Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Taiwan Journey--Day 2

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 (Los Angeles- Taipei)
I have arrived in Taipei!!! What a glorious feeling, ok not so much- I am hot and sticky and arrived over an hour early and am waiting for my ride to come. It is ok though, it is all part of the journey.
I have many things to write about that have happened. I guess I will begin with after I checked in. I got my ticket and then got into another line to go through security check, there were lots of voices talking, most in Chinese, a lady screaming every five seconds or so to have your ticket opened to the page in your passport. I finally got passed her and was a machine where I got to do my favorite part, take out my laptop, the bag of bottles, take off my shoes, etc. and then have to put it all back on quickly (NOT!). It wasn’t too bad. I then walked through the hallway of the terminal to again the very last gate. I was going to sit down at a chair around the gate but it was rather full, I noticed that there was a downstairs waiting area right below it so I went downstairs. There were many places to sit and in my case sleep. I re-applied my deodorant (:D) and then brushed my teeth, set my alarm and then laid down for a nap of some sort. I was afraid that I wouldn’t get to sleep at all but was able to sleep for about 40 minutes when another announcement went off and I woke up. I tried going back to sleep but I had done something to my shoulder muscle and it wasn’t exactly pleasant sleeping on the floor, so I called mom and asked her what kind of medicine to get and went and bought some, thankfully it started working rather quickly and my muscles weren’t hurting as much. After I had purchased the medicine and went to the bathroom I was walking back towards my terminal when I noticed a group of people standing nearby at phone booths , there was one sitting on the floor and three others sitting on the counter, all talking on the phone. They were missionaries; after I saw that group I soon noticed another and another group, both sisters and elders. I thought that it was kind of funny to see missionaries in the airport other than Salt Lake, but I soon realized that I would be grateful to them. I had been talking to mom through this whole time and had mentioned seeing the missionaries but at about the same time when I got back to my gate we hung up, I sat down and started to wait. I hadn’t been sitting very long when I realized something. I had forgotten to repack my scriptures on Sunday after taking them out for church. I didn’t like the feeling that I was going without any scriptures so I went down to the first group of missionaries and asked if they had an extra copy of the Book of Mormon (I am sure that they got rather excited at first but then I explained that I had forgotten my scriptures at home and didn’t want to be traveling without at least a Book of Mormon) they told me that they did not (it was a Sister and an Elder- their companions were on the phone, so they couldn’t leave) but if I were to go down a couple of gates there would be a large group of missionaries and one of them should have an extra copy. So I walked down to the large group (and they weren’t joking, it was a large group of about 15-20 missionaries) and asked for a copy, thankfully one of the elders had an extra copy and gave me one, interestingly the one he gave me was one of the red small copies (mom thought that they were the military copies), is that what they are handing out now? After I got the copy I came back and sat down in a chair with a mother and her two young daughters on one side and a couple with their young daughter on the other side (I am pretty sure that the couple with the daughter was from the Philippines). We then proceeded to wait for a long time until it was finally our turn to get on the plane—oh it was interesting first while we were just sitting waiting a guy came through and checked our passport and our ticket and then highlighted it and then when we were waiting in the line to give our ticket they were there again and checked them again. I almost forgot about my Mexico City guy. He was probably in his 40’s, as I was sitting and waiting (which I did a lot of) he came and plugged in his cell phone and then sat down beside me. He asked me where I was going and I asked him, etc. after I had told him where I was going he walked up to the counter and then asked them a question after he had talked with them for awhile he came back and grabbed his stuff and then walked off telling me good luck on my trip. I was slightly confused but didn’t say anything, well anyway later at about 1 there was a flight leaving in the same gate (there was 123A and 123B) to Mexico City, I looked up and there he was again. But he was going down the escalator to the downstairs waiting room, anyway he saw me and flashed me the peace sign. I just thought that he was totally random and funny.
