Friday, September 25, 2009

The Singing Trash Trucks of Taoyuan

In the distance you hear the melodious strains of Beethoven’s Fur Elise. It grows louder and louder as the source of the sound draws nearer. You begin to hear the neighbors in the street, talking and laughing, doors slamming throughout the neighborhood, finally there are flashing lights and voices. The trash truck has arrived.

The song is used to call the people out to bring their trash to the truck. In Taiwan, the truck slowly drives down the street and people bring their trash out. This happens every night. First the trash truck goes by and right behind it is the recycling truck. All trash must be sorted to be recycled.

You didn’t think I could do a blog without at least one reference to the trash business did you?

I wonder why they use Fur Elise. It seems to be a popular tune here. I have a friend whose car also plays that tune when the doors are open. Why not some Asian tune? Why Beethoven and not Yo Yo Ma? (I may have spelled his name wrong, but you get the point he’s an Asian Cellist.)

This seems like such a distinctly Chinese concept to have musical trash trucks. It’s a part of the Chinese mindset that beauty and function be combined. That same mindset is found in Chinese Characters, my Chinese teacher would always say, “But it’s not beautiful,” when describing my penmanship. When she saw my penmanship in English she would say, “It’s not legible.” So she began to accept my sloppy Chinese characters. This is how easily standards can be eroded. But I’ve gotten off track. The point is that Chinese people try to put an element of beauty into everything…even collecting trash.

I remember as a young route driver that I would sing opera arias on my truck, such as “La Dona Mobile”.

My version:

La Dona Mobile, I shot my dog today
The thieving little hound lies six feet in the ground

The actual version was a lot of Italian words that would have been too hard to learn. Obviously I had no need to include an element of beauty in everything.

The other interesting thing is that there is a social component to trash collection. The neighbors stop and talk and laugh with each other and the trash collectors. When was the last time you stood and talked with your garbage-man as he collected your trash. Most of us don’t even see the garbage-man and their trucks never make any noise more musical than “whirrrr crunch bang bang bang.”

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

We're not in Kansas Anymore

Arriving in Taiwan

We’ve arrived in Taiwan. We blew in, like thieves in the dead of the night. For us this was a momentous thing. We’re Americans but as of this moment we are Americans living on foreign soil. I hope Taiwan is ready for us. We’ve tried to prepare ourselves for this moment. But even with the preparation, I think Asia has some surprises in store for us. In fact I’m sure of it.

But for now we’re here. We arrived at 5:25 am Monday morning after 13 hours on the plane. Fortunately, we slept through a lot of the flight. But it felt really good to get up and stretch a little as we went through customs.

One of the meal choices on the plane was a food called Congee. This is a type of rice soup. Only Emily was adventurous enough to try it. I have eaten it before and kind of liked it until I talked to Scott, who described it as “That rice that old Taiwanese women chewed and spit back into the bowl.” I was grossed out enough to never be willing to try it again. It’s really just rice, cooked until it is very soft, with some other ingredients added. But Scott ruined it for me. I’ll have to pay him back sometime.


We spent our first afternoon in Taipei, first at MOS Burgers, where I had an Octopus Burger. It was delicious and the tenderest Octopus I’ve ever eaten. Then we went to Costco.

Costco in Taiwan is the same as in the US. Even the layout of the store is the same. They have the same types and quality of items as in the store at home. But then they have some typically Chinese things as well. For example, look at these interesting Pizza Choices available at the Costco Kitchen:

Hawaiian Pizza – Pastrami with Pineapple (Pastrami…on Pizza?)
Seafood Pizza
And that old Italian favorite – Peking Duck Pizza

I like Pizza well enough and I like Peking Duck as much as the next guy. But I have a real issue with Peking Duck Pizza. It just seems so wrong. (I didn’t see anyone eating it either, which might say something.) I can’t imagine Don Corleone ordering a Peking Duck Pizza. It just wouldn’t fly in the old neighborhood.

All the signage at Costco was in English and Chinese. The shoppers were friendly and seemed eager to talk to foreigners. As I hung out, waiting for Brenda and Melissa, a number of people smiled and spoke to me in English. That never happens in So Cal, probably because hardly anyone speaks English in So Cal anymore.

