Tag Archives: Taipei

Five Cute Men

24 Sep

(If you are reading this mainly to see the cute men, scroll to the end)

The weather is cooler and incredibly more pleasant lately. I no longer sweat when I leave the house, but I’m not cold either, just perfectly comfortable. The high today was 81° Fahrenheit and the low 77°. The Taiwanese seem to think it’s time for jackets, sweaters, and scarves, though. I’ll try to get some photos of this phenomenon. Carrie even saw some people wearing gloves. Not just the sun protectant variety seen on ladies year round, winter gloves.

Neither of us could figure out if it is excitement for fall fashion spurring the layering up, or if some people actually feel cold. In the summer, we were confused about how so many could walk around a sweltering, humid city in any type of jacket. But, they did, so I guess it’s not that surprising to see them now wearing thick sweaters in 80° weather. Maybe I could speculate that in general the Taiwanese have less fat, so they become cold more easily than I do… or that they are not as physically active, so they don’t work up a sweat. But, this logic falls apart when I see a white guy walking down the street in a hoodie at 1 pm. Is he hot? There has to be a dribble of sweat working its way down his back, I just know it.

I ran around jungle hill today, and saw many people: couples of all ages, dads with kids, men with dogs, ladies helping older ladies. The Taiwanese are definitely active in a sense, but you don’t see many doing strenuous physical activity. Few ride their bikes, and when they do, they ride so very slowly. The majority of people ride scooters which requires little physical activity.

To give you an idea of how many scooters are on the road, if all the people scootering to work decided one day to drive a car to work instead, no one would arrive until lunchtime. I would be on my bike, trying to maneuver through the mother-of-all traffic jams.

As it is, though, traffic runs smoothly albeit not quickly. The cars and scooters cannot drive very fast because of how many different types of vehicles you have to watch out for and how often you have to stop for a light. But just like everything else in Taiwan, the streets are predictable, even construction seems to stay out of the way. This is remarkable to me. There are 2.5 million people in this city (including suburbs it’s 7 million), and they all live in less than a 4 mile radius, so how can the traffic be described as smooth? My answer is variety. There is a variety of transportation options here, and when traveling inside the main city area, none of them are drastically much better than the others unless you’re talking carbon footprints. Here are the options from most expensive to least:

I will use the route from my apartment to my school to compare times and prices (in USD); this distance is about 1/3 of the radius of the main city area.

Taxi –   A $3.30 ride will take about 10 – 15 minutes.

MRT – A 65¢ ride will take about 7 minutes including the time it takes to walk through the train station and wait for the next train. The thing about this mode of transportation is that it’s really only the fastest if your start and end points are both near a station. I live 2 minutes from a station, but my destination in this scenario is a 15 minute walk from the nearest station.

Bus – A 50¢ ride will take about 15-20 minutes. Taking a bus is about as convenient as taking a bus can get. They are everywhere and the process is quick. Whether or not you get a seat right away depends on where and when you get on the bus. This is a very popular mode of transport, so you are almost never the only one on the bus, and if you miss your bus, another one will arrive within the next 5 – 15 minutes depending on the time of day.

(Note: The city sells “Easy Cards” which look like a credit card and hold up to about$170 USD on them. You can use it to travel by MRT or bus, and you can also use it at the 711 convenience stores. If you use it at the MRT you get a 20% discount (13¢ for each ride), and if you take the bus within one hour of taking the MRT, that bus ride will be half the cost (7¢ instead of 15¢).

Scooter – An inexpensive ride that takes about 10 minutes. The scooter can often beat the car because it can maneuver between them, and cars often have to wait for scooters or bicycles to get out of the way. However, when making a left turn. The scooter cannot just turn onto the perpendicular street that it wants to drive on. It has to go into the intersection and wait in a little box on that perpendicular street. Then, when the light on the street turns green, it can go. This probably sounds very confusing, but the point is that the scooter has to wait through two lights when turning left. Gas is very very cheap. I want to say it’s between 1 and 2 dollars a gallon.

Bicycle – A virtually free ride that takes about 10 – 15 minutes depending on how fast I want to ride. And since I do not have to follow the rules of the cars or the scooters, I can end up arriving there at the same time as a scooter. For example. If the scooters are waiting at a light, a bike can scoot onto the sidewalk and make a right turn. I never, never break any laws though, Mom. Bikers and scooter drivers both breathe in fumes from cars and scooters, so that’s a pretty big con.

