Can’t swing a cat; Seattle 2017, Round 2

Back during the school year when I was homesick and couldn’t wait to come to Seattle during my summer break, I imagined that I would cherish every moment that I’m in Seattle; that I’d linger on the details, notice everything, take it all in.

It hasn’t been like that. I lingered on the details for about ten minutes, but then slipped back into normal mode, like a fish slipping back into the ocean.  Rather than feeling the special glow of Seattle, I feel the reality of my desert exile fading like a dream. Now that I’m here, I have to remind myself that I actually live and work in California, and that I should take advantage of my time here.

I was already here for one cold week earlier this summer, before seven days in Kaua’i. Now I’m back in Seattle for ten days, renting out my friend’s house, ostensibly on a writer’s retreat.  It’s day four of those ten days, and I haven’t gotten much writing done at all.

I keep running into people when I’m out.  My first day back, I ran into M from the LA Karaoke League getting off the train; we ended up chatting at Espresso Vivace.  There was Tall R outside the Columbia City Theater. The next day a former student check my groceries at Uwajimaya. Then I saw a Cousin R at the drug store.  I can’t swing a cat around here! I had to reinstate my rule of #selfiesfirst, lest we forget.

The other day I went to dinner with BM and JF at Meet the Moon, because Sherman Alexie had talked about it.  Then yesterday I went on a Western Washington adventure with H and K; Ocean Shores, Copalis Beach, Lytle Seafoods in Hoquiam, Jay’s Farmstand in Aberdeen. We were even in Downtown Olympia for a minute; we peed at the Governors Hotel. We also took a picture in front of the house we grew up in on Tumwater Hill.

At Lytle Seafoods, my sister and I bought a dozen oysters in a plastic bag; we sat at a picnic table next to the building (with a view of the stream and Gray’s Harbor, next to their oyster boat) and cracked those oysters with the oyster knives my sister carries with her. The whole day was fun but cracking oysters was the highlight.



Seven Days on Kaua’i; the Rundown

My memories of this trip are fuzzy already. I waited too long to blog this.  It’s probably not 100% accurate.  Just the rundown.

Day Zero:  Arrival 
My plane got it at 10pm; around 10:45 I finally got my rental car; a Jeep Wrangler. Rendez-vous’ed with my housemates,  hoa hale at Times Market and then drove out to the hale in Princeville.

Day One
Went to the Big Save early in Hanalei. Nā hoa hale made some baked oatmeal. Went to the beach at Hanalei Bay for hours. Drove into Kapa’a to the farmers’ market.  Nā hoa hale didn’t know any of the veggies there, but I flirted with the Ilocana gardeners and bought sayote greens, sigarilyas, canola greens, strawberry bananas, and a lukban. Started black beans in the slow cooker.

Day Two
I got up early and went to Waipā Foundation’s Poi Day, which is the one thing I had planned and researched beforehand. People looked at me like I was crazy for wanting to wake up early during my vacation and go to a farm to make poi to give away, but it was one of the highlights of the trip. Met Steve, Kahiau, Uncle Charlie, and a German lady who was studying lomi and introduced herself as Mauli ola.

I spent the rest of the afternoon with nā hoa hale‘s B Squad on Hanalei Bay Beach. M jumped off the pier.  A Squad and went to a hula lesson. At some point A Squad went shopping in Līhu’e and later met B Squad on Kē’alia Beach.

Then, we all drove to Līhu’e; I dropped off Squad A at a Jackson Galaxy event and then met Squad B at Kalapaki Beach.  The local kids were playing, expertly, in the most chaotic part of the beach. At one point they all came out and started re-engineering the lagoon to drain back into the ocean. First they created some fun rapids, then a standing wave which some of them were able to stand up on using a boogie board. It was way too deep and rough to cross, which was bad for folks who wanted to get back to their cars, and one older drunk lady who carrying a magnum wine bottle who just wanted to get back across.

Squad A thoroughly enjoyed Jackson Galaxy… thoroughly, and when we picked them up, the show hadn’t finished yet. However we in a hurry to get to Mark’s Place in time to get dinner before closing.

Day Three:
A Squad went on a surf lesson with Hanalei Mitch, and I semi regret not joining them. Instead, B Squad had a quiet morning at the hale.

