Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Our Walk to the Temple

Our walk to the temple takes about twelve minutes. Some days we do it several times. Monday, after I got there, I walked thirty minutes to the government building where I could pick up our ARC cards (Alien Residency Card). Our outside door opens onto Alley 10.

This is Alley 10 from one end to the other with our building on the left.

Stepping outside and turning left, this is what you see.

Turning left on Lane 7, this is our view.

Most of these small streets are one-way. This is the first intersection.

Lane 7 has a canopy of trees.

At the next intersection, we turn right onto Qing Tian Street. This sign points to Lane 7. In the other direction, it is marked Lane 6.

Qing Tian is a two-way street for cars, motor scooters, bicycles and pedestrians, although it is not much wider.

The important thing to notice at this intersection is the round mirror on the blue light post. Most intersections have one, and they must be used a lot, the way they come buzzing through.

This is Lane 5 to the right, Lane 2 to the left.

This is a nice, wide sidewalk on Qing Tian St, next to the Junior High School on the right (it only lasts one block).

On the left is a park. Underneath the park is a parking garage. You can see the entrance and exit.

And this is a nice, little path next to the park.

There is a man exercising on the contraption on the left.

Continuing, with the park on our left, we are on the only street on our way to the temple that has traffic lights and city buses. But in the next block there is no sidewalk and you have to walk in the street. So we don't go that way.

Instead, we turn right, cross the street with the light, and notice a street light post in the street. There are a lot of those.

Then left at the next corner. We like to walk the one-way streets, facing the traffic coming at us. Here we get shade from the tall buildings (when it's not raining).

A lot of motor scooters parked on this street (and everywhere else).

No extra space for maneuvering (front or back).

We're getting closer.

This is relatively wide. We've seen drivers maneuver their cars through narrow spaces with about one half inch to spare on each side.

This street would be wide enough for a car if there were nothing parked here. But that never happens, so only scooters and pedestrians pass.

Turning right at the French restaurant (very expensive), we are only a block away.

Across the intersection on the left, you can see a little bit of the Service Center and beyond that one spire of the temple (separate from the building and the top blends in with the cloudy sky).

Turning left, we are at the Service Center on our right. Actually, the Service Center only occupies the 4th floor with Public Affairs, Humanitarian Service, finance, translation, building design and maintenance (and such things). The 3rd floor is a complete meeting house with chapel, and the 1st floor is a complete meetinghouse, slightly larger, with chapel, gym, Relief Society room, primary, baptismal font and classrooms. Five wards meet in this building, and on the 2nd floor, three Stake Presidents have their offices, along with five bishops. In the basement is the Distribution Center.

There is always a uniformed guard on duty 24 hours a day.

This is the entrance to the lower levels.

There is a front door entrance to the temple, but we usually enter through the basement.

We refer to this as "B1" meaning basement 1. There is also a B2 and B3.

A lot of people come on scooters. It is affordable. I will have to take a picture of a family of four on one scooter.

The temple president and recorder and a few others have parking spaces on this level.

This door will lead us to the temple.

There is a small waiting room and another door.

Finally we have reached the door to the lower level of the temple. There is a buzzer and intercom where you can identify yourself and gain entrance. Each day we repeat this journey. Sometimes we alter our route for variety, but that gives you an idea of our area.

Monday, October 11, 2010

The Japanese Occupation

Out our back bedroom window we have this view. There is a small street, then a wall, and inside the wall a quaint, one-story dwelling with palm trees around it. We are told that at one time this city was covered with these Japanese homes.

This island has been controlled by many different peoples over the years. First there were aborigines which still exist and make up about 2% of the Taiwanese population. Then there was the Chinese colonization during the Qing dynasty. The Dutch controlled it for a while and in the 19th century the Japanese tried to take it over. They were not successful until 1895, after which they ruled here for 50 years, until the end of World War II. They tried to make the people learn the language and attend Japanese schools (the lucky few who got schooling). Now, after 65 years, there still are some of these buildings around the city. Most of them are owned by the government, we are told. As they need space for other things, they tear them down.

Here's a little closer view.

And here I've zoomed in even closer.

And directly under our window is this roof with what looks like moss all over it.

From the street, this is usually what you see -- a wall, a gate and the top of the roof.

We have been told about a house being there one day, being torn down the next, and replaced with a park the next. A week of two ago they tore down the wall in front of this house and we expected to see it demolished the next day. This is located one block from our apartment.

But the next day they had moved in a couple of flats of bricks and proceeded to rebuild the fence.

The owner of this car has not moved it for quite a while. They were able to build the wall, but they were not able to plaster the brick for the section next to the car.

In the background you can see a Japanese house, and I suspect there was one in the foreground, but it has been replaced by a parking lot.

This is just bare ground and people have started parking here already.

This is an example of a park that has replaced a house (witnessed by a couple that has been here longer than we).

