Scenes from around the hospital

I spent a good deal of time at a several hospitals in Taipei, not as a patient, but as family of a patient. My mum had surgery to correct a heart defect a little more than a year ago, so I was there for the post-surgery recovery, follow-up appointments, and rehab therapy. I even got myself checked out while I was there since I couldn't (and still can't) afford to do it in the US. So, this issue I have with my heart skipping beats turns out to be a common heart valve defect that for the time being requires no treatment. Yay! I've noticed it's definitely exacerbated by stress and alcohol. Ah, well, alcohol I can control, but stress, that's hard to control especially in this economy. At least I saved myself a good deal of money by seeing doctor in Taiwan.

Looking down at my 24 hour heart monitor...each of the wires lead to electrodes stuck to my chest. It was not comfortable, not ideal for sleeping.

In Taiwan the burden is more on the family to provide day to day care. Nurses check on patients regularly, dispense medication, check blood pressure and that sort of stuff, but if you need to vomit or have trouble getting to the toilet, that's why you have family stay with you to help. If family is unable to stay, they can hire a caretaker to stay with the patient at the hospital, help them eat, help them bathe, etc. Since they're basically living at the hospital, carers usually wash their clothes in the bathroom. We shared a room with another patient and her carer. This caretaker will never know that I posted her underwear on the internet.

We also shared a room with another woman and her live-in carer, a young woman from Southeast Asia the family kind of adopted to take care of the woman who appeared to be in poor health. I'd noticed that the girl was of a different ethnicity, but called the patient "Ma" and spoke a different language when she was talking on the phone. When the family came to visit, they would call the girl "little sister". And then the family would leave to go home, while the girl stayed to care for the woman. My mum explained that sometimes families "adopt" girls, often from poorer Asian countries, into the family to care for someone disabled or in chronic poor health.

This it the pail for food scraps in the patient kitchen area. Taipei collects kitchen waste for compost or pig feed. Even at self-serve restaurants you'll find a bin next the the trash to collect leftover food waste.

this belongs to another patient. she'd been in the hospital for 3 weeks.

A chair folds out for sleeping

this was a great hospital. the doctors and nurses were fantastic. we'd been to a few, but this one was by far the best...and one of the more expensive, but still hell of a lot cheaper than any American hospital.

patient watching telly in the lobby. he probably has a four person shared room; crowded, but completely covered by the National Health Insurance, whereas the more private rooms are not.

small bakery shop in the lobby. at meal times the table next to it sells meal boxes for about US$2-3.

The hospital cafeteria was undergoing renovations, so patients were given meal boxes. this one looks like fried fish with rice and vegetables.

if a croissant mated with a cupcake...

the brand new rehab center

view from somewhere high

Taiwan Storyland

Since I had several months to spend in Taiwan, I had been looking for fun (and quirky) things to do in Taipei. One of those places was the Modern Toilet Restaurant, which was a toilet bowl of fun. Another place I really wanted to go to was Snow King (雪王) Ice Cream, where you can get ice cream in flavours you've never imagined, like beer, mustard, and various meat flavours. I don't know if those are tempting, but the guava and custard apple flavours sound scrumptious! Unfortunately I missed out on visiting Snow King due to several reasons; it was winter, no one wanted to go with me, and it's location was not convenient for me. The only time I was in the Ximen area where it's located was to visit the toilet restaurant, but I didn't learn of this little ice cream shop until later. Hopefully I will find myself in Taipei again to try that wasabi ice cream.

Across from the Taipei Main Railway Station is this little gem of a museum called Taiwan Storyland (台灣故事館). It's not so much a museum in the usual sense with exhibits behind windows. It's a recreation of life in Taiwan in the 1960s. I dragged my dad to see it with me because this was the time period of his youth in Taipei, which I know he's pretty nostalgic about. He almost didn't go in because the admission price is slightly high in Taiwan dollars, about US$6, but once we were inside I think he was pleasantly surprised. He'd point to an old wooden food cart and say, "When I was a boy, we used to buy snacks from a cart like this." It was nice to have that personal touch.

This entrance is at street level, but the museum is several levels down. It's arranged like a small village with store fronts, alleys and even fake trees. I wish I had some better photos, but it was quite dark inside.

dad looking at candy and snacks in one of the shops

I used to have a scooter just like this. It was awesome.


shaved ice shop

we snacked on some grass jelly and ayu jelly shaved ice

dental chair...yikes

home of a well-to-do family in 1960s Taiwan

dining area

If you're ever in Taipei, I'd highly recommend a visit to Taiwan Storyland, especially if you or any family members lived in Taiwan during the 60s. It's well worth the admission price, cheaper than going to the cinema.

Tomb Sweeping Day

Last April I was in Taiwan during the QingMing Festival (清明節), which isn't so much a festival, but a holiday when people gather with family and visit the graves and shrines of ancestors, pay their respects and tend to the grave sites. You may perhaps have heard of Tomb Sweeping Day, which is what it is commonly called in English. If I recall correctly my family observed Qingming Festival at home when I was a child with food offerings placed before photos of my grandparents as a sort of homemade shrine. This was my first time observing it in Taiwan where it is a public holiday. I won't pretend to know much about the holiday since I've spent most of my life in the USA, but if you want to learn more about Qingming Festival, you know where to look.

My paternal grandparents are buried in a cemetery near Yangmingshan National Park, which is a lovely area known for its hot springs.

Burning spirit money for our ancestors and dieties

Some tombs have been emptied and abandoned for whatever reasons, and some haven't been looked after.

My maternal grandfather is interred at this mausoleum for veterans

A family preparing their shrine

incense and candles

This furnace used to be used to burn spirit money, but it's been sealed off probably due to air pollution concerns.

Lest I leave the impression that this holiday is morose and sad, it certainly can be, but more often it's a time to gather with family. It's also a time to celebrate the arrival of spring by spending time outside. Indeed, I got the impression for many it was something like a family reunion picnic at the cemetery to spend time with ancestors.