First night/morning in new apartment!

View from my bedroom window

No internet or cable TV (Chunghwa is scheduled for Thursday morning). I also discovered that several outlets don’t work. No worries, my johnny-on-the-spot landlord arranged for the electrician to come over first thing (which he did).  I made my first breakfast since being in Taiwan (oatmeal, yummy!) and cleaned the place. Ah, that feels good.  Chunghwa arrived as scheduled (this never happens Stateside); I now have both internet and TV. Now I just need to lug the bedding I bought (too small) back to IKEA and exchange it, plus order a desk and chair. I’ll keep adding to the furnishings a little bit at a time…

Last day in the hotel!

Just got back from lugging two (more) big suitcases, the world’s largest carry-all, and a loaded laundry basket downstairs into a cab waiting to take me to my new apartment.  The cab driver didn’t speak a word of English and didn’t understand when I told him to turn into the alley leading to the building’s entrance.  More lugging then through three doors and up several flights of stairs. (The broker was coming over so I left the suitcases in the lobby.)  Some friends showed up to help me  unpack. Sam (not his Chinese name), the broker showed up early and started showing me how to use the dish dryer (no clothes dryer in the building but each apartment has a DISH dryer! lol), the central AC (wow!), the bathroom ventilation system (not sure why it’s on a different system than the rest of the place), the TV (after plugging in the DVD player), and the washers (two stories up)! He plugged in the mini-fridge (typical for Taiwan) and leveled it (so it wouldn’t wobble when opened). He plugged in the one burner ceramic stove top, showed me how the stove’s eye guard works (for those days when I simply must fry up something tasty), how to let folks in when they “ring up” (like in NYC!), explained why it smells rather funky under the sinks (something about how the plumbing is new in the building), and finally, where to bring my trash and recycleables every evening (except Wednesday or Sundays) and how to sort everything! Let the cleaning and unpacking commence!

Day 26 pm

One day closer to moving! On the way back to the hotel after work, I stopped at a Taipei Dollar store equivalent: items in bins, nothing too expensive, made in Taiwan. I picked up trash bins, the blue bin liners required for trash disposal, and a laundry hamper – oh joy! Next, back to IKEA for bedding and flatware (sleeping and eating are kind of a necessity)! lol

Ya gotta smile seeing this!

Getting there is fairly simple: walk to the Daan metro station, up/down/up the escalator, take the MRT two stops to Nanjing Road East, down/down another escalator, walk 15 minutes to Nanjing and Dunhua, down a flight of stairs and, voila! I’m there! Travelling back with the world’s largest carry out bag stuffed with a duvet set, goose down comforter (not sure I’ll really need that in this heat!), a bathmat, some kitchen towels, a glass pitcher and a flatware set (yeah, those aren’t heavy), some clothespins, and even a shoji lamp and CFLs, wasn’t quite as easy – but I did it! Exhaustion….

Day 25 pm Everything Yingge

Sunday morning at breakfast, the hotel’s restaurant was crowded. I was sitting alone in a 4-spot when a nice young woman asked politely if she and her companion could sit with me. Certainly I said. When I heard her companion speak, I asked if he was German (he is). We had the nicest conversation and I invited them to go to Yingge today and they agreed to go! While waiting at the Taipei main station to meet my co-worker and his girlfriend, I watched a group of “oldsters” in matching uniforms doing TaiChi in unison. Suddenly we could hear a raised voice: a man was upset, saying (in Chinese) that he’d waited too long in the ticket line. Talk about both ends of the “peaceful” spectrum!  Next, we took a 30-minute TRA train ride to Yinnge. Total cost of trip: 14 + 31 = 45NT (1.50 US) one-way.

In Yingge, the section of town where most of the pottery shops are located is a 15 (steamy) minute walk from the railway station.

Walking to Yingge

On the way we passed little stores, fruit stands, and the ever-present parked scooters. Mostly we walked like locals (on the street vs. the sidewalk) mainly because there are no sidewalks! The pottery area is like a Disneyland for art lovers! Tea shops with pots and cups in every shape, size, and color, shops with all sorts of plants and the pots to put them in, pottery flutes, plates and bowls of every type, mass-produced items from Japan and items created by well-known local artists.

Everything pottery related can be found in Yingge!

Yingge Pottery

I managed to find some plates, bowls, and cups in one shop, and a wonderful large pottery bowl I’ll use to hold fruit, in another. Our last stop of the day was a lovely shop selling both higher end pottery pieces and coffee, tea, and cheesecake. Soothing music, interesting discussion, with two delightful couples, on all sorts of topics, and then…sigh, back to the hotel on public transportation. NOTE: At the MRT station I noticed that there were all sorts of live plants adjacent to the escalator, with 3 employees literally washing each leaf on every plant! Amazing!

