...about the ups and downs, highs and lows, challenges and rewards
A while ago I wrote about my first impressions of Taiwan. That was written just few days after I arrived here and some of the things turned out to be true and some not. First impressions are always superficial, they may be right, but most likely they're not. So how do things stand now for me in Taiwan?
Well, the first 10 days were really great. Everything was going fine, I was becoming more and more independent. I learned how to take the bus and the MRT train by myself, I went on a big sightseeing tour alone. I was able to order food and drinks by myself. And even though I lived in one of the most traditional Taiwanese cities in Taipei county, which was quite a challenge for me, I somehow found a way to get by. But then I suddenly got sick on the 10th day and everything changed for the worse (at least temporarily).
Being sick and changing apartments
I don't know what hit me, but it looked and felt like flu to me. I was (and still am a bit) dizzy, nauseous and weak with a sore throat and minor headaches. I was stuck inside in my room most of the time. And amid my worst days, I transferred to a smaller room just one floor up (offered by the same landlord). My girl asked the landlord for a cheaper room and that's what we got. It was cheaper and smaller, but still a bit too expensive according to my girl. And we soon realized, that it was way hotter than the one before, so we decided to search for a new accommodation all together. And luckily my girl found a better one very quickly: The room is cooler, it's on ground floor (the old one was on floor 6) and it's located closer to a subway and nearer to Taipei's city center. That means there's no need for me to take buses, I will save on money and time. Taking a bus here is not easy for a Taiwan newbie. You need to catch the right one and alight at the right station. That can be a real challenge, when everything is written in traditional Chinese and the whole environment is unfamiliar to you. Yes, I know some Chinese, but that feels like no Chinese when things get serious.
When they speak Chinese to you
I had few cases, where someone spoke Chinese to me and I had no idea what they're talking about. It's funny, but even though I couldn't look different-er than the locals, everybody assumes that I understand Chinese perfectly. That day, before I got sick, I went out on my sightseeing tour. The stairways were just being cleaned by a man and a young woman. I just left my flat, which was located on the 5th floor, when the young lady, while eating her noodles, started to talk to me in Chinese. I only understood "Are you living here?" and then it was all 漢語漢語漢語 to me O_o. And she went on and on for like 5min, while I kept nodding and thinking about what the *not heaven she wants from me? I assumed she doesn't like that people walk on the stairways while they're being cleaned. Then she started to ask me questions and I replied 我不明白(I don't understand). Finally I decided to call my girl and gave her my phone to talk to me. And what did she want? Apparently she wanted to charge me for the cleaning service, but my girl friend told her, she needs to contact the landlord and discuss the issue with her. No idea, if she wanted to turn a buck from me, but it was a pretty funny situation. Chinese have a saying, that two people are like chicken and duck, when they don't understand each other. So what was I, chicken or duck? :-P
It sucks being sick and about the traffic
My flu really sucked out a lot of energy from me. It put a damper on my initial excitement, made me moody and emotional sometimes. There were times, where I had to go out, but walking would became a real torture. The roads in the area I used to live weren't pedestrian friendly. The sidewalks were occupied by motorbikes and hawkers, so you're forced to walk on the road, where almost every second a motorbike pops up and swings by, missing you by less than a meter. In my previous post about first impressions, I wrote about how smooth the traffic was and how the cars always mind the pedestrians. Well, that impression was wrong, because I observed the traffic during the first days of Chinese new year. Now, that everyone's back to Taipei City, I can see how crazy the traffic can get. The cars are ok, but the motorbikes are crazy: They're literally everywhere. Even in the smallest tiniest lane, there will be someone on a motorbike slowly driving behind you and you have to move aside. You just have to keep an eye on those motor bikers all the time, they come out from every little spot. I've never been in any country with so many of them. Suddenly Malaysian traffic doesn't seem so bad. :-)
There's something in Taiwan that really surprised me!
