Taiwan Day 9 - Calvin & Grace Show Up
To Terren - So why does my MIL not want me to drive? Honestly, I don't know. If I can ride my bike in this madness I can surely drive. But she's decided that I shouldn't drive and that's that. I think there's some weird thing going on where she thinks that since I'm not Taiwanese I won't really know what to do behind a wheel. In a sense, I suppose there's some truth to that. It's not so much as being Taiwanese but being used to what to expect, which you tend to do when you're behind a wheel. In the US, there are some expectations. Here, there pretty much are none, aside from the fact that you have to expect nobody to stop at any traffic light or stop sign. Most people do, but with the number of people here a 99% success rate means that someone is going to blow a stop sign or red light about every minute that you're on the road in town.
Moving on to today, which starts with the bike ride as usual. I was looking to do something longer but my being a little tired and the rain changed my plans a bit. Since I can ride whenever, the rain is a sure excuse to turn that 4 hour ride into a 2 hour ride. Today that was the case. I'm itching to do something more meaty but I'm not so excited to go crazy with the weather not cooperating. Like I posted on Facebook, I understand that you guys back home are in the crap right now. But I'm still a little sick of the rain.
Today was a set of 3 climbs and 3 temples. The first was one we had been to years ago with Nat's mom and her aunt. I got to this in pretty short order:
I then went up and over the hill, down the other side, turned around and went back up, then down to the start of the first climb. I then headed to the "toughest climb" area and went up the hill to temple #2, which is entirely not picture worthy. Then up the hill more and turned off to temple #3, which was actually at the bottom of the hill. But before I got there, I found one of those dead construction projects that made me curious. So I turned around to go back and check it out and finally I had pressed my luck one too many times and the bike went out from under me and I slipped on the pavement. Luckily for me, I was going really slowly and was able to unclip and catch myself. The road was so slippery on the edge that I had to walk the bike. I couldn't actually get back on and pedal.
The 3rd temple:
The money shot is really from the base, but it was raining and so overcast that the picture came out like crap. I have it in the full set but it's nothing to write home about. Well, unless you're writing about how it's not...well, you know. I managed to get home without further incident, though the rain was picking up and by the time I was done, my hands were frozen and my feet were cold. Today made me start to see how relentless this rain can be, and I'm starting to understand some of the ex-pats here who complain about the rain in the winter. Still, I see what it's doing back home so I can't complain.
When I got back Nat had some breakfast goodies waiting, 2 leek dumplings smothered in hot sauce and a half a small bun of some sort. I cleaned up and then we took off to the small park to feed the fish, with a small detour at the tea shop for a taro-favored hot tea. I was still a little chilly from the ride and wanted something warm. As expected, Julia loved feeding the fish and we wondered why we waited so long to go here.
After walking around the night market area (in the day) Calvin called and said they were in the house, literally. He never actually said, "We're in the house," or, "We be in the hiz-ouse, yo!" That's not really his style. He and the family were just there. So we headed back and got in the elevator and opened the door, and were greeted by an absolutely blitzkrieg of noisy chaos. And the circus began. You can even see Calvin's smirk, he knows it:
I don't know what it is about this family, but when you put them all in a room together they seem to need to scream at anything and everything to get their point across. It's not family fighting at all. It's just, well, it's just a goddamn Chinese fire drill. I'm pretty sure I used the same description the last time we were here, and it's still appropriate. The 2 main players are Grace and the MIL. They just jabber on constantly. Then they draw in the FIL, which inevitably draws in both Nat and Calvin, who I think want nothing to do with the madness. But to be sure, they all end up in this loud round table discussion on absolutely nothing at all. Then the conversation gets so hectic they all end up yelling the same thing, quite literally, 7 times in a row sometimes. I shake my head.
Calvin and I escape to get lunch, which is Pizza Hut for the kids:
And Japanese lunchbox for us:
From left to right: Mermaid hair, goat ass, fried cow nose, yak spleen, and duck penis rolled in pig scrotum. It was good.
After lunch, and despite the rain, we went out for a short journey to the place where we get the bottled soymilk, which also sells assorted snack food. You can sit down and sample the different kinds of soymilk (normal, rice milk, almond, black bean, etc) then go buy some if you like. Or you can wlk around and taste some of the snacks they sell. They also have some old farm equipment on display as well as a machine that turns your raw rice into white rice. You buy the bag and then dump it into the machine a few times, put it in a bottle, and slap a sticker on it. This kept the kids entertained for a few minutes.
They also got monkey masks:
Then Calvin and family took off to check into their hotel (they love hotels for whatever reason) and we went back to the other side of town and soon I found we were heading towards the area of the temple climbs, the brightly-colored pedestrian bridge, and the toughest climb. We passed the circle intersection where all these roads start and headed towards the pedestrian bridge, up the hill.
We weren't going there, but I did find out the story of the bridge. Apparently there's an Aborigine village on the other side. Nat's mom said that she and her sisters sometimes come up there, have coffee, and walk across the bridge, just to do it. So there is some sort of explanation to it.
Next stop was a small coffee house that sells even more snacks, mostly nut-based, such as roasted soybeans, or a sort of peanut brittle, and so on. They also had little jars you could sample and just about every one of them was really good. I've had these snacks at Nat's parent's house before, as well as at the apartment here. Now I know where they come from:
A bit later, Nat, the FIL, and I went out to dinner and grabbed something local. I got some noodles with pork sauce on top:
Then Nat and her parents took off at about 8:30 to do some ceremony for her grandmother, who passed away almost a year ago. I don't know how this works, but I suspect this is one of those things where the "rules" are lightly enforced. This was something like the "3rd annual" gathering/memorial of her death, which is curious as she hasn't been dead a year yet. In any event, it was the last one and I think the process is finally done with, though I suspect there's some sort of yearly thing that Nat's dad will be doing from here on out. There's a reasonably big mysticism/religion/culture thing with death here. I don't know exactly what to call it, thus the vague reference.
Julia and I stayed at the house and had beer and ice cream. Well not Julia, she had chocolate. And scotch.
Tomorrow there's a big family gathering. I'm thinking Darin, and beer, will make an appearance. Stay tuned!