Friday, January 18, 2008

Taiwan Living

I have been getting many questions about life in Taiwan and hopefully I can offer a few answers...

I have been living in Taipei now for almost a month. I am staying with a wonderful family who has been very kind in opening their home and their lives to me. They speak a bit of English and have been trying to acclimate me to the mandarin language. The language is very complex. Aside from the obvious character reading and writing difficulties, the structure of the language is opposite from English. If you take a common English sentence, to directly translate it to mandarin usually requires taking the end of the sentence and placing it at the beginning. Everyone tells me I speak "upside down Chinese." That combine with the tonal difference makes the language very daunting to learn. There are four basic tones in Chinese and if you were to pronounce the same word in those ways, they carry separate meanings. For instance the word for water and handsome are the same, but tonally, are completely different. I've asked for one bottle of handsome. I think the response I got was, "you need it."

The city is large and lively. Most stores (supermarkets, convenience stores, glasses shops) are open into the wee hours of the morning and restaurants are almost always busy at every time of day and night. They act as an after hours meeting hub, much like a bar in the US. They actually have very few bars here. With most of the places I have been, bars are uncommon and expensive if you can find one. It's fortunate that I view the pursuit of golf excellence and alcohol as going together like dirty diapers and lolly pops.

Taiwan is a subtropical climate and the weather is inconsistent. Many days are 70 and beautiful during the winter, but more are 50 with a strong, cold wind. You never get the same golf course two days in a row.

The course I am practicing at is the best course in Taiwan. It has taken me in like my surrogate family here and been incredibly helpful. The course is set at a very high altitude outside of Taipei, making it much colder and windier than in the city. The course without adverse weather conditions is very difficult as a 7100 yard Robert Trent Jones design that weaves through mountainous terrain and thick forest. It provides some of the most miraculous views that resemble Hollywood pictures of European bluffs and vineyards in between nerve-testing, challenging shots. Shooting par in the winter is equivalent to shooting 65. The wind blows between 25 and 40 routinely. On the very blustery days, breaking 80 is impressive. The course becomes the ultimate course management and short game test.

Most days I wake up early for a bus, train and taxi ride to get to the course. It takes about 2 hours in all. Fortunately, public transit here is cheap. I've found that although the daily travel is tiring and tedious, it ultimately helps me stay focused during my day knowing that I need to make that journey as worthwhile as it can be. If I can take that small incite into a larger perspective, this trip will be well worth the effort.

Keeping you posted...

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