First Impressions of Taipei

We have been in Taipei about 40 hours now, not enough to get a huge feel for the place, but enough to form some first impressions.

First of all, it’s colder than I expected.  The last two days have been cold and rainy.  Cold enough that we have had to turn on our heaters.  I was expecting the rain, but not the cold.  I’m told that this is pretty cold, even for winter in Taipei and it should warm up soon.

We live outside of the city a ways on a mountain called Yangmingshan.  We live in a home that has apparently always been occupied by Americans.  This neighborhood was built for American military personnel but has been used as Foreign Service housing for some time now.  Our house is not much to look at on the outside, plain white stucco, but the inside is completely new, clean and roomy.  I love the kitchen!  It’s big and it has two refrigerators–foodies like myself, Rejoice!  We also have a large fenced yard with a big climbing tree out front.  Jason and I are the only ones in the family yet to climb the tree, but I have a feeling we will swing from its branches before this tour is up.

Yesterday I went into the city for the first time.  My neighbor Rosy took me to Costco in Taipei.  The city is surprisingly clean and modern.  The traffic is chaotic and congested but the roads themselves are pristine.  There is some truly beautiful architecture. Taipei is very green and mountainous.  The second tallest building in the world is here.  It’s called Taipei 101 and it is visible from all over the city.  This morning the top was surrounded by clouds, much like the mountains in Utah on rainy spring days.

Going into Costco was a really bizarre experience.  I was the only caucasian person there.  Everyone was speaking Chinese, yet most of the products were the same products I saw in the Costco in American Fork in the US just last week.  It was like I was in a strange dream.   I bought hearts of romaine lettuce from California, Kirkland brand cleaning wipes and that giant container of red grapes.  I bought the same gigantic bottles of shampoo and conditioner I’ve always bought.  Yet oddly enough, there was no Minute Rice.  Apparently the Taiwanese are a bit too high-brow for instant rice.  (Do you blame them?)  The strangest thing though was that the tortillas came in packaging with only Chinese writing.  Riddle me that!  Even the food in the Food Court was the same as one would find in the US: gigantic hotdogs, raspberry smoothies, caesar salad.  It was like two worlds collided in one gigantic warehouse.

Our neighborhood is great!  There is a small grocery store about a two-minute walk from our house; as well as a 7Eleven, McDonald’s and Subway.  In between the American chains are tiny  mom-and-pop eateries with signs only in Chinese, selling heaven only knows what.  I’m looking forward to finding out exactly what they are selling.  My boys have ventured out a few times on their own to the various establishments, coming home with six packs of Coke and liters of Pepsi (to their mother’s dismay.)  I don’t think I would have dared do that at their ages, so even though they bought contraband beverages, I’m pretty proud of them.

Our neighbors have been awesome.  We’re sort of at their mercy since our car won’t arrive until early January, at the soonest.  We’re blessed to be surrounded by good, kind people.

One last thing.  In the movie Dan in Real Life, as Dan’s family is getting to know the Juliette Binoche character, someone asks her what her perfect day would be.  She says that it would start out with her waking up in a totally new culture where she didn’t know the language and she felt completely out of her element.  My perfect day would start the same way, and it has these last two days.  I’m blessed!