Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Toto, I Don't Think We're in Kansas Anymore

Or Texas. Or the U.S.

As I may have mentioned once or twice, I blew off the U.S. of A. in favor of Taiwan on Sunday. I have a lot to say about it, so go ahead and get some chocolate and settle in for this post. Sure, I could spread it out over several days, but I know I have alone time tonight for jet lag recovery, and I don't know about other days yet. So I will write while I have time.

First I'll share pics, a few of which were taken during the most horrible jet lag of my life. Yes, I'm going to post them anyway. Mock me if you wish; I don't have better ones to post.

The first one is my first view of the island from the plane. It was a hazy day, but it was just beautiful from the air. I don't know how well it translates into a photo through the window of a plane. Since real estate in Taiwan is sort of at a premium, I wondered briefly how much the tiny island in the center of the picture is worth.

Another view of the island as we flew in. Really beautiful. I flew through Tokyo, and I was surprised how different the two islands look from the air. They're both staggeringly beautiful, just in slightly different ways. I wish I'd had my camera out when we flew over Japan, but I didn't.

I'm assuming this is Taipei; we landed shortly after seeing this. I'm horrible at figuring out landmarks from the air unless I'm very familiar with the landscape from the ground, so it could be another city, but I didn't see a larger metro area before we landed.

I knew my company had sent a car and driver for me, and I had my camera out to get a picture of him holding the card up with my name. (Why yes, I am a dork! But this was a first for me.) Unfortunately, at that point, I had a backpack, another carry-on, and two checked bags rolling behind me. There were probably 20 drivers waiting for passengers, and there was a crowd of people walking out, so I couldn't just stop and snap his picture. He threw away the name card before he got to me, so I couldn't even ask him to pose with it. Ah well.

He was very efficiently loading my bags, and I thought I might get a shot of that, but when he saw me with the camera, he straightened up, waved, and grinned for the camera. THISFAST. The picture is a little blurry, but it's the only one I have.

Might I just say that if you have an hour-long drive at the end of 21 hours of air travel, a driver in a Mercedes is a delightful way to pass that hour. What a lovely introduction to Taiwan!

I really must get a photo of the front of my hotel; I almost laughed out loud when I saw it. The tagline, printed on the awning out front, is "The Classy Hotel for Classy People." Ummm, why am I here, again?

I must say that this was a wonderful touch in said classy hotel. Seriously, where can you find this in the U.S.? Nowhere that I've found.

Having been welcomed to my room by my floral, gilt-edged toilet, I wasted little time before falling into an exhausted sleep. Did I mention I can't sleep on a plane, even with Ambien? No? Well, I can't.

Unfortunately, I woke up at 4:30am, having gone to sleep at 10:30, and I could NOT go back to sleep. I had heard of this happening to world travelers, but as insanely sleepy as I was, I assumed I wouldn't need Ambien to sleep until morning. I'm usually pretty good at going back to sleep... but apparently not when my sleep schedule is 13 hours off.

I got up, watched a movie on hubby's iPod touch that I confiscated for the trip, and worked on a crocheted purse that would have perfectly matched today's outfit if I could have managed to finish it. By the time my alarm went off at 8am, I was really sleepy. Naturally. As an added bonus, when I mess with my sleep schedule, I get migraines, and the meds make me sleepy. I had to take two doses today to stay ahead of the pain, and all the sleepy just about did me in.

I'm here to meet everyone in my new company and to be trained on the company's products. They're making very efficient use of my time while I'm here: I have three training sessions per day with a short break between each one. Today's presenters were very good, and the material was interesting, but Cirque du Soliel would have had a hard time keeping me awake today. I was good for the first half hour of each session, and then it was a fight to stay awake -- not a good first impression to make. Which is a shame, because everyone here has been wonderful. One man recognized me on my way into the building this morning (he's someone I've exchanged several emails with), got me the training schedule, bought me lunch since I had no Taiwanese currency, and took me to the bank after lunch to exchange what little American cash I happened to be carrying. Incidentally, it sounds like a lot more when you exchange it... maybe I should keep some!

