Taipei week 1 – arriving

Heping/Roosevelt intersectionI arrived in Taipei the evening of February 17th, after almost 24h on planes and airports. I only slept 4-5h on the plane, to try to adjust my body to the new timezone (7h before). I also tried to eat almost nothing during the trip, and when I arrived in the evening, I had a big burger meal. This also helped to adapt to the new daily rythm.

The morning after I showed up at the Yahoo! offices. I had woken up quite early, feeling well rested. I had a nice breakfast, and crossed the street to the Yahoo! offices at my usual arrival time of 9am. A bit too early, it seemed, as there was nobody from the Search Team around 🙂 But I asked at the reception desk where I was supposed to sit, and found my place.My cube, first day After a short while the search team started arriving, and several people were quite helpful in getting the practicalities sorted out, with network connectivity and stuff like that. So I soon got settled. My cube looks a bit barren at the moment; all the other people have a multitude of little trinkets and personality items decorating every square inch of their walls and desks. But give me a few weeks, and I’ll try to catch up 🙂

I was lucky enough to arrive in the Yahoo! offices on the day of the yearly Search Team Spring Banquet. I was invited to this fabulous event, which consisted of a fantastic dinner at “A Cut Steak House”, and a Lucky Draw event afterwards. To see photos of this event, go to Hsu Ming-Yen’s Flickr Photo Set from the Spring Banquet. Lots of good food, delicious meat and happy people!

Thursday was registration day at the Mandaring Training Center, where I am enrolling as a student. I had gone to the area the day before, just to make sure I could find it. And thanks to the availability of online satellite images I knew pretty well what to expect from the area. Registration started at 08:30 and I was one of the first people in line. The registration started at a desk where you were assigned a student number.Mandarin Training Center registration desk The lines where divided in two from a total of 500 students, but this covered all levels and both the Regular and Intensive courses. After the initial handout of papers, it was standing in line for copying and validation of passports, and paying tuition. Then it was onto sitting in line for an oral interview and the written placement test. Given that I have never studied Chinese before, the actual interview took only 10 seconds, and I skipped the written test. But I still had to wait half-an-hour in line 🙂 No problem, though, as I got to talking with the guy before me. His name was Jim, from Chicago, but he had been a history teacher in Taiwan for 20 years, and in his retirement he had finally decided to get formal Chinese training. So the waiting in line was definitively not wasted for me, as we discussed a lot of interesting topics about Chinese and Taiwanese culture in general, and language in particular. I just hope that some of my fellow students in my beginner class will be half as interesting to talk to 🙂

Some random culinary events from the week. During “fruit day” at the Yahoo! office, I was served something I at first believed was some kind of apple.An apple? It was very crunchy and not as juicy and sweet as a typical green apple, in a good way. Turns out it only had a single big seed inside.A jujube It was in fact a date fruit called a jujube, or to be more specific: 蜜棗 (mìzǎo). In Norway, I think we are more familiar with the aged, dried variety, called “daddel”, which I have never liked. Just goes to show that you should not judge the dog by its (dried) skin.

Taiwan BeerI also got reacquainted with Taiwan Beer, which was a fond memory. The price in the hotel minibar was actually quite reasonable, at NT$30, or about NOK 6.

Fried RizeI can also report that the lavish lunches enjoyed while at the Vespa summit last year is not the normal kind of lunch in the Taipei office. Thank the Gods! I’ve joined a few of the guys going to a some of the local backstreet family restaurants for simple and tasty dishes, such as the “fried rice with mixed stuff” shown here. This particular lunch also included side orders of snails boiled with spinach, and pig’s intestines with ginger strips; wonderful small dishes, but I was too busy eating to take photos 😦

Apple Wireless Keyboard with aftermaket Dàyì layoutOf other notable events in the office, I bought a new Apple Wireless Keyboard with Chinese character layout. Unfortunately, Apple has chosen to not include the 大易 layout that is included on most Taiwanese keyboards. I have decided that this one is the best to learn for me, as it is based on decomposition of characters in stroke order, so most closely resembles the way characters are written. But it turned out to be less of a problem, when I got help from one of the guys in the search team to find a small shop specializing in laser engraving keyboards. So I got the Dàyì layout added to the keyboard. Now, some may say that it is sacrilegious to point a laser at any Apple product. And I would definitively not laser engrave the outside lid of my aluminum MacBook Pro. But in this case I found it acceptable, not in the least because I already own an American layout Apple Wireless keyboard, which is even cleaner looking 🙂

Wretch Girls 2009 CalendarMy main project for the first week, was to acquire a set of “The Girls of Wretch 2009” calendars. With the help of mr. Fix-It on the search team, I got a few calendars for free from the Wretch representative. I will send a few to the Trondheim office as promotional material, but will keep one for myself as the start of my cube decoration. Shown here is a picture of the front page of the Wretch calendar installed on my cube shelf.

I also started looking at apartments for rent during the coming 3 months. There is a wide variety of apartments on offer. Some are very cheap, but old; some are very nice, but small; some are very big, but pricy. I’ll spend the weekend looking at a few options, but I also have all of next week to find somewhere to stay. The sooner the better, though 🙂

Saturday I also managed to attend the start-up of beginners classes in Taekwon-Do in ITF Taipei. The resident Sa Bum Nim is Daniel Obon. There was about 12 people attending the session, at the Taipei Mixed Martial Arts center.Taipei Mixed Martial Arts Most of the people seemed to have previous experience in MMA, as their fighting style was somewhat accomplished, but much more “boxing” like, and “mixed”, than ITF TKD. The session was mainly to give the class an introduction to ITF TKD, and Daniel talked about the differences between ITF/WTF, and also presented the different diciplines of TKD, such as basic techniques, self-defense, forms, and sparring.Sparring at ITF TKD TaipeiI guess I will continue training there, just to keep up with the TKD, but let’s hope the sessions become more focused once we get going; I need to practice for my yellow belt graduation!