Farmers market in winter

I find the Charlottetown Farmers Market far more enjoyable in winter, as the crowds are smaller, and the line up shorter. I still believe that it should be 3x the size it is now but perhaps that might in some way make it less personable.

My Saturdays used to be about a long run – an hour or more on my feet. Now I spend an equivalent amount of time at the market sitting, drinking cheap coffee, and eating delicious sweets. I need to learn to combine these 2 activities – what better way to end a long run than with blueberry sweets.


Storm Chips

With the approach of yet another purported snow-apocalypse I keep hearing about the necessity of having storm chips on hand; there is even a beer and storm chips scale to rate the severity of the incoming storm. So in order to prepare, the kids and I went Asian Grocery to stock up. Obviously, I’m not quite yet in tune with the culture of my homeland, but the kids seem pleased.


The True Cost of 2 Day Shipping

One of the often cited key benefits of living in Taiwan is the convenience of many aspects of life there. Especially so when ordering anything online – 24hrs or less (more often less) shipping makes the hassle of fighting traffic pointless. Why bother driving to a box store when they will ship it to you at your home, or the nearest convenience store the very same day. The waste of such activity became more apparent when during the toilet paper crisis, large boxes full of nothing but rolls of toilet paper started clogging up the logistic infrastructure.

Moving to Charlottetown you get nothing near the same level of service, but habits die hard and I signed up for Amazon Prime and their free 2-day shipping. For PEI that generally translates to a week or more, depending on the mood of the Postal Union. I loath the likes of Walmart, and the arrangement of Charlottetown’s big box stores which are spaced far enough apart that you need to drive between each one. But when my house starts filling up with boxes, I’ve often wondered if sacrificing my sanity by listening to those poorly designed pay terminals might be better for us all in the long run. Apparently, not necessarily so:

Transportation experts are split over whether online shopping reduces or increases emissions. In theory, online shopping can be more environmentally friendly than a traditional brick-and-mortar store: Either way, a truck has to deliver the items, and in the case of online shopping, you don’t have to drive to the store as well.

“Our research shows that delivering a typical order to an Amazon customer is more environmentally friendly than that customer driving to a store,” said Melanie Janin, sustainability representative at Amazon, in an email.

But, and I don’t now if this applies to our experience since there seems to be little difference between shipping times, apparently the environmental cost of 2 Day shipping, which comes with Amazon Prime, is huge, when compared with other shipping methods, per this article on Grist.

Free two-day shipping — the hallmark of Amazon’s plan to squeeze out traditional retailers — burns through significantly more emissions than standard shipping or traditional in-store shopping.

When you wait three to five days for shipment, Jaller explains, Amazon has time to find the most efficient (and cheapest) way to deliver goods. Aviation is by far the most carbon-intensive transit option, and with more time the company can route your package by land, instead of by air…and group your package with other, similar deliveries.
“The concept of Amazon Prime pushes us towards more emissions…and makes the marginal cost of purchases very small, so you have motivation to buy more. And of course, that’s what Amazon wants.”

So seeing there is very little difference in the speeds of shipping methods to PEI, perhaps giving Amazon extra time might be a suitable alternative. Especially when you consider they are sending me a small bottle of brass cleaner across the country (the inspiration for this post) because it wasn’t ready as fast as the other items I ordered.


Winter on Prince and Richmond

We made our weekly sojourn unscathed to Trinity on Sunday despite streets that were heavy with slush and drivers driving like it was still summer. Downtown Charlottetown in winter is quite beautiful – I only wish I wasn’t in such a race to get home and could have gone for a long walk taking pictures as I went. But looking after 2 kids alone has made me far more cautious than I have ever been in the past, so my irrational fear of a snow-apocalypse sent us scrambling back to the relative safety of Stratford.


