16 June 2015
We've been enjoying our little corner of Taipei, somewhere on Min Sheng Road. Which has a mural featuring these little vignettes of neighborhood life. We're in a studio apartment we rented through airbnb.com - great way to live in a non-tourist area pretty much anywhere in the world! We seem to be in a rather upscale neighborhood - not really posh or ritzy, but also not really poor either. Maybe upper middle class.
Our apartment is a fourth-floor walk up, and is one good-sized room with a kitchenette in one corner, a comfy queen bed, a couch, and a bar or counter that separates that kitchenette. There's a washing machine (yay!), and the window opens out to sort of a gated box with a drying rack for the wet clothes. We have a small bathroom, the open plan - meaning the shower is not separated from the rest of the bathroom, it's just the showerhead on the wall. We've encountered these elsewhere, and while it isn't what we grew up with, it's manageable.
There's a large park across the street, with lovely old trees, a few structures for protection from the sun or rain, a gazebo for events, and benches scattered around. Richard said there's a class that meets each morning, quite early, all the people wearing the same uniform and waving red flags in unison. No idea what that's about, they could be cheerleaders, military personnel, or crossing guards, we have no idea!
Various flowers or vegetables are planted around the trees that line the streets. Really, one area has eggplants growing around the trees!
But the pinwheel flowers with sunflower centers are truly the best street ornaments we've seen in a long time!
And of course a decorative manhole cover or two. Fortunately, the traffic is relatively civilized compared to some of the countries we've encountered this year, and cars stayed stopped at the traffic lights so I could take a few photos from the center of the road.
We also found an area with periodic mosaics instead of concrete paving blocks on the sidewalk. Turned out these were encircling a middle school, so I suspect this may have been an art project. (Definitely something I would do, so I'm guessing my Taiwanese counterpart probably did this project with his or her classes.)
It's funny to be in a country where we don't know the language, and can't even read the signs. We spent much of this year in parts of Asia where the alphabets are unrecognizable to most of us who use the Roman alphabet, and we became used to that. We'd walk around clueless, and have to look in windows to figure out what a store or business might be about. We'd learn a few basic words in that language - hello, please, thank you, good-bye, excuse me - and that would be about all we could say. Maybe a few food items. And that was it.
But then we were in New Caledonia, and I could chat with people in a language other than my main language. I could read menus. I could have short (and limited) conversations. I could put together entire sentences, and ask questions. I got so used to being able to communicate without playing charades or drawing pictures!
And now, we don't have that anymore. It feels weird, and even more foreign, and almost desolate somehow. Although we've met people who speak English, and are happy to help. Actually, even people who speak very little English try to help. Everyone has been very friendly, and they do their best. We've had people apologize for their small amount of English. Which is better than my tiny bit of Chinese - I can say "hello" (nee how) and "thank you" (she-she, but not a strong "ee" sound, a cross between "ee" and "eh"). So I have two words in Chinese (and we think this is Mandarin, but we're not positive).
Anyway, we're back to our usual bumbling around selves, trying to figure out what various food items might contain, or where various places are located.
We haven't found the tourist information center yet. But one friendly lady at the gelato shop down the road suggested we head to the town of Hualien, on the east coast. She said the town has more old, traditional buildings and arts, so people find it very interesting. And it's supposed to be a very scenic train ride to get there.
Since Taipei is very rainy this season, more than usual, we might just head to Hualien. Not sure, we have this apartment booked until the weekend.
Until then, we'll keep exploring the city. Between the thunderstorms.