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.

Hungry Ghost Month

August is the time of year when the “ghosts” (of dead ancestors? any generic passing spirits?) must be appeased – with food! This makes no sense logically (ghosts don’t have a physical body so how can they eat anything?) but then, this is more about tradition than logic.  One day, the street outside the Temple (five floors below my apartment, literally) looked the same as always. By evening, a 8-foot high framework (bamboo poles, corrugated tin roof) had been set up all along the lane, obscuring the lanterns from the street level but protecting anyone under it from the frequent downpours. I noticed that the foot traffic outside the Temple dramatically increased  (as did the noise). For a week people brought flowers, paper “money”, and all sorts of fruits as offerings (to what, I’m not quite sure – maybe the hungry ghosts?) and stacked it up on the giant marble “alter”.  One morning, van after van showed up (blocking the alley) to deliver their cargo: enormous bags of rice were the only item I recognized. Wow, those ghosts must really be famished! Where will they store all those food stuffs? And then, the mystery of all that food was revealed! Lines of people (the faithful Temple goers?) stream into the Temple to collect (pink plastic) bags filled with (I’m guessing here) the rice and whatever else was previously delivered. At some point I will have to attempt communication with the Temple folk and ask them about this time-honored tradition.

Guarding the gates of the Temple

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