Around midday, we all drove out to Kē’ē Beach, parked the cars, and started the 2 mile hike out to Hanakāpī’ai Beach, which was beautiful.  The hike was challenging for me due to slippery rocks and steep steps, but I tried to take easy steps to guard my knees and ankles. I realized I have way more endurance than I did a year ago, when I first started crossfit and my nutrition program. I was surprised to feel my right hip socket. I thought my quads would be sore, but it was calves and shins and that were stiff the next day.

We spent some time at Kē’ē Beach before driving back into Hanalei town that night, Chicken in a Barrel. I considered making an exception to my nutrition program to eat a piece of chicken, but in the end I skipped it, so you know I’m a real pescatarian now.  I tried to prepare nā hoa hale for how good that place was, but they were still surprised. The chicken is so juicy and smokey that it tastes liked a smoked sausage, except it’s a big piece of chicken.

Day Four:
Squad A went to watch a keiki surfing competition on Kalapaki Beach. Meanwhile, Squad B slept in; quiet morning in the hale.  Squad C went on a scouting mission to discover Anahola and Kīlauea, which was awesome.  We picked up Squad B back at the hale, and then met up at with Squad A at Kamokila Hawaiian Village for a cultural show.

Then we all went into downtown Kapa’a town; bought some poke and lunch plates at Pono Market and ate them under a kukui tree at the end of Kukui street in Waipouli Park.

Squad BC drove through the tree tunnel and spent a little time in Kōloa town.

We all met up again at the Spouting Horn, and then checked out Po’ipū Beach, but didn’t stay. We ended up going to Moloa’a Beach and then dinner in downtown Kapa’a town at the Local Kauai.  We totally failed to attend the Kīlauea night market.

Day Five
This day was supposed to be a kayaking day, but we got to Kamokila too late; the last boat went out at 2pm.  We drove to Wailua river, and they said no commercial activity on the river on Sunday. So then we drove to Nawiliwili Bay south of Līhu’e but that kayak rental was closed as well.  We had lunch at Brick Oven Pizza in Wailua and discovered Moloa’a Beach, after failing miserably to find Papa’a Beach.

Day Six 
All seven of us nā hoa hale piled into our cars to drive to Kauai’s westside.  Our first stop was Kauai Coffee. My favorite coffee’s were Polihale Sunset and Big Braddah’s, but we left without buying whole beans since we couldn’t find any beans roasted inside the two-week freshness window.  We continued on through Hanapepe and into Waimea; I bought poke at the Ishihara Market, and we continued onto the Waimea Canyon.

We looked at the Waimea Canyon; it was beautiful.  Then we drove back to Waimea and had lunch; Squad A went to Island Taco, where they made their own tortillas, and Squad B went to Shrimp Station.

After lunch, Squad B walked over to Red Dirt, and on the way back we saw that an abandoned building was going up in flames, next to Umi’s Store. Umi was in the street, worried about his own building, and another man told me that hippies lived in that building, and said the word “meth.” As soon as we heard the word “meth,” we knew it was time to leave. Umi complained that the fire department was only two blocks away but still hadn’t arrived. Just then a haole dude charged in and started walking toward the fire; I wanted to tell him that we had heard the word “meth” but he wasn’t interested it us. In the end, we left and Umi went to move his truck and nobody warned the haole dude.

After that, we went back to Island Taco, where the lady talked us out of trying to go to Polihale State Park (sugarcane dirt road!), and advised us to try to try the beach at Kehaka across from St. Theresa’s church.  We were there for a shore time and then drove up to Anahola.  Dinner was back at Hanalei Chicken in a Barrel.

Day Seven
We got up early and drove to the trail head for Queen’s Bath in our neighborhood.  We spent a little time down there; I wasn’t that interested in the swimming hole, but I was enthralled by all the turtles.  Later we had a beach BBQ at Anahola Beach Park, and Aunty Sarah shared her fried oama fish with us, as well as some local fish she had daing’ed. I actually spent some time in the water, boogie boarding and swimming, and I made some ahi tuna en papillote.

Some things I want to remember: 

  • Next time, book the hale early.
  • We were trying to be close to the beach and destinations, but next time we might try to be close to local supermarkets and brown people.
  • Waimea is a quiet, walkable town.
  • Anahola was my favorite beach for swimming, surf, picnicking, parking, and brown people.  The only tough part was the dirt driveway.
  • Poi Day at the Waipā foundation is something I would do every week if I lived on Kauai.


