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The Commute

· Taiwan,Taipei,Living Abroad

The daily a commute. A thing of dread to some, to others something savored as the last minute of freedom. For me I've always enjoyed them, taking in the sights. Sometimes it seems like a game, trying to find the things that have changed from the day before on the path I've traveled so many times. And with anything in life, the commute for me has altered quite a bit over the last year or so.

In Wisconsin, my commute was usually via car. I miss this sometimes. Besides the feel of driving a vehicle, I miss the small amounts of time in a personal bubble. I was able to spend my 20 minutes one-way drive between work blasting tunes, either getting myself pumped for the day or winding down. These drives were made great in late spring and summer with windows down, sunglasses, and a steady wind breezing through my car. Autumn always brought the smell of bonfires and dried leaves. Of course, there's winter. I do not miss scraping snow and ice off of my car. The shivering and clattering of my teeth as I drove hunched over hoping the heater would kick in soon. The despise when it finally had gotten warm in my car, just as I pulled up to my destination. There were some exciting times that time I had to wait for a cow to cross the road...

My first apartment here in Taiwan was walking distance from my school. About a 10-15 minute walk. It was nice being close, as I could come home and take a nap, or just chill during my breaks. My walk brought me down bustling streets and alleys which changed dynamically throughout the day. In the mornings it would be a clothes and vegetable market, with a few dumpling stands. By afternoon some of these had been replaced sushi and noodle stands. By evening most of the street was vendors selling stinky tofu, dumplings, Taiwanese hamburgers, pastries, and more. While walking these streets I would often run into students, and so it was unusual to get home without one "Teacher Karmen!" being heard. In ways though, I don't miss out on this commute, since I usually am over here for work, I still visit all the same spots. My commute to Chinese classes was via bus, as it was from an area lacking an MRT yet. The bus was usually crammed to standing room only with high school students. Once or twice an impromptu language exchange would occur, as they were usually studying English and me Chinese.

My new apartment has me residing a bit more on the outskirts of the city. I like it for the quiet. No running neighbors kids, less traffic, no screaming couple next door. It's also a much larger apartment for cheaper and I have roommates. This new location brings with it new modes of transportation. MRT for mostly everything. This makes my Chinese class commute a bit more empty as no one seems to be up and riding the MRT yet. I usually space out with my headphones on. Afternoons and evenings though are more lively. The MRT and train station seems to be a hangout area for teenagers with guitars, break dance practice, t'ai chi and more. During some festivals, I've seen groups practicing their choreography there as well. I also live right next door to a temple. It's usually quiet except for a few patrons burning incense and ghost money, filling the air with a comforting smell. This weekend it changed a bit from a celebration I never quite determined. Drums, dancers in costume, puppet shows. The canopy was hung over half our street when I came home later that night, a truck was going down the street pulling about 15 large scale drums. The puppet show and eating were still going fiercely, as was the ghost money burning.

Each day brings something new, and the commute always gives me time to discover these changes. Here's hoping you all equally amusing and adventurous travelings between work, school, and home.