Ah man. That’s pretty much sums up my first three days in Taiwan. It’s been quite the experience and the more time I spend here the more excited I get about being here. The first full day (Wednesday for me) I went to the Chinese Medical University and got bombarded with Chinese, Taiyu (native dialect of Taiwan) and Chinese Medicine. I finalized my schedule for my internship and was shown around the hospital. That was the first day of a three part hospital observation period called “can guan” [I’d write it in Chinese but for some reason my computer is having issues with me trying to type in it]. That first day I felt like crawling into a corner. I spoke Chinese at the pace of a snail and I couldn’t get my point across. There were also a lot of medical terms that I’ve never heard before. I found out EVERYONE here speaks at least a little bit of English. Especially people who’ve made it to become a doctor…their English is really good. So once people found out I’m from America and once they’ve heard how well I speak Chinese…they talk to me in English. Mighty embarrassing I should say.
My head started hurting from trying to process all the Chinese that was thrown at me and I was exhausted when it hit 4pm. After leaving the hospital, I went on a little adventure trying to find notebooks and such because I decided not to pack those. I ended up at a large department store which was more like a mall stuffed into a big building. Eventually I needed to go to be bathroom and when I found it I got excited because they were individual cylindrical stalls with Coca-Cola advertising them. That’s awesome! I thought…until I opened the stall and found myself looking at a hole in the ground. It was a toilet. The squatting kind. Never have I regretted not paying attention in class more. I forget which class it was but the teacher showed us a slide in passing on how to use the toilets in China as a joke and I thought to myself “I’ll read it later.” I’m just proud that I didn’t fall over or leave the bathroom with wet pants. I tried looking for instructions but all they had on the wall was a picture of the toilet and some thingymajig with eyes and hair that had big red “X” over it. I couldn’t figure out what it meant. Did it mean don’t put your children in the hole in the floor or did it mean you shouldn’t do number 2 in that type of toilet? The thingymajig was brown, but it definitely had eyes and hair. This is the problem with making everything cute. You can’t tell what it’s supposed to be.
After that little adventure, I proceeded to get lost using the public transit here. Taichung is like Chinatown but far more crowded and far more confusing. There are shops everywhere and their signs are all on top of each other. There are no distinct marks for crosswalks, for parking, and for bus stops. I’m going to upload photos soon for you guys to see what I’m talking about. Most everyone rides a motorcycle (more like a scooter type thing) and no strict attention is paid to the traffic lights. It can get pretty dangerous here because the rule seems to be: If the streets are clear, it’s a green light. Sidewalks are nonexistent and so it’s always an adventure walking anywhere.
The second day I got lost maybe half a dozen times. From the bus stop it only takes about 5 minutes to get to where I’m staying but it took me 30-45 minutes to find the right way to go. It happened to be around 7pm and rush hour so the amount of motorcyclists grew to twice the normal amount and it was dark which made everything more confusing.
There are 7-Elevens all over the place. No, they don’t sell slurpees. They call the store “Seven” without the eleven and you can buy the bus card from there. The bus is free as long as where ever you’re going is within 8km. Further than 8 km, you pay per km like a taxi. Although, there’s nothing preventing you from getting off before the 8 km and then getting on again. If you have time, that is.
The people on the motorcycles are all very interesting. Because it is such a common thing here in Taiwan you see grandmas, grandpas, mothers, businessmen, and of course young adults.
Friday morning, I tried to go out and buy my own food. I went up to a random shop and asked what they had. The lady looked at me and pointed at the menu on the wall and said “It’s all here… take a look. Just choose one.”Pause. “Oh. I’ll just buy this sandwich here then.” I guess I look the part enough for people to assume I know Chinese. Not even just that though. Taiyu is so common here and everyone knows it, so people have come up to me randomly and rattle off stuff in Taiyu and I kind of just smile and nod. The science museum just started a new exhibition on the aborigine tribes in Taiwan. I was only able to see a couple of them and I forgot my camera. But I plan to go back. To wrap up my week, I went to the famed Night Market which was as crazy as it was described to me. I’ll leave details and pictures to another time. Taiwan is pretty sweet so far and everyone is really nice. There has been so much I’ve experienced already… it’s hard to get it all down.
Tomorrow (Sunday) my plans are to go to the CMU TCM International Symposium and Monday I start TCM classes and my rotations at the Herbal Pharmacy.
Stay tuned for more Taiwan Craziness!