Taibei huanying ni – Taipei welcomes you. And I’m thrilled! In the two weeks I’ve been here, I’ve settled in completely: starting work, getting to know people, going on trips, visiting IKEA and even having friends visit me from Germany. I will spend the next three and a half months in the Taiwanese capital and complete the second part of my internship abroad.
My trip to Taiwan actually started in Mexico, even though I was in Germany for a short time. Wednesday morning I took off from Aguascalientes, with stops in Mexico City and Atlanta, before arriving in Stuttgart on Thursday morning. Then a pit stop at home to unpack and repack my bags, then some last-minute shopping on Friday, and on Saturday morning I was on a train again heading to the Frankfurt airport. Take off on Saturday afternoon, layovers in Changsha and Guangzhou – and on Sunday afternoon I arrived in Taipei. Travel record: five days, four countries, eight airports, six aircraft meals, 13 hours of time difference, and 21,000 kilometers travelled (yay for my ecological footprint!).
Taipei is not completely new to me. I’ve never worked or lived here for a longer period of time, but I was able to get to know the city and some other places in the country last year when I traveled around Taiwan with my father for ten days over the summer. Back then we were both in Taiwan for the first time and immediately loved it, and I was certain that I was going to visit the country again. I probably would not have dared to dream that I would be back so soon. Especially when I’m in places that we visited together as tourists last year, I have to smile about how things sometimes go in life.
Unlike Lotti, after my arrival I was fortunate enough to be able to drive directly from the airport to my new apartment and was thus able to save myself the detour via hostel and/or couch surfing. I now live in the south of Taipei in the District of Eternal Harmony (not kidding – that’s the literal translation of 永和 區) in a shared flat with an American and a Dutchman, both of whom have been in Taiwan for several years. This is ideal for me because it provides the perfect environment so that I quickly find my way around town and can profit from insider tips. In this way, through my roommates, I met more locals in my first week in Taipei than in my two and a half months in Mexico.
In the mornings, it takes me about half an hour to get to the office by subway. I get on at Yongan Market, change lines at Dongmen and finally exit at Taipei 101/World Trade Center. I’m completing an internship at the German diplomatic mission in Taiwan, which doesn’t carry the name of an Embassy here, but is instead called the German Institute Taipei. Since the Germany does not maintain official diplomatic relations with Taiwan due to the One China Policy (more on this in a later post), there is no ambassador here, but a Director of the German Institute – identical in all but the name.
And this German Institute is undoubtedly not only in the coolest, but also in the tallest building in the country. Arriving at the office on my first day was awesome. It basically made me suddenly forget that I had only arrived the day before and was still completely drained from the journey. I arrive at the subway, take the escalator upstairs and stand in the multi-storey lobby of the tower. With my keycard I pass the guard and the barrier. I first take the express elevator directly to the 35th floor, before getting off in the sky-lobby and returning to the 33rd with another elevator. The sliding glass door opens and I am standing in the German Institute.
Not only the office is great, but at least as much my work and colleagues. This diplomatic mission is comparatively small, which is why my fellow intern and I are given a relatively large amount of responsibility and thus have the opportunity to look into many areas of day-to-day business. Still, we are mainly responsible for research tasks and produce reports, protocols and presentations. We repeatedly accompany colleagues to conferences, appointments, or other events and are sometimes able to go there by ourselves. To be honest, I am just happy to come to the office in the to then to be busy until the end of the day (unfortunately, as you may have read, this was not always the case during my last internship).
To put it briefly: I am so happy to be back in East Asia and to live in a large city. Fantastic public transport network with buses, subway and bike sharing, 24/7 convenience stores on every corner and the knowledge that I can get whatever I need at any time of the day – without having to look at the clock (@you, Bavaria, with your supermarkets closing at 20:00) – is what I love so much about this place. In addition, I am also happy to be able to speak Chinese again regularly and therefore I am particularly happy to be able to communicate well in everyday life in most situations. Especially when I think back to my time in Korea, that was not always the case. I am curious what the next three months will bring and look forward to bringing 2016 to a good end in this country. 一 會見!