Archive for October, 2007

Goodbye, Molenveld 30

Wednesday, October 31st, 2007

This is it. When I shut down this computer, I will pack it in my backpack, walk around the apartment to make sure nothing’s been left by mistake, take the last bag of trash down, leave the keys on the table and close the door for the last time.

Until Saturday we will be staying in the hotel just a block away, where Ted has stayed for years of business travel here, where we stayed on that awful trip here in the summer of 2006 when I was so ill and where we stayed on my first visit here ten years ago.

One thing that’s turned out very nicely is how palindromic this whole experience begins. I’ve been working (very little) from home this week to be here with the movers, so the year ends as it began with me walking around the centrum of Eindhoven, getting my errands done and appreciating how Dutch a city it is, with its walkable center, international restaurants, and cafes with outdoor tables everywhere. fter days of rain and clouds, we have blue skies today and the inimitable slanting light of autumn in Holland.

Taiwan will be many things, but it won’t be Dutch. Wij zijn hier gelukkig geweest.

the first Taipei photos

Friday, October 26th, 2007

We have gotten confirmation of our apartment in Taipei, so I thought I’d post some of the pictures we took. First, some general pictures of Taipei – here is the Taipei 101, which is vea very attractive building as enormous skyscrapers go, and the view from the top on a cloudy, hazy day. I’ll leave these photos linkable to a larger version, though they’re not really good enough to warrant it:
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And here’s a view of typical traffic at a stop light:
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Here’s our apartment. I’m pretty sure the features that are most exciting to us after a year here are nothing special to people back in the States, but I thought you might want to see it anyway. Here’s two views of our living room and one of the dining room. Look at all that storage!
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The kitchen is to the left of the dining room and that door outside goes to a covered balcony with the washer and dryer. This seems to be a typical arrangement. Here’s a bit of the kitchen itself:
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There is an oven (which seems to be resent only in apartments geared for foreigners, but there is no dishwasher. (For me, it’s a lot easier to wash dishes by hand than to try to cook without an oven.) That thing above the sink is a dish dryer, which every apartment does seem to have. Here’s one of the things we’re excited about:
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Big fridge! With a freezer!

Here are the secondary bedrooms and bathroom. The office will be Ted’s, and might also get the rowing machines. (We asked them to take out the desk, because it’s just not comfortable to work at – we’ll be buying a new one.) The second bedroom will keep its platform bed to be ready for guests, but in the third bedroom the bed (with its non-built-in plaform) will go away to make room for the weights. Unlike our Eindhoven flat, there is a full second bathroom with a nice big shower.

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It might not be easy to tell from the photo, but I do like the effect they got with the window in the second bathroom. What they did was to bring the wall up above the bottom of the actual window, then cut those two diamonds out of it. I think the shade extends below the cut-outs, so morning light in summer won’t wake anyone sleeping in there.

Here’s the master bedroom, views of the closets (closets!!) on both sides of the short hall, and the master bath at the end of the hall.

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We were debating between a furnished or unfurnished apartment, since a bunch of our furniture could use upgrading or supplementing anyway. (We need new living room sofas and tables; our dining room set is very nice but I wouldn’t mind getting a small round table and chairs that could later be used in a breakfast room. We don’t need beds, but mattresses and boxsprings are not expensive if you just put them on a plain frame instead of a headboard or footboard. And Ted wants a nice flat-screen TV.) So we looked at both kinds. Since we liked this apartment best we won’t be needing (or getting, depending how you look at it) to buy any furniture except a desk. But of all the furnished apartments we looked at, this is the only one that had a TV in the master bedroom. It’s not that we watch much TV in the mornig except a bit of news and weather, but I do think that’s indicative of how carefully and nicely this place is furnished.

shoppers’ paradise

Sunday, October 21st, 2007

Call me shallow, but this website just made me very happy. It’s the mall near our apartment in Taipei – we’re not entirely sure, but we think it’s in walking distance. It’s got a steak house and a TGI Friday’s. It’s got an Eslite bookstore. There’s a Lush and a Burt’s Bees, a Nike store (Ted needs sneakers) and a Calvin Klein underwear (far more likely to stock my size than the Dutch stores), Nine West, an Indian restaurant and a Thai place. Also, a Ferris wheel and an IMAX. Yay!

anyone for pig brains?

