Monday, October 31, 2011

Little victories from week one.

My little (very little) studio apartment is in the middle of town but down a smaller, residential street.  My first floor apartment is the white building with the two large windows stacked on top of each other.  It was recently renovated so what looks old on the outside is brand new on the inside... I got really lucky.  This is a pretty typical Taiwanese neighborhood... I never realized what a high standard of living Americans are accustomed to until I came to Taiwan.  More on that in later posts.

My street.
A little closer up.
For the first week I lived in Taiwan I could not figure out how to take out my garbage.  I scoured the streets for a dumpster, maybe a trash chute in my building?  Nothing.  I couldn't ask my neighbors because well, you try to explain 'garbage truck' without using words and let me know how that works out... much less in a way that would prompt an answer that could be explained and received without words.  I was beginning to think I was going to have to do something drastic until I was laying in bed one night and heard music that sounded similar to that of an American ice cream truck echoing through the streets.  It was nine thirty at night, so I couldn't imagine an ice cream truck would be out and about after the kids had already gone to bed.  Curious, I got out of bed and made a fantastic discovery...

The garbage truck!  From what I can see, taking the garbage out is a time for women in the neighborhood to gather in the streets, chat, gossip... do what women do.  (I wouldn't doubt that their new American neighbor was a topic of discussion on quite a few occasions.)  All of them must have impeccable hearing because they seem to hear the music from block and blocks away, standing in the streets with trash bags in hand long before necessary.  On Watson Lane, we rarely chat with our neighbors after Allison grew past the age of 13 with the occasional exception of a coincidental run-in at the grocery store... garbage Taiwanese style is actually kind of a nice way to build community, offering time for biweekly neighborly bonding.

A week after moving to a foreign country this was a BIG win for Katy Culley.  It sounds so silly and small, but these baby steps are what keep you going when surrounded by unfamiliar!  Things that seem so mindless are suddenly huge obstacles.  I've lived in Taiwan for almost seven weeks now, so these instances are becoming less frequent... but the day I figured out the trash system and conquered the Chinese washing machine will forever be stamped in my memory.


  1. Ha, nice job figuring out the garbage system :) Chances are the ladies don't have great hearing but know the exact time the truck is coming... it runs like clockwork. For a while, I was working during recycling truck time and had 2 months of recyclables built up in my apartment! Have you figured out water yet? :D

  2. The music makes garbage pick up sound like such a pleasant experience. Everyone looks so content.