Falling on my head like a memory

I woke up this morning in Seattle. It’s Thursday morning and raining on the top of Queen Anne.  I’m sitting in Café Diablo with my sister, who is working.  I have a hair cut in a few minutes. It’s raining.

Yesterday I left the Central Library and walked around the corner to meet my sister. We did a spontaneous #AsianSquatBomb from across the street.


Later we went to Go Poke in the ID; I had a poke salad bowl and my sister had a poke maki burrito, a “pokerrito.” The poke is actually poke (marinated before you get there) but they serve it in the bowl over rice, salad or rolled up with nori in a maki. It’s not the assembly-line, mixed to order Chipokle that’s sprouting up all over Southern California. It’s kind of like Hawaii, in that it’s actually poke, and it’s kind of like California in that they want to put edamame in it. None of the poke at Go Poke is mixed with ocean salad, thank goodness, because that is some bullshit.

Later, I dropped off my sister at her meeting with the Teamsters and went to the big and tall store to buy jeans. Here’s the deal; it’s 110ºF where I work in California right now, and when I was packing my clothes to come up to Seattle they told me I might need long pants but I definitely didn’t need anything as heavy as jeans. That, my friends, is a mess; it’s 57ºF and rainy here, and while I don’t mind the cold and the rain, I do need jeans for this.

The lady there at the big and tall store was throwing clothes at me to try on; she picked out seven pairs of pants for me to try, plus sweatshirts, aloha shirts, dress shirts… in the end I left with one pair of jeans, because a) one pair of jeans was my objective in the first place and b) everything else there was too big for me.  You guys, I’m graduating from the big and tall store; which is a mess, because I hate shopping at other places, but there we are.

Afterward, I went to pick my sister up at the Teamsters, and there was a vaquero in the parking lot practicing his lazo!  Loop loop loop, around the head, over the head, behind the head, all the while talking lackadaisically to someone on the phone through his earbud. I didn’t ask to take a picture.

Later, as we were pulling out to leave, I noticed that the Teamsters Local 174 has a painted semi-truck, that says “Teamsters” in huge letters on the container:

  • T is the Space Needle,
  • E is the Monorail,
  • A is the Kerry Park view of the cLink,
  • M is the market sign,
  • S is a ferry,
  • E is the old Seattle’s Best neon coffee mug, the
  • R is the Kerry Park view of the Key with the mountain in the background,
  • S is Coleman Dock

Of course I had to take a selfie with it, and then there were the obligatory #AsianSquatBombs; some members of 174 were TOTALLY INTO #AsianSquatBombs and joined us.


Today I got my hair trimmed in the ID and had lunch at Aladdin’s Gyro-cery, which I’ve been going to for 27 years and has always been really good. I remember coming home from NYC and eating a gyro there, and just being relieved to be home to soft pita, rotisserie-crisped gyros, and what I consider to be appropriate salt levels.  Now that I’m a vegetarian I ordered the falafel; it was more lemony than I expected; the best was the chunky baba ganoush.

New haircut

As I drove on Campus Parkway to Wallingford I remembered a conversation I had in 1996 about getting from the U-district to Gasworks:

Me: So you just go down Roosevelt and you take the Secret Right…


乙 (interrupting): Ooh, not me, I LOVE the Secret Right because it’s like, OOH I’M A SECRET…

I don’t remember the identities of 甲 and 乙 are anymore, I just remember the story, that their reasons for loving and hating the same Secret Right were the exact same words with different intonation.

Finally, it’s raining here. Not hard rain at all, but honest-to-God Seattle rain. It is not “tearing me apart like a new emotion.” I don’t mind it at all; in fact I feel just as at home in my new jeans and a hoody in this rain than this snail that crossed my path this morning.


I love Summer Break

Yesterday I met my friends Delridge D and Aloha C and his family in Pike Place Market. I got there a little early so I could walk around, which was a mistake because I wanted to eat everything I saw.  I met my friends where you always meet people at the Market  and then had lunch at the Athenian. By the way, the peaches are delicious this week and the green garlic shoots are huge.

After lunch we walked a little through the Market and showed the kids Victor Steinbruck Park, Piroshky Piroshky, the Beecher’s Cheese factory, the Gum Wall.

Later, there was little drive up to Kerry Park where Aloha C and I talked about firehouse recipes and strong feet. It was really good to see them. Aloha C said something amazing that I wanted to blog about, but I forgot. I walked home to my sister’s apartment from there.

