I arrived on the island as an Army E-5/SP5 with my young wife and six month old son. As some background, I was a communications type person and while previously serving in Vietnam I worked with those in Taiwan keeping communications circuits working between Vietnam, the Philippines, Japan and Hawaii. Of course these people told me that if possible I should get assigned to Taipei. As luck would have it, after serving at Ft. Monmouth, New Jersey, for 18 months I got orders for Stratcom Taiwan.
So I left from SEA-TAC airport via a military charter (Flying Tiger) and after many stops along the way was met at Sung Shan airport (the only airport) by my sponsor SSG Peredo. He took us a short ride to the Formosa Guest House where we would live for the next 75 days.
To get to the Formosa GH, you would exit the East Compound via the back entrance, cross the street and make a left at the first alley (there was a furniture store at that spot), walk about 50 feet and there it was. The first few nights we had trouble sleeping as we had to get used to the smells and noises of Taipei. The GH owners were a family with two young daughters 11 & 12 and a mother-in-law. THE WU FAMILY. They ran the GH which consisted of three floors and perhaps as many as six apartments. These people became friends and we are still in contact with the daughters today.
It seemed we ate many meals at the cafeteria located on the West Compound, and many meals at the 63 Club and a few at the FASD Dining Hall on the East Compound. As Taiwan "rookies" we didn't eat on the town often. It seemed we were always walking to the East Compound, as that was where the 7-11 type store, the housing office, bank, PMO, education center, and almost everything I needed for the family were located. The weather could make that seem like a long walk sometimes, especially with an infant.
I remember the adjustment my wife had to make. This was her first overseas assignment and she had to learn how the military worked while being away from friends and family with a new baby. She was great and thanks to the family at the GH, she learned her away around Taipei, how and where to shop, how to look for a place to live (we ended up in the old BOT housing in Tien Mou), speak basic Chinese, and meet other new families. She really did a lot of things to help me, as I worked on Grass Mountain, probably a 30-45 drive via government van from the Compound area.
A few other things I remember, in no specific order, were:
- learning what water to drink and where to go to get it.
- Learning about the different units in Tapei.
- Tthe role of the Air Force, Navy, and Army.
- How to live while waiting for our household goods on the money alloted by the government. We had to provide receipts for everything to the Army every 10 days for every expense you can think of, including the cost of the GH, meals, transportation, laundry, etc. I didn't realize what a benefit this was at the time! Just imagine living almost free for 75 days today while still getting your regular pay.
- Getting on the BOT housing list. If I wanted a New BOT 2 bedroom house, the waiting list was 9 months with the cost being about 3600NT a month, or an Old BOT house with no waiting list for 2300NT a month. The decision was easy for a new family so as soon as our furniture arrived we moved into the Old BOT housing. Again, looking back that was sooo cheap with the exchange rate of 38NT to the dollar combined with the housing allowance I recedived it was a good deal. However, I did need to get a house guard, yard boy, amah, but all in all a sweet situation. As a point of reference private housing in the Tien Mou area was much more expensive, plus BOT housing was close to the area where the movie theater, snack bar,bowling alley, and pool were located.
I was lucky enough enough to serve my tour, return the States and come back to Taipei a year later.