Hello again, UCSD! I’ve been in Taiwan for almost a month now, and I’m settling in pretty well. Kinmen, my little island home, is about as isolated as you can get while still technically being in Taiwan. It’s sort of like getting a scholarship to go to the US and finding out you’re in Hawaii. You see, Kinmen is about one mile of the coast of China and one hundred miles from main Taiwan. It’s definitely the same country, but it’s remote and it does have a slightly different culture. This is why I got both a Chinese and a Taiwanese visa before I came here. Visiting China during my teaching break in February will be pretty easy. It’s only a half-hour ferry ride away.
Getting to this point has already been quite a journey, but fortunately Fulbright Taiwan has been very helpful. Fulbright arranged our flights, a representative picked us up from the airport, and when we got here our housing was already set up. Fulbright Taiwan also has an unusually long orientation period, so while I have been here as an ETA since August 1st, I haven’t started teaching yet. I just got assigned to a school last week (Sian An Elementary!) and class starts Friday. I must admit, I’m going to miss orientation a bit because it was so much fun being a student again and practicing elementary teaching techniques. Now it’s no-more-training-wheels time, and I am about to start the more official beginning of my teaching career.
I haven’t had any particularly note worthy problems here, just regular cultural adjustment balances. Taiwan is a very nice country – even on this separate island Taiwan’s economic prosperity and focus on infrastructure are noticeable. The roads are smooth and well lit, the public buildings are nice, and the Kinmen government cares so much about elementary English education that they requested sixteen Fulbright ETAs this year. [Note from FPA: There are far more ETAs in Taiwan as a whole.] Besides the occasional language confusion and fight to avoid sunburns in the tropical heat, life here is pretty good.