Yesterday I got a phone call from my new boss, "My name is Fantasy". She gave me directions to meet her in Sanshia to meet her. My phone is not the best quality, neither is her English, and my Chinese might as well be Greek, so I wasn't so confident in the directions that were given me. Something about 'take the Subway to Jingan stop, get out walk for 2 minutes, get on the 921 bus and take it to Dayi Lu and meet her on the BeiDa bridge at noon'.
Well, the 921 never came and I had to take a cab. I was nervous because I had no idea how far Sanshia was and did not know what the cab would cost me. When I asked the cabbie if he would take me there, he didn't seem too perturbed. I know what perturbed cabbies are like. Hail a taxi in Manhattan and tell the driver you are going to Queens. You'll know perturbed.
Pulled up at the address. Gave him 500 NTdollars (this was the hardest part of my day- the bus would have been 30NTD). Realized I was meeting her at the BeiDa "branch", not the BeiDa "bridge". I was 1/2 an hour late. She was very friendly, "I am Fantasy" and then indicating the other guy next to her in the same uniform "this is Neo". Neo is my other boss. I was given my schedule of classes. I'll be observing for the remainder of this week and begin teaching my own class on Tuesday. Fantasy and Neo, the CTs (Chinese Teachers) were both very keen on getting me set up in an apartment right away. They were ready take me around looking at places that day. They were really insisting and I thanked them and told them I would be glad of their help but first I wold like to see Sanshia before deciding if I would live there or somewhere else nearby. There was nothing for me to do until 4:30. That is when I would watch the other NS teacher (native speaker of English) conduct two classes and I could make my way back to Taipei at 9pm or so.
The other NS, Rebecca from Nova Scotia, was there when I arrived. She offered to walk me around a bit. I will be working at two different branches of the Hess school. They are maybe 2 miles apart, I don't think more than that. Probably less than that. I asked Rebecca to show me how to walk to the other branch and she obliged. Sanshia is not some backwater town.
Obviously it has seen a massive amount of recent construction. There were scores of posh highrise apartment buildings (though none higher than 25 stories). Most of them looked empty. The school is three floors tucked into a storefront of one of these buildings. This area was all very new and resembled Virginia Beach in winter with a spit shine and some gold leaf trim. The mountains are very close here. I'm sure I could walk to them. Looking north to on mountain side I could clearly make out the massive orange tiers of a temple. I don't know which it is but I would love to hike up to it.
Rebecca walked me across the town. She told me the population is about 50,000 people. She said about a mile from our work in the opposite direction is the BeiDa Campus of Taiwan University so there are a lot of students in that area. As we walked the city began to take on a different feel. We walked along the main street, MinQuan, and it was now lined with pragmatic shops, scooter shops, joe lunch-pail eateries, 7-11, OkMart, FamilyMart, and places that I couldn't determine the use of by their signs i.e. no pictures. The Sanshia river runs right through the down and to get to the other Hess branch we had to cross it. I saw three bridges, two specifically for traffic and one strictly for pedestrians. Some vendors had parked carts on the bridge and were selling red clay oolong tea pots as souveniers. Another vendor was selling a croissant shaped soft pretzel type thing topped with icecream. I liked the river. As I walked along it I passed a tasty looking thai Bahn mih shop. I'm going to get one tomorrow.
I have many good things to say about this town. I walked down "Old Street" which is a street that has been restored to its look of 1922. Neo-Baroque brick facades of buildings reminiscent of the Japanese occupation of what was a very important Tea and Indigo trading hub. The shops that serve the Taiwanese bourgeoisie day-trippers and give relief to the independently wealthy bicycle enthusiasts who spent their morning spinning up and down the mountain emitted some of the best smells. I walked slowly, smelled sandlewood, soap, incense, leather, warm sugar/butter, tea leaves, something delicately garlic, clothes (the unique way boutique clothes smell). And the sounds were soothing. No electronic ditties (like the nursery school mozart that the trash trucks play (i thought it was ice cream but it is not, the trucks play music!) or facsimile hip hop which is so prevalent in Taipei, but silence. And if not silence than something else good. A sweet simple jazzy chinese balad. A real tune being played by a real instrument, without canned accompaniment, drifting on the breeze.
Haven't mentioned the great people of the town or anything about my work yet. but.
Must go to bed now. A Taiwanese boy is in the common room here listening to music and singing at the top of his lungs (525600 minutes, Seasons of Love). It is all the lullabye I'm going to get.