One year in Taiwan

I’ve officially been in Taiwan for one year! In that time, I have had many adventures, made some new friends – and here’s what I’ve learned:

  • the Taiwanese are a happy, friendly, patient people; they will wait in orderly lines (for elevators, to check out, at the MRT)
  • if you at least attempt to speak Chinese, they will attempt to speak English
  • the Taiwanese love art –┬ápainting, sculptures, and colorful signs are EVERYWHERE
  • there are two prices: the foreigners-who-don’t-bargain price and the locals-I-will-bargain-for-EVERYTHING-EVERYWHERE price
  • it is safe to walk home alone after midnight
  • many stores and shops and foot massage places are open late or 24/7
  • the Taiwanese are a generally conservative people, yet you’ll see giant billboards advertising (very) skimpy lingerie, girls with super short skirts, and “betel nut” girls in bikinis selling their wares (I mean the narcotic nuts)
  • ┬áthe few foreigners you see on the street either pretend you don’t exist and walk on by or become your best friends
  • if you are a “normal” size (not a “tiny” person) you’ll have trouble finding clothing here (size 8.5 is the largest shoe size available for women)
  • foreign (European and American) goods are vastly overpriced (I once spent 6000NT/200USD on a pair of CK jeans)
  • thank goodness for UniGlo – I was actually able to find some reasonably-priced, quality clothing
  • when they say “rainy season” they mean it!
  • most people eat out for all meals (they don’t have actual kitchens here), and the food is relatively cheap (relative to the wages that is)
  • having a clothes dryer is a luxury few can afford
  • trash must be taken to the garbage truck in official blue bags
  • taking public transportation isn’t so scary anymore (I can ask directions and understand the answer!)
  • 30 verbs
  • Google Translate and 7-11 are a godsend!
  • Good customer service is a given, as is no tipping!

Earthquakes, typhoons, and floods – oh my!

This week started off with a bang – literally! At 5am I was awoken by the building shaking and swaying and the sounds of, well of a 6.0 earthquake! http://earthquake.usgs.gov/earthquakes/recenteqsww/Quakes/usb000absf.php

It lasted about a minute but seemed longer. And all week, we’ve had after-shocks and a few more tremblers. (You haven’t lived until you’ve experienced a ‘quake on the top floor of a 20-story building.) I’m told this is normal for this region: I’ve experienced more earth-shaking in this past week than in the past year! Maybe there’s an earthquake “season”?

Then of course, on Monday, at 2am, the torrential rains started. And I mean TORRENTIAL! So much so that suddenly, my outside wall was leaking water – and “little Lake Tong Hua” was forming in my bedrooms. Needless to say, it was not a restful night. Between the sheets of driving rain and the howling wind, they cancelled work – of course only after I’d arrived. LOL

Taipei graffiti

when you think of graffiti, you probably think of young thug taggers doing their dirty deeds on freeway overpasses while no one is looking. well, think again! in Taipei, art is everywhere and graffiti takes a decidedly upbeat turn. check out what i saw recently on a boarded up street-level business:

Let’s all shine!

it made me smile when i realized that the positive message applies to us all!

“Uncle” Stone

outside Eslite (the 24-hour one, on Dunhua) there are always vendors (unofficial and ones that are licensed), their wares spread out on blankets. usually it’s just umbrellas and sunglasses (probably from China) and clothing only a tiny person could fit into. this one time though, i saw something that made me stop and look. rocks. painted rocks to be more precise, a wizened old man selling them. several people stood around looking at them (and i was tired and wanted to buy book 2 in the Hunger Games series) so i hurried on past, thinking he’d still be there when i came out. (he wasn’t.) darn!

then, to my great surprise and joy – he was there again this week (when a co-worker and i came out of Eslite after getting some vegetarian dinner at the downstairs buffet).

after a brief conversation we learned that the artist had once been a social worker and teacher and, while looking for something to paint that couldn’t be crushed by little hands, came up with the idea of painting rocks with icons and patterns that have special meanings. I chose white dandelions on a white background signifying hope (and who can’t use that these days?). So enchanted with my little purchase, I went back a few days later and found “Uncle” Stone again and this time selected a classic design of rice, which is intended to mean “having plenty”. (well we’ve sure had plenty of earthquakes this week!)

Plenty of Hope

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