We make holes in teeth!

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Day 12: Back to Taipei

Awake at 7:00, same rice ball breakfast as yesterday. This is the best tasting breakfast so I want to get one last banging breakfast in before we leave Lotung. I think if we live here for any extended time, we would probably spend much of our time down here because the food is better and there are more relatives. Plus it's more convenient to everything. I would call that a little cart before the horse-ish right now. This trip still has some legs left to it. Well ok, maybe just 1 leg. But a 1-legged man can still hop from food stall to food stall.

A flurry of packing activity as we bring everything back up to Taipei with us. We're going to load me up with as much stuff as possible to fly back with, then Nat doesn't have to lug a ton of stuff with her. I'm sure we'll wait until Saturday morning to do that, maybe Saturday afternoon. Just getting out of Lotung and fitting everything in the minivan will be difficult enough. But Nat's parents are coming back to Lotung tonight because Nat's mom is going back to the doctor tomorrow. So we only have our luggage load to worry about today. Speaking of luggage, I need to buy a
carry-on piece/backpack to bring with me on the plane.

I was ready to go at 9:30 but we didn't hit the road until 10:10. Our lunch date is for noon and we have a stop along the way to get some art that Nat's dad bought. Leaving late probably means we won't be detouring to see Nat's grandmother like we suspected. It seemed a little fishy that he wanted to leave 2.5 hours in advance when the drive would be an hour and change. I'm still not convinced he won't stop there for a quickie.

Terren suggests I sound like a woman with all the obsessing about the weight. If you think I sound like a woman, you should see me. My fun bags are like C-cups now. I have grizzled old Taiwanese men copping feels when I walk through the park yelling "nei nei" and "wo xiang kan ni de bitch tits!" It's embarrassing. In all seriousness, it's not the weight so much as me feeling like I got hit by a truck sometimes, especially in the morning. This morning was better by a long shot, but I'm still feeling like a tank. I think the exercise bike was a dumb idea. I should have either walked as much as possible or gone out on a real bike to make it a fun
outing as opposed to strict exercise. It's obvious why people bail on the gym because it's mental torture.

Anyway, I haven't slowed down on the eating much, if at all. This morning I feel pretty good. I slept well last night on the rock bed. No back problem today though Nat said her back hurt. I won't miss that bed, or the shower for that matter. The shower goes like this. It's really hot. Then the hot water stops completely for 1-5 minutes. I don't mean a little, I mean totally cold. This is one thing that Calvin's apartment has over here, that the shower is hands down better. The bed is a push, as we have an air mattress there which is absurdly soft. So we go from rock hard, as in the bed is so hard that if you sleep soundly on your side your shoulder will hurt the next morning, to a bed so soft that when I roll over Nat and Julia bob up and down like 2 small boats on a wave.

I haven't really talked much about the culture quirks here. That stuff was really covered in my first 2 trips as well as my last 8 years of time spent with Nat's parents. So none of it is new to me, even though it would be different to the people reading this. Take an example. When someone offers you something, you refuse. To me, that means offering a token "men ah" which is Taiwanese for, "here is my token refusal, I hope what you gave me is awesome but that it doesn't seem like I'm a greedy white man." Thus far they just laugh at me when I say anything. The idea is that you're supposed to refuse it, to not appear greedy. If they really want to give it to you, they'll persist. If not, they'll take it back. There are other things like this, such as trying to pay for food. You should always pretend as if you want to pay, even if you don't. Nobody will let you, ever. Ever. I've never paid for a meal here when with someone. Strangers give me food. Vendors pay me to eat.

This is how yesterday's visit with Nat's aunt went.

Nat's dad: Do you want tea?

Me: Am I allowed to say yes? No, no it's ok. I'm good. MEN AH!

Them: No it's ok you can have tea.

Me: OK I'll have tea.

Or when there was some food on the table that I really wanted, I said, "Am I allowed to have that?" Nat gave me one. Then her dad went out and bought 2 boxes for me last night. When he told the guy it was for the whitey, they gave him a case and carried it for him.

At lunch yesterday, I asked if I could start eating the finger food, Nat suggested I wait for her cousin. That's how it goes, more or less. I want to be a slob and I have to ask when it's ok to be a slob. Usually the expectations are so brutally low I can't embarrass myself much. I don't belch loudly in public. I think my ability to utter a few expressions like "dou ke yi" (it's all good) and to use chopsticks impresses people beyond their expectations so it's easy for me to impress.

We had to get dressed up for this lunch today because Nat's uncle is some hot shot big advertising guy. I'm dressed as if I'm going to work. And much to Terren's delight, he'll be thrilled to find out that my pants don't feel any tighter at all, at least they didn't before the meal. Personally I find that hard to believe, but whatever. I guess I'll have to step up the eating on these last 3 days. I have to admit it feels good to get dressed up. It's cool to bum around in shorts and t-shirt but this also feels pretty good to change it up.

