I rummaged through my Khao-San-Road-Bangkok-style-fisherman-pants to scrape together all the Thai Bhat I could find. Soon, I would be on my way and it was time to trade them for Taiwan dollars. I carry with me everything that I own, my guitar, a backpack and whats left of my Korean Hagwan fortune acquired after teaching a few years in the ROK.
It seemed like so much more when I left. But that was fourteen weeks ago. Fourteen weeks of traveling through India, Nepal and Thailand. Between the rickshaws, somosas, sleeper trains, Airasia flights, zorbing, paragliding, Annapurna trekking, Kingfisher beers, Dal Bat, Samsong whiskey buckets, street pad thai, tuk tuks, cigarettes and all other wicked vices better left unsaid.
Now I’m here in Taipei with my girl, Karla Louise, and about $3,500USD to my name.
We’re headed off to a Taipei Backpackers Hostel in the Ximen area of Taipei. We have appointments to look at 2 apartments tomorrow afternoon, Sunday. I have been combing through the local go-to website for jobs here, Tealit.com, for weeks now, scoping out apartments and sending out emails for jobs.
I tell Karla , Our #1 goal is to get jobs and an apartment before Chinese New Years. But all I can really think about is tossing back a Tsingtao Beer. I’m hoping the Taiwan version of Kimbop Chungguk is like the Chinese Restaurant in KSU. I’m itching with excitement and possibilities.
I have 20 new songs burning a hole in my guitar and in my throat. I want to seek out the Taiwan version of Busan’s Kim Dong ha. I want to find the live music and the dj’s. The bars with pictures of Bob Dylan and Neil Young. The shrines built for Tom Waits. Where are the hip places? Where is the Gino Brann of Taiwan? And the Better Magic Music crews? Where are the beautiful, rowdy ones?
My soul needs to constantly be writing new songs and then preforming them. I start to lose my mind otherwise. In the last three months I’ve played on one proper stage, in Pokara, Nepal at a place called ALL THAT JAZZ. I’m itching to get acquainted with the Taipei music scene.
I’ve got an email from two ex-Busanites, Gavin and Leigh, with a list of music venues and cool bars. But it’s wet and it’s cold on the first night and the Family Mart is, of course, tempting me with her blue and green glow and her $1 beers. Everyone is speaking Mandarin.
I measure the cost of things in relation to the price of a Family Mart beer back in Korea. In Taiwan, a can of beer cost 30NT. So when I walk into a McDonalds and they say a Bigmac meal is 270NT, I think to myself, that’s 9 family mart beers. Then I decide if it’s worth the trade off. That’s the first lesson in Wayfarer State International Economics 10
I arrived late Saturday night. Its Tuesday night now. I’m still on cloud nine celebrating the New Orleans Saints victory over Megatron and the upstart Detriot Lions.* As you can imagine Sunday, Monday and Tuesday nights have been pretty quiet in terms of the nightlife scene in Taipei. So, instead of scouting gigs and writing songs, I’ve walked the path of the straight and narrow. In the last 3 days I completed a health check, printed resumes, looked at apartments and spoke with two job recruiters.
Here’s the deal with Taipei: You have to find your own apartment. So I did. Karla and I found an apartment this morning. It works a little different in Taiwan, so allow me to break it down. We found a place in the University District, called Guting. It’s like KSU with a more diverse food selection and less soju. The new apartment is nice, mid-size with 2 bedrooms.
In Taiwan you pay a standard 2 month deposit plus your first month’s rent (which they say you get back). Sometimes you have to pay a commission fee to the realtor, if you go through one. We found our apartment on 591.com.tw, that a realtor posted and it wasn’t cheap. But it’s nice and the second bedroom will make an excellent spot for songwriting, Karla’s yoga and visitors. I think its worth it. So you’re asking yourself, how many Family Mart beers did the apartment set us back? About 2000.
In regards to jobs, I haven’t had much response from the emails I sent to English Academies. We’ve been speaking with various foreign teachers over the last 3 days and we’ve determined there are 2 solid ways of finding jobs. The first is to find jobs through recruiters. They charge a 20% fee on your first month’s pay check. We are meeting with one tomorrow morning.
The second way is to hit the pavement. So we’ve printed resumes and copies of our degrees. We will go door to door, like Johnny Cash in the movie Walk The Line before he makes it big at Sun Studios. We have a list of schools in a couple areas that aren’t far from our new apartment.
Happy hunting and I’ll keep you posted on life in Taiwan.
You can check out more about Trey and listen to his music on his site.
*This piece was written before the Saints got knocked out of the playoffs by the San Francisco 49ers. Further note that the editor is a 49er fan and writes this addendum with great pleasure.
It’s Friday afternoon in Taipei. This morning we moved into our amazing new apartment in the vibrant Shida Night Market area. We dressed up in our Sunday best and dropped off resumes to about 15 different schools. We netted 2 sub jobs which could turn into full time positions and we have another interview on Tuesday. Mid next week, most schools will be closing for the Chinese New Year. They will re-open the first week of Febuary. I think its entirely reasonable to expect us to start teaching Feb 1st.
Teaching jobs are a formality. Now lets get to the heart of things. I booked my first gig. It’s at a venue called Revolver, named after the famous the Beatles album, not the hand gun. If I were to start a bar and name it after the Beatles, I’d call it Sgt Peppers Lonely Rubber Soul. But I’d be out of business in a month by giving out free drinks to all my friends. Revolver is run by two foreigners and they’re known for live music. This is their acoustic night. There should be 3 or 4 other artist on the bill. It’s a great start and it’s a club every foreigner we’ve talked to has heard of and likes. I’m told they have 50NT pints of local draft beer. Those are FAMILY MART prices. I’m excited. I wonder how long I’ll have the stage. I’m already getting butterflies. I think first impressions with music venues/other musicians are important. I want to deliver a good live performance and maybe open up some other doors to play out in Taipei. Speaking of THE DOORS, I just read that The Doors named their band after an Aldous Huxley’s book called The Doors of Perception, about the world of hallucinatory visions as seen from a mescaline taker. That’s why Huxley is on the cover of the Beatles Sgt Pepper album. Huxley’s best known work is Brave New World. It’s one of my favorite books and its themes helped inspire an album I wrote called The Faustian Bargain. In a strange coincidence, Aldous Huxley died 1963, on the same day as English writer, CS Lewis and US president JFK. I wonder who’ll die the same day as me. I hope it’s someone cool. I like to talk to someone interesting when I’m waiting in line at the gates.
Last night we had dinner with a kid named, Henry Kenyon. His sister, Julia Baley, is a good friend of mine from Korea. She was one of the biggest Bob Dylan fans I’ve ever met. Her favorite Dylan song is Brownsville Girl from the album Knocked Out and Loaded. She has style and good taste. I traveled with her in Cambodia and Thailand last year and I even wrote her into one of my songs, We Get High. Her brother has been living in Taipei for the last 6 months on scholarship studying Chinese. He took us to a secret restaurant last night. We had pork dumplings, hot n’sour soup, fried chicken, beef n peppers, stinky tofu and some red bean pancake dessert. It was a killer meal. $6USD each. A drunk Taiwanese man bought us beer and gave us high-fives. He didn’t speak much English but he told me I was handsome and that I look like the Pau Gasol, the power forward for the LA Lakers. I’m at least a foot shorter than Pau Gasol. I met him once in Memphis when I worked as a ticket guy for the Memphis Grizzlies. Back to Taiwanese food, I can’t in good conscience recommend the stinky tofu. It smells worse than the name.