Another co-worker took me around and introduced me to everyone on two floors. I'm terrible with names, so now I'm really lost, having met 40 people in an hour. But she was careful to explain each person's function to me -- and mine to them. I wish I had taken notes, but I didn't have paper, only this beautiful thing:

It's an Acer, which is not a popular brand in the U.S. but is very popular in Asia. This is their multimedia powerhouse system, with 5.1 audio output, full 1080 HD playback, etc. It's also just real pretty to look at, for you non-geeks.

After today's training, since I was so sleepy, my considerate co-workers decided we could all have dinner another night. They sent me back to the hotel (I have a shuttle both ways) and asked the driver to stop by Subway on the way for me. Now, before you protest, I already did, and they said there was plenty of time for Taiwanese food. Rest, they said. Come back refreshed tomorrow, they said.

Sounds good, I said. See you tomorrow.

And I did turn down McDonald's, so I have that going for me. Or something.

On the way back to The Classy Hotel for Classy People, I noticed lots of things in traffic. I'm a born driver, and I drive a sports car most of the time, so I tend to notice things in traffic. First, and not surprisingly, probably 2/3 of the vehicles on the road in this part of Taiwan (and I'm not in Taipei) are scooters. Very smart for gas consumption. I don't know if they have a helmet law here, but I haven't yet seen a rider without one. I have only seen one rider on the phone.

Also not surprisingly, most cars are Asian. The brands are recognizable (Honda, Toyota, and Nissan seem to be the most popular), but the models are completely different for the Asian market. I rode in a Toyota to the bank and was surprised by its features: a backing beeper, a proximity alarm when you are backing and get too close to something, and mirrors that fold in for tight parking spaces. You just don't see small cars with those sorts of features in the U.S.

Among the non-Asian cars I saw, the most popular seems to be BMW. I had to really look to find any American cars at all, although I did see a Ford or two. Interesting.

And now, my bloggy friends, it is midnight here, so I must sleep. I had a nap, but real sleep is good, and I need some.

If you have made it this far and would do me the honor, please leave me a comment and let me know if you're interested in hearing randomness about Taiwan, if you have any specific questions I can answer, or if you'd just generally like me to keep it shorter next time.

This is Lisa, signing off from Taiwan. Night night, y'all.


Cindy said...

I love the post!! And I love hearing about all the little things you're noticing about the country! I think it's fascinating. Very interesting about the cars - I would never expect to see a Ford or GMC there, but why not??! Obviously, there are Asian cars here...Umm, I think we have two in my family. I can't wait to hear about your food excursions while you're there. I'm also dying to know if they make you do Karoke like apparently everyone at my company has to do when they go anywhere in Asia.

And hey - at least you HAVE a potty. I've heard many the horror story about that too.

Hope you slept (are sleeping) well!!

Develen said...

WOOT! Lisa is NOT in the US of A. Hey grrl, yer blog makes me want to blog and I don't blog...what's up with that?

You've so gotta get a picture of the Classy Hotel banner.

Take care over there and see you when you get back.

Trey said...

Lisa Lisa!

Great info, keep them coming!

You should have taken my GPS receiver Robert has to identify the cities you were flying over!

Hope your jet lag ends soon...

Lisa said...

Holy cow, my seester and two former cow-orkers (sic)!

Yes, I will definitely get a pic of the tagline, and I've been making notes all day on what else to mention.

I'd love to know what all the vegetables are that I've been eating. I need to take pictures of the cafeteria food. Most of it is really yummy. Can I just say how interesting it is to eat corn and a quarter chicken with chopsticks?

This is the experience of a lifetime, although I think they may let me come back!

Coach J said...

As a non-geek, that Acer is sooooo beautiful. :0)
I'm lovin' hearing about your experiences--this is great. This is also the only way I'll experience life in Taiwan.

Cindy-Still His Girl said...

Wow, Lisa! What an adventure!! What is your new job??? Congrats! :)

Becky Laswell said...

This all sounds so fun! I'm glad I wasn't at the market with you - I'm sure the smells would have brought out the worst in me. :) We're looking forward to taking you out for some tex mex when you get back to town (sounds like we're doing dinner with Robert tomorrow).

andrea said...

That is the awesomest toilet I've ever seen.

On the car note, we really should chat some time. I'm guessing the Fords you saw were not the crappy American models. European Fords are actually pretty cool. If we had a European Focus over here I'd buy one in a heart beat (and if you knew me you'd know that's saying something). Do you ever watch Top Gear? If not, see me. It's like car candy.