It’s been an interesting couple of days. Last night I went to a wine-tasting – Sommelier holds one every month where you pay an entry fee and then can drink as much as you want of any of all of a variety of wines. Ted’s in the netherlands, so I went alone – a friend at work was planning to go, but couldn’t make it. It’s more fun going out with people, but it’s often more interesting going out alone – you’re much more likely to talk to new people.
Things I learned: from the work-friend, who knows that area better than I do, that Wellman’s is right near it – that’s a store that sells US brands of food. It’s apparently largely junk food and prepackaged crap (the sort of crap expats might crave, like Kraft Mac’n'Cheese) but they also sell turkeys at Thanksgiving. I’m not much into Spam or Cheez Whiz and even if I wanted Doritos the local supermarket carries them, but I think I’ll check it out next week since I have a party nearby. You never know; maybe they have good pretzels. Or Luna Bars.
From a bunch of women I was talking to at the wine tasting, I learned something very important. I’d known Australia was very strict about sharp implements on planes – I’ve taken my knitting on planes all over the world, but I won’t be able to take it when we fly there next month. (I will put it in checked luggage, so I can knit at the regatta.) What I didn’t know was that they also don’t allow any food to be brought into the country, even in sealed packages. So we can’t take our Powerbars or have our US friends bring any. Hopefully we’ll be able to find some reasonable substitute there. (Eating local food is part of the experience while traveling, yes, but it’s not really something you want to do while you’re competing.) The women I was talking to all knew each other – people who don’t work and who are motivated to get out and get involved do seem to be able to make other expat friends more easily! Our problems with meeting people are that the majority of our Taiwanese coworkers live close to work, not in Taipei, and most of the expats at work are Dutch. We do hang out with some of them, but they tend, understandably, to socialize most often with other Dutch people or through the Dutch club.
Today I went to Ximending, in quest of a shop for embroidered and beaded shoes someone at work told me about. She gave me a map. but it was only in Chinese, and I wanted to walk around a bit anyway. I started at the Red House, an old theater that’s now an artisan’s market (and is apparently the city’s center for gay nightlife –
I’d been told a while back that the gay clubs were all in a plaza, but didn’t know where it was until I looked up the Red House just now! It was quiet in the day time, but some of the shops were interesting – I bought some earrings with handmade glass drops. The rest of Ximending was already buzzing by afternoon, though! Most people there were under twenty, and most of the shops weren’t all that unique, other than at the Red House – it reminded me of Copenhagen’s shopping pedestrian area, actually. I eventually found the shoe plae, and learned that its current proprietor is the third generation to run it. I bought machine-made shoes, under US$20 a pop, but am regretting now I didn’t buy some of the handmade ones. There were only a few, because apparently there are very few craftsmen left who can make them; even so, the handmade ones were under US$100. (Sorry, I will not be bringing shoes back as presents for family; I was able to find shoes that fit, but I don’t think they had any bigger than my size 8s.)
Next I went to the Breeze Center, a very high-end shopping center (as in, Cartier and YSL on their “luxury” floor, though other floors are more affordable) in hopes that I’d be able to find some of the varied stuff on my shopping list, but the crafts store failed me, the clothing stores didn’t seem to have any belts, and the bookstore was closed. At least I got the housewares I needed. Taipei shopping is organized by regions, so I will have to go to the “DIY street” to find my craft stuff. (If I’m very lucky I can find a belt to fit in my local mall and the bookstore there will have the map I need.)
Edited to add: I thought there was an earthquake while I was typing this entry!