Zac Stewart

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My First Month Living in Taiwan

The windows in my apartment

It’s been a month since I moved to Taiwan. The first two weeks were spent in quarantine, of course. For 15 days I sat on my balcony and enjoyed the warm, sunny weather. During the 3 weeks since I got out, Taipei has had almost non-stop rain.

During that time I’ve handled a lot of practicalities like leasing an apartment, opening a bank account, and getting some furniture and plants. It’s weird how normal life feels as compared to the previous 8 months, despite language and cultural barriers. There are rules about wearing masks anytime you’re inside with strangers and not eating, most businesses take your temperature at the door. At really big department stores, metro stations, and other public places with lots of foot traffic you’ll see a pop-up surveillance desks with somebody watching a thermal camera monitor. That vigilance has allowed life to go on here without interruption.

Language acquisition is both challenging and fun. I’ve started to take note anytime I get stuck and have to resort to pidgin English, gesturing, or worse, Google Translate. If it’s simple I ask a friend, otherwise I bring it to class and get a mini lesson. A couple of weeks ago I felt stressed before walking into a restaurant to order food when there was a line. I brought a menu to my teacher, added a bunch of character flashcards to my study app, and now I can more or less get what I want. It’s a lot more fun to have a practical need rather than textbook hypothetical situations.

Before getting here and during quarantine, the first thing I wanted to do upon getting out was to go bike touring again. I thought that’d be a nice way to finish out 2020. The weather has other ideas, though. I think I missed the window of opportunity by a couple of weeks. In 2017 when I toured, it was just before the rainy winter of northern Taiwan got started and I still spent a couple weeks riding through cold rain. I don’t want to do that again. I may still take my bike by train down south and ride around in the sun for a few days, though.

I haven’t given too much thought to what I want to do for work next. Working for a local company, working remotely in the US, or starting something here are all on the table. I have a couple of years before I need to meet certain salary requirements again in order to be eligible to renew my visa.

I’m looking forward to drier days, but I’m happy to be here.