Saturday, August 4, 2012

Taiwan One


So I’ve been in Taiwan for a week and it’s definitely time for my first update.

Geographically speaking, the city of Taipei is situated in a basin surrounded by mountains, which is pretty conducive to steamy weather. Coupled with intense sunlight, my new environment’s climate is similar to that of Florida’s, but definitely amplified. The sweating is constant. Sometimes I just want to watch the Daily Show without….  However, air conditioning is readily available in most shops, restaurants, and other buildings, so cooling off isn’t too difficult.

Taipei is a city of convenience. Seven Elevens pepper the streets and are open 24/7. The subway system, or the MRT, is ridiculously clean, fast, and efficient. They even have painted lines on the platforms where riders queue up before the doors open! Transportational civility at its finest. However, the MRT closes at 1 A.M. so any late night meanderings have to be performed on foot, scooter, or taxi. When it comes to eating, cheap and delicious food is ubiquitous. Whether you’re in the mood for dumplings, Thai food, vegetarian grub, Domino’s Pizza, or any other cuisine, Taipei really has it all. Compared to the prices in the states, almost everything I’ve come across is incredibly reasonable. You can get a satisfying meal for $60 NT (or two bucks). The hospitals are impressive too. Upon arriving, I had a health check, which every teacher has to take, and noticed how sensibly organized the health care system is. Everyone in Taiwan gets a national medical card and can use it to receive cheap and quality health care. Damn that socialized medicine! Also, most people in the city speak at least a titch of English, so I can usually order food without incident.

One of the most refreshing things about Taiwan is its people. They are friendliness and hospitality incarnate. The three women that run my hostel, Romona, Emilia, and Avivi, have shown me around the city, helped me secure a Taiwanese phone, guided my sorry ass on the MRT, and introduced me to many of their fellow Taiwanese friends (who are just as enthusiastically welcoming). I don’t know what I’d do without them.

The past couple of days we’ve had typhoon Saola pass over us, so we’ve all been hermits. By the end of the storm’s second day, I was feeling the beginnings of cabin fever but was relieved to walk around the following morning in a much less rainy city. Before I weathered Taiwan in all its Asian tempestuousness, I visited my first Buddhist temple, walked through Chieng Kai Shek memorial, saw ancient Chinese art at the National Palace museum, tried Taiwanese pizza (instead of tomato sauce they use BBQ sauce?) visited Taipei 101 (the world’s third largest building), mastered a few words in Mandarin (though my tones are miserable), and established a basic understanding of the city’s layout. I start observing classes Thursday, so I  still have time to adjust and explore. More details and new photos coming soon.

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