Monday, November 06, 2006


A Simpler Life

Is a boring update really an update at all?

My IBM Thinkpad is seriously ill, ill enough that it can't hoist me onto the internet. Thus it's back to the internet cafes for me.

While it was fun to break exactly 7 laws just by going to buy a newspaper, I have given back the scooter I was borrowing from a friend who was temporarily back in Canada in September and October for 5 weeks or so.

This has been my experience in Taichung. For more than a year now, there has always been a scooter to borrow from somebody. For most of last year I was borrowing my boss's scooter in order to make the strangely-routed 25 minute commute out into the burbs (Taiping) where his language school was running.

After I quit that job, a friend of mine who worked at another branch of the same franchise also finished his contract and decided to go back to Canada, so I borrowed his scooter for that period with an agreement that I would make a few fixes and keep the oil fresh. I drove that scooter well. One time I drove 170 kms in a weekend, no small feat given that the scooter's only a 125CC and Taiwan really isn't very big at all. All in all I drove 1400 kms in 5 weeks, breaking exactly 7 laws the whole time. Heck, I've been doing that on a regular basis for the past year.

Last Friday, to my surprise, suddenly there was none, not a single two-wheeled thunder machine worth riding, from anyone anywhere. Perhaps it's just that I don't want to ride a small, shitty, dangerous scooter. As luck would have it, one exactly like that is available, but it hasn't got registration papers, so I guess that would be breaking 8 or 9 laws if I bought it for cheap and rode it. This is in addition to it being dangerous and hard to fix since it's a rare brand for Taiwan ("PGO").

Keep in mind that Taichung has NO rapid transit whatsoever. It's quickly becoming like Taipei was in the 70s, before the MRT was built. Oddly enough, in 2006 Taipei is starting to get terrible once again, because even though it has a very efficient rapid transit system, the rest of the island's cities (even Taichung, a big city) receive almost no money for investment and infrastructure because hey, who gives a shit about anything that isn't Taipei?

The result is that an efficient city like Taipei starts to feel cramped and stressful once again, because nobody has any stimulus to move away. Anybody who's important needs to reside in Taipei. This mindset will take a long time to change. In the meantime, I'll enjoy the more relaxed lifestyle in Taichung (better weather, a little more space, cheap great food), a good combination of economic opportunity and chilled lifestyle.

Since I'm scooterless, I have to commute to my second, more distant YMCA branch by walking and bus, which I did for the first time yesterday. It wasn't as bad as I thought. Without waking up earlier for my 9AM class (Mon. Wed. Fri.) than I did when I had a scooter, I had coffee and toast at a downtown coffee gallery after a 5-minute walk, 10-minute bus ride and another 5-minute walk. 10 minutes of walking after finishing 15 minutes of breakfast, I was at work. November weather makes for good walking here. So after a leisurely 45-minute breakfast and commute, I'm at work relaxed and refreshed. On a scooter, the commute takes all of 12 minutes, but it bugs me out. Okay, sometimes it even gives me the shits.

Walking is a surprisingly comfortable and natural activity that isn't necessary at all if you have a scooter in Taichung. I don't have a laptop either, so I find myself having more time to read a book I got from my grandparents (who came to visit me on a cruise ship), listen to music CDs I bought on my return commute through a shopping district (no laptop, no mp3s), and relax more even though I'm actually working more too. Who would have thought it?

Onwards! The portion of my student loans that have interest looks to be paid off by the end of March, no small feat when you make about $19000 CAD/year. Whoooo! Go Lingustics degree!

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