Medical care is so much cheaper here than in the US. Here's a breakdown of my hospital stay expenses which, under the National Health Insurance, are 10% of the actual cost:
|Emergency Room||NT $700||US $21|
|7-day hospital stay,|
including doctors, medicine, etc.
|NT $2,200||US $65|
|Follow-up visit with x-ray||NT $400||US $12|
|TOTAL||NT $3,300||US $98 (!)|
Even if I hadn't been covered under the NHI, my bill would have been only NT $33,000, or just under US $1,000.
In other news, yesterday I went and got a library card. I was proud of this accomplishment because the staff spoke no English, so I was completely on my own. At one point, the woman assisting me stared at my ARC with a puzzled look, struggling to determine which parts of my ridiculously long hyphenated name to enter into the computer. When I informed her that I had a Chinese name, she was visibly relieved and quickly typed in the three characters (as opposed to the 16 keystrokes needed for my English last name). Little experiences like these make me feel like I'm actually integrating into Taiwanese life.
That's not to say that I'm fluent in Chinese. Far from it. I rarely am able to put even two sentences together. I admit it's my own fault; I just don't study, despite my new year's resolution to the contrary. Every week I tell myself that I'm going to buckle down, but as of yet I have no regular study schedule. And no, you can't just "pick up" the language without studying. Sure, you can learn a few words and common phrases without trying, but I maintain that one cannot become "conversational" without traditional study and memorization (unless you're a small child).
GOOD NEWS: I'm making definite plans to visit the US during next year's Chinese New Year, which will be in mid-February, 2010. I'm going to ask for enough extra days off so that I can come for at least two weeks. I've never asked for time off my job, so I should have no problem getting the time off, especially if I ask early enough. To help my plans, I'm going to be moving to a smaller and cheaper place (one-room) in the summer when my lease expires. I'll give more details about the trip, and my new address, as soon as I know them.