What would that be? You'll find out soon, but let me fill you in on the situation you may face here. Take-out food is very popular in Taiwan. I mean, why would you cook at home, if you have a hawker virtually on every corner? So you buy food and drinks, bring them home and in a day or two you realize that the plastic bags and bottles stacked up like crazy. So naturally you try to find a waste container nearby to get rid of your trash. And that's what I intended to do. Where's a trash can? Well, there's none near my apartment. Ok, I guess I need to go to the main road and find a public one there, shouldn't be that hard, right? I walk and walk, but there are no trash cans. Weird. I call my girl and ask, where are trash cans located in your country? She says they mostly don't have them. Wow. There are almost no trash cans around Taipei! They have a system garbage trucks driving around neighborhoods once a day in the evening collecting the waste and all the people gather on the streets (you can read more about that here). I seriously had no clue about that. There are some trash cans near the MRT stations and around Taipei's city center, but as far as I've seen, they're rather an exception. So I need to get used to the new way of disposing waste. Will you see me waiting for the garbage truck? Yes, but when I get healthy again. For now, I need to take it easy and rest.
Taipei City is like many small cities grown together
I still don't have a good and proper understanding of Taipei. I still don't feel or grasp Taipei as a city the same way as I have felt Singapore or Penang. But what can I expect after only 2 weeks, right? Taipei seems small at first, but when you take the train to various places around the city, you suddenly feel it's not so small. In fact, it's huge. The whole city feels like a huge chess board, some parts are beautiful and some are not. Take a few steps from a boulevard to a side lane and you will feel as if you left a mega city for a small town. New and modern is beside old and traditional. Food and its smell is everywhere on every corner. I haven't seen many Western tourists and I don't know why. The biggest group of tourists come from China, but I still can't distinguish them from the locals, although my girlfriend says they dress, behave and sound different than Taiwanese. I guess that skill to is developed after living in Taiwan for few months.
There are many beautiful women in Taiwan
Now that the Chinese new year is over, there's much more people in Taipei City. The trains and buses are full, the roads and shopping malls are bustling with people. Many Taiwanese only work in Taipei, but they live outside the city. And if you walk around the city these days, you can spot so many beautiful women, it's beyond your imagination. Of course, that's my subjective opinion, maybe some of you would not be impressed at all, but that's why impressions are called impressions and not facts, right? :-) Well, what I see here, I can only compare to what I saw and noticed in Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong before. I must say beautiful women-wise, Taiwan trumps all those places. The girls here really dress well and there's many of them, you can't not notice that. The most common sight in this winter are black stockings, boots combined with short skirts in all variations. Women here are very feminine and female beauty seems to be very important to the Taiwanese society, at least that's my impression. You don't only see that on Taipei's streets, you see that on TV every day: Beautiful women dominate most of the shows. From daily talk shows to various (sometimes weird) nightly shows of cute girls in bikinis playing some silly games... For me, beautiful women are the most common sight on Taiwanese TV and on Taipei's streets. Of course you have to forgive me my male eyes, they can be so biased towards female beauty, it's outrageous :-P
I'm in my new apartment and I have a problem
In case you're wondering what's up with that photo of the remote control, let me showcase to you, how small things can be a real challenge. My girl went back to her home and I realized I can't turn down the volume on the TV. Which button should I press, it's all in Chinese O_o. I don't wanna press any wrong ones and mess up something the settings or something. So yeah, that's what happens when you're a duck in a chicken country :-P It's just one of the numerous small things that make you chuckle. Anyway, I'll be fine. I'll off my TV soon and sleep. I need to rest and get better. And then my adventure shall continue. I have tons of things to do. Every day lost because of my flu is a real pain, but what can I do? Be hopeful and positive is what I try. :-)
Ps: Hope you're not bored with my posts about Taiwan sights. I want my blog to become a good source of information to all, who are interested in Taiwan. But when I cover all the main and important things, my blogging style will return to how it was before my Taiwan trip :-)
[Photo by MKL, 2010]