Later my sister, Tico K, and I went to Kirkland to see Cowsin L and K’s month-old son. Along the way we stopped at Dakshin South Indian Bistro and I relapsed into my alarming addiction for South Indian vegetarian curries and dosas. It’s a problem. Later I got to hug my new nephew, who before I know it will be able to hold up his own head, speak English fluently, and marvel at how old I am.

Today I got up early and had breakfast at the 5 Spot; two eggs and “tempeh bacon.” Later I rode into Belltown with my sister on her way to work, and had her drop me off at Bedlam. I thought that from there, I would meet my friend 딤씨 at Tofully at noon.  At about 20 minutes to noon, I realized that Tofully was way down under the Chinatown Gate in the ID, so I hoofed it down to the bus tunnel and ran to a train, just as the door closed in my face and the train pulled away.

I did a set of air squats wating for the next train and stretched my hamstrings.  I don’t feel great about doing good mornings in the bus tunnel, it looks less like exercise than air squats.

A man passed me on the street, and as he passed I said hello; he greeted me at the same time and shook my hand. He said, I have a riddle for you, what’s the best vitamin for a friendship?

What’s the best vitamin for friendship?

I answered “Vitamin A” but I said “Vitamin Ehhhh”

He said, What the best vitamin for friendship?  B1 (Be one).

He told me second riddle, which I have disgracefully forgotten, but it was just as good.  Later he said, “I saw your face and I thought you looked a little down, just wanted to get a smile out of you.”

I smiled and thanked him and remembered what Memphis D told me back in Ann Arbor 20 years ago, that people of color should greet each other. That’s one of my favorite customs now.

I had a quick lunch with 딤씨 and ate a lot of tofu and it was magically delicious. 딤씨 and I talked about the Diversity Committee (and how it’s a trap), Wonder Woman, commutes, hard-headed family members, everything.

Later, walking up 4th Avenue, a man came out of the YMCA and said hello as he came around the corner, I managed to mumble a hello back, and I immediately noticed that it was the same man’s picture on the sandwich board.  I turned around and wanted to yell, hey that’s you on the sandwich board! But decided that was a weird thing to yell. He had just put on his sunglasses anyway.

I walked passed all the cool places today; Chinatown Gate in the ID, King Street Station, Occidental Park, the Pioneer Square Pergola, Waterfall Park. I’m currently hanging out in the reading room of the Central Library.

Not sure what’s next.  I have an Orca Card in my pocket, a belly full of tofu, and not much else to do. I love summer break.



The Road Again: Back to LA

There are a couple of more selfies to share from my time in Vegas.  Mama and I went to Downtown Vegas on my last night there; played some video poker at a bar, and then walked along Fremont Street.  Then we drove down Fremont street, which used to be dangerous, but it was several blocks before we saw any police activity!

The next morning I started my drive back to LA.  I stopped in Baker to clean my windshield, and in Barstow for a double-double animal style.

Driving in the Mojave desert is a trip.  There are parts of the drive where your windshield is a huge view of a desert planet, and you’re just skimming across a narrow ribbon of engineering.  Sometimes your on a flat, and the mountians ring the horizon, and the road looks like it goes to the edge of the earth.  Other times you’re in the mountain passes and you can see for sixty miles; so far that the distance starts to fade into the vapor mirage.

The high desert ends with Victorville, and then it’s the San Bernadino Forest.  After that it’s Planet Freeway.

I have to end this blog post because the picture above is making me hungry.

Roadtrip to LA 2015: Quality Time

My sister spoke at the now-famous social security rally where Bernie Sanders got pre-empted by #blacklivesmatter activists.  As soon as that was over, my sister and I bolted; I said “goodbye, Seattle” and we hit the road.

We stopped for coffee in Olympia, which is our hometown, but I barely remember the place.  My sister had to give me directions to a coffee shop.

Our next stop was Salem, Oregon.  We found a Korean restaurant and ordered too much food.  Soondubu, grilled mackeral, mool naeng myun.  They were super nice there, and they gave us a sweet orange, peeled and shaded with cocktail umbrella.

Later, we got to our hotel in Eugene and crashed. The next morning I got up early, but my sister slept in, so I gassed up the car and did some laundry and some light exploring, got coffee, etc.  There was a little bit of culture clash when I got out of my car and reached for my wallet to pump my own gas… and the attendant called from the other side of the lot, “I’ll be right with you!”  and I remembered that regular people don’t pump their own gas in Oregon, it’s a thing. “Forgot I was in Oregon,” I said to the attendant.  He wasn’t that impressed.

