But let's start this story from the beginning. After finally receiving our ARCs last week, today was our final hurdle to legitimize ourselves as citizens of Taiwan. As you know, Nick has been driving us around Taichung for the last month and 1/2 on our rented scooter and I have recently started driving myself to school every morning. Both of us have been driving without a valid drivers license. Well, we have licenses, they are just for a car not scooters. In my mind, potato or potatoe, right?
Now, this may sound alarming to most of you, but it's actually quite common to drive around without a licence among the ex-patriot community here. Some people drive without licenses for up to a year or more after their arrival and lots of ex-pats purchase and drive un-insured, illegally owned (as in not properly registered) scooters for the duration of their stay here. Nick and I, being the straight-laced citizens that we are, have been renting a scooter, waiting for the time when received our ARCs, got our licenses, and were legally allowed to own, register, and insure our own scooters.
So here we are, on our day off, ready to become street-legal! The morning started off a little rocky when we realized that Nick didn't have enough ID photos left (we needed 3) and had to run to the Kodak store to get some more printed. [note to people coming to Taiwan: come equipped with about 20 passport-sized ID photos, they'll come in handy!] Initially the shop-keeper told him to come back and pick them up 8 hours later... 8 hours!!!! To print a digital picture!!! Thankfully Nick was able to put a rush on the order, we only had to wait 2 hours.
At 2:00, pictures in hand, we were off to the DMV. After the initial confusion and language barrier were bridged, the process began. First, we needed to get a health check. We were told to go out the door and walk for 5 minutes until we found the place... that was IT! About ten minutes of confusion later, someone finally handed me this ridiculous map:
Map in hand, we confidently headed out to get our health check. However, upon close inspection of the map, you will notice that
- the body check place is shown on the left side of the road, but the directions say it will be on the right (it was on the right)
- there is absolutely NO description of what we are looking for.
We had walked about 50 meters (or what I thought was 50 meters, but who knows how far 50 meters is, I work in feet and yards, not meters, God Bless the USA) when I stopped to ask someone for directions; he pointed down the road across the street. Another 50 meters later (after being attacked by a stray dog) I asked someone else for some help and was pointed back to where I had just come from... The body check place was NEXT DOOR to the first person I had asked for help! Let me tell you, frustrations were HIGH.
We finally found the place and I can't believe we missed it:
Seriously, there was nothing about this place that remotely indicated that it was in any way associated with the DMV and it certainly didn't look like a doctors office.
The health check entailed a height and weight check, a brief eye exam (i don't even think she was listening to our answers) and lifting our hands above our heads and squatting down. Upon receiving our 15 or so rubber stamps to certify that we are actually living humans and not limp corpses, we proceeded to the written test.
I've shown you some examples of these questions before, but if you'd like to test yourself, there's a practice online exam at this website. I took it three times this morning, in order to prepare. The questions were tough, and our scores were close (you need an 85% to pass and we got an 87.5 and a 92.5) but both of us passed!
Finally, we were ready for our road test. I have to admit I was nervous. The course looks something like this:
You have to stop at the pedestrian crossing, stop at the railroad, and stop at the traffic light. (Not that you would do any of these things in real life.) Along the whole way there are sensor strips lining the road and you get deductions for hitting the strips and for putting your feet down. The course ended with the stability test , which is basically driving slow in a straight line on a narrow path w/out touching the sensor strips that line the sides.
Nick went first:
O NO!!! At the very last minute, once he thought he was in the clear, he turned the scooter and touched the end of the sensor strips, thus failing the test. Thankfully, everyone is given a second chance:
check out his license!Unfortunately, only one of us was victorious today... I failed my test. My nerves were high and driving a scooter slowly on a narrow path is not easy. I have to say it was messy from the get-go. The instructor didn't seem to care much when I put my feet down, and I didn't hit any of the sensors on the first half of the course, but my confidence was supremely low. In the end, it was the stability test that got me. I ran over the sensors both times.
So here I am.... license-less. I'm going to spend some more time practicing driving slow this week (while continuing to drive myself to school every morning) and go back next Tuesday to try again.