5 July, 2015 – Taichung, Taiwan

It’s funny how some distance
Makes everything seem small
And the fears that once controlled me
Can’t get to me at all!

It’s time to see what I can do
To test the limits and break through
No right, no wrong, no rules for me I’m free!

-”Let it go”, from the movie, Frozen, and one of the most popular American songs in Taiwan amongst children

In my last blog, I probably nearly bored you to death with a history and geography lesson about Taiwan. Now, I’ll get into more personal observations about the various aspects of living here. First up is…

Our Neighborhood

There are many different sections of the Xitun (pronounced Zhi-tune) district. Some are nicer than others, and you can often find these differences within a couple of blocks of one another. Ours is a lower middle-class neighborhood at best, with narrow streets, a small park across the street with a small temple next to a basketball court (they LOVE the NBA here…and baseball, of course). During the day, street vendors set up shop up and down the street on the other side of the park, but we have a small vegetable market next door to our apartment complex, and a place that sells noodles right across the street, which is only wide enough for two scooters or one car to drive through without flinching. Our apartment building is run down on the outside, and we live on the 5th floor with no elevator. That may not sound too bad, but try going up 5 flights of stairs when it’s 95 degrees, with 60% humidity, and see how you fare. Sweaty, isn’t it?


The inside of our apartment, thankfully, looks nicer than the outside, but it’s small, about 300 square feet, and that includes the bathroom, which has a washer, sink, toilet, and what I’d call a “showering area”, as there is no curtain separating it from the rest of the bathroom. The main room, which is basically a bedroom with a separate (but not separated) area that has a desk and a mini-fridge, serves as bedroom, living room, and dining room all in one. It also comes with an air-conditioner, which is a MUST, and a smaller flat-screen TV with about 80 channels, most of which are in Chinese.

There are a few English channels, but not many: Nat Geo, Discovery, Animal Planet (English sometimes), and 5 different movie channels including HBO. There are three others, but they mostly have crap shows that we’d never be desperate enough to watch, like reality shows, various CSI shows, and How I Met Your Mother…ugh. They repeat the movies a lot, so what we do watch mostly is whatever I can download or watch online.

Even the puppets look confused.
Even the puppets look confused.

The commercials are almost entirely in Chinese, with many of them being for video games for your phone. And in most of them, someone (man, woman, or child) is whining, which seems to be the national pastime here. I swear, if you could get the International Olympic Committee to make whining an official Olympic sport, Taiwan would finally win something other than the Little League World Series…and they’d win gold, silver, and bronze every time!

I'm just gonna burn the house down now.
I’m just gonna burn the house down now.

But I digress. Despite the scraps of food and fruits and vegetables that scatter the streets after the morning street market closes at about 2pm, the neighborhood is somewhat clean, though I did encounter a scurrying rat on one evening walk back from work. Fortunately, I was (slightly) bigger than he was, and he turned and ran the other way. Our home is mostly clean too, though like most places, we do encounter spiders and ants, though the ants here are surprisingly tiny and FAST! The spiders aren’t any bigger than back home, though we’ve heard stories of people encountering Huntsman spiders in their homes (Seriously, look it up! Their size may literally scare the shit out of you!). We thankfully haven’t seen any of those, but during one shower, we did see the typical tropics-sized cockroach scurrying across our bathroom floor! Terrified us both! It was about 4 inches long and at least an inch wide. It took me stomping on it 3 times with my boot to ensure that it was dead! Bleh!!!!!! We cleaned RIGHT AFTER that! Otherwise, pretty clean, just small. But, it’s only about 8000 Taiwanese dollars per month, including electricity, which comes to about $260 American dollars per month! Try finding that price for ANYWHERE in America, with A/C, cable, a fridge, and free internet! I’m not gonna even wait for you to look because it doesn’t exist there! Plus, when I want to smoke, the roof is one floor up, from which you can look to the west to see the skyline of the western half of the city at night or look up into the night sky (depending on visibility that night). All in all, it’s not home, but I’ve been amazed at what we can adapt to since we arrived here.

Smoking central on our rooftop.
Smoking central on our rooftop.

I know skirted several subjects here, including the culture, shopping, weather, food, people, and money. Don’t worry, I will go in-depth on all of these subjects in the blogs to come. Until next time, stay cool, and try not to blow any fingers off on the 4th!

For images of our journey, please visit my wife’s Facebook page: Mischa Elaine Johnston