Friday, October 12th, 2007

After the earlier entry we went off to the Shih-Ling Night Market. Crowded. All kinds of clothing and shoes for sale, all kind of mostly unrecognizable fair food. We sampled some sort of chewy dumplings, flat bread with something like peanut butter inside and corn dipped in a sauce sort of like what you get on spare ribs and seared. Unfortunately, I forgot the camera, but I’m sure we’ll be back there at some point. After a while Ted got hungry so we headed off to a section that had more substantial food. There we had choices including pork brain soup, pork stomach soup, pork liver and eggs, and other stuff we didn’t recognize. I had the mushrooms.

Taipei impressions

Friday, October 12th, 2007

Taipei is not a pretty city. It looks sort of like the most built-up parts of LA, but the whole city is like that. It’s a very alive city, though – there are people walking around doing things, buying and selling and living their lives everywhere, at any hour. There doesn’t seem to be any zoning – it’s like Houston, with shacks around the corner from fancy hotels.

In some ways it’s rather like the US but more so. You can find anything you want to buy and stores are always open. In some cases, literally always – there’s a 24-hour bookstore, 24-hour department store, 24-hour supermarket, and restaurants are open late. There are lots of strange things for sale – we were in one supermarket with a wide variety of dried fish and there’s a place under the highway right by our hotel with live chickens – but there are also many more American brands than we see in the Netherlands. (At least we were hoping the chickens were being sold there, rather than being raised there.)

There are new smells everywhere. They’re not bad smells, necessarily, but can be overpowering. One taxi had enormous lilies in a vase on the dashboard, and the enticing characteristic smell of a Chinese restaurant is a bit less enticing when it perfumes an entire street.

In the Netherlands, when I ride in a crowded elevator I can’t even see over anyone’s shoulders. Here, most people seem to be around my size, and Ted is a head above the crowd.

I’ll fit in other ways too. The women here dress much more like American women; most wear a top and a bottom, unlike European women who accessorize and layer a lot more. Women here mostly wear comfortable shoes if they’re going to be walking much; I think in Europe adult women are expected to wear proper ladylike shoes, mostly with heels, no matter how far they walk.

After a few disappointments (someone else got in first, or the owner wouldn’t agree to our price) we think we’ve found a very nice apartment – room for us and our stuff (including the weights and the ergs), close to Carrefour, Costco, the river where we’ll row and the highway to work. It’s very nicely furnished, so we’ll only need to buy a few things – sheets, towels, dishes and pots, mostly.

Moving here will be much more daunting than moving to the Netherlands, mostly because of the language barrier. Without speaking or writing Chinese, I can’t even tell a cab driver where to take me without having someone translate. This is not a problem here in the hotel, but will be interesting once we get our own apartment. Still, expats we’ve spoken to have loved living here. It should at least be interesting.

It’s a great life if you don’t weaken

Tuesday, October 9th, 2007

Here’s a nice picture someone took of the company eight at last Saturday’s regatta. (We still find the idea of a company boat a bit mind-blowing!) Ted competed in this boat, over 2000 meters. They won by being the only boat in the race but also breaking the course record for that category by 30 seconds. Then Ted turned around and raced in a double for 6500 meters – Paula raced in a women’s quad in the same group. Both boats came in second.
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Then we drove right home, showered, relaxed for about half an hour, drove to Amsterdam’s Schipohl airport, spent the usual amoun of time in Airport Purgatory, got on a plane, and flew 14 hours or so to Taipei. So far we’ve spent Monday and Tuesday househunting – viewing 18 apartments in 2 days can best be described as bewildering. Tomorow, unfortunately, we won’t be looking at apartments because it’s a holiday, but we will get to be tourists for a day. Thursday, Ted will spend the whole day in the office and Friday we’ll nail down where we want to live. Saturday and Sunday we fly home – we’ll have to start packing pretty soon.

I’m beginning to understand that old saying, “It’s a great life if you don’t weaken.” Here’s where we are tonight. (This is just a test – I took advantage of cheap electronics in Taiwan to buy a new camera):
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