Melanie Byford-Young, an owner of Pacific Northwest Pilates, has traveled to Taiwan to teach in Taipei. Anyone who knows Melanie knows her eyes are always wide open to the people and wonders of the world. Here’s her update from Taipei:
Day Three in Taipei—the world of incongruities just keeps growing!
Melanie and the Taipei group.
The studio feels at least 10,000 degrees and everyone but me is cold. It is raining now and quite humid, so everyone has straight hair except me. Mine grows bigger by the second.
I sleep in a fine hotel. Across the street are either exclusive high rises or dark and scary looking flats. One block down is a mall that has Chanel and every exclusive brand that you can imagine; next to the mall is an empty lot. On the street, scooters compete with Lexus SUVs. Every corner is lined with parked scooters and every light change is deafening.
Last night, Jennifer and two other girls took me to the evening street market. It was incredible!!! Food and clothing, jewelry and bras, dogs, cats—and roaming fashionistas. We started with bubble tea… quite nice. Noodles, yum.
Then we came to an area with a smell so pungent that I was almost sick to my stomach. People were lining up for the opportunity to eat stinky tofu. Yes, fermented tofu. Disgusting. I agreed to try it and truly the taste is better than the smell, but the after-taste is almost as bad as the smell. Been there, done that, no more thank you! They say it is like blue cheese, but I don’t think so!
In China, when you go to a market, sellers are very very, very aggressive. My favorite Chinese-language market greeting is “Lady, lookielookie.” Then the negotiations begin: “Lady, you break my heart!” I purchased a small gift, and without even opening my mouth, the woman dropped the price three times!
Tonight I was supposed to go to the local hot springs but it was raining so hard that we postponed. I went to the high end mall one block away from me and found another fascinating side of Taipei. This mall truly puts any other shopping area to shame, with every name brand you can imagine and many more.
Downstairs is a grocery store that is almost like heaven. It is the Harrods of Taipei. I had a western-style meal of broccoli and cauliflower in cheese sauce, and beef stew. It was awesome. I do love Asian food, but a change is also welcome. It was bizarre to hear my first Christmas carol of the season, a German carol that no one seemed to notice. The clerk wore a Santa headband that kept falling over.
There may be many differences but the people are great—so sweet and accommodating. They work HARD with long hours and are lovely and gracious. It feels surprisingly safe here. The street noise level is insane; when I step into the quiet of the hotel lobby, staff stands and bows (I hope for this when I come back home!).
Jennifer, who is co-teaching with me, epitomizes the work ethic. She is a physical therapist, a rehab IT and fully certified in Pilates. She and her husband are looking for a new house for their beautiful seven-month-old boy. She and two partners are opening a new studio/clinic. Jennifer works in three places, six days a week and recently wrote a research article. She looks wonderful and is always kind. Her students—therapists and rehab doctors—love the course. Oh, and during the courses, she is hosting two houseguests!
Life is good. We are each so lucky to be where the world has placed us. To me, it is all about friends and family. That’s my main thing. As Einstein wrote (and Kevin quotes): the main thing is to remember the main thing. Everything else is glitz or stinky tofu.
And with that I will say goodnight! I love home, and I love the adventures of life. A smile is a smile is a smile… no matter what language you speak.