Life in Taichung

We’ve been here only a few weeks, and are not in a position to give a critical evaluation. However, first impressions are important, so here are a few random observations of what strikes us as different from home.

First, clothing. Taichung has a warm, subtropical climate, with a mean temperature of 23 deg. Celsius. Dress is casual, even in church. People rarely wear ties, even for the preacher, except in large churches. For women, wearing pants to church is perfectly acceptable.

Second, food. There are many little restaurants specializing in breakfast, lunch boxes, or dinner. The food court at a department store we visited had about 20 stores offering many varieties of Chinese, American, Italian, Japanese, Korean, and Thai food. Prices are very reasonable. It’s so convenient that you would rather eat out than do the cooking yourself, unless if you are health conscious. A lunch box could be had for as little as 60 NT, and a set lunch or dinner, with soup and rice, for less than 150 NT, about C$2 and C$5 respectively. And fruits are huge. You can buy crystal pears the size of a cantaloupe, or mangoes as big as a papaya. But you got to visit the night market, where you find all sorts of specialty food if you are brave enough.

Apples the size of a large grapefruit

Apples the size of a large grapefruit

Mangoes as big as a papaya

Mangoes as big as a papaya

Taichung night market

Taichung night market

Third, living. The residential district we lived in had many lanes, or back alleys, like the “hutong” in Beijing. If you know your way you can take short-cuts to different places. If not, you’ll get lost in the maze as they all looked very similar and some lead to dead-ends. We were told health care is cheap, if you stay for longer than 6 months and are eligible to apply for government insurance. For example, if a crown on your tooth costs $1,200 in the US, the same dental work costs only US$300 here. However, everything has its pros and cons. To keep surgery and hospital stay costs down, nurses provide only medical but not hygiene services, so family members have to help with meals and cleaning. I guess you can’t have your cake and eat it too.

Low cost, low touch medicare

Low cost, low touch medicare

The Taiwanese are also very environmentally conscious. You have to sort your wastes into separate bags, respectively for perishables, metal cans, plastic bottles, paper, and garbage. The perishables are fed to the pigs, while the metal, plastic and paper are recycled. Every afternoon the garbage truck comes around playing “Fur Elise”, while the recycling truck comes in the evening playing “Maiden’s Prayer”. Don’t mistake them for the ice-cream truck or you’ll be greatly disappointed. Residents would take their separate bags out to be loaded into the trucks’ different compartments, but if you mix your garbage you’ll draw the ire of your neighbors who will point out to you that that’s a “no-no”!

Elaborate garbage collection & recycling

Elaborate garbage collection & recycling

Finally, transportation. Taichung’s population is only 2.6 million and the weather is warm, so you don’t really need a subway. Many people use scooters as their primary means of transportation. To encourage the use of public transit, the city government established a policy of providing free bus rides for the first 8 km. You purchase a bus pass for 100 NT at the local 7-11, and you can store funds on the card. You swipe your card when you get on and off the bus. If the distance is less than 8 km, the ride is free. If it exceeds 8 km, the cost is 2 NT per km charged to your card. It’s a neat system as the buses are clean and air-conditioned, and usually have vacant seats, at least during the times we used it.

Taiwan scooters

Taiwan scooters

Acrobat riders

Acrobat riders

First 8 km free.

First 8 km free

Overall our impression is that the people are friendly and polite. The weather is nice and so is the food, and the cost of living is reasonable. But the spiritual need is deep as many practice traditional folk religion (as evidenced by the 18,000 Taoist and 4,000 Buddhist temples) and ancestor worship, without questioning their validity. We’ve already noted that nearly 2% of the population consisted of foreign brides with their associated social problems. You’ll enjoy doing short-term mission in Taichung, but brush up your Mandarin first.

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