An Undiscovered Country

Late last night I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan.

Eight months after describing how much I miss eating in Taiwan, I’m finally here!  After my 3+ years in Ghana, I have spent the most time outside of the US in Taiwan.  I spent a summer here and have visited the country five times since I was 12 years old.

And yet, I feel I hardly know the country.  Unlike Hong Kong where all the signs are in both Chinese and English, Taiwan’s signs are only in Chinese.  The bulk of my time in Taiwan was before the advent of the MRT (the subway system), the train system, Taipei 101, and the pervasiveness of mobile phones and Google Maps.

Much of that has to do with my inadequate Chinese language skills.  The Chinese language relies on tonal inflections that require both the listener and the speaker to understand subtle differences in pronunciation.  As a friend pointed out, two words that would sound almost the same to an English speaker – niao – can either mean bird (鳥) or urinate (尿).  Growing up with Chinese-speaking relatives, I’m not completely “tone deaf” but my skills are not well honed.

Taking a bus was always a daunting experience.  I always worried about getting off at the wrong stop then trying to get back to my grandmother’s place using my flawed language.  Eventually, I memorized my grandmother’s address — Nanjing Dong Lu, Wu Duan — and almost went there this time until my mom reminded me that my grandmother has passed and I’d going to my aunt’s place.

During this trip, I plan on seeing more of Taiwan than the few areas near my aunt’s place.  I’ve already done most of the touristy things like go to the National Palace Museum or the Chang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall.

National Palace Museum

National Palace Museum

CKS Memorial

Chang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall

These are the things that friends have all pointed out that one can do here:

  • Visit a hot spring
  • Go to a night market
  • Get out of Taipei

Well, I’m off to get to know my neighborhood!

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