We’re in Taipei! Actually, we’ve been here for about 3 weeks…I’ve been lagging on finishing up the SE Asia posts. Taipei is the city where my parents grew up; like many Chinese nationals, my grandparents moved to Taiwan around 1949 because of the Communist Revolution in China. If you are an ABC (American-born Chinese), like I am, this is probably part of your family history too.
I’ve been to Taipei a couple of times, but I was really young and don’t remember much about either experience, except that it was really crowded and the food was good. Apparently much has changed (the buses are no longer human sardine cans due to the introduction of a super-modern high-speed subway), but much has not (the food is still really, really good). The last time I was here, I was a mere 10 years old (and incidentally, I left Taipei with a perm and 10 extra pounds—just about the only time in my life I could be considered “pudgy”). Don’t believe me? Behold, the awesomeness of the visual evidence (click on the photo for a larger view):
Yes, that is me on the left. But look at Eddo!!! So adorable! (Sorry, Eddo).
My maternal grandparents still own an apartment here, though they live in San Diego most of the year now. Jeremy and I will be here for almost two months taking Chinese lessons. I can speak but have forgotten how to read/write; Jeremy took about 6 months of lessons 2 years ago and will continue on trying to master basic Mandarin, which is about as difficult as me trying to learn orthopedic surgery. But, as is Jeremy’s usual style, he has taken on the challenge like a champ and our language skills are improving day by day.
Though I haven’t set foot on this island for over 20 years, on the plane ride over here, I was still struck by the unmistakeable feeling that I was going home…and in a way, this is the closest to home we will get on the trip. Two months in the same place feels like an absolute luxury after all the traveling we did in SE Asia. And what a place to grow some (albeit shallow) roots! My grandparents’ apartment is rad…3 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms, and best of all, a kitchen (!!!) AND laundry!
And just to make sure we’re absolutely pimping, we’re located on the 14th (top) floor…
…in an absolutely prime location (Taipei 101 is just down the street). We are stoked!
A bit of clarification on my Chinese language skills: Mandarin was my first language, but I pretty much only speak with my family. More accurately, we speak Chinglish, which my brother defines as “40% Chinese, 40% English, and 20% grunting.” As a result, even though my grammar is pretty good, my vocabulary is quite limited. For instance, before I got to Taipei, I did not know the words for “subway” or “passport.” Since my accent is halfway decent, people in Taipei assume that I can understand everything they are saying, but when they ask me a question, I can understand everything except for the noun that the entire sentence is built around. For example, I had this jewel of a conversation when I went to get my hair cut:
Hair stylist: Would you like some sfadsogn?
Me: Uh, what’s sfadsogn?
Hs: Oh, hmm…sfadsogn is like fudbhimm.
Me: I don’t understand.
Hs: You know, normally do the rwerfffl after the dfnskjn.
Me: I still don’t understand.
Hs: It will make your hair soft.
Me: OH!!! Conditioner! Yes, I want it.
Typically, this lack of vocabulary is not a problem when I am speaking…for instance, I don’t know how to ask for the “tourist information center,” but I can ask for “the place where foreigners who are traveling go to ask questions.” The problem only arises when other people are speaking to me.
This made our first couple days in Taiwan pretty interesting, as we went straight to work taking care of things like: getting a SIM card for our cell phone, acquiring internet access at the apartment, getting a haircut, and finding a school. You know, normal stuff you do in your everyday life. But just imagine that everyone is speaking to you in Pig Latin. You can figure it out, it just takes a little while to decipher.
Since we’re planning on a much less aggressive travel schedule while we’re here in Taiwan, we’ll use this opportunity to do a bit of maintenance on the site and (hopefully) finally get to some oft-requested posts about stuff like gear and trip prep. Thanks for all your hilarious comments and sweet messages. Having you all traveling along with us makes it easier to be away from home for so long.