Scribbles in the Sand

All About My Life in Taiwan


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We Sold TalkEasy: A Summary of Last Year, and The Year Ahead

[A TalkEasy tour from last year]

A little over a year ago we managed to finally find a place suitable for a school which passed the stringent fire regulations that every other building had failed. After a month of so of scrubbing and sanding we were ready to launch the brand “TalkEasy” and within the first week got enough students to cover all our running costs and pay each of us a modest wage. We always kept wages low knowing that the most important thing was to make sure our costs were covered first, but with rent being so low, and the only commodity being our own teaching, our monthly expenses were relatively little. Trying to open a school in England would have been a no go (for one thing, no one goes to cram school in England) and secondly, the initial investment and subsequent insurance costs would have been too high without investors. 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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Our new present

Today we took delivery of this amazing present from Mr Lee, as a “house warming gift” for Fiona. Plugged directly into the water mains, this baby purifies, chills, warms, and boils water straight from the tap. There are so many filters and chemicals inside that I’m trepidatious to try the first gulp, but we’re going to return to TalkEasy now to try out the product. Apparently it’s top of the range and used by all the government officials, so each month the technician comes to Penghu to maintain them.

Laurence is still trying to get his concrete mix correct for the dumbbells that he’s making for my birthday. The first batch are slightly crumbly so I think the sand we used is a bit too coarse, but I have high hopes for the 3rd cast which is larger. If we pull this off we’ve saved some £30 but it’s likely they will crumble as soon as they’re attached.

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