Saturday, May 28, 2011

The employee has no desire to bite through your vertebrae and gorge on your entrails.

So we have spent exactly one month in Taiwan and we have lived through one earthquake, two typhoons and two supposed apocalypses... ha! The earthquake was 5.1 with the epi-centre a fair ways away from Taipei. The two typhoons passed by the island only causing a little wind, rain, and pressure fluctuations which gave us both 36-hour headaches. As for the two apocalypses, well, the 14 magnitude earthquake and 175 meter high tsunami didn’t happen as “Teacher Wang” predicted and Harold Camping also seemed to have gotten his dates wrong. Mr. Camping has fessed up to having miscalculated the date of the apocalypse (what a klutz!!) and he has now issued a revised schedule that would have the rapture occur on October 21st. He really is very sure of himself this time, so be sure to mark the date in your diary... IN PEN!!!!

Amanda mentioned in an earlier post how when we went to a large grocery store the other day we were caught in a rainstorm, far from our hotel, and I’ve posted some pictures below which we took before we were caught in the storm.

Today we paid another visit to Carrefour, the large grocery chain. We stocked up on plenty of cleaning supplies in preparation for our move into the apartment and while there we took a few moments to marvel at the enormous section devoted to killing or managing various types of bugs. I sincerely hope I don’t have to spend too much time in that section, but I am relieved that I now know where to find these products!

While wandering through the store I couldn’t help but chuckle when I noticed that right in between the aisle that was stocked with cookies and chocolates and the aisle that was stocked with various crisps, chips and salty snacks, there was an aisle entirely dedicated to seaweed products. I particularly like this store because the aisles are labeled in Chinese characters AND English, and this aisle was in fact labeled “Seaweed”. I love stumbling on these little curios that take me by surprise. I must say, some of the snacks looked pretty tasty and I’m sure I’m going to try some once we start doing serious grocery shopping.

One last observation about grocery / department stores and then I will move on. There are SO MANY EMPLOYEES, certainly by comparison to Canada. Back home when I needed assistance at a store it would usually require some mental and physical preparation, breathing exercises, anything to prepare oneself for the infuriatingly futile quest that you were about to embark upon. Even if you manage to happen upon store “help” there’s still a 50/50 chance that you will find an unwilling, unknowledgeable, unhelpful individual whose only interest is in dismissing you at the earliest opportunity. Okay, that might be a slight exaggeration for comparative purposes. In Taiwan stores, and especially department stores, it is difficult to walk ten feet without meeting an employee that will eagerly watch you just as a lioness stalks a thompson gazelle but here the employee has no desire to bite through your vertebrae and gorge on your entrails, more than anything they just want for you to pass them a glance that in the time old art of “buyer-seller non-verbal communication” means “I need your assistance” and thus validates their job and in that limited context, their very existence.

Note to readers: I suspected and my editor, Amanda, confirms that I may have gone too far with the above narrative... but I stand by it.

We had two encounters with choreographed dancing in public today. The first was shortly after leaving the hotel today when we walked by a large open square in front of one of the big local malls. A large elevated stage was set up with covered seating in front and from what we could tell there was some kind of amateur group dance contest taking place. Several groups of kids in their teens were taking turns putting on their own choreographed dance routine to a set of songs that they seemed to have prepared in advance. At the very end of the day as we were walking through a city park we came across an elderly group of seven individuals dancing in the dark along to a boom box that was playing what seemed to be nineties techno-pop. 

Today was one of the few days we’ve ventured out without any cameras and I feel bad that we missed being able to document either of these choreographed moments, one starring the very young and the other starring the very old... but young at heart. Seriously, who doesn’t like choreographed dancing?!?.

Zuoying Train Station in the distance. This is where the high speed train comes in from the north.
The Love River
Dragon Boats on the Love River. The Dragon Boat Festival will begin next week.
By the Love River
By the Love River
I love all the extremely narrow but tall building we come across.
This one seemed to be a temple / shrine.

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