July 7, 2015
As a foreign student, I found adapting to life in Taipei to be fairly easy. Oh, hello, reliable metro system with clear announcements and signage in English. Hey there, endless supply of cheap eats. Wattup, low crime rates. Thank you, 7-Eleven on every other block, open 24 hours every day, instantly fulfilling my every wish and desire, our eternal bond sealed with a blood oath that I shall chant while dragging you with me into the afterlife.
But there are plenty of things I wouldn't have minded knowing before moving there. Where do I put the toilet paper? How do I garbage? Wait, I don't have to tip anyone? What's up with all these cafe cats? OMG STAMPS EVERYWHERE, OMG OMGGGGUUHH.
So to help out those of you who plan to travel to or live in Taipei, and to give non-visitors a little glimpse of the fabulous* Taipei life you're not living, here are some random tips from a total non-expert's point of view about living in Taipei—local customs, habits, and resources you might not be familiar with, written from the perspective of an American who lived most of her adult life in New York City. People moving to other parts of Taiwan may also find useful information here, although I don't know how local regulations differ in other cities. If you have corrections or more suggestions, please let me know!
Posted by roboppy at 6:47 PM |
June 20, 2015
Last Monday night, as soon as I stepped off the airplane into the jetway at JFK Airport, a cloud of pressure swelled behind my eyes, driblets of despair juice threatening to spill out. It's over. You don't live in Taipei anymore. Sorry, America. I don't step foot on your soil for over nine months—the longest I've ever spared you of my presence—and this is the loving embrace you get.
I also felt like crying just after I boarded the plane in Taipei 16 hours earlier. And before then, while waiting in the security checkpoint line at the airport. And before then, when I was alone in my apartment, luggages fully packed to the point of hm-these-might-explode-on-the-plane-well-that's-a-risk-I'm-willing-to-take, with me sitting at the edge of the living room couch (green, fairly cushiony, standard IKEA) while staring blankly at the opposite wall (beige, flat, standard wall). I still had an hour before I had to leave for the airport, but I may as well have left then and there—the minutes drained away like seconds. All of that happened just in the afternoon before my flight back to the US. I won't delve into the week leading up to that flight. There was a good amount of stifled weepage, plus some real tears, most of which I sloppily wiped onto the clavicular region of my friends' shirts.
Posted by roboppy at 6:34 AM |
November 17, 2014
File under "things I forgot to mention earlier because Mandarin is chipping away at my brain meats": I'm going on a trip to Seoul with Kåre in a week, from November 23 to 30. I haven't done much planning because of the aforementioned loss of brain meats, but at the very least we have a place to stay (near Samgakji station). If anybody out there wants to grab a bite with Kåre and me while we're in Seoul, please let me know! Surely you want to experience our awkwardness in real life!!! :D And if anybody has recommendations for what we should eat or do in Seoul, I'd love to hear 'em. Please leave a comment below or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One important note: I can't eat spicy food. I like spicy food, but my immune system does not. It's like how one special toy can send a puppy into spastic fits of excitement. Spicy food is the special toy that sends my immune system into spastic fits of trying to kill me.
Posted by roboppy at 3:14 AM |
November 10, 2014
Last week I hit the "Feeling Demoralized Because I Can't Speak More Mandarin Despite Learning It For the Last Two Months" stage of being a beginner at MTC in Taipei. On one hand, it's only been two months. If I had actually reached a modicum of fluency after two months, you would have to assume that someone killed Real Robyn and for reasons unknown went through the trouble to replace her with Impossibly Lifelike and Smarter Robot Robyn (aka Boppy-Bot), because that's the only reasonable explanation. On the other hand, I go to class for three hours every weekday and study for three to four hours almost every day (...in theory), I'm immersed in a Mandarin-speaking environment, and I don't have a job. My main responsibilities are feeding myself, maintaining an acceptable level of hygiene, taking out the garbage, and not failing class. You know, my single class. So I probably should be better at speaking Mandarin by now. Excuse me...[gathers jug of gasoline, a bag of bricks, and twine]
JUUUUST KIDDDING I wasn't about to burn all my belongings or throw myself into the river to rid the world of my failure, hahaaa, never! I'll just hurl myself through the air.
...By biking. I do that now. Very minimally. Slicing through the air helps clear my mind and give me respite from the subject of "HOW TO CHINESE???" I attribute biking's restorative powers of distraction to my ever-present fear that I'll collide with someone/something and spill a significant amount of blood, all while being hugged by a pleasantly cool breeze. So last Wednesday I made a lap around Da'an Park (you can't bike in the park, fffffuuu) before heading down to Picnic for a solitary study session.
