-Familiar but unfamiliar: being too-rusty in language skills, feeling a stranger in a friendly city
What did I find?
Aah, that southern Chinese accent! Familiar, just …familiar.I walked off the plane to find the Taiwan scents and accents floating around only familiar. It’s this kind of lush, humid smell with a subtle industrious undercurrent. Not as plastic as Hong Kong, with a strong hint of tropics. Delightfully homey.
Sometimes when I hear another language, it sounds like something on the edge of my hearing, where I can’t quite understand but if I listen a little more in a different way, it’ll make sense. It’s like a whisper of misty rain, sifting by and gone before you know it. It also didn’t feel like I was drowning in a foreign language.
In Taiwan, like a tranquil pool, I was happy to sit in it and let the words float by in a sea of general comprehension. Some waters were in other unknown dialects, like Hakka and Taiwanese, but those friendly waters floated by harmlessly. Continue Reading
SIM Card Rental & Local Pay Options $ < Global Data Plan $$$
Did you know: you can rent a SIM card or cell phone when you arrive at the airport in Taiwan?
I found this out once I was there, after already having purchased my $10-a-day global data plan with AT&T. AT&T would charge for each day the plan was used and meant if you stayed 8 days, you’d be charged $80 to use the same options as your regular plan back home. Turns out instead, you can rent a SIM card for your cell phone from the airport at a much cheaper rate, and then use your phone as usual. E.g. as of the writing of this post, if you get a 7-day pass with 240hrs of data at NT500 that’s about $16.61 USD. You could also rent a cell phone if you wanted, which is still pretty useful for bike rental downtown, which requires a local Taiwan phone number for registration. There’s even an option to reserve ahead of time to pick up if you do not arrive at a time when the store is in full operation. Check out the details below.
The general lesson for international travel here is: research a few options on phones, and it can save you a bundle -a bundle you could put toward more food on the trip, or a fun side excursion. When I was in Manila last Fall, my spouse’s super-helpful cousins helped set us up with SIM cards from the local company Globe, and that was a fraction of a price of our (slightly different, more complicated) AT&T global data plan at the time. When it comes to cell phone company competition, the U.S. is not the leader and you can leverage this circumstance when you travel. I often end up using more data while traveling, to figure out transit logistics, hunt for food via Foursquare, or load a zillion pictures that clog up the blog pipeline, so these options are really worth it if you are on the go but need to stay connected. No judgment of those who don’t, that is a fun route too.
I’m trying something different this time with the writing. Let me know how it goes. Thanks!
Belonging is a funny thing. As an Asian American kid growing up in Minnesota, I just wanted to be like everyone else I knew. My mother (born in Taiwan) persistently spoke to me in Chinese despite my brother and I coming home from school and responding in English for about ..twelve years. My parents sent me to Chinese language school on Saturday mornings. Despite being a good student on weekdays, come Saturday morning, I would just put down all the words I’d crammed for the quiz Friday night, wistfully think of the cartoons on tv I was missing while in class, then get on with my day.* Perhaps this allowed me to continue pretending I would grow up to be 6 feet tall, blond-haired and blue-eyed, with Scandinavian features when I grew up (it’s Minnesota, people look like that).
This April, an opportunity came up for me to go to Taiwan. Unlike last Fall, this one worked with my schedule and current obligations and seemed a good chance to go explore places where my mother grew up. It would be my first time back in 16 years. I say “back,” but honestly, I’ve been to Taiwan three times in my life: Continue Reading