Letourneau Family Update (One week In)
Disclaimer: This post is an email I sent to my family and friends July 30th, 2016, one week after we arrived to Taiwan.
Dear Family and friends,
We have made it safe and sound to Hsinchu, Taiwan. We are having a blast getting to know this new city, country and culture! Our senses are joyfully overwhelmed by all the “newness” around us. Being a lover of all things Latin American, it never occurred to me to live in Asia. Sure, I vaguely planned to travel South East Asia at one point in time… but China? Taiwan? To be honest I did not know one thing about Taiwan before Loren accepted this contract. Before leaving, however, I started to realise that although Taiwan is not out there as a “must see” tourist destination, it may just be one of Asia’s hidden gems. Our highlights so far (for me anyways) have been meeting the people, learning the language and trying delicious food. The food is so tasty! That said, I’ll admit that we are playing it pretty safe for now. We haven’t tried anything like chicken feet or a bag full of baby fried crabs. The beef noodle soup, however, is delicious! Other favourites include green onion cakes, steamed buns, shaved ice and bubble tea.
The language barrier is fascinating. I’ve never been in such a situation where I literally cannot communicate. Even when I went to Thailand, so many people spoke English that there was really no issue. Here, I often – mostly – am simply not able to communicate verbally with others. This happens every day, multiple times a day. We rely a lot on actions and google translate. Thank goodness that the Taiwanese are so eager to help; they will literally yell over to the next store to find someone who speaks some English in order to help us out. They are such lovely people! Finding food has been our biggest linguistic challenge. Imagine walking into a restaurant, hungry and looking at a menu that has only Chinese characters on it – no English and no pictures. This is us. When we have reached this point we are usually hungry, and in my case emotional. We have thus sometimes relied on quick instant noodle from 7-11 just to avoid the hassle of ordering food. Markets are great though because we can see everything that’s being made. Loren seems to be getting the hang of the characters rather quickly. I’m actually quite impressed. I, on the other hand may be stronger verbally. Emphasis on the word “may!” We make a great team! I’m really excited to try to learn this language and I never thought I would be one to want to learn Mandarin.
So, after 8 nights in a cozy Airbnb studio located up six flights of stairs, we have finally found an apartment. It’s a furnished three bedroom, 2nd floor apartment, 5 mins walk from Loren’s work and in a really convenient location. It is actually getting cleaned as I write. I had to do some decent negotiating in order to get this done by the landlord.
We’ve made some great friends so far here Hsinchu… Chienyi and family (our airbnb host), Carl and Dora ( Loren’s colleague and wife), the random stranger who gave us directions from his car and gave us his number, and the old man at the park who speaks not a word of English. By miming, we have learned that he is from China but has lived in Taiwan for 7 years and that he is eighty something years old and that he loves our children. We’ve encountered him three times.
So, now that we have finally found an apartment, we are able to apply for our ARC (Alien Residency Card). Once we have the ARC, we’ll be able to get a proper phone plan (cheaper Internet), and a bank account. This week is “hit the markets and or Amart (like Walmart) weekend” in order to home-i-fy our apartment. We need bedding, cookware, towels etc. It should be fun. I also need to get a few things for Theo as he starts a trial at his new preschool Monday.
We visited three preschools today and settled on one that seemed to have more emphasis on play-based learning. They also seemed comfortable with the fact that we didn’t speak any Mandarin. It’s a Mandarin only school. I’m really excited to get him starting a routine. I’m hoping that this will help him settle. The change seems to be getting to him. He’s been acting up these days, hitting and screaming, which isn’t fun. There’s also not a lot to do during the days because it is so hot, which is why I am also happy to get him into a preschool. Daphne seems to be doing well, despite getting sweaty from when I carry her in the baby carrier. Oh the heat!
Well folks I could keep going, but it’s getting late here. We are thinking of you all and wishing you well.
P.S: If you plan to visit us (even if it’s in two years!!!) start learning Mandarin now! Download the free “Memrise” app and take a few courses ( HSK, pinyin, restaurant Chinese). Five minutes a day would work wonders!!