I made my last post while I was in Taiwan. And from the time I got back here exactly a month ago, so much had happened especially at work. I'm deluged by it actually! Lately though, the flood is thinning out. At least until the next storm of work comes knocking in. I'm taking this time now to recall what happened during my last two days in HsinChu on grounds that these will remind me on "what to do" and "what not to do" when I go back there.
Here's a shortlist of do's and don'ts:
1. Do learn a few Mandarin words MOST especially the equivalent of a "restroom" or "comfort room". I found out the hard way. Walking around HsinChu amidst a six degree temperature had my bladder bursting at its seams. So I hurried into a KFC store knowing too well that there's gotta be a restroom inside. Unfortunately, if there ever was one, it wasn't obvious where it's located. With my clearest English speaking voice I asked one of the crew, "Where is your restroom?". I was met with a blank stare. I decided to write the word RESTROOM on a piece of paper and it was met with a dropped jaw. Heck! The guy couldn't pronounce it! Then he asked help from his crewmates and that piece of paper elicited more blank stares. Seeing these, I resigned to eat my Zinger "uncomfortably". Then I remembered Sammy, my Taiwanese(but Tagalog speaking) teammate at Lateo FC. Called him up, told him of my situation and right away told me to repeat a Mandarin phrase. Unsuccessfully repeated it a few times so I decided to let him talk to the crew instead. Almost immediately, all of them directed me to the "RESTROOM" which was hidden upstairs in their building! Imagine my relief!
Note: I could have sketched a toilet bowl easily but decided against it because it might insult their English speaking/reading capabilities. After that incident, I will remember to have a few pieces of paper and a pen handy to drive home the point. Whew!
2. Don't right away pay for the tag price of their computer/electronic devices especially at NOVA. Ask for half the price and haggle for the item starting there. Damn! So many things to choose from at that store. Ang mura pa!
3. Related to #1 but a little bit difficult to explain(or draw) even if I had a paper and pen. With the unexpected cold spell, I decided to buy a windbreaker at the local mall, Windance. Almost immediately, my eye caught this grey jacket with a tag price of 760NT. But as I was paying for it, the saleslady punched in a higher price(860NT) on her calculator. Perplexed, I asked why. And man, all I heard was a kilometric litany in Mandarin! Spoke to her in English and she talked to me in Chinese! WTF! Actually, I still would want to buy the jacket then with the 860NT price tag as long as I get a sound explanation. Again seeing that to squeeze an English word out of her was near impossible, I called my Taiwanese colleague this time. Gave her my phone and they conversed. When I got the phone back, my colleague explained that 760NT was the old sale price and wasn't valid anymore and that it's back to the old price of 860NT. So I got my explanation and I walked back to the hotel warm and toasty.
4. Do have your hotel address written on a piece of paper. You think you've pronounced the street name correctly but when the taxi driver still can't understand what you're saying, it's time to bring out that piece of paper and hand it to him to read. A simple mispronounciation could bring you to the other side of the city, I tell you!
I guess these four will do to remind me how Taiwan can be good and unforgiving at the same time. But for sure, I'd still relish future work assignments there.