After the first few weeks of orientation, it was finally time for us to take the scooter driving test in Taichung. For three weeks, our only driving practice consisted of riding around a small courtyard on Shang Shih Elementary School's (上石國民小學) campus using our makeshift driving course (fashioned using a few traffic cones). Jaclyn, a '15-16 ETA in Taichung who stuck around for orientation to provide advise for the incoming ETA's, kindly lent us her 50cc scooter to practice on. Athena, our ETA Project Coordinator, lent us her 150cc scooter -- this was the more desirable of the two, as you are only allowed to use a 100-150cc scooter on the scooter road test.
Me practicing at Shang Shih on Athena's 150cc scooter!
(Lynna and I laughing outwardly but crying inside because of how anxious we are for the road test.)
Although I have a driver's license back in the U.S. and have been driving for 6 years, I've never driven a scooter before coming to Taiwan. I seriously debated the pros and cons of getting a scooter here - sure, it's convenient, but it's also very dangerous. Yes, there are plenty of traffic laws, but very few people seem to take them seriously. (For example, people constantly run red lights, fail to use their turn signals, and cut others off with reckless abandon.)
In the days leading up to the scooter test, I honestly felt more nervous about the paper test than the road test. As of July 2016, the number of questions on the paper test for a scooter license increased from 634 questions to a whopping 1,606 questions! We studied and memorized four PDF files:
1. Traffic regulations - true/false,
2. Traffic regulations - multiple choice,
3. Road signs - true/false, and
4. Road signs - multiple choice.
I took the mock online test nearly 20 times, but I know that that number did not even come close to some of the other ETA's. There are a total of 50 questions on the paper test and you need to score 85% or higher to pass, meaning you can only miss 8 questions to move onto the road test. For those who fail the paper test, they have to wait seven days before re-taking it. As a result, there was a lot of pressure on our shoulders to pass the first time because we took the driving test one week before the first day of school, and no one wanted to be that person who needs to miss work the first or second week of classes. Although missing work to re-take our driving test would constitute a valid excuse, it still might reflect poorly on us as teachers.
Some of the questions on the English paper test were unintentionally translated in a hilarious way:
Apparently there are enough geese in Taiwan to merit a question about "a flock of geese crossing a country road..."
All of the above..?
The answer's 3. Definitely 3.
LOL @ "Check in on facebook."
Words of wisdom.
Love the casual tone here.
^My favorite. "Vehicle" in verb form = "vehiclerying"... in adjective form = "vehicleeful"
Anyway, luckily, I managed to scrape by with an 86% on the paper test. If I missed just one more question, I would have been the only ETA out of eight who failed the paper test.
Once we all passed our paper tests, we went out to lunch to refuel before the afternoon road tests.
The road test, along with the paper test, got more difficult this year.
The line leading up to the start of the road test (Source).
Notably, test-takers need to supply scooters themselves in order to take the road test. This means you need to borrow one from a friend, family member, or co-worker, who also needs to accompany you to the test site.
The following are the components of the road test, as shown in the above diagram:
1. The dreaded 7-second straight line balance test: you only get two chances on this part, and it's the easiest portion to fail automatically. The width of the lane is approximately half a meter, which leaves very little room for error.
2. Zebra (pedestrian) crossing
3. Forked road intersection
4. Hook turn while making a left turn at an intersection
Somehow, despite our modest level of preparation for the road test, WE ALL PASSED OUR DRIVING TESTS. On the first try, too! To be perfectly honest, I was extremely nervous during the road test. I felt myself physically shaking from nerves, especially on the right-angle turns. Even my scooter was visibly shaking, for those who were watching closely. Yet somehow, as I approached the finish-line and saw the looks of encouragement from the ETA's on the sidelines, I mustered up the courage and concentration needed to finish strong. As my front wheel crossed the finish-line, I heard cheers erupting around me as we (once again, the loud, obnoxious Americans) hooted and hollered in celebration. After I dismounted the scooter, I eagerly high-fived friends with a huge grin on my face. I immediately felt a great sense of relief and utter bemusement that I had somehow managed to get my driver's license less than one month after arriving in Taiwan.
Overjoyed that 8/8 of us passed the scooter test on our first try!
Just a few days after, we all visited a local second-hand scooter shop to purchase our scooters.
Here's a photo of us at the DMV with our brand new (second-hand) scooters! (I'm the one in the back.)
Pictured below is my beloved scooter, Ruby. (I'm so in love that I already looked into the cost of shipping it back to the U.S. ... it's expensive, so that's not gonna happen.)
The journey to getting this scooter was definitely a long and arduous one, but I can say with 100% assurance that it was absolutely worth it!