6 months on Prince Edward Island

The end of the year is often a time for introspection and establishing goals for the new year. In terms of goals, I don’t have any broad resolutions for the coming year, its’ not something I find useful (though Julia Rothman’s More Less list might serve as a good reminder), but since we just crossed the 6 month mark in our move “back” to PEI, sharing the highlights of what we have accomplished might keep me honest.

So in the spirit of the weekly/monthly reports I hated writing in the past, the following is a 6 month report*:

  • The kids, especially Catriona, enjoy school far more than in recent memory. This can be partly attributed to having little to no homework, few tests, and a whopping 12+ days off due to teacher PD days, holidays and storm days. Their days are much shorter too. Credit should be given to the teachers who have created a far more relaxed and open environment for learning than what you will find in the Taiwan school system.
  • Catriona has completed 3 months of CrossFit training and Camren has received his first bar in Gracie JuJitsu.
  • Camren has competed in 3 separate swim meets with the Bluefins, winning some, and placing in others. Catriona’s participation with the Harmonia Choir culminated in a series of wonderful concerts. Looking forward to hearing more from them this year.
  • Despite living here for 6 months, I would be lying if I said I didn’t still suffer from culture shock on a daily basis. All of us do to some extent. I expect this will diminish overtime, but I imagine I will always retain much of what I was affected by in Taiwan.
  • We were accepted as a resident company in the Start Up Zone in mid to late September, the benefits of which weren’t immediately discernible. Unfortunately, working out of the fishbowl, as I call the place, hasn’t really worked out. Open offices are nice if you like interruptions and noise, but not so great if you need quiet and space to focus. Also, I can’t really seem to align my schedule with the limited availability of buses in Stratford, making trips to the downtown (via car) expensive.
  • We started our company Minzoo in October, but the roots have been in place since July of 2017. The products we have in our pipeline are the easiest I’ve ever worked on, and yet it’s the most difficult and slowest to launch.
  • The past 6 months has brought about a sea change in terms of the amount of networking, workshops, meet-ups, coffee chats, and meet & greets I’ve attended. I’ve had far more opportunity to attend events such as these in the past 6 months, than the past 6 years in Taiwan and China. This is exactly what I was hoping for when I moved here. All in all I have been averaging 3–4 events a week, making this one of my primary activities.
  • From all these workshops and get togethers, and the reading done, I’ve received the equivalent of the Coles Notes version of an entrepreneurial MBA. Or so if feels, but I still know nothing about finance and marketing.
  • The longest event I participated in was StartUp Weekend. There was a lot to unpack from that weekend long event, not the least of which was that an army marches on it’s stomach – great food helps make any event a success. This was the first time I took non-design savvy folks through a customer journey map and got buy in for the importance of experience design. It went well.
  • We launched a podcast called Sleep Tight Stories, the quality of which is improving over time. It’s not wildly popular as of yet but its audience continues to grow.
  • I’ve largely dropped out of social media but still enjoy looking at puppy pictures on Instagram. It helps me end the day on a positive note. I still have the @hsinchunews twitter account, but I expect I my interest in following what is happening in Taiwan and the Hsinchu Science Park will diminish over time.
  • I’ve written 175 diary entries and 101 blog posts.
  • We launched 3 new or refreshed websites, 1 I contracted out to a young designer. Playing the role of client, gave me some new insight to the client and contractor relationship.
  • We carried out 4 different users tests since October, the results of which, like most user research, was enlightening and interesting. Individuals are always interesting and have stories to tell, performing user research is as good an excuse as any to hear them.
