Monday, 7 September 2009

Trying to get sorted out....

Greetings from the open air oven known as Taiwan! The temperatures seemed to have dropped slightly, but are still soaring way above what most Brits can stay vertical for long in!! I’ve had to stop going out during the working day unless I have to as I just wilt. Not surprisingly, you get a number of people selling fruit and eggs and things like that after sunset, which is really quite early here. I noticed it got dark around 6pm yesterday, but they don’t have a ‘summer time’ arrangement with the clocks here, so that would account for part of it and the other part is being relatively near to the equator.

Within just over 24 hours of the last posting, we got a flat signed for, some money out of the bank and our boxes were cleared and delivered. Our new place is far from fancy, but a little less basic than our temporary digs, (which have been the style of place that students and poorer people often live in). We’re still in the process of moving our stuff down there and doing some clearing up, (Taiwanese people seem to leave all sorts of junk for the next person to chuck out!), but hope to be fully moved in by Wednesday night. We’re having the same problem as last week with money as we’ve had to pay 3 months’ worth of rent including the bond, so we can’t get a mattress for the bed until tomorrow! Also had to open the needed Post Office bank account for the scholarship payment and apply for an Alien Residence Certificate, both of which seemed to have gone through OK, but need money.

After getting the flat keys last Wednesday, we finally had some time off from house-hunting and went to have a look at the Taipei 101 skyscraper, where we both bought tacky souvenir holographic rulers to use in class (!!!) and got some photos. The big event here at the moment is the Deaflympics, thus the ‘Taiwan 加油' ('fuel up’ literally ‘add oil’, subs for ‘good luck’) on the above photo. The first 6 floors are a shopping centre, as you can see here.

Classes are a bit of a problem in that we’ve both had to change from our original groups. We were both assigned to afternoon classes, me to a book I’d done before (and had told them so…..) and Martin to a business related class, which turned out to not be at all what he wanted in terms of content. He had wanted to do business language, but the book they use he feels doesn’t meet his needs at all and that he first wanted to concentrate on more general stuff anyway. So, he joined an 8am class this morning doing the text we’re both interested in and I tried, and failed, to get a place in any of the 10am ones doing the same book. So, I’m going to have to go to the afternoon group today and, if that doesn’t have a place (it didn't!), go to my old class just for the sake of going to a class today and not having an absence counted against me (very important when your scholarship payment partly depends on not missing more than 11 hours per month). I’ll try the 8am class tomorrow as well, but there seems to be room for me (bet there isn't in the morning though...). Still, it would free up the rest of the day, so it has its good points. Martin said the 8am teacher reckoned the class would be too easy given he’d being learning Chinese for over 14 years, but he said he learned a lot and, of course, like me, it’s 14 years on and off with some intensive periods and some absorbing nothing new at all!

We’re both in level 5 of 10, which equates to 3rd year of intensive study – post year abroad stuff. There are some of this year’s Leeds graduates at the same school and I noticed one was in level 8! 4 years ago, when he was a little 18/19 year old first year student, I taught him and now he’s 3 levels ahead of me. Small embarrassment! Still, he’s about 15 years younger, hasn’t lost 7 years to 2 serious illnesses and has just had 4 consecutive years of intensive study, so there!=) Proves there’s a lot of truth in the saying ‘use it or lose it’ and, although most people usually rubbished me when I said I’d lost a great deal of my Chinese language ability, I now have good proof of it, so believe what I say in future, OK??!! Recently I’ve taken to describing my Chinese ability as ‘fluency without content’, which basically means that I’m so used to using Chinese so I can put sentences together etc without hesitating most of the time, but vocab and all sorts of useful expressions are missing. For instance, I learned the correct way to ask if the waiter can pack up the left-overs of your restaurant meal for you to take home (你可以幫我打包嗎?which does NOT mean can you help me to hit Bao, Clive!!) and can I pay by card (我可不可以刷卡?), both of which Sir and I got wrong before. The other person understood, but it wasn’t correct and both are really quite simple, everyday expressions. We both lack a great many of these.

We ‘moved’ into our new congregation from last Thursday. I say ‘moved’ as it only meant going to each meeting one day earlier, but at the same Hall. We’re in Wenshan congregation (no, not the same as Rosie, before you ask!!) and have our public meeting on Saturday evenings. There’s also a language class for the foreigners, most of whom seem to be Japanese, hosted by the Nanqu congregation at the same Hall on Sunday at 1.30, so we’ll go that from time to time. It’s a bit easy for us really, but the one we went to a week last Sunday gave some new angles on things. It’s basically going through the ‘Teach’ book and examining certain items of vocab etc, so quite useful.

Here’s the view down the street from our local tube station. The roadworks here are actually where another tube/MRT line is being built. There's quite an enormous network under construction right now and completion isn't expected for about another decade!

And the bilingual info about the trains

Here you can see how modern and nice the tube is compared to London’s

Photos of new home coming soon, probably next Monday and I’m also collecting pics of daft things that I see and will devote a whole post to them when I have enough.

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