An Englishman in Taiwan

Friday, October 22, 2004

Why I hate embassies

Ok, I'm in Bangkok. Great city, lots to see and do- shopping, food, bars . Am I able to enjoy these delights? Am I? No.


Visa visa VISA. For those that don't know, I'm currently in the no mans land re a working visa for Taiwan. My school has a license to be a school but, unfortunately, it's the wrong license. So... they are applying for a new 'right' license which means that I am unable to get a working visa.

It follows that around the 20th of each month I have to leave Taiwan and visit a Taiwanese consulate in a nearby country. After the fiasco of last month's run, when a one day trip to Hong Kong turned into a five day hell journey, I decided to pay Thailand a visit in the hope that the land of smiles would be more accomadating (+thailand is slightly better to get trapped in with limited finances than HK).
I arrived in Bankok late last night and checked into a hostel on the famous kosan road (one of the best people watching places on earth). Awoke this morning and set off to the embassy armed with everything i could possibly need to claim my less than brilliant one month visitor visa.
Traffic sucks.
Arrive at the embassy at 10 am all prepared. Fill out the form, stick on the photo and take my ticket. After an hour of reading dozing reading dozing my number is called and i go up to the glass partitioned desk - I hate having to put my ear in the holes of these things (i'm sure they talk quiet on purpose). Deja vu happens again, I'm asked the same questions that i've been asked so many times before and am finally told to come back at two thirty to collect my visa.
Drink coffee and eat a sausage roll, read, doze, read.
Go back upsatiars at 1.30 - in case my visa is done early - take another ticket and another seat. read, doze. My number comes up in about 20minutes. I go upto the desk expecting to pick up a nice new visa and am told that the 'boss' wants to interview me.
'Ok' i say trying to look nonchalant as small beads of sweat make their way slowly down my back. This has never happened before. I take my seat again and wait and wait and wait, the whole time cursing my school and trying to imagine the conversation that will shortly take place between myself and the'boss'. His questions, my answers.
My interview number was 13 - didn't feel confident.
Anyway, after a wait that probably seemed longer than it actually was, the tannoy tinily requested a 'Mr Cwomey come to the interview room'. Feeling my heart racing I went in.
He asked me exactly the same questions as every embassy person before has asked. There was nothing new. All that sweat for nothing. Why? Why? Why?
So, I have my month visa and two days to enjoy myself - met a friend from back home who's out studying in Malaysia and here for a break so i'm sure a good time'll be had.
See you next month Embassy.
I just hope my work permit's ready.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Porthleven on fire

This is a shot of my home break in Cornwall England taken last weekend - photos like this can make a man homesick. Looks bloody freezing!

Friday, October 15, 2004

The Pose

The Pose
Originally uploaded by Nee How Michael.
Chinese New Year Feb 2004, Seven of us hired a VW transporter van and drove (well Elliott drove) around Taiwan for five days. Nothing worked out as planned. We consumed all our supplies on the first messy night. Didn't get where we'd planned to go. Nearly lost our minds. Had an awesome time.

Thursday, October 14, 2004

View of the front

View of the front
Originally uploaded by Mike from Helston.
This is where I work. It's brand new and has some great facilities - it's a shame it's full of kids really. Click on it to see more.

Rho Class with me

Rho Class with me
Originally uploaded by Mike from Helston.
These are the children I teach in the morning at Future Heir Bilingual Elementary School, Taichung Taiwan. They are all around ten years old and in the fourth grade. Click on this picture to see more shots of me and my school.

Tau Class and me

Tau Class and me
Originally uploaded by Mike from Helston.
These are the kids I teach in the afternoon. 16 ten year-olds. They're spoken English is superb but there writing sometimes makes me cringe!

