Muzha is a very nice place to live. It's right on the edge of Taipei so you have the best of both worlds - easy access to all the conveniences of city living, but also lots of fresh air and beautiful mountains to hike.
It also has Taipei Zoo, the Maokong Gondola and the Maokong tea houses, all of which are important tourist attractions. The tea houses serve tea grown on nearby plantations.
A rather less attractive aspect of Muzha is its incinerator, which has a stack decorated with a huge giraffe in keeping with the zoo theme of the area. It looks as though the stack is quite close to the zoo but in fact it's deceptively far away, as we found out when we decided to walk to it the other day.
We set off in what seemed to be the right direction, walking down the main road which borders the river separating us from the zoo. As always, there were many interesting sights on the way. One of these was an orchard of strange fruit. The road is raised about the flood plain of the river so that the tops of the trees are level with it.
I noticed large, drop-shaped, green citrus fruit ripening on branches. At our level you could reach out and touch them, so I did, cradling the fruit in my hand to feel the weight, wondering what it was.
"Pick it," urged my son. I hesitated.
"Go on, pick it," he said again.
"No, better not," I said and took my hand away.
At that moment a woman on a scooter drew up alongside us, smiling broadly.
"Hello! That's a blah-de-blah," she said in Chinese.
"Oh, it's a blah-de-blah?" I replied.
"Yes, they're ten dollars," she said.
We chatted a little. The usual things. She said she was off to the village up the road. We parted amicably. For once, I'd avoided embarrassing myself. But the retribution came anyway. In the course of the conversation I'd picked up two big mosquito bites.
We didn't make it to the incinerator stack in the end. It was too far away and on an entirely different road.
This is the view from our apartment. The buildings across the river indicate the position of Taipei Zoo.
It's a wonderful view to have from your living room as you're eating breakfast in the mornings.
It isn't so pleasant to wake up to this view, however.
This is the sight that greeted me on Tuesday morning last week. One thing you can say about northern Taiwan is that it really knows how to rain. `We found out later that it rained 27 inches in 24 hours. At the time this photo was taken it was still going, and I could see the river rising before my eyes.
I will confess to some mild hysteria here. You can see on the near side of the river there are flood barriers. I was seriously concerned that the river was going to breach these imminently. It was seven o' clock in the morning. I went and woke my husband up so that we could go to the supermarket on the first floor and get emergency supplies in case we were flooded out (he's a tolerant man).
After buying said supplies I then faced the question of whether to take my son to school. I texted my friend and, amazingly, the school was going to be open. If I wasn't going to take my son in, I'd have to phone the teacher and let her know.
Well, I know a little Chinese, but did I know how to say, "I'm sorry I'm not bringing my son to school today because we live opposite a river and I think it's going to flood, and I'm worried I won't be able to get out to pick him up again later."? I did not.
Meanwhile, the river looked like this:
And it was still raining.
It took an hour and a half to get to school. The rain poured down. The roads were flooded. People were standing up to their knees in floodwater waiting for buses which were the only things that could get through in some places.
I deposited my son at school an hour late and waded home. (An exaggeration but that's how it felt. In fact, I took the MRT on a roundabout route to avoid the flooded roads and packed buses). As I walked in the door, I got a phone call. The Government had decided to close schools and workplaces for the day. Oh........you think?
A friend kindly offered to give my son a lift home. Thank goodness for friends.
Yes, Muzha is a very nice place to live. Most of the time.