Getting into China

Things are a-changin'. My status in Taiwan is currently in flux: my resident visa to stay in Taiwan is about to expire (since I've quit), and my new one isn't ready/active yet. And somehow, amidst all of this, I'm supposed to get a business visa to do my training in China, and soon.

End of Days

After having filled out three different forms and visited no fewer than five separate departments for signatures, I got all the "approvals" I needed for the requisite paperwork.

So I sent this yesterday.

Subject: My Days Are Numbered / 後天是我最後一天

"Hello, my esteemed colleagues!

It is with mixed feelings that I inform you (by an impersonal email such as this) I have decided to leave This Company. This Thursday (June 12, 2008) will be my last day in the office.

It has no doubt been a fruitful experience to have worked at this firm with all the different types of people in the company. I only regret not having met more of you outside of the office environment. To say the least, these past 14 months have given me much experience (and about 5lb of body fat) which I will bring with me into my future endeavours.

I plan to remain in Taiwan with my next gainful employment for a few more years, so I'll still be around (though suffering painfully longer working hours). Please don't hesitate to contact me by my personal email below. Other contact methods available after you email me first: mobile phone, IM, facebook, Flickr, shoe size, you name it! I would, of course, also appreciate you passing me your private contact information as well so that we can keep in touch.

With that note, I bid you farewell, and hope we'll meet again soon. Take care!

I also provided a brief translation in Chinese.

時間到了, 我得離開這家公司了! 這個星期四(2008年6月12日)是我在這家公司的最後一天. 在這家公司過了十四個酸甜苦辣的月, 我在這裡成長了很多也學習了很多. 我相信這些經念對我的未來會有很大的幫助. 以下是我的聯絡資料, 請大家保持聯絡! 希望各位都好好保重, 再見囉!"

Now I wait my time out in anticipation of a few weeks' break. In the meantime, I'll clean out this computer: clean the cache, delete the cookies and bookmarks, uninstall unapproved software, and generally erase my existence.

Black Rain

Continuing the recap ...

Because we slept late, we woke up late -- typical of our weekends, of course. I'd researched a number of walking tours for Macau (澳門), and we set out around noon (after navigating our way out of the casino labyrinth).

Huddling under our umbrellas, we made our way up San Ma Lo (新馬路), through Leal Senado Square (議事亭前地), stopping for food only at the milk pudding joint (義順燉奶). We're up at the famous stone facade ruins of St. Paul Church (大三巴聖保羅教堂), and head into the Museum of Macao to hide from the rain.

That's all fine until we leave the museum to see that the lightning storm had gotten orders of magnitude worse! The lightning cracks and the sky fills with a brighter grey for a split second.

"One mississippi,
two mississip--"

The thunder follows almost immediately after: we're pretty close to wherever the lightning is hitting, and my guess is it's at Guia Hill (松山公園).

Running from tree to tree, our umbrellas serving as feeble rain protection, we retreat hastily down the hill.

Every one of the Church's steps is overflowing with a river of water some inches deep. Every one of my steps rewards me with a squelching noise and water flowing in and around my toes ... inside of my sneakers.

Completely soaked.

We duck into a Quiksilver store where I buy my souvenir for the trip: a pair of Quiksilver flip flops. (Alongside us are 20 other couples doing the same thing.) We decide to call it a day and head home: we spend the rest of the day wandering through the resort and mall stores, and then eat eat eat.

Afterwards, we head back to the room.
"Okay, let's shower, rest for a bit, then head downstairs and hit the tables."

Not an hour later, we fell asleep in front of the TV.

I, Macau

Quick recap.

Picked up the wife on the way to the airport on Friday evening: a weekend getaway to Macau (Macao)! She says she read on the internet that the Macao Airport is closed due to inclement weather, but called the airline and they said it's business as usual for our 8:20pm flight.

We get to the airport, and get this at the check-in counter:

"The Macau airport is closed right now due to bad weather, so we are unable to check you in. We don't have more information at this time, sorry. Here are some vouchers for Burger King, so please go have a bite to eat, and check with us again at 7:10."

That sucks. We cram into BK with the other 200-300 people who have flights bound for Macau.