We had a long drive ahead of us, so we got a big American breakfast at an Elmer’s Diner.  Doesn’t look like much!

We hit a rest stop somewhere along the way, and took this selfie at a pitstop.  By the way, my sister’s guns are straight fire and not at all being pushed up by the car door.    

We stopped for lunch in Ashland, Oregon, and had lunch on the Calle Guanajuato, which is a fancyish pedestrian lane.  I had a burger at some restaurant where the servers were attractive and not very sharp.  I think by this time I was starting to feel a tickle in my throat.

Before leaving Ashland, we took a drink at the Lithia Spring, which is naturally fizzy and high in sulfur.  I’ve had it before, and I warned my sister that at first it is gross, but then you keep trying it to remember how gross it is, which is enjoyable.

My sister said that it tasted like pennies in a pickle jar, like blood, like a bloody nose… Eventually the little bottle that we took lost its fizz and turned green, so I threw it out at a rest stop in Dunnigan, California.  

Anyway, eight hours of driving later, we were in Daly City, hanging out with Auntie R and Uncle R, Cowsins F&D and J, and our nephew little E.

We had dinner there, and breakfast the next morning, and then we hit the road.  By then, I had a full-blown cold.  We stopped in Atascadero, CA for an hour or so too see my sister’s friend and her new baby.  They had a beautiful house and a beautiful mellow new son, and I felt bad for being sick.  We did take pictures but I didn’t take any with my phone, so nothing for the blog.

Not long after that, we stopped in Los Olivos and bought some wine and olives for pasalubong.  As we got to Pismo Beach I asked my sister, “how long until we get to the coast?”  She answered that we were about to see the money shot, and then bam, the mountains parted and the Pacific Ocean view filled the windshield, as we came down the mountain.

We drove along the coast, and got off the highway in Santa Barbara, and had a burger in Summerland at a burger shack.

We made it to J’s house in Pacific Palisades that night, and I was too sick to be coherent, so I crashed while my sister stayed up and chatted with J and her sister L and the three dogs and the two boys.  It was so so so nice of J to let us crash there!  How do I not have any photos on my phone of our stay there?

The next morning I got gas (big mistake in Pacific Palisades) and then took my sister with me to go apartment hunting.  We saw some gross places in Glendale.  It was discouraging.  After we saw the last apartment, I asked my sister to take me to Griffith Park Observatory.

Below is a photo with the Hollywood sign (top left corner, white smudge in the hillside), plus a selfie on the rooftop and one from inside the Planetarium.  We saw a show about Viking astronomy which was narrated by a live actor and over-animated.   

Later we met up with my sister’s friends for dinner, and took these selfies.

The next day was the day my sister flew out of Burbank, so rather than resume the apartment hunt, I declared a goof-off day.  So my sister took me to her favorite seafood market on Redondo Pier and we ate uni.

We also had camarones en aguachile and tako poke, both of which were served with tostadas.

Here’s the police sniper we saw.

We put our toes in the Pacific and then walked on the Pier.    

My sister saved room for a corndog at Craig’s Hot Dog.  As he was hand-dipping it, he told us that the whole Pier was going to get fancied up and redone, and that he probably wouldn’t be there by next year.  He said that people wanted to upscale it, like Pike Place Market in Seattle.  Obviously, these people don’t know shit about Pike Place Market in Seattle, which is textbook case for NOT upscaling.

After Redondo we had time to kill, so we played a game called “Drive Through Neignborhoods We’ve Heard of.”  We drove through Manhattan Beach (didn’t find parking), Compton, South Central, Watts, and wound our way up to Koreatown, and by then it was time for lunch, so we stopped at a ramen place and got rice and takoyaki… everything but ramen!

After that we went to Burbank and took this selfie at the airport drive.  I was sad that my sister was leaving!

I went back to J’s place to crash, and had a lovely dinner al fresco near the pool with J and the charming dogs.

The next morning I dragged myself out of bed and drove another hour back to Glendale to resume the apartment hunt.  I parked at a cafe and started calling places on Zillow.

The first place to call me back was my first choice; 30 minutes walk to work, all luxury amenities, a little far from the trendy bars so no dorm-like shennanigans.  I went to see the place, and it was awesome in every way!  Except for electric stove, which I will adapt to, ugh.  Anyway, I applied for the place and got accepted, so mission accomplished; I have an apartment in Glendale now.