Biking in the street is made easier because of the fact that all the vehicles are ALWAYS expecting a scooter to pop out of nowhere. Therefore, I am not catching vehicles by surprise, and I can take more risks (safe ones, Mom). I can’t imagine what it would be like to bike on the streets of NYC.

Right now with the temperature in the low 80s, I don’t get nearly as sweaty, and I feel nice and energized when I arrive at work. I prefer this to riding the bus, but my little bus 292 isn’t half bad. I miss taking photos of all the cute old men in their seats.

Cute man #1

Cute man #2

Cute man #3

Cute man #4

Cute man #5

This kid is traveling by himself, probably from an English cram school to home. It's common for junior high age students to get home from school at 7 or 8pm everyday. In the U.S. this would be because of extra curriculars, usually sports. Here, it's academics.

Walking – A free experience taking you 45 minutes. You can have the pleasure of walking through Tongua night market on your way and buy a pair of size zero pants, socks, stickers, a purse, a pear, some dumplings, or raw meat, for example.

Disclaimer: I have not checked these facts super carefully. If this bothers you, you can submit your application for editor, pay starting at $30 NT per post ($1 USD)

P.S. Which cute man is your favorite?

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Revolver Night of Fun

22 Sep

Neither Carrie nor I could find an outfit we were really proud of for our debut into what we hoped would be a sweet niche of fun people. “This is the best I can do,” I announced as I entered Carrie’s room.

With a dramatic snap of her suspenders, Carrie said, “This is the best I can do.” After trying on a couple of my shirts and finding them too short or clashing with purple dyed jeans, I guess she had resigned to wearing a plain gray tank top. She’s still kicking herself for having the less is more mentality when packing in June. We shrugged and put on our helmets.

We rode down Heping Street, arriving at the bar Revolver sometime after midnight. I had a flippant curiosity. Wednesdays, when girls get two free drinks, was the only night we’d been here before. Those visits were pretty tame, but we also weren’t really in the mindset to meet a bunch of new people. This time we were. There was a $300 cover ($10 USD) which included one drink. We took them upstairs and saw that it was no longer just an empty room. There was a DJ playing drum and bass music while half of the crowd stood around casually while the other half danced. The room was small and comfortably crowded. We started dancing right away, having been deprived and all. Carrie was especially thrilled that it wasn’t Lady Gaga remix for once, which is the kind of music we have to succumb to at the clubs. After about 10 minutes, my coworker spotted me and came over. We couldn’t really talk because of the volume of the music, but it was nice to see a familiar face. I am glad to get to know him outside of work too. He introduced me to his girlfriend, and I could tell they are a fun, dancing, energetic couple.

When standing in line for the bathroom, we began talking to a guy and his visiting friends from Orange County. “Carrie’s roommate is from there,” I pointed out. I thought this connection was just grand. I shamelessly asked for his number. Desperation plus beer means less pride. I’m really not sure if I’d call him because I don’t know what I’d even say except, “Remember those girls that you talked to about nothing important while we waited to use the restroom at Revolver?” Ehhh…

We eventually went downstairs to get another beer. This ended up being my last beer of the night, and we were there until 5:15 am! I stayed in the bar area for 45 minutes or so talking to Julio. I really wanted Julio’s number, but I forgot to get it. He is from Guatemala and said he would help me learn Spanish. I lamented how I had nothing to teach him. We talked about how safe it is here and how honest everyone is compared to Guatemala City or the U.S. I laughed about how I had brought so many things with me designed to keep my belongings safe from thieves. “Like what?” he asked.

“A lock for my backpack, one of those slim little bags that hold your money and passport under your clothes, a specially designed backpack that is hard to unzip, stuff like that.” He’s been here for a while, and knows even more than I do that unless I put my backpack in the middle of the street with a sign that says, “Free” (in Chinese), no one is going to touch it for weeks, unless to inspect it for a name so it can be returned.

While Carrie and I were talking to Julio, this guy tapped my arm. “Is your name Emily?” he asked. “I think we met in Austin.”

“Really! Where?”

“In that rooftop bar during South by Southwest.”

“Ohhhhh! Gene! I remember you.” I talked to him about Taiwan. In Austin, he had told me he’s from Taipei, and he recommended I live there out of all the other cities in Taiwan. “Look, I really made it!” I said, pointing out the obvious.

“Yeah, I see, good job.” He works for National Instruments in Texas and was on a business trip here in Taiwan. He introduced his two friends, Victor and Viktur (pronounced the same), and said that they live here, so I can be friends with them. Sweet!