Saturday, October 9, 2010

The Fortress

Today we will give you a tour of our residence in Taipei. We live on the fourth floor of a six story apartment building.

This is our alley and our balcony is the top one you can see on the right in this picture.

Qing Tian Street is about a block and a half west of our apartment and it has lanes running perpendicular to it. We are on lane 7 and then there are alleys perpendicular to the lanes (or parallel to Qing Tian St). We are on alley 10.

At the left of this picture are the buzzer buttons that guests may press to request access to the stairwell. Then there are mailboxes which are stuffed each day, mostly with advertising brochures for apartments and housing. But you have to go through it, just in case there is something important. On the right side of the picture is the access door to the stairwell. We have a key for that and two other keys -- a total of three doors to gain access to our apartment. For that reason I have titled this posting "The Fortress."

This is the outer door to our apartment. I assume the Chinese decoration was put there by our landlord. She is a professor at the university. I think she plans to live in this apartment after she retires and has to give up her university housing. There is an elevator, but we usually climb the three flights of stairs (48 steps) to the fourth floor. This door has a huge key with an extension -- you press a tiny button and the spring-loaded extension pops out (reminds me of an umbrella). I think the purpose of this outer door is to protect the inner door.

This is the inner door. It is thick and heavy and no one is going to get in, but they could mess it up if they were using a crowbar. With it open, you can get a breeze through the outer door.

This is the second reason for calling this "The Fortress." There are EIGHT deadbolts (4 in the middle, 2 at the top and 2 at the bottom). They all retract when you push down on the door handle.

When you enter, you will notice white tile floors and a lot of recessed lighting.

Our first weekend we went to a floral market and bought these artificial flowers. The apples came from New Zealand and cost about a dollar a piece.

The custom here is to remove your shoes when you enter someones home or the temple. The phone on the wall is the intercom for talking with people who buzz you at the stairwell door.

This is our dining area. The open hymnal on the table has Pin Yin words and we are continuing our tradition of singing one verse before each meal, starting at the beginning of the book and going to the end. We currently are at hymn #5, 3rd verse. On the wall behind the table is a slab of marble with recessed lighting to accent it.

This is our living room. Looking down the hallway, you see a recessed, lighted area. Above the electronic keyboard you see a live orchid in a recessed area (which we are trying to keep alive). The keyboard we found in a mission office store room, along with 6 or seven others not being used. So we may do some keyboard teaching. Above the couch is a recessed, lighted shelf with some Chinese pots for decoration. The whole wall that you see are hinged doors covering cupboard space. Behind the keyboard is a cupboard that is holding five large water bottles for our water dispenser. Every room in this apartment has an abundance of cupboards, closets and drawers.

This side of the living room has a low cupboard which had a huge TV on it. But we took it out and replaced it with a water dispenser and CD player/radio.

Outside our picture window in the living room is a large plant. We've decided it must be a subtropical plant that needs lots of water, so we've been pouring it on. In the daytime when you look out this window, you see a brick wall of an apartment building across the alley. So the plant is nice.

Here is the large, side-by-side refrigerator/freezer.

The kitchen has hot/cold running water, a heated dish dryer above the sink, a two-burner gas stove, a microwave, but no oven.

This balcony utility area has a washing machine and a gas water heater on the wall above the washing machine. Behind the camera is a small laundry sink. We may be able to get a clothes dryer since there are several in the church service center storage area.

In this bedroom we have relegated the TV on a study desk. This mattress was in the master bedroom, but after the first night we swapped it out. I compared it to the slab of marble on the wall. Alma does her morning exercises on this bed. We use the fan to push air out this window and draw it into the master bedroom. The bedroom floors are dark, wood-looking material.

This bedroom is used as our computer room. We have a DSL connection to the internet and the upload speed is very slow. Each of these pictures took about five minutes to upload. But the Skype seems to be working okay for video. And for $3 per month, we can use Skype to call any telephone in the United States. Each of the bedrooms and the living room has an air conditioner. We haven't used them much yet, but I expect that next summer we'll be using them.

Here's the master bedroom.

This is the other end of the master bedroom, with closets on the right, and two bathroom doors visible.

This is the shower that we've been using. Very nice.

This is the other bathroom. And this completes the tour. This apartment is much larger than we really need, and is the most expensive place that we've ever lived in our life. The rent is 36,000 per month (local currency, that is). The value of the dollar has been going down a little since we have arrived. This is equivalent to about $1200 per month. We lived on less than that for ALL expenses in Germany. And it is about 50% more than we spent for all expenses in Brasil. But when compared with other apartments that were available for about the same price and were unfurnished, we decided this was the best deal. We've also been told the rent for this apartment would be higher if it were any other floor. Apparently, superstitious people associate the number 4 with death (because the sound of the character for 4 and the sound of the character for death are about the same). So they don't want anything to do with the 4th floor.