Thursday, September 30, 2010

day 13_Breaking bread

Following my lunch at the friendly Thai restaurant where no one spoke English, I had plenty of leftovers remaining for lunch the next day, so I brought the remaining (pretty spicy!) curry chicken & sweet potatoes to work and slipped them into the fridge.

Around lunchtime as I started to get hungry... I decided that it truly would be best to have something to eat with my leftovers to sooth the spiciness! At the Thai restaurant I had eaten the meal with fresh steamed white rice (the usual), but they did not package any extra rice to take with me in my leftover package, and the chicken alone didn't quite make a meal, so I headed out to the nearby 'Family Mart' (7-11's biggest competitor) to pick up some bread and tea. I found a 1Liter bottle of tea with a black label & flowers - hoping this was some form of black tea... and found a package of what was obviously some type of bread/roll. Checked out (it cost all of one dollar US for the items) and headed back to the office where I heated up my chicken and sat down at my desk to dive into the meal. Imagine how shocked I was (as I dipped my bread into the curry sauce and took a large bit out of it) to discover that I had puchased "double-chocolate-stuffed bread"!!! Needless to say, it caught me off guard!!! And was pretty funny.

So, there you have it folks. Now I know which packaging to look for when I am craving chocolate bread... ;) Ah, the adventures of not being able to read Chinese packaging...

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

day 12_Tipping in Taipei

Something that I have had a particularly hard time reminding myself of since my arrival in Taipei is... the tipping policy.

So today, after I had ventured out alone to find myself some lunch, and stumbled across a small Thai restaurant with a menu in both Chinese/English, I struggled to order from a young girl who clearly did not speak any English. Sure, you think - can't you just point to the menu? Well, yes, but then when she begins speaking in Chinese, is she asking me how spicy I'd like the dish? Or what sides I'd like to come with it...??? Come to find out, my meal also came with a drink - she brought me a Coke, which was fine with me. Sitting there once again in a see of Mandarin, I really appreciated her extended efforts to provide me good service and a tasty meal. When I finished, I stood at a self-serve bar where I had noticed others dishing up bowls for themselves, but the contents looked pretty foreign to me... It looked like an ice cream sundae bar (all the toppings) but there was no ice cream anywhere...

After a few minutes of standing puzzled, the same waitress came to me and gestured could she fix my bowl? I nodded yes in agreement and thanked her many times for my little dish of dessert. Hmmm... seems like it was clear gelatin, covered with a sweet soy milk, with other items in the "soup" like strawberry gelatin, and coconut chunks, fresh mango, etc. It was actually quite tasty! [and no wonder people are thinner here... compare that to a slice of cheesecake!] Well, needless to say, that girl got a tip! She made me feel so well taken care of :)

In Taiwan, it is not customary to tip, and if it is expected, it will be listed as a line item on your bill. 10% service charge. As an American, sometimes I almost feel guilty not leaving a tip on top of my bill... but the system is just different here (I am hoping they also make more than the American waiter's hourly rate of $2.15 plus tips). But another thing that is different, is that the waiter is not 'working for thier tips' so to speak, they are just working to provide the same level of good service that all are given equally. It is nice.

In the end... you can still tip if you feel that the service was exceptional, and for my lunch at the Thai place... in my opinion, it was!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

day 11_Back to work!

So, Monday morning in Taipei is no different than Monday morning anywhere else... It's back to work! And, of course, I have more than enough work to keep me occupied for quite a while...

I ended up having two client meetings, and staying until about 7:30pm in the evening [our office hours are from 9am - 6pm] because I am starting to feel the pressure. I like the differences now compared to when I had taken a new job before - because this is the first time that it is truly understood that I have some kind of experience under my belt, and I do not need someone to hold my hand full-time (yay)! That being said though, I had sure better step up to the plate and exceed everyone's expectations of me...

My work right now consists 100% of LEED projects [for those who are unfamiliar w/LEED, it is a rating system used to provide a standard of accountability for green building design/construction]. It is significant because anyone can claim to be "green," but when you get down to the nitty gritty and you crunch the numbers, is that actually a reputable claim? And when I say crunch the numbers... there is endless number crunching :) Nonetheless, I like the work. I like my part in it, and I am satisfied with my daily grind. It is also refreshing to have more client interaction, etc. to break up the monotony.

