Friday, March 09, 2007

Some things I like about Taiwan:

The stories about the bad or crazy things that happen are more entertaining, eh? But there are a few things I will miss when I come home.

For instance, it's really rare to get your bike stolen here. Back in Pittsburgh people would steal my bikes even when they were really cheap ones from goodwill, and chained to something metal with an expensive lock. Here nobody actually locks their bike to anything- they just put a lock around the tire and the wheel-well so the wheel won't move. I was nervous about that at first but my bike is always where I leave it. And a couple of times I've done really stupid things- like one time I went in a store for about an hour and when I was coming out I couldn't find my keys and sure enough, there they were in the basket of my bike. Similarly, last weekend I had to leave my bike near the main train station overnight, and I was nervous about doing that because I was afraid it would get stolen. The next morning it was still there- and I saw that I had put the lock through the spokes but had forgotten to actually lock it! But no one stole it.

Another nice thing is that you get to know (or at least recognize) the places you buy things- like there are these morning markets all over the place where you can buy any fruits and vegetables, and all kinds of other random stuff. Like a really crowded farmers market, except in the US it's such a pain to go to a farmers market unless you're really lucky. And since all the little food stands and stuff are owner-operated, you get to know them. So when I walk down the street all these people are like "Hello!" in some form. It's cool. It's kind of awkward when you're going to eat at their competitors', but they don't seem to find it awkward so whatever.

I've also really gotten to like the tea stands. They are everywhere too and have a huge menu, all basically black or green tea with flavors, milk, tapioca bubbles, etc. At first I found them totally overwhelming and whenever I would go I would end up with some super-sweet bubble tea (ugh- I do not like bubble tea!) After about a month I started ordering green tea with half sugar and got pretty good at that- and now I have mastered the intricacies of ordering hot or cold tea, and sometimes getting some grapefruit or passionfruit juice thrown in.

One of the many seeming contradicitons of Taiwan is that recycling seems really important (there are no fewer than 10 bins is my building for different recyclables) and you have to pay $1-2 NT to get a shopping bag when you go to the grocery store, I guess because shopping bags are wasteful? But whenever you buy tea they put your to-go tea cup in a little bag. Which seems like the ultimate in wastefulness, eh? But in fact it is very convenient- you can hang it on your bike handle and your hand doesn't get cold from carrying it.

No comments: