Taiwan-dering around Taipei

Last you heard from me, I was busy killing local insects and getting my calves into shape by Taiwan-dering around our new “home” (see what I did there? I know… I am so clever!). 

As seasoned expats, we know the typical cycle of adaptation to a new home and its related struggles. First, there’s the initial excitement when you hit the ground, the longing desire the beat the humidity and go out and explore everything you possibly can until you are drenched in sweat. At this stage, you have an open mind for anything new and exciting (“oh, I must try this weird looking food! Isn’t this amazing??? (while constantly telling your brain that yes, it IS amazing, never mind what your taste buds report back). No kidding that the experts call this the “honeymoon stage.” It’s just like the beginning of any relationship – you only see and smell the pink roses.

As time passes, you slowly become aware of some differences to life back “home.” You begin to miss some things (or the costs of things – geez, did I mention you won’t be saving money here?) and slowly start to put things into perspective that maybe your new “home” isn’t as awesome as you had initially thought. 

Cue in local wildlife coming up the drain, more humidity than you ever imagined you could handle, and the fact that your children’s most beloved items that had been carefully packaged into what you usually call the “quick airfreight shipment” is still nowhere near that little island you now call “home.” Oh, and the fact that your kids start talking (unprompted) about what they miss the most from “back home” (apparently Dave & Busters and haunted hay rides instilled a sparkle in their eyes, who knew?). 

As seasoned expats, we know this. We expect these frustrations and know that there will be days like the one I had last week where my lack of being able to read any Chinese characters or effectively communicate with market vendors left me utterly frustrated (to clarify: frustrated with myself for not speaking the language). 

Coupled with the fact that I am not loving my gas stove (seriously, why can I not figure out the “simmer” temperature? or my oven (sigh)) and that I was still looking at very white walls in an empty apartment, I did what anyone in that frustration stage needs to do: take a mental health day. I went to the gym, took a walk (yes, in the heat!), and watched Netflix. It was great. All by myself. No one bugging me to get them water or popcorn, no one to discuss my Netflix choice with, and no one asking yet again when “Big Bunny” (that would be the name of Juliana’s very big bunny stuffed animal friend; we are quite creative in how we name our stuffed friends) would finally be home to snuggle with at night. No, it was just me and Anna Kendrick and some other ladies rocking out to Pitch Perfect (I am probably the last person on earth to watch this movie for the first time!). But you know what? It worked. Some quiet lounging time allowed me to see the silver lining and to laugh at a few things here and there. ‘Cause we all got to laugh and we all need to take those days (even if they are just moments) to rest and recharge so that we can make sense of it all again once we step out the door. 

And then I went back to the market, amazed myself and the vendors with my excellent tones in Chinese and discussed the organic nature of their produce while bartering gracefully for a better price (nope, none of that happened. Pure figments of my imagination). 

No, what happened was that I finally looked into my bags of produce I bought during that last frustrating shopping trip and noticed that a vendor had quietly slipped in a piece of the most amazing fresh ginger and a bunch of leaves of fresh basil (I hadn’t even seen it here yet!) for free. And that just made my day. Simple acts of kindness. 

Now, onto some pictures of what I see here when I am Tai-wandering around this city (you decide where you like that hyphen!):

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