I realized, in the weeks leading up to my departure, that most people were about 15% curious about the country, the school, and the culture and 85% enthralled with the prospect of a 14 day* quarantine in a hotel room. So I thought I’d document a detailed breakdown of what my day to day has been like in here.
*I got here at around 7:00am last Sunday and I don’t get out until Monday the 7th, so it’s really 15 full days, which feels like bullshit.
- 3:00am – Wake up inexplicably. I cannot tell if this is a product of jetlag or not. I left at night and arrived in the morning (albeit a day later) so I felt like my body was still pretty much on schedule from the start. But for the first 4-5 days I was wide awake for about an hour in the middle of the night. Typically I would turn on The Office, which has been my sleep aid for the past several years, but they don’t have it here! I get seemingly almost the full rest of the Netflix catalogue other than The Office and Parks and Rec. I’m trying to transition to Modern Family, but I haven’t watched it in awhile and it’s just too damn funny to not pay attention to. I think The Office is funny too, obviously – it’s my favorite comedy show of all time – but I’ve seen it so many times that I think something about the familiarity and predictability of it allows my brain to turn off. The real ticket is the sleepcasts on the Headspace app. Those things are incredible. They knock me out in minutes. But they’re not as funny. But in either case, after about an hour or so I usually fall back to sleep.
- 7:00am – Wake up for real. I usually wake up to several messages, which is nice. I’m sure it will die down after you all forget about me, but hopefully it lasts for at least another week. It’s really weird to get used to the time zone difference. There are a few precious hours in the morning at night during which we’re both awake, but other than we’re on completely opposite schedules, which is still wildly disorienting. Although I will say that this should force me to be present in what I’m doing during the day and not worrying about my phone, which feels like it will be a valuable exercise. Hilariously, the official Welcome to Cornel School handbook mentions that people have a tendency to drunk dial home. “Teachers have a habit of ‘drunk dialing’ — in fact, that seemed to be the only time I called home. My folks thought I had bit of a problem, but it was just that I got a little over-emotional after the 12th bottle of beer.” First of all, 12 beers. Respect. Secondly, if you get a phone call from me around noon central, you know what I’ve been doing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
- 9:00am – Orientation over Zoom. Under normal circumstances, new teachers would have gotten here in June and used the summer for onboarding, orientation, observations, and planning. I personally and explicitly blame Trump’s handling of the pandemic for that not being the case. Instead, I have a few short meetings each day during which they walk me through the policy handbook, curriculum, and online resources. These meetings at least give me something around which to structure my day. I always leave them feeling a mixture of excited and overwhelmed. It simultaneously feels like there is a lot I should be doing and nothing much I can do at all. On Friday I got to observe another teacher leading one of my classes. You can only tell so much over a grainy video (the WiFi in this hotel leaves much to be desired) but I could tell that these kids are very smart, sweet, well-behaved, and eager learners. Being with the kids has always been my favorite part of teaching, and in fact the only thing that keeps me in the profession at all. It will have been about six months since I was last in the classroom with kids by the time I set foot in a classroom again, and, although I am admittedly a little nervous, I cannot wait for that day.
- 10:00am – Text my temperature to the police officer assigned to me. I’m honestly kind of surprised they let me do this on the honor system, unless there is a chip I don’t know about in the thermometer, which is fully possible. I also have to respond to an automated message from the Central Epidemic Command Center to let them know I am feeling well and healthy today, except a few days ago my phone seemed to run out of prepaid SMS time, so I don’t think my replies of “1” are going through anymore. I’m rather nervous someone is going to come knocking on my door at any moment. I’ll keep you posted.
- 10:02am – Try to understand TikTok.
- 10:04am – Close TikTok because every video is really fucking stupid. To be fair to me, I asked the other young people in my program if I was out of touch and they agreed that 99% of the videos are hot garbage. The main thing I don’t understand is why you can’t set your preferences to show you certain types of videos. I know it is supposed to learn what you like and adjust over time, but if I don’t like anything, how will it learn? In sum, I feel really good about not wasting time scrolling through this app. If people could just continue to send me the one really funny video out of every 10,000 that would be ideal.
- 10:05am – Listen to a podcast/audiobook and cross stitch. This has become one of my favorite activities in the day. I am currently listening to (do I dare call it “reading?”) The Art of Fielding by Chad Harbach. It came highly and unanimously recommended from basically all of my best friends and they were not wrong. Current podcasts in the rotation include, but are not limited to The Daily, Fantasy Football Today, Conan O’Brien Needs a Friend, Wind of Change, Dan Carlin’s Hardcore History, Radio Rental, and You Meet in a Tavern, which is a delightful Dungeons and Dragons campaign (I know what you’re thinking, but it’s not like that. Trust me. This is another post for another day.) As for cross stitch, it is a recently acquired skill/hobby inspired by my good friend Jordan and I absolutely love it. For me, it is a perfect blend of engaging yet mindless, artistic yet mathematical, and tactile yet low effort. I just finished my first project and have started on my second. This next project is my first attempt at a self-made design, so we’ll see how it goes.
