10
Feb
07

Taiwanisms of the week: faxes, phone calls, and riding a taxi in Taipei

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A photo from the club during Carrie’s Birthday

This week is my week off from work before Chinese New Years. It is supposed to be a relaxing week and for four days it has been. However, most of the week was spent running around on errands that seemed to take on a life of their own. When you are a foreigner in Taiwan and don’t speak the language you have to just let go and expect certain details to get lost in translation. Often when I talk to friends from home they ask me to explain certain cultural differences but I find I can be at a loss for words. Here is a recollection of a few memorable occurrences of the week: the faxes, the phone calls, and cab rides in Taipei.


The faxes: in order to get an official translation from McGill of my Latin M.A. diploma I had to formally request the translation from the Administration office through mail or fax. Last week I paid extra to quickly send a request though registered mail which now appears to be lost. Consequently I had to take on the on the mission of attempting to fax in my request. In Taiwan there are no Office Depos or business centers. Everything is instead done through 7-11s and Family Mart convenience stores, which also serve as centers to pay bills for most major companies. This process was very frustrating as the convenient store employees, while trying their best to help, did not know how to fax Canada. Eventually, I did an on-line search and after visiting two Family Marts and my third 7-11discoverd the magic numbers of 002+1+area code+phone number.

The phone calls: another challenging aspect to living abroad. Calling British Columbia is very difficult as business hours start at midnight Taiwan time and end at 8am. This week I had to make several important phone calls between the hours of midnight and 2am to sort out different administrative details. Next week my missed belongings are being moved from a temporary storage space in Vancouver to a more permanent facility in Delta B.C.

What do I miss that is in storage? My wedding album. My clothes. My furniture. The things are part of your past and that you like to have around…….

This week I also called McGill three times over getting the translated diploma sorted out. I could tell they though I was an ‘uptight’ or ‘anal’ person over the phone and quite frankly I have a reason to have a type A attitude when dealing with them. University bureaucracies are notorious for misplacing request and McGill and Carleton have let me down before. Always phone to make sure your request has been received and is being processed. In this case my mailed in request had gone M.I.A. and my application to NTNU would not be considered without an authenticated diploma translation.

Taking a cab in Taipei: this is another simple activity that can evolve into an adventure of its own proportion. I was late for a job interview and could not communicate with the cab driver. We got lost. I had no clue what part of the earth or universe I was on or heading towards. We had a minor car accident, but luckily the cab was not damaged and only hit the curb. Then I got out of the car and just about lost it as for a split second I thought we had arrived at the wrong destination on the other side of town.

Sometimes in Taiwan, you just go into survival mode and let go of everything else. To hell with the details. You know where you are. Good. You know how to get home. Great. You have not been hit by a car or scooter. Thank God! Now you can go home and share your evening with those that you love.

I must say that people in Taiwan are often very helpful. They see me and have frequently pointed out the right direction of the train platform or office building. Thank you all so much!

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1 Response to “Taiwanisms of the week: faxes, phone calls, and riding a taxi in Taipei”


  1. February 12, 2007 at 2:50 pm

    Sounds just surreal. Way to survive.


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