Today I got a taste of what life is like for an actual Taiwanese student living on minimum wage. I got up and rushed out of the house to reach the library by 7:35. I studied all morning, and then went to class from 12 to 3 as usual. After class I dropped by the doctor and then went to Zhongxiao Dunhua, where a friend of my housemate had expressed the need for “help at my office”.
As I live in relative poverty, trying to stretch my savings as far as I can, I leaped at the chance to make some cash. Any ideas of actual office work were rapidly dismissed upon arrival, as I was sat down with 40,000 (yes, you read correctly) sets of earphones and matching earbuds, which needed to be sorted as the quality control at the factory was obviously non-existent. I then spent 5 hours disassembling the broken ones, pairing up the ones with missing earbuds, and cleaning the dusty cases. All for an extravagant NT100/hour (about $3.00 US/AUD/EUR).
I ask myself if I really hate teaching English that much — NT500/hour is the minimum rate — and I guess after tonight (with more to come tomorrow and the day after) I may stop being such a fusspot. However, I also secured a place for a much more fun and easy job, at the Design Expo next month, which should be paid much more highly. So I guess it’s worth the brain-numbing, back-breaking, finger-shredding work on the assembly line… anything to avoid teaching?
Also, I got to talk Chinese all evening, and Pearl the manager told me that I look like a Barbie doll, which is just about the most entertaining thing I heard today. Also, I always feel like I’m Real Taiwanese when I work these minimum wage jobs with other Taiwanese students (see: my job at Taipei Eye, Summer 2007). We chat, we whinge, we laugh, we eat cheap bento boxes and drink tea. And we work our way through 40,000 nasty cheap cases of earphones, made in our most despicable neighbouring country’s finest factories. Such a wannabe egg!