nothing ventured, nothing gained

Adam+Shanghai header image 2

From 台北. (Taipei)

June 1st, 2008 · No Comments

Bustling Xujiahui at duskI’m beat.  Life is flying by at a thousand miles per hour and I’ve made little downtime to stop and catch my breath.  New country, new language, new home, new work, new friends — have left little opportunity for tranquility or balance.

Back in Shanghai, just as I begin to grow accustomed to the surprises that a foreigner encounters fresh off the boat, new waves of challenges exit the shadows.  It starts with moving into a real Shanghai apartment.  Where is the nearest dry cleaner?  How does postal mail work and how do I pay bills in a country without personal checks?  Where can I find a replacement for my Xbox 360 power adapter in a country where the Xbox isn’t sold?  How about dishwasher detergent in a place where machines are so rare because humans washing dishes charge less than $1.50/hour?

DangXinPengTou As the range of interactions begins to expand, so do the language requirements.  Cold and Hot and No Good no longer suffice when trying to explain to a plumber in broken Mandarin that the shower faucet is having problems mixing the two together to arrive at Warm.  And so, in my third month, for the first time since arriving to China, I broke out the Lonely Planet phrase book, and soon after found a Chinese-English dictionary for my iPhone.  I still draw giggles when ordering food on the street by pointing at various local variety of dumplings and blindly belting out "one of this one and one of this one and one of this one and one of this one ("yi ge zhe ge he yi ge zhe ge he yi ge zhe ge he yi ge zhe ge"), but slowly and surely I’m getting there.  Learning Chinese at 26 has been markedly more difficult than Hebrew at 9 or Spanish at 13, but it’s a fantastic language and I’d highly recommend the challenge to anyone who has never dabbled in languages of the region.

In lieu of blogging when life gets busy, I’ve been feeding my photo and activity streams with trails of my adventures inside and outside of Shanghai.  I spent a little time back in Los Angeles and Seattle, and took day trips to Tongli and Suzhou, beautiful places not far from Shanghai.

Taipei street food Last night, I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, and wow has it been amazing.  The city is packed with food streets selling endless varieties of treats that tantalize the tastebuds of passerby’s.  The city landscapes are set against a backdrop of green mountains covered with trees of a variety that are so different than those I’m used to back in the US.

Freedom Square The attitude, and culture climate, feels different here too.  While walking through Freedom Square, one encounters a playful atmosphere full of children, music, and an environment of expressive emotion.  The people on the subway smile.  The taxi drivers are happy and engage you in cheerful conversation.  There’s a refreshing feeling of independent thought and awareness in the air that is difficult to explain but easy to sense.

National Palace Museum art The highlight of Taipei so far has been a visit to the National Palace Museum, housing exquisite Chinese art and cultural pieces from 8000 years of history.  The collection is rare in that it escaped the destruction of the cultural revolution by being shipped to Taiwan during China’s Communist/Nationalist civil war.  It is an incredible display of art and treasure and so very unique from those I’ve seen at museums in the West, and quickly elicits responsive, beautiful feelings of emotion.

I’m traveling in Taiwan with Chinese colleagues from the mainland, and I am continuing to learn so much about this part of the part of the world I’ve never before made the opportunity to explore.

And I know I’ve only just begun to skim the very surface of its culture and its history.

What a great feeling.

Tags: Miscellaneous

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