Day 13: Last Full Day
While Nat went out to get breakfast I watched some kooky 1970's Chinese TV show, the scene was 2 guys dressed up and fighting on a building ledge, one was a chicken and one was a transformer-like dude. Silly stuff, but no more silly than half the crap we have on TV. Calvin had the news on which is full-court politics right now, just talking heads yelling at each other all day. When he showered I turned the channel to something stupid. There's plenty of that here. They seem to have a pretty good assortment of stuff on TV - news, sports, kids stuff, American shows, Japanese shows, and plain old left field Chinese TV which can be really awesome in a Terrible TV way.
Speaking of politics the US is apparently sending the USS Kitty Hawk here for the election tomorrow. Last time there were protests and some small-scale riots. I guess you could question why we would come during such a tumultuous time, but the reality is that other than the posters lining the streets and the news, nobody seems to give a shit - just like back home. It gives people a diversion but when the sun rises Monday morning all these poor slobs have to go to work just like I do. Ugh, the thought of going to work makes my groin ache.
Breakfast is reasonable today. Nat went to get it and kept it small because she didn't want to wait in line. I'm still not hungry but I'm feeling pretty spent again today. Maybe the half bottle of wine had something to do with it, who knows. Maybe the Hulk Hogan lunch. Maybe both. Like the end of many vacations, I'm looking forward to going home and having some normalcy again. Nat, Calvin, and I were talking last night and we all agree that doing this trip was a bit premature in that covering all the bases with Julia's schedule mixed in with the jetlag was ambitious to say the least. In a few weeks we'll talk about coming back but one requirement is that she needs to not be napping anymore. Maybe 2 years from now.
Today is a day of details, buying things we never got around to buying and then eating in between. First stop is Costco for bagels and cheese, on the road at 10:50. I forgot to mention there are no stop signs in this country. There are traffic lights sometimes but no stop signs. You just need to be ready to stop when you're city driving. Brakes are very important here. I would imagine being a mechanic would be a great job here, especially a scooter mechanic. Nat and I both estimate that there are 5 million scooters in Taiwan. Even if we're high, that just tells you the scale of the scooter population. At red lights, the scooters weave through traffic to the front where there's a little area specifically for them. In rush hour it's not strange to see 100 scooters waiting at 1 side of an intersection for a light to turn green.
The Costco here is almost exactly like home, with about as many Asians as the one on route 10, just no white guys. I did see one non-Asian though, a black man and a Taiwanese woman buying stuff. We get some Dora DVDs in Chinese, bagels, and several kinds of cheese. Even here we manage to spend $100 at Costco. On the way out Calvin buys ice cream. Figure it's a perfect pre-lunch snack. Or something. I have to say that I love watching Calvin operate. He's total entertainment sometimes.
We got to talking this morning about houses here. Calvin seems to think
that we could get a house with several floors for $100-300,000 which would be suitable for all of us. It's a neat idea, if it's remotely possible. I'm sure once we get back home the idea of dropping anywhere from $33k to $150k on a house here will sound retarded. But it's intriguing now, to have somewhere to live when we're here. But then, this is forward looking to say the least. It's obviously not a short-term plan and then long-term gets to the point where we start to get into the college years. Plus, how dumb do we sound going on vacation and then turning around and saying we should live here? But then, Nat's whole family is here. It's not like we don't have a place to stay when we do come, at least now. Then you have to consider Calvin, and their plan to have Lydia go to school in the states. So they might not be here long term either. Who knows, let's just have a few beers and lay on the car hood and ponder the infinite possibility of space.
Lunch is Szechuan, which is one of my final checklist items to do. I get 3 of the dishes that I like. The first is kung pow chicken, which is really good. We also get the intestine and pork blood concoction which is also excellent. The stewed beef is a disappointment though. It's better in Edison believe it or not. Overall lunch is good, not great. Grace and I share a bomber of Taiwan Beer, which is like Taiweiser or Budwan, your choice. After lunch we do some token shopping and a drive back to the apartment to nap Julia. She goes down around 2:00.
I chill out on the couch writing this and drinking coffee while Nat goes down to buy books with Grace for me to carry home, as well as a tiger for my desk at work and a piece of carry-on luggage for me to take back. Usually on our Taiwan trips, by now I'm planning what to do once I get back but plans are more or less useless and I'm going to just enjoy the last 24 hours with my wife and baby. I let Julia ride on my lap the last mile or so home, which is a big no-no in the states but in a country where 25 is about the top speed, I feel relatively safe doing that, especially with Calvin at the wheel. I'm going to miss my little monkey.
