Taiwan Abridged: Location, Location, Location


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Asia » Taiwan » Taipei » Da'an
November 7th 2011
Published: November 6th 2011
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Sup everybody! So if by next weekend I meant this weekend, then I totally kept my promise. A blog is here, and you may now continue your life. As a heads up, this blog isn’t going to have any form of sense or chronological order (so it’ll be like talking to me in real life!) unlike my other blogs. So last time I was in Hong Kong I encountered Berlin Bears, realized I could run an amazing rugby team, and got some artifacts for my growing collection of all things awesome (and Chinese). And now on to chaotic review of events (in no particular order).

From Sept 4th to Nov 6th:
So in Taiwan I landed. After going through yet another round of customs (5th time this summer – I’m a pro international traveler now) I was finally here, despite fate’s multiple attempts to stop me from getting a visa. I walked through the gates and found the waiting area. I met two Germans and a (surprisingly cold) Hawaiian. The German girl and I talked for a bit, and she was nice, but I don’t really see her now so moving forward. After getting a SIM card at the airport and waiting an hour, we got on a bus (provided by NTU – very nice of them) and headed on our way. Taibei’s Airport has two terminals, so there were already others before we got on the bus. It was kind of funny, cause everyone else on the bus almost instantly fell asleep (I totally forgot about jet lag, since I was already on China time) so me, a guy from Cali who I see every now and again, and the 3 native Chinese speakers were all talking together. And surprisingly my Chinese was holding up despite not speaking for about 10 days. After an hour+ (the airport is really far away) I met my exchange buddy, JingRong, at the dorm. It is at this point, the traveling caught up to my and I became rather tired, which is only relevant because my Chinese goes straight out the window. On a quick (but relevant) tangent, there are a few people that I just can’t speak Chinese with. I don’t know what it is. Sometimes it’s the accent, but whenever I’m around them, my Chinese goes straight out the window. Sadly Chinese Matt’s father was like that for a lot of my visit (dog gone it). And so it was, with JingRong, that I couldn’t speak Chinese with her for the life of me. It was only 6 when I got there, so a bunch of Taiwanese and the Chinese went out to eat, and I kept up with the convo as best I could, but I was struggling. But dinner was still good, and I did manage to listen in on the Chinese and the Taiwanese comparing different pop culture stuff (but I don’t know a lot of Chinese/Taiwanese singers and TV shows so I couldn’t really follow along/contribute to the convo) We then went to go get a mattress, sheets, and a pillow at the local general store (more on the store in a moment). Afterwards I went back to the dorm, did some laundry (another tangent – 1 wash and dry cycle less that $1 – freakin’ A that’s amazing), unpacked a bit, and went to sleep on my new mattress.
When I say mattress, I know y’all are thinking of a western style mattress, so you can stop that right now. Imagine a roll of bamboo with about an inch of cushion underneath it. That is their (cheaper) mattress. It is uncomfortable. Very uncomfortable. I currently sleep on two, and I’m still waking up with some back pain (that admittedly was there before, but this isn’t helping). Roomie Ben was smart and got a thin memory-foam-esk thing to go on top of his eastern mattress, and that’s been helping him out a ton. I’ll be getting one when they’re back in stock.
So since I mentioned ben, I should talk about Ben and the room now. So Ben was my roommate back in Chapel Thrill, and by total luck (we couldn’t choose who we roomed with here). Ben arrived a few days later than I did, so it was an awesome surprise when I asked the front desk who my roommate was in case it was Ben (and retro spoiler alert – it was!). This has made the roommate thing super easy. We already got along excellently back at Chapel Hill and he was one of the people to convince me to come here in the first place. So no awkward new roomie tension at all – perfect. As for the room – well at first we thought it was a huge upgrade. We have a study room and a bed room (that none of the others have) as well as a private bathroom, for about $500 a semester (please try to top that). However, the reason it is so cheap is because the dorm is being renovated right now, and we’ve noticed a few installation problems. One, the sink drains a centimeter an hour. That’s just gross, especially after one of us shaves. Also, the toilet will continue to flush unless you jiggle the handle a little bit, which isn’t that big a deal, but is obnoxious. Finally, the mosquitos have found their way in, and I realized today that the fan in the window is the entry point, and there is no way to close the window. Awesome. This has actually been a huge problem, as I’ve had 2 or 3 nights where the mosquitos have kept me up, because they’ll buzz right in my ear before I’m about to fall asleep, or I get bit so much in one night, I actually will wake up scratching myself. I have missed Chinese 2-3 times because I’m so tired when I finally fall back asleep, I’d sleep through my alarm.
All that aside, I do like our dorm. There’s a cafeteria that just opened up downstairs, a part of the capitalist takeover of Taiwan on the first floor (a 7-11, I’ll explain in the next paragraph or two). Across the street is a whole alleyway full of cheap and delicious restaurants (along with another 7-11) and then a block away is the general store that sells just about everything except for food, which is super convenient. That being said, it’s still under renovation, so the gym isn’t functional yet. Also, the dorm doesn’t have a kitchen, so I can’t make any food besides instant noodles. Also, it’s kind of far (and by far, I mean the opposite side of campus) from Shui Yuan dorms, which is where a large majority of the exchange students stay, including my other two friends from UNC Liz and Rebecca. So whenever I use to go down there, it would take me 25 minutes. That being said, I got a bike this past weekend (named Amadeus), as did Ben (his bike’s name TBD) and now it’s only a 5 minute trip. That being said, I got super lost looking for a place to buy a phone, but I eventually found it, and was able to walk in and buy a phone in Chinese no problem. Sadly, the phone texts Chinese in BoPoMoFo, which is the newest phonological system for Chinese, and is Japanese based, so I don’t know it, and haven’t made time to learn it yet (admittedly that’s on me, but whatever – it’s still a pain there isn’t a pinyin input system).
Ok, so back to 7-11 running Taiwan. They freaking run Taiwan. You know how people joke about Starbucks or McDonalds being across the street? Yeah, that’s true here with 7-11. To make this clear, in the whole United States, there are 8200 + 7-11’s; in Taiwan, there are 4744. That’s basically taking one of the smaller US states, and shoving half of the 7-11’s in them. That’s how many there are. And they’re really popular here too. Besides them having a lot of good stuff on the go, they also have ATM’s, normally a place to add minutes to your phone, add $ to your metro card, sit and eat, and pay your bills. That’s right, pay your bills. I met someone at the Taiwan embassy in Hong Kong who paid his tuition for a Taiwanese college at 7-11. He’d lay down 50,000 yuan and walk away. That’s easily 2-3 months of an employee’s salary, and there isn’t a single moment of not trusting them. You go to your 7-11 and ask them to handle about $1,600 for you and see if you walk away 100% confident about it. I didn’t think so. But on top of that, there’s another chain called family mart here that’s a 7-11 carbon copy which are fairly frequent too. The convenient store here just runs Taiwan, and thus will rule this country with a firm fist filled with a cheap 30 yuan ( ~$1) coke.

Ok, I’m running out of time tonight. Next time I’ll talk a bit more about my daily life. Until then, some food for your brain (I know I’ve been starving it, sorry.):
My Chinese abilities are like non-pro’s golf game: completely inconsistent (*insert frustration noises.*)
$500 for a two room shared room for 4 months with cable and utilities? You try to beat that.
7-11 is the US McDonalds – Communism hidden in Capitalism. Break free from your Capitalist/Communist overlords!!!!!
--Robby

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