Sunday, 18 September 2011

Apartment Hunting II

Well my goodness what a week. The countdown to the end of our stay in our serviced apartment drew nearer, and still we couldn't find anywhere permanent to live. The nice apartment in Jingmei turned out to have one quite major drawback. When I had first been to see it, it was night time and there wasn't a lot of street lighting, so I couldn't see exactly what surrounded it. We'd decided we'd take the apartment but I thought I'd better go back and meet up with the person who'll be handling our shipment when it arrives in about two weeks, just to check that the apartment block had sufficient access for Conrad's piano. In daylight, this is the sight that greeted me:

Basically, the builders had scooped away part of the mountain, shored it up with concrete, then built an apartment block in the newly available space. I was a little nervous of living next door to a potential landslide in an earthquake-prone country, so I asked a Taiwanese friend if she thought it would be safe. She said,"Yes, it should be." So I said, "Would you live there?"  "No," she said. So that was that.

We then had only one or two days left to find somewhere and allow time for signing of contracts etc. The same kind Taiwanese friend took us back to an apartment I'd looked at before, plus one or two others. After much prevarication I finally settled on an apartment in a tower block. I didn't really want to live in a isolating environment because, after all, we're here to learn about and live in the local culture. However this apartment is very quiet, which is something quite difficult to find in Taipei, and Andy needs quiet to work. Plus it's in quite good condition and has a lovely view:

I will post some photos of the apartment when I've cleaned it!

Another incredibly kind Taiwanese friend came along and helped us with the contract negotiations with the landlord. I really cannot adequately express how kind and generous the parents at Conrad's school have been in helping us to get settled in. They have made this whole experience so much easier for us. The same is true of all the other Taiwanese people we've met, and Andy's former work colleagues. Even the landlord invited us to dinner once the lease terms were settled (we couldn't accept his invitation unfortunately). My Chinese is abysmal but I've yet to encounter someone who didn't have the patience to listen and try to understand me as I bumble my way through.

One highlight of the week was a delicious Taiwanese hotpot dinner. I'm getting better at finding things to cook at home, so we don't eat out so often now, but sometimes the local cuisine is too tempting. With a hotpot, you sit at a table with a heating element and a pot of stock that is brought to the boil. You can choose from a selection of ingredients, and you cook and eat them at your leisure. You also have a sauce to dip things in. I had a seafood one. These were the vegetables:

And this was the seafood:

The oysters, fish and prawns were among the best I've ever tasted.

This is Andy enjoying his pork hotpot:

Finally, I would like to announce two new arrivals. Just outside the window of our current apartment, there is a bird's nest, and we've been (as unobtrusively as possible) watching the mother bird sitting on her eggs. Then the other day, I saw the nestlings had hatched! I'm pleased to report both are doing well.

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