Tuesday, April 26, 2011

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Living in a condo in Taipei

4/26/2011 Taiwan Explorer
What happened to my privacy?

A condominium like many others.

Last year I used to live in this area in a cheap apartment on ground level with a very small window, a bed, a desk, a TV and a bathroom. It was cheap, small and usually very dark. We went to check the apartment out in the evening and signed the contract right away, because we were in desperate need to get something reasonably priced as soon as possible. We had no idea that it will be so dark inside during the day and that was for me very hard to bear in the beginning. I used to live there alone and my wife (girlfriend at that time) used to visit me every evening. And even though the area was noisy, smelly and not very clean, the people were friendly (sometimes the convenience store clerks would chit chat with me) and everything we needed was available nearby for a good price (we even had a night market nearby, within 5 minutes of walk). The only thing that used to be a little troublesome sometimes was waiting for the garbage truck. But I felt free.

This year I'm living in a condo, similar to the one you see on the photo above. I live in one of the upper floors and have a good view of the surrounding area. I can even see the top of the Shin Kong Life Tower on a clear day. The apartment is not that much bigger, it's just one room with a small kitchen and a bathroom, but we pay almost double than for the one I rented last year. We have security guys, a lobby, elevators, a gym, a playground for kids and even a swimming pool (these are of course all common facilities). I like more space and I like the big windows, basically everything's fine so far, my wife chose a great place to live as a couple. But just the other day I was thinking: Where did my privacy go?

As you can imagine, I'm very obvious here. I'm a blonde white man and I'm always very interesting to the local population. The thing is, I can't lose myself in the pool of people like everybody else here. I will always be very easily remembered, people will wonder about me, probably saying things like: "Who's that young white guy every day passing by? What's he doing here?" "I saw him with a local girl, maybe he's married with her." "Oh, I see..." - That's a new situation for me. In Europe I'm "normal" and just one of many, here I'm "different" and one of the few. And not only that, I'm one of those few that are always sparking interest among the majority of people. That's of course very human and I can totally understand the locals, when they see me and become curious about me. I can live with that.

What bothers me more are the security guys. Every day when I leave my apartment, I need to pass through the lobby and greet one or more of them. And when I'm outside, another one will be there managing the traffic in front of our building and I need to say another hello or just throw a nod of recognition, when I pass by. And that basically means they know when I'm going out (to work) and when I'm returning home: I feel so monitored. It's like staying in a hotel with just a reception and no room service (How long could you take something like this?). Sometimes I feel like finding a way to sneak out without anyone seeing me just to get that feeling back, the one where I feel completely free.

Are you willing to trade security for less privacy? It's really hard sometimes, because where I grew up, we had nothing like that. Security personnel would be something you only see at factories, warehouses or government buildings. Growing up in a house surrounded by a forest marked me for life. In my heart I'm not a city person, but I know that living in Taipei is the best thing that ever happened to me. I want to enjoy it to the fullest, but at the same time I should not forget where I came from and where my heart really feels at home.

And the only ones, who monitored me there, were the chirping birds, that woke me up every morning. I hope I will see them again one day.

[My LIFE IN TAIWAN page][Photo by MKL, 2011]