  • Apple doesn’t offer commutative data but app downloads are, but for one exception, all up – some over 1000%. The most popular efforts are stickers I created with my son – I’m not sure what that means. A respectable number of downloads does not equal revenue unfortunately, and I don’t see us breaking even anytime soon.
  • Our business is at risk of being a cliché. Most businesses fail and our venture is struggling. As such, I’ve started looking for job opportunities. It’s early days and I have no idea what form employment might take; remote, freelance, consultant, or something I’ve never considered before. I have no answers as of yet as to how I could do the work I have been doing these past few years while living in Charlottetown.
  • This year is a bit of an experiment. Could we have a similar lifestyle in Charlottetown to what we had in Hsinchu. I’ve been keeping fairly accurate data, not complete enough to publish, and thus far it has proven to be very difficult. We’ve never been able to stay within budget, part of this is start-up costs, but the rest is simply due to a higher cost of living. The greatest dollar increases are found in kids activities, which can cost 2x what we might pay in Taiwan. As an example, the price I pay for my son to be a part of Bluefins is the same price we payed for both kids in Taiwan, except in Taiwan they had almost double the amount of time in the pool and it included dry land training. But in terms of a percentage increase, nothing beats the cost of connectivity on PEI. The kids mobile plan costs increased 1433%, mine has increased 184% – with a drastic reduction in service, and our home internet has increased 225%. Food costs have increased, with boneless chicken, a key ingredient to my kids comfort food curry chicken, twice as expensive as what we paid before.
  • I ran my 2nd marathon this year in October and despite some problems during the race I am happy with the results. To prepare I was running an average of 75km a week. Unfortunately I have been rather inactive since which is being reflected by my ever growing waistline – when you are training you get used to eating a lot of food. A fun habit which is hard to break.
  • I’ve put 6000kms on our car. I’ve no idea if this is a modest amount of milage. Driving my kids to various activities is where my late afternoons and evenings are spent. I do realize that a car is a burden I wish I didn’t need to bear, but public transit in Charlottetown is only effective along certain corridors and not really useful for our needs. I’ll wait until Uber arrives before I rely upon the overpriced taxi companies here.
  • We launched Sleep Tight Relax. It’s loaded with bugs, some of which are an easy fix, but a weird Xcode bug has delayed any update.
  • I’ve made some progress these past 6 months in being able to survive the inevitable “introduce yourself” section of any get together. I still have some work to do with removing jargon and speaking like a normal person.
  • Somewhat related to self-introductions, was the need to refine our business pitch. I took three separate workshops on how to pitch effectively and managed a polished 1 minute delivery, only to later realize how fake it all sounds. The people who like these pitches seem to prefer the fake.
  • We travel far less than in the past. We’ve managed a couple trips to Summerside, 2 trips to Truro, 2 to Moncton (Costco), 1 to Halifax and 1 to Sackville for coffee. We explored a bit of the Island in the summer but seem to be at a loss for winter activities – I guess we could try snow shoeing, but other activities like skiing are out due to their high cost.
  • We invested in too much tech gear, including TV, game console, sound bar, smart speakers, laptop, keyboards, headphones and sound recording equipment. With the exception of a new iPhone, none of these products came from Apple, because either Apple doesn’t produce them or they are too expensive if they do. In some cases Apple’s product is actually inferior. If this was a trend, it may help explain their drop in profits.
  • One disappointment was my inability to find time to volunteer or socialize. Outside of working with stray dogs, I didn’t have much opportunity to contribute in a more direct way to our community in Taiwan (volunteering is actually illegal for foreigners), so I was hoping to be able to find opportunities to contribute here. I’m going to make volunteering one of my priorities for this year.

