Driving In Taiwan!! Essay

1415 words - 6 pages

Scoop: Honk Fiercely as You RideWhen riding through an urban area of disorder traffic or a road construction section, you should (1) Speed up to pass quickly. (2) Honk fiercely as you ride. (3) Give way for each other.I read the question again. I was stumped. It didn't make sense. But nevertheless, there it was. All the answers seemed implausible, so I took a stab at it and moved on. And then I stopped to consider the situation in which I'd found myself.I'd moved to Taiwan three months earlier to teach English to elementary school children and make half-hearted attempts to learn Mandarin. Soon after I arrived, I'd bought a used black scooter, a nine-year-old, 125cc Yamaha; its model name, Fuzzy, was emblazoned on its flanks in silver and red. Although Fuzzy had so much mileage that her odometer had been rolled back to the preposterously low figure of 5,000 kilometers, she still accelerated hard and fast and she always started in the morning. I loved her.I drove Fuzzy every day--illegally. I had no driver's license. In fact, most of the other expats in Kaohsiung, a smoggy industrial city in southern Taiwan, also lacked the necessary documentation; we simply took our chances that the police wouldn't stop us. "Just smile and talk fast in English and they'll let you go," a fellow American teacher had told me.But for several weeks, rumors had swirled that the police were beginning to crack down, imposing exorbitant fines and finding license-less expats financially liable in accidents even when they weren't at fault. So, I'd decided, it was time to go legit. Thus, I found myself at the Taiwanese traffic bureau that day facing the written exam.I expected I'd do fine. After all, since touching down in Taiwan, I'd become an expert driver: The island's roadways were always clogged with cars and motorcycles and trucks, but I'd learned that the official traffic laws served mainly as suggestions rather than, well, laws. Following the lead of the scooters around me, I'd picked up the habit of splitting the lanes between lines of backed-up cars at intersections. I'd navigate the narrow space between vehicles--dodging a side-view mirror here, then there--and I'd sometimes be forced to swerve as taxi drivers stuck their heads out of their windows and let fly with bright red streams of betel-nut spit.Confident that I'd pass with ease, I'd walked into the traffic bureau and discovered the test had a written component as well. In a spacious classroom bathed in flickering fluorescent light, the proctor, a corpulent man with a buzz-cut and a menacing scowl, handed out the exams and barked instructions in Chinese. I didn't understand a word.Then he handed me a sheaf of papers and said, "English test for you. Ten minutes only."After negotiating 50 ambiguous questions, I handed in the exam and retired to the cramped lobby to await the results. Soon, the receptionist told me I'd passed. It was on to the driving test. This, I thought, would be easy.I walked outside to a...

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