I think the next thing on the agenda is to get my driver’s license and a scooter. I need to be able to get around and get some things done. Scott is working so I need to work it out to get around on my own. I need to be able to hop on my “bad motor scooter and ride.” So I’ll close on that reference to an old Rock ‘n’ Roll song. Who can name the band that sang that song?

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Taking the First Few Steps

Moving On

It was quite an ordeal to get it all sorted, sold and packed. We even wound up calling a guy in to just haul a bunch of it away. I think it’s interesting how people develop an attachment to stuff. I am guilty of this a bit myself. I sold my truck at the "Sale of Sales." I had to do it. At the very least, if I shipped it to Taiwan I would have to drive it around and around because there’s no way I would be able to park it anywhere. It had to go. But as the guy who bought it backed it out of our driveway I stood there thinking, "That dude’s driving my truck." I was even kind of sad. "I know, I couldn’t believe it myself."

But by the time we were ready to leave…It was all gone. Brenda was heroic, in that she let me say at the end, "It all goes. All of it. No junk left behind." And not only did she let me say it. She even let me do it. We didn’t realize how stressful it is to live with a lot of STUFF. Every book you read about de-stressing your life has a chapter about getting rid of stuff you don’t need or use. So I’m proud of her, she did it and I believe that she will maintain our new "clutter-free" way of life, although I think moving halfway around the world, is a tough way to determine what you need.

That last week was the most stressful week I’ve spent this side of JIMCO. (A train re-railing company where I used to work.) Nothing worked out simply. We had to pay the shipping company in cash. But our bank wanted to put a hold on the money until after we left. The bank the check was drawn on wouldn’t help us, because we weren’t customers of that bank. I spent 2 days trying to make that work out. It finally worked out thanks to Rosa and Guillermo.

When we got to the train station, they wouldn’t let us check luggage or take our computer. If I can’t take luggage, it makes train riding difficult. They wonder why no one wants to ride the train. Finally, we drove Joseph’s truck to Modesto and they flew up to collect it. But we got here thanks to Rosa and Guillermo.

The final step is to get on a plane and just go. We will do that on Sunday at 1:40 am. We’ll just sleep our way to Taiwan. We’re working things out to make that happen. There’s a few flies in that ointment as well. But it will happen and we will get there.

Don’t think it’s all been hard and difficult. Some things have happened that have blown my mind. For instance:

1. My brother-in-law Ron got us tickets to fly Rosa and Guillermo to Modesto for $37.50 Business Class. Those are $300.00 tickets.

2. The shipping company made it possible for us to take things we didn’t think we had room for without it costing us any more money.

3. The cleanup guy was able to respond on 1 hours notice, and did the whole job.

And this: Aldein met this woman at work who is from Taiwan. That girl came to the US and got saved. Her pastor is also from Taiwan and his sister-in-law owns a private English School in Tao Yuan City. He arranged for me to be an English Teacher at that school in the afternoons. I’m going to meet the woman and determine if it will happen when I get there, but he seemed like it was a pretty definite thing. What an amazing thing to have happen. It sounds like God to me.


Thank you to the people who showed up to help us pack. Rosa, Guillermo and Joseph Rodriguez, Olivia Duran, Andy Duran, Betsy Herrera, Rebecca Sanchez, Paul Work, Brian Sundstrom, and Anthony Sanchez. (Olivia thank you for all that you did above and beyond the call of duty.)

Thank you to the English Class the English class, Yan, Zhimin, Sammi and Bingjing for their help and the Jiao zi. (Dumplings)

Thank you to the neighbors Greg and Zorrie White who came and brought food, prayers and good cheer the last night we were in Riverside.

Thank you to Rosa and Guillermo Rodriguez for all they have done for us throughout the years. They were an incredible blessing to us in the last weeks helping to make it happen. They helped us to handle things that looked impossible. Their willingness to do whatever it took, made those impossible things possible. (Thank you to Joseph for letting us use his truck.)

Thank you to Duane and Barbara Thompson for their thoughtful gift. We are blessed to have friends like you.

Thank you to the Colton Church for their commitment to this Missionary endeavor. Without their commitment this wouldn’t be possible. We go representing you.

Thank you to Pastor and Brenda for their trust and their willingness to believe in us. Their faith is inspiring.

Thank you to Pastor Warner and the Tucson Congregation for their help in the relocation.

Finally, thank you to all who have encouraged us with their friendship during these last weeks.