Day 25 am

From the ridiculous to the sublime: the plan for Saturday was to head to start moving into my apartment and purchase some much-needed items at Costco. One MRT and one bus ride later  (costing less than 10 cents US!) one of my co-workers and I were outside of RT-Mart and Costco. Looking at the ROWS of scooters outside of each, it wasn’t tough to figure out that both stores were mobbed – and you know much much I love teeming crowds in enclosed places – NOT! At any rate, we started at RT-Mart to look for some basic items I’ll need once I move out of the hotel. One hair dryer, two laundry-drying hangers, and several cleaning items later we were headed, bags in hand, to Costco.  One thing to keep in mind here is the size and weight of items being purchased as they must be toted everywhere until you get home. Also: in most stores,  you pay (10NT) to use a shopping cart. At Costco it’s free! (Funny how it’s the little things that stand out in any new experience!) At Costco I found an electric tea kettle, water filter pitcher, and lovely fluffy towels made in India. Interestingly, the folks here speak Chinese but you’ll be hard pressed to find many made in China items for sale.

Day 23

It’s a been a long couple of days! I’m getting ready to move into a new apartment, learning a new job and language, adjusting to a different rhythm of life. I’m finding that sometimes even the seemingly simplest of tasks feel like a major undertaking. Just getting from one place to another, reading signs, asking for directions (this is important when you’re as directionally-challenged as I am), figuring out what to order from a menu all take on an added complexity when you throw in symbols that have yet make sense and words that, spoken with the wrong intonation, can take on unintended meanings!

After lunch (vegetarian AYCE buffet under 3.00 USD) I went to order internet service and look into getting a cell phone. Although I was told that someone at the local telephone company could speak English it was a good thing my HR rep went with me. Two hours later (!) I had a phone, the promise of a phone call to set up internet and cable installation, and a headache! Total monthly cost for all three services: less than 80 USD/month. Now if only I could find a store that sells manila folders to store the volumes of paperwork generated by those transactions!

Day 21

I’ve been in-country for three weeks and it should only be another few weeks before I get my ARC (Taiwan version of a green card).  It’s amazing how quickly the government entities here respond! It’s also amazing how I haven’t missed not having a phone (go Skype). lol

At breakfast today I talked with a friendly native who is in Taipei with his wife and daughter on business, looking to buy some property here. I gave him the business card of my real estate broker and raved about my experience at the National Art Museum. Turns out he’s the CEO of a high tech company based in Taichung (the city I visited last weekend).  We discuss art for a while and he invited me to stay with them the next time I’m in Taichung! Nice, huh?

At lunch time today I had my first scheduled Chinese lesson. The  teacher started off with pages xeroxed from a children’s book! Hah! It’s humbling being considered an expert in one language only to be a rank beginner in another – and the one I can’t speak is the one I need most for everyday life! I am starting to put some sounds and words together. I think the spoken language will come long before the written one.

This weekend I’m doing some final comparison shopping (for household items) at Costco (go figure) and on Sunday I’m heading to Yingge (ing-guh) just outside Taipei to see the Ceramics Museum and to find some unique plates. Next week: moving day!

Masks and umbrellas

One thing you’ll notice immediately as you travel anywhere around Taiwan is people wearing what appear to be surgical masks. Some are fancied up, colorful and others are just plain…plain. They all seem to serve one of two purposes: to keep something in or to keep something out. I asked and apparently some folks wear them when they are feeling ill, so as not to infect anyone else (thoughtful, if they can’t stay home) and others wear them to keep any pollution from the traffic at bay. (I’ll have to get a pic of this without seeming rude about it.) Personally I’m not sure that re-breathing your own breath is advisable but the practice has caught on here.

Taiwan Masks

Also, I notice the widespread sale and use of umbrellas (mostly when it’s sunny outside) among women of all ages. I even saw a women, her bicycle LOADED with stuff, gripping a ‘brella firmly in one hand as she navigated the crowded sidewalk! Many of the umbrellas being sold along the street have a silvery lining (let the puns begin) that is designed as a reflective shield against UV rays. You may recall that Asian women the world over prize white (fair) skin and do all they can to keep it light (I haven’t seen a single tanning business here yet.) Most of the beauty products (even those brands sold in the States) are advertised here as containing some sort of “whitening” properties and labeled as such. I suppose the umbrellas also keep the intense sun off of the users although I’m fairly certain that the sun’s rays reflect off of the sidewalk,  making a device held overhead useless for protection. Hmmmm….I’ll have to think on that a bit.

Taiwan Umbrellas

Taiching part 4

On the way home to Taipei, I decided to upgrade myself to Business class for the hour ride on the HSR, which turned out to be a good move! I was toting a rather large painting so my reserved seat in Car 6 allowed me room to put the painting down and stretch out in the next seat. Plus, I got food service like in the airlines – only better: some interesting nut mix, a “Citrus Cake”, and my choice of drink. So civilized!


Taichung part 3

After lunch and shopping in Taichung, my hosts took me to the Taiwan National Museum of Fine Art where Marc Chagall’s work is the feature exhibit. It’s FREE to see the other collections and 250NT (8.00 USD) to view the Chagalls. And man, were there Chagalls! What a wonderful collection of his colorful fantasies! Here’s the entrance to the museum:

Entrance to the TNMFA in Taichung

When we exited the museum, it was amusing to see children and their parents playing with….the smooth white stones used to pave paths. All that amazing artwork  just a stone’s throw away and the kids would rather pick up rocks! And then another amazing sight: a DIY tea stand!

DIY Tea Stand

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As for me, I will take the road less travelled…