Words I learned and relearned today
簽證 entry visa
It’s a 12 hour direct flight from Seattle to Taipei but the catch is that the one daily flight leaves at 2am. It lasts for 12 hours and you get in at 5:30 am, which is a pretty brutal set-up for jet lag. I might consider a layover in Tokyo if it means I can get in at a more reasonable time.
So I landed at the 5:30 am and didn’t have any trouble at the airport. There’s wifi there, so I was able to get my “I’ve landed safe” messages off, and then I bought a bus ticket into town. You can spend USD $40 on a cab or $13 for a ride on a fancy bus. The bus dropped me at a metro station but I had two suitcases and no metro pass yet, so I took a cab to the 師大區 Shida neighborhood where I’m staying, which was pretty cheap.
I treated myself to a hamburger-style egg sandwich and two cups of iced coffee at a local Taiwanese breakfast shop. It was only 7am, and I had two hours to kill before I could check in to my room. An hour later I went across the street to a more upscale cafe and ordered another iced coffee and a Mango Waffle Party, which was a fresh waffle accompanied by chunks of mango and a spoonful of ice cream. I sat and read a few chapters of Delancy by Molly Wizenberg, the story of the pizza shop in North Seattle. I’m still at the part where they are obsessing over the recipe with research travel and painstaking recipe engineering, which to me is a quintessential Seattle story.
Anyway, 9am finally rolled around, so I found my school and introduced myself and they checked me into my room. I’ve got my own private laundry porch but I share a couple of toilets with others in the cluster. There’s no washer on the laundry porch but I’m considering buying a tub and just washing my clothes out myself. Is that weird?
I ran some first day errands: got my phone all set up, my metro card, went to the drugstore and bought my toothpaste. After that, I met up with 喬丹, whom I had met in Monterey. Along with his friend Amy, we all went to the Mekong Gondola, which I thought ought to keep me awake and help me battle the jet lag.
It was beautiful, of course. The best part was that up at the top, we found a tea house and ordered a lovely tea and snacks. The snacks consisted of 糖醋魚片 sweet and sour fish, fresh bamboo shoots, a giant plate of cabbage, a giant plate of boiled pork slices with watercress, and a huge boiling bucket of chicken mushroom bamboo soup. The food was all light and delicate and simple; the broth of the chicken soup in particular tasted like a whole chicken in your spoon, without being salty. The star of the meal was the tea, which we sat and sipped for hours the way some people sit and smoke cigarettes all afternoon… leisurely, and way healthier.
On our way back down the mountain we decided to go to 西門町 and get a foot massage, which I knew was going to go HAM. We got some beers at corner store and then found a very causal, very local storefront foot massage parlor. It wasn’t like a therapeutic place or a spa like atmosphere, it was more like a place you’d go to gossip about your neighbors and crack jokes with strangers. There was a story about a nightmare customer that yelled at the owner; there was a sister of an employee who was there to check in with all the other employees socially. My masseuse chatted with her about how she spent her day off baking bread; sweet breads, savory breads, all kinds.
Meanwhile I was in the chair squirming and gasping. Foot massages are HARD in Taiwan. When she let go of my feet finally, my muscles were throbbing with relief, and it felt goooooood. I also realized that my right ankle was stiff; I woudn’t have known otherwise, but found out quickly when the lady twisted it into a pretzel.
After that I went back to the cell phone store, and paid for the phone card which I had forgotten to pay for and they had forgotten to ask me to pay. I almost had free phone/text/data, without even realizing it! After that, I went home and slept. No dinner.
I’m not sure what I’m going to do today. There will be three meals, some coffee, a lot of walking, maybe I’ll buy a laundry basin. Haven’t decided yet.
One last thing: I realized early this morning how free I feel here in Taiwan. No one is trying to scam me. When people are friendly here, I know it’s because they are actually friendly people; they’re not doing it to gain something from me, or to show off to some foreigners. I already know the neighborhood very well. I think it’s going to be a good summer here.