The time my head went boom

Friday 5pm - hongkong

ahahahahahahahahabha - insane laughter.That bollocks quote about life and roller coasterness has been proved for metoday.Ok, from the top, come to hong kong for what should be a nice and painlessvisa run - work paid for the flights and gave me 2000 nt pocket money.Sweet, ok miss a day of school and assoc. monies but had to do it.Trip itinerary and subsequent packing:
leave taiwan 9.30pm tuesday arr hk 11pm
---------wed get visa -----------------
leave hk thurs 00.15 arrive tp 01.30- Taichung 3am - ------back to work thurs-------------
Packed: toothbrush, deo, one extra pair of socks,boxer shorts, shorts andt-shirt: plenty

Right. Arrive in hk 1230am wed, find a hostel and lay my head down to rest.I wake up bright and early on wednesday and head off to the taiwanese visa office armed with letter from school + government stamp (for the school)full of confidence that i'd be able to spend some time exploring afterreceiving my visa.I fill out the form, take it to the desk only to be told that, as the laws have changed, everything i've brought is not only useless but also possibly damaging to my request for a visa. Formerly proof of employment would have guaranteed a 60 day extendable visa - Not now. You need your work permit before you can receive your residency visa. I was forced to change my form in front of the women, crossing out name of school and changing purpose ofvisa.

Beginning to sweat a little now.

The, actually very nice and helpful, visa lady (Mrs Lui) then informed methat i didn't need a visa at all and could actually just return to taiwan with a landing visa and an outward ticket......"Ah" I said, 'i can't do that i'm afraid'. In April i overstayed my 30 daylanding visa by a day due in equal measure to stupidity and a long month(damn you 31 days!). All of this is clearly shown in my old passport which she then asks to see. This leads us to the next problem. My old passport(which has never been requested before) is, as i write, safely sitting in my desk in my apartment.'You can fax it here' says she.'No, I can't' says I. I have the only key - the spare is sitting next to myold passport.

I can tell that i'm not endearing myself to very nice and helpful miss Lui. She then goes and speaks to her supervisor (for the second time), comes back and tells me that the other option is for them to contact the visa recordsdepartment in Taipei and request my information. This will take 2-3 workingdays (i.e either Friday or Monday). Hong Kong can suck on a budget.

Wednesday night, found a cheaper hostel - sign on the door said $80 for two hours - not sure what that meant. It was clean and i managed to negotiate areasonable price. Woman seemed a little surprised that i'd be alone andmerely using the room for sleeping, funny old world.

Thursday. Checked again at visa office and was told maybe tomorrow. Luckilymet a canadian guy, Ryan, who is in the process of moving to Taichung andwho had friends in the city. So spent an afternoon and evening talkin aboutlife and seeing some sights -Repulse Bay is awesome, definitely worth a look. Had dinner in therather exclusive Chinese Recreation Club, similar to the hong kong jockeyclub but exclusively for the chinese with Ryan, Brad and the son of one HK'srichest Danny Fok and his girlfriend Ming. Good times.

Today.Went to the visa office again today at about 12 and was told that there was still no news. Asked if there was any point in coming back laterand was told uncertainly that i could try. Went back at three thirty and MrsLui waved me over and told me that the Visa records office in Taipei hadrefused their request for my info! Something about privacy.Then came the blow.'The only way we'll give you a visa is if you show us you old passport!'I told her that, as she knew, that was impossible.She shrugged.'But i don't have any clothes! All my things are in Taiwan!' I pleaded.I think Mrs Lui took pity on me now because she went to speak to hersupervisor. "Ok, just bring us a copy of your bank statements as proof offunds". Trying to find an internet cafe in HK is impossible esp with aprinter! It is now 4 o'clock. I remember seeing a printing shop on theground floor - my only hope.'No sorry' was the firm reply. ' Please, please it's an emergency!' Iliterally begged. She relented with the words 'ok, but you pay'. Nearly hugged that dragon. Printed out my quite unhealthy looking bank statements and raced backupstairs.I now have my visa and boys i'm a comin home.Wrecked and beginning to smell.

Life don't get much better!

Taiwan 103
Originally uploaded by Nee How Michael.
The culmination of one of the best weekends ever. All the happy faces!!

The Spring Scream massive

Taiwan 138
Originally uploaded by Nee How Michael.
The Party

Wednesday, October 13, 2004


This is a test post from flickr, a fancy photo sharing thing.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

The First Installment

Sitting in a classroom, it's nine o'clock on Tuesday morning the coffee is brewing nicely beside me and my day at work has just begun. Tuesday is a nice day for me the Chinese teacher, Claire, teaches grammar until 10.30.