While I was still talking to Gene, Carrie’s friend Gretchen saw her and came up to us. We hung out with her a month ago after Carrie got her contact info from an Austin friend. We thought she and her boyfriend were really fun, but we hadn’t seen her again since the one time. We ended up on the third floor talking with her, the other people we know, and some new people.

Then I saw this guy I had been dancing next to earlier in the night. He used to live in College Station, so I called Carrie over, “He used to live in College Station!” They went through the details of it, and he admitted that he’d been looking for a group like the one Carrie says she was friends with. By the way, if you’ve ever had a chance to go to a Barefoot Art Guild party that she and her friends threw, you know Carrie means when she refers to “The Neighborhood” She helped build a whole community of active young people trying to give College Station more culture and diversity., and those art guild parties were a great display of what they were all about. “It was our goal to reach out to people like you, sorry it didn’t happen in your case,” Carrie said. Carrie talked to him for a good while, and in the following days ended up giving this guy’s name to another friend of hers who needed a service he could provide, T-shirt making. Both of them were really thankful to Carrie for helping them meet since they were exactly who the other one was looking for.

The DJs changed a few times, and I liked them all. I couldn’t stop dancing, and it was wonderful! I was doing the kind of dancing where your body is making up new moves on its own accord, and you’re attention is focused on how great you feel instead of what you should do next with your limbs. At one point I came up beside two guys who were hunched over and pumping their fists downward to the beat of the music with their other arms around each other’s shoulders. One of the guys swung his pumping arm around me, and I joined them in their fun dance. Gretchen and her boyfriend had curled up together on the third-floor couch and fallen asleep. After writing a little note about how cute they looked and how, don’t worry, we captured it all in pictures, we tromped upstairs to leave it on them. The workers turned us away though; they were closing.

We stood outside talking to my coworker for a bit, and then we rode our bikes home while the sun began to lighten the sky. We passed some serious bikers on their way to the outskirts of the city for a morning ride. I rang my bike bell as we came up behind them. Not sure why, just sorta wanted them to notice how different but similar we all were, them with their spandex suits and us with our dancing grins.

I’m Not Hungover

18 Sep

I like this post because of the comments below otherwise I might’ve deleted it. Maybe it’s not appropriate to write about not being hungover? Just like they say about bad publicity though, it’s still good. I had 30 more readers yesterday than the previous days. I couldn’t tell you who they were though; mighta just been some drunk people searching on the internet for hangover remedies before they have to take their kids to Sunday school. Oops, I bet that one’ll get me 3 more readers. I didn’t really think you would assume I was lying around in bed yesterday, I was just joking; however, you really should assume more often that I’m lying around in bed. Ask Carrie. These good books combined with needing to recuperate from a hard week’s work is a recipe for laziness for me. Does anyone else have this problem. I know I’ve seen my mom sitting around reading many a time, but can anyone say if that’s sorta kinda the only thing you accomplish on some days? I hope you say yes, but be honest.

Also, on a side note, buried in this post I know she won’t read, especially since she doesn’t read the blog anyway, and especially since this sentence is now almost incomprehensible, post if you have any ideas on what I should do for Carrie’s birthday not this Friday but next. Luckily that bar we just went to is having an art and poetry night (perfect right!) on her birthday, but what kind of cake should I get her? If you haven’t mailed her anything by now, it’s probably too late, but I can buy it here for half the price anyway and say it’s from you in spirit. It will probably break much sooner than the U.S. version (the stuff here is cheap for a reason we are realizing), but let’s not think about that right now.

Aunt Marian, I love your story about the Taiwanese students! Can you believe that the entire country is that nice? I have more to say about this, but right now I really need to keep getting ready for work. I’m glad I got to wake up to your wonderful story.

Original Post:

I can’t post about last night yet. But, I just want you to know it’s not because I’m hungover, being that I only drank one vodka and orange juice and one beer the whole night.  I spent all my free time today doing bi-weekly reports for each of my students because they are due tomorrow.

Aunt Lenore, thanks for being a believer. I bet you didn’t even assume I was hungover either. 🙂

Success.

18 Sep

It was amazing! Best night in Taipei. We just got home about 20 minutes ago; it’s now 6 am. I’ll have to explain the awesomeness later, but the short version is that we danced all night with friends we didn’t exactly know we had. Sure, you might think that doesn’t sound like real friends, but take a leap of faith.

