Taiwan Diaries: Quarantine
Wednesday, 27 April 2022
As part of her degree, Current Affairs Editor, Rosie Loyd, is spending several months in Taiwan attending National Cheng Kung University, Tainan. Having now arrived, she must complete her 10-day hotel quarantine followed by 7 days of ‘self-health management’ as part of Taiwan’s efforts to reduce the spread of Covid-19. In this article, she updates her readers on her experience so far.
After my 24 hour journey from Gatwick to Taipei, exhausted was an understatement. Taiwan is 7 hours ahead of the UK, so it took me several days to get back on track with my sleep cycle. On my journey out here, I was subject to several full-body disinfectant sprays (even on the soles of my shoes!), as well as a very aggressive PCR on arrival at Taipei airport. At long last, I had made it!
Today is day 9 of my hotel quarantine in New Taipei. I’m staying in a hot spring hotel in Jinshan District, renowned for, yes you guessed it, hot springs! As I write this, I’m currently listening to the hum of my fridge - a relentless background noise - together with the dodgy air conditioning. I keep telling myself it is good practice to get accustomed to the heat for when I get out! I am very much looking forward to some different noises after finishing here. By the time this article is out, I will have finished quarantine and be in Tainan.
When you’re stuck in the same room for 10 days (11 nights), time turns into a strange companion. At times, it whizzes by, and before you know it it’s the evening. On other occasions, it’s as if it doesn’t move at all. The worst feeling is when you’re lying awake at 2 am knowing your doorbell will be rung at 7 to let you know your breakfast is waiting outside.
Together with my fellow Chinese language coursemates, I was supposed to arrive in Taiwan in February. Well, originally, I was meant to go to Fudan University in Shanghai. That got cancelled at the end of 2021. Reading the headlines now, however, I can’t help but feel relieved I’m not in Shanghai. Then February came around and we were told by Nottingham University and National Cheng Kung University that they were waiting on some final documents from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Taiwan (MOFA). Ok, we thought. I’m sure we can wait a couple more weeks.
But little did we know it would be months, not weeks. We’re here now, at least. But the lack of communication and the delay in issuing the necessary documents so that we could then apply for a visa was incredibly frustrating. I’ll leave this ranting for another day – it’s quite an entertaining story involving direct emails with the British Representative to Taiwan and warrants some more attention, so stay tuned!
Back to quarantine. I’m coping. At first, I was rather overwhelmed at the idea that I had to stay inside for 10 days. We are all so fortunate to be able to do what we want when we want. And if what we want to do isn’t an option, then we’ll find the next best thing. It’s quite tricky when you’re limited to a square room with harsh yellow lights and limited natural light - there is a window, but it’s in the bathroom. The best part without a doubt is the nightly hot spring bath. We each have a huge bath and the hot water tap apparently comes directly from the hot spring. I could think of worse ways to kill a few hours!
During the daytime, I’m reading, watching Netflix, and doing our Chinese classes online until we can attend in person. Yoga and Joe Wicks have made a comeback – on some levels this feels like lockdown 3.0! I’m also so grateful for all the facetimes with my friends and family. Another highlight of the day is facetiming fellow Lingo member, Mhairi, who is in the room above me, to eat our bento boxes together. What would we do without technology!
In the mornings and afternoons, we have to take our temperature and submit this to several bodies: the hotel we are staying in, National Cheng Kung University (the university in Tainan that we will be attending), and finally to the anti-epidemic contact on LINE, the Taiwanese version of Whatsapp. On specific days we also must submit rapid lateral flow results online as well. At first, there were a lot of things to remember, but I’m getting into the swing of things now.
The food is something we just have to get used to. Breakfasts consist of either a sandwich with unidentifiable fillings or some sweet little fluffy buns. Lunch and supper are bento boxes with rice, vegetables, some mystery meat, and tofu or something similar. The best comment a coursemate has made so far was ‘I wish I could Shazam my food, then at least I’d know what I was eating’. I agree – it would be very useful. Hey ho. It’s all part of the fun of it, guessing what we’re eating tonight.
Nevertheless, time is seemingly moving. On Tuesday 26th I will be taking a high-speed train down south to Tainan, where I will be completing the final 7 days known as ‘self-health management’. After that, I will be free! I’ll be staying in an Airbnb for the 7 days during which I can’t mix with other people or go onto campus to have in-person classes, but I am allowed to go outside and finally go for a walk. I can’t wait for the feeling to be tired from ‘doing things’ and for my head to hit the pillow and instantly fall asleep. That day will come soon!
Stay tuned for Rosie’s Taiwan Diaries…