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A couple of days ago, I took a taxi to my buddy Martin’s place. Right before the turn onto the alley I wanted to go onto, an illegally parked car pulled out in front and to our right, so we couldn’t turn before the light turned. Beep! The meter jumped up from 90 to 95. Not wanting to sit in a taxi behind a red light, I pulled out a hundred and gave it to the driver. As I waited for change, he told me I needed to pay 110. “But, the meter’s only 95!” I said. He then explained that there was a $20 surcharge during Chinese New Year. Fair enough, I thought. If I had to drive a taxi during Christmas break back home, I’d expect to be paid a bit more than usual, too.

There is no Chinese New Year surcharge, of course. One would think that after living in Taiwan for four years I would have realized that. Oh, well.
Update: There’s a fare increase, but only certain taxi companies are implementing it. Of the four times I’ve taken a cab since the new fees started, only one charged me. Ask if there’s an extra charge when you get in the cab.

I didn’t go on any trips today. I didn’t do anything special. Nothing exciting happened at work. In short, it was an ordinary day that would be easy to forget. But somehow, it was wonderful. I woke up around 11AM to my alarm clock playing a song I like. After grabbing a bite to eat, I headed into work. My students gave me about 70 books last class, but it wasn’t a problem. I’d already graded them all on Friday night, after work. With half an hour before class, all I needed to do was print up their ranking sheets and visualize how my lesson would go. I chatted a bit with Dan, and then I went into class, relaxed and unhurried. continue reading…

Last night, I met my friend Nathan at the Taoyuan train station. We decided to go the night market, so we hailed a cab and jumped in. Before I mention what happened, I should point out that I generally like cab drivers in Taiwan. They’re usually personable, chatty, and sometimes even interesting. This particular guy, on the other hand, was almost a caricature of a Chinese cab driver. The conversation below all happened in Chinese, of course.

Me: Hi. We want to go to the night market.
Driver: Oh! Can you speak Chinese!!?
Nathan: Uh…. yeah.
Driver: You guys are Americans, right? Right?
Me: Yep. We live here, though.
Driver: What do you do? Are you teachers?
Nathan: He is, and I’m a volunteer worker.
Driver: What do you mean? What do you do?
Nathan: I do work at hospitals and juvenile reform centers…
Driver: Do they pay you?
Nathan: No, it’s all volun…
Driver: They don’t PAY you? Why do you do it?
Nathan: To help people. It’s…
Driver: No salary? I wouldn’t do it!

I’m sure a lot of westerners secretly think the same way. I’ve never heard any say it so bluntly, though. Even if it’s only lip-service and they can’t really relate to volunteerism or charity, they’re at least familiar with what would motivate other people to engage in those activities.