Thursday, March 18, 2010

three days in taiwan

Most vacations just blur past, and my trip to Taiwan was no exception. I am sitting down here (kind of late at night locally) to confirm a rough draft of the vacation events so I wont forget quickly.

A Japanese friend of mine, who speaks fluent Chinese, invited me to go with her to Taiwan. I had never been, so I thought it would be fun. We get on the airplane and the first thing I think is a thought I have about how airplanes never seem to carefully screen the lyrics of their in-flight music. Through my headphones is Madonna belting out (in the song American Pie) "This will be the day that I die..." A quick switch of the channels provides Bon Jovi singing "Some dreams live, Some will die" Maaan. This doesn't help when you are on an old China Air flight that was stopped for TWO hours before take off due to "maintenance issues"! Oh well, at least it was cheap.

So we get to Taiwan, and the first thing I notice is the "living air" smell that is similar to Hong Kong. It's kind of hard to explain, but Tokyo has way less variety of smells floating around. But in Taiwan (and in Hong Kong) the air feels, hmm, spicy --for lack of a better word. Not a bad thing, quite a fun thing for the nose. The next thing I notice is how many mopeds and scooters are everywhere. Literally everywhere. And most drivers have a stylized smog mask over their faces, making the moped drivers seem like some sort of mass unified mob of some sort.

So when we get to Taipei, we ride the subway out to a suburb of Taipei named Danshui (which literally simply means "fresh water") and meet some of my Japanese friend's Taiwanese friends. They are all super nice, only one can speak Japanese though. And another one can speak some English, but other than that, only Chinese. My Mandarin Chinese is still way below rapid conversational, so I am mostly out of the conversations but I enjoy listening along and trying to puzzle out the meaning. They take us to a "Western style" dinner, and I am struck by how it was so close... but so far away from food someone would eat in America. Clam chowder... that isn't quite chowdery enough. Steak, with the wrong sauce. Salad with odd ingredients. And so on. I enjoy imaging that this is what a Taiwanese person feels when they eat Taiwanese food overseas.

The next day it is more walking around the city and meeting more of my friend's Taiwanese friends. We briefly go to a Japan Occupation Museum (always an interesting stop when in Asia) and then walk around Taipei 101, which is like the Eiffel Tower of Taiwan. It was the tallest building in the world until The Burj in Dubai took the "new" title of tallest. We walk around the glittery mall inside, window shopping, people watching, and whittling the time away. Sometime that day (hora! I am already beginning to forget details) my friend talks me into going to a foot massage. I had never gone to anything like that, and I suppose that is the fun thing about going on vacations with other people. You sort of get out and try things you would never try by yourself. I must admit, it is quite odd having someone rub on your feet and pull on your toes. The weirdest part is when the masseur literally punches your legs, as if he is angry about how his foot massage is going. It is a unique style massage, I must say. That evening I meet up with a friend from college who I haven't met in maybe about 7 years. Time is too darn quick, sometimes when we aren't paying attention we suddenly get a whole lot older.

The next day, we meet yet another one of my friend's Taiwanese friends (it helps to speak the language if you want to make friends) and go to his family's house for lunch. It is fun to go to someone's house and take a look around. His parents can't speak much English or Japanese, but they are nice enough. I find myself feeling a bit sorry for my friend, she tries to speak to them in Chinese, but because they seem to be nervous they give their answers to their son who translates into English and then I sometimes explain it in Japanese to my friend who answers yet again in Chinese. I know her Chinese is good enough to have a conversation with his parents, they must be just too nervous to speak directly to her I suppose. It is a weird loop conversation.

And before I know it, I am in the airport. I am in the airplane. I am rushing back towards Japan. I am at immigration. And then I am home in Japan again. From this moment, this vacation will become nothing more than yet another interesting trip abroad-- snuggled up into my mind with all my other memories.

Friday, March 12, 2010

think thoughts

Wow. Just wow. That's a new low for my whole internet diary keeping thing. I skipped the whole month of February? Just nothing at all? That's bad! I really want to keep chronicling my life, but I have very little inspiration when I am living basically the same thing--day in and day out. And when I do think of something I usually forget by the time I sit down in front of my computer. Ahh, enough of the exucses.

Well, I do have a bit of news. My first vacation in a long time is coming up. Me and a Japanese friend are going to Taiwan. I haven't ever been there, and even though it is going to be a quick trip, I am looking foward to it. And if I am lucky, I might be able to use a word or two in Chinese.

In other news, I have 47 new photos up if you want to browse. Enjoy!
(The above picture is an attempt at a globe panorama, in Asakusa!)
All original content CC 2002-2012 BY NC SA - first design from dilarangmelarang altered by neonvirus and thunderbunny.