I have been home for about two hours from my weekend adventure in Taiwan. I was sitting around the house before Thanksgiving and figured it would be a good thing to plan a trip somewhere over the Christmas holiday since I had a three day weekend. I looked on Expedia, yes we have it over here as well and landed on Taipei!
For some reason it never occurred to me to learn any Chinese…what was I thinking? I kept bowing to everyone and saying ‘Arigato Gozaimasu’ as well as ‘ Ano, Sumimasen’, which means ‘thank you very much’ and ‘um, excuse me’ respectively.
I did learn how to say ‘xiexie’ which sounds like ‘schee-schee’ and means thank you!
So what is the culture like? This place is teeming with people, it felt like Manhattan at rush hour…except rush hour never stops. As many of you know I am an introvert (a gregarious introvert as one person once told me) so lots of people up close and personal is not my idea of a fun time. But when I moved to Okinawa I decided it was time to put away all my little peccadilloes and just ‘be’. That is the Okinawan motto by the way…’be’ and since I am attempting to emulate my Okinawan friends, I am adopting this mindset.
So here’s the thing about Asians… they don’t believe that your personal space is a god-given right, or any kind of right at all…there is only so much space and they are going to fill it, whether that means pushing and shoving or just a gentle jostle. Within an hour I adjusted, I just started laughing, because this is not a violent thing, no one is trying to hurt you, this is just the way life is here. So as an American who is used to having all this room, it has been a bit of a perspective change for me. And it’s really made me feel warmer toward people. I don’t want to get all ‘kumbaya’ on you all out there, but over here peaceable cooperation is the rule of the day. They even fix the toilet paper with little points so the next person will have an easy time getting a piece of it without having to struggle.
I planned to go find Longshan Temple on Saturday. The thing is, if you’re used to using your phone as a navigational device, which all of us do over here, it doesn’t do you any good in a foreign country…that is outside of Japan. Well I took a chance on my memory and found that it is not as good as I thought. After many wrong turns I finally located Kengding Street or Avenue and made my way up to the Temple. It was a great experience. In Taipei there are all the wide streets and then you look down a side street and see all kinds of little shops and markets tucked away. Exploring them was one of the highlights of my weekend. After several attempts and back tracks I did come across the temple. It was beautiful and the people were great. I found a little spot inside the wall and just sat and people watched for a while. A terrific experience!
What else about the Taiwan?
Well, they like mopeds – there are 800 million of them, I know because I counted. They are everywhere, there are few places to park them and they are everywhere…oh I said that already!
So I decided to take myself out to dinner and I hit a Japanese restaurant…hey I know I was in Taiwan, but Japanese food is still a novelty to me. After dinner I wandered out into a little side street and found this men’s underwear shop…funny how I keep getting drawn to these places. I realized after seeing all these slim beautiful young men together that I was in the gay district. It was awesome!!
Then it was on to the Night Markets. There are all these shops jammed in next to each other, or sometimes just people selling things on the streets and they are alive at night.
I went out to them both nights as it was very exciting to be just a part of the whole moving vibrant mass of humanity. The anonymity and losing yourself in a crowd was incredible, I found myself walking around for hours.
So I talked poor Richard Macintyre’s ear off both nights in Taipei as he is the only person I know who is awake when I am (also because he’s been my best friend for a very long time) and he asked if I had seen this giant green building in heart of Taipei? I said as I entered the city I did see it in the distance and it looked like something out of Mordor. Well I felt like I should see it, but I was under the belief that it was the tallest building in the world.
On Sunday I decided rather than deal with the Metro (the subway), I would walk it. I’m in pretty good shape and thought I wouldn’t have a problem. Well it was 4.1 miles from my hotel and I thought, yeah I could walk it. But then it occurred to me that I would be walking instead of taking the train because I was trying to avoid having to figure out the train system. I gave myself a pretty big lecture about ‘avoidance coping’. In my sessions with clients, and in my old Anxiety Management group, I would harp on everyone about not dealing with things through avoidance. So into Ximen Station I went with my little map in hand. It turns out it was not difficult at all…I did not end up lost (thank you Mom for planting that seed!) and I even made a transfer to a different line with no problem. I was absurdly pleased with myself!!
Once I got in the train, holy cow! It was a frotteurer’s dream come true. If you don’t know what that term is, look it up, I’m not going into detail! I felt like I should have had some first names if I’m going to be that close to people! But again, I just started laughing…and I was still taller than 90% of the people there. I love Asia!! I feel so tall!!!
The giant green building by the way is not the tallest in the world as I later found out, but it is the tallest green building in the world…there’s a distinction!
So I wandered back to my room, found a little bakery and coffee shop and ended up eating all sorts of things from street vendors. I got up at 3 a.m. and headed back to the airport.
I kept thinking it’s a great little place, but I missed Okinawa. And I kept thinking, I miss home…Ginowan. So it was fun to see Taipei, but I am happy to be back in my true home in my nice little quiet house!