It’s been an extremely busy 6 months. There are some key upcoming events which just come in outside the 6 month mark, including: the kids write their first exams, and I have some important work related deadlines to hit. I’m looking forward to what the next 6 months might bring.

*I’d love to incorporate more data, with presentations akin to Nicholas Felton, but one of my many weaknesses has been good record keeping and I time box all my blogposts (which means I don’t give myself the time required to create something similar).


A little Christmas cheer

I had a romantic notion of what Christmas would be like back here on the Island, something akin to what you see in Christmas movies, with gently falling snow, elaborate decorations everywhere, ice skating, people out and about holding hands as they go, and the sounds of carollers floating through the air. The reality has been Amazon and trips to Walmart (and those other soul-less box stores nearby).

In retrospect Hsinchu did pretty well, at least on the elaborate displays front.

But today I had a small sample while shopping downtown for some final small items – books, candy, and silly things. I went into Kitchen’s Unlimited and purchased just a couple small cups and was greeted by friendliness and cheer. The two staff also boxed my 2 small gifts and did a fantastic job wrapping — all without an extra charge. This may not seem like much but compared to the “just a transaction” type of experience at the box stores and online, it’s a wonderful human touch that is missing all too often today.

Also, I don’t know if the small local shops downtown treat their staff better, but many I have interacted with recently feel genuinely interested in being there (or as much as you can in any job) vs. the feeling conveyed by many staff at Walmart et al, that this is employment of last resort.

So my small recommendation is to shop downtown, and if you can, visit Kitchen Unlimited.


Snow Squall

Yesterday afternoons snow squall, a term I had to look up, had some of the most beautiful snow flakes imaginable. It made for a great winter scene in downtown Charlottetown, all the more special since technically winter still doesn’t start for 10 days. The picture above, taken just outside the “fish bowl“, doesn’t do justice to what I later witnessed, but in my inexperience, I was in a rush to get home before the whole town shut down. Which of course it didn’t.


This afternoon’s diversion. I’ve lived in some unbelievably noisy places but nowhere have I been required to constantly wear earplugs until I moved to Stratford. This due in part to a building made from wood and a couple neighbours who were never taught to not stamp their feet. I’d have moved by now but am hampered by Charlottetown’s housing crisis and the lack of affordable homes that suit our needs.

Effects of floor impact noise on psychophysiological responses

Effects of Low Frequency Noise and Vibrations: Environmental and Occupational Perspectives

The effects of low frequency noise on people


Race experience

Post race

I ran the PEI marathon yesterday and my fears of it being this years worst decision were exaggerated and unfounded. It went well, with the usual couple of incidents that always happen in any event I participate in that requires so much preparation.

My official time and pace are quite bit off from my watch due to what must have been the longest in the woods pit stop I’ve ever had – thank you middle age. Since I started the race under hydrated I have no idea how it happened but it did. Also, I developed some problems with my left hamstring. A huge cramp mid stride can send you to the pavement but luckily I caught it in time.

PEI is a lovely place to run. The North Shore, the fall foliage, and the guy who kept appearing on the side of the road fulfilling our desire for “more cowbell’ made for a great experience. It was very cold and I was very reluctant to get off the heated bus to run but I’ll take the cold over extreme heat any day.

I stuck to my plan and surprisingly accomplished my event goal. The lack of a more complete training regime means I’m pretty sore today and have been forced me to sit and rest. But I believe I have even longer and faster races ahead of me, my heart and lungs are never pushed to capacity. It’s a matter of getting stronger and somehow remaining active through the coming winter months.


A marathon in the making

A photo taken at the Xiamen Marathon expo in 2017. I had plans to run my way across China but life got in the way.

I just registered to run the PEI marathon on the 14th. This may go down as one the worst decisions I have made this year, as my running has been off, training pretty much non-existent, and my diet still on it’s summer on PEI mode.

Last year I was overcoming a couple injuries and so was motivated to workout 3-5 hours a day. I went to physio, yoga, lifted weights, did body weight training, stretched, and ran a training program. For an amateur I was somewhat obsessed and work was admittedly not my focus. Since I ran the race last February, their have been far too many more important distractions – moving your family around the world can have that effect and I haven’t been nearly as dedicated. I’ve put in the miles, somewhat following a 16 week program, but it’s been a struggle to lace up my shoes. My heart just hasn’t been in it. Luckily I have thus far remained injury free.

My last marathon was a complete success, I was slow by design, experienced none of the “bonk” that runners experience, and except for the last 5K, it felt easy.

