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
    -7-11’s!!
    -Chinglish
    -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
    -Whalen’s
    -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.

Murder at the Jianguo Jade Market

I headed down Xinyi on the 22 to the Jianguo markets (crafts, flowers, jade).  I was meeting my friend Najia and wanted to shop for gems – or at least see what was available. The jade market is so large (at least 3 city blocks long) that we decided to start on the east side and work our way up and back on each section, making our way to the other side. I could see vendor after vendor with jade, jade, and more jade. Finally one vendor pointed out one of his neighbors, saying that she sold gems. Then suddenly it seemed that many vendors were packing up their booths (and it was only 1pm). At the night markets this happens when the police show up to check vendor permits; those without permits cover up their booths and wheel them away to avoid a fine. We saw police officers and thought that was happening here too. The gem vendor tried to be polite while she was throwing items into boxes, asking us to come back next week and pointing to the middle section of the market, one aisle from hers.

We still didn’t get it. The police tape should have been our first clue. And then we saw it and I wish we hadn’t.

A large pool of blood spreading over the floor. A forensics officer taking photos. Thankfully there was no body but it was obvious that something dire had occurred. We moved away and asked several of the nearby vendors, what had happened. One made a slashing motion across his throat. Suicide? Apparently not. A vendor at one of the booths nearest the scene said “fight” and made the same slashing motion. There wasn’t a lot of emotion expressed. A person had just been killed, in broad daylight, in a crowded market and no one  screamed, no one was crying, no one seemed in shock. (Violent crime is definitely not the norm in Taipei but I could find nothing in the news about this incident.)

As we moved further away from the crime scene, it seemed that most of the vendors had heard about the killing but again, it was more of the British stiff upper lip reaction than outrage or horror. We did a little more window shopping but in truth, it was difficult to concentrate. I doubt I will ever look at the jade market in the same way again. RIP unknown victim.

 

National Palace Museum

What does a newcomer to Taiwan do on her first day off, a paid holiday? She gathers some friends and goes to the National Palace Museum, of course!

One 300NT taxi ride and 30 minutes later, we climb out to witness a jaw-dropping sight: a former palace that now houses thousands of years of Chinese art pieces on three of the four floors of the main building. Someone said that if the exhibits were rotated quarterly for the next 23 years, you would see something new every time and still not see it all – and I believe it.

The National Palace Museum at night

No photo-taking was allowed so my mere words will have to suffice to describe the various items. We saw incredible objects carved  out of every imaginable color of jade. My personal favorite was the [calligraphy] brush wash carved to resemble a curved lotus leaf. The showcase piece was no more than 8″ tall carved out of a single piece of white and green jade to look like bok choi with a little green grasshopper on it. It was apparently part of a bride’s dowry and appeared in all manner of much lesser forms throughout the museums many gift shops!

Bronze cauldrons, copper daggers inlaid with gems, porcelain pillows (pillows?), intricate carved jade, ancient documents, ethereal paintings of mountain scenes (one was at least 50″ long!)-  each item more amazing than the next!

At one point we decided to go to the 4th floor tea house for some sustennance; even the food was a work of art.

Lotus tea with spring rolls and sweets

 

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