My Students Rock

16 Sep

My students are ADORABLE. They listen to me, hug me, and play well together. We learned a song for the school awards assembly, and they were so cute preforming it today. I can’t believe I can even type these words on a Friday night at ten pm. My seventh graders were awesome, and I loved them, too, but I was so exhausted on Fridays that in order to keep my sanity, I couldn’t think about them for one more second after walking out of that building. The stack of papers to grade would haunt me all weekend.

I finally feel sane about how my last job felt like a disease. The post-traumatic-like stress that I was having is passing. I feel good. When this year started, my natural reaction was to feel stressed and overwhelmed about the anticipated duties, but those fears never materialized. Sure, I’m tired and there are many responsibilities popping up all the time: PTA (which is really open house), bi-weekly reports, home reading program, etc, but overall, I feel good. I hope my students feel good too.

Photos and details of our jobs to come!

Failed Attempt to Have Fun

15 Sep

Pomelo fruit

Last weekend was a three day weekend because the Taiwanese have Moon Day Festival on the day of the full moon in September. People get together and barbeque all weekend.  They bake and share moon cakes, a dense cake-like bread with some kind of filling, often pineapple goo. Pomelos are a staple fruit for this holiday. It’s similar to a grapefruit but not sour and unpleasant, so really it’s not like one at all. It is sweet like an apple, you eat it like an orange, but it’s shaped similar to a pear.

Here is what I wrote during the Moon Day Festival weekend:

I am currently experience the jolly and folly that only a three day weekend can provide. So far I have…

1. eaten at our favorite breakfast place, Good Morning, and ordered: Taiwanese style egg pancakes with Japanese style sauce and a piece of thick toast with blueberry cream cheese. The menu didn’t lie; the toast was the thickest I’ve ever seen.  I shared it with Joyce, a high school girl who was sitting with me due to Good Morning being a little too popular as always. It’s not a chain, so when it’s crowded I have that content-with-waiting feeling instead of that annoyed-at-yourself-for-being-unoriginal feeling. I like Joyce. The cream cheese is not what it sounds like in case you’re thinking it would be like cream cheese because it’s called cream cheese.  Names mean less here. Lower your expectations, go with the flow.

2. finished the second book in the series The Rho Agenda.

3. poked around on the internets

4. fixed my bike. (See below)

I bought a bike!!!!! One day when I was in the Everything store, thinking only about what I needed for my classroom, I heard someone whisper, “Eeemily”, but when I turned toward the creepy voice, there was no one. I went around the corner and saw my friend Duncan pretending to be nonchalant in his perusal of the scrap book stickers. When we were leaving the Everything store later, he offered to take me home on his bike. I was planning on taking the bus, but the bike pump sounded more fun despite my having to awkwardly hold a huge poster board the whole time. Maybe it was the pathetic nature of my situation that made Duncan announce, “I’m taking you to a bike store on the way home.”

When I saw the bike that was to be mine, I knew. There was this connection, like when you see a cute baby in a stroller, and you want to take her. First I rode a few USD$35 bikes that all had a fair amount of rust, pathetic brakes, and weren’t the best style for stop and go city traffic. But the bike that was to be mine has the words “City Bike” printed across it in big letters, and it cost USD$50. I didn’t even have to take its word for it; I rode it, and it felt like the perfect city bike. It is a mountain bike with good shocks, excellent brakes, and gears! I prefer a stance somewhat above the handle bars, making it easy for me to react and maneuver quickly in sticky traffic situations.

My bike, Carrie's bike is behind it.

It’s a bit on the smaller side, so it’s fairly manageable in general. I take it in and out of an elevator twice per day, and I’m glad it just barely fits. I had the store owner raise the seat a bit, and I saw him check the tire pressure. I was about to pay and ride off when Duncan pulled me to the side and explained that though they won’t want to bargain with the price, I can request that a bike lock or bike lights be thrown in for free. I brought all the basics with me in my suitcase from Austin, so I decided to ask for a basket and a bell. Dorky, yes, but in Taiwan everyone has a basket, and if they’re going to jump off the cool people cliff, I’ll gladly follow. He attached both to my bike, and I gave him the $50.

When Duncan and I parted ways he told me that he’d meet me at my house at 10:30pm  to take us on a bike ride along the river. I hurried home, told Carrie, and thirty minutes later we were riding along the river, making small talk and feeling fine.

