I feel like I’m long overdue for another blog entry. I enjoy writing these posts but lately I’ve been enjoying driving my scooter around the city even more. “The Duke” has demanded much of my attention but tonight he’ll just be collecting a fine layer of air pollutants on the street. It’s time for an update!
Where did I leave off? … Oh yes. The typhoon.
I boarded my flight at the Calgary International Airport on September 20th, 2011 and expected to land in Tokyo roughly ten hours later. Despite spending such a long time in the air and getting no sleep, the flight felt quick and comfortable … until the clouds turned a menacing shade of holy-crap-that’s-really-dark grey.
The seat belt lights were turned on and my palms began to sweat in ways that demanded a bulk supply of complimentary moist towelettes. You see, I’ve never experienced a typhoon before. And although I’m really not afraid of flying, there’s still a (false?) sense of security being on the ground while experiencing an intense foreign weather phenomenon. The captain’s soothing voice filled the cabin reassuring us that they had no idea what to do and would get back to us as soon as possible. So after circling above almost certain death for what seemed like another hour we were informed that we would be stopping in South Korea for the night and returning to Narita International Airport the next morning. This kind of blew my mind. Allow me to explain. Canada is a big country. It takes something like two weeks to fly across the country from coast to coast (exact numbers may be slightly exaggerated). When I heard that we were going to fly from Japan all the way to South Korea I thought, “Geez! I didn’t bring enough clothes in my carry-on. And the deodorant I’m wearing is only guaranteed for 24 hour protection!” which then turned to mild panic as I questioned whether or not we had enough fuel to get there.
We landed in Korea maybe about an hour later. After being led through the airport like scared cattle and needing to fill out this application and sign here and stamp this, we were whisked away to our hotel for the night. My room was a honeymoon suite, complete with jacuzzi tub, space toilet, mood lighting, and round bed. I made a few friends that night, three Japanese-Canadian women (at least I assume they are Canadian) who somehow managed to make the experience fun. When I went to my room, they insisted on checking it out and quickly began loudly joking in Japanese while the youngest of the three lightly slapped the other two on the arms in protest to whatever they were shouting. I have no idea what they said and I never asked. I just pulled a “KTHXBYEEE!” and shoved them out of the room before locking the door.
Five hours later we woke up to catch the bus back to the airport. When we arrived at the airport they provided us with a sandwich and water while my new friend Sachi and I stalked a man with a moustache that would put Lanny McDonald to shame.
I also bought some new deodorant and promptly coated my already sweaty armpits. We proudly examined our unexpected South Korean stamps in our passports as we made our way back to our seats on the same airplane and breathed a sigh of relief when the captain told us the weather in Japan was sunny and warm. We landed in Japan at the Narita International Airport very quickly where they gave us our new flights. My new flight had me waiting in Japan for quite a few hours, so although I had arrived in Japan in the early afternoon, I wouldn’t arrive in Kaohsiung, Taiwan until the late evening.
I want to take a moment to say that the Narita airport is huge and annoying. I had figured out how to make it to the original flight, but was left in the dark when trying to figure out the new flight. I found it difficult to make sense of where I was and where I needed to go. After very slowly making my way in the direction I thought I needed to go, I ended up snooping the tags on other people’s bags until I thankfully found a couple who needed to catch the exact same flight as me. I was unable to check my luggage in for a few hours since my flight was leaving much later, which meant I had to sit on the floor next to one of the few plug-ins I could find with all of my bags while I sent emails to my friends and family about my new flight schedule. I finished the emails quickly but had very little to do until I could check my luggage since suitcases were not allowed in the shopping and dining area. A couple security or police officers approached me while I was sending my emails and informed me they wanted to see my passport. I gave them a confused look and handed over my passport. I assume they wrote my passport number on a pad of paper and then returned it to me. I have no idea what they were looking for but it definitely made me uneasy.
Eventually the sun went down, my luggage was checked in, I finally was able to eat a decent meal in the shopping area, and I anxiously skipped to the flying metal tube that would take me to my new home: Kaohsiung, Taiwan. I started watching Pirates of the Caribbean 4 but I slipped into a very minor coma and slept the rest of the flight. When I landed in Kaohsiung everything felt very different. I couldn’t figure out what it was at first, but then it hit me: every person I came in contact with was very friendly. The couple I met in Japan let me use their cell phone to call my friends, Luc and Breanna, to find out where to meet them. I went through customs quickly and easily and was always greeted with a smile. After such a long and frustrating flight and having a difficult time in the Narita International Airport this was like a breath of fresh air. I grabbed my luggage, deeply inhaled that breath of fresh air, and entered Taiwan.
Luc and Breanna were there to greet me, which felt so good being welcomed by familiar faces. I exchanged all the money I had over to New Taiwan Dollars (NTD), hopped in a taxi, and arrived at my new home within a few minutes. I dropped off my bags, rubbed my body against the walls and floor of my new room to mark my territory, and then jumped on the back of Luc’s scooter for a quick night tour of Kaohsiung.
My first impression was that Kaohsiung is a beautiful city. I’ve now been here for almost three months and that first impression hasn’t left me. My second impression was that it was friggin’ difficult to order food here since I didn’t know the language. That impression has left me though.
Over the last three months I have been thoroughly enjoying my time here. Although the flight here was a little frustrating and I could have done without that three-week cold and the stresses of my new job have been a little intense sometimes and I wasn’t too pleased with the feelings of homesickness for a couple weeks … BUT! Weighing the pros and cons, the cons are so miniscule in comparison to the many amazing experiences I’ve already had. I’m excited to see what the next [unspecified number] of months will bring. Hopefully a healthy supply of dumplings, less cockroaches, and more emails, letters, packages, and comments from you!
That being said, as usual please take a stroll around the blog and feel free to take a peek at the links. I love hearing from you so please send me an email or two or three to firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment below. I am sensing the Duke is silently dying of neglect, so I’m going to go read him a bedtime story.
Love and non-life-threatening weather!