TAICHUNG, TAIWAN: Diary of a Mad Expat, pt. 15

Our experiences in Taiwan in my husband’s words…

13 May, 2015 to present – Taichung, Taiwan

I see that it’s been a little over a month since I posted here, but there has been so much to do and worry about, that I simply haven’t had time! It’s been a very stressful, worrying, and emotional time. Can’t say that my sarcasm has come back enough to make this post entertaining, but I’ll do my best.

When I last left you, it was mid-May. I had found my job, but we were damn near broke. Since then, I’ve been teaching, and as you can imagine, it takes up a lot more time than just the time spent in the classroom. There is time before, to prepare for class, and there’s the time after, grading the work the class has done. So it takes up most of my day. When it doesn’t, I’m trying to keep our heads above water. We’ve gotten lots of help from several sources, most of all the director of my school, Crystal. She, along with our recruiting agent, Sandra, have been invaluable to us. Providing us with information regarding the visa/residency process (which is lengthy, costly, and bureaucratic, to say the least!) and money to stay afloat here until we have a steady income.

Thanks to their efforts, the efforts of others back home, and a budget that we are strictly adhering to, we are at the point where we can live here, breaking even while we complete the visa/residency application process, and paying people back, until November. At that point, we’ll be able to start saving money, and hopefully, a lot of it. Until then however, we’ll be scraping by on the occasional street food meal, local fruits and veggies (which I’ll cover later), and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

Things are tight here right now, but we are managing. I’ll be starting summer classes next week. We’re getting used to the neighborhood that we’re living in, and they are getting used to us. It’s a poorer neighborhood to be sure, but our studio apartment is nice, VERY cozy, and (thank god!) comes with A/C, which is an absolute MUST here! Since before the 1st day of summer, it’s been in the 90-95 degree range (Fahrenheit…I don’t think I’ll ever get used to the Celsius scale, but I’m using it here out of self-defense, just like the metric system), with humidity double that of Oregon on a dry day. As a result, any time I walk more than a few hundred meters, I sweat – a lot! More than I have ever sweated in my life, except for when I played tennis in college. The good news is, I’ve lost at least 20 pounds since I got here! So yay!

Also due to our budget, and our unwillingness to borrow any more money, the aforementioned application process for our visas/residency has been pushed back. I have gotten my physical checkup done (passed with flying colors for all those concerned), gotten my work permit, and applied for my visitor visa yesterday. Now all I’m waiting for is to get my visa, then I have to apply for the Alien Residency Card. I might have it by the end of the month. Due to our finances, however, my wife has to go to Hong Kong to renew the 90-day visa on her passport, and I may go with her, depending on whether my ARC has arrived in time. That will buy her another 90 days, which allows us to get our marriage certificate authenticated back home at a Taiwanese consulate, get it translated into Chinese and notarized back here, go to Hong Kong again within another 90 days to apply for HER visitor visa (which she has to do there, since she cannot work here), then bring it back to Taiwan to get her ARC in November.

Not the easiest or funnest way to stay in a foreign country legally, but it is what it is. That particular phrase is one that we have needed to tell ourselves frequently, in a country that has been foreign to us, in more than just name. That is a subject that I will try to delve into next time, which I assure my readers will not be long.

– For images of our journey, please visit my wife’s Facebook page: Mischa Elaine Johnston

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