Saturday, May 12, 2012

Taiwan Consulate in NYC & Becoming BFF's with an airline.

Well, it looks like I'm all set as far as I can tell ....
flight booked, passport - still up to date/ all good, bags slowly being organized/packed, cash money? got it- a stack or two of greenish-gray US Dollars ready to be turned into New Taiwan Dollars. Oh, and Taiwan visitor's visa? .... GOT it.

After one year ( including a 20 hr train ride from Beijing down to Foshan) in China, I am feeling much more confident and secure and ready for year #2.... especially being in Taipei, a big city where English is common. Especially in a "country" that is democratic and is open to political debate between the two main political parties- the KMT ("Team Blue") and the DPP ("Team Green"). I plan on using/speaking Mandarin as much as I can there- in stores/in public speaking that first- and only resorting to English when I have to.

It's such a small world because one of my good, old, NYC friends who has lived and worked in NYC for years at a "Big American Company" - went to China about a yr and a half before I did. She was in X'ian for about 2 years. She worked first as an ESL teacher but then picked up a position with her previous "Big American Company" over there. This past July, she called me on the 4th of July and wished me a "Happy Independence Day" and it was so good to talk and catch up and share China stories. THEN only about 4 nights ago we met up in New York City ( where she is back working in a new position at "Big American Company" now) and I met "HER FRIEND" from China. He is Chinese- here for a month or two ... visiting her. He went to college in Canada but he works in China. His job in China is pretty flexible. So we drank and ate and spoke broken Mandarin at The Triple Crown. It was SO great to have drinks and speak a little Chinese and share intertwining Chinese/New York experiences/stories. My friend - Jenn and me and her man-friend ... (Ta nan pengyou .. maybe :) ) then went to The Magnet and saw our friend Ruby in her improv show. It was just one of those really good New York City nights. When anything and everything seems possible ... with time and some hard work and a little faith.

Back to Taiwan now though - I was told before I went to the consulate that the Taiwan consulate in New York is the "MOST difficult" ( along with Hong Kong) to deal with. Maybe they're not considered to be "very personable" or "patient" ? I dunno ... but being a New Yorker I've known my fair share of "rude" customer service people....

and I have to say the people at the Taiwan consulate in New York City were actually NICE and HELPFUL. No attitude. No drama.  Maybe us New Yorkers are just brought up with a lower set of common courtesy standards? Maybe the people at the other Taiwan consulates in other countries/states are angels?.... but these people were nice.

I walked in and the Indian guy behind the desk greeted me with a big "Welcome To Taiwan!" I had my "letter of invitation" and my "friend's information" and my "return flight ticket" and my pictures and passport, etc. The only snag was that you have to FILL OUT THE APPLICATION ONLINE. This is a very recent change. I didn't know about this --- so I took the escalator down again, hustled down the street to the New York Public Library, rented out a computer for 40 minutes, filled it out and printed it.

I am excited about Taiwan. I was excited about Taiwan a year ago - when I thought I was going there,
(but then didn't). I hope to go back to China for Chinese New Year in 2013, but I am also looking forward to exploring and spending a lot of time in Taiwan.  (at least 60 consecutive days ... anyway.) My current Taiwan visa is a single entry 60 day visitor's visa. I had to have "my friend" (someone who works at my school) send an invitation letter and her information inviting me over. My school will turn it into a work visa when I get over there. This is the way it's done. Once I get my ARC ( work visa) I won't have to leave ( like I did in China) every 30 or 60 or 90 days. It will be good for the whole year.

The one thing that I'm not too excited about is the long flight over .... from New York to Osaka, Japan - then a 90 minute layover- and then 2 hours or so to Taipei. I am specifically not excited about flying "cattle class". I want to be bumped up to Business Class or First Class. Really. I am completely naive about any politics/posturing, flirtation/coercion ... involved with this "bumping up" process .... but I would like it to happen. I am thinking my odds would be better if I became BFF's with an airline. If I committed myself to one airline and put a ring ( and/or a membership number) on it.  I had dinner with one of my old friends and her girlfriend last night at their house and they were telling me a WONDERFUL story about being bumped up to Business Class on Quantas when they went back to visit her GFs family about two years ago. I was laughing because it sounded like something out of an Adam Sandler movie.  Two "regular joes" who have never flown Business Class .... enjoying and gasping at all the bells and whistles! It sounded like my friend was the "clown" and her gf was the "straight man" in the scene. One being overly excited, the other trying to quiet the "clown" down. I would definitely be the clown. :) ... and I can't wait until it's my turn.... I've just got to start up some frequent flier miles with SOMEBODY/figure out which airline to commit to. Maybe China Air? Maybe Southern China Airlines? ... Singapore Air is supposed to be really nice ...

I feel like the world is getting smaller and smaller and I'm right where I'm supposed to be right now. I've loved being home for the past 40 or so days but I am ready for this. I am a little frustrated that I couldn't see as many people as I wanted ... but we really DO have time. Time really DOES fly. I will be back and it will all happen when it's supposed to.

I've never been to Taiwan, but I feel like... I am supposed to be. It feels familiar/right.
I also feel very protective of Taiwan ( despite never having been there). It's a small "island country" - like Ireland- and it's not "a threat" to anyone in the world ( except China). But it ONLY threatens China because Taiwan declaring full independence would mean that the Chinese Communist Party "loses face" with their people and could potentially be seen as "weak" and be "overthrown". Technically China and Taiwan ARE two different countries .... because they are ruled by two different Presidents. They operate under two different forms of government.

A potential war in this case would have nothing to do with oil or resources or money .... it's (stupid, arrogant, ignorant, selfish) Chinese Communist Party PRIDE.

It's crazy because I'm not a fan of the Iraq War or the war in Afghanistan. I think maybe only once in high school did the thought of joining the Navy or the Air Force ever cross my mind ( I think it was the idea of the "boot camp" style fitness regime - now you don't need the service- you can get that kinda class at gyms anywhere!) But God forbid something should happen- btwn China and Taiwan, I would absolutely defend Taiwan. I would try to join the army and fight to defend this little island country that is not doing ANYONE harm. I don't know if a "meiguoren" could join the Taiwanese army but I'd do it. I'd fight the PLA.

and speaking of love and pride and nationalism -  when I say "I <3 NY" I mean it.
It's not just a slogan on a t-shirt. It's SO much more. NY is truly an amazing state in an amazing country.

My wish is that we (NY/USA) get ourselves out of debt with China, improve the Public School situation here- in New York and everywhere give kids - especially city kids - their ART and MUSIC and RECESS/GYM classes BACK and focus more on content and a variety of grading methods with kids and less on pressure/focus on standardized tests, legalize gay marriage in EVERY STATE ( more TAX money coming in to the states - when glbt couples everywhere can file as MARRIED!), and create new, awesome, fun and fulfilling jobs that we KEEP here in the USA.

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