I drove the hour back to J’s house and packed my things, said goodbye and headed to Vegas.  Here’s a selfie I took at the bluff over the Pacific at Pacific Palisades before heading off.

Next:  Quality Time in Vegas.

Taipei 2014: Post-game Wrap Up

So I’m back in Seattle now and enjoying the crazy roller-coaster of jetlag.  I’ve got a couple of weeks until I have to be in to work, but plenty of planning and stuff to do before that starts up again.  I’ve had a couple of days to think about my time in Taipei; here are my thoughts.

I had a good experience with Taipei Mandarin Institute (TMI). I got a super convenient room with a private shower, and the kind of lessons I wanted for the price of USD $400 per week.

When I showed up, I made it clear that I didn’t want to be spending any time reading any boring ass insulting useless bullshit dialogs and readings that I’m accustomed to. So my classes were mostly conversation: me talking my face off for hours at a time.  My teachers didn’t expose me to any new grammar, instead they gave me room to practice the grammar I had already been “shown.”

Here’s the deal; a lot of programs show you a bunch of stuff; they say “Look, here’s 了, here’s 才,here’s 把 and 被”… and then they brush the dust off their hands, pat themselves on the back and say that they have taught it to you. They conflate showing with teaching, and when the student doesn’t master it by the Friday quiz, everybody blames the student.  It’s like showing someone how to drive but then not letting them get behind the wheel; or showing someone how to dribble a basketball without letting them actually dribble a basketball.

In my one-on-one conversation classes, they put me behind the wheel; they handed me the ball and let me dribble it.  The teachers and the curriculum were not pushing me into new territory.  I had plenty to say, and the need to communicate made me stumble onto important new grammatical territory myself. My biggest area of growth was in my ability to discuss movies, which is something I did both during and outside of class.

As for reading, I didn’t do a lot of it.  However, my teacher sent me the link to a bunch of stories and fables on PDF, which I’m now reading voraciously.  The link is a little 複雜 hard to navigate, so I’ll post them here as I download them.  The thing about reading them on PDF is that I can zoom in on the characters and see them… my eyes are getting old.

As for my speaking, my Chinese is a lot tighter now.  I think I’m now capable of being interesting to hang out with in Chinese.  I can be charming in Chinese and not have to rely on my good looks or money to keep people’s interest.  I think.  My tones are tighter, my sentences are tighter, and I’m using a lot more vocabulary.

Finally I have to say something about Taiwan.  That country is safe, clean, modern, convenient, friendly, and inexpensive. The food is good, it’s easy to make friends, there’s plenty to do, and plenty to talk about.  I saw a lot of Mandarin learners making some counterproductive learning choices (like over-studying, or defaulting to English), but Taiwan is still a really good place to be.  On “Conducive to Language Learning,” Taiwan scores a 9/10, right below Italy.

If you have questions about my stay in Taiwan, just ask.  Remind me to blog about:  Immersion by Relationship, Overstudying, Default to Target.

Taipei 2014 Day 29: Last Day

Last night I went to dinner alone, since a lot of my friends have already skipped town. I felt lazy so I stayed in the area, and went to the 蛋包飯 joint around the corner. It was easily the worst meal I’ve had in Taipei. All it was was a plan omelet over rice, and then covered it ketchup gravy, accompanied by a shake & bake pork chop. I have to say, that was worse than Joe’s Time

This morning I got up and called Eva Air to see if I was still on the “Waiting List” for a mileage upgrade to Elite Class. I’m on the waiting list because they’re still waiting to see if someone will pay money for that seat. If not, they’ll let me have it. So it could go down to the last second. I hope I get it!

I had plans to meet Taiwan A 🐟 at 1pm, so at 9:30 I went and had breakfast. All the breakfast counters were closed; the owner guy warned me yesterday 《明天休息!》so I said goodbye and thanked him for all the breakfasts. This morning I ended up at Benny’s, ordered the weird brunch, and said goodbye to Shy Kid, who told me to come back soon and find him. I didn’t say goodbye to any of the rest of the gang there, but I still may go back later.

Then I came home and packed my bags. Everything fits.

After that I met Taiwan A 🐟 for dim sum, and we ate our faces off. I gifted her my receipts (there’s a national drawing at the end of the month) and some coupons and loyalty cards I had started, and a bag of Oberto’s Natural Style Beef Jerky, which I had brought for the plane ride over.

