I live above a Kymco scooter shop. I know what you’re thinking: Black girl. Doesn’t speak any Chinese but now lives in Taiwan. Doesn’t have a teaching degree but teaches science to kids 8 to 12 years old. Lives above a scooter shop. That’s basically a CBS sitcom waiting to be written.
So I live above a scooter shop. When I got here I had no apartment, just the knowledge that I’d be able to see places during the week that I was staying at an AirBnB place and the two weeks I could stay at a coworkers apartment while her brother was away. In hindsight, maybe I should’ve been more freaked out about the fact I had no place lined up when I got here. Luckily, my place is pretty great. This is the first time I’ve ever lived in an apartment; the first time I’ve ever lived alone; and the first time I’ve ever lived in a city. It wasn’t even listed; one of my coworkers heard about it and showed it to me.
Pros of the Apartment
My place is very convenient. There’s a breakfast place, a fruit stand, and a Family Mart (convenience store) less than 1 minute away from me. There’s a bus from right outside my apartment that goes straight to where I work. That same bus, if I stay on it, will take me into Taipei City. If I go on the bus the other way two stops I get to a large area with several food shops and a good dumpling place I frequent several times a week*.
I also feel really safe where I am. The alleyway is wide and illuminated at night and there’s a guard station that looks down that alley. Every time I’ve walked through the alley there’s been a guard there and they say “hi” and wave. Since I live next to my landlords (they own the scooter shop), I feel like if there were any big emergencies, they’d know about it and be able to help quickly.
The family that owns the place seems very nice. They own the scooter shop and employ several young men. Each night, the family prepares home-cooked meals for their employees and they all eat together. I think if I ever ran a business like theirs that’s how I’d want to do it.
They’ve also given me a pretty good rate (~270 USD + electric each month) with perks such as a TV (~12 English channels including FIVE movie channels), air conditioning, and the Internet.
They have a little boy (4 years old) who is very cute but seems a bit spoiled (probably because he’s an only child). I think he likes me because every time I see him he smiles really big, runs up to me, and says “Hi! How are YOU?” and points at me. And I say “I’m fine. How are you?” And he says “How are YOU?” and points again. And I say “I’m fine. How are you?” And we go back and forth a few times. And then he points at my shoes and says what I think is Chinese for shoes and I say “SHOES,” really slowly and he says the Chinese again and doesn’t even try to mimic me anymore. It’s cute.
When I first met this little boy (I don’t know his name, by the way), I was in the scooter shop to hand over my signed contract. He was smiling and he went to make me a cup of coffee and I was very impressed by this little boy who can work a coffee machine. But then he started acting up, playing around with the delicate cup and his father was like “stop” and the boy wouldn’t stop. And he started screeching and the dad was like “STOP” but the boy kept screeching. And for a second it looked like the Dad was going to give him a slap, and the boy screamed even louder and in my head I was like “yo, stop and he won’t hit you!” But then the father just picked him up and made him sit in the corner. Maybe that’s why I think they’re a nice family. They’ve shown me nothing to suggest otherwise.
Cons of the Apartment
My landlords don’t speak any English, and, as previously mentioned, I don’t speak any Chinese. So when we have to communicate we use Laura, one of the administrators at my school. She was the one who read my contract and translated it for me and came with me to give the signed copy to them. I sat there not knowing what was being said, just waiting, sipping my coffee the boy made me. I felt more like a child than he was at that moment with these adults talking about me and I have no idea what they’re saying. I think at one point Laura started asking them about scooters because they got up and showed her around their shop.
Anyway, it wouldn’t be a huge deal if they didn’t speak English if everything were perfect, but what nothing is perfect. The Internet situation is annoying. They have an Ethernet cord that can plug into a computer, but my newer Mac doesn’t have an Ethernet port. So I need to use an adaptor that will plug into my USB port. But the Ethernet cable and the Ethernet port on the adaptor are not a perfect fit (because nothing is perfect), so I have to jiggle it and get it just right for it to work. Sometimes I lose my connection just by shifting around my computer. This is incredibly annoying. I want to ask they how I can get a WIFI router because I think this will make things easier – not having to risk moving around with my computer and losing the connection. They have WIFI for their own apartment, so I want to ask them what router they have and if they had someone else come install it or if they just bought one from the store. But I can’t ask them that because I don’t know Chinese. So I asked Laura but she said it’s better if I do it on my own. My fear is I waste time and money buying the wrong things (as I’ve already done with adaptors and bed sheets) because I can’t read the Chinese on the packaging. One of my coworker’s Father’s works for Chungwha Telecom so I’m hoping she may help me out, but I hate asking favors of people that are far removed from the situation. It seems like it’s something my landlords ought to help me with. But then, I can’t ask them.
Also, my place has no kitchen really. They have a toaster oven on a lower level that I’m allowed to use, but no burners or microwave. I thought this would be a big deal for me, but it’s been a month and I haven’t found it bad at all. I haven’t even used the kitchen area they said I could. I just haven’t found a need. Eating out here is cheap if you pick the right places. And the school provides lunch. Usually I have cereal, or peanut butter and fruit on bread for breakfast; school for lunch; and dumplings or soup for dinner (I just eat out or pick something up and eat at home).
There’s no real place to go jogging around me. I envy the people that live in Taipei City – there’s this great trail along the river that looks just wonderful. (I plan to buy a fold up bike, bring it into Taipei City and try to bike the length of it someday). Luckily, there’s a treadmill on the roof of my place, but it’s a small space and running on a treadmill while looking at a solid white wall is objectively the worst view for running on a treadmill (which is already monotonous).
Overall I’m quite pleased. I think, for my first place and on such short notice, I couldn’t have gotten anything better. I’m also glad I got myself to write this blog post because it made me clean my room so that the pictures below will look nice.
*I think I’m becoming addicted to dumplings/potsickers, but that’s for another post.