Finding the Rabbit
Hello, and yes I’m still here. To everyone who has been wondering if Taiwan has fallen into the ocean the way California’s supposed to and nobody's mentioned it on the news: no, it hasn’t. We’re all still afloat over here, though after the monsoon winter we might be riding a few inches lower in the water, but I believe that’s being improved with each sunny day we accrue.
Nearly a month ago – good Lord, has it been that long already? – I moved into an apartment with my friend and fellow teacher, Clara. It’s taken us quite a while to reconnect to the Internet, partially due to the inadequacy of Chunghwa Telecom to give us any useful information and partially to our increasingly busy schedules.
Neither of us liked this place when we first saw it, but gradually it grew on us, and after looking at a few other places we decided to take this one. It's quite old but spacious with lots of windows, a big kitchen and a huge bathroom. It’s on the fourth floor of an old building, and despite the windows it gets stuffy up here. It’s accessible through a very Taiwanese serious of alleys that are barely wide enough for a scooter, the narrowest of which provide some nice dark shadows where the stray cats like to leave stinking surprises where you can’t see them. There are four bedrooms, though we opted not to invite anyone else to live with us because the rooms are very small and because the whole thing's so cheap. But because of the age of the building, not all its various parts were in working order. It's interesting to see what constant rain and humidity will do to a city, and the measures people take - or don't take - to ward off mold. Since moving in we’ve had the couch replaced, the hot water heater tuned and fixed twice, the gas tank refilled, a new hot water dispenser brought in (for drinking water), and have acquired one blessed fan. We have two air-conditioning units, but they look as old as the building itself and are rather feeble. Even scarier, the one in my “office” smelled strongly of fire the other day, and it took me a few days before I got up the nerve to try it again, but I finally did and it’s been inexplicably fine. Since then everything’s seemed steady; nothing’s going to blow up, leak, crumble, or suddenly implode. And as of yesterday we've got the Internet too!
In the middle of April, my friend Ron from Los Angeles came and visited me for one week. It was great to see him again, and I think we went just about everywhere we could, which amounted to Keelung, Taipei, and some surrounding rural areas. He brought his hiking boots and we hoofed it all over. At times, various friends and acquaintances here joined us for the fun. On Saturday, when I was stuck at school all day, my former housemate Rodger kindly took Ron up to Jiufen to finish his shopping. During that week, Ron experienced both of Taiwan’s seasons in equal measure – cold and rainy and hot and steamy. Here are some pictures from his visit:
My friend Ron at the dragon bridge, which is his sign in the Chinese zodiac
Hiking up to Jhong Jheng Park. After a few days Ron got pretty good at finding his way around Keelung, which is no easy feat.
Jiufen and Jinguashi - weekday mornings are the time to be here! I'd never seen this place so empty before. Ron, Romilly (a former housemate of Rodger's and mine), Rodger and I took a taxi up the mountain and spent the better part of a day hiking around in the sunshine and then shopping in Jiufen.
Having lunch in Jiufen. The walls were covered with pictures of the same woman in different poses; we spent a lot of time discussing her.
Romilly, me and Rodger. Photo by Ron.
This is one of the most interesting shots I've ever taken part in. Look very closely at the reflections in the glass, and you will see Ron (who actually took this picture) and Romilly in front, and Rodger and me standing on a bench in the back. Pretty cool!
Rodger, Romilly and Ron in the section of mining tunnel you can walk through
A wonderful shot of this god of war, who sits watch over the temple and the town of Jinguashi at his feet. I really like the depth of this photo.
Looking out at the sea
I've found it hard to take pictures from up here, but Ron did a pretty good job.
In the center of the observation deck is an open view of a wind damper there. Taipei 101 is subject to high winds, typhoons and earthquakes, all of which make tall buildings a bad idea, but these dampers help counterbalance what nature throws at it. There's a sign on the wall that gives the damper's specs: 5.5 meters in diameter, composed of 41 layers of 12.5 cm thick steel plates welded together, weighing 660 metric tons, and it reduces the tower's movement by up to 40 percent. This is the uppermost of three dampers, I believe.
Now you can see how big it really is.
And of course we went to Hepingdao, too. I hadn't been here since the fall, and was shocked to see how black the rock was, apparently the result of having been battered by the sea all winter.
It was a short but fun week; Ron's new camera was put to good use, and I was delighted to see him again.
Also in April I turned 31, and celebrated a simple but enjoyable birthday with my Taiwanese “family.” The actual day fell on a Tuesday, which was my day off but not anyone else’s, so we celebrated it the Saturday before. Rodger, Clara, Jennifer, Nicole, and Alice took me out for dinner and then over to Han’s for chocolate fondue. The best part for me was when we inadvertently ended up at the harbor and just sat there for a while. The night was warm, the company excellent, and the city lights reflected off the water, creating prime pondering and reflecting conditions.
The core of the Shane family, including Rodger, took me to a good Chinese restaurant downtown for my birthday, and after that over to Han's for fondue. Of course we had a good time.
Nicole and Alice
....taking this shot of Rodger and Clara
Jennifer, me, Nicole, and my cheesecake
Our dinners - very delicious!
On Monday, April 3rd, my adult class planned a surprise party for me, and all four of them, plus Coco's daughter Doreen (who's in my CE03 class) came over early. Here are Rachel, Oliver, Coco, Frentzen and Alice at the front desk.
Coco and the cake she brought.
There are no foreign lands. It is the traveler only who is foreign.
- Robert Louis Stevenson