So, on that note... I am off to find some Taiwanese lunch & back to work! :)

Sunday, September 26, 2010

day 10_Checking Out the Neighborhood

Today I ventured back to the location of my soon-to-be apartment to give it a good look while the sun is shining (I had first toured it in the evening - after sunset - which looked prety good!) and was pleased to find that I am just as excited about the location in the daytime. Plus - bonus - come to find out, it is pretty much across the street from my bookstore... and just a few blocks further to the movie theatre... great location!

I've decided I need to start remembering to carry my camera around with me... more pictures soon I hope :)

And on the 10th day... as I am melting from walking around in the heat & humidity, trying not to spend too much money until I start getting paid... all of a sudden I realize, I have been here for 10 days and I haven't even considered the idea of a swimming pool existing at the hotel! It turns out they have a pretty nice outdoor/heated pool along with a steamroom, sauna, and complete gym. Yay! Free entertainment found! So I finished up my evening with a nice swim and a sit in the steamroom :) Nice.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

day 9_Lazy Day

I have been asked a few times lately - "So what are you going to do this weekend?" And I've got to tell you folks... With nowhere to be, no one to be with, and nothing pressing for my time... there's not a whole lot of excitement! You're shocked, I know.

Yes, of course, I am in this splendid new city with endless adventures awaiting, but deep down, I am sort of holding out, hoping to explore the truly fun stuff with my hubby! That, and I am also holding out on spending money until I can at least get my first paycheck from the new job. Taipei is busy, busy with life and I am looking forward to having a little spending cash to boost my motivation and get out more. I also purchased an MRT card yesterday (for the light rail) which is definitely my new key to the city... I do enjoy riding the MRT here. It's clean, quick, and goes virtually wherever you want to be - plus the station is just next to my soon-to-be new apartment!

So, that being said, my weekend is a mix of wandering/walking around town, window shopping, bubble baths, and a great book. Since I finished the second of three books today, tomorrow's treat may have to be that next book...! ;)

day 8_Apartment Search No More

Well, Friday at work came and went without event. I have officially finished my first week at my new job! [Even though it was technically only a four day week, with the holiday and all...]

Tonight after work, I ventured out once again to see another apartment, and alas... I fell for this one immediately! I tried to contain my adoration as the agent walked me through and showed me the designer shoebox that I would only have dreamed of in Dallas, but now suddenly I might somehow end up with here in Taipei... It beat out the previous competition - despite the lack of a walk-in closet - because at the center of it all, it was well designed, modern, clean, and that is what reaches out to me to best.

So, details! The apartment is a studio/1 bedroom that is primarily all one room excluding the bathroom. But the bed is lofted in a glass box (yes, literally), surrounded by custom wood built ins, that create perfect sleek modern bookshelves/storage. Talk about a great place to curl up with a book! The wood is a medium tone throughout, a sliding wood screen conceals kitchen or bathroom, depending on your need. The windows are new and operable, windows on 2 sides, but multiple windows... [other apartments I'd seen sometimes only had one...] Small balcony - just enough to step out on. Located on the 4th floor, just high enough up to look out for a bit of a vew on the busiest most popular area of downtown... but at the same time, located a block or two off of the main street for a little quieter living. Swimming pool and gardens on the roof with an amazing view of the city. 24 hour guard/concierge. Nicely furnished, all top end finishes, granite, etc...

You can tell I am sold! I've emailed the agent, fingers crossed that it is mine, and I promise to upload photos if I get it! [Nonetheless please be warned, I may have a difficult time photographing such a small space]. Looking forward to this addition to my grand adventure. :)

Thursday, September 23, 2010

day 7_Breakfast & Back to Work!

Well, not much excitement today, but just a quick note I suppose!

I finally took my sister's advice and stopped by a 7-11 on the way to work today... specifically to pick up a certain food for breakfast that I remember... there is something you can buy (not sure the name) that is a triangular shaped rice treat, wrapped in crispy green seaweed, and stuffed with various fillings (typically fish, shrimp, or some type of meat). I grabbed one and a juice box - looked to be lemon & honey from the images - all for less than two bucks. Nice start to my day - good idea sis!

Work went well, I am now working on a larger project that is sure to keep me on my toes...

