Tuesday, 27 January 2009

This is for the fashionistas

Taiwan is a great place to live. Most people are polite, always willing to help, and are warm to foreign travellers. The food here is amazing and ranges from traditional Taiwanese and Chinese cuisine and international fast food notables all the way to the bizarre and sometimes a disgusting possibility to foreign taste buds like pigs blood, pigs brain, and snake bile shots. Just like the food, fashion in Taipei can be just as broad.

A recent discovery of mine that has become one of my favorite shopping districts in Taipei is the Zhongxiao Dunhua area. Along the side streets is where some of the best stores are for clothing and general fashion. Shops cater those in the market for uniforms and trademarks of culture movements that happened in the last 30 years. This is where you can find the brands and styles associated with any subculture. Your cheap mondays are here as is your insight and stussy. Paul frank can be found next to one of the Taiwanese mimics of American Apparel. Supreme, the hundreds, and hip hop label LRG can be found in shops here too. And those of you obsessed with your damn shoes and aren't sure if you can live without your twenty pairs of dunks or alife can be appeased at a shop or two here as well. Make sure you check out the skate shops too, they have some of the best clothing I have seen at any skate shop even in the states.

Leather Jackets, carhartt and dickies can be found at a place called "Country Store". Where the sound of rockabilly provides a shopping soundtrack while the stores decor and two classic motorcycles outside are relics of an obsolete albeit classic American stereotype.

The Place you want to start your walk about is from Zhongxiao Dunhua MRT exit number two. Take a left at the first street you come to. It will be on the corner of California fitness, which will be on your left after you come out of exit two. Then proceed to walk up and down the streets and buy what thou wishes to obtain and desire.

Overall the area is great for the 20 - 40 crowd or whoever classifies themselves as fitting into some subculture. Zhongxiao Dunhua might be compared to Williamsburg in Brooklyn in an attempt to give familiarity, but the area definitely has a Taiwanese identity with unique boutiques and frequented by Taipei's own underground. Worth checking out if your living in Taiwan, visiting Taiwan for more than two weeks, or just need to find something you want.

soon to be added: notable shops in this area. Ill make an edit soon.

Happy 牛 Year

Chinese New Year started on Sunday, January 25th to usher in the year of the ox. For New Years Eve, the 25th, it is tradition for sons to return to their parents house with their families. Taipei was left significantly more quiet than usual but certainly not dead. A majority of the shops were open around Zhongxiao Dunhua, Taipei's best fashion district, where some people spent the day browsing the boutiques or sitting in cafes with relatives.

I was fortunate to spend the later part of the evening at Chelsea's home with her relatives to take part in the Taiwan's most international past time: Gambling. We played a dice game that Taiwanese call "Xi Ba La". The "dealer" roles the dice and then faces off with the other players one at a time. If the dealer wins they receive the opponents wager, but if the dealer loses then they must pay the opponent the amount of their bet. At the end of the game, in testimony to the generosity of Taiwanese towards strangers, everyone made sure no one had lost too much money.

Chinese New Year is traditionally 15 days long and ends with something foreigners call the Lantern Festival. However, the vacation for most Taiwanese is only one work week. The word for ox, 牛 (pronounced niu), is also translated as cow. This year can be said as the year of the bull or ox.

Happy 牛 Year!

Thursday, 15 January 2009

More Panda

Taxi Driver: "Are you French?"

Me: "Do I look like a panda?"

Monday, 12 January 2009

What do I look like, a Panda?

Levi's are everywhere. On every continent and probably in every city there is a Levi's store.

"What is the biggest waist size you have in Taiwan" I inquired walking around the megalopolis department store known as Sogo.
"some 34 and some 36." The clerk was referring to different styles.
I picked up a pair and asked, "how about this style?"
She told me "34" but that in another color she had a 36, then held up the other color unfolded for me to see. This monstrosity of denim, fade washed, white-lined and shiny looked like an old sky blue leisure suit that had been worn to Tony Montoya's last coke party and woke up in a ditch.
"What do I look like, a panda?" I asked.

Sometimes, I feel eyes upon me. "Observed in a natural setting, the creature interacts with his world instinctively". I look around, but no one is staring. Occasionally, I'll catch somebody in the eyes and we both just look away as usually done when two strangers meet eyes. I may speak the tongue, walk the gait and wear the clothes, but I will never blend in because of the color of my skin. A blonde panda.

Wednesday, 7 January 2009

The Man Won't Annoy Ya...If He Can't Git Ya

In every country, immigrants have to go through a bureaucratic obstacle course to be considered legal and Taiwan is no different. No obstacle was particularly difficult in my experience but all required processing which usually means waiting around like a fat kid at the candy store. I figured if I am in process, why wait to work? Welcome greyland! population: You and every other not legal to work - worker. Every citizen of greyland is in a legal limbo or flat out working illegally under the table. Most are students working a couple hours a week, not the necessary amount to work legally. Besides, they work only for tax free spending money and not out of necessity. The other are either illegal immigrants usually from other Asian countries or those like myself in process and waiting for residency.

The Immigration and Labor Department practice the art of random check at English schools in Taipei. It makes sense since the schools employ a lot of foreigners. I was at work one ordinary Wednesday when the Immigration Department sent in their masters to do the art they do so well. Usually, these checks happen once or twice a year, so it happened that on this particular Wednesday my school's card was pulled.

While I was preparing for a class, one of the secretaries walked into the room and tapped my shoulder. I looked up to find a worrisome face. She said nothing, turned around and asked another teacher "do you have your resident card? Immigration is here and they are checking for them." Another secretary walked in and told me that "Immigration is here" and since I was not legal I should "try to leave immediately" before they saw me. About this time my boss entered the room and just says "maybe we can go out back and figure something out? maybe for a smoke." I followed him out the back door.

We began walking down the stairs from the third floor while my boss informs me about the trap door in the wall on the ground floor. He went back up to the office while I arrived at the secret door in the wall, open it and exit to the ally successfully giving immigration the age old slip. Not much wandering later I received a phone call saying that it was safe to come back.

Foreigners who get caught working illegally has its risks and number one is deportation. Worse, Taiwan may prohibit you from returning. Stories like this are familiar in Taipei. I once heard a tale of an American who jumped out of the second story window while teaching a kindergarten class and ran away to avoid getting caught. I bet the kids never forgot that lesson.

I have since left greyland and am now a legal resident of Taiwan.