Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Gearing Up for Taiwan

(And getting back into blogging.) 

This reminds me of the old Livejournal days, when things that were important to me were thought through in public, written format. Here I'll try to be less verbose and emo - but because of the nature of the beast, I imagine I'll be equally self-centered. 

Since reading all of the general information plus the Taipei section in the Lonely Planet guidebook for Taiwan, my excitement and anticipation have reached new heights. I have also subscribed to two Taiwanese podcasts: the ICRT EZ-news (according to Wikipedia, ICRT is Taiwan's only English radio station), and "What's Up In Taiwan," a pretty bad and mostly irrelevant amateur podcast from 2006 by a Taiwanese guy who likes to interview foreigners. Although I haven't done an in-depth search yet, aside from these two the podcast pickings seem slim. I'm also planning on keeping up with Michael Turnton's news/politics blog (http://michaelturton.blogspot.com/); I just have to find a time of day to fit it in. 

Through all this, I've been forming certain tentative expectations about Taipei: 
  1. It will be full of friendly people. This is far and away most common compliment on Taiwan that I've heard yet. 
  2. It will be polluted. For some reason I had had an image of a clean, idyllic city in my head, with all the smog gone to hang out above Beijing; no longer. 
  3. The weather may be less than ideal. Heat I was expecting, but I hadn't thought much about humidity or mosquitoes - and I didn't realize that thunderstorms and afternoon showers were so common! Also, apparently I should be prepared for the possibility of a typhoon? I need to look into that more. 
  4. Westernization and English. I can't say I'm excited about encountering too much of either - I'm coming to feel like the Beijing folks may have a more "genuine" experience than me in this regard - but I'm sure I'll appreciate the benefits when I get there.  Side note: I'm beginning to come to grips with the probability that I'll either be relying on a Taiwanese acquaintance or using an English resource to find an apartment. It's too important to leave to my simplistic command of Chinese. 
  5. Traditional characters will confuse me. I added the option to my laptop and have been dabbling in eStroke a bit, and all I have to say is this: 欢 v. 歡. Yes, you counted right: the traditional version does have 16 more strokes! 
  6. Things for which Taiwan is renowned, and/or things I can't miss: hot springs; early morning tai chi; Sun Moon Lake, if I can get out there; and, to a much greater extent than I had thought, the food!  

I'll end with a description of the daily routine I've very recently developed for the days when I'm here at home in Connecticut, if only because I'm sure it will change drastically in a few weeks and it might make a fun contrast: 
  • 9:30 -- Get up. Remind myself I planned to get up at
  • 8:30. 9:30-11:30 -- Face-washing/tooth-brushing/etc, basic exercise, New York Times, breakfast. 
  • 11:30-2:00 -- Work. I have a job at Yale but work from home about 3 partial days per week. 
  • 2:00-6:00 -- Lunch, misc. Today I cleaned the gutters and helped make cookies. 
  • 6:00-7:00 -- Dinner, killing time. 
  • 7:00-10:00 -- More work. 
  • 10:00-11:00 -- Serious killing of time (facebook, podcasts, etc). 11:00-11:30 -- Shower.
  • 11:30+: Things I'm supposed to do - make a blog, for instances.  

This has left me with a sad lack of Chinese practice, and I'm actually getting a little worried. After all, I'll be in Taipei in less than two weeks! I've said it before, but this time I mean it (?): I'll kill less time and get on that tomorrow. Really.  

Until next time,