Reflections of Taiwan

Now that I’ve had over a month to reflect on my maiden voyage to Asia, I think it’s now time to write a final summary of the wonder that was Taiwan. If you’ve read my posts, then you know I had a fantastic time! However, this post intends to capture some other observations during my ten days there. So, without further ado, here we go.

First of all, the weather was absolutely pleasant, even more so that I was flying from -8C Moscow to 22C Taipei. Sure, it rained quite a bit there, but at least it was warm and it felt refreshing. There was even a point where I was able to rock shorts, which felt a bit surreal! I mean, wearing shorts in January? That’s unheard of for me. It was interesting to note that in Taipei, it was raining/drizzling for most of the time whereas the rest of the country got to enjoy pretty clear skies. Then again, I do like the rain and it felt nice; lord knows it beats the snow and sleet that Russia offers. Seeing people in jeans and sweatshirts in that weather was a funny reminder that “cold” is a relative thing. (As they say in Russia, there’s no such thing as bad weather-only bad clothes!) That’s no to exonerate myself since I was wearing jeans, but at least I was spared from having to think about wearing a jacket. This ultimately came back to bite me in the ass, as I was wholly unprepared for -9C weather once I returned to sunny Moscow. Still, having actual sunlight, warmth, and a variety in food will sustain me for a very long time afterwards!

This isn’t a huge complaint in the grand scheme, but I noticed that sometimes, instead of toilet paper, places had toilet wipes (towels?). Functionally, they’re the same, but the first time I saw them, I honestly thought that it was a joke. Going to have to chalk that up to different culture then.

One thing I thought was annoying was the ubiquitous presence of mopeds. There’s nothing against them, but the fact that you constantly had to be vigilant and look both ways, even while walking on the sidewalk, expended too much concentration for my liking. Heck, there were even times when I had the right of way to cross the streets and some moped drivers decided to engage me in a game chicken. Not cool guys, not cool. In the grand scheme of things, this isn’t bad, especially considering that Muscovites are essentially in a permanent state of road rage, but I kind of wanted to escape those kinds of drivers.

This contrasted the incredibly orderly manner of Taiwan. Okay, maybe I’m used to people in Russia selectively following the law (i.e. jaywalking and parking on the sidewalks), but it was neat to see that everybody obeyed the social norms. Even when there was a chance to jaywalk, and I’m talking about absolutely zero traffic, people abstained until the little green light gave them permission.

Something that probably embodies the quirkiness of the country was how the clothing brand Supreme was super ubiquitous. Heck, even the knockoff clothes riffed off of them! What’s funny is that you generally didn’t see a lot of skaters/skateboarders, so apparently the popularity can be attributed to fashion more than anything. Guess the Taiwanese youth want to feel like they’re somehow connected with New York, eh?

I’ve written a lot about the food we ate during this trip, and for good reason-the night markets are absolutely phenomenal! However, Taoyuan Aiport takes this to pathological levels by actively displaying the prominent markets in each of Taiwan’s major cities. Personally, this is a clever bit of advertising, as I for one was curious to explore these other cities solely for the food. Yes, I know night markets are pretty much the same when you get down to it, but still, cities revolve around food. Therefore I’d love to see the variety (yes, there is some) in each, especially further down the eastern coastline.

Speaking of going further down the coastline in Taiwan, we didn’t get to Kaohsiung, which while disappointing, enabled us to really delve into the cities we spent time in. So, it was a mixed bag which admittedly was an extra thought in terms of what my mom planned. She admitted that as nice as it would have been to pack in a fifth city, it would have been excessive and would have cut into our time in Tainan. Looking up information about the city does make me feel a twinge of regret, because it’s the regional hub. However, when I do go back to Taiwan, I’m keen on rectifying this missed opportunity!

Finally, this somewhat altered my admittedly basic plans for the future. See, I’d sort of decided that my ultimate teaching stop would be Colombia, but the idea of teaching in Taiwan has gradually grown on me. I truly can see myself teaching there, and honestly speaking, that prospect does excite me. Sure, life in Moscow is pretty peachy, but ultimately I’d like to matriculate east before ending this chapter of my life. And lord knows that some colleagues have been posting openings in the motherland-I freely admit to being incredibly tempted to relocate for next year. However, I’m not just yet ready to change my scenery, even if that means not freezing.

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