She wakes up at 4:00 because I woke her up. Nat and Grace come back 10
minutes later with an awesome rolling luggage/backpack that cost $33. It's really pretty slick and it's orange to boot. Orange is more or less becoming my favorite color these days. I'm wearing an orange shirt right now and the new bike I'm building is orange as well. Wow, talk about reality, when I get back I should have a new mountain bike to ride, assuming I can still turn the cranks.
They also picked up some books for both Julia and I to learn Chinese and Taiwanese. Grace found one for adults which is geared for "laborers and brides." Sweet! After this I'll be able to be a blushing bride in several different languages. Or I can work here. Not sure how much of a common language there is between brides and laborers, other than sex workers.
They weren't able to find me a tiger. Grace said the selection was crap. So we'll either have to go find that and my scallion pancake or Nat will have to bring me one back and I'll have to be content with the ones Calvin made me last night. They were pretty good, I have to admit. But they weren't from a street vendor so I'm feeling that I didn't get the full experience. "Oh hey white guy, give him free food!"
We hung around the apartment until 6:30 and then went out for dinner at a Hakka place, which is just a kind of cuisine from China, more or less. I got another Budwan bomber and split it with Grace again but this time she had a 4 ounce glass and I drank the rest. I think she was just enabling me. This meal was really enjoyable. Got a nice light buzz before the food then had some good solid eats after that. They were liberal with the garlic which I was happy about. Probably one of the better meals we've had here. Maybe the 2nd or 3rd best meal.
After dinner we went over to the department store to buy a DVD player for this region's DVDs, which is a different region than the US. Yeah it's a PITA but in order to get the Chinese learning DVDs it's just easier this way. I think it was $60 for the player and it's supposedly a good one. DVD players are dirt cheap so whatever. We'll pack it in some clothes and be good with that in the luggage. They're super thin so it takes up very little space.
When we went into the store Grace said to Nat, "Watch Julia, she's cute so someone might steal her."
Great. This is all I want to hear the day before I leave, that our daughter is cute enough to be the object of kidnappers. I don't think it's a real concern because Grace is a little over cautious at times. But you know, it's just another thing that I'll worry about from time to time in the next 2 weeks.
There's a Mister Doughnut in the department store basement, and Lydia likes to go so we went there for dessert to bring back to the apartment. On the way out I won another parlor game but gave the monkey boat prize to Lydia because Calvin was trying to win it for her. Julia seemed pretty unhappy about that, and kept trying to take it once we got back to the apartment. Eventually Lydia shared it, and I played with it with Julia. Then they both forgot about it because kids are like that. It's not like Lydia's room full of toys isn't enough for them both.
The doughnuts were decent, a little more doughy-chewy than in the states. At least the first bite I had was. They got a bunch of different ones and we sampled various ones through the night. The chocolate was standard American doughnut, which I'm not a fan of. Didn't go nuts with the doughnuts because my stomach-time fuse is coming to an end. I'm still enjoying my tea addiction but that also is about to come to an abrupt end because I can't seem to find it anywhere online for sale. Not like I would buy up 40 cases or anything but it would be nice to have 1-2 on the weekends for the sentimental value.
The kids were in rare form tonight, not playing well at all. But at least they were both feisty as opposed to the beginning when Julia would break out in tears no matter what happened. In between trying to keep the peace, I had Calvin burn me a CD of the pictures so I'll be able to post up some pics over the next week or so. I'll probably use it as a way to describe the trip in pictures over the week, and to give me something to do other than surf useless websites when I get home from work.
Starting to mentally prepare for the pack tomorrow morning. It's surely going to be a cluster fuck of getting as much shit in these 2 bags as possible, then realize I forgot something. We forgot some stuff in Lotung so the sooner Nat's parents get here the faster I can get that taken care of. Among the festivities tomorrow is the national election, by the way. They hold it on Saturday so everyone can vote. So when I take off it will still be in question. When I land there should be a preliminary winner, though last time it took weeks to sort out.
Anyway, the last full day is in the books. While going to sleep Nat admitted that she's partly ready to go home too. You can end up packing a lot into 2 weeks and this has been a busy one even though there was a lot of nap time thrown in there. My next entry will be my last day here then the plane ride home, which will be posted from NJ Saturday night. Wish me luck.