What I’ll miss…

The thought of leaving Taiwan does not fill me with joy. This has been my home for the past 2 years and I’ve built a nice life here. Each day when I walk down the lane, past the temple, past Tonghua street, to Anhe, I’m filled with a deep sense of satisfaction. “So this is what Utopia feels like,” I think. No, life in a foreign country is not without its struggles but, as I see the little shops, and people buying baozi (filled dumplings) at the corner stand, the office workers in their identical “uniforms” (black pants/white shirt for men, black skirt/white shirt for women), the children holding their parent’s hands, people walking their dogs, I feel happy.*

    -the sounds of the city, traffic rushing by but steering clear not to hit anyone
    -the guy from the sports shop walking his long-haired dachshunds
    -the noodle shop guy across the road who always tries to get me to buy his food
    -the temple guy missing teeth, who smiles and waves at me as I walk down the hallway to the apartment
    -the Thursday morning monks, chanting
    -the painted utility cabinets
    -how safe it is here
    -how friendly and helpful most people are
    -delivery/repair people showing up when they say they will
    -the adorable Taiwanese children
    -how convenient everything is
    -incredible customer service
    -guava slices with plum powder
    -dragonfruit, rose apples
    -Taiwan “ice cream”
    -Eslite 24-hour bookstore
    -free samples in magazines
    -the night markets
    -the day markets
    -safe, affordable public transportation
    -affordable and professional dental work!
    -the sight of Taipei 101, lit up, rising up to greet me as I walk home at night
    -how “official” photos are photoshopped to make us all look better!
    -sheng li, the everything store
    -the guangfu flower market
    -the jade market
    -the public library’s English book section
    -people wearing masks when they’re not feeling 100%, so as not to infect anyone
    -oolong tea
    -plum vinegar from Cama coffee
    -working out at NTUE
    -Minder’s vegetarian buffet
    -Wu Laoshi (he paints rocks)
    -Li Laoshi (she has the patience of Job)
    -Palmer’s crazy movie nights
    -fifteen pizza
    -Boite de Bijou
    -the Dior peeps
    -the weddings!
    -all the friends I’ve made at work, the Community Services Center, InterNations, and Toastmasters (TMTM, Taipei Metro. Prestige, FEIB)
    -my “Taiwande haize”: Raymond, Nick, and Victoria
    -Gomer, Vita Lin, the 2013 Welfare Committee
    -Volker, Victor, Steven
    -Najia, Becky, Sophia, Queen (best tattoo artist in Taipei), Yaya, Sharon, Sue, Kalla

I love you guys and miss you already!

* I have a slew of additional posts to add, so please check back.

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 – painting, 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)
  •  the 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!

Hilarious food descriptions

You’ll love this! When you shop the 7-11 or Wellcome or any of the local food stores, you’ll find English translations printed under the tradition Chinese characters on some packages. For instance, here’s a cream wafer that is deemed “evolutional” by the manufacturer. Hmmm, what does that mean, I wonder. Is it the next generation of cookie? If you eat it when you’re pregnant will your children be farther along the evolutionary chain than they might have been had you not eaten it? I have no idea! I did ask a native Chinese speaker to interpret the characters and she came up with “super creamy”. Ok, I buy that. And they were delicious…

say what?

National Pride

This weekend everyone is celebrating this tiny island nation’s 100th birthday. Taiwan may be small but its show of nationalism is anything but!  Flags are displayed everywhere. Roads have been blocked off  for the many parades and inevitable crush of people going to see tonight’s firework display over the river. Military aircraft overhead  are showing off their capabilities during an airshow. 7-11 is giving away colorful “Happy Birthday Taiwan” folders with each purchase. Most everyone gets the day off; folks are in a festive mood!

Happy Birthday Taiwan!

7-11 is my new best friend

After last week’s furniture price shock, I decided to do some comparison shopping for items I’ll need when I move into my apartment (desk, lamp, nightstand, bedding and towels). Typically I’d just head to the nearest Goodwill. No surprise, there are none here. I took the MRT 2 stations away to Momo (formerly AsiaWorld) to check out Piin (6th floor for furniture. 5th for towels and sheets) and back to the Daan station Sogo Department Store entrance. Piin’s furniture looked a lot like what I’d been shown (at twice the price) on Tong Gua’s furniture row.  How difficult could it be to find a desk that can double as a table? I will still check out IKEA and Costco for my home furnishings!  Sogo has all sorts of well-known brands (Nike, Adidas, Levi’s, Calvin Klein) but unfortunately, no sizes for regular-sized folks (size 8 are the largest in women’s shoes, size 10 the largest in women’s pants!) and very few sales staff that understand/speak English! On the way back , I’d nearly exhausted my EasyCard. I stopped into 7-11 and got it refilled and refueled myself with SoyJoy bars.

Day 3 pm

After breakfast and a nice long nap (still getting adjusted to the time zone difference) I decide to venture out, despite the weather. The hotel staff surprise me by saying it’s an easy walk to Taipei 101 when I ask them about it. (Usually they recommend a taxi for everything!) I take my camera and dress in layers, which I realize was a mistake the minute I step outside – it’s so humid. I am gonna love it here!

Approaching Taipei 101 from Xinyi Rd.

Along the street people are walking, riding bikes, scooters. Cars and taxis dart across streets, barely missing pedestrians. It’s a wonderful cacophony of sights, sounds, and smells. 40 minutes later I’m going up the escalator to the Observatory but it’s closed until the end of the month. Guess I’ll have to console myself with shopping the mall (5 floors of super high-end stores, many I recognize).

Taipei mall

I head straight to Godiva where 2 truffles set me back 8.00 USD! They wrapped them up so beautifully I suppose it’s worth it. I find the food court – wow! NOTHING like back home. I almost succombed to McDonalds, just to get a happy meal toy! The choices are pretty wide-ranging: sushi, hotpot, all sorts of stuff I had no idea what it was because the menus are all in Chinese; I ended up getting some fresh veggie juice (2.75 USD). I noticed an Aveda salon and made a mani-pedi appointment for next Saturday. I bought a book at the bookstore (20% off) which cost as much as the two chocolates; I’m still getting the hang of figuring out how to convert NT into USD to figure out the price. NOTE: must find a used book store! On the way back to the hotel, I stopped for coffee (1.50 USD) at 7-11. Each coffee cup has a “2-point” sticker on it; if you save enough of them, you get a lovely piece of Beatrix Potter china. I see a little flower stand and stop in. I ask if the vendor speaks English; no, she motions, so I pantomime what I’d like.  Two pink roses, two ivory chyrsanthemums, some greens, all wrapped up for less than 6.00 USD. Now I need to figure out what to do for dinner…

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