Challenges of moving to and living in and writing about Taiwan

 

As I get used to living in and occasionally blogging about Taiwan, I have been trying to be as optimistic as I can get. But there are times when I have to admit certain challenges in changing locales, figuring out new ways to live, finding inspiration to write, and how I don’t always take it as well as I’d like.

Moving is always a bitch, even though in many ways going from PRC China to ROC China still contain many similarities. It’s not like I’m totally new to the whole Mandarin-speaking Asian country thing. And there are so many convenient things about Taiwan, from the high speed rail to those kiosks at convenience stores where you can pay phone bills and order taxis.

Also it’s quite clean. Taiwan is an incredibly efficient and well run little country.

But it’s not all good times, least not for me. Sure overcoming minor challenges is of course positive in it’s own right, of course, yet I’d like to take this time to share the slightly complainy perspective if you will.

 

I canz #scooter~ #Taiwanlife

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There is the subject of transportation. On this I terribly miss Shenzhen. Even with all the China-police state crap, it was so easy (and so cheap) to get around by the subway or bus or hail a taxi. Taipei does have great public transportation, but I’m living a bit out of the big city for now… So that means a scooter.

I had to learn a new skill and everything. I was nervous at first, having zero experience with motorcycles. I was never the kind of expat to rent a motorbike and ride around Southeast Asia. I do like to bicycle, and I cannot say that’s the same. Now I am getting more and more used to zipping around town at 40-60 kilometers an hour, and the left turns are particularly tricky.

It is kind of awesome, actually.

 

#OnePiece: the Restauarant!

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Food. Not that Taiwan food isn’t great, as everyone knows. I mean, the night markets!

I just miss my life in Shenzhen when I could order in inexpensive Chinese food at any time of the day. The grocery stores are well stocked with domestic and foreign items here, and health inspection laws seem to be much better than in the mainland. It’s a great culinary delight to live just about anywhere in Taiwan.

I was however really used to my routine of ordering in tomato-eggs rice from the Hunanese restaurant, and vegetable curry from the cha chaan teng Hong Kong diner, and those peanut noodles from the little stands, and so on.

Currently I have more routines that I’m slowly getting accustomed to, which so far has mostly consisted of ordering inpizza from Dominoes. Soon I will learn better.

Meanwhile in Taipei, what’s better than discovering a One Piece-themed restaurant!!!

 

Fulong beach #Taiwan

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Travel is a blessing and a curse. I will probably take the high-speed rail to Taichung over the upcoming Mid-Autumn Festival holiday weekend. Even though everyone says the nature and beaches are better along the east coast, which doesn’t have high-speed rail connection.

I was something of an expert at traveling in mainland China, if I do say so myself, that vast land with no end to history and tourist traps and epic cities and quaint villages. Etc., etc. I knew all the good websites to book guesthouses and where to stand in line for train tickets. Guess airbnb does work anywhere though.

It is amazing that the relatively small island of Taiwan contains so many places to go, and it will be years before I travel it all out. For now I am slightly intimidated on how to organize trips to new places.

I did enjoy taking the slow train to Fulong beach a couple of weekends ago; that wasn’t bad.

 

Then, there’s most important aspect of wherever it is I live: creative output.

Writing-wise, you see, I am in a bit of a rut.

I only got here fairly recently, and it takes time to get a feel for a place in order to write about with a sense of authenticity…

Do not expect a barrage of travel articles any time soon. I’m no expert on the place yet. Inspiration, for me, is more often a train of the slow-running variety.

Do stay tuned for a certain fictional writing project, which is far from ready to be announced and I will give away no hints as yet, but when the time comes then the time will come.

 

 

And also, the people. I don’t know too many here as of this writing. I know some. Honestly, the caliber of expat on average is a grade or so higher than many of those crazed outcasts who end up in China.

That’s just one of those things that happen when one moves, making friends can take time and all that.

It’s not that I’m super lonely. I am only a bit lonely.

That is what the internet is for.

Eh, mostly can’t complain.

 

 

 

Still, to everyone out there who’d like to keep in touch and maintain friendships and moreover check out Taiwan, please hurry up and come visit me!

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Brief update: Hsinchu, Taiwan

Suffice it to say that I have been busy lately.

But not too busy to write a brief update on Week One of my new Taiwan life…

First of all, I cannot stress enough how much work it is to move. Moving indeed sucks But it’s a necessary part of life sometimes. All in all the move wasn’t that bad; it was the normal amount of sucking that one would expect when moving to a nearby country-not-country but still basically a totally different country.

In the weeks before leaving Shenzhen, much of my time was spent asking local convenience stores to donate me cardboard boxes so I could pack up everything. Eventually, I got about twenty boxes to stock up my books and clothes and boardgames and books and toys and comics and even some pillows/blankets but mostly books.

It was a highly heavy process.

On the second to last day, a local shipping company came by to take all the stuff. Later, they got back to me and said that it all weighed 266 kilograms.