This time I expect a great deal of discomfort and am participating to experience the great Island views, to feel tested, and to experience my twice yearly challenge. I’ll leave the PB’s and hopes for a Boston qualifying time for another race.


Work the algorithms

Emphasis mine

When has the CBC become like Buzzfeed and other purveyors of clickbait journalism? In what would otherwise sound like a great opportunity for anyone with writing and social ability, the CBC seems to illustrate it’s determination to join the ranks of Buzzfeed, Huffpost, Dailymail, et al. Why not just be open in their requirements – Write click worthy headlines to drive traffic to our website and A/B test outlandish copy to see which performs best. I expect more from a public funded organization such as this.

Social Editor/Presenter (English Services) – CHA00070


The different age demographics in Charlottetown

I’m not interested enough dig up data so this is just an observation after spending a couple months back in Charlottetown.

For the last number of years in Taiwan and China I was often the oldest in almost any social gathering or professional setting. Whether it was Chinese school, working in a tech company, or attending some kind of professional development, for the most part most people were very young. I often used to wonder where they put the middle age workforce out to pasture, as I seldom ran into a design professional my age. An oversimplified reason is that in the case of tech companies, many successful R&D talent retire early to start their on companies or try something new. The stress level in these companies is not for everyone.

In Charlottetown it’s interesting just how different the demographic is. Sure, the Start-up Zone and other incubators have their share of young people, and I would guess the small cluster of tech companies here have their share of young recent graduates, but by and large most of the people I have met or seen are well above their 30’s. Middle aged even. My observation could be totally off, perhaps only people my age have time for professional development here, and everyone else works to the wee hours. Or perhaps as I suspect, the young have long since left for Toronto and beyond. Either way, it does make for a far different dynamic than what I experienced living elsewhere.

No one treats me like their father here.


St. Peter’s Harbour Lighthouse Beach

Just up the coast from the more popular Lakeside Beach sits what must be one of the best beaches I have enjoyed in some time. What a gem. My kids prefer the beaches in Thailand, I think banana smoothies play a factor in their choice, but I think the beaches here are as good as any. And they are largely deserted, which plays a factor in my choice.

I’m not much of a fun at the beach person but spending time here is well worth it, especially when you factor in a short drive to Lin’s Take Out on Greenwich Rd. for some monstrous ice cream cones.


A guide for “non-newcomer” newcomers

There are so many unknowns when moving to a new place, everything from finding a place to live, to where to find certain foods, but also cultural norms, and the all important how to receive health care. Health care is of particular importance and the “uniqueness” of Prince Edward Island’s system has left me with many questions. Luckily the Prince Edward Island Association for Newcomers website answers this question and many others, but leaves with one. Why isn’t there a resource like this for people who don’t qualify for their program? I’d appreciate, maybe even pay for, a little handholding, or guidance, with all the issues involved with relocating a family to PEI. I’m sure others would benefit as well.


The pot calling the kettle black

The Kettle Black

Cafés that you want to sit in and spend time enjoying always seem to have this unplanned homemade look to them, unlike say Tim Hortons whose experience is all about speed of delivery. Starbucks has systemized this, so that I can have a similar experience in Charlottetown, Hsinchu, Fuzhou or anywhere else the Starbucks brand intrudes upon. But with any large system you tend to lose the uniqueness of the place, and water down the experience so it can be consistently replicated. Which is one reason why I prefer local independents, each one placing unique emphasis on some part of the experience – my favorite spot is Hollatte馥拏鉄 自烘咖啡, located in a small alley in Hsinchu Science Park. Even after moving their location it’s still just a small shop store with a couple Ikea Tables at the center. Their mix tends to be coffee expertise vs. experience of place. Ink café in Hsinchu is a more balanced mix of the 2.

Their are a number of decent cafés in Charlottetown’s downtown area. The Kettle Black pictured above is my current favorite.


