We make holes in teeth!

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Taiwan Day 17 - Wonder Lost & Hopefully Gained

Full picture set of the day here: Flickr set or slideshow.

I'll go ahead and say that today marks a sort of "loss of wonder" point as far as my riding goes. I don't know if I'm getting used to everything, or I've done all the local exploring I can, or the cold rain has started to wear on me. But something has been lost since the first time I went out on a bike just 16 days ago. I do think the cold rain is starting to wear on me, and this morning's 45-ish degree wake-up call didn't help. Nat's mom would later say that the last 2 years are the 2 coldest in the 10 years she's been coming here for the winter. It looks to be warming up in a few days but this morning, I just had no motivation to do much.

I did set out for a new twist on a known area, XinLioa waterfall. But it turned out that you had to hike to the actual waterfall and when I got there, I wasn't about to go on the dirt paths with the road bike. I ended up going up and over the MeiHua hill again from the backside, then deciding to skip the Toughest Climb (Nat's dad calls it Hero Hill) and loop around some new roads at the bottom then explore a few other roads back to town. In general, the roads are all a grid here, and it's pretty easy to just point and shoot. The GPS tells me I started east, I just turn right and go. I always manage to figure out where I need to go.

I did find a duck farm though:

I realized that I was becoming jaded today when I saw some red paper lanterns in the park that would have been a cool picture, and I just more or less said "meh" and rode on. I was going to ride for 3 hours but I cut it short at just under 2 because I didn't feel like being out that long, and Nat had mentioned her parents were going out and she wanted to go. Since I had no actual goal in mind, I went back to the house. I suppose not having a goal is a problem. I need to look for some new roads, maybe towards the ocean. And I need to land a mountain bike so I can do those road bike unfriendly roads.

We ended up at the Mr. Liu Cafe, which is the place we went before to get snacks and coffee. Not sure why, but nobody could answer me when I asked where we were going, and Nat's dad said something about "knuckles" which I still can't figure out. I was happy to see we were heading up that way, since that's where the MIL had gotten the soft guava that I liked so much last week. I had been trying to find it since that day with no luck. First we stopped in for a coffee and some stuff for the in-laws, then I took Julia down to pick out some guavas. I can tell I'm still a novelty in this area, as some people looked at me with shocked astonishment. It must have been doubly so with Julia and not being accompanied by a "native" so to speak.

I admit that I really get a kick out of the fascination some people have with Julia and I. Just tonight I was taking out the garbage and this family was getting out at the store next door to the building, and the daughter couldn't stop looking at me. In general I smile, sometimes say hi, nod, piss on their feet, and so on. Sometimes they smile back, but other times, like tonight, they just seem too dumbfounded to react in any way. I'd love to hear the conversation when they get back in the car. The vast majority of people ignore us when we go out. But you notice the people who are overly friendly or overly astonished. I get a kick out of the the 2 extremes.

So back to this morning, Julia and I were walking to the fruit stand and some people were just looking at me like I had snakes coming out my ears. Other people would smile and say a few words in English. The fruit seller rolled with it, and offered me some samples. I grabbed 7 guavas and paid for them. And then we walked around a bit more before my MIL came to see what we were doing. On the way back to the cafe Nat's mom suggested a snack, which I was actually eying up on the way to buy fruit:

This is what this island is all about, IMO.

After a quick stop at the apartment, we were off to meet some totally tangential and random friends of Nat's parents. Apparently they are godparents, which is a concept I don't totally understand here as I don't really know the religion well at all. What I do know is that we were at the same place we had lunch yesterday, which is the 4th time we've been to this same place, maybe 3 times in 5 days? I like it and all, but it's a bit too much. Given that they go to the same place in the states every time we go out, I shouldn't be surprised by this. But somehow, I am.

