"Can you give me twenty-four hours?" I asked my new potential boss. After figuring everything out with my girl, it was decided. I would be heading out for eight months for an experience of a lifetime. I ran to the store and picked up "Mandarin for Dummies" in order to create my flashcard list.
The welcome packet from the production company included a list of suggested inoculations, a brief synopsis of Taiwanese culture along with my travel itinerary. A fifteen hour flight in Business Class seemed like the right idea for a proper send-off.
The LAX business class lounge -- all you can eat food and drink.
The flight included linen table cloths, china and metal stemware, bottomless glasses of water and wine, headphones, slippers and shaving kits. And, standing at six feet, I appreciated the fact that I could extend my legs without ever coming close to the chair in front of me. That worked.
23 floors up, one is treated to quite the view from my hotel room.
First things first. We got the car!
And off we went into town. I began to assemble the office for our department, which includes desks, chairs, lights and all of the stuff you need to get things going from scratch -- times four people.
Arnold, our assigned translator, eased my fear of getting lost in the vortex of a foreign country.
Arnold drives only a scooter, so he left all motor-vehicle operations to me. I welcomed the challenge.
I wondered why anyone would even bother to take a car out to the store. Everyone else seems to get by just fine on their scooters. This is the first floor of the building where both Home Depot and A-Mart reside.
Venturing out on one's own takes a bit of fortitude, at first. It's easy to default to an afternoon spent within the safe confines of the hotel, if for no other reason than the fact that everyone can understand me when I speak to them. And, I am well aware that putting myself in the position of embarrassment for not knowing a language is part of the growing pains necessary to develop a functioning comfort level here.
So, with a few phrases under my belt, off I went. I was told that by heading southeast of the hotel, I would encounter a neat zone of European-friendly establishments.
Water drizzled down - nothing too imposing - while the temperature hovered at comfortably warm.
I landed at Robot Coffee. I just loved the vibe, so I had to go in.
I felt like I was at home in the Silverlake district of Los Angeles. I knew the folks here would "speak my language."
All of the quirky dolls with large faces and the crazy rabbit and cat figurines with exaggerated features I've seen for years in Chinatown gift shops, indeed, came from the culture I now witnessed first hand. It definitely has its charm.
The robot heads on the tabletops are napkin boxes.
The girl behind the counter presented me with a set of flashcards drawn in Taiwanese cartoon cool that had English translations of everything on the menu.
Engaging a silent flock of confused hipster Taiwanese kids, I struggled to communicate my desire for a cup of coffee and something sweet, while very quickly realizing that English subtitles on menus do not stand as any indication, whatsoever, of whether or not English is spoken in a business establishment. I guess it's the same as the Americans I've seen who get Chinese characters tattooed on their bodies without having the faintest idea what they really mean. It's just cool...I guess.