Scribbles in the Sand

All About My Life in Taiwan


Trip to Taichung

Tuesday evening has Fiona find out from a friend about some interesting new jobs opening up in Taiwan.  Starting next year, IKEA is opening a flagship store in the centre of Taiwan in the city of Taichung 台中.  This round of interviews is for managerial positions and the interview process had been covered in the newspaper because of the thousands of applicants, interview entirely in English, and the requirement to build some flat pack furniture in later rounds.  Since the interview was in English, I thought there was no harm in me going along too, and with only an evening to write a Mandarin CV, and read up on IKEA, time was short.  We didn’t get to sleep until 2am, and woke at 5am, ready for our flights that we had purchased from a self-service machine in 7 Eleven the previous night. Continue reading


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On Building Tables and Chairs

Last week was my 24th birthday. I got over the excitement of birthdays several years ago. Once you’re old enough to buy things you want, presents on a specific day are less important. Now all I want is nice food with family and friends.

Anyway, Fiona abandoned me that weekend, having been selected for a youth training weekend with the KMT, (the political party currently in power), in Kaohsiung.  She is currently doing volunteering (with a stipend) for them every other day in the build up to the presidential elections.  She’s making lots of useful contacts and seems to be getting groomed as the face of the KMT.  I’m sure she’ll be president in no time.

Having had her flights paid for, we used this opportunity to place our order at IKEA.  We decided on 40 red and white chairs, (Herman)  and around 40 table legs,  (VIKA CURRY) .  She also got lots of miscellaneous things such as pots that we can hang off the windows for plants, and colourful cups for our brand new water boiler/cooler.  The shipment arrived 2 days later and Laurie and I spent a day and a half perfecting the art of building these chairs.  The first one took 10.41 minutes, the second, 8 minutes, and after that I went into mass production, laying out 5 at a time and doing the same step on each of them, reducing time spent on chair to just 4 minutes.  They look pretty cool and are rather comfy.

Some of the chairs. A daunting prospect.

For the tables, we made a decision to build our own.  With the 40 or so legs we got from IKEA, we knew that all we really needed was something to sit on the top.

Having no experience of table building, we just assumed a rectangle of wood would suffice.  We worked out the measurements on our brand new giant whiteboard, and heading to the wood store on the outskirts of town.

Two chained up dogs and a squashed rat greeted our arrival, as did a swarm of mosquitos which promptly bit Fiona 3 times on the face as soon as she stepped inside the building.  We picked out a giant bit of wood, and then chose the laminate that would sit on the top.  He then suggested adding braces to the edges of the table to add thickness and stability.  We quickly worked out how much of this we needed and gave him the order.  The next day the truck arrived outside TalkEasy.  That night, Fiona, Laurence and I set to work on constructing them. We had long planks for the edges which we first lined up, then stuck down with PVA and masking tape to keep them in place.  Next we drilled screws all along the underside securing the planks, then affixed the base of the IKEA leg to the corners, and sanded down the edges.  We then stuck wood tape to the edges of the table and repeated the same process 7 more times.  The finished product is pretty impressive and a lot better than we were expecting I think.  And we saved around £100 rather than buying them from IKEA and learnt some important life skills such as how to build a  table, and the best drill bit for different materials, (masonry bit, twist bit, or spur bit).

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Renting the School

After a long time searching for suitable places to rent for the school, we finally decided on leasing out a flat we found a while back. It’s been incredibly difficult finding suitable places which meet the required fire safety precautions including two fire exits (front and back) and no illegal structures added on. The place has one large classroom, two smaller ones, a room for an office, two toilets, a kitchen and a balcony. It’s incredibly well located, above a 7/11 which means plenty of access to green teas (Lǜ chá) and cold coffees (Lěng kāfēi). It’s the first concrete step we’ve taken, and now all depends on the fire department installing the required equipment and then hopefully passing it. We can then start advertising and attracting customers. We’re looking forward to scrubbing the place down and adding some British touches. Saying this, the majority of our furnishings shall probably come from IKEA so will be more Scandinavian looking.

We’re currently in two minds about tables. Either we buy locally, or we get a set of IKEA legs, and make our own table-tops from the wood shop, sanding them down and varnishing them. Considering the DIY skills our team, it will be a miracle if these tables turn out any good.

Today we went to the local liquor store in the search for some tonic water. The selection of whisky and spirits is incredible considering where we live. A bottle of kahlua is only £10 so we were thinking on making some White Russians for Tim’s birthday. The most expensive bottle we saw was £1,200, but it will take a few months before we can afford this.

In other news, it’s not often that I Google myself, but it’s nice to see that i’m the top hit, with my Twitter account, as well as my LinkedIn, Google+, Mendelay, and Reverb nation pages. It wouldn’t be too hard to steal my identity with all the information that’s out there. Lisbeth Salander would have me figured out in seconds.