We make holes in teeth!

Monday, March 17, 2008

Day 9: Dialing It Back

We sleep until 6:00, thankfully. Actually Julia and Nat were up at 5:30 and I caught up 30 minutes later. We got out of bed another 30 after that. Once again we went downstairs for breakfast then went to the office until 8:00 to let them sleep. Breakfast is a redux of stuff we had last week.

We're stuck. We've fallen into a pattern that has wedged us into doing little to nothing for almost 3 straight days. Where Calvin lives, I would call the culture "thin" in that it's an office complex with a few families here and there. When the weekend rolls around there's not much humanity going on. No markets and shops in walking distance save for a few food stalls here and there. Everything pretty much requires a drive, which throws a monkey wrench into the whole "walk anywhere" philosophy.

Julia wakes up early every day, but nothing opens until 10. Then she falls asleep on the way back, and we fail to get her to nap later, then she can't stay up later and consequently sleep longer every morning, and the pattern continues. So today we opted to do nothing in the morning. We were going to go to Costco for bagels but by the time we got ready to go it was dangerously close nap time and more of the same cycle. So we stayed in, went for a small walk, then to the office before coming back to the
apartment for lunch. We chose to split a lunch. I think without question I've put on weight in the past few days. I was holding serve but with all of the sitting in the last 3 days I'm plumping like a Ball Park Frank. Need to get a move on in the coming days or I'm going to be horrified when I step on the scale next Monday.

She went down for a nap at 12:30. Hopefully she's out for 2 hours and we can push out her wakeup a bit tomorrow. Nat's mom's oldest brother wants to take us to "the place" in Taipei for lunch Thursday, but if she needs to nap by noon that's just not going to happen. We'll be in Lotung for the next few days so we'll have a more relaxed time there and maybe we can get her to sleep a bit later than she has been. Time will tell.

Over these few days the vacation has stalled a bit. Everyone but me is content sitting around talking most of the day, and eating when they're not talking. I want to do something, anything really. But as we saw in the last 2 days when we do go out Julia falls asleep early and then it screws up the day. So we need to work around her schedule, which nobody seems to be doing without us making a point of it. It makes doing anything tough. Calvin is trying to get us to stay as long as he can. He doesn't want us to go at. He likes the company. But he doesn't like to walk, which explains why he's put on so much weight since he moved here.

I've also come to believe that Julia is throwing tantrums because she needs more attention. Both Nat and I are not giving her nearly as much as we normally do and I think she's really hurting in that regard. I think we screwed this trip up in a number of ways as it pertains to her. There's no way around it, she just wasn't ready for this. All of it is too much for her. There's no familiar surroundings and we have a hard time giving her the attention she needs. So she's been lashing out by throwing tantrums and she seems burned out almost all the time. For the next week, I think we need to dial back the expectations and give her more attention. I'm nervous about how she's going to be for the 2 weeks after I'm gone. I'm sure it will be the 2 longest weeks of my life.

Everyone naps after lunch except Nat and I. She watches bad Chinese soap operas while I go up and shoot baskets on the roof. After an hour of Julia's nap I get a coffee and Nat goes down to the basement with her parents to shop and I sit-in and wait for her to wake up, which happens at 2:30. We lay in bed and read for 15 minutes. Nat comes back 2 minutes after we get out of bed and we're packed and on the road by 3:30.

I think a hiking & photography trip would be pretty cool here. There are so many steep little hills to climb everywhere, as well as huge ones of course. On bright days the scenery would be fantastic and the hiking would be grueling but rewarding. As we drive down I see so many little things perched on the hills that I would love to hike up and see what's up there. Sometimes I see shacks that sit 1000 vertical feet from where we are, that look like something from an era long gone. Maybe someday, which is something I say about a lot of things - someday. Someday my ship will come in.

I think I either need to get more serious about learning the language or give it up entirely. I can get by with my spattering of Mandarin and the local's English. But in order to fully get around I would need to be more fluent in Mandarin. What makes it harder is that in order to converse with the family, I would also need to learn Taiwanese. That would be tougher because there aren't nearly as many resources available for learning Taiwanese. Mandarin resources are hard enough to come by. You might think that learning Mandarin would be easy in that I could find some Mandarin radio to listen to. The problem there is that almost all of the Mandarin talk radio is news, and Chinese news broadcasts are often read at auctioneer speed. Add to the fact that they use a lot of political terms and my brain checks out after a minute. I'm sure there's a good way to utilize my commuting time for this. I probably should look for podcasts in this realm. I went through this last time so we'll see how it goes. Someday my ship will come in.

My thoughts are drifting back to "reality" already today. I feel like I've been here a long time though it's only been a week and I have a full 5 days and change until I fly out. I think this has a little to do with all the sitting around I've been doing, since I spent more time online today than I have any other day of the trip. My time is also limited so I stress about making the most of every day because I don't have a lot left. Human nature I guess.

We stop at the apartment quick and drop off the luggage and go to see Nat's 4th aunt and also see several other relatives there. They're ready and waiting with french fries for Julia. See now these guys know how to win the little peanut's affection. She sits patiently eating fries while Nat's cousin makes me tea. We discuss the tea a bit then he goes and gets a bag of tea for me. Every time we come here he gives me some kind of tea. Here's another way they know how to win our affections.

Eventually Julia gets sick of sitting there and fervently repeats "outside" while pointing out the door. So we relent and take her out, eventually putting her in the stroller and walking around the school yard, which is the same school Nat's mom went to for grade school and junior high. Pretty cool stuff, and if you use just a little bit of imagination you realize you, as a white man, are so far out on a cultural island as you walk your stroller around in a school yard that was probably there when the Japanese occupied this island before WWII. Pretty remote reality if you ask me.

It's just the 3 of us (plus Julia) for dinner as Nat's dad is off to see his mom for the rest of the day. So we stop at a corner build-it-yourself food place where you pick a bunch of things and they cook it for you. While Nat's mom waits for that we go and get 3 oyster pancakes from night market to top off dinner. Without Nat's dad we can go totally cannibal and eat whatever strikes our fancy. While we walk around the early stages of night market Julia looks smoked already.

On the way back we pass a bunch of parlor games and of course Julia points and grunts, which means she wants to play. So I drop a coin in and almost pull it off on the first try. I'm getting better. Naturally I should be happy with my near success but I continue. After a second coin I hit paydirt and get the prize! I win a small Doraemon cat. Both times the arm drops it but I'm getting better at positioning it so it drops it a little more to the left, closer to the bucket. On the second drop it bounces up and over and I'm a winner!

Dinner is good, nice and quiet. We eat while Julia destroys a stack of folded laundry and plays with a hair dryer, unplugged. She had her fries so she's not hungry. After dinner I take a bath with Julia while Nat goes and gets dessert, not that we need any more food. But we eat anyway because that's what people do around here. Nat's dad comes back and opens more food, which I eat because this is one thing I really like. I'm starting to worry that the plane back is going to be too heavy with passengers to make it the whole way.

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