Hi From an Unemployed, Illegal, U.S. Immigrant in Taiwan

Streets of Taipei

Seven flights and three countries later, after many long layovers and unnecessary circumventions around the world in order to save money on flights (and a cheeky three week vacation in Thailand of course) I have finally made it to my final destination: Taiwan.

There was a little complication in the Bangkok airport, where I found out the hard way that one is not allowed in the Taiwan with only a one-way ticket. Thankfully, there was an internet café close to the Malaysia Airline counter, and I was able to purchase a ticket from Taiwan to the Philippines. The little print out confirming my purchase assuaged the woman at the kiosk, and luckily I was allowed to go on my merry way.

Little piece of advice for those interested in working and/or traveling in Taiwan: Expedia offers refundable tickets for a bloated price, however if one cancels the purchase within 24 hours, no charges will be made. So for anyone worried about traveling to a country with a one-way ticket, this is a convenient little loophole.

As for Taiwan, I feel it is the most exotic and different place I will have worked in yet. In Indonesia and Honduras, we shared the same alphabet, however here it’s impossible to make any sense from the detailed pictures they use to make words. I’m sure within the next year, however, that I will be able to learn enough to get by….

Last night my boyfriend and I tried to find a place for our first meal in our new country. Any choice was as good as any, because most places had no pictures on the menu, and we had no idea what the hell the little squiggly things meant. We left our hostel, bundled up in our warmest clothes because surprisingly it’s cold right now (55 F), and explored.

We stumbled upon a warm looking restaurant packed with many happy looking Taiwanese people enjoying steaming bowls of food, so we figured it was a good bet. Like Geore Constanza says, “if there are a lot of Chinese people eating in the restaurant, it must be good Chinese food”, right?

Upon walking in we were greeted by a hostess who took took us to a table already occupied with another young couple sitting down and eating, and we shared space much like one would do in a European restaurant. The menus were put in front of us, and we had NO IDEA what to do. Point at the random hieroglyphics and nod? Both of us were exhausted from the long days of travel, so instead of being Bourdainish that night, we got up and walked to a food stand we noticed close by, where the dishes were set up like a buffet. This way we could point at what we wanted.

On the way we stopped at a 7-11 and bought our first Taiwan beers, which we brought with us to the food stand.  Long story short, for less than $3 we enjoyed some pretty delicious grub, and a drinkable but greatly appreciated beer.

So the first meal had been shared, the first beer had been drunk, but there is still one more ritual I had left to partake in before getting a good picture of what I’ve gotten myself into for the next year: visit the supermarket.

For those of you who know me, you know this is one of my favorite activities.

Today, I woke up like a kid on Christmas Day, about to find out what Santa Claus left under the tree. I suited up for the cold weather, walked outside, and decided to turn left instead of right because it just felt like the right thing to do. I passed many roasted duck vendors and shoe shops with the brightest sneakers I’ve ever seen, and after about 10 minutes I found it.

Good news is, unlike Indonesia where the cheapest bottle of wine is $40 because of the silly alcohol tax (perks of living in a muslim country), wine is not overpriced, and this makes me one happy camper.  Additionally, I can find plain yogurt without sugar added, fish oil is super cheap, and of course there are tons of fruits and veggies.

As for whatever else I can’t find….

There is a Costco!


So here is to teaching in my first developed country, and spoiling myself to a Costco visit every once in a while for the conveniences that I miss from home. Also, here is to hot water, hell- here is to running water!

Now, it’s time to find a job… and hopefully a visa.


  1. Amen to the job.part.

  2. Enoch Castleberry says:

    Awesome! i can believe you moved to Taiwan! I lived there back in 2008, let me know if u need any suggestions on anything, i’ll see what i can remember. first off, you should take the MRT to Longshan Temple station, walk to Hwa Xi street night market, that’s my old neighborhood. look for a small Hibachi-style food stand where he’s cooking the food in front of you on a huge flat hot-plate and order beef (nu-ro, 牛肉), chicken (jee-ro, 雞肉), or pork (jew-ro, 豬肉). then if you are feeling adventurous, wander over to the snake man (you’ll see him) and have a shot of snake’s blood liquor.

    oh and blog-blooper, you said you bought a Taiwan beer (pee-jee-o), but in your photo its a Communist TsingTao beer!! haha 😉

    • Hahaha I realized my faux pas the second day! We met up with a friend who is teaching here and he was quick to tell us not to drink the mainland Commie beer. It’s gross and tastes like Budweiser so it will not be hard to pass. The Taiwan Beer in a silver and green can isn’t bad though.

      I just made it to Kaohsiung today, which is where I hope to find a job. Next time we are in Taipei I will make sure to check out the Hwa Xi market. I need a little snake’s blood liquor in my life 😉

      Thanks for offering to help, I will most likely have a couple questions to send your way. Hope all is well in Saudi! xx

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