My Days in Taiwan (Part 2)

Attachment is the source of all suffering.

Buddha

During the third day of my trip to Taiwan, I continued to spend time with Amanda, Simon, and Becky (Amanda’s mother).

Like I mentioned in my previous blog post, Amanda and Simon are my old friends from graduate school. They are leaving Taiwan on June 14th in order to move to the USA — Simon’s immigration paperwork was processed recently. In order to get the paperwork started years ago, they got married legally but never had a Taiwanese wedding ceremony. Now, Simon’s family wants them to have a wedding ceremony so that his family and friends can lavish the couple with red envelopes before they leave Taiwan. Hence, Amanda’s mom is here at the same time as me in order to attend this wedding. I will not be able to attend the wedding, however, since I needed to be back in Doha to teach on Sunday the 9th — the day of their ceremony in southern Taiwan. But…

On the last day of classes before my flight to Taiwan, as I was trying to complete 60 mock job interviews, several of the students were telling me that the Amir was declaring another day off after Eid. Instead of having just Sunday off, we were all getting Monday off too; I later confirmed this with our Head of Department. He said that this was declared at the government level, but our university still had to send out an official email notifying the summer teaching staff. Had I known about this a month ago when I was booking my ticket, I could have extended my stay in Taiwan by one day, attended Amanda and Simon’s wedding, and flown back to Doha to resume teaching my summer course. Unfortunately, that’s life in Doha!

Still, despite getting ready to move, preparing for a wedding, and hosting a parent, when I told Amanda that I was planning on visiting Taiwan, she was adamant that I stay with her and Simon in their studio apartment — though she warned me ahead of time in a carefully prepared pros and cons list detailing what was in store for me. Here’s what she wrote:

Since we last spoke, we figured out that we’ll be in our apartment through 6/2. We’ll leave 6/3 to go down south to visit Simon’s family and get ready for the wedding.

I totally think it’d be fun for the four of us to stay together in Taipei, but I do want you to know what you’d be getting into so you won’t be disappointed by the accommodation or location. This should help you make a decision:

Pros:

  • Great company
  • 10 min walk to Zhuwei MRT (end of red line)
  • Access to gym and indoor pool
  • Beautiful view of Tamsui Harbor from our windows
  • Close to Tamsui (end of red line; see map)

Cons:

  • Studio no privacy (no bedrooms; space is about the size of a hotel room with a loft and one bathroom)
  • 45 min to Taipei Main station and 1 hour to downtown by MRT
  • No cable (we think we have to return our box that Fri 5/31) but there is Wi-Fi in the lobby and we can tether a hot-spot using our phones
  • Someone snores

When it comes to traveling and lodging, I am pretty easy going: I would rather spend money on nice meals than plush accommodations. So, when I book lodgings for my trips, I usually opt for an inexpensive Airbnb in a good location in whatever city I am visiting. Often times, my accommodation are just a bed in a room. I don’t need a flat or apartment to myself. And, if I’m traveling with my sons, I don’t even need a bed to myself. I will share a bed with one of them, or any of my hosts, honestly. It might be funny someday to sleep like the old folks a la Willy Wonka at one of my future Airbnbs.

Image source

Besides, the main impetus of this trip was to visit friends in their element, so enduring a little of inconvenience in order to spend more quality time with Amanda and Simon was well worth the trade off. And, as Amanda promised, the pros and cons from her list did manifest, but I saw them all as pros.

For example, in regards to Amanda’s first con, “Studio no privacy [sic]”: technically, the apartment is a studio, but the space is bisected with second floor where Simon and Amanda have their bedroom. The ceiling is less than one foot above my head. Still, on the last night of their stay in the apartment, I had the living room couch all to myself while Amanda, Simon, and Becky slept “upstairs.”

In regards to con number two, “45 min to Taipei Main station and 1 hour to downtown by MRT”: yes, the apartment is quite a bit aways from downtown Taipei. However, in the short time that I have been in Taiwan, I have explored several different modes of transportation: scooter, taxi, train, and bus. This has allowed me a glimpse into everyday life in Taipei. Additionally, I didn’t realize my Huawei P30 Pro tracked my steps, and after the first day of constantly walking everywhere, my phone congratulated me on reaching 10,000 steps. Another perk to being far away from everything.

In regards to con number three, “No cable (we think we have to return our box that Fri 5/31) but there is Wi-Fi in the lobby and we can tether a hot-spot using our phones”: this con was patently untrue. Becky and I watched episodes of HGTV’s Property Brothers while Amanda and Simon went through their belongings. Also, I am currently using the last embers of their Wi-Fi to write this blog post.

Finally, in regards to con number four, “Someone snores”: I regard this less as a vague warning and more as a philosophical nugget of wisdom — it is almost Buddhist in the way that it posits human suffering intertwined into the nature of hospitality. After all, maybe someone in the host’s home is the someone who snores, or maybe you, the guest, is the someone who snores. Either way, discomfort and alienation are unavoidable byproducts of any human visit. I see this fourth con as Amanda trying to teach a deeper lesson about humanity and will meditate on this truth. Ooommm.

After my time in Taipei, I will meet up with a former student and make my way to southern Taiwan. I will meet Amanda and Simon again down there, and we will all spend time in Kenting before I spend one day in Taroko National Park and fly out the next day from Taipei. Until then, here are some pictures from day three of my time in Taiwan.

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