Taiwan


downtown

Whoa! I’m neglecting my blog again. I gave myself a deadline for doing a wedding entry, which came and went and still no sign of it. Oh well.

I’ve been busy missing Taiwan. It’s my home, even though I’m neither Taiwanese nor was I born there. I only spent about 6 years of my life there, and during that time it grew into me and became the place I miss. I’ve never missed South Africa the same way I miss Taiwan.

This does not mean I do not like SA. I think it is a pretty neat country. I feel great pride when our athletes and sports teams win international competitions or when a great movie or book comes out of the country. I get angry when people diss on South Africa or make ignorant statements about us. I am South Africa. But I miss Taiwan the way Alexander misses the US. I cannot explain it, it just is. Since I left for good in 2006 I’ve been back once a year except for this year.

A friend offered me the opportunity to go back and teach there for two months in October and November. In my head I went over the numbers and figured that it might make financial sense to go back. But it would have meant leaving Alexander behind for the whole time as someone would have had to stay and keep the Piesang market stand going. And it would also have stalled any potential plans for us to open up a place if I’m not here to help with that. And having done long-term in the past there was just no way I was going to leave Alexander here and be on my own for two months. I would have been much too miserable without him always close by my side.

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Sad sigh. I console myself with the knowledge that both of us are missing home. He the US, me Taiwan.

Luckily we could still approximate some things from Taiwan in the form of food and drinks. So when I recently saw this post and recipe for this soupy tomato and egg dish I often had for lunch at school on EatingAsia I decided to make it. I tried to follow the recipe as well as I could, but the tomatoes were not nearly as juicy as they should have been, so my attempt was not exactly great. But it helped with the homesick. The cucumber salad was near perfect though.

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We also heard about a store in the Northern Suburbs owned by a Taiwanese couple, so we decided to go check it out. We chatted a bit to the owners who are from Chiayi and Tainan in the south and reminisced about home. I found they sold the little balls found in pearl milk tea. Of course, the way you get it in Taiwan is mostly from scratch and not from bags with the words ‘starch balls’ on them. It was not right, but it made me feel good having some milky tea with tapioca pearls again!

pearl milk tea

I miss you Taiwan, I miss you all of my friends in Taiwan.

sundown beach

For more about the amazing food in Taiwan and other things Taiwan, go check out these posts on EatingAsia and Primitive Culture.

I started sorting through some pictures from the past year and a half a while ago to do a pretty photo entry, my last in Asia for a long time. Then time started really flying and work got in the way and on and on and in the end I just mashed a couple of shots together. It will have to do for now.

Apart from 18 months in South Africa and the US, Asia has been my home for the past 9 years. First Taiwan and then Thailand. Since we came to Thailand last year we traveled all over the country and visited Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam. I became even more deeply attached to this part of the world and would gladly stay longer, but the time has come for us to move on to new adventures.

We are flying back to the States later today to spend Christmas and New Years’ with Alexander’s family, something we’ve been looking forward to now for months. We will finally get to meet his niece and enjoy having a kitchen again and the company of his family.

And then it’s off to South Africa to start a new life in my home country. I’m scared of leaving this part of the world, but excited about what is lying ahead. And of course, this is not my last time here. So to Asia I say Tot weersiens for now. Untill I see you again.

Wandering around some of Saigon’s alleys reminded me that I still have plenty of pictures of the alleys and doorways around Hsinchu. The red doors are often adorned with good wishes on either side of the entrance. These ones were a bit different than what you’d usually see, having images of angels on the doors.

Mailboxes often add a little more character to the pretty red doors around town.

Some seem as battered and worn as the doors they hang from, like this funky green one.

While others still seem to be functioning like these ones on the door of a small apartment building downtown.

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I have managed to get myself completely lost on several occasions just by wandering down one of the numerous alleyways that lead of the main roads in Hsinchu, my former hometown in Taiwan. Once you enter these labyrinths you get so turned around as they twist, curve and branch off in every direction that you invariably end up in a totally different part of town when you find your way out of them.

Getting myself purposefully lost in the alleys was one of my favorite things to do when wandering around downtown on a weekend. You always catch a glimpse of an almost completely different city than the one you know. Department stores, convenience stores and juice stands disappear altogether and you enter a world of overgrown and crumbling walls, parked bikes and red doors decorated with blessings and good wishes for the home.

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I love sending postcards on my travels and I never leave home without some friends’ addresses in my notebook. Sometimes it is hard to find original and fun cards to send, but Miin Design here in Taiwan has been making my life a whole lot easier.

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They’ve come up with a whole range of fun and funky cards to send home that really grasps the feel of Taiwan. Mixing traditional culture, some tacky elements and style into truly witty works of art to drop in the mailbox. The top three up here have phrases like ‘Pray for Good Luck’ and ‘Go Shopping in Taipei’ while the other two asks you ‘Have you tried these?’ These are just a few of the cards, there are loads more and I feel like I want to collect them all for myself!

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My favorites however are the pop-up cards. They look fairly plain and almost cheap viewed from on side, but turn them around and…

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There are pictures that you can pop out to make a 3D postcard! And they are totally Taiwanese. People doing tai-chi in parks, night market stands, guards at CKS Memorial Hall, scooter drivers in the city, and tourists in Taroko. It’s more like a card, with the message written on the inside and the address on the outside. It even comes with a small sticker with the characters for Taiwan on them to enclose the card with. My favorites, of course, are the ones of Taiwan’s ubiquitous betel nut girls or bin-lang girls.

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 So there has been no reason for me not to write postcards, and to top it all of there is this really cute postbox downtown to drop them into!

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When living in Taiwan it’s easy to spend your time just traveling between work and home on the same route everyday and never paying attention to how beautiful the island is. I know this as I used to do so during my first year in Taiwan.

Even though the Taiwan of today is not the Isla Formosa that Portuguese sailors saw centuries ago it is still a spectacularly beautiful island, covered in mountains and verdant forests.

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And you don’t have to go far to experience this greenery. Within the city limits of our little city, Hsinchu (meaning new bamboo) lies the 18 Peaks Mountain Park. It is a small range of hills, clad in trees, big leaved plants, ferns and bamboo with numerous walkways, exercising spots and benches.

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Twice now we picked up sandwiches for lunch and braved the forest critters; giant mosquitoes, even bigger spiders and dinosaur-looking lizards, to enjoy a relaxing break in the verdurous hills before returning to deal with noisy and difficult students.

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