The plane ride was interesting. First of all my hips are a bit wider than most Chinese so it was a bit uncomfortable for the 12+ hours, I had a piece of plastic stuck into my leg the whole time. It was interesting right as we were getting ready to take off stewards came through and handed each of us a warm hand towelette to wash our hands with and then came back through with a tray to throw them away. After this there was a safety video, it would have to be one of the funniest that I have ever seen. It was a lady walking around the plane and the voice did totally not match the woman that was supposedly talking, anyway I learned a little more than I have ever wanted to know about airplane safety. I thought that when we first got on the plane they would not feed us but when we got on they announced that they would be serving dinner in about an hour and that breakfast would be served about 2 ½ hours before we landed in Taipei. After those announcements I promptly fell asleep, but did wake up as they were coming by with dinner, I had chicken and rice (though I thought that they had said Chicken and FRIES not rice), it was interesting the chicken had an interesting flavor that I am not sure I liked or not. I also had some orange juice, water, and carrot cake (I was going to eat the salad but it had shrimp on it, I know, I know –WHIMP). I then fell asleep for most of the night, though off and on. At about 4:30 (Taiwan time) I woke up again for and decided to try the TV. I was kind of stupid and couldn’t figure out how to do anything (get the TV out, where to plug in the headphones, how to get our tray out, etc.) but I had a very nice neighbor, whom I am not even sure spoke English but every time I was having difficulty she would help me. I watched an episode of Without A Trace (it wasn’t even one I had seen :D) and listened to some music and then they had this neat thing that you could read up on the places you were going so I read and learned some about Taipei (it was for main destinations so they didn’t have one for Hualien). After I had done all that the steward came through and gave us Apple juice or OJ, a little later they came through with “breakfast”- it was either a omelet or chicken and noodles. I opted for the omelet, it was weird though, it was a piece of cooked egg and that was folded over and then had tomato sauce on top of it and vegetables to the side. There was also some fruit, yogurt, orange juice, and a roll. After that it was nearly time for landing, so we were asked to put everything away (especially us as we had to put away our TV screens and our trays), we also had to turn our headphones back in, which I thought was interesting because it’s not like they can reuse them. Also another thing that I thought was interesting what that whenever they brought you a meal they would ask you to put up your seat. Other things of interest: my other “neighbor” was a guy coming to take a documentary movie, as we were waiting to get off the plane he was asking the steward different questions about places to go and then had her say something on the movie; the girl neighbor whom had been helping me was also part of a Taipei bowling league, they were all wearing purple shirts and I had been seeing them everywhere throughout the airport. In comparison to the plane that I took from Portland to LA, the plane that I took from LA to Taipei was HUGE. Just in the area that I was sitting at there were 10 seats across (a group of 3, a aisle, a group of 4, an aisle, and another group of 3), there was an upstairs with even more seats (oh and I don’t know how far back the plane went but I know that I was in aisle 38), I am not sure how many upstairs as I never went up there. Each seat had its own TV screen with a remote that controlled the TV, the light above you, could call the steward and there was even a place where you could slide your credit card and then make a phone call, I was kind of tempted to do it just to say that I had called someone from the airplane but I didn’t. Oh and of course there was first class seats (which are really, really nice- refer to previous post in my blog about the seats) and there was business class also. A difference that I had noticed: on our plane to Peru people were up and about the whole time, standing over others just talking with them and there were really long lines to the bathroom, I had expected that because it was such a long flight it would be the same, but except the line to the bathroom there was not many people up and about.

Anyway, we landed at 5:15am (local Taiwan time, 2:15pm LA time) and on the TV screen all night they had been displaying what the temperature was, it had kind of worried me as at times it was like -11 degrees Celsius, but all of a sudden when we landed it shot right up. When we landed at 5:15AM (notice the AM) it was 91 degrees Fahrenheit OUTSIDE!!! As we were walking through the airport there was a point where you walked and it was like you had walked into a wall of pure heat. It was kind of a long walk to the customs desk, with many signs that I did not understand, at times I felt like I was in the wrong place, and it was especially confusing as not everyone was going in the same direction (oh yeah it was weird as everyone had to get off the plane and take all of their stuff, even if they were going to be leaving on the same plane), but finally I found it. Right before the customs desk there was a health screening, you didn’t stop or anything but walked through this doorway, and beside the doorway there was two woman with masks on watching a TV screen and there was another TV screen that you could see as you walked through, I was all different colors. As I was walking towards the customs desk I noticed everyone was stopping at these different tables and filling out paperwork. There was one white guy and I asked him if we were supposed to fill it out, he said that he thought so but it was all in Chinese, luckily there was a woman there filling out hers and she helped translate it for us. We finally had it all filled out and we went and got in line, we got up to the counter and the guy handed us a different sheet that we had to fill out instead, this was in English and Chinese. We filled it out