Monday, June 27, 2005

From the penthouse

I feel like I am 21 floors in the air, mostly because I am. I am staying at Teacher Gram's place, which I have been told, and confidently believe, is the nicest apartment building in Tainan. It is directly connected with what is unquestionably the nicest hotel in Tainan.
Gram lives at the third floor from the top. Actually, he lives on the third, and the fourth floors from the top. Floor 21 is the bottom floor of his 2 floor apartment. Apparently teaching is doing well for him. It seems teaching is doing well for everyone here in a way. Gram probably makes about 60-70K TND at our school a month. Converted, that is a touch over 2k US a month. To be fair, apartment prices can be ghastly cheap here. Gram pays about 16k TND a month here, so about $600 including utilities. Truly a phenomenal deal by that standard. Nevertheless, Gram does this in addition to leading, what I imagine to be, a decent night life (which most of the teachers seem to have). For that, private students are where bread is won.
Private students fall into the branch of what I consider bureaucratic ambivalence. Rather than just letting foreigners get away with something, the government bans it, and then just spot checks the "problem." Teachers do not tell their school they have privates, but the school knows that they do, and the teachers know that they know. The school bans privates, but they don't do anything about it. No one asks, and no one tells. The teachers are happy because they are making their money, schools don't have to pay as much money to be attractive. Even the government is more happy, more English teachers means better English, more power. So this is a lie that benefits everyone, but why must it be a lie at all?
Because thats the way the government works. On face value, teachers coming here and taking whatever job they want looks bad. So they must do something, so they "ban" it. As long as they just "ban" it, and not ban it, then the problem is curbed, but everyone benefits.
The same holds true with scooters. Scooters, as I have mentioned, are everywhere here. Every Westerner I have met owns a scooter. None have a license. The only estimate of the numbers of westerners living in the city full time I have heard is 200 (which has to be low, but maybe of western teachers). As such, I have met about 4% of the city's sample size.
There are constant rumors that the cops are "finally cracking down." People said that two years ago, five years ago, and they say it now. However, I have never heard of someone who said that they were actually busted. If they were, most plan on pretending they don't speak Chinese, at least it would not be an act for me.
The whole country has this sort of arrangement over certain issues it seems. The most obvious is the traffic. Earlier today I will out with Lily, one of the stuff members at my school. She is helping me find an apartment. On the way there, she infracted traffic rules right and left, but it was clear that she was a "good" driver. She was less aggressive than most, but she would cut across lanes or run lights like anyone else.

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