Thanksgiving in Taipei

As you might guess, it’s just another workday for us here in Taiwan; at least the sun is shining!  Also, very few people have an oven so no turkey this year! I think Wellcome had some whole turkeys for sale last week but I walked right on past. (I haven’t had turkey in years, seeing as I’m vegetarian but still, it’s the thought.)

When I got home yesterday, a note (in Chinese, of course) appeared in my mailbox. On my way to work this morning I stopped by the 106 post office on Anhe and showed them the note. I was made to understand that something from meiguo (may-goo-ow), America, was sent to me. Apparently, whatever it was, was on a truck out for delivery so the clerk called the driver and had the delivery guy return to the post office. Such great customer service! Turned out to be a wonderful basket of dried fruit from my parents. What great timing! I took the basket to work to put on the “feeding” table and sent the following message (a co-worker composed it) in Chinese:

 我的家人從加州寄了一份水果籃要和大家分享,感恩節快樂!My family sent a fruit basket from California to share with everyone! Happy Thanksgiving!

 Needless to say, it was devoured by my hungry co-workers (and me)! A happy day indeed!

Thanks Mom and Dad!

My Sogo guru

If you’re ever in need of a makeover, I highly recommend heading to Sogo (Zhongxiao-Fuxing, the big green building). First stop? Go see Allan, manager of the Dior counter, on 1F. Not only is he adorable, he’s very knowledgeable about the latest in skin care and cosmetics. Despite the store being mobbed by shoppers taking advantage of Sogo’s annual sale, he took the time to listen to what I wanted and then suggested colors/products and actually showed me how to create several different looks. Who wouldn’t love that? And, if that wasn’t enough, he was willing to walk me around the floor, introduced me to the manager of a high-end and act as my translator. When I asked who I could talk to about complimenting his excellent customer service, he blushed, saying it was just part of his job. Of course, my purchases were elegantly wrapped. And at one counter, I was given a bottle of water; I felt like I was flying first-class.

NOTE: make sure you shop the Sogo accessed from the MRT.  If they don’t know who Allan is at the Dior counter, you’re at the wrong Sogo. Head outside and across the street and look for a GREEN building with the Sogo logo.

A slice of antique HEAVEN!

I was talking with one of the volunteers from the Community Services Center charity auction about antiques and  how I enjoy hunting for antiques back home and had yet to see any actual antique stores/malls/estate sales/ secondhand stores here. She told me about a place on Roosevelt that was known for it’s great selection and low prices on antiques. I’d been meaning to go and finally today I did.

It was raining lightly when I hopped on the 235 and got off at the Guting MRT. I didn’t know the name of the store, only that I was to turn right onto Roosevelt off of Heping and look for a green and yellow building I couldn’t miss. From looking at a map I knew that Roosevelt was the main street adjacent to the Guting MRT but when I double-confirmed (Taiwanese-speak for double-checked) on my phone’s GPS, I didn’t see the name “Roosevelt” where I’d expected to. Hmmmm, now what? I used a life line and called a friend. Turns out I was on the right track, I just needed to cross the street and look for a storefront with “old stuff” out on the sidewalk. And then, there it was!

Wow! I felt like I’d just won the asian antiques lottery: two floors of room after room of every imaginable item. Furniture, pottery, masks, artwork – each one more strange and wonderful than the last! The icing on the cake was that the super friendly staff spoke English. And when I used the hackneyed ” is possible be cheaper a little” phrase in Chinese, the owner laughed, pointed to a sign (“one-price” store she told me) and then offered a 10% discount. Sweet! That’s certainly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick! I ended up with a Japanese hatbox (complete with a gorgeous black wool hat), a “crystal” ball + stand, a gorgeous handmade wooden box with red and gold painted design, and what looks like an aluminum funnel with a old-fashioned corkscrew on top – to be used as a hat stand.

this is so "me"

Ahhhh, I don’t even know the name of the store but I know I’ll be back!

Will the rain ever stop?