Either way, Julia is not amused by this turn of events:

After a lunch that simply would not end, we went back to the apartment and Nat's parents got all their stuff ready to haul up to Taipei. They fly out on Wednesday and their exodus begins in part today, and they're expecting to stay up there for the next 3 nights to spend time with Calvin & company, as they won't be back here until November. They're coming back down tomorrow for a bit, and then again Wednesday morning. But by and large, they're done with the apartment and will mostly be in Taipei for the rest of their stay.

Nat went out to see her cousin and in the process attempt to get me a mountain bike. Her cousin, who they used to refer to as Fat Brother, has one which he apparently doesn't use. I have no doubt he'll let me have it for as long as I want, but we haven't asked yet. Looking at him, I'm reasonably sure he hasn't ridden a bike in a long, long time. In the meantime, Julia and I were left to entertain ourselves while Nat was out.

To start we bummed around the house for a little bit but then we were off to town to run some errands. First was the bakery, as usual. The shelves were bare and the floor was jam packed. So getting something and not losing the child in the madness was a bit of a chore but we managed to make it. I was only able to score one sample today so my bakery snack was less than normal. We went to the 7-11 for an afternoon coffee and I was actually able to understand everything the 2 clerks said, even when the girl asked me if I wanted a bag. Of course, I answered incorrectly at first (mei you, or "don't have" which does the job but makes me sound like a retard I'm sure) but then realized my mistake and corrected myself. Getting better, and I haven't screwed up anything yet.

Over to the grocery store where I saw the first white man of the trip who wasn't performing in an amusement park, and he was friendly in saying hello. I'm pretty sure he was one of them-there "men of god" here in Buddha Country. But I'm not sure. He appeared to be doing your garden variety shopping while I was busy representing the white man in proper fashion:

Next we went to the Junk Store (not the actual name) and I bought Julia a "fish set" as she called it. This was sort of the parallel to the animal set I bought her the other day but for the ocean. There was a stingray, and what appeared to be several sharks and indeterminate animals, presumably of the sea. Some must have been deep sea dwellers as they had no eyes.

Back to the apartment and we did some playing, watching videos, laundry, and the like. This was your standard "average day" which we sort of signed up for. Actually most of it was in that mold, from start to finish, including the bike ride even.

Then I got word, Nat landed me a bike. Well, to be fair it was probably the combination of Crash and Nat. While it may not be the best bike in the world, it will certainly do the job for my road/un-road touring adventures that I've been looking to do:

Yes, there are reflectors, a handlebar mirror, kick stand, and apparently some sort of glowing tire valve extensions. And no, there are no disc brakes. But for my purposes, if I can get the saddle height close enough to right it will certainly do the trick. I do wish it had disc brakes but these should be fine. And the added traction of the tires will allow me to explore those 3 main targets I've been itching to do. I just need to give it a once over (the brakes were way too slack) and make sure it will stand up to going these hills before I risk my well-being to gravity. Oh and I need some spare tubes.

It turned out that Fat Brother didn't even recognize his bike when Crash had used it earlier in the day.

Since we lost our babysitters we now either have to send 1 of us out for dinner or we all go as a unit. Tonight, it was the unit option. First we went to get a scallion pancake that I was denied last night. Then we grabbed some noodles that were nothing to write home about. But what can you expect for $1 a bowl?

After a quick stop at one of those night market parlor games which features a big vat of fish that you can scoop out, we landed some dessert and veggies and went home for the night. As I mentioned above, I took the garbage out for the first time tonight. This is slightly more than it sounds like, as the garbage truck rolls through town playing music and people run from their apartments and throw their own garbage and recyclables in the trucks. So I'm now more than just the white guy around town who rides (and occasionally cleans) his bike. I now wait outside and take the garbage out. I'm sure some people are starting to think that I'm here for the long haul. As soon as they really start to accept me I'll pull the end-around and disappear for 1.5-2.5 years.

That Michelob Dark sucked, by the way. Oh and just 34 miles (on the road) from here, it snowed on TaiPingShan. That's probably no more than 20 miles directly from here, if that. This is one of the roads I want to climb before I go, but if there's snow up there, not sure that's going to happen.



Post a Comment

<< Home


Accommodation in aviemore