’m very much at the ‘always the bridesmaid, never the bride’ stage of life. Those things are costly too, you have to hand over a red envelope filled with money at each one.
Taiwan, it has been a fantastic three years – you’re the only country to hold on to me for such a period since I left the nest, which I think says a great deal in itself.
However, the time for a new adventure has arrived. Monica and I have been granted working holiday visas for Australia – so, that will be the next year of my life. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on any didgeridoo lessons or crocodile fights. Peace.