No one told me that “Winter” in Taiwan consists mainly of lowered temperatures, high humidity,  and non-stop RAIN. Ugh! Ok, not completely non-stop. I think last Monday night the rain stopped long enough so that I didn’t need an umbrella (a handy little Totes, one of the two smartest items I brought with me from the States) on my walk home from work. Seriously, if I’d wanted to live in a world of grey and green, I’d have moved to Seattle! On the upside though, I do find the sound of raindrops soothing while I’m indoors… and oddly, the wet weather doesn’t seem to affect the multitude of bicyclists and scooter drivers clogging the roadways. They cover up with colorful full-body rain gear and take each kilometer in stride.

Treasure hunt in Yunlin county

Once a year, my workplace holds a “camp” (read: weekend of workshops and teambuilding) for its 600+ engineering staff (which includes all tech writers). This year, the camp was held in Yunlin county, about a 3-hour bus drive south-west of Taipei.

Engineering Camp entertainment

So while it was grey and rainy in Taipei, it was bright and sunny (read: HOT) at the Jansufun Park! After a rousing welcome by our CTO at 11am ( I assume it was rousing; it was in Chinese), we were divided into teams of 22 (I was the only non-native on our team) and instructed to search the park for”cache” boxes containing cards with monetary values on them – 47 of those little suckers were hidden in various places and it was our *job* to find as many of the caches as possible. They called it “geocaching” – sort of like a grown up version of an easter egg hunt! Up the steep slopes, down the crazy rides,

Check out this ferris wheel!

we searched high, we searched low. We stopped for lunch and then continued. We stopped for a tea break and continued on. Did I mention that it was freakin’ HOT?? At each cache point, we were required to take a photo of the team. We were also required to stick together at all times (bathroom breaks excepted). Finally, at 5pm, we met up in the “Rainbow Theater” to find out which team had won….would you believe it? It was mine!!!

That led to a creation of the “top 10 things I learned while tromping through the fun park” exercise and me having to address to crowd (nearly 700 strong) to recite our list. I managed to make people laugh – oh wait, maybe it my trying to say a few words in Chinese that did that! In  any event, we won 10,000 (~330USD) and were finally able to check into the hotel. Ahhhhh…

The Prince Hotel

Earthquake #2

We’re sitting at our desks this morning and I could feel the building sway – we are on the 19th floor so you can imagine what that feels like! No one moved or really even said anything except for my “Is it me or are we having an earthquake?” Apparently these are so common no one reacts. Either that or this is a really Zen society…

Morocco in Taipei?

As one of my co-workers and I walked home on Friday  after work we took a wrong turn trying to avoid the traffic headed towards Keelung, and, as often happens, it turned out to be a serendipitous detour. We had intended to eat dinner at Swenson’s (I can’t tell you anything about it because we never made it there). Instead, we saw a brightly lit store front with exotic lettering: Tajin, Moroccan Cuisine. It looked intriguing (and for some reason I thought it might be something close to mediterranean food) so with visions of lentil soup and tabbouleh, we went in. The walls are painted bright white with niches holding colorful Morrocan cookware: tiny jewel-colored glasses encased in silver with ornate silver lids, and ornate traditional tagines (or tajin).

Moroccan Tea Glasses

who wouldn't love a meal made in one of these?

There were only two other groups of diners so we had our choice of tables. I was surprised when the ladies bringing us water and menus didn’t look Taiwanese!

The menu looks appealing although there were only a few vegetarian options – and all had onion or garlic listed as an ingredient (not good options for me). After the waitress went to ask for the chef’s recommendation, he came out and I explained my dietary needs. He graciously offered to leave the onion out of the veggie tagine and suggested an eggplant appetizer.

who knew eggplant could taste this good?

Both were simple dishes, served with fluffy pita-like (not sure if that is really pita) bread, warm out of the oven.

Pita and Veggie Tagine

The Moroccan mint tea and almond rice pudding were unusual and delicious.

A colorful ending to a delicious meal

On the way out, the chef was outside, chatting with some Frenchmen and I asked if he’d consider adding hummus or baklava to his menu and he said “This is a north African cuisine, not Mediterranean.” – oops! Despite my geographical culinary gaffe, this is definitely a place I’ll visit again!

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