- 11:00am – Stare out the window. I feel quite lucky to have the room that I have. My initial reaction when I walked in was that it was really tiny, and it is, but I have a huge bank of windows that overlooks a fairly busy intersection, so I at least get lots of natural light and a decent amount of entertainment. Highlights so far include a moped-to-moped collision, a fight with some pretty respectable punches thrown, and an insanely efficient construction project. It took them like an hour to repave part of the street around a manhole cover. I couldn’t believe it. This almost certainly would have taken three weeks in the US. The vast majority of people here ride scooters, and despite the crash, I am really excited to get one and get riding. In fact, as a moped owner for nearly half my life, it was a strong factor in choosing Taiwan in the first place. The rules of the road appear to be a little looser than the US, but not nearly as hectic as what you might think of when you picture India, for example, where thousands of people are trying to kick and shimmy their way through an intersection. Plus, 100% of people here wear helmets, as they are required by law. So don’t worry mom, I’ll be fine.
- 12:00pm – Eat lunch. We get three meals a day delivered to our door. The first 3-4 days I thought everything was really amazing and impressive. Since then, I have realized that there may have been a little international adrenaline at play and the meals have become something less than amazing. They usually consist of some combination of lukewarm rice, meat, veggies, tofu, and some mushy things from the sea. For mass-produced quarantine hotel food, I don’t think I could expect much more, and it’s three free meals a day delivered to my door, so I don’t want to complain too much. I do think I’m really going to like the food here once I’m free. You can also order from Uber Eats, which is just nice to be able to switch it up once in awhile, and it’s super cheap too! I also brought along Clif bars, fruit snacks, and Dove chocolates for when the going gets tough.
- 1:00pm – Workout. I remember seeing a meme once that said “thinking about going to prison just so I can finally focus on my fitness.” This is funny because it’s true. I have worked out harder in the last week than probably any other point in my life. As my parents were sure to point out many times, I’ve gotten a little soft since March. I think quarantine has had this effect on many of us, so there’s no shame in that game. (Some call it too much beer, I call it SELF CARE!) This time presents a good opportunity to get back on track. Additionally, working out is a good way to kill 40-60 minutes each day. There is sufficient space in my little room for lunges, pushups, sit-ups, burpees, etc. so look out, Taiwan, Evan’s comin’ outta here jacked!
- 2:00pm – Another meeting with school. Typically these go something like, “Here’s all the curriculum for the year, why don’t you take a look at it and start planning things out.” And I say, “Okay, I will” then immediately feel extremely overwhelmed and clueless and close my computer and go lay down.
- 3:00pm – Unknown. “What time is it? What day is it? What have I even done all day?”
- 4:00pm – Watch a movie/play Zelda/nap/Duolingo. Chinese seems like it’s going to be really hard to learn, but I’m going to try. So far I know numbers through 10 and “My name is Evan, what’s yours?” So I’m basically fluent.
- 5:00pm – Stand in my nook. My bathroom has this great little bump out nook with windows on 2 sides and some pretty direct sunlight. Sometimes I just stand in there for a few minutes and feel the warmth and pretend like I’m outside. I’m 76% sure the windows are tinted and reflective, but if not, well, hopefully people have enjoyed what they’ve seen.
- 6:00pm – Try to eat most of the dinner.
- 7:00pm – Watch more Netflix, I guess? I don’t know. At this point it’s just run out the clock until it’s an acceptable time to go to bed. At least around now some people back in the states are starting to get up so there are some more messages to look forward to.
- 9:00pm – Go to bed.
Honestly, it hasn’t been nearly as bad as I thought it would be. The days mostly do go by fairly quickly, and I do a pretty good job of staying busy, moving from activity to activity, and keeping my mind engaged. Today marks the halfway point! I imagine the second week might drag a little more than the first, but there should also be a wave of excitement near the end that I can hopefully ride to the finish. Next time you go outside, think of me and be grateful for the fresh air.
Lastly, thank you for all of your messages to check in and encourage as well as your responses to my blog and instagram posts. They mean a lot, especially during this time of solitude. If you haven’t already, enter your email and click subscribe and you will get each post in full delivered directly to your inbox.