Those blue skies

With everyday bringing skies like this it’s proving very difficult to get back into some semblance of a work grove. I keep staring out the window wishing I was outside doing just about anything. After a time, perhaps the novelty will wear off and I’ll get back to days full of productive clicking and typing.


ChaTime Charlottetown

With the excellent weather we had yesterday it didn’t seem right to stay inside moving furniture around or spend time working on ‘odds n sods’ in front of computer screen. Other than running I was at a loss as to what to do on PEI on a Sunday, at least until the rest of the family arrives.

Weekends in Hsinchu were not a time of rest. Saturdays the kids had swimming and yoga, my daughter had a 3 hour math class in the afternoon. I often would have work to finish, and my wife if not the same, was off doing all kinds of chores. Sundays were generally set aside for outside activities, long runs, hiking or biking, and the occasional movie.

So I found myself walking around the downtown, checking out the market set-up along the side of Queen Street. Luckily I had no cash, otherwise I would have come home with more homemade soap then could possibly be needed. It’s generally a show for the tourists but I did manage to meet some interesting people and find a source for possible weekly meat deliveries from Saoirse Farms. After that short walk I found myself yet again at The Kettle Black enjoying a latte. Then I kept walking through the haunts of old, circling back to Queen where I fell upon the newly opened Cha Time.

My kids will be excited to see this chain. Tea shops like this are ubiquitous in Taiwan, and my kids, like many, love visiting as much as we allow, or have time for. We didn’t visit this chain often when in Taiwan, but they did sponsor a race my wife and I participated in this past year.

I’m not a tea drinker nor a huge fan of 珍珠 (the balls in milk tea) but I ordered my favourite 芒果冰沙, which is translated inaccurately as a mango smoothie. Not bad, though still too sweet despite ordering with no added sugar.

The staff still seem to be getting their sea legs, but they seem excited, the environment very clean, and the drink selection great. I’ll be back with the kids in tow.


My conversation with Bell Aliant

Bell: Hello
Me: Is this Bell Aliant?
Bell: Who is calling?
Me: I’m Clark MacLeod and I am calling about the Fibre Installation that was scheduled for this evening
Bell: Give me your account number
Me: Let me look. #0000000
Bell: You’re calling from Nova Scotia?
Me: No, Prince Edward Island
Bell: Give me your postal code
Me: I can’t remember my postal code, I just moved in and it’s on the phone I am using to talk to you
Bell: Address?
Me: (I give address) Are you coming this evening to do an install?
Bell: I’m going to put you on hold for a minute
Me: Sigh Ok

A few minutes later.

Bell: They are working on it.
Me: What does that mean?
Bell: They will call you
Me: Thats all you can tell me?
Bell: Yes, they will call you
Me: Ummm, Thank you

I ordered Bell Fibre and was first told an install date of Tuesday evening, which after an evening phone call from a 877 number was asked to select another time. I selected the evening period over the “all day” period (who would select that?) and rushed home for 5pm in order to guarantee I was there to greet the technician. 3 1/2 hours later I made the above phone call.

There are two things that are guaranteed to make me upset, rudeness and wasting my time unpaid. Bell ticked those boxes. Not a smidgen of polite language did whoever I talked to on the phone use.

Certainly there is a better way than this. An automated system letting you know they aren’t going to be on time or a simple phone call. My previous interactions with the engineers that come to install have been good – they call just before they are about to arrive and generally stick to the promised schedule. Bell Alliant must be a different animal.

Hopefully today, or before the weekend, I can once again bask in the glow of high speed internet.


So what does 120 mean?

I’ve been doing fairly well with my cashless habits around Charlottetown as most places have some kind of creaky card terminal allowing me to pay via my bank card, not sure they support Unionpay which they should considering the amount of Chinese immigrants I see. Haven’t seen much in the way of mobile payments but it doesn’t seem to be as much a cultural fit here as it was in China.

