This is our apartment building in Teimu, Taipei, Taiwan. I don’t have a vehicle and am going to be learning how to get around in subways, buses, and taxis.
Costco Via Taxi
I have now shopped at Costco using only taxi service. This is how it works:
- You go out to the road and raise your arm above your head.
- Within 5 seconds you are in a taxi showing the driver the pre-printed, laminated translator card that shows them in Chinese symbols where you want to go. Only 12 year old Carlie went with me this time, since I wasn’t sure where the groceries, et al, were going to be traveling. Our driver was a lady who didn’t speak any English, but was happy to help me practice saying the road names in Chinese correctly. I also learned the word for tunnel, but am not sure I remember it right now. Think sensory overload. I have studied the map quite a bit since we’ve been here, and with all of our walking around and getting lost, I finally am getting a sense of where I am. Not that I could tell you how to get there, mind you. But I could probably get home.
- It takes about 20 minutes of driving to get to Costco, so I don’t think I’ll be walking there, but I still have a fairly good idea of where it is. It was nice to have a sense of that while in the car with someone I didn’t know who only spoke a language I don’t. I did know enough to say, “hen hao!” (very good) and, “xie, xie” (thank you) when we arrived with the enthusiasm that I felt at having made it that far successfully. The driver was all smiles and appreciative of my happiness as she let us out at the curb.
- The next step was remembering how to make it through the 2 story monstrosity. It turned out not to be too difficult because when you enter and show your card (my card from the US works here, too, yeah!) the only thing to do is go up the escalator…. with your shopping cart. This is the style of flat shopping cart friendly escalator that we have seen in several places around here. There is something going on between the wheels and the moving belt that keeps the cart from rolling anywhere. In Costco, there is a helpful employee at the end to make sure you can get the cart off without difficulty.
The top story offered the household, clothing, books, etc . We found and bought a Taiwan edition Monopoly game which the kids are learning to use right now. It has Chinese symbols and English directions. There are credit cards and a reader instead of paper money. The properties and issues are Taiwanese. They have to play using New Taiwanese Dollars, which are roughly NT$ 30/$1 US. I also bought Aesop’s Fables in Chinese and a Children’s Encyclopedia.
Since this was my first time, I wasn’t sure how the taxi connection home was going to go, so I was trying to limit what I bought. We did get wonderful things such as bagels, tortillas, cheddar cheese, normal looking chicken, chocolate chips, and vanilla. I won’t give you my whole list, but you get the gist of it. It was a hidden treasure to us. While touring the meat section, a blonde woman caught my eye and told me, in English, that she was looking for Italian sausage, with a hopeful expression’ I told her, no, I was just learning my way around. She also had only been there about 3 weeks. She doesn’t live far from us here in Teinmu, near Hagen Daaz, she said. So I told her maybe I’d see her there. I wanted to get home before the air raid drill.
I entered the check-out line with some apprehension, wondering how far I was going to have to carry all of this before I got a taxi. But I got too busy to worry about it for very long. The bagels were 2 (pkgs) for 1 and I would still have to pay the same price if I only took the one that we had. So I left Carlie at the check-out helping to bag our groceries, which were still being scanned, and jogged to the back of the store to get my other bag of bagels. I felt a little conspicuous, as no one else was jogging, but the lady handing out samples in back responded in English when I told her in English, “2 for 1” as I passed by. She laughed. I showed up with my bagels before they were finished with my load, so didn’t hold anyone up, which I think is a cardinal sin around here.
Carlie and the bagger, who was a cute, elderly little Chinese lady, were almost done putting everything in the four big bright red bags that I had been told (by the Community Center support) to pick up at the beginning of the check-out conveyer. They cost me about $2 US a piece, but I will probably remember to take them every time I go to Costco, or for any other shopping. They are a heavy canvas-like plastic with the Costco logo on them. Our name will go on them, too. They and a few larger items went back in the shopping cart and Carlie and I proceeded to the exit.
I could see the taxis lined up along side the road before our receipt was examined at the door, but I couldn’t tell if I could get the cart down there. Again, it turned out to be as easy as pouring water out of a glass. As I approached the sidewalk, a group of about 4 taxi drivers approached us, but it wasn’t to fight over us. One of them asked, “taxi?” and the split second I said yes, they all commandeered my cart, loaded everything into the trunk, and ushered us into the car. I lingered a moment to see things go into the car. As they were quickly loading things, you could tell they were still trying to see what they could see. One of the turned to me with a big smile and announced, “American?!” to which I smiled and said yes.
The driver who took us home looked like he may have been Filipino, but he didn’t speak English either. He could read the Chinese symbols of our address that had been written by the lady at the Community Center. (You can see why I love my new Community Center friends.) He drove faster than the first taxi driver, but we arrived safely and without white knuckles. Carlie and I sat in the back and casually discussed our shopping experience.
He took us right to our gate, which is only a few feet from the elevator. Our watchman/maintenance man, whom we affectionately refer to as Uncle Huang, like we were told to, was at the gate and loading the haul on the elevator before I paid the taxi driver, who had helped unload the things to the front step. Uncle Huang took everything up the elevator, while Carlie and I went up the stairs. Uncle Huang is hard to say no to, and, no, he doesn’t speak English either. He is one of the smaller men that I have seen, even around here, but apparently quite strong in spite of his years.
Once on our floor, we all helped carry things into the kitchen, followed by many a “xie,xie” and “bye,bye.” “Bye, bye” is Chinese, in case you didn’t know. The kids and I enjoyed our peanut butter and jelly and are hanging out until the air raid drill is over. It is supposed to begin in about 10 minutes and no one is allowed on the streets during it. We’ll be watching from the window if allowed.
I’m still deciding what to do after that. I’ve been told about a cooking supply store just up the street and I still need some more pots and pans. There is also a smaller store that I’m told carries bags of flour larger than 3 cups. It is Greg’s and my 26th anniversary today, but he won’t be home until around 8 PM. We will do something interesting this weekend. How can we avoid it!?
We get the rest of our furniture tomorrow morning, but still haven’t heard when our shipment from home is being delivered. I have other interesting things to talk about, such as the gigantic fabric market that one of the ladies at the Community Center wants to take me to. There are the classes and tours that I’m evaluating for the kids and myself. Greg bought a book about hiking trails on Taiwan and he already has a good idea of the bike routes.
I believe the air raid drill has begun. Kind of eery sounding.