Thanks to our personal tour operator, Kevin, (www.lets-go-tour.com) driving our family and 16 pieces of luggage, we secured an easy ride to Sigang (pronounced shee-gong’ : Also spelled Shigang) in a spacious VW van. It was a 4-hour drive from the international airport in Taoyuan, Taiwan. We were happy to show our children the modern city of Taipei as we drove south. What was more exciting to me was the backdrop of mountains, which stretched across the horizon and followed us all the way from the north to the south of the island. The drive was similar in duration to our frequent drive from Orlando to South Miami, so our children handled it well.
We arrived in Sigang township around 11:30 am and was greeted by Shu-min’s mother. We proudly showed her new grandchildren and introduced them to their Uncle, Dr. Jen-wen (Samuel) Hsu. Our first hours were spent catching up and getting familiar with our new home. We live on the edge of the township of Sigang along the main highway. On one side of the house is the hustle and bustle of a town, which by Western standards, seems pretty large. But in Taiwan, this is considered a village. On the back side of the house is farmland, growing rice, corn, sugar cane and other fruits and vegetables. This area of Tainan County is a farming community, so many of the old traditional customs still exist in this corner of the island. Many things you might find here, such as ox-drawn carts and round straw hats, no longer can be seen anywhere else.
When we first arrived, we took the time to assess our new home. We were pleasantly surprised by the many improvements that were in place in anticipation of our arrival. The first thing I realized is that I would be losing weight just getting around the house, with 4 floors to climb. That’s 70 stairs!
The first floor of the home contains the office of our own doctor in the family. Having our own doctor in the house is proving to be a pleasant benefit for our family. Behind the doctor’s office is a spacious kitchen, which serves at a family gathering and eating area. Even though there is a refrigerator, it is not an important household accessory. Most meals are purchased daily at the outdoor market or gathered from the fields or gardens outside. Behind the kitchen is a small courtyard, containing a traditional wood burning stove and a bathroom. Behind the courtyard is a garage, renovated from what once was a pig sty.
The second floor contain the sleeping space and a bathroom for the families. The only room with an air-conditioning unit is on this floor, so during the humid Summer months, I may spend more time here seeking relief.
The third floor contains my home office, with four computers and a flat screen TV. It’s almost like a mini-Internet cafe. There is a bedroom, bathroom and a prayer room on this floor as well. Thanks to ADSL provided by Hinet.net, I will be connected to the rest of the world.
The 4th floor was recently added and is designated as a play area for the children, and a library. Like every floor, it contains a bathroom. Much of the storage space and a large water tank is located on this floor. Coming from a trailer home, where he children had limited play space, this is a huge difference for them. They were quite taken by it.
With all of the comforts of home, there were still a few things that will take time to get used to. Plumbing is not very advanced wherever you go in Taiwan, so it is typical to have a modern toilet, but you never flush your toilet paper. There is always a wastebasket next to the toilet to put it in. It is hard to undo years of repetitive toilet training. Also, you will always want to carry a pouch of toilet paper with you wherever you go. Stores sell them in pouches, not toilet paper rolls like Americans are used to.
In our house, water is boiled daily to have available to drink. I have to hope that the water supply is free of dangerous chemicals, as we don’t use filters, and bottle water just costs too much to drink constantly.
Regardless of the inconveniences, this is our home for awhile, and we are happy with it. It’s not really the building that makes a home, it’s the family within.
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