We didn't get to take the train which is a little disappointing. The view is cool and Julia would have been able to travel with more freedom on it. But again, it's tough to look this gift horse of a taxi service in the mouth. Though to be honest, these trips always end up in side trips. We never go from point A to point B because Nat's dad is always doing something else, like getting the car washed last time we came down. If we really want to we can take the train tomorrow. I doubt we really want to. Not sure what we're doing tomorrow either way. Maybe make Calvin take us
somewhere. Maybe we'll eat some more.

The trip to lunch is another rigmarole. Nat's dad gets lost going to the pit stop, and when we get there they go in and we sit in the car just waiting. After almost an hour we have gone about 8 miles. At least he didn't go to see his mom like I suspected. To add to this, Julia woke up an hour early today so she's going to have a short fuse. Should be fun. I think we're resigned to napping her in the car after lunch. Sounds like another day sitting in the minivan in Taipei. No big deal though as long as she gets her nap on and stays awake nice and late to get her play on with

Lunch is Japanese, which seems to be considered the best meal to take someone out for in this country. I'm content with grubby $1 rice ball-style food but I'll take this too. Since I only have 8 meals left I have to make each one of these count. Or I have to squeeze in a few extra breakfasts to make it 10 meals, and maybe an extra lunch or dinner to bump it up to 12. It's a numbers game at this point.

I took Terren's advice and ripped it up at lunch time. I spared no stomach expense in enjoying myself at the all-you-can-eat sushi bar then getting a salmon entree to boot. The food was solid good, but the lobster bisque was disappointing. Other than that it was very good. The place was beyond top-notch, by the way. Total 5 star quality. Why they would take us all there, I can't say. Nat said it's because her uncle is loaded. I remain dubious, as it's clear I don't understand the culture well enough to say.

Despite the fact that Nat's dad kept us out past 2:00, Julia did exceptionally well then fell asleep in less than 5 minutes, at 2:15. If she hammers this nap it's going to be a late night. This would be a good time to mention that Nat's dad drives a bit like a lunatic. He's one of those "always on the gas or always on the brake" guys. When he backs into a parking space it's very herky-jerky. Calvin is the preferred driver when naps are concerned, but they shot down our request to go home with Calvin
and Grace for some reason. The fact he didn't wake her up on the drive home was a bit of a surprise.

She ended up sleeping until 3:45 when we woke her up. We both sat in the car for an hour with her and decided to wake her up because we didn't want to stay up until 11:00 tonight. Funny that keeping her up until 7:00 was a chore Sunday and by Thursday she might stay up until 11:00. Such an erratic sleep pattern. I'm still full from lunch at 4:00. I may have kicked it a little too much. F you, Terren.

Still, you can't stop me. By 5:00 I broke down and bought a bar of dark chocolate at the 7-11 with my cold tea. I've been hankering for dark chocolate and it was good stuff, something called Whitneys (not Whitmans) from New Zealand. At 5:30 the idea of dinner isn't appealing at all. I think I've eaten all of this country to shreds. I have no more room left. We'll have to pull out the vomit bag to make room for dinner.

Nat's parents are gone, back to Lotung already, having left at 4:00. They both looked totally shot. Nat is also tired, as is Grace who apparently had a coffee for lunch yesterday and ended up staying awake until 5:00 am. I'm ok, and Calvin looks the same. The kids are their usual insane selves. In all, looks to be a fairly low-key night with just the 4 adults and 2 kids. Maybe we'll break out a bottle of red wine tonight, if I ever get some room in my stomach. I'm going to need to spend some quality time on the commode in the next week. I mean like 12 hours next week.

Eventually we eat dinner, a half-hearted effort by all involved. Since nobody is hungry we just eat some of the pig knuckle leftovers from lunch. Grace makes rice and puts out some veggies and we pick at all of it. After dinner Grace puts out some snacks as well. In all this is my most reasonable dinner of the trip. No big deal as I wasn't very hungry and I think we all felt the same way because lunch was so colossal.

After that we just hang out in the apartment, which is nice and relaxing, as relaxing as having a 2 year old wrecking ball can be. Things are more low-key when the whole family isn't together, be it the 4 of us down in Lotung or the 4 of us up in Taipei. The Whole Family Experience is taxing for both me and Julia, and we both end up staring into space before too long. So I prefer the separate gatherings.

By 9:00 Calvin is defrosting scallion pancakes to cook and busting open a bottle of red wine. If he breaks out some mashed potatoes I'm going to be in my glory.

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  • At 6:35 PM, Blogger terren said…

    So it was *that* kind of party eh? lol, that was a great entry. The chinese bitch tits line probably woke Livy up.

    Coincidentally, I found out about an intriguing new diet today called the Shangri-La Diet. Whenever you get around to catching up to your email you can check it out... I've already started it.


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