Normbrero

We make holes in teeth!

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Taiwan Day 44 - Saying Goodbye

Last breakfast of the trip is the same shop we've been going to for the better part of the last few weeks. I was resigned to only get 1 thing, but when I got there I couldn't choose, so I ended up getting the same as the last 2 days - rice ball, soymilk, and scallion pancake/egg combo. This time I only ate half of each, and ended up throwing the rest away. I'm not a big fan of waste but in this case I felt it was necessary since I won't be able to get this stuff for another who-knows-how-long.

After breakfast I tied up the packing and got ourselves ready to go. The plan was to be ready to go at a moments notice so that when we got back, we could pick up and go if we had to. Not the ideal plan, but if we came back at 3:55, we could shoot out and not be late.

We met up with Calvin & family at the American Club. They had been out visiting Grace's parents that morning then had to run to Taipei for something, so we met there. Usually I'd reject the notion of the American Club for my last meal, but after something like 130 meals, really it didn't matter. Here's a shot of the inside:



For lunch, I got the sha cha jiang beef, which is Chinese BBQ sauce beef. I really enjoyed it so it ended up being a good stop for the last lunch:



Coming back from the bathroom I noticed someone sitting behind me that looked familiar. It turned out it was the guy from the liquor store who lived in Manhattan for 17 years. I said to Nat that you know it's time to go when you start "running into people" in a city of 3 million people.

We took our time eating then drove back to the apartment and jammed even more shit into our luggage and let the kids play for another hour before loading up the car and heading to the airport. There was no traffic so we were there early. Here's our mass of junk we're bringing back:



We asked which line to get into and the guy saw we had a kid and put us in the first class line. Sweet! However, when we got to the window the guy said he had no record of us. He took off for 10 minutes and came back and said that he found us, but it turns out that our return flight was booked for January 12th, not February 12th. That kinda sucks, but it turns out the flight wasn't booked so we not only got 3 seats, we got them together.

We had just over 110 kg of luggage, which is more than 242 pounds. That's absurd.

Wasting time before the flight, Julia wanted to look in the bathroom for who-knows-what-reason and I took a picture of us. I don't look like I got too too fat on the trip:



We then found a Hello Kitty gift shop where I dropped almost $30 on a Hello Kitty doll worth maybe $5 on a good day. We grabbed our last meal of mediocre beef noodle soup and bubble tea, then we got in the fast line to board because of the 4 year old. Once again, sweet!

The plane took off and once we got in the air I took a look at this, which hurts to even think about:



As long as the flight was, it ended up being only (only? only?) 13.5 hours and not 14.5. No idea why it was so fast but I'll take it. I'm not going to describe the flight because everyone knows what a plane is like. The food was so-so at best, kids cried on and off, and I slept about 12 minutes total, in 3 different attempts.

When we landed the gate to get out was broken so we were delayed slightly, but not long. Immigration was easy and we passed through to grab our luggage when the Fruit & Veggie dog identified us as being smugglers. Awesome! The lady asked if we had any fruits, veggies, or meats and we said no. But we forgot we had brought 2 bananas to snack on so we got nabbed for having them. She said it wouldn't be a problem but she took out immigration paper and put a big red mark on it, like in grade school.

Once we got to customs we had to go through the "troublemakers" line where the guy just told us we had to scan all our bags. The lady took the bananas and randomly searched 1 bag. She looked at the preserved eggs and said that they were ok since they came from Taiwan and not China.

Nat had called Joe (our ride home) when we got off and it turns out they had no idea we were coming home that early. We suck at planning but it worked out for the best. Actually, they were supposed to be in South Jersey but had come home early by chance. So once again, we got lucky. We got home about 9:30, in all just over 18 hours from door to door, which is as about as good as it gets.

I unpacked everything and listened to Wilco's Sky Blue Sky because of the memories I have of that album from the last return trip from Taiwan. I managed to get through all 242 pounds of stuff (plus the 2 carry-on pieces) before going to bed. I also had 2 Victory Storm King Stouts because I had to make amends for all the bad beer I've had in the last 6 weeks. Here's all the junk I managed to pack in the wok box, I needed to be efficient:



And that's just about that.

Oddly, I don't feel like I said a proper goodbye to the country. I don't know why I say that. I gave it a fair sendoff on the bike. But I feel like I should have said goodbye to the 7-11 coffee clerks and the breakfast shop lady, among other regulars we saw routinely. Maybe it's because I know we'll be back sooner than later. In the flight back, Nat and I already talked about possibly doing the same next year, but for the full 60 days of the visa. Usually when we're heading back, we're not thinking about coming back.

Coming back to the house, I didn't feel like I was "going home" so much as just going somewhere else to live for a little bit. I think a trip like this changes you in ways you don't actually understand, and may not ever understand. That may be part of it, I'm not sure. If I figure it out I'll let you know. In the meantime, I'm just doing what I can to keep my eyes open when they should be open, and closed when they should be closed.

There's probably no better way to end the story of our last day than to describe the last moment of the drive back to the house. When I backed the minivan into the driveway Nat said to Julia that we were home. Julia looked up, peered out the window, and said, "What parking lot is this?"

Thanks to all for reading my War & Peace on our Taiwan trip, and all the comments. Everything you guys have contributed have made me realize how special of an opportunity this really was, and I'm glad I took it. We'll see everyone next time.

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

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1 Comments:

  • At 6:40 PM, Blogger terren said…

    That was awesome, Norm, thanks again for all the hard work in putting this together. Look forward to next year's 60-day trip even if it means we don't get to see you guys for two months. When we told Livy Julia was back she lit up with a "yay!" Livy was asking about Julia a couple weeks ago. Anyway glad you guys are back safe and sound.

     

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