It was a pretty good deal at 17 RMB per kilogram. If anyone is moving out from Shenzhen, I can happily connect you to these fine people. No they are not paying me to say that.

However, that was not the end. Still didn’t include my giant suitcase which I filled to the absolute brim. Plus there was my giant backpacker backpack, which they really shouldn’t have let me use as a carry-on for the flight.

Anyway soon came the last day, and Bronwen and I took a ferry from the new Shekou pier in Shenzhen and were off the Hong Kong airport. Thank goodness for those trolley things or I likely would no longer have a working spine.

The flight was only one and a half hours. Recommended as well.

Luckily, we got a driver at Taoyuan Airport out of Taipei, and were driven to Zhubei city which is in Hsinchu county. It’s not far from Taipei, and there’s a high-speed train for quick access, so though I am not a Taipei-er for now TPE will still be my airport of choice…

The next few days consisted of much shopping and organizing of the household and generally exploring the town. I have so far concluded that I like this place and I am happy to live here. The next on my checklist is a bicycle with which to further explore and get around.

Finally, several days later the packages arrived. Then more work.

Some books and stuff

 

Things seem to be stabilizing now. I plan to continue to keep myself busy here, and hope to achieve many a goal in the coming Taiwan-based years. Home is lovely, and I must admit I am feeling somewhat optimistic. Which is a rare feeling for me.

What the hell, I wholeheartedly and happily announce that I am into living here 😊

 

Well, wish me luck and please come visit anytime! (Americans note: You do not even need a visa in Taiwan)

 

 

And so now I conclude this brief update blog with a quick tour of the place:

Come visit! I has home. #homesweethome

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Announcement! #Taiwan

Here it is, what you’ve all been waiting for, my announcement:

As some of you know–and some of you don’t–after a whopping eight years in China, I am finally moving out of Shenzhen… I will soon be living in Taiwan, which is sorta China but like a different kind of China.

#台湾 ✈

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I am excited about this move. To be honest, I like the People’s Republic of China in many respects but I have always thought I should move on one day. The human rights issues and internet censorship for example have gotten worse of late.

I always thought I would end up in Hong Kong, but after visiting Taipei last year my girlfriend and I have given much thought to Taiwan. I think it will suit me better. While Hong Kong has a lot of English-langue publishing to be sure, the stressful workaholic lifestyle just isn’t for me. There is a bit less money to be made in the R.O.C. (Republic of China), but I absolutely love the chill atmosphere. Also, they speak Mandarin. Also, there is a thriving art scene. Also, culturally it’s a mix of Japan and China but less crowded. What more could I ask for?

Now I just gotta brush up on my traditional characters.

On July 31st, the last day of the month, Bronwen and I will be living in Zhubei within Hsinchu Country out of Taipei. That’s where the jobs were. So I visited last week to secure an apartment and explore, and while I hope to end up in Taipei eventually I’m happy to be in the Hsinchu area for the time being. Lovely place.

I must say I am liking this city of #Hsinchu

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I will surely miss Shenzhen. I still say it’s the best city in mainland China, and perhaps I’ll visit from time to time. No other city has given me so much and I will always treasure the memories. So personal struggles and accomplishments in this city. One might say it’s where I ultimately grew up into real adulthood. One doesn’t have to say that, but one could say that if one was so inclined.

It’s been a lot of work moving. Apparently I own a bit too many heavy books. There were several a terrible choice in throwing away clothes and shelved toys, deciding who will get discarded and who will get to come, and then boxing away the rest. Today, the moving company picked up all this stuff and now my apartment is very empty.

#Moving!

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And that’s about it for my life in Shenzhen. This past month I had a great going away party, some last-minute meetups with friends at book exchanges and improv nights and Hong Kong pubs, and I am ready to move on the next phase of Life Ray. Meeting the landlord on Sunday and flying one-way on Monday.

Wish me luck!

Lastly, please more people come visit me because it’s a great advantage that now there’s no need for a visa for all my American friends (and most other countries, except for South Africa but that’s a whole other conversation but at least it’s easier than China). Just come visit.

Well, look forward to more political posts about Taiwan and soonish–

 

Moving Chinglish

As I look back upon my years, I notice that I’ve moved a lot. About every year. I don’t know why this is so. I’ve lived with roommates, I’ve lived by myself, and in my time in Shenzhen and Guangzhou since 2009 I have moved about ten times. Still, for some reason, my previous apartment held a record for me: I stayed there for two whole years.

But then the lease ran out. I opted not to renew. At the same time, my girlfriend’s lease ran out and her landlord insisted on taking back the apartment. We proceeded to look for a new apartment. It wasn’t easy, but after a month of searching we finally found the perfect place. As the real estate bubble in China ever grows, prices have been going up and it’s not like it was back in the day. The tricky part is to find a good-sized clean place that’s not too far from the city center yet affordable.