One part of downtown that hasn’t yet joined the late 20th century are the parking meters. Yesterday out of coins, I quickly hiked up the street to my bank to stand in line for 10 minutes to get a handful of toonies before the dreaded “meter person” came and gave another ticket. I haven’t yet clued in that there are parking garages nearby.

I had received a ticket the day before because I thought 120 meant 120 minutes, but as I set my stop watch today I realized it actually means 1 hr and 20 minutes, hence my disbelief when I received a ticket yesterday AM.

I prefer the Taiwan system where someone drives around giving you a parking bill which you then later pay at a local convenience store.

The parking meters in Charlottetown are due for some kind of update. Perhaps the city could consider implementing the Smart Parking Eco-System that was presented to Parliament back in 2016.


Around Richmond

IMG_7413

Most nights of late have been spent sitting at Receivers Coffee on Richmond Street in Charlottetown utilizing their wifi and drinking their decaf expresso. They have a flourless brownie which is deceptively small, it’s so dense that it’s enough to share with 2 – 4. It’s a great place to spend the evening, if not a bit too noisy. I would guess the staff, after a long day, turns the music a little bit louder to help them get through the final couple hours of the night. Tonight Bell Aliant is coming to hook up fibre Internet to our place so my nights sitting here will be less frequent in the future. Which is a pity because the whole area is great for a short walk before heading home.

I didn’t notice it when I was home last spring but the downtown seems to have changed in many subtle ways over the years. Not just the demographics, which have changed a great deal – it’s wonderful to hear bits of Mandarin interspersed amongst the local version of English. There seem to be a flurry of apartment units and offices tucked tastefully into the neighborhood and an ever expanding choice of restaurants to choose from. I only wish the character of the streets around Richmond would continue for a few more blocks. And unlike in Hsinchu, no one tries to run you over with their car.

I don’t think it’s just the clear skies and fresh air influencing my belief that downtown Charlottetown is a great place to be and, for those lucky enough, live.


Data detox

I’ve been going through a forced internet detox of late — I procrastinated on signing up with a local mobile plan (sticker shock I think played a part) and Bell Alliant won’t be at our place until Tuesday to get our Fibre hook up and running.

Wifi access in these parts can be spotty it seems, except at Sobey’s, where I stand around the vegetable section pretending to make the hard decisions about carrots when in fact I am trying to reply to email and keep in touch with family in Taiwan.


Speed

In Hsinchu if you want an Uber or a taxi one comes seemingly instantly. Want furniture? It will be there tomorrow. Any item you need for your home, you can expect it the same day. Food is everywhere. Getting your car fixed doesn’t require an appointment and they come to collect your car. Movers can be found quickly and scheduled to your needs. That part of the world is far from some Jetson’s like utopia but services are built around peoples long working schedules. And it’s convenient and fast.

Here in the old country things work at an entirely different pace. Furniture and mattress shopping has taught me to in some cases to think in terms of months, not days. What people sit and sleep on in the interim is not clear to me. Trucks are available for rent 6 weeks from when you need it and Maritime Electric never answers their phone. The selection of goods locally necessitates buying online where your items “usually ship in 5 business days” and then arrive sometime later. Why it takes a business 5 days to put something in a box I don’t know.

One thing that does come quickly is mystery charges. A recent car inspection featured $24 for grease, they must be usually a lot of grease or it’s laced with titanium. Maritime electric charges a $40 “transfer fee” and because I am a stranger a $100 deposit. And I used to complain about ChungHwa Telecom in Taiwan with their foreigner deposit tax. Activating a SIM costs $30 and on and on.

Of course this change of pace also means a frequent dispensing of directness. In looking for some furniture the sales person first wanted to know all about me, what my last name was, who my father was, and what I had been up to these past 20 years. The conversation quickly reached the depths of discussing China’s socio-economic problems and his feelings about the recent wave of immigration. Its good for the furniture business apparently. This is a good thing, as relationships are important here, and it’s also entertaining. I think I have had more conversations with strangers here this past week than in a year in the new world. Thats a benefit of a slowing down.