The following night, I settled in at my favorite cafe, Cafe Kuroshio, for another solitary study night. I was still feeling a bit dumpy, even though I have no reason to feel dumpy, the realization of which only adds to the dumpy feelings. Remember, I have hardly any responsibilities—I just have to not die, pretty much. After two and a half hours of doing homework, the cafe's owner, Jing, comes by and places a dessert on my table.
Posted by roboppy at 5:15 AM |
August 27, 2014
I'm not one to demand recognition for my accomplishments, but there is one prize I deserve with utmost fanfare (a nice horn quartet ought to do it). That prize is an oversized gold chalice engraved with "Most Easily Surprised by Surprise Birthday Parties." Under that in a smaller font, "It's Crazy, She Just Never Sees Them Coming!" Under that in a smaller font, "How Did She Make It This Far in Life?"
Here's what I've learned over the last five years of being surprised/fooled by friends in New York City. This isn't a handy-dandy universal guide that lists all the steps by any means; there are other resources for that. It's not rocket science, nor a less impressive science. I'm just sharing my experiences to give people ideas. Use this knowledge wisely on your most unsuspecting friend who enjoys being surprised. You might make her feel like the luckiest person on earth to be blessed with such a thoughtful circle of friends...and after a few years, fill her with self doubt about her ability to think critically about anything.
In this post I refer to the surprisee as a woman because I have lady parts. But you can also surprise guys. It works on them too, probably.
Hijack the Birthday Plans Your Friend Has Already Made
Instead of planning a surprise party from square one, it might be easier and less suspicious to tack the surprise onto plans the birthday girl already made, if her plans are easily malleable. I've been that girl multiple times. I LEARN NOTHING.
Posted by roboppy at 2:24 AM |
July 10, 2014
When I visit a new city, I like to glom onto a good, local friend (like a human lamprey but without the jawless mouth hole full of pointy teeth and nightmares) who can take me around the city and show me the best places to eat, shop, and look at important historical stuff, all while filling me in on interesting facts and details about what we're eating and looking at, all while having fun, all while retaining positive feelings about me and the future of our friendship after the day is over even though I drained them of all their energy and they're sick of looking at my face.
Posted by roboppy at 1:52 AM |
June 7, 2014
Late last Friday at the Serious Eats office, I gathered up all my remaining personal belongings—books and pictures, mostly—and left my set of office keys on my desk before heading home. While waiting for the subway, I realized, "Oh crap, I forgot my leftover pasta in the fridge. The pasta I wanted to eat for lunch tomorrow." On any other day I could've walked back to the office for the pasta, but for the first time in seven years, I couldn't go back. No one else was in the office, and the door was locked. The forsaken pasta bummed me out (it was from Osteria Morini; you'd be bummed, too), but more saddening was accepting that the office was no longer my home away from home.
I've spent the last week trying to figure out how to do justice to my seven-year tenure at Serious Eats using the power of the keyboard-tapped word. (I wrote a bit about it in last week's This Week at Serious Eats World Headquarters, and Ed wrote me a farewell post last Monday. I'm really pulling up the rear now.) But after many stretches of staring blankly at my laptop screen alternated with staring blankly out my bedroom window, underscored by my internal soundtrack of a drawn-out "bbbbbbeeeeeeeeeuuhhhhhh" (imagine Hypnotoad with roiling indigestion), I've decided there's no way I can do it justice. Somewhere deep in my brain meats is a pile of useful words getting flaccid and crusty in their stagnancy, like a sloppily stacked, ever-growing tower of forgotten luncheon meat. ...So now that I've accepted that, I can write this overdue post.
Posted by roboppy at 11:55 PM |
May 19, 2014
Q: How do you make Japanese curry taste even better?
A: [Invoking the manic spirit of Craig] YOU CAN'T, IT'S PERFECT, HOW DARE YOU SUGGEST OTHERWISE.
B: Add more curry.
C: Stick it in a casserole, top it with a raw egg and grated cheese, and bake it until the egg is set and the cheese is gooey and crisp.
It's a trick question, because all of these answers are correct. ...But especially C. Just look at this thing:
This is the baked curry from Curry-Ya in the East Village. Before I tried the baked curry, I thought of Curry-Ya as the place to go to if I wanted to ladle Japanese curry out of my own personal cast-iron pot onto my rice/meat however I please. This desire rarely presents itself. As much as I love being the master of a mini ladle—don't we all?—I'm quite content with eating curry that is already portioned out as a brown pool touching a mound of rice.
It wasn't until this past February when my friend Christine shared her baked curry with me that I found the real draw of Curry-Ya. For an extra $3.50, Curry-Ya will top your curry and rice with shredded cheddar cheese and a raw egg and bake it all into a mini-casserole of gooey-and-crisp, cheesy, eggy goodness. It goes a little something like this:
Posted by roboppy at 1:31 AM |