Monday 3 March 2008

Tainan lantern festival. Banned from Taiwan.


Taiwan has a lot of neon. Like China, Korea and Japan neon seems to be very important. Don't even think about starting a small business without the requisite three tonnes of neon signage. Walking down any main drag is like starring in 'Tron'.

Cameras. Last night at the Tainan lantern festival I couldn't believe the number of people with expensive photography equipment. I think I breached my tripod tolerance threshold.

This lantern festival was great. I have some pics to try and give you an idea what it is like. The sights, sounds and smells that accost your senses are pretty hard to describe.

Chinese stuff.

Holding hands like teens.

What an extraordinary waste of electricity!


Mickey Mouse.


The food, music, fireworks, lanterns and lights made this a thrilling evening. After a few hours we retreated to the serenity of a 'shaboo shaboo' establishment. This is one of those hot-pot deals where you cook all the food yourself in a pot of spicy liquid soup in the middle of the table. Very messy but fun. I can never get my head around the concept of going to a restaurant to cook your own food? I think I ate enough food for two people at this eat-all-you-want for £3 place. Consequently, my guts were in agony afterwards. I was so full the pain was excruciating.



I've fulfilled another ambition, to be an illegal immigrant - well, sort of. I was working tonight (illegally, as it happens) at the school when I was informed of a serious complication. Remember when I did that runner from my job in Shulin near Taipei? Yeah? Well that's come back to haunt me.

My new school in Jiali sent my medical report, passport info, photographs and degree certificate to the Council of Labour Affairs (CLA) here in Taiwan to obtain a work permit. Presumably, an alarm was raised when my details were entered.

The problem is quite simple. I basically reneged on my one year contract in Shulin after only three months. This was flagged at the CLA. I reneged (posh word for 'did a runner') because I didn't want to pay the school about £500 for early contract cancellation. I based my judgement on the fact that I never envisaged wanting to teach English in Taiwan again. Similarly, I never envisaged developing feelings for a lass I'd just met. Running away early from a contract appears to be bad news once the school reports this to the CLA. This goes to show my Mother was right when she said you can't run away from your problems. Hindsight eh?

If I can't fix this out I can't work. To remedy this situation I reckon I would have to pay Shulin £500. Is this worth it so that I can earn £400/month? I don't really think so. I think I'll just have to leave Taiwan every 30 days which is no real hardship. In fact it'll be nice to have a Philippines break every month. I can continue to teach Zi Ting's Aunt's kids for 4 hours/week for a little pocket money. I only really wanted the job so that I wouldn't have to leave the country every 30 days.

I really really hate government bureaucracy.


This week I seem to have contracted piles which feels like you have a bunch of keys up your arse. I also have a blood/blister thing in my mouth. I burst it yesterday with a toothpick and the blood came pissing out. The pain was temporarily relieved but it felt like I had an empty plastic bag flapping around in my pie-hole. Today it's still very sore as the pain seems to be constantly migrating to various areas of my gob. Compounding the head ache is the kids. Have you ever tried to explain to little people that you have a head ache? I did yesterday and they simply don't give a shit one way or the other. It was like pissing against the wind. I can sympathise with my parents when they were feeling run down and my five brothers and I carried on our riots oblivious.

It's never nice to be feeling unwell - particularly in an alien environment. Have I been to the doctors? Have I bollicks. Unfortunately, I seem to have that all too common English male trait of medical suspicion. What do they know eh?


I'm partial to following economic trends. I was looking at currency values today thinking how I've had many of them in my pocket at one time or another. I was looking at pound sterling (gbp) against the New Taiwan Dollar (ntd). I noticed it was at a 12 month high of 68.5ntd in November. However, now it's a 'ball-hair' over £1 = 61ntd. That's an 11% drop in 3 months. To put it into perspective: in Nov 1000ntd was worth about £14.60. Today 1000ntd = £16.40. So if I buy something for 1000ntd today, it's almost £2 more expensive than it was three months ago. This theme is repeated all over Asia. Both Brits and Yanks are feeling this pain as our currencies appear to be operating in tandem at present.

Additionally, those of us relying on savings are hurting even more. The Bank of England has cut interest rates by 0.5% in recent months. Not as drastic as US cuts but still a worry. These cuts invariably filter their way down to the lenders. Good news for borrowers but bad news for savers. What this means for me is that I'm receiving a lot less interest than I was two months ago. I'm now 10%/month worse off and when you have a small income like me, 10% is a huge chunk of that. Exacerbating this is that my remaining cash is worth 10% less in Asia than it was a couple of months back. A double-wammy if you like. I think both these factors (currency/interest) conspire to make me 20% worse off in total, but I can't really get my head around it. It can't be as simple as adding 10%  to 10% can it?

Solutions? I could move all my cash to Taiwan but the bureaucratic obstacles and potential for incompetent f*ck ups are too great. Additionally, I wouldn't want to line some middle man's pockets.

Lessons learnt? Remain flexible. Nothing is certain. Just ask HSBC who've lost millions on the sub-prime fiasco - they should have tried to limit their greed.

Purpose of this post? To have a good moan and wallow in self-pitty.


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