Saturday, January 24, 2009

Chapter 4: School Daze

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, er, university, things continued to get interesting. First, I got my class schedule. Yes, even though I didn't have the proper visa, I was enrolled and I found I had been assigned classes that started at 8:10 in the morning. That's when the leisurely one hour commute that I had been taking at noon became and grueling early morning rush hour trek with added time because of the volume of people. My heart sunk thinking that I was now going to have to be getting up at 5:30 to be ready to catch an overcrowded bus so I could get to class on time.

Of course, I checked the university rules. ‘Classes cannot be changed without a valid reason. Work schedules are not a valid reason’ it said. If work was not a valid reason, I supposed commute times and buses wouldn’t be valid, either. Anyway, after a few classes, I kind of liked my teacher and the small class (no one comes that early) so I decided to stick with the up and at 'em.

After about a week of being packed into an over-crowded, unsafe minibus that was standing room only at 6am, it was much easier to start giving into my friends who were urging me to drive illegally. And hey, I was an illegal student, so why shouldn’t I be an illegal driver? I could buy a scooter registered to someone who had already left Taiwan and drive it to school. All perfectly normal, I was assured by the folks here.

Luckily, the guy I was living with had a girlfriend who started giving me lifts to school in the morning. After about a week of driving downtown, I became much more rested and could actually form words in class, but the polluted air was beginning to take its toll. The morning commute on a scooter was horrible on the lungs. Every time one would stop at the light, he would be wedged in between busses and cars in a veritable cloud of exhaust.

Soon, I wasn't just sitting in class tasting exhaust fumes, but I was starting to cough too. I started driving to the nearest subway (MRT) station instead. Less polluted, way less dangerous, and hey, between driving illegally and attending class illegally, I don’t think I was violating any law bytaking the subway--until, one day, I took a drink of water to stop coughing. People glared at me like I had lit a cigarette. (Drinking is illegal on the subway.)

On to Chapter 5: "Disaster Strikes!" -->

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