Tuesday, January 31, 2006

I Found an Apartment!

Forget about it. Didn't do the apartment mentioned in the last post...found something better. I just got back from checking out a great little studio apartment in Banciao (an out-lying area of the city). I liked it so much, I gave Sher (the girl currently living there) a few thousand bucks to hold it for me, I'm moving in!

It's pretty small, but it's all mine. I just wasn't digging the idea of having roommates. It's on the top floor of a 9-story building, which means very little road noise. One of the best features is its down the road from the train station and VERY close to work. It's nestled nicely between the subway and train stations, very convenient. The apartment is furnished which means it has a bed, tv, wardrobe, desk, microwave and a bunch of other stuff I can't remember right now. There is a washer/dryer that the 5 or 6 apartments on the floor share...that's a good deal.

The rent is a somewhat more than the other place, but it's worth it to have my own place. Can't wait to get in the place and make it home!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The Apartment Search

I was mistaken...Saturday was Chinese New Year's Eve, not Friday. Anyhow, it's Sunday, New Year's Day. Very quiet day here in Taipei.

I went to look at an apartment, not too shabby. I think I might take it. It's located next to the head offices of the school I work for, very convenient. It's in an area called Yungho. The apartment is about a 3 minute walk to the subway and will add about 15 minutes to my work commute each way. The additional time is expected because finding a place as convenient as the hostel is impossible. The apartment is very spacious, the bedroom that is for rent is huge. It's a three bedroom place with only one bathroom...that is not the greatest arrangement, but I can deal with it. I'd be sharing the place with a couple of Canadians, one guy and one girl. The girl (Cara) seemed really down to Earth and cool. She was honest with me as far as the drawbacks of the place...

the good:
  • close to subway
  • very big apartment
  • only $7000 a month (roughly $220 American)
  • roommates seem fun
  • close to Costco (very important source of comfort food)
  • nice area, seems like lots to do nearby
the not-so-good:
  • kinda noisy
  • only one bathroom
  • sharing with two others
  • added time and $$ to commute (additional 30 minutes & $40 per day)
I've got a decision to make...stay tuned!

Friday, January 27, 2006

Chinese New Years and An Ipod

Today is Chinese New Years Eve. Everything is beginning to shut down. Taipei is going to be a ghost town for the next few days. Folks here close up shop and spend time with their families for the holidays, virtually everything is closed. It's kind of nice to see that all this craziness can be put on hold. Family is very important here and this is the biggest holiday of the year. It's customary for people to head back to where they are from so the roads are insanely congested.

I had a moment of weakness earlier in the week...I bought an Ipod. My CD player is beginning to act up and I can't live without my music. The Ipod is awesome, the 4 GB hard drive holds about 1100 songs and 25000 pictures. It is the size of a credit card, very cool. It's the latest model from Apple and I'm having a blast with it. Up to this past week, I hadn't made any impulse purchases, but I'm only human, I couldn't help myself...lol.

Kelly & I are trying to figure out what to do for the next week or so. I am off work until February 6th. We've gotta come up with a thing or two to occupy our time. I'm excited to get an opportunity to hang with her since our schedules are normally so conflicting.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

A Picture!

a recent shot from work. these kids are incredible. the little girl on the right, holding the cup of water, is silly as can be...she is always giggling.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

PB & J, One of Life's Great Pleasures

I had the most amazing peanut butter sandwich today. I went to "Jason's" (the killer store where you can find lots of imported stuff) today and bought some bakery bread and Skippy peanut butter. Threw a couple slices of the bread in our itty bitty toaster oven and within minutes I had a mouth-watering sandwich. Living in a foriegn country with questionable food practices makes even the most simple American food taste great.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Olga. I Don't Want To Talk About It

Looks like I'm gonna stay in Taiwan for Chinese New Year. I waited too long to make plans. Everything is waaay too expensive. I've decided to postpone my trip to Hanoi until sometime in March. By then, I'll have more money and I think my buddy Scott wants to go around that time.

I had, what could only be descibed as, an insanely frustrating experience the other day. It was Tuesday, 2:30p.m., I was on platform 3 at the Taipei Main Train Station waiting for my train to work. I was scanning the days newspaper when I noticed a strikingly good looking young lady a few feet to my right. Being the pathetically desperate guy that I am, I approached her.

I used the "hi, where ya from?" line. She smiled at me and said Russia....hmmm. We proceeded to talk for the next 20 minutes because she was taking the same train as me. Her name is Olga, she is from Siberia, here studying English. She lives in Taoyuan, a city about 25 minutes south of Taipei. We had a great conversation, complete with the occasional giggle...somehow we got on the topic of food, she mentioned that she loved Italian food. I told her that I knew of a great place in Taipei for pizza and I'd love to take her there...BAM! She smiled and said that would be great!!!!!!! She mentioned earlier that she didn't have many friends here and would love to check out Taipei...at this point I am beginning to think I was in a dream. I asked her for her phone number and she gave it to me, this is where the story gets fuzzy. I punched the numbers into my phone and before I knew it, the train came to my stop. I told her I'd call her and we said our goodbye's.

