We make holes in teeth!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Day 6: Back to Taipei

Up again at 5:00 am. Looks like our routine is 8:00-5:00 right now. That's fine, since there's not really anything to stay up late for and they start making food at 5:00am. We're out at 5:30 to get steam buns, coffee, congee, and rice. This place is rapidly heating up with commotion already. A light rain is falling.

The highlight of the walk is an old-timer who broke out an abacus to figure out what the steam buns cost and how much change we had. I was so bummed that I didn't have the camera. I might need to go back and get him inaction. It's not every day that you see someone actually use an abacus. Awesome stuff.

Over breakfast we discussed what time to go back up to Taipei, either before or after lunch/nap. Nat's parents are going up too, so that means we get a ride. Part of me was excited about the train ride but then Julia on a2-3 hour trip can be tough to handle. Nat's parents are also very accommodating in getting us around and trying to make sure we have a good time. Her dad is insanely good with Julia. She loves him.

Nat's cousin is in town from Canada and wanted to see us but she wants the world to come to her. Since we have a kid and Calvin has a kid, it's much easier for them to go to Calvin's. But she doesn't want to leave their house and venture out, so it got bagged. Seems that her cousin is a bit Westernized and likes to not move too much.

This is one (of many) things that I really like about being here, that you can walk everywhere. People who are Westernized - like Nat's cousin and brother - don't like it as much because they're so used to driving. I like being able to walk out the door and get anything you need. Breakfast is a walk, post office, bank, coffee - anything really. It makes the amount of eating we do easier to manage. I estimated that this morning's trip got us about a mile and a half of walking. It didn't need to be so much but we were exploring a little and ended up cruising up and down a few different streets in search of something different.

Around 8:00 I got on the exercise bike again for another hour. This wasn't as easy and by the end I was tired. Vacation plus these tough hour long rides are a tiring combination. On one hand I could bag the exercise, but staying in biking shape is important to me. Plus, it helps me manage the food intake if I can burn an extra 500-1000 calories here and there. The walking also helps. It all helps. After a while the trip becomes an endeavor in calorie management.

After my shower Julia and I went out to walk around while Nat and her mom went to get a haircut and Nat's dad went to see his mom. I was heading to7-11 for coffee, but then found a Barrista Coffee. Why not? I went in and managed to say the following, in Mandarin:

"Cup of coffee, Americano, no milk, no sugar."

Yes, I admit it, I can speak Mandarin a little bit. I couldn't survive here because my brain just can't understand other people speaking. Most people can understand but not speak, I'm the opposite. My vocabulary is well on the way (or it was) to being considered literate. My comprehension is well on its way to being considered dead.

So the girl rolls with it, and asks me a question.


In English, "I, um, don't speak Mandarin that well."

So we continued in English, her English much better than my Mandarin. But I got my coffee, and everyone in the store commented on how cute Julia is. It turned out to be the most expensive coffee you can buy, almost $3 US. But it also turned out to be the best cup of coffee I've had here, and better than anything you can get in the states.

Before lunch Nat and I ran out and got hot and sour soup. Nat's mom was making lunch again, which I appreciate. I really do. But we're not here for leftovers. We're here to get as much eating in as we can, while we can. So we had to go out an cheat. The soup was good, but not as remarkable as I remember it last time. We're in a bit of a constant battle with both Nat's mom and Grace to eat at the little hole in the wall joints. We want to but they always shoot it down as being too dirty. So we sneak around them and go renegade from time to time.

After nap we ran out for a milk tea, aka bubble tea. They have them in Chinatown but at 4 times the cost. Back to the apartment to pack and on the highway to Taipei. In the car at 2:43 so we should be back by 4:00. Our 48hour whirlwind tour of Lotung is over. We'll spend the weekend in Taipei with Nat's brother then come back on Monday. After that, no clue what next week holds. I do need to make my way to a night market and a tea farm of some sort. I also need a scallion pancake and a mos burger.

I have tentative plans with Nelson tonight to grab dinner somewhere. Not sure how that plays out as I haven't heard from him all week. Not sure if he's still available or not. Tomorrow is the zoo. And Sunday we get a free day as Calvin has a wedding and Nat's parents are going to a protest or demonstration of some sort. They're all political and shit so they do stuff like that.

I call Nelson's hotel and nothing. So we go to dinner without him and get one of the most vaunted, respected, awe-inspiring meals on all the land. Italian food. What? Huh? Are you for real? Yes, I'm for real. Calvin does everything he can to steer the meals in the direction he wants them. Like I said in a pre-vacation blog entry, he's all about the food. But sometimes he just goes in the wrong direction. We told him we absolutely did not want to do non-Asian food while we're here, and of course he ignores us. It wasn't a bad meal. It's just not why we're here.

After dinner we went shopping even though Julia was starting to fade again. It's not that she can't handle being tired, she just squirms when we sit down at a table and eat a meal and she's tired. She needs more unstructured play time, which she is currently getting as I write this as she destroys the play room with Lydia. She woke up at 5:00 am and she's still on fire at 8:30 pm. But when we got in the car she slipped her wig and we let her sit on my lap for the ride home...across the street. Remember what I said about being Westernized? Driving across the street to eat Italian food. To that end, tonight is the only night I overate. Or was it the driving 5 minutes? I don't know, but I'm overfull.

Never heard from Nelson. Maybe he started a fire somewhere and got his comeuppance.

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