I’ve been living out of a backpack (or two) for the last month. Lots of traveling. It’s good to be settling down here in Taiwan. (Jill and I move into our new apartment tomorrow.) My notes from the last 30 days look something like this:
–February 2: Left DC and spent a few days at home in Beaufort, SC. Witnessed my little brother Colin’s high school baseball team in action and said my goodbyes to him, my Mom, and my step Dad.
–March 1st: Arrived in Pendleton, OR, for a quick visit with my Dad, step Mom, brother, and sister. Checked out the excellent Tamastslikt Cultural Institute, a museum dedicated to Native Americans of the Eastern Oregon and Washington region. Went snowboarding with my 15-year-old brother Eugene at nearby Anthony Lakes. (Funny aside: I didn’t have a heavy sweatshirt to wear on the slopes, so, in a scene reminiscent of Greg Focker’s sartorial issues in “Meet the Parents,” I had to borrow Eugene’s Playerz 69 hoodie.)
–March 5th: Headed up to Seattle to meet up with Jill and visit her family. The shortlist of highlights from that leg of the journey, in abbreviated form:
–A tour of the magnificent Safeco Field, where the Seattle Mariners play. [Random sidenotes to this abbreviated note: In order to keep seagulls away from the field, they pipe in sounds of seagulls’ predators (not sure what kind of birds they were) via the audio system; the team is owned by a Japanese man who’s never been to the stadium–he’s afraid to fly; notable food options at Safeco: I appreciated, but wasn’t able to sample, the Papa John’s pizza–which is my favorite commercial delivery ‘za, and Ichi-roll sushi, in honor of the Mariners’ excellent Japanese right fielder, Ichiro Suzuki; (indeed, the team’s so popular in Japan that they offer tours in Japanese, and we saw a huge group of Japanese teenagers–and by the way, MAN are they fashion-forward, those Japanese kids–giggling with delight and taking photos of the field); I also thought “The Intentional Wok” foodstand looked promising; there are more women’s bathrooms at Safeco than there were total bathrooms at the old stadium, the Superdome];
–An evening cruise on Lake Washington with Jill, her family, and a bunch of friends;
–A DVD viewing of the astounding “Spellbound,” a documentary about the National Spelling Bee. Future “Trekkies 2” star Harry, the guy who has trouble with “banns,” is simply unbelievable;
–Witnessing, via excellent seats, the Seattle Sonics (Luke Ridnour is my new favorite NBA player–he’s like a Jason Williams minus the tats and the attitude) get out-hussled and out-talented by the Detroit Pistons;
–An excellent pan-Asian dinner at Wild Ginger;
–The best shoe purchasing experience of my life: I received a personal consultation from a high school cross country coach (and former college runner himself)–who observed me jogging around the block in several models he recommended–at Super Jock n’ Jill.
–On March 10th, we left Seattle. 24 hours later, we arrived here in Taiwan. An email I sent to a few friends and family members a couple days after getting here follows:
Ni-hau (Chinese for hello), all. A very quick note to say hello. Jill and I have arrived safely in Koahsiung, Taiwan. I’m rappin’ at ya live from a gaming arcade teeming with adolescent Taiwanese boys screeching at each other in Chinese. It’s an unbelievable scene. (By the way, I hope this note is legible; I’m typing on an English keyboard connected to a machine running Chinese Windows and it’s a bit strange.)
To re-cap the last few days:
Jill and I departed Seattle–after a delighful few days there–on Tues. morning. We flew from there to SF to Tokyo (the last leg being an 11-hour jaunt, after which I was too tired to fully take in Narita airport in all of its techno-glamor, but I tried). Then we were off to Tapei. We landed there Tues. night (a 24-hour hour trip, which was time-warping, kind of, as we set sail into the setting sun yet it didn’t actually set til we were in Japan) and after some initial difficulties, booked lodgings at the Happy Family II Hostel. (Note: it’s tough finding a place to stay if you have no prior plans re: where to go and you don’t speak Chinese and can find no one who speaks English. Multiple taxi trips and awkward hand-gestures were involved.)
Then, the next morning, we went exploring and located the Tapei East Bus Station and purchased tix (a steal, we would later learn, at only 350 New Taiwan Dollars a seat) to Koahsiung (hereafter referred to as K-city). After our experiences with Ecuadorian bus systems, we were delighted to find this line–which is actually the gov’t-run and LEAST fancy–equipped with TV/Nintendo screens and electronically-reclinable seats. (AND we purchased some excellent sushi from the bus station–yes, the bus station, and it was excellent–before our 5-hour ride.)
Once we arrived in K-city, we were picked up by Sting, a friendly Taiwanese man who works at our school. He took us to our current lodgings–a nice, spacious, AC-equipped apartment that’ll serve as home til we locate a new pad (which should be
within the next few days). Last night, we ventured into our immediate environs and found a restaurant with an English menu. I will just say this: you haven’t lived til you’ve tasted K-city’s finest cashew chicken and fried cabbage and fish-head casserole and washed it down with a few glasses of Taiwan Beer.
A couple of items to ponder: 1) K-city has a pro baseball team and we hope to see
a game ASAP; 2) 7-11s and Circle K’s and Starbucks are EVERYWHERE, and the 7-11s feature delicious-looking microwavable meals I intend to investigate soon; 3) this is a city ruled by SCOOTERS; we shall be purchasing one shortly and I promise to send along a photo of me on it wearing a silly helmet.
That’s it for now. To come soon: thoughts on the language barrier, and my early impressions of Chinese culture.