Friday, February 15, 2013

When grocery shopping becomes mission impossible

I think it's obvious that I like living in Taiwan; my job teaching is as good as the profession gets, our friends are awesome, and everyday can be a new, exciting adventure if we want it to be.

However, it does come with its fair share of really weird obstacles: small things that should be so easy (read: were so easy in the states) that drive us a bit crazy here.

Take for example:

Taking out the trash:
Taiwan is a green, eco-friendly nation. You want an immense challenge? Go eat at McDonalds and then go to throw away your trash. Good luck. There are six bins for food waste, paper recycle, one kind of plastic recycle, left over ice, another kind of plastic recycle, honest to goodness garbage and I forget the others. Every time, every single damn time, Sean and I stand in front of this contraption wondering what the hell to do (it's all in Chinese) scanning the room, making sure no one is looking, then dumping everything in one hole.

At home, we're only allowed to take our trash/recycle/food waste out from 6:30p.m.-6:50p.m. Mondays - Fridays. And it's a supervised dump. The food waste bin, which is used to feed pigs, is swimming in maggots and the one time I dared to do this chore I puked. The recycle and garbage house are infested with rats that have no fear of humans and run over your feet while you sort your waste into the freakin' eight categories of waste.

It's a nightmare and I hate it.

For the rest of the Taiwanese people who don't live on a school campus, they have to wait for the garbage truck. It's not like in the states where you leave an overflowing can in the morning and grab an empty one at night. Nope. You see, the trucks sing. I'm not kidding. Whenever the song is heard, shop owners drop whatever they are doing and run outside with their bags of trash to meet the truck. It doesn't stop moving. They have to chase after it and throw it in. Sometimes they make it, sometimes they don't.

Okay, I don't mind that part too much.

But trash, who knew it could be so complicated? In protest, Sean and I refused to make any food at home and ate every single meal out for about two weeks.

Grocery shopping:
How I miss starting up my 1986 beat to hell Toyota Camry and driving down the street to Safeway to stock up on anything and everything I could possibly want. Fresh produce, choice meats, imported European cheeses, fresh pastas and breads... drool.

Today, I wanted to make this really simple soup recipe Sean and I adore. I mean, so easy I even had the dry mix to start us off. But we're picky so we like adding things.

I had a shopping list with six ingredients on it.

I had to scoot to three stores.

I paid $3 for a can of sweet corn, $15 for a bag of granola, etc.

Trying to make anything close to our favorite western style meals is a marathon effort of scooting trying to balance groceries on the foot rest of the scooter, searching aisle after aisle for the hidden, overpriced ingredients and then trying to cook with our two burners and toaster oven.

Doing the laundry
Sunday was always my laundry day, the day I'd roll over in bed and think Oh shit, all my clothes are in the hamper and I have to wake up tomorrow at 4a.m. to go to work.

So I'd make a pot of coffee and start one load. Yeah, I only had enough clothes to take up one load. They'd wash for 30 minutes and then dry for 45 and then voila: I was set for the entire next week!

Here, my wardrobe has come to take up four loads of wash and if I want to have clean clothes on Monday well then I better start the wash on Wednesday. No joke. Our washer machine has two buttons on it, one green and one red. In order to start the machine, I have to push both buttons. Once I do that, the machine goes for FOUR hours. Once again, no joke. Then we have to hang dry everything. Right now it's winter... I'd say roughly 60 degrees or so. That's laughable in Washington, but in Taiwan no homes have heaters. That means it's typically colder inside than it is outside. Not exactly conducive to drying clothes. When we hot box our smallest room, running both the dehumidifier and small space heater, it takes about three days to dry every piece of clothing. More often than not, we just leave the drying rack in the cold living room to save money. Then, if we're lucky, every piece of clothing will be dry on day 5. By then, they have usually acquired a mildewy smell.

Trying to leave
Taiwan, as I'm sure you've heard me mention before, is the 8th most densely populated country in the world. When a holiday rolls around, it can be damn near impossible to leave because everyone else on this island is too. Airfare prices soar and suddenly you have to ask yourself: is it worth it? OF COURSE it's worth it, my inner voice always tells me. So then you find yourself blowing way more than you normally would on a plane ticket after hunting around on the Internet for ages and ages.

Some days I dearly miss how easy certain things were in the states.

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