Saturday, December 24, 2016

1.5 Times Harder

I took an inadvertent hiatus this past month when my computer stopped working. The screen would start to have purple vertical stripes before turning completely white.  I would turn my computer off and then back on again, but the whole cycle would repeat within minutes. Getting the computer fixed should have be easy. It was still under warranty. If I was living the the US, I would know what to do. Living abroad makes things just a little bit harder. 

Here are the steps that I took to get my computer fixed: 

1. Went to the giant electronics center. They told me they do not fix computers. They just sell them. They gave me a paper with a phone number to call.

2. I called the phone number. It sounded like an answering service, but I did not know what they are saying because it is all in Chinese. 

3. I found Dell support online. With my problem, they suggested doing the chat, instead of sending an e-mail. 

4. The chat center was only open 7 am-7 pm in Central time. I wait for the window to open to message them. Even though it was in their supposed business hours, it still repeatedly said it was unavailable. 

5. I send an e-mail. I got a response within 48 business hours. They said that because I am in Taiwan and will be staying in Taiwan for an extended period of time I need to fill a form out online to change ownership. Then I can contact the service people in Taiwan. This makes absolutely no sense to me, because my computer is not changing ownership. 

6. I still filled out the forms online. They said it would take 7-15 days to process. 

7. I e-mailed the service people in Taiwan. I got a response asking for more details. 

8. Marcie helped translate the phone call for me for the number that I was given. It was someone in China and they can't help me. She contacted Dell through Facebook. 

9. Marcie called another number for me. It was the number for an engineer from Dell. I send them pictures of my computer screen. They said they will send someone on-site to fix it. 

10. Two days later, an engineer cames to my school and put in a new screen on my computer. 

It got fixed, but the whole process took about two weeks. My computer was most likely made in Taiwan. Why was it so hard? Living abroad is great most of the time, but as my roommate Josilin says, "Living abroad makes everything 1.5X harder." This is just easy enough to be tolerable and hard enough to be frustrating. Here are a couple of other things that are just a little bit harder about living here. 

As previously mentioned, most people here will eat out more frequently than they cook for a variety of reasons. First, it is hot here, so ingredients spoil quickly. Most homes also do not have an oven, but just have a stovetop and/or a toaster oven. We recently upgraded to a bigger toaster oven. Finally, ingredients are usually expensive and sometimes hard to find. I wanted to do some baking over the holidays with our new toaster oven. I had to go to two stores to find almost everything that I needed. A bag of chocolate chips cost about $10. There were also many ingredients that I could not find. 

Buying Things/Clothes
In the United States, I can find almost everything I need at either Goodwill, Target, or Michaels. They don't have those stores here. There have been some items that I have tried to find and have not been able to. Buying clothes also poses a challenge for me. It is getting colder here and I did not pack enough (any) winter clothes. I know what you are thinking. Kristin, you are from Minnesota. It can't get that cold. Why would you need winter clothes? That is what I thought too. It does get colder here though. While the temperature does not get that low, it is a wet cold. It reminds me of when I lived in Washington. Most places also do not have heat, so there is no escaping the cold. As someone who wears plus-sized clothes, it is hard for me to find clothes that fit me here. Sizes, particularly women's sizes, run small. I have found some clothes that are "one size fits all," but that is a lie. My mom looked into sending some sweaters to me. It was about $160 for a medium-sized package. I bought some clothes online from one of the few websites that I have found that will ship here. It was a little pricy to ship and send the clothes here though. I also found a jacket in the men's department at the Taiwan equivalent of Wal-Mart. 

Language Barrier
Usually I can get by just fine by miming and speaking the very little Chinese I know. However, sometimes there is confusion on both parts, like the following real dialogue. 

Act 1:
Josilin, Tyler, and Kristin get into a car driven by a Taiwanese friend.
Josilin: to driver Will you take us to the Blue Store?
Driver: What is the Blue Store?
Tyler: It is a store that is blue. It is a chain. I don't know what the Chinese name is.
Josilin: The Blue Store?
Driver: I don't know what that is. 
Tyler: Do you know the 24 Hour store?
Josilin: It is green and is open 24 hours. 
Tyler: It has a big 24 H on it.
Driver: I don't know what that is either. 

Act 2:
Josilin and Kristin enter Family Mart to buy bus tickets to go to Taipei. They first go to the bus ticket machine, but see that it is in Chinese. They wait at the counter to be helped. There are two employees working. 
Josilin: To Family Mart employee slowly. We need a bus to Taipei. 
The woman looks confused at first. Then she seems to understand. She motions that she will be right back. Then she goes in a door through the back of the store. 
Josilin: She is going to come back with a box. She thinks I want a box.
Kristin: No, I think she understood you.
Woman comes back carrying a box. 
Josilin: motioning driving a bus We need to take a bus to Taipei. 
Family Mart employee laughs and jokingly mimes for Josilin to get in the box and drive it to Taipei. 

Being Away From Family During the Holidays
It has not felt like December or the holiday season. This is partly to do with the fact that it has been in the 70s and 80s here. There is not going to be a white Christmas for me this year. However, it is mostly due to that at this time, I usually have school off and am able to spend time with friends and family. It has been hard not seeing my friends and family. FaceTime, e-mail, and Facebook have helped me stay in contact. It is still not the same though as being home. 

So some things about living abroad no doubt are harder. That doesn't mean that it hasn't been worth it. I made a Christmas card with some of my favorite memories from this year. They are all from my time abroad. I recognize that I am very privileged to be abroad. I got to travel around Taiwan and South Korea, taught great students, met up with old friends, and made great new friends. 

Here are some of my favorite memories from this year. From upper left clockwise to lower left: Amanda, Makara, Patrick, and I in Busan, South Korea, Robin (Tyler) and Batman (me) protecting the streets of Taiwan, my third grade class on Halloween, T. Marcie and I eating Din Tai Fung, Cultural village in Busan, South Korea, my roommate Josilin and I at Rainbow Village. 

Happy Holidays!


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