This evening, unfortunately, I learned that American TV shows are not available online overseas! [All along I had thought I might keep up with my favorite shows by watching them on the internet...] Newsflash folks! It is some sort of legal / rights thing... so I guess now we know.

And with that... I'm going back to my book :) Sweet dreams friends.

day 6_Moon Festival Holiday

For a little more background on this holiday, you may check out the following link..
Because I am still so new in Taipei, unfortunately, I was not invited to any holiday celebrations or anything of that sort, but I was grateful for a day of rest - who wouldn't be?!

For my very own Moon Festival Holiday I slept in, then spent the morning talking to family & friends online. I think this would be in keeping with the spirit of the holiday - since it is also a celebration of family & friend bonds... After a leisurely morning, I hopped in a taxi and headed to Eslite bookstore (which I was aware of from my previous visit to Taipei). Eslite is a large, probably 7 story bookstore, which also specializes in English media as well as Chinese. The Eslite stores are popular amoung foreigners and locals alike, and some are even open 24 hours. You might have guessed by now, but I went in search of the second book to my trilogy...

While I was at Eslite, I stopped for a quick sushi lunch in the food court and sat at the sushi bar facing the chefs who prepare the food. It was tasty, healthy & filling - good choice :)

Afterwards, unfortunately, I had a splitting headache, so I returned to the hotel to rest once again. My afternoon was more or less uneventful, reading my new book [which is fine with me!] And in the evening, I could see the fireworks across the city, out my window... especially the ones being set off in the alley behind my hotel which seemed to be cracking just outside my own window... I tried to photo the fireworks for my blog, but unfortunately, the combination of camera phone, night sky, and hotel window glass provided a few technical difficulties... next time!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

day 5_Hong Bao

By my 5th day in Taipei, 2nd day at work, I am starting to feel more comfortable. I stop at a small shop to get toast & tea for a quick breakfast. I arrive at work on time instead of strangely early, and dive into the pile of tasks expectantly waiting for me at my desk. Even though, it is clear that my new employers haven't yet tested my true working abilities, they've assigned me some easy to moderate assignments - and I am happy to be busy, not bored.

Today is special because its the day before the Moon Festival holiday. This is one of the 3 most celebrated Taiwanese holidays... so everyone is chatty and cheerful and ready for thier day off on Wednesday! From what I understand, this holiday celebrates the full moon, the harvest season, and the significance of family & friends. As a special treat, we all travel to a nearby restaurant for a company sponsored holiday lunch. The restaurant is a well-known traditional Sichuan restaurant that happens to be owned by a local celebrity - very popular. The food is served as we might say in the US 'family style' - where many plates are placed on a lazy susan (spinning portion at the center of the table top) and rotated around so that everyone may take small portions of each entree. I think the menu we ordered cost around $5500 (+/- $175 US) and it consisted of 14+ entrees [but of course I'm guessing here, since everything was ordered in Chinese...], that were more than enough to feed all 12 of the employees seated at my lunch table. The whole group filled 3 tables in all. It was quite jovial, a really welcome social time I would say... but it was also the first time that I truly felt inhibited by the language barrier.

Even though each of the employees at my table spoke some or a considerate amount of English, that did not mean that the lunchtime conversation would all be spoken in English just for my benefit, so I primarily sat and watched and listened... I was surprised to realize how many Chinese words I recognize [mostly from my previous time in Taipei], and how much I was able to follow based on body language and people's reactions... but I was still the odd man out. For sure. Must learn some Chinese conversational phrases.....

When we got back to the office, my immediate supervisor explained to me that in preparation for printing my business cards, it would be most appropriate to establish my Chinese name. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the international business card, it is typically printed on one side in the local language [in my case, Chinese only] and the reverse side of the card is most often printed in English. That being said, my Chinese name may or may not be an exact translation of my name in English... so the admininstrative personnel and my supervisor went to town chit-chatting all afternoon about what could my Chinese name possibly be! :) Often, when an exact translation is used, the Chinese version ends up sounding like something else... for example, your name might mean "bitten by a dog"... so they try to take some combination of your real name, and a modified/customized version... to end up with a positive sounding translation that also doesn't turn you into a piece of fruit or a dog-bitten girl... The office was obviously having quite a bit of fun tossing out possible ideas, working with both my maiden and married names as well as my middle name, full name, and nickname - Lizzie.

I honestly don't think they came to a final conclusion, but I can't wait to hear what it is... Will keep you posted!

