Some Semblance of Normalcy

By: Mays Alejandra


We are currently living on Level 2 pandemic days in Taiwan, but this story was written in July, during level 3 restrictions nationwide.


July 22, 2021


Last weekend, we planned a trip to our former "hometown" Hsinchu 新竹. It is a windy coastal city located in western Taiwan. In the single year we lived there, we made a lot of sweet and fun memories. We tried many places with great food, took various clean-air nature walks, and nurtured great friendships that still thrive to this very day. Before I delve into what I really want to talk about, here are my best recommendations if you decide to make your way there this weekend:


Favorite Cafe

Our favorite brunch place was 小稲甜. We used to go there almost every weekend, that’s how great their quality was maintained over time. We would go there before they opened doors, for brunch, for late lunch, or just to fill my need for their caramel macchiato. Sometimes, I did put the coffee vice aside for some of their delicious fruit tea.

Favorite Outdoor Activities


Early in the mornings (and by early, I mean around 10 am), we would rent some Ubikes from the City Park near Hsinchu Performing Arts Center and ride all the way to TOFU Rocks. I cannot tell you why it is called that way, I can only guess the rocks are shaped like tofu??? They probably harvested beans in that area a century ago??? Don't quote me, I can only tell you from a fresh-air lover/ubiker point of view. Quite the view, isn't it? We would take the bike path from the Hsinchu side or cross over to Zhubei first, then Bee would be in charge of transporting the bikes with his able body through any treacherous terrain a.k.a. slightly hilly, May-might-get-bruised kind of areas.


On clear afternoons we would also take the Ubikes and ride a good hour or more all the way to Nanliao Beach. If we didn't feel like biking, we would ride Big Blue, Bee's scooter, and go chill at Sunset platform. Oh, how I miss my Hsinchu weekend evenings at the beach. Thinking about those evenings brings a sense of peace and calm every time I think about that place. You can also go kiting nearby. We never tried it. Let me know how that goes, okay? ;)


"Real Life"

In that chapter of my life, there was no time to do leisure activities during the week. I was a teacher and I had to plan lessons, create tests from scratch or create some art deco for my homeroom class to fit the season. Bee on the other hand, used to take an early bus to Taipei to attend his Master degree classes. After his classes, he would take the MRT to Yongning Station where he would then take the green 713 Ubus to Bade, Taoyuan where he would teach English until 9:30 pm. After teaching classes, he would rush out of work to take any bus that went towards Taoyuan Train Station where he would then take one of those last southbound trains. Once reaching Hsinchu, groggy and tired, he would make his way by Ubike back home. At 11:30 pm when we were finally together, we would either just have dinner, drink a beer to relieve the exhaustion of the day or simply snore away. So weekends were the only come to life moments we had.


Now that that is out of my system, back to the original idea of the story....

So for last weekend's supposed trip, our friend had even found a parking lot near her place that we could use for the Beemobile. But to think that we would drive two hours and not get to sit in our favorite cafe, or even take the food to eat at the park because parks are also closed off AND with police lines, yes, even those …we just decided against it all together and stayed in our quiet village.


To have an idea of what it is like at this time in Taiwan, here are some Tried and True Lessons we’ve had:


Pee or poo before you leave home.

Applies to leaving the workplace too. 7-11 bathrooms are non-accessible. If you wanna pee you better hold that pee until you get to work or get back home. Do not expect compassion.


Wallet, check! keys, check! phone check! mask on, check!

That’s right, do not leave home without your mask. Chances are your next-floor-neighbor will also use the same elevator and you definitely want to avoid scornful looks and backs intentionally turned away. Like the puppet Ahmad tends to say, “Silence..” Silence and masks are gold in the elevator.

Take-outs before Break-outs

I’m grateful my company gives us an early lunch break so we can beat the crowd and buy our lunch earlier. I still feel guilty to leave the desk before one of my superiors do, but sometimes if I know the place I want to eat from will take long to prepare my lunch box or will have too many orders, it’s best to just go. All restaurants and small eats will provide alcohol, temperature checks and even a list where you can write the date, time, your name and phone number in case you forgot to bring your phone and they need to contact you and give you “the news”.


Here‘s my list of Tried and Failed Lessons:

Pack your lunch?

We thought the best thing was to pack our lunch boxes every day and not worry about crossing paths with someone infected, but like the lazy potatoes we are, we still ended up buying breakfast almost everyday because we wake up too late to put hazelnut or peanut butter on the slice of bread or brew that cup of coffee. We have instant coffee too but who has the time for that … The idea was to also save money. I know, I know, we can just wake up earlier. Try doing that with a one year, one month old child who tends to pull almost all-nighters! Last thing you wanna do is open your eye before the alarm rings. Needless to say, we also failed at the bring-your-lunch-to-work regimen.


More Covid = More Savings?

We also said that by not being able to go anywhere meant that we could save a few extra bucks for that upcoming trip. No señor! We still spent them on Foodpanda orders and online shopping. Sigh. Where does consumerism end? Tips anyone?

Ah tiaaaaad! I'm looking forward to level two, when we can go to restaurants and sit behind our glass dividers and take off our masks at least to breathe better while eating, the excuse, and enjoy some social time with our loved ones...not at home. I heard beaches are still off limits so just call it level 5 for me.


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