Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ironing sandwiches, winning the lottery, and other Taiwan commonplaces

I hesitate to say that the drought is over, but I do feel like writing more lately. Not to put all this on you, my small cadre of faithful readers, but it is hard to write to a silent audience. A person needs a little feedback, and sometimes she needs even more. But regardless of who stops by to read, I still need to sort through life from time to time and you, my friends, get front-row seats. No fear, though--I'm not going to unload three months' worth of the expat experience on you (at least not in one telling). But perhaps some highlights....

The immediate crisis in my life is my broken range. Since Thursday last I've been without both stove and oven, due to the fact that I complained that the oven was not heating properly: 55 minutes to heat the thing to 350ยบ means wasted gas and a hungry family. Anyway, this led to a visit from our maintenance man, who deemed the problem bigger than he could handle and called in an appliance repairman. The repairman came and gave it a go, but realized a part would need to be replaced. Of course the part had to come from Taipei, so it would be Saturday--Monday at the latest--before he'd be back. He returned Tuesday. That was yesterday, and after he'd retrofitted the part (because it certainly couldn't be exactly what was needed straight out of the box) he discovered that there was another problem as well, requiring another part, this time (thankfully) a bit closer to home. He did come back today but still hasn't finished up the job. In the meantime I still have a family to feed and a strong desire to make Christmas cookies before the holiday passes us by, so I've had to get creative. Enter: ironed cheese sandwiches. It works, I did not invent it, and Cole prefers them now to cheese sandwiches made any other way. They actually cook much quicker, but there's a tendency to be a bit underdone in the middle (which, honestly, is what Cole loves about them: more melty than toasty). There was a little improvement today: when the repairman came by he hooked up the gas to the burners again, so at least I can make a decent supper. Cookies, however, are still on hold.

Considering how often I win the lottery here, you'd think I could exert a little pull and get these kind of problems dealt with straightaway. At this very moment I am sitting on two winning receipts (yes, receipts) worth a total of four hundred dollars. Of course, those are New Taiwan dollars, or NT$, so they're only equivalent to about US$12, but still, I won. You see, every odd-numbered month the winning numbers are announced and people all over the island pull out their stash of cash register receipts to look for a match--and I am right there with them. I once had five digits match, which was a nice little bonus of NT$4000 (US$120), but all my other winners have been small fry: three digits, about six bucks a pop. The great thing about winning, though, is that you don't have to go to some distant lottery office to collect (well, unless you win big). They can be used same-as-cash at any 7-11, and there's not much you can't find at a 7-11 here, so that's a pretty good deal. The whole point of the lottery is to ensure that businesses issue receipts in the first place. With everyone clambering for official, lottery-eligible receipts, the government has a much easier time of keeping track of sales and collecting taxes from businesses. Without the receipt incentive a lot of money would never hit the books, and there'd be no reliable record for the taxman. So what the government saves in henchmen they give back to people as lottery winnings. Well, not all of it, I'm sure, but I can't complain. Somewhere there's a million dollar winner with my name on it. I just have to keep shopping until I find it. If only they'd fix my stove, so I can go buy groceries and get back in the game.


Lowa said...

Wow! I hope you stove (or oven, more importantly) got taken care of and you were able to make those cookies!

Have a great holiday and thanks for the idea on the cheese sandwiches!

Anonymous said...

Aunt Kate...I love reading your blog! Even (or especially?) when there are three months in-between posts. :)
I'm glad your stove/oven finally got fixed and that, in the meantime, you figured out how to make a kid's staple food with a common household item. Mom-of-the-year award to you!
Every time I read your posts it makes me want to come to Taiwan even more. I want to come visit!!! I have always wanted to (seeing as the 10-hour stay in the airport hotel 7 years ago on the way to India didn't really count...though we did go outside the airport) and that desire keeps pushing at me. Will you be there for a while longer still? Like "summer of '09" longer? That would be amazing...I will come!
Okay...off to the family party at Teresa and Don's today. Joy joy for the akward family get-togethers. :P

I love you and miss you! I want to talk more before I leave too!
Love to the Uncle Tim and the not-so-little ones.
<3 your fave niece ;)

Anonymous said...

P.S. Didn't mean to write 'the' in front of 'Uncle Tim'...in case you noticed. :P

Anonymous said...

Hi Kathy,
Yes - I'm still alive! Sorry this is so late - I just found your blog again. I don't have internet access right now so I have to remember to check things every now and then at Greg's office.

Just had to comment on the ironing of the cheese sandwiches - I'm laughing but also proud of you for coming up with a very creative solution to your problem. I would've just whined and then said "we're goin' out!" It reminds me of the movie Benny and Joon.

I still think of you - I will now try to read all your other posts since December to find out how you are!

Love ya' Kathy - say hi to Tim and the kids.