7:10pm rolls around, we go back and they have no definite news. One lady (leading a tour group) is livid, gathers up a lynch mob, arguing loudly, demanding all sorts of compensation. A group of uneducated people who don't understand how customer service works (nor the concept of disempowerment) start complaining loudly too, yelling at the top of their lungs at the messenger.

I watch and take pictures from a distance. We call the travel agent and the Venetian in Macau to explore alternatives: maybe take the trip later, or have part of the pre-paid fees refunded if things don't go our way, to no avail. The angry mob subsides, and about 30 minutes later, police and security arrive to a calmed crowd lining up in orderly fashion.

We get on the earlier of two re-routed flights, taking off at 11:30pm. Free shuttle busses to/from the Venetian ended at 11:30pm, so we take a cab to the hotel.

We're in the hotel by 2am, where they tell us they have no more suites with king beds and are upgrading us for free to a two-bed suite. Turns out, "upgrade" in this instance means "trade your single king bed for two queen beds which are in no way better (though not worse either).

Shower, and sleep by 3am. Weather forecasts rain for the next day too. Lovely.

On another note, these love handles are getting out of hand. I'm a cow. The crash diet starts today.

No Calls

I woke up this morning and I wondered why my mom hasn't called recently to ask me why I haven't called recently.


Now that my scooter is rounding out its third year of ownership, I get a postcard in the mail that says I need to get a smog test for it. I take it to the Yamaha Service Plaza store I normally get the oil changed at.

I ride in, show them my little smog test summons card, and he motions for me to pull in. He takes a stand and a pipe and hooks up the sensor to my exhaust pipe, and then runs some software on the nearby computer, explaining that these test results are stored immediately using government (standard) software, and then uploaded to the DMV databases later on. I'm impressed at how efficient they've made it!

He looks at the stats for my scooter -- not that old, in pretty good condition, despite my accidents and thrashing it around -- and starts it up, running the diagnostic software. The numbers start going up in each of the three categories: CO, HC, and CO2. Neat.

But he freaks out.

"Whoa, why is it so high?? This is twice the limit!"

He starts rapping frantically at the "Cancel" button, preventing the test from completing and uploading to the government database.

Then he hooks up the sensor to a different computer -- the shop's private machine, not connected to the official one -- and starts tweaking some settings in the engine with a screwdriver, playing around with two different dials until the CO and HC pollution was way, way below the legal limits.

Once he was happy with the results, he hooks it back up to the government system and runs it.
"Oh, I hope it's not too low [that it's not believable]. You can't ride it like this, because it will stall on you all the time."

Well, wouldn't you know it, the scooter passes now with flying colours!

A printout taps out of the printer, my paper evidence in case the government wants to see it.

He hooks the scooter back to the private machine, tweaks all the settings back to the original levels (slightly optimizing while he's at it), and sends me back on my way.
"There you go. Now you may continue polluting the air."

(Yeah, he actually said that, but in a good-humoured manner.)

Clearly, this is not his first time, nor is it beyond his own moral limits. I'll probably have the scooter actually looked at during my next oil change, since it does bother me that my scooter isn't running as smoothly as it should.

Taxes and Salary

It was the end of May, and in Taiwan, that's tax time. Whee. Fortunately, doing taxes in Taiwan is orders of magnitude easier than the crazy tax forms in Canada or the USA. Still, I'd rather be grating my knuckles like cheese over a snail pizza.

This year, I almost got investigated at NTAT (the National Tax Authority, Taipei region) when they looked at my tax history.

"Is anyone at this company giving you money in Canada or the USA?"

Essentially, they were asking me if this company (which has the words "North American" in its name) was paying me separately outside the country. I didn't really understand why they were suspicious and asking (in a roundabout way) if I had any foreign/external sources of income that weren't reported on the tax form ... until they pulled up my 2006 income tax records and compared the incomes for me to see. Then they started asking why the discrepancy in income, and questioned my choice of employment.
"But ... you went from this salary to this salary?? It's so much less! Why would you do that??"

I simply told them that was about to change again.

The last time I was questioned for choice of company to work for was when I told my buddy how much I was making after moving to California. (Of course, my decision then involved other factors not pertaining to my current case at all.)