The title: Tea from Taiwan with Cicely Hunt next to a bubble tea

Tea from Taiwan: Part 1

As I sit writing this 6102 miles away from Oxford University, I like to think that I’m living out my Carrie Bradshaw fantasy (despite never having watched Sex and the City). That is, if Carrie Bradshaw had to share a bathroom with five other people in an apparently legal Taipei apartment set up and owned approximately zero designer clothes. Carrie Bradshaw also probably doesn’t have to stand up at regular intervals to battle the small herd of fruit flies currently inhabiting her room, a result of my not having ‘chased the rubbish vehicle’ for the past few days: a foreigner faux pas to be sure. I can only humbly relate to darling Carrie as a stylish girlboss journalist in spirit. 

Spring has unofficially sprung in Taiwan. Its advent in the UK is traditionally marked by images of gambling lambs, flowering daffodils and a mild improvement in the weather, at the very least. In Taiwan, however, torrential rain, flying roaches, and rivers of sweat are the tell-tale signs of the incoming summer season. Did you know, dear reader, that an average American cockroach can move 50 times its body-length in a single second? It’s even more fun to witness in the flesh. If you haven’t had a four-inch roach fly directly at your face while parading serenely through the backstreets of Taipei, you’re missing out. The weather too has taken a sharp turn: in the last 24 hours I have experienced two minor earthquakes, a rainstorm that could only be described as biblical and then back to bright blue sky and 75% humidity. It is aptly described in Chinese as stepmother’s-face-weather. I like to think of it as Taiwan’s natural response for bug population regulation. 

I can only humbly relate to darling Carrie as a stylish girlboss journalist in spirit. 

The rise in temperatures over the past week has also been accompanied by an unprecedented spike of Covid in Taiwan, which recently topped over 5000 cases in a day; for reference, Taiwan locked down last year when cases reached a couple of hundred per day. Public reaction to the virus is vastly different here; unlike in the UK, young people don’t need a club mandate to stop partying and as a result clubs were completely empty this weekend (like literally no one on the dance floor) and it is nigh on impossible to buy an LFT in nearby shops. I recently had a week of online lessons because of two cases at my university, and I’ve heard of similar cases of entire schools shutting down due to a single case. However, Taiwan remains firm in its stance to implement a ‘living with Covid’ strategy, so for now, lockdown seems unlikely. It’s just as well, given that I have plenty of activities planned for my remaining couple of months here. 

In Taiwan, however, torrential rain, flying roaches, and rivers of sweat are the tell-tale signs of the incoming summer season.

This weekend I went to steep myself in the glorious hot springs just north of Taipei. A 45-minute journey on the MRT (Taipei’s metro) took us from the hustle and bustle of the city into the hilly suburbs of Taipei, with beautiful sunset views of the mountains from the train. We paid just under the equivalent of a pound to enter and spent about an hour and a half stewing in springs ranging from tepid to a bubbly 45 degrees, which felt rather excessive in 31-degree weather. The public ones we went to are very popular with the elderly, and a man we spoke to confessed that he has been going almost every day for some 15 years since he retired; apparently, he has never been ill in that time! This sentiment is shared by many of the elderly, who frequent hot springs and practise exercises there to keep their bodies healthy and mobile. As my own skin started to experience what I can only describe as a fizzing sensation in the 45-degree temperatures, our friend chatted happily away to the soundtrack of a nearby man vigorously slapping parts of his body (presumably for health benefits). He told us that he enjoys its calming effects on the mind and how the hot water entering the body helps to purge not only toxins from his body but also his soul (something might have been lost in translation there). At this junction of the conversation, I started to feel the heady sensation of my own soul leaving my body, so promptly went to cool down. However, the all-too-brief period without my soul felt surprisingly pleasant and left me feeling serene and cleansed for the rest of the day. Joie de vivre restored, I look to another week of my usual lessons before a trip to the breath-taking Alishan mountain range, where we hope to see the famed ‘sea of clouds’ over the weekend. More to come. Tata for now! 

cc xx

Image Description: The title “Tea from Taiwan with Cicely Hunt” next to a cup of boba tea