Newley Purnell's home on the web since 2001

Month: March 2004

Kaohsiung: The Eye of the Political Storm?

It seems as if Kaohsiung, our new home town, is in the eye of Taiwan’s ongoing political storm. We’ve seen no protests or commotion of any sort; it’s business as usual. The Taiwanese administrators at our school have only made passing mention of the recent election and protests. It’s sort of odd, really. Pehaps all the action’s up in Taipei.

In other news, Jill and I, along with some other teachers, took a day trip to Kenting National Park yesterday. It was a nice getaway.

On the logistics-of-settling-in front, we’ve now completed our first week of school and totally moved into our new apartment. We’re working on getting our home phone and Web connection up and running. (My apologies for not responding to emails faster for now.)

Notes from the Last Month of My Life

I’ve been living out of a backpack (or two) for the last month. Lots of traveling. It’s good to be settling down here in Taiwan. (Jill and I move into our new apartment tomorrow.) My notes from the last 30 days look something like this:

–February 2: Left DC and spent a few days at home in Beaufort, SC. Witnessed my little brother Colin’s high school baseball team in action and said my goodbyes to him, my Mom, and my step Dad.

–March 1st: Arrived in Pendleton, OR, for a quick visit with my Dad, step Mom, brother, and sister. Checked out the excellent Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, a museum dedicated to Native Americans of the Eastern Oregon and Washington region. Went snowboarding with my 15-year-old brother Eugene at nearby Anthony Lakes. (Funny aside: I didn’t have a heavy sweatshirt to wear on the slopes, so, in a scene reminiscent of Greg Focker’s sartorial issues in “Meet the Parents,” I had to borrow Eugene’s Playerz 69 hoodie.)

–March 5th: Headed up to Seattle to meet up with Jill and visit her family. The shortlist of highlights from that leg of the journey, in abbreviated form:
–A tour of the magnificent Safeco Field, where the Seattle Mariners play. [Random sidenotes to this abbreviated note: In order to keep seagulls away from the field, they pipe in sounds of seagulls’ predators (not sure what kind of birds they were) via the audio system; the team is owned by a Japanese man who’s never been to the stadium–he’s afraid to fly; notable food options at Safeco: I appreciated, but wasn’t able to sample, the Papa John’s pizza–which is my favorite commercial delivery ‘za, and Ichi-roll sushi, in honor of the Mariners’ excellent Japanese right fielder, Ichiro Suzuki; (indeed, the team’s so popular in Japan that they offer tours in Japanese, and we saw a huge group of Japanese teenagers–and by the way, MAN are they fashion-forward, those Japanese kids–giggling with delight and taking photos of the field); I also thought “The Intentional Wok” foodstand looked promising; there are more women’s bathrooms at Safeco than there were total bathrooms at the old stadium, the Superdome];
–An evening cruise on Lake Washington with Jill, her family, and a bunch of friends;
–A DVD viewing of the astounding “Spellbound,” a documentary about the National Spelling Bee. Future “Trekkies 2” star Harry, the guy who has trouble with “banns,” is simply unbelievable;
–Witnessing, via excellent seats, the Seattle Sonics (Luke Ridnour is my new favorite NBA player–he’s like a Jason Williams minus the tats and the attitude) get out-hussled and out-talented by the Detroit Pistons;
–An excellent pan-Asian dinner at Wild Ginger;
–The best shoe purchasing experience of my life: I received a personal consultation from a high school cross country coach (and former college runner himself)–who observed me jogging around the block in several models he recommended–at Super Jock n’ Jill.

–On March 10th, we left Seattle. 24 hours later, we arrived here in Taiwan. An email I sent to a few friends and family members a couple days after getting here follows:

Ni-hau (Chinese for hello), all. A very quick note to say hello. Jill and I have arrived safely in Koahsiung, Taiwan. I’m rappin’ at ya live from a gaming arcade teeming with adolescent Taiwanese boys screeching at each other in Chinese. It’s an unbelievable scene. (By the way, I hope this note is legible; I’m typing on an English keyboard connected to a machine running Chinese Windows and it’s a bit strange.)

To re-cap the last few days:

Jill and I departed Seattle–after a delighful few days there–on Tues. morning. We flew from there to SF to Tokyo (the last leg being an 11-hour jaunt, after which I was too tired to fully take in Narita airport in all of its techno-glamor, but I tried). Then we were off to Tapei. We landed there Tues. night (a 24-hour hour trip, which was time-warping, kind of, as we set sail into the setting sun yet it didn’t actually set til we were in Japan) and after some initial difficulties, booked lodgings at the Happy Family II Hostel. (Note: it’s tough finding a place to stay if you have no prior plans re: where to go and you don’t speak Chinese and can find no one who speaks English. Multiple taxi trips and awkward hand-gestures were involved.)

