Thursday, 25 December 2008

Move It!

How to move:

First, You will need two jump ropes and enough broken Chinese to borrow a dolly (hand cart). Then, you need to get hyped. Real hyped. Drink some coffee, chug a red bull, chew some beetle nut, crack, speed, whatever is going to give you the vein pulsating burst you need to move a refrigerator down five flights of stairs with no one but your need-for-speed self to do it.

Now that your wide eyed and bushy tailed or drooling and muttering to yourself about something you found on the moon, drag the dolly up to the fifth floor. Put the refrigerator on it and tie them together with the jump ropes. Make sure the jump ropes are real tight so the fridge is secured to the dolly. You don't want a tumbling metal box to obliterate any unsuspecting neighbors walking up the stairs. Take a deep breath, forget about the riddle on the moon, and proceed down 5 floors one stair at a time. Exhaling while you move down each step helps. Once you get down to the bottom you might want to rest or just take whatever it is that happens to be your cure-all.

Walk the fridge to the subway station. Buy your ticket and go through the handicap turnstile. That's the only one big enough for a fridge to go through. Next, ride the subway for 13 stops or about 25 minutes. Make sure you sit on the fridge in the empty area of the last car. This way, your not obstructing passengers from pushing and shoving each other to fit on the subway. Sit back and observe some riders laugh and joke quietly about the foreigner sitting upon the refrigerator on the subway (called the MRT in Taipei).

As more people crowd into the subway, the smell of old farts and damp clothes folded and put away before they were dry start to permeate the small car. In a culture that looks down on DIY labor and moving on your own, especially by subway, as "low class" you ponder how it can be acceptable to smell like farts and cabbage. You might be "strange" for being a foreigner perceived as "more well-off" due to your white skin for using the subway to move, but at least you saved a lot of money in the process and reassured yourself that your worth a damn when it comes to doing what must be done; work.

Finally, you arrive at your stop. All that is left to be done is ride a series of elevators in the station that get you to your building, located right above the station, then ride your buildings elevator to the third apartment on the 12th floor. Unload the fridge from the dolly, put it in the right spot, plug it in. Congratulations, you finished moving into your new apartment located in downtown Taipei. Go out and buy some beers with the money you saved moving your self and go back to analyzing that riddle you found on the moon.

Sunday, 21 December 2008

Welcome to 97

It's the year 97 and five weeks ago I packed two suitcases, burdened two hospitable roommates with abandoned belongings and outstanding bills, had a short visit with my mom and then got on a plane. Destination: the "opposite side of the world". Because opposite is relative to where you are, for me this was Taiwan.

When I arrived in Taipei on November 13 it was raining, late, and I was ready to sleep. When Mike met me at the airport he was dressed in shorts and a short sleeve shirt. Quite different from my Virginia appropriate coat and sweater. Now it is nearly Christmas and I am still walking about in just a t-shirt. The winter here is perfect for a reputably wet winter country. According to Yi Wen, this years winter is apparently warmer than usual. Thanks global warming!

Less than two weeks had passed when I was hired as an English teacher, officially joining the ranks of foreigners in Taiwan who are all, of course, teaching English. In the middle of the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression I set a new personal record for how quickly I found a job. On top of that, it was set in a foreign country. You know what reputation proceeds you when after locals ask you,
"how long have you been in Taipei?"
and you reply "one month"
they follow up with, "do you have a girlfriend?"
Not only are all foreigners English teachers or students, but we are apparently all looking for Taiwanese girlfriends. Unfortunately, a lot of foreigners are here just slacking off, teaching English and trying to screw something Asian. you should see some of clowns walking around this city pretending to be on the paparazzi most shot list. I guess all cultures have their prejudices and all occupations have a stigma. Say what you want about me, at least my goal is to not move back to the states until I speak Chinese fluently.

It has been 97 years since the fall of Dynastic China and Taiwan has made quite a few achievements. Among democracy is the impressive claim to being the most convenient country in the world. Taipei has more convenient stores per capita than any other country. You think Starbucks is bad in the states? you can have two or three 7-11's on a block next to a Family Mart(convenient store) and a Hi-Life (conveniently, also a convenient store). They all sell the same stuff and for about the same price. Starbucks also has a lot of locations in Taipei. Between 7-11 and Starbucks they might own half the city.

As Paul Daley asked of you, so too do I. Please send me questions or suggestions for blogs. I have a couple to write so I am not experiencing the blog block yet but good ideas are always a need. Walk slow