taipei jobs are like lining up for a watering hole. first come first serve, large trample small, drink up drink up! i feel like the mythological tantalus though, so thirsty yet the water is ever so slightly out of reach. so the past five days we've been on our desert hunt for water. emailing, phone calls ("do you speak english...?" "no... well i would like to apply to teach english here.."). the schools have funny names too: Dear English School, Eurocentre, Joy English. consumed in the frustrating, funny, boring, nerve racking, ridiculous... has resulted in lots of cigarette smoking (tuna can ashtrays) and now lots of slacking (walking, walking, walking). though i have steered from planning day trips, i have found myself lazing in Da An park, as well as tagging along on my friends' mini pilgrimages- first to a mosque, then to the catholic church. i can see how necessary it is to have comfort in ones sanctuary; that your confident in what it's about even in the most remote of places... taiwan.
thursday, after a flurry of emails... and no replies, helen and i walked. we taught ourselves how to count on our hands, which makes all the difference here. we lost ourselves in high rise maze of streets. apartments with barred windows, and potted plants. a district filled with massage parlors, medicinal shops, and acupuncture (advertised by foot meridian charts). i like to take the MRT (subway) station at the Chiang Kai Shek memorial hall, though not the closest stop to our hostel. i love walking through the expansive plaza with the beautiful theater (promise to put pictures up soon) and gigantic archway. there is also a cornered pond encircled by rocks, and you spy lots of people feeding the orange and white coy. lots of old men sit by themselves here, and i've been told to bow my head out of respect when we pass.
my favorite past time now, is getting lost in the alleyways . unlike alleys in the states, which are trashy, dark backstreets that smell of urine, taipei alley's are mapped out and have the best finds. mini flower shops, mechanics, and the best street food. taiwanese vendors are smart here. they usually set up during rush hour (which ranges from when kids get out of school 3pm, to when they get out of the bushiban 7pm, to when adults get out of work... around 9pm here). our aussie friend had good advice... see what food vendor the kids go to cause they have good taste and little money. brilliant. my favorite so far has been the pork dumplings... steamy, plump, juicy goodness for less than a dollar. i've also taken to bubble milk tea (... hey! it fills you up and quenches your thirst!).
yesterday, i felt a little defeated in the job market. ashley has already begun teaching (in her pink socks and mary janes). she is teaching very young kids, in a very small class, and said that they throw their shoes a lot. she met the parents yesterday and had to put a demo on. she only works about 6-8 hours a week, but makes 650 NT hr. which equals out to round 20 dollars! helen showed me the bookstore. i felt instantly relaxed surrounded by the new book smell, soothing classical music, and air conditioning. most of the books are in chinese, but they do have an english section, and good finds too... Oscar Wao! most people were sitting on the floor reading, some sipping tea (which is usually in a small plastic bags... more convenient to carry as trash cans are scarce). the art/ architecture section was massive. we got turned around going home, which happens to me frequently but, unlike helen, i am so thankful to the taipei map that was gifted to me before i left and have no qualms breaking it out on a crowded street corner. getting directions seems to lead us in the opposite direction, as most people don't seem to take the MRT. the average wage here is around 80 NT hr., like our new friend Adams who works 40 + at TGI Fridays!! this weighs very heavy in my heart when i think of how much we will be making as simple english teachers.... hopefully.