Sometimes its the smaller details that wear you out or cheer you up. Fortunately, I can report a reasonable mixture of both, which weigh on the side of feeling rather at peace with life right now. Or it could be the malaise of the fever, in which case that even can’t be rated as totally negative either! How’s that for optimism?
After weeks of waiting for my sewing machines to arrive and for the work table to be delivered, I finally began working on simple additions to the girls’ limited wardrobes. I was having fun altering patterns and doing some impromptu simple embroidery work on a collar. I had managed to throw in Carlie’s and Natalie’s latest sewing projects at the last minute of packing, so Carlie took some initiative to make progress on that. The short story is that she somehow got the thread tangled in a way that I have never seen before in 35 years of sewing, and while I was trying to GENTLY disengage it, a spring dropped from the upper casement of my machine. Sigh. I couldn’t see how to put it back. Greg said he would have to buy many dollars worth of tools just to get into the machine and then wasn’t sure if he would know what to do. So, I once again ventured to explore the realms of Taiwanese shops.
I looked up authorized dealers for my brand and located one in central Taipei about a 30 minute taxi ride away. So far so good. I called and recognized the standard Mandarin greeting. When I asked if they spoke English, they replied, “little,” in just one word, which really means they only speak a few isolated words. I attempted to ask if they repair sewing machines. They repeated a couple of words back that I understood, added several things in Chinese, and I tried to answer. I know they have a business to run and don’t have time to teach me Chinese over the phone, but it was disappointing when they hung up on me. I wasn’t done trying yet. Oh, well.
After some thinking, I remembered the Community Center full of helpful people and called them. One of the ladies that speaks Mandarin made some calls, looked through their contacts, and wrote down an address in Chinese characters for a taxi driver. It can make one feel a bit helpless and dependent, but at least they are there, because I may be just that in many cases. I also asked her to give me an idea of where it is on the map because I like to have an idea of where the taxi should be going now that I am getting my bearing in my general part of town. So today I was able to take the machine in to the shop. They will have to send it away and will call me in about a week. Meanwhile I have crocheting or embroidery. Those use much simpler tools. (below – the collar for Carlie’s dress IS done.)
The day before yesterday I finally found flour packaged in bags larger than 5 cups. A new friend that I have met through another group (she has lived here 10 years) went out of her way to find the shop for me and handed me a business care that was purely Chinese characters. Once again, I was supposed to hand it to a taxi driver and he would just take me there. When he stopped, I could tell he was asking if this was the correct location, but since even the signs were in characters and I hadn’t been there before I shrugged my shoulders and said, “I don’t know,” getting no indication that he understood me. So I just paid him and got out. One shop looked hopeful from what I could see in the windows. I proceeded in and was presented with the best cache of baking ingredients that I have seen so far. That shop keeper spoke enough English such that with the packages in front of us, she could understand what I was asking. I came home with a good sized package of yeast, two larger bags of flour, shortening (which I have not seen anywhere), among other thing. And I window shopped through the rest of their shelves. I will definitely be going back there. I didn’t get the largest sack of flour because I am still learning how things store around here and the cost difference was not great enough to make up for potential rapid spoilage.
One of the most fun parts of my week came when I successfully hailed a taxi for the ride home. When I got in, I let go of my linguistic inhibitions and sung out my street name with all the intonations that I have heard the taxi drivers say when they finally understand the written address that the realtors gave me, which I have been relying on up until now. The driver started talking to me rapidly in Mandarin and smiling in a very conversational way. I must have done something right! However, the most I could answer was, “dui, dui,” (correct) when he got me to the right place. My grandpa was a taxi drive and I feel like I should know them all and be able to visit. Maybe I’ll be able to a little in a few months. Our Mandarin lessons finally begin this Friday.
One disappoint this week occurred when I tried to hang pictures. We had shipped over just a hand full of family photos and a couple of other framed prints to make us feel more at home. There was some frustration because the landlords (who are very nice in attending to all concerns, but don’t speak English, so we have to always communicate through our realtors) didn’t want us to put nails in the walls. They have a type of hanging rail in both the living room and the hall, but I have searched without success for something to let me use them. I finally asked if they could give me some clues. The answer was that I could go ahead and put nails in the walls. I don’t think they meant it to be a cruel joke, but the walls ended up being cement board. I have several bent nails and a place where the paint has been chipped of to prove it. Well, now I know how fire proof the place is. After a little breather from the problem, I’ll probably try something else.
Yesterday morning we finally made it to the local elementary school to use the track before the school kids got there. It is open to the public before 7 AM and after 6 PM. When I had tried to take my kids earlier in the week, we were “told” by someone else entering the grounds that we couldn’t go into the complex. All schools that I have seen here are large, multi-level structures with a combination thick iron and stonework fences only accessible through secure gates. Our realtors verified things for us (called the principal!) and we went even earlier this time and had a good 2 mile run. There were about 3 other Chinese gentlemen there for their morning exercise. The track was on the small side, but it offers a close location which doesn’t involve dodging cars in sections of the path. Its still very warm (85 and humid) at 6 AM and I have decided that I shouldn’t wear dark pink shirts. That is the color my face has always turned when I get warm and wearing a shirt the same color seems to exaggerate it and concern a lot of people.
Did I end on a positive note? Or at least give an overall positive sense of things? I’m going to add a couple of extra pictures at the end here: The first will be my new iron. As I have mentioned to some people, we find it humorous that the User’s Manual is so labeled in bold print in English, but there is no other English to be found in it. There may have been some irons in the store with English words on them, but they were much more expensive, so I figured I could manage this. It does work. Then there is the entry intercom. It took us a while to figure that out because we don’t get a lot of visitors. We finally experimented with it and now know which button opens the 2 security gates at the apartment entrance. We also hear the trash trucks announced over this 5 nights a week with their music box version of “Fur Elise.” Lastly is my washing machine. It was already in the apartment and was offered to me with the explanation that the landlady had just bought it and thought it was an excellent machine. I decided that having the control panel in Chinese characters would just help me with my language study, which it has. But I must admit that the landlord’s son gave us a decent translation. It has it some minor difficulties, but also serves to help me gain some insight into how they translate some concepts, like the symbol ‘location’ for water ‘level.’ I was able to look that up in the dictionary that I brought.
Ta Ta for now!