Friday, September 08, 2006

First night in Taipei

And so I landed in Taipei! Somehow, I managed myself through customs and made my way to the "Express Bus". It felt very much like the Chinatown shuttle from Washington to New York- same abrupt mannerisms by the staff whom nonetheless get the bus to its destination in a most expedient manner. As expected, we arrived at Taipei Main Station, where I had been instructed to catch a train to Song Shan/Song Long. Trouble was, nobody knew what I was talking about and, when they even had an inkling, my extensive knowledge of Chinese (read- hello, thanks, thank you very much, dog, mountain, full, and temple) was of little assitance. At this point, having not slept in over a day and journeyed on the same escalator four times, I hailed a cab.

Eventually, I did find myself checked into, paid, and settled at Fortuna Hostel. I have my own room here with some air conditioning, two beds, one blanket (although it's way too hot to use) and one fly I can't kill. There is a group of four Taiwanese college students living in a larger room. Upon being introduced, we attempted communication and soon learned we knew very, very little of each other's language. Nonetheless, they invited me to dinner, which I attended. We walked a few blocks to Raohe Night Market, which was filled with lively arcade parlors, outdoor food vendors, and clothing merchants. We walked and walked, with one of the students translating what she could of what the three guys were saying. Ends up they're film students staying in Taipei for a week so to make a movie for a program sponsered by Kodak. After walking with my head darting from right to left to up in order to take everything in, I realized the group had stopped and was looking at me expectantly. They wanted me to pick what to eat! I gracefully (or not?) turned down the rather odd tofu mixture because it smelled distinctly like a very used toilet (the truth not making fun) and pointed to a stand selling dumplings. They were spectacular and free, as my new friends insisted on paying. I tried and tried to do it on my own but they kept saying "Taiwan hospitality!" We then walked to another stand, which made soup by placing disk-shaped bean curd patties into hot water, mixing it with boiled peanuts, and then covering the entire thing with sugar. Sugar here, by the way, isn't powdered like back in America. It looks like crystals- which I guess my previous sentance already told you. I managed a couple sips but couldn't handle any more. My hosts paid again, and also for the 10 minute basketball throwing session in the neighboring arcade. Then I went to sleep, for a long, long time.


Randi said...

What fantastic Taipai hospitality you had!

I am anxious to fly over and get settled in, so it is nice to read about your early adventures and soothe my initial worries.

Have fun. I'm looking forward to meeting you in a few days!


PS: I hope you're able to maintain your fantasy baseball teams over there...

Donna Francavilla said...

Dear Brian,
Your descriptions are so vivid, I can picture myself in the marketplace, looking up at the expansive ceiling, smelling the cappucino, and other rich aromas, taking in the new, vibrant atmosphere. So, forgive me for asking, but what does moshi-moshi mean?
Mrs. Francavilla