Near the end of the day, our boss came around personally to each employee's desk (there are probably near 40 employees) to deliver to us our "Hong Bao"s (pronounced 'hone-g' 'bow', as in take a bow...) red envelopes. These red envelopes in an office environment represent bonuses to celebrate the holiday [I imagine at home they may contain money or letters/cards...] but it was all quite lovely - each person receiving thier special envelope, and our office photographer taking pictures to commemorate the event... even me! On my second day of work, I was given a modest Hong Bao too! :)

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

day 4 [part II]_My New Office Family

So, the first day ofwork:
I arrived at work early - around 8am, not wanting to be late - only to discover that the average employee arrives between 9 and 9:30am... I should have known that from my contract, but I didn't think to review it Monday morning before work...

I found it very comical, as I was introduced to the employees at my neighboring desks that thier names are: Jason (husband's name), James (my father in law), and Nancy (mom)... So I am pretty much sitting among family at my desk! ;)  [Because it is common for Chinese natives to select an English name for themselves, it is always curious to learn what name they picked... for example, 'Nancy' is probably 28 years old... I've never met a Nancy that young in the US... the name isn't as common with younger generations in the States... very interesting :)]

After completing some administrative paperwork, they informed me that a client meeting had been moved up a few days, and I'd be joining on a meeting at Taipei101 - first day! Honestly, that filled most of the afternoon. I went and attended the hours long meeting, as an opportunity to meet our clients, even though the entire thing was conducted in Chinese... quite a time :) But the building really is amazing. So are the views!

Later, following work, I set out with a co-worker to view some apartments I'd found on Craigslist. Big disappointment - those are definitely not in the running. We wandered through a few all-Chinese realty companies on our walk back towards the office (so nice to have someone with me to translate & help!) and then finished off with an all-organic, all-veggie meal for dinner. By the time I got home I was exhausted! And still am a little... so more later! OH - work holiday tomorrow, so hopefully I will have some knowledge to share about that :)

Monday, September 20, 2010

day 4 [part I]_Taiwanese Lunch

Inquiring minds want to know - what did you have for lunch on your first day of work?
Well, wonder no longer - I had a traditional Taiwanese lunch box, complete with Sausage, bbq pork, and chicken on a bed of white rice. Corn/veggies, cabbage salad & tofu.
All for the bargain price of $85 NTD (about $2.50US).

day 3_Typhoon

I'm sure you were all very concerned this morning when you woke (your time) to find no blog, thinking "well, it's only day 3 and she's already falling off the wagon"... but in fact I did NOT forget! I just fell asleep...zzzzzz

So, here I am halfway around the world, and I have somehow managed to create my own time zone. I'm stuck somewhere in the middle between my previous US time and the new Taipei time here - but I'm really not in line with either one at the moment! Bummer.

Day 3...
After waking around 3am (as usual?), I got online and had numerous chat sessions, facebook posts, emails, instant messages to catch up on. My social life these first 3 days has been exploding, because for every person who thinks "I wonder what Lizzie's doing, or I'd like to talk to Lizzie (family...)" remember that there are many more with the same idea! So after a few hours of online chatting and an ongoing staredown with the snickers laying ontop of the hotel minibar.... I broke down and had some chocolate. Technically breakfast, but maybe you could consider it my early evening snack (Texas time...)

The typhoon has arrived and although I'm told it is just wind & rain mostly, I've also been advised to stay indoors and avoid going out in the storm - as it is generally unpleasant weather to be out in, and there is often flying debris associated with such strong winds. So, like a good little Oklahoman, I opened my hotel room curtains nice & wide to be able to watch the storm! [Clearly, I had to eat the Snickers... I've been told not to go out in this storm!]

As forecasted, there is LOTS of wind & rain - I have a great view from my 12th floor hotel room and you can see the water blowing across the cityscape in big sheets of rain. Also plenty of wind, judging from the trees scattered here and there, bending over backwards. It does rattle the windows a bit, but nevermind, I'm not sleeping anyways. Apparently, Taipei typically sees 8 or 9 typhoons per season (this is the end of the season) but this year this is actually the very first one... so I brought it with me. My boss texted me to let me know that 'much running water in your first week is good feng shui'. Fabulous! I'll take it. And there is also an upcoming holiday this week... Should be a good first week!