The unknown restaurant at the Confederation Court Mall

I landed here in Charlottetown late Sunday night and luckily the trip was uneventful. I flew Taoyuan to Narita to Montreal and finally to Charlottetown.

Narita airport was a delight but suffers from a strange lack of snack buying options. There is a wonderful public lounge hidden away at the far end of the terminal that only compares unfavorably to the airline lounges in that you must bring your own refreshments. Montreal was a mess. The transfer to domestic process feels like a deliberate attempt at accessing your cognitive ability after a day of no sleep. It’s long, maze-like and involves picking up your luggage and lining up to put them back down on another conveyer belt. The terminal itself feels crowded, designed for another age I guess.

Charlottetown always feels timeless to me but my taxi driver insists that the past year has turned the Island upside down. Taxi drivers are a great source of information so I’ll take this for what it’s worth.

While I have been pretending that I am not suffering from a bad case of jet lag I have been enjoying the varied food options available here — primarily at a friends house but I’ve made a couple trips to a restaurant owned by a Chinese family in the Confederation Court Mall. Nice people and food that reminds me of what I might cook in Taiwan. I’ll keep returning I think.

Charlottetown would be better served if they gutted the malls interior and turned it into a green space or farmers market but I guess these kind of experiments are hard here. The place is depressing.


An update on our journey home

I shared a little over a month ago the difficulties we were having in finding a place to live in Prince Edward Island. It was something that we hadn’t planned for, nor experienced in the past.

To get past this roadblock we decided that we would simply buy instead of rent. We have long planned to have property on PEI of some sort, either for the summer or long term habitation, and this would simply push forward our plans a year or so. Of course thinking of buying a house and actually buying are widely disparate things.

So for the past month I have gone down a deep deep rabbit hole which is the home buying on a budget experience. Doing so from Taiwan made the process all the more difficult and expensive. Not being from the 1%, or the 10% for that matter, we need to secure a mortgage. Being away for so long meant we were treated as non-residents, which we were, despite my attempts this past year to the contrary. So we didn’t have access to programs and rates available to other Canadians.

It’s a funny thing how banks decide what kind of mortgage you qualify for. It’s always geared towards the maximum – you go through the process and they proclaim you can afford a huge home you don’t need. Even the bank’s online calculators are far too simplistic and don’t take into account how a heavy mortgage changes a person’s lifestyle. Luckily we were looking to downsize, and looking at a more sustainable long term living.

Most of the houses we found were of the fixer-upper type. I prefer older homes but not being “handy” I was getting concerned that my first year back on the Island was going to be primarily spent renovating or fixing whatever problems might occur. I had really hoped to focus on my work and getting the kids settled on their other Island adventure.

But as luck would have it, our house buying experience and my deep dive into home renovation how to videos, was for naught. Through a connection, everything seems to be through a connection on PEI, we heard there was an apartment available in the Charlottetown area. A few phone calls later, and after a relative went to have a viewing, I signed a lease and paid the fees to secure the apartment. It would appear we have a place to live.

What a relief.


Hello, is anybody there?

I start our move to Prince Edward Island in earnest at the end of this week, all of our planning has been long finished, and for reasons mentioned in “Difficulties in finding housing in Prince Edward Island” it’s going to be more of a challenge than I ever imagined. I’m actually concerned about moving forward.

My concern stems from a belief that if a business with established communication channels cannot bother replying to inquiries then they are not deserving of my business. If I send a business an email, essentially wanting to give them my money, and they don’t reply, what else should a person do but move on to another company.

But there are only so many companies on Prince Edward Island. I have already sent email to a range of banks and rental agencies in PEI. None have replied. If I continue and I get the same lack of response than I’ll have no one to do business with. It’s funny.

Perhaps this is simply a case of a clash between business styles, and not rude as I feel it is. PEI might be like the small Islands of Thailand, relaxed, slow, and informal.