Then, the next morning, we went exploring and located the Tapei East Bus Station and purchased tix (a steal, we would later learn, at only 350 New Taiwan Dollars a seat) to Koahsiung (hereafter referred to as K-city). After our experiences with Ecuadorian bus systems, we were delighted to find this line–which is actually the gov’t-run and LEAST fancy–equipped with TV/Nintendo screens and electronically-reclinable seats. (AND we purchased some excellent sushi from the bus station–yes, the bus station, and it was excellent–before our 5-hour ride.)

Once we arrived in K-city, we were picked up by Sting, a friendly Taiwanese man who works at our school. He took us to our current lodgings–a nice, spacious, AC-equipped apartment that’ll serve as home til we locate a new pad (which should be
within the next few days). Last night, we ventured into our immediate environs and found a restaurant with an English menu. I will just say this: you haven’t lived til you’ve tasted K-city’s finest cashew chicken and fried cabbage and fish-head casserole and washed it down with a few glasses of Taiwan Beer.

A couple of items to ponder: 1) K-city has a pro baseball team and we hope to see
a game ASAP; 2) 7-11s and Circle K’s and Starbucks are EVERYWHERE, and the 7-11s feature delicious-looking microwavable meals I intend to investigate soon; 3) this is a city ruled by SCOOTERS; we shall be purchasing one shortly and I promise to send along a photo of me on it wearing a silly helmet.

That’s it for now. To come soon: thoughts on the language barrier, and my early impressions of Chinese culture.

Taiwan’s Presidential Election

Taiwan’s president Chen Shui-bian can breathe a sigh of relief.

Not only did he and his vice president, Annette Lu, survive Taiwan’s first ever assasination attempt on a head of state Friday, but he narrowly beat out challenger Lien Chan in a nationwide election last night. Chan, however, is calling for a re-count.

Things here have been surprisingly subdued: word of the shooting didn’t reach us until late Friday night; last night, people gathered around TV sets set up outside stores to watch the election results come in. When Chen bested his rival, a few supporters set off firecrackers in celebration. The race was extremely close: about 13 million people cast ballots (a voter turnout of over 80%), and Chen won by less than 30,000 votes.

For more info, see this Washington Post article.

Stay tuned. In the coming days, I’ll be writing more–highlights from my Pendleton, OR/Seattle trip, stories about our arrival in Taiwan, impressions of the place so far, etc.

Another Brief Update

We’ve been running around and haven’t had much time for Web stuff, but I wanted to give you a quick update.

The last few days have been action-packed: we’ve been observing some classes at our school in preparation to begin teaching on Monday; we undertook a medical exam necessary to obtain our visas (we both got a clean bill of health); we purchased a used scooter (a ’95, 125cc model; make unknown, but it’s black and has “FUZZY” emblazoned in white on its flanks); and just this morning, we secured an apartment. We’re feeling more and more settled every day.

I’ll be writing more in the coming days. In the meantime, thanks to Bethanne F. for pointing out this recent Washington Post travel article about Taiwan. Check it out. It provides some good context for the upcoming presidential elections, among other things.

Dispatch from Koahsiung, Taiwan

A very brief note to say all’s well here in Southwestern Taiwan.

Jill A. and I arrived safely on Tuesday night and are having lots of fun. Our journey–from Seattle to San Francisco to Tokyo to Taipei, and then from Taipei here via bus–was a long one. But the sights and sounds and astounding, and we’re thrilled to be taking them all in. I’ll write more soon, but wanted to give everyone a quick shout to say we’ve made it here intact.

More shortly…

One Step Closer to the Rim of Fire

A quick note on my whereabouts: I’m leaving in an hour to head West (to get to the far East)–I’m flying from Savannah to Atlanta to Denver to Portland, Oregon today. I’ll be visiting my Dad in Pendleton until Friday, when I’ll make my way up to see Jill A. and her family in Seattle. Then, a week from tomorrow, we’re off to Taiwan, via San Francisco and Tokyo.

I hope to post again before we touch down in Taiwan. In the meantime, however, please feel free to peruse some Taiwan news. Or if you find that depressing, here’s the good news version.

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