My own travel adventures began March 2003, when I took to the skies, in the footsteps of my older sister and traveled to Taiwan. Belinda was working there with her then husband (Sven lol) as a teacher at a kindergarten. I had decided to move there too, on the same notion of being a teacher (yes, I would be responsible for small children!).
It was pretty much a disaster right from the get-go. Belinda had flown to Taiwan easily on a one-way ticket, with the premise of getting a work visa when she arrived. I had tried the very same thing, but unfortunately in my case, they weren't having any of it. Arriving at the airport, in the early hours of the morning, only to be turned away for not having a return ticket or some sort of work visa, was not cool. By that time I was second guessing whether to go or not, I mean, was it some sort of sign? Perhaps I should have listened more carefully lol. Nonetheless, things progressed. Kim managed to convince the airline people to give me a cheap return ticket that was to leave the very next day. I guess I couldn't get out of it that easily.
The flight itself went fairly well, the only bad thing was the flight from Christchurch to Auckland, being crammed on a small plane sitting next to some guy that whined the entire way about the plane being so cramped. I felt like telling him to shut the hell up, that we're all cramped on there and his whining is just making it worse. And then there was the arrival at Auckland, late, and not knowing where the hell to go. I had to get to the International Terminal, where you have to take a bus (or walk) to, which is a major pain in the ass. So it was running to find the bus, waiting while it s-l-o-w-l-y navigated it's way around the Airport car park and then trying to figure out where I needed to be in the International Terminal.
I have to say, Auckland airport really is a major pain in the arse. The International Terminal especially, with its loooong halls, misleading directions and stupid staff that seemed incapable of even telling me where the hell I should go to find out where I need to be. Point me in the direction of somebody that knows SOMETHING!
I eventually figured out where I needed to be, only to see a huge ass line, then have my name called out over the speaker because I was late. So I had to jump the cue, much to the agitated line people's disgust. That wasn't the end of it of course, the panic set in when I accidentally left my ticket and passport at security and had to run back from check-in in the hope that it was still there (thankfully this is NZ and it was). I haven't forgotten my passport and/or tickets ever again, so I guess the fear I felt then really instilled something in me lol.
The flight to Taiwan, being my first International Flight (my first national flight being the flight from Christchurch to Auckland) took around 13 hours from Auckland, and went fairly smoothly.
I arrived in Taipei to my very ecstatic sister flinging my new best friend at me - Donkey. The Taipei airport looks a bit like something from the future, with strange lights and glass tunnels. But thankfully I didn't have to stay there long.
The ride from Taipei Airport to Junan County (where we would be living and working) was very entertaining. From loading up on petrol and getting a trunk load of tissue boxes (they love their tissues in Asia) to all the crazy street signs, flashing car advertising, the barely dressed females selling "cigars" in neon glass boxes on the side of the motorway and just the crazy driving that occurred in between here and there. I was tired, but there was no sleeping on that journey.
The arrival in Junan was a strange one. Our apartment had tile floors and very little "homely" comfort. There were steep, treacherous stairs to drag my very heavy suitcase up to get to the small room Belinda had so nicely organised for me.
My first night in Junan was pretty depressing. Belinda had stayed the night with me in my room, which was nice, but I still felt very alone in a city that not only scared, but confused me. Belinda's flatmates/workmates were nice enough to start with, but still not really the type of people I wanted to be around.
My time in Junan was spent either hanging out with Belinda and Ian at school, watching strange Taiwanese TV or walking around the neighbourhood, being harassed by the locals who thought I was some fiery haired goddess (or more appropriately demon lol). When we visited the Taipei Zoo, people were taking pictures of us!
believe it or not.
There was that one crazy day where I decided it was a good idea to ride a bicycle around the streets of Junan. Talk about an adrenaline rush.
I spent a total of a month in Taiwan, but it really did feel like longer. I think visiting a place like this and really being immersed in a different culture not only opened my eyes a bit but also settled me down in my own life. I returned home a new person, and started on my path toward the person I would eventually become (the person that I'm still growing into). Taiwan was a fantastic country, with lovely people, lovely food and some truly awesome sights to be seen. I wouldn't go as far to say that I'd recommend moving there, but I would say that it's definitely worth the visit.
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