A Destination Birth?

434px-Statue_of_Liberty_7


Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

What if the world’s borders were free and open, allowing unrestricted movement?  If you could travel to anywhere, stay as long as you like, and seek employment wherever and whenever you chose?

Many find this concept intimidating, and countries often setup hurdles and roadblocks preventing unwanted immigration.  In recent times, there has even been discussion by some to build a wall along the southern border of the United States to keep out the huddled masses yearning to breathe free.  “Yes, my grandparents were immigrants, but you new immigrants are unwelcome”

Even doctoral graduates are increasingly unwelcome.  “Thanks for studying in the United States, please take your advanced degree and go home.”  These are interesting times

But what if we could bypass this whole mess, bureaucracy, and hypocrisy?  What if, simply by being born in the right place, we could be welcome anywhere?  What if we could be a Citizen of the World?

This was our goal in planning a Destination Birth

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Monthly Expenses (October, 2014, Taipei, Taiwan)

Do you remember the last time you moved from one home to another?  All of the packing and unpacking, the cleaning, the donating and dumping of old stuff, and the acquisition of the new?

Since we’ve decided to stay in Taipei for the birth of our son (It’s a boy!) we rented a new apartment and settled in for the next year.  Fortunately when you don’t own much, moving is actually fun.  You can even do it on a bicycle!

Moving in Style

Moving in Style

Although we were able to escape much of the drudgery of the move, rounding out the edges of our new home required getting a sofa, a table, and some kitchen supplies.  This wasn’t exactly cheap, although we expect to sell much of it in a year and recover a portion of our investment

Also new this month are some clothes with bigger waste bands for Winnie, and some Taiwan visa related fees for me

Let’s see how this impacted our expenses

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How to Get a Taiwan Visa Like a Boss

“Sir, do you have any drugs or illegal items that you are bringing into the country?” said the customs official, with a stern look on his face and a judgmental tone in his voice

Or at least that’s what I imagined was the case.  It was just a beagle after all

As it turned out, what he really wanted was the banana shaped contraband stuck in the netting on the side of my backpack.

As far as run-ins with the law go, this was quite tame.  Therapeutic even, since a friendly scratch behind the ear made us both feel that all was forgiven

Of the 50 or so times I’ve entered Taiwan for business and personal reasons, that occasion was by far the most challenging.  Normally the immigration officials just stamp my passport with a 90-day visa exempt entry permit and customs smiles and waives me through.

So when we decided to stay in Taiwan for a few months for IVF treatments, there was really no compelling reason to apply for a formal Visa.  I’d just leave the country every 90 days on a visa run to Hong Kong.  It might be the most expensive Starbucks run in the world, but I’d only have to do it once or twice

But now that we’ve committed to a year of stability and nesting, it was time to reevaluate.  My quarterly Visa runs would cost $250 each/$1000 a year, and as with all novelties, the allure fades

Enter Permanent Residency

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Our $1,400 1-Bedroom Apartment in Taipei, Taiwan

We are moving on up!  To the east side…

Things are going to get a little more upscale and relaxed around here in the GCC household.  We just signed a 1-year lease on a 1-bedroom apartment in Taipei, 1 block from Times Square and 2 blocks from Central Park.

We are now residents of one of the finer neighborhoods in the very heart of the city.  (One of our neighbors has a Bentley, which I enjoy riding past on my bike as he is stuck in traffic.)

My new commute to Chinese class is a joyful 10 minute bike ride down tree lined streets, and the hospital where we plan to welcome GCCjr into the world is just across the main street.  There is even a 7-11 10 steps from our front door.

Posh living does come at a price, however.  Our rent is now $1,400 a month (40,000 TWD + 2,000 TWD management fee)

But enough talk, let’s get to the tour

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The World’s Smartest Toilet

Toto Neorest 500

Toto Neorest 500

It was 20 years ago (today?), on my first trip to Japan that I first happened upon a bathroom fixture with an intelligence that exceeded my own

Granted, that isn’t all that impressive of an accomplishment, but after using the latest generation product in our new Taipei apartment I’m convinced the gap has grown

The things these toilets are capable of is truly incredible

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Taiwan Convenience Stores

One of Thousands of 7-11's

One of Thousands of 7-11’s in Taipei

Convenience is a wonderful thing.  Let’s not make life too difficult, after all.  But it is often over-promised and under-delivered.

Take the so-called convenience stores that are liberally sprinkled across the United States.  What exactly is convenient about them, anyway?  More often than not, it is just a fancy name for a gas station that will sell you some fried sodium or a super-sized cup of syrup.  If you are really lucky, they might have last week’s tube shaped mystery meat conveniently resting under a heat lamp

And then there are the automated customer service phone systems, available 24 hours a day. For your convenience.  Press 1 to stay on hold.  Your call is important to us

If that is convenience, I’ll take arduous

That is, until now

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I Love Uber

UBER_

Ring…  Ring…  Ring…

“Please hold”

“…. call is important to us.  Please wait on the line….”

“Yeah?”

Hi, I need a taxi please

“OK?”

Yeah, I’m on 23rd St, near Denny Way

“No intersections!  What is the address?”

Uh…  its 123 23rd St…

“Zip code?

I’m not sure…  one second?  (Hey, what’s your zipcode here?)  Ok, it is 98112

“Ok, it will be about an hour”

An hour?!

“You still want a taxi or not?”

Yeah

“Ok, an hour.”  Click!

It was already pretty late, but another glass of wine would make the time flow by nicely.  We just finished a nice home cooked meal at a friend’s house, roasted chicken with herbs and vegetables from the garden, and settled in by the outdoor fountain to wax philosophical with other friends also waiting for a taxi.

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Monthly Expenses (September 2014, Taipei, Taiwan)

Dragon Incense Burner

Praying over a Dragon Incense Burner in a Taoist Temple

For the past 2 years we have moved from place to place, figuring things out as we go.  At most we had a planning horizon of 3 months, figuring out our next destination by talking with locals and other travelers

This month though, we had to make some big decisions.  First, our rental home in Taipei was put on the market, requiring us to move on. (The asking price is only $1.2 million, if you are interested)

We had the idea of traveling during the 2nd trimester of Winnie’s pregnancy, and then having a destination birth.  Things happen though, and our Doctor put Winnie on temporary bed rest for a few weeks until things stabilized (Don’t worry, all is well, but we need to take it easy.)  Winnie is now back on her feet and ready to take on the world, at least when she isn’t ravenously hungry or completely exhausted, which is about 23.5 hours out of every 24.

Given the circumstances, we did what normal people do and rented a sweet apartment for the next 12 months (stay tuned for more details.)  We will remain in Taiwan through the full term of the pregnancy, and I will be applying for residency to avoid quarterly visa runs.  Big decisions!  It is great to be flexible

Let’s review how this all impacted our spending
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