About 20 minutes later, I was at my desk telling Scott about what had just happened when I decided to check and make sure her phone number was safely in my phone...uh oh! ARG!!!!! Something went wrong, the phone number wasn't there????? I have no idea what happened. This is beyond frustrating. I am going on a mission to find Olga! Come hell or high water, I am gonna track her down...lol.

Monday, January 09, 2006

Feeling the Heat

Just checked the weather forecast for back home, doesn't look too bad. Although, even a little snow is way too much for me...lol. It's been back and forth here. One day it's 65, the next, 45. Never all that cold, but the severe shifts are odd.

Living abroad is strange, to say the least. I feel like everything back in states is on hold until I get back. Almost like someone pushed the "pause" button on the DVD player of life. It's difficult for me to grasp that life continues there without me...that may sound egocentric, but it's the truth. I have a difficult time painting the picture of life there without me...

The pressure at work is building with the impending departure of Chris & Brent. Scott & I are really going to have to shoulder a load once they are gone. It's gonna be on us to step up and become leaders. Their departures coincide with the advent of the new composition classes, not the best time to introduce a new program.

I've been talking with a few buddies about planning a trip to Southeast Asia in March or April. I think Scott & Graeme will come with me, we'll see. The trip will include stops in Bangkok, Hanoi, and perhaps Laos.

Friday, January 06, 2006

Chinese Food and My Bowels

Still struggling with the food here. There have been some bright spots but they are few and far between. I LOVE fried dumplings, or pot stickers as they're known in the States. On the flip side, nothing, I mean nothing is more repulsive than stinky tofu (that's the name, I didn't make it up). This stuff smells so bad it causes me to have a gag reflex just walking by one of the stands. At the Shilin night market, there is an entire section of the market designated for the sale of this stuff. I literally run through this area because the smell is so painful. It's tofu cooked in some sort of nasty oil...trust me, it's gross. Asians have an uncanny knack for adding scary pastes/sauces/goos to perfectly good food. A classic example is bread, what looks like a perfectly good loaf of bread all to often turns into a loaf stuffed with an unidentifiable black or green paste...not a very comfy experience. Food here is a test of courage. I have to admit, I haven't been very courageous to this point...I think I put too much value in solid bowel movements to be too adventurous when it comes to eating here...lol

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Colleen's DVD Run

Colleen is on another one of her Visa runs. She has been working here illegally for the past 4 months. Therefore, she has to leave the country every two months to get a new visitors visa. She is making quite a bit of money working illegally because the school she works for pays her cash...no taxes. This practice is fairly common. The only drawback is she has to make these trips out of the country, which are kind of expensive. This time she went to Hanoi, Vietnam. The great thing about this trip is she is going to be in the pirate DVD capital of the world. A bunch of us gave her money and lists of the movies we want. The DVD's there sell for about 80 cents American. Some of them are slightly different from the US versions, but the differences are negligible. My list included Million Dollar Baby, Magnolia, The Office Box Set, Cinderella Man, Charlie & The Chocolate Factory, and The Aristocrats. She text messaged me today to tell me she got virtually everything on my list, how exciting!

The Chinese New Year is coming up soon, the 27th of January, to be exact. I haven't decided what I'm gonna do. I am off from the 27th to the 6th, a long paid vacation. I'm thinking I might venture down south. The only problem is transportation is hectic that week...everyone and their brother is using public transportation. I may just use the time to explore parts of the city I haven't seen.

Kelly has returned from Canada. She had a great time and is anxious to get back in the swing of things. One of those things is spending time with me...very cool. We are heading out to Alleycat's this Saturday night. We'll probably check out a market after we eat. Perhaps Snake Alley? I haven't decided if I am going to drink snake's blood yet...it's pretty freaky.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Hints of a Writing Course

We recently had a foriegn teacher meeting at the head office. It was to let us know that we are going to begin teaching composition courses in the near future. I was told that I was going to be involved in the development process and play a large role in this program...kinda nervous about it.
I think my writing skills are decent, not sure they are good enough to teach others how to do it, we'll see.


some recent pictures, enjoy!


a look at our egg nog endeavor. it worked out great. the nog was delicious. colleen worked hard on it, made it from scratch.
it's matilda! this is a little cutie that was picked up in an alley. she has become the hostel's mascot. we bottle-fed her for a few weeks...she is doing well and growing like a weed.
the group on christmas eve sporting their egg nog stashes. from left to right: irwin, ciaran, colleen, raul and liz. it was a fun night.
another good pic of matilda. she has us all acting like blithering idiots. she is adorable.

New Years at Taipei 101

New Years was very cool. We spent it partying at Taipei 101, the worlds tallest building. It was crazy. They estimated about 50,000 people were there. Engineers spent a week scaling the building, placing fireworks on all four sides. It was really cool seeing the building all lit up with fire...lol. We had a blast. Went to Macaroni Grille for dinner and ran around the city center for the rest of the night. They put on a free rave which lasted until about 4a.m.. We finally made it home at about 5 in the morning.

Everything is pretty groovy here. I missed seeing everyone over the holidays, but I know I am doing the right thing here and hope you all keep me in your thoughts.