Letourneau Family Update – Month 8
Dear friends and family,
Taiwan continues to intrigue us with its fascinating culture and lovely people. I can’t believe we’ve been here for the larger part of a year! We’ve made great friends, done some exploring around the country and have settled into routines. I can’t say that I feel at home in Taiwan. I miss many aspects of Canada: the fresh air, easy access to nature and intelligible menus (my Chinese is not so strong), but it feels good to be here at this point in our lives.
The easy access to nature is a point I’ll delve into a bit more. Taiwan, infact, has a lot of nature. Most of the island is green, but without a car it’s challenging to get to some of the quieter spots. There’s great public transportation that goes up and down the coasts of the island, but this is not the case if you want to explore the middle of the island. For my West Coast Canadian people, imagine trying to explore Vancouver Island without a car? Sure, it’s possible, but you miss out on a lot and it takes a long time.
BUYING A CAR
So When an opportunity arose for us to buy a car, we decided to go for it. Infact we bought it with a colleague of Loren’s, for a total of $20000 NTD (roughly $900 CDN). Our friend wants it for the odd weekends, and we use it the rest of the time. It’s a pretty sweet deal for us. As for the car itself… it looks like crap, but runs pretty well. I’m not joking about the looks by the way. I thought being in my 30s with kids and all, that I was at a point in my life where the car I owned would look… hmmm… presentable. Well I guess I’m not there yet. We simply cannot afford it. But the engine is in good shape and we feel safe driving. That’s what counts!
Now that we own a car, we have started exploring a little more. I still feel that it’s not as easy as back home. Traffic can get bad on weekends or holidays because these are the times when many people travel. Most Taiwanese have the same holidays. Plus, this island has a (2016) population of over 23 million people! Compare that to Vancouver Island’s population of 759,366 (2011 census). Moreover, Taiwan is 36,193 km². That’s only 4059 km² bigger than Vancouver Island (or 1.125 times the size). Taiwan is literally crammed with people! So yeah, getting out can be a little challenging sometimes!
Regarding actually driving here. I was a little nervous about it at first
because of all the scooters. I’ve seen way faster and crazier traffic in Mexico City, but here the traffic weaves in and out a lot and scooters can easily be in your blind spot. Drivers will cut in front of you (and around you) here, and pedestrians (despite legally having the right of way) get to dodge the vehicles. So when driving, I just do a lot of shoulder checks and remind myself often to be extra vigilant. It feels fine now.
Taiwan is a little tricky when it comes to licensing. The best thing to do is to come over with your International Driver’s license. I think that grants you a year of driving here. Otherwise, Taiwan has basically allocated licensing reciprocity to those countries, provinces and states that have done the same for Taiwan. This sounds a little childish to me. “If you don’t do this, then I won’t do it either.” Thankfully, BC is one of these provinces, but get this! You have to have had your ARC (Alien Residency Card) for one year before they accept the switch. When they do, they take your BC driver’s license and you don’t get it back. Is that even legal? My Driver’s Licence says “property of British Columbia” on it. I don’t think another country is allowed to dispose of it!
Anyways, and so goes the complications when living abroad. The alternative is to get a local license. This process is not too lengthy. It requires getting a physical check, completing a written exam and then doing the driver’s test. This last component. However, is apparently really hard. There is a certain “move” here that they require you to perform that’s super hard and weird and easy to fail. A local friend said that here, many people, her included, pay for lessons that focus specifically on these tricky parts and then they take the tests. Oh the joys of living abroad!
THE JOURNEY CONTINUES…
Well I had a whole bunch more I wanted to share, but that’ll have to wait for another time. Loren has spring break coming up and we plan to head inland to do some biking and camping. I’ll update when we get back!
Lot’s of love,