Monday, September 19, 2005

Taiwan in general

so all in all i will spend 17 days in taiwan....although eleven of those was at a vipassana meditation retreat....its an interesting place...but not really set up for tourists...i think they have things to offer, but they just don't see it as an option to make money....which it seems is all taiwan is about...i am staying in taichung, which is the third largest city in the country and flew into taipei...the first thing you notice is the heat and humidity...ugh...its oppressive....and for the first time in my life i am experiencing a place that is MORE humid at night, than during the day....at times it is really unbearable....the population here is mostly composes of taiwanese and chinese and they speak chinese as their main language...most of the younger generations have had english in school...but many are not willing to speak it...but you notice when you look around from smirks and such on faces that they generally know what you are saying....

it is a very throw away sort of mentality here, combined with superstition and hard work...but it makes for a VERY wasteful society...for example...everywhere you look new apartment buildings are going up....BUT the current ones standing are generally 30-50% unfilled...the reason being that if a previous person or family has lived in an apartment...no one wants it after they move out....as it could be filled with their bad luck and bad spirits...everyone wants a NEW place where only their luck and spirits are....its a bit strange to my way of thinking....also...taiwan is not very unique...all of the stores are the same and each city block generally looks the same...a mcdonalds and 7-11 on every corner, with a shoe store and clothing store along the block and TONS of places to eat...my friends karen and landon have explained to me that it is cheaper for everyone in this country to eat out instead of cook...its a wild concept...plus, most women don't know how to cook as they live with their families until they get married and when they get married they move in with their husband's family and his mom does it all...until she gets too sick and then the younger women have to step up to the plate...without having ever practiced...another very different concept for me to grasp....the taiwanese women i have met don't always seem to follow this pattern...but it is not shocking to them to talk about it, as it seems to be the norm...plus, all of the people here are really small and thin...but the men are taller than i thought they would be...and they all have a swagger that is chinese (david ing...you walk like many who are here...it made me smile to realize that!) i realize that they are better equipped for the weather than i...but it amazes me at how cold they get...they are driving around the city in jackets and jeans and gloves and i am sweating to death in shorts, t-shirts and sandals....blows me away....

the easiest way around the city is by scooter and everyone has one...i have to say that has been some of the most fun i have had here..being in the back while karen or landon is driving and just watching the sites go by....soooooooo many people too...its insane...but even more insane is their driving style..its along the lines of i need to get somewhere and i will do that in any way imagined and forget about traffic rules...i have seen some funny driving situations...and have been scared by some as well...also, it is not uncommon to see entire families and a dog on one scooter...the kids usually are not in helmets either...usually only the dad is...because he is the most important....and everyone has a cell phone...and they are always on it...the scariest drivers for me have been the propane tank scooter dudes...they generally have between 3-5 tanks on their bikes and are traveling at top notch speeds...always fun to see when someone is carrying a compressed gas in a tank...landon said he has seen tanks flying down the streets that have been knocked off a bike...crazy taiwanese :)

as for touristy or different things i have seen here...we have been to three different open air markets...mostly to get things to eat...although there is plenty of crap to buy...its just that everything they make in taiwan they ship out of taiwan...so everything for sale is from china or thailand...its weird...you can't even get postcards anywhere but the airport...i have now had about 15 different types of tofu...and that includes stinky tofu...which was stinky, but didn't taste too bad...although i was told it wasn't stinky enough....so we are still on the look out for stinkier stuff....i played a game at one of the night markets where i won a remote controlled mini cooper...that was fun :) and i have had all sorts of tea...
that is the main drink around here...hot or cold...many different flavors and styles...also there are stands with all sorts of different kinds of food...want chicken heads...they're here...want duck hearts...they're here...want chicken feet...just around the corner...want pig's blood...no problem....its interesting to see all the different options i will not be having :) also...all the foods are related to how they will help your health at the moment...are you sniffling??? have some beef tips in soy sauce and go get the skin rubbed off your neck....totally foreign to me :) there is not much variety though from rice or noodles and soup with every meal...and it can or can not be spicy...its a personal preference...

at the moment it is the harvest moon bbq holiday weekend and everyone is bbqing with their families along the sidewalk, which is where you NEVER can walk because it is where all the scooters park....but anyway...the city is very pollution filled this weekend due to the bbq's and the burning of ghost money...again something to help with the spirits for the year...its an interesting experience and yes, i did attend a bbq....i have also been the the temple of confucious...which was spetacularly beautiful in appearance....i hung with a 100ft buddha....and walked around a very cool sculpture park....but there are not many other touristy things to do here..so you get immersed in the culture...which is a strange one...we also went to a movie in the "gold class" way...this means you order drinks and food before you go in and they are brought to you....and the seats are HUGE, red lazy-boy recliners...its a wild way to see a movie...let me tell you :) i felt famous :) or maybe just "gold class" hahahahahaha....but things here are like that...its all about who has a bugger car and better clothes....with things written on them in english....even if the english doesn't make sense...and trying to look pale, because that menas you obviously don't work (???)....not really a place that appeals to me....matter of fact, to me it is a bit depressing....people don't really seem all that happy here...they just seem to be on a quest for material wealth...a very sad state of affairs i think....but as my dad says...it is what the makes the world go round....
i can see why folks from other countries come here though...you can make a boat-load of cash...i could get an english teaching job in a day, and probably have a life set up in no time...but i don't think that will be happening....just not enough spirit here for me to want to live here....BUT this was very different when i was at the meditation retreat....i am still processing my experience with that, but i will write about it soon...i promise....

plus...i am trying to upload pictures to go along with my entries, but am not having success...so stay tuned...i hope to have them up soon...hope you enjoyed this update....more on meditation next and i am off to cambodia tomorrow...woo-hoo..hope all is well and be happy :) dani

1 comment:

Tom Woods said...

HEY DANI!

Please keep it up. I can see the world through your writing.

It's interesting how "western" an eastern culture can be. I guess it appeals to our desire for comfort and our herd instincts.

I find it amazing that most people never distinguish between comfort and happiness. The root of the mid life crisis...
tom woods