Things had been stable for first few weeks after starting class. I had settled into a routine either taking the bus, the subway or hitching a ride with my friend's girlfriend in the morning. I even had been able to have breakfast a few times before class.
Unfortunately, about three weeks after class began, the friend I was living with had a car accident, something infinitely more common than in the West. He was pretty wrecked up so I stayed home to help him that (Monday) morning and ended up going in to teach his classes as well. That was two hours off my ten hours I was allowed to miss that month. Oh well, I had holidays coming up anyway, so I could use that time to go to HK and get my student-visitor visa.
After six hours of teaching my friend's classes in a small sauna with hyperactive kids, I was so washed out the next day that I missed another class. Four hours missed. I was just totally exhausted. On the Wednesday, I made it in to class but really didn’t do too well because my voice had become very deep and hard to understand. Thursday, I woke up with a fever and trouble breathing. Six hours missed. Friday, I knew I had bronchitis. Eight hours missed.
By the next week, I missed my ninth and tenth hours because the bronchitis had turned into rales (pronounced rawls, I’m told). This is when your lungs fill up with putrid sputum and you get that bubbling effect. It’s kind of like breathing through a hookah or a sponge. I had this problem once before when I had viral pneumonia. I knew this was not good, because only severe bronchitis has this kind of problem. Anyhow, the rest of the week was spent going to doctors, taking antibiotics and just generally feeling like crap. I didn’t lose the fever for several weeks. The end result for those of you keeping score: eighteen hours of class missed.
Luckily the next week was my holidays because I was in the third week of a heavy lung infection. The doctor was scaring me because he kept telling me I should have cleared up by now.Also scary was waking up on the second day of my holidays to realize that I had stayed in Taiwan almost 60 days. That's right, my visa was expiring and by law, I needed to go to the 'foreign affairs police' to get an extension. The only problem was, I did not have a student visa and an extension was only given to visitors with the note that I was studying. I was supposed to be leaving. Even if they were to make an exception, a requisite document for visa extension was my attendance record--something that showed I had already missed twice the allotted hours.
So here I was faced with the fact that since I had already missed 20 hours of school, I couldn’t present the requisite attendance record and I was likely to be denied an extension. I decided to throw myself on the mercy of the cops and got the ‘we’ll do it this once but never again without the proper records’ treatment and I renewed for another 60 days. They also mentioned that, since I missed over 10 hours under Ministry of Education stipulations, I was to be booted out of school and never allowed to re-enroll. From being ill, my marks weren’t that hot either so I didn’t have much to stand on.
Finally, and most sadly, I was a bit beyond the point of no return, financially. There were no refunds for my schooling and I had invested money in rent and had other expenses that made it tough to back out and just go home. Plus, it kind of became a challenge to me to see if I could actually work within this crazy system. So after some reading and talking to people, I came up with a plan to apply for sick leave. As long as the doctor cleared me, I could opt out of the rest of the semester, losing the money I had paid, but buying myself time to get well, go to Hong Kong and apply for the proper visa. With the new visa, I would be able to start my studies anew next semester and work towards the four months I needed to get the resident visa. Or so I thought.
On to Chapter 6: "Moving Out (Part 1) -->