In 1990 I was ready to travel the world. Well, nearly ready, but I didn't have any money. So my girlfriend and I ate beans for a month, saved our money and bought one way tickets to Taiwan. We had heard that it was quite easy to get a job there teaching English and the pay was decent. Our plan was to backpack Asia with the money we made there.
We stopped in Hong Kong to get some cheap suits and flew on to Taiwan more than a little bit nervous about finding jobs there. We got a room in a cheap, little hotel run by some friendly people. (most of the other guests seemed to be on an hourly rate) and set off to find jobs. Within our first few hours of job hunting we had jobs at "Yes English" and we never wore our suits again.
"Yes" was a one on one school. We went to people's homes or met them at coffee shops/restaurants/places of employment and taught individuals or small groups. It was very laid back and casual. Teaching English in Taiwan is only legal if you are there _primarily_ as a student of Chinese. So there were lots of Chinese schools set up to provide documentation to prove you are studying. Some of them didn't even really have classes, though our one did. It was called "Perfect Chinese School".
I didn't realize it at the time, but teaching conversational English in Taiwan gave me a huge window into the place and the people. I taught people in every industry of every age and of every political opinion in Taiwan. It was a great education for me.
It was fun for a while but I got bored of teaching. I sent out about 100 resumes to Taiwan companies that exported and got a job in a computer company called Longshine Electronics. That was a bit of an adventure since I exaggerated my knowledge of computers a bit in the interview. The funniest part was the brochure I wrote for them on the first day. At lunchtime I didn't know how to save the document and everybody turned off the computers so I just didn't save it and turned mine off too. And at the end of the day I did the same. Productive output on day 1: zero. But that night I bought a book on Word Perfect, it had a great section on how to save documents and everything was fine after that. I learned a lot about computers in that job and build my first computer while there.
Later I got a job at Freeland Systems as an Application Engineer. Its rather funny that I got my first medical industry job in Applications thinking that an application was Word Perfect or Lotus 123. There was a short technical quiz: q1. How many devices does an IDE interface support? q2. How many devices does a SCSI interface support? I was able to answer those based on my time at Longshine. "OK, you're in!" I don't know where I would have ended up if I had not gone for that job, but I guess my life might have gone forward very differently had I not. I certainly wasn't looking for any kind of career.
Life in Taiwan was fun. Taipei is dirty and crowded but its hard not to like the energy and enthusiasm of the place (and today its much cleaner too). The people are friendly, inquisitive and inclusive. the countryside is beautiful, and the food is great. Taiwan more than any other place defined my career (and a big chunk of my wider life), I learned public speaking at China Toastmasters, I learned PCs at Longshine, I learned dealer and channel management at Freeland and they also threw me in every conceivable business situation. In Taiwan I rubbed shoulders with CEOs and backpackers, dropouts and rising stars from a huge variety of backgrounds and cultures. Even now many years later, I get excited just thinking about it.
By the end of it I had, had enough though. Especially the pollution really got to me. So, newly married Cassandra and I shipped out to Singapore nearly 4 years after my arrival there. I still go back fairly regularly and still love it there. I am looking forward to spending some time there studying Chinese and getting to know Cassandra's family a bit better.