Then the inside part of my knees began to hurt which is quite unusual for me. My joints and bones don’t typically feel worn out even if I am overexerting myself, only if something is wrong. I didn’t feel tired out yet anyway. I figured my seat is probably still too low, and Carrie confirmed this. I didn’t want to cut our ride short because Carrie seemed to be having so much fun, and I so badly wanted to be too. After a while Duncan and I were both riding a bit slower than her. He may have been hanging back with me because he felt sorry for me or because his used bike isn’t that great either. His seat is too low too, for example. Carrie was now clearly having a much easier time than us. Her bike is brand new, and she’s definitely a better biker anyway.

I convinced Duncan to let me ride his bike, so I could tell what the problem is, my bike or me. It was definitely my bike. Riding his bike was so easy and fun! After riding for thirty more minutes on my bike, I told them, “I’m sorry, but I have to go back; it’s really hard for me.” Then Duncan noticed that my back tire was flat! I guess either the store owner didn’t check both tires, or I ran over something on the way. I felt like such an idiot for not noticing and thinking that the problem was merely my seat being too low.

We were at least an hour bike ride from home at this point, even at a normal speed. It was grueling to keep riding on my flat, so Carrie kept coming up with schemes for how we could manage to get home. First she put her arm out and pushed me while she rode her bike. If I pedaled too, it helped us go faster, but the movement my pedaling caused sometimes made it hard for us to stay close enough together. Then she steered my empty bike (while riding her bike), and I ran alongside them. I liked this way best, but it was difficult for her because my handle bars kept hitting her leg as she rode. Then, finally, she spotted a dirty knotted rope in some rubble on the side of the road. She had been keeping her eye out for a rope the whole way. We took turns beating some of the sand out of it, so it wouldn’t fly off into my eyes while we rode home. Then Carrie tied it to my bike as I watched; I was rapidly become even more useless because with all the excitement of buying the bike and going on my first ride in Taipei, I hadn’t eaten dinner. I was literally running out of energy, and it was about 1 am in the morning now. My job was simply to sit on my bike behind Carrie and steer as she pulled me and my bike the remaining two miles or so. I was doing some pedaling especially when we went up hills. It was just like being in a pedicab except I was sober and scared of crashing. Finally we reached an area we are more familiar with, and I left my bike chained near a bike rental place with plans to retrieve it the next day and ask the rental place to air up my tire and raise my seat.

It was still a couple miles from here to home, though, so Duncan pumped me. When we reached the 711 by my apartment, we stopped in for some ice cream. We were majorly pooped, making the ice cream taste even dreamier.

This morning after eating at Good Morning, I brought the bike to the shop I purchased it from. When the owner saw me point at the tire, he reached for the air pump, so I shook my finger and said, “No, no”. Then I made a poking motion and a farting noise, hoping he’d understand. He did. He took the tire off, and inspected the tube by dipping it into a pan of water. He found the leak in no time and patched it. After checking the inside of my tire for the culprit of my puncture, he replaced the tube and aired it back up. When he was done I pointed to my gears and made a tightening motion, he understood immediately and tightened them with an Allen wrench. When all this was done, he held up two fingers and I pulled  out $200 NT (less than $7 USD) but he shook his head. I realized he was saying $20 NT (less than 80 cents). WOW, that’s all I can say about that.

P.S. I’ve never had the desire to take a baby home; that was a joke.

Pool Party

3 Sep

Last Saturday Carrie and I went to a pool party in southern Taipei. Girls got in free before 3pm. Guys had to pay about $10 USD. There was a bar, hamburgers, music, pool volleyball and basketball, and huge slides. The view to the west of the pool was pretty sweet, and we took several photos. Afterwards we went to a restaurant I will definitely be back to again since it is near our house and DElicious.

 

Wai, Carrie, and me. Wai's dress is tucked into her bathing suit because she was using her poi as seen in the next photo

Wai with her poi

Carrie and Wai looking at the water slides

Duncan

 

Duncan, me, David, and Jeremy. Carrie found this on the website of the people who put on this pool party

Basketball

It's fairly common for Taiwanese males to blow dry their hair, and I couldn't resist taking a photo of these boys. The one on the right just finished.

The delicious restaurant

Included in the price at the delicious restauarant is all you can eat ice cream. And, it's really good unlike a lot of other ice cream we've had here. Carrie is pretending to use the forkspoon her boyfriend Shaun sent her in the mail recently. We now know it takes 6 weeks for mail to reach us!