Chia Yi, Taiwan

Play the song and read along. Listening to this song -“Water’s Edge” by Susumi Yokota-reminds me of the 2 hour train ride to Kaohsiung where I would go to visit some ultimate frisbee friends. The clickety clack of the tracks mixed with the beat of the song, as the train passes through the rice paddies brings me back to those days.

I originally heard it on my first Solid Steel session and the 1 hour DJ set fit perfectly onto my little 64MB Creative Labs mp3 player!!

It’s one of those stories where you meet someone and they ask you to move 1/2 way around the world to somewhere you never thought you would see. I sold my car, my surf board and moved out of an old beach house to explore new frontiers!My old little beach side cottage. Not mine, it was a rental.

I moved to Hong Kong at a bad time. The spring of 2003 also about the same time that SARS outbreak happened in the city. This vibrant city was hit by something that it couldn’t control. There was some panic as foreign business men sent their wives and kids back home. The one thing that it did hit heavily was tourism and sports. I went with some friends to watch the Hong Kong Sevens and the upper stands were empty and 2 teams even cancelled their trips. Since students were all leaving, I had a hard time trying to find work as a teacher. No one around was hiring but rather laying people off.

Anyway, I got a job in Taiwan and I was super excited to get myself over there. Well, I didn’t start work right away mind you.

Since I was in SARS infected HK, I wasn’t allowed to work for 2 weeks and had to be in quarantine for those weeks. I had an apartment to myself with a bunch of books and they brought food to my door. A couple of days into quarantine, the guy’s whose place I took over came over and we were chatting and when I mentioned to him I had a tourist visa, he told me I had to talk to my boss immediately. So I called him and he told me I had to leave the country immediately and get the proper visa. But, the problem was that Singapore, HK, Tokyo and other nearby countries were also infected. The only option was Manila, Philippines. A day after I told my boss, I was on a flight with another foreigner who had to do a visa run to a hot, humid, insane city of Manila of 10.5 million.

Well, I got into the hotel, checked in around noon and settled in. After a bite to eat I walked over to the Taiwanese consulate. 5 blocks of walking and I was drenched in sweat.

When I told the woman at the front desk that I needed the proper visa, I was rather respectfully that they issue the visas in the afternoon and I have to come back in the morning. So I said, “See you in the morning then’.

“Sorry, we are closed tomorrow. It’s May 1st which is labour day.”

“Ok, then Friday morning.”

“Sorry, but we are closed on Friday as well.”

At this point, I am so excited to be in Manila for 5 days before I can set foot into the Taiwanese Consulate on Monday morning. Not well planned out.

Thankfully, I managed to find some folks to play ulti with but at this time, Ultimate only had about 50 players and it was awesome to be out among my folks.

Monday finally comes around after hours of listening to hockey in the morning at the internet cafe and then watching basketball playoffs in the hotel room later on in the day. I couldn’t really go far as I was strapped for cash, and it was so hot and humid. But I did get to visit the SARS ward at a local hospital. There was a reason for this.

On Wednesday I was informed that since I was in Hong Kong before coming to Taiwan, I would have to get a SARS checkup at the local hospital. So off I went to the SARS ward to get a checkup one fantastic afternoon. I don’t remember much of the 45 minute cab ride as it was all cityscape the whole way along. I asked the driver to stay and wait for me which he kindly did.

I walked up to a nurse standing at a hostess stand which I thought was odd. I asked her where I could talk to someone about getting a SARS test and she immediately backed up while handing me a mask. So comical to see her reaction but I guess she didn’t know my backstory just yet. The taxi driver brought me around to the back of the hospital and I managed to find the right entrance into the SARS ICU unit. A doctor came up and asked me what I was doing there and I told him the story about my recent travels and what the consulate required from him. He took it all in stride and even had a good little laugh over it all.

So he did a ‘SARS Checkup’ and wrote me a lovely note mentioning that I am a fit 33 year old and that I in fact do not have SARS. What a relief!

When I got back from my little adventure it was after noon and I had to wait til Thursday to get them my doctor’s note.

The next morning I drop off my doctor’s note and I am happy as a clam as they tell me that my visa can be picked up the next day. OR can it?

Thursday afternoon: phone call from the consulate. They wanna talk.

I walk the 5 blocks in 35C 99.99% humidity and 100% humanity. It’s not that fun of a walk.

Get to the security at the consulate. “Sorry, you are wearing shorts sir. We cannot let you in.” I am wearing a pair of pants that zip off below the knees and these are considered shorts as some of my leg is exposed. I plea my case. I lose.

“You have got to be kidding me.” Walk back to the hotel. Zip on pant bottoms. Go back to the consulate.

“Hello, Sir. I am sorry to inform you but we cannot issue you your visa and passport until Saturday.”

“Ok, I will come in on Saturday.”

“Sorry, but we are not open on Saturdays.”

This is where a lot of internal cursing going on with me at this moment and I try to negotiate with the woman. Showing her medical evidence that they requested, that I have not coughed the 12 times I have been in the consulate, that I have been very patient and done everything they asked of me.

She went to the back and let me wait there for

15

long

long minutes at her counter.

She finally came back and gave me the green light and that I could get my passport and visa on Friday afternoon. But of course I had to change my plane ticket 2 times in order to finally leave the country. What else did I have to do but wait.

I finally made it back to the apartment in Chia Yi and my boss came by that afternoon and took me to lunch along with another teacher.

My first class was Monday at 2:00pm. Yeah, I was nervous a little as I endured a little aggravation and patience. At about 11:30am that morning, my boss called me and said, “Mike! Philippines has been put on the SARS list. You have to be in quarantine for the next 14 days.”

The High School I taught at in Taiwan
The High School I taught at in Taiwan

 

Oh my gawd. I got phone calls 3 times a day asking for my temperature. I wasn’t allowed to leave the apartment once again for 2 weeks in a foreign country.

Well, I didn’t die of SARS. Even though my boss, Harris, was a difficult man to work for, he did do me a solid by fronting me the money in order for me to get to and from Manila. He even payed for my hotel.

 

Some of the funny things that I saw along the way:

 

 

And of course there was the street markets:

 

 

And the mountains behind Chia Yi on the way up to Alishan:

 

 

To some of the other interesting things I saw:

 

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