So basically, day 3 turned out to be the most fabulous reading day I've had in a long time. I cracked open the book that I only started on the flight here and settled back into the hotel room bed in some very comfy pajamas for hours of reading - with my big picture window curtains open of course, to watch the storm. Luckily for me, I am in a nice secure room, safe & sound, so I would just take periodic breaks to observe the storm and leisurely continue with a pretty fabulous novel (thank you Jessica!).

Tomorrow is the first day of work, and if the weather is also better, I will be back on the apartment hunt!
Miss you all!

Saturday, September 18, 2010

day 2_Jet Lag ("desynchronosis")

It is hard to tell where day one ended and day two began... I managed to sleep off & on with much texting, chatting, and Facebooking inbetween until about 10am on Saturday... Then continued to do more of the same I think...

Around one o'clock I decided I really should get some lunch, and although my intentions were good... I ended up at Outback Steakhouse :) What can I say? It's attached to my hotel... And I finally gave up on finding the food court in the familiar mall next door, after trying to decipher their 'temporarily under construction' signs posted throughout in Chinese...that was a different maze than I remember... So for my oh so eager fans asking 'what do you eat there?' Let me tell you, it was a little ridiculous... Summer special includes:
Cup of soup
Entree + 2 sides
And a drink
... All for about $15 US
A bit silly for lunch really, but what the heck? I splurged :)

Now I'm told that the typhoon is coming (which apparently is their version of a snow day) and Tuesday is a holiday... So here I am sitting in my room, watching the skies and reading a new book recommended by a girlfriend... My boss texted me to congratulate me on the typhoon and let me know that "big running water in your first week is good feng shui"...

So, there you have it folks, just another day in the life :) more exciting posts later, I promise! For now, I am just waiting out the storm and taking advantage of a little time to relax.

(Evening) so, of course I filled up on Outback at lunch and then the boss invites me out to dinner... So, pretend I'm hungry. Nearby authentic Japanese sushi restaurant where the staff know him, and the chef just sets food in front of us - no ordering necessary! The sushi was great - very fresh - and mostly things I've never had before. This also confirms my theory that even sushi in the US is quite American-ized. Either way, the dinner was quite lovely and now my eyes are threatening to close... Goodnight to your Saturday! :)

day 1_I have arrived!

I am writing Day 1's post in retrospect (on Day 2), so for all of you eager fans anxiously awaiting a daily report - my apologies!

I had even considered entitling this blog "While you were sleeping," as -for those few who are sincerely hanging on my every word - it might become part of your morning routine, like the daily paper. My own daily paper... and here, we all thought my hubby was the writer out of the two...

After landing an hour early (yay!) and making it through customs, I found my driver and he delivered me to a nice hotel about one block from my new office. So I was immediately familiar with the area. I decided to take a quick cat nap (give or take 4 hours...) then showered, dressed, and headed into the office for a little meet & greet. Turns out my paperwork and laptop are not yet ready, so they sent me on my marry way and urged me to begin considering where I might live during my time here in Taipei.

I walked to a local realty company suggested by a friend of my Father-In-Law, thankfully nearby, but discovered that they can only accomodate long term leases and since my plan is to rent short term until Jason joins me, I thanked them and let them know I might return later, husband in tow. :)

On my stroll back to the hotel, I noticed another realty company (all window ads in Chinese only) and popped my head in the door. Only one employee who speaks English, "Jack", but he is bright, cheerful, and very friendly. He explained they had only 2 or 3 short term rentals available, but offered to show them to me. Would I like a ride to go visit the first one today?

Hmmm... young single unknown asian guy, speedy scooter, sans husband... I told him I would meet him at the apartment location. So... after his 5 minute scooter ride and my 25 minute walk... I met him about a mile (or maybe a mile & a half?) away.

This place is cute! It will definitely be the competition for any others I see.

Cute, modern, clean, new construction, 24 hour guard & concierge, indoor pool, gym, amenities. Small studio with bed "upstairs." Balcony with view of Taipei 101. Full bath & sep walk-in shower. Black leather sofa (my taste) with pull-out sofa bed... I very well may end up here...

Walked back to the hotel, thankful to have stayed awake for so long and crashed, probably around 6pm. So I'm still cheating a little bit on my schedule... I still have the rest of the weekend to catch up, right?

Miss you all!