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Since my adventures yesterday (of which I wrote only two hours ago or so), I’ve had some time to clear my mind and outline what options I really have and the various consequences they entail. As is usually the case, something like this becomes a lot more lucid if spelt out, so that’s what I’m going to do now, both for your information and for my own sake.

Option one: Rent an apartment in Linkou…

…and hopefully find somewhere to live which is not too expensive and not too far from the university. This might be a bit more difficult than I thought at first, because most buildings here are at least half an hours walk from the main gate, which means it’s impossible to get very close. Buying a bike would of course shrink the time down to something like ten minutes, so I suppose distance is not a big problem. I have an apartment ready, which will be vacated on Monday and costs $4500 NT, which is the cheapest I’ll ever find, but it’s a bit small.

Advantages: Moderately priced, a room entirely to myself, not far from campus, have a viable option available now, immediate peace of mind (if I choose to stay where I’m now)

Disadvantages: Bad location for going elsewhere, locked for at least six months by contract, moderately priced

Option two: Find an apartment in Taipei to share with someone…

…which means that I need to find a suitable one, preferably close to either the main campus (to have access to the school bus) or the train station. These areas are among the most desirable in Taipei, so it’s going to cost and it’s going to be hard to find.

Advantages: Easy transportation to other places, probably a good apartment, probably no need for a long-lasting contract

Disadvantages: Very expensive, required commuting to school every day, room mates uncertain

Option three – Find a room in the student dormitory…

…even though I’ve always said I don’t want that. Let’s examine the reasons why. To start with, it’s impossible to meet Vanessa there, but I also think I’d like a room entirely to myself, regardless of how small. The first one can be countered by the fact that the rent will be very much cheaper than anything else, which will make it possible to meet Vanessa elsewhere instead.

Advantages: Very cheap, very close to campus

Disadvantages: No room entirely to myself, room mates uncertain, difficult to go elsewhere

Some thoughts

Writing all this and discussing it with Vanessa, I realise a couple of things. First, living in Taipei is probably not a good idea. The only main advantage is that it’s easier to get to different places, but that will come at a cost. The money I save by living in Linkou, I could easily spend on speedier transportation (like taking the high-speed rail instead of bus) if I want to go somewhere else. This means that the easy-to-get-to-other-places advantage might be negated simply by having more money at hand.

So, having decided (sort of) to live in Linkou, there are a couple of options. I could live in a small apartment of my own in the same building I’m currently in now. It’s not big, it’s not super good, but I’m not sure i need that. The forty minutes on foot to the campus is manageable.

I could also keep on looking and see if I could find another apartment, even though I’m not sure what kind of place would be better than the one mentioned above. Perhaps a little bit bigger and/or closer to the university, but that might be very hard to find.

Lastly, I could probably stay in the dormitory, which feels a bit uncertain. It might be good, but it might also be catastrophically bad and completely ruin my sense of personal security and integrity.

Conclusion (or something)

I’m almost going crazy because of all this. It seems like I need a solid foundation in life to function at all, and I’m sure that most of my angst right now is accommodation related. However, the fact that I’m hungry, haven’t had time to shower since yesterday and still a bit jet lagged of course doesn’t make it better. So how about doing something about the few things I can actually control right now and get some food, a shower and then some sleep?

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Yesterday, I said that by this time today, I would hopefully be able to tell you about the wonderful new apartment I’d found close the campus. Sadly, that’s not true at all. I’ve found temporary lodging reasonably close the university, which means I can continue my hunt for an apartment tomorrow, but I’m only a little bit closer to finding somewhere to live than I was this morning.

It started out quite badly this morning with my leaving the hostel, heading for the underground station from which a bus would take me and another student (Joy) to Linkou township close the campus. For half an hour, I thought I had misunderstood something about the directions, because nobody was there to meet me (and nobody answered phone calls either). This was solved about forty minutes later when it turned out that Joy had overslept, but was now on her way. I don’t consider this a problem, though, because as it would turn out and the topic of this post implies, she offered invaluable help during the day and I’m greatly indebted to her for that.

Arriving in Linkou, we met with a guy who was a representative for a housing agency or something like that, and he helped us find different places we had checked out beforehand. We were unable to contact some of the landlords, and the other apartments were out of the question for other reasons (too big and thus too expensive, or old and dirty but affordable). Perhaps I had evaluated the situation badly and apartments would be a lot more expensive than planned?

Not so. The last apartment we checked was quite nice and was also reasonably priced, but when we were about to sign the contract, I suddenly noticed that my mobile phone said “Emergency calls only”, which of course meant that my provider had no coverage of the area. The area in question turned out to be very local indeed, and the phone worked outside the room, but not anywhere inside it. This meant that nobody could call me while I’m home, which would be very bad indeed. In addition to this, the room has no windows, which I think is okay, but combined with the phone problem, it simply isn’t worth it. I decided to continue searching.

At this point, it was around six o’clock, which meant that I would get no more looking around today, and besides, Joy had been with me all day and didn’t deserve to drag me around any longer. I had two options: either going back to Taipei and find some temporary lodging there (very inconvenient since I would’ve had to go back here again first thing tomorrow) or check with the university if they could accept me for only one night. The second option turned out to be impossible for some reason, so I was resigned to going back to Taipei with a heavy heart.

Then the landlord from the last apartment we checked called (the one without phone coverage) and said that I could stay in the apartment I didn’t want for two days if I wanted to, without signing or paying for anything. He said that another tenant would be moving out on Monday, and if that apartment was better, I could rent that one. He also said that I didn’t have to promise anything, I could live here for two days even if I decided ultimately to go somewhere else. So here I am, with somewhere to stay at least for tonight and tomorrow, and my plan is to keep on searching. I simply just don’t dare signing a contract for half a year without being satisfied with the accommodation.

Today’s events in some ways illustrate what I like most about Taiwan. As a foreigner, I’m welcomed with open arms and most people are very friendly and helpful, even if they don’t have to. Joy could have said she needed to go a lot earlier and the landlord had no obligation whatsoever to offer me to stay in the room for a couple of days. But everybody so far chose the most friendly and welcoming approach, making me feel a lot better than I would’ve felt otherwise. I’d be lying if I said I was comfortable and happy, butit could have been immeasurably much worse.

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