When lunch was over, I took the train to Guting and walked the rest of the way. I have a couple hours to kill before dinner, and then there’s still plenty of time to get to the bus station, then to the airport, and then get on my flight. It’s about seven and a half hours until I’m wheels up.

This is probably my last post from Taiwan. I think I had an even better time this time around than last time, and I’m grateful for all the new friends I’ve made and for all the old friends I was able to reconnect with. I didn’t get around to seeing everyone, which is a little disappointing, but I’ll catch them the next time around.

Next summer? Maybe come back, live in a different city. Or maybe go to the Philippines or Brazil. I could stand a summer in France or Italy for a refresher. I’ve still never been to South America. We shall see… Until then, thank you Taiwan!

Taipei 2014 Day 28


Talked my face off in class for four hours.

Went to lunch with Pashan T to the ESL-themed restaurant called “Joe’s Time.” Which was weird. I had red Thai curry chicken and rice; Pashan T had Police Tempura (fried dough) and fried cheesy tater-tot wedges. And tall iced teas.

My one sweet for the day was the 全家 Family Mart 霜淇淋 soft-serve flavor of the month: 水蜜桃!THE HONEY PEACH!

I chilled out for most of the afternoon, and then went to dinner with Pashan T, who wanted to check out places across 和平路 Heping Road… a domain I haven’t explored this time, but somehow I have vague memories of going there two years ago…

Long story short: I stumbled upon the 2nd floor restaurant that Skritter Jake had taken me to in 2012, the time when I 請’ed him so hard he saw stars. We shared a table with an older couple, who ignored us except to stop me from confusing the soy sauce from the vinegar. We got cold cucumbers, tofu disguised as tripe sausage, kangkong, and two baskets of 湯包 soup dumplings. Each basket came with a screaming hot bowl of broth, which I was trying avoid but what are you gonna do.

After that I said goodbye to Pashan T (he’s over the Pacific now, on his way back to the states). Then I did a quick wardrobe change and met the gang at Revolver. Here’s who was there: Polish P, Swiss German S, French E, Polish D, Irish D, Taiwan T, Swiss French T, and everybody’s favorite, German G. Taipei A showed up later, and it started getting loud, so me and Taipei A bugged out and went to Something Ales for a quiet beer and a long and involved conversation about Mexico.

Today is my last full day in Taipei. I’ve got one more sleep and then tomorrow I’m wheels up. A lot of my friends have left and moved on; and a new crew has come to replace us at the Taiwan Mandarin Institute. I’ve achieved a lot of my Taiwan goals, but there were some things I didn’t get to… some people I wasn’t able to reconnect with… and some mandates of Aussie L’s that I didn’t get around to violating. I’ll have to find my way back somehow.

At this point it’s final goodbyes, last minute shopping, and sentimental meals. Like that grilled mackerel that I just ate just now, dang…

UPDATE: OK, so my plan this morning was to buy some tea to take back with me, as if I were going to integrate the Taiwanese tea ceremony into my life in Seattle; guh. Taiwan Amy 🐟 sent me to the train station, where there are many tea shops in the underground mall.

Here’s the deal; when they dug into the street to build the Taipei Metro, they also built “metro malls,” which are like shopping malls the length of the entire boulevard. I mean, you might as well build the underground mall, since you’re digging anyway.

When I got to the train station, I realized there wasn’t a single metro mall attached to the train station, but four. Four gigantic malls. The ones under the boulevards turned out to be luggage and underwear malls; but the QMall turned out to be exactly the shopping hell I was looking for. I looked around for gifts (wind-up toys? crazy socks?) and after a while I decided to bolt so I could go home and cry.

I pulled myself together enough to get that mackerel I was talking about, and then on the walk back, I wandered into the tea shop that I had not dared to enter. The Taiwanese tea ceremony is pretty complicated. Today, I entered.

I told the lady I wanted to buy a teapot and pourer thingy for four; I could buy the rest of the kit in America. She picked out some pots to show me, and I picked a purplish brown number. Then she asked me about tea, and I couldn’t tell her what I wanted, except for that I wanted oolong (because Taiwan Amy 🐟 told me I did). She showed me a photo of four shades of tea, and when I said “number 2” she said I was picking out all the educated choices for a dude that just wandered in off the street.