to the best of our knowledge and then went and got back in line, I was first, the guy barely looked at it, just stamped it and let me through. The guy that I had been walking with asked what I had written on something as we were confused to put, I was like I don’t know or care, but it got me through and that is all that matters. :D I then went down another escalator to where the baggage claim was, I was afraid that I would not be able to find my luggage as there was a lot of people and I really couldn’t see the luggage, but as I walked up there was one of my bags right in front of me, and then like a minute later there was my other bag. I took my bags and then walked down the pathway, and out the doors, there was people standing with signs with people’s names on it (I was hoping to have one of those, but sadly it didn’t happen) I wasn’t quite sure where to go, but went to the right and stood in this area with seats. I hadn’t been standing there for very long when this other girl came and stood beside me with her cart of luggage. We started talking, her name was Janelle and she seemed really nice. She is actually coming to Taipei to teach English also, but it is at the National English School or something like that. Her contract is actually for 2 years (don’t feel so bad now do you mom?), and it was just as good of a deal though, they paid to have her luggage sent here and helped find her a good apartment near things that would be of interest to her. She told me that she had gone to a International Teaching Conference in Boston and she interviewed with like 15 different schools to teach and then this is the one that sounded the best, I guess that Taiwan and Korea are the countries that most interested in bringing the best education for their children. After we had been talking for awhile her ride came (she hadn’t known that it was early)- I thought it was interesting, her ride said that they normally wait outside until the last moment to come in because they feel that it is cold inside the airport (ha I don’t know what she was talking about). They had lost her bag and so they were waiting to find it, when she offered me some food from the plane, it was a potato roll with some curry inside, it was good but the curry was a little spicy for my taste. She also told me that the actor Jared Leto had been on our plane, I think they were upstairs because she said that they had kept on paging him during the plane ride and I had never heard that.
Anyway they left and I decided to find out whether or not I had any internet connection to see if I had understood wrong about getting picked up. I luckily had internet and e-mailed the family that I had arrived and then sent out my first part of the journal to the family. It was about this time that Dennis came in and asked if I was Beth (sadly no sign), I loaded up all of my stuff again and we headed outside into the heat. As we were driving I took many different pictures and saw many interesting things, though in the same way Kyle was right, though there are some differences many of the things are all the same. I did see Taipei 101, but was not close enough to take a good picture. Dennis told me about Yuling having a baby, I guess in Taiwan they have a tradition that when you have a baby you do not leave the house for a month and that was why she was not picking me up. He also told me about the Typhoon that they had, had on Sunday, I guess it was a pretty big one and he said that I was lucky to have missed it (though according to the teachers down here it wasn’t that big of deal, mostly boring as they couldn’t leave the apartment). It was about a 40 minute drive to the train station, Dennis got out and walked with me to where I boarded the train, and he gave me instructions and then sent me off. I pretty much fell asleep as soon as I got on the train and got comfortable. I woke up after awhile and started watching the scenery, most of the ride I had to go to the bathroom but was too afraid to get up and find the restroom, both because I was afraid to leave my stuff and I didn’t really feel like experiencing all of the looks I would most likely get. I put my i-pod on and was good for the whole trip, at one point I took a couple of pictures of the ocean. I have since been told that we do not go swimming in the ocean as it is a steep drop off and the currents are too strong, they could pull you out rather quickly and you now know it. I finally arrived at the train station and got off, I had no clue where to go, who was picking me up or what, I went down the stairs and kind of made a decision and followed this hallway to the right, I was at the bottom of the stairs when this guy came down and waved, I wasn’t sure if he was waving to me or not so I kind of responded to it but I didn’t want to really respond if he wasn’t waving to me. He came further down the stairs and asked if I was Beth, I told him that I was and we went back up the stairs, at the top of the stairs he gave me some money from Yuling (personally I wished that he would have waited to give it to me to a less awkward time, but oh well). We got to the car and got in, we started to drive and then he told me that he is Yuling’s husband (always good to know who is driving you I say :D) we talked a litte bit but I always find it a little awkward driving with people I don’t know. We arrived at the school and he helped carry my stuff inside, I met Brooke as I was walking in, a couple of the Chinese teachers (whom I don’t remember who are at the moment), saw Natalie, and met a couple that was in my apartment but moved out last night. I was told that I could unpack my stuff and that I was basically free to do what I want for the rest of the day. I was told that I would not be teaching until Monday, but Brooke suggested that I go to class with her on Thursday and on Friday just to learn what I am doing a little bit. I called mom and Kyle on skype and talked with them for about an hour. It was nice to hear voices that were familiar. After I got off the phone with them I went to sleep for 2 hours (it was really needed). This entry is getting really long, so I will finish the rest of today up in tomorrow’s entry.

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