Moving always sucks, but we made do. Moving two people into one house sucks twice as much, but I can make do. I actually find unpacking kind of fun. Organized books, collectibles, clothes. I am not the kinda expat who lives out of my suitcase, I like a lived in home.

And now I have made that major step. We live together. Without further ado, I present the Chinglish from my snazzy new apartment complex…

#Moving #搬家, my new place has some #Chinglish Pay me a visit anytime – via this

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There you are. Here’s how the apartment actually looks by the way, while I’m Instagram sharing:

New apartment is really coming together. Come visit me! in #Shenzhen

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Also had a housewarming party last weekend that was awesome (pictures don’t do justice, take my word), it was quite the Shenzhen scene gathering if I do say so myself.

#Party at my house, woooo!

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So, I hope you would like to come visit sometime! There’s a guest bedroom and everything. We want visitors.

 

Wish you luck on your next move as well 🙂

Dating – Back to Shenzhen, China!

SAM_1062A symbolically-numbered birthday, lookin lame. Note long hair at the time

 

In February of 2012 I had been living in the megacity of Guangzhou (Canton) for one year. My search for companionship had yielded mixed results. I had a bit of fun, sure. But nothing ever seemed to turn substantial, and I was getting lonely.

That, and my favorite bar had closed down. In no hurry to leave China whatsoever – I’m still here for the long haul – I decided that the path of least resistance was to go back to Shenzhen. It was the city I knew best, the city I had people in, the city that’s next to Hong Kong (while simultaneously still a Mandarin-speaking insanely developing mainland locale). I just wanted to go back.

I went over and spent a day apartment-hunting. First I had some bad results from online recommendations, then I simply utilized those real estate office guys you see around, and I found the perfect flat in the middle of the city. I soon met the landlord, signed the lease, and went back to GZ that very night and moved in a week later.

It was the best apartment I’ve ever lived in. I stayed there are year-and-a-half, which is quite long for me. For whatever reasons, I tend to move a lot. About every year I get anxious and seek out a better place to live. Yet, so far, I haven’t found anything better that that amazing apartment. Sigh, I do miss that place.

It suited me. Unlike other places I’ve lived in China, it wasn’t too glamorous. The place had character. It was, of course, cheap. It was a one-bedroom and living room, roomier than those big one-rooms. The building had no elevator, but that’s okay I lived on the first floor. It was close enough to downtown, but just a bit outwards of Futian District in the quieter Meilin neighborhood. There was a subway station nearby with a line led directly to the Lok Ma Chau border to Hong Kong. And only a 30 yuan latenight taxi ride to the obvious weekend haunts of Coco Park. It had everything going for it.

I unpacked. I redecorated. Life went on. I got a gym membership in the area, I biked around and explored and discovered my new favorite restaurants. I celebrated my birthday with a few friends. I met new people and hung out with some Couchsurfers; with my conveniently-located new apartment I could host and invited more than a few travelers to stay with me.

My writing was kinda-maybe starting to take off, and I kept myself busy freelancing. I visited Guangzhou a few times, on assignment of sorts for a magazine. Mostly, I worked on my novel and slowly but surely I was to take that more seriously. It was a productive time in my life.

Oh, and I traveled to Taiwan. (I traveled to Japan the most recent trip, by the way. I apparently skipped that part in previous writings. Well there was no hooking up to be had there. That trip to Taiwan was the last time I both stayed in a hostel and stayed at a Couchsurfer’s, with the coming of a symbolically-yeared birthday I decided I was too old for this kind of backpacking travel…)

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Dating in China – My Guangzhou Year

Zhujiang_new_townGZ

In early 2011 I broke up with Zoey and I was depressed and I thought I should start Dating in China yet again. It didn’t go well. A full year with one person, despite the trying and failing at improprieties, and I was a tad out of practice.

A very significant chapter of my life had ended, and I knew it would take a lot of work to reach the next chapter of my life. I realized I needed a new start.

What did I really have in Shenzhen? Frankly, a bunch of shallow friendships and little job security. I liked my apartment and my general setup but I wasn’t tied down. If I wasn’t tied down, shouldn’t I take advantage and go somewhere new?

Many expats simply live out of their suitcases, but not me. The heaviest things I own are my books. I sell them, I give them away, but I always get new ones and I’m left with a big stack. That and my clothes and various knickknacks and toys, and it’s not as easy for to move to, say, Shanghai or Seoul or Bangkok as it is for that other kind of expat.

I made the decision to move to Guangzhou — also known as Canton — that third major city of China (a distant third, but third nonetheless). Why did I choose GZ? Several reasons. I liked the city. I planned to do more research of Guangdong Province for my writing projects. I even wanted to study Cantonese. Most of all, I wanted to get a van to pack up all my stuff and move somewhere only a few hours away because it’s easier.

I went there on a research trip and looked around and found a stable thing going, and I committed. Next there was the hassle of putting all my things in boxes, had a going-away bar-hopping party night with friends at the local lesbian bar, and 500 yuan later I moved. My Guangzhou year had begun.

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