So there are a lot of steps I have to take to get this clay teapot humming; I have to soak the whole thing in water over night with a pinch of tea inside, throw it out, do it again; wipe the outside; clean but never wash the inside. Over all, only use oolong tea in the pot. There are a lot of rules.

Taipei 2014 Day 27

Yesterday? Seems like a long time ago.

I have been waiting for, like, 50 years for Guardians of the Galaxy to come out, 我很期待看那一部電影。 So excited. So finally yesterday arrived, and I was all LET’S GO LET’S GO LET’S GO! Other people were like “wait whut? wait, who else is going? wait, can we go at night?” When all that drama was finally sorted out and we were fully committed, the questions became, “wait, whut is this movie even about? wait, who’s in it? wait, is this movie even good?”

Of course, that quickly became “If this movie is bad, we are holding you personally responsible, JP.” And I was like “wait, who are these people, why are they here, when did I become responsible for their entertainment?”

Anyway, I was so excited about the movie that I literally wet my pants literally a hundred times, and my eyeballs literally exploded out my face until I died to death.

Fast forward.

After the movie was over, my three friends were fully squee-ing with delight; squee all over themselves and on the walls and floor. They turned to ask me how I liked it and I was like, yah, 還OK吧. It was alright. Just alright.

For me, seeing Zoe Saldana is enough to make a movie worth seeing, despite her alien skin color. I was excited about seeing Chris Pratt, since he was a chubby, funny guy who got all ripped and became a movie star; I told my teachers that was the American Dream. But I don’t think the movie gave his character enough room to be charming and likeable. The best scene in the movie was when the fox was pushed too far.

Anyway, after that we met up with Pashan T and his friend 謝 and went to get yakitori, which is definitely called 日式燒烤 here, and not “yakitori.”

There were several strange things about this yakitori restaurant.

First of all, on the menu they listed family-style orders priced for four people, five people, four people, and seven people. What were we supposed to do, since there were six of us? The waiter came, and we were like now what?

Of course, the Taiwanese people didn’t know what we were talking about. As far as they were concerned, there were family-style orders for four, five, six, and seven people. But when we English speakers looked again, we failed to see where it said “six.”

The issue was, it was printed in huge Chinese characters, and then below it were bold English translations. The people who are used to reading English–all of us–completely disregarded the Chinese characters; our eyes when straight to the English, where it said “four.” The Taiwanese people, including the staff that works there, completely disregarded the English and looked only at the Chinese characters, which said 六 “six.” They tried another menu, but they all were copies with the same mistake. Who knows how long they had been using those confusing menus.

The point of the story is: if you put an English translation anywhere near the character it corresponds to, the character will be COMPLETELY DISREGARDED. Our eyes don’t even go there. And same with the Taiwanese people; they totally disregarded the English. This is just a fun trivia fact for everyone… unless you’re trying to learn Chinese, then it’s a daily disaster. Latin alphabet annotations (whether English or pinyin) are BAD BAD BAD; get them away from the characters if you want people to have a chance at becoming literate.

The second weird thing about that restaurant was their 8點乾杯; if your glass is empty at 8pm, they will replace your drink for free. So we all ordered drinks and then 8 o’clock rolled around and we all lifted our glasses to finish them… but then the staff came around and said no no no. It turns out they first have to do arena-style introductions of each table, one by one, explaining what birthday or special occasion they were all celebrating. Then they got to our table they announced we were all TMI students, except for German G, who is at 台大 the most prestigious university. The MC with the mic was going on and on and on, and finally 20 minutes later we could raise our glasses for the 8點乾杯.

The next event was a kissing event. If two people from your table could lock lips for a total of 10 seconds, the house would gift us a free plate of pork. So I nominated Taiwan A and German G, who were ALL OVER IT. Free pork, baby! But apparently it was only a one-time thing; there was no free meat for any subsequent kissing.

At 9pm they announced that beers were buy 3, get one free; and that whiskey drinks were BOGO. Whatever.

Around 9:30 they came around with paper and told us to address envelopes to ourselves and write letters to our future selves; they would mail the letters to us in December. I didn’t see any other table having to do this, but when it got to us we all started writing on each other’s letters and it turned into yearbook signing. Also there was a whole mess of languages going on; I wrote in Chinese and Spanish.

Did I mention that we were grilling our own meat the whole time?

Finally the time came to part ways, and Pashan T and I shared a cab back to the neighborhood. We stopped at Something Ales for a drink before calling it a night.