:: Tuesday, January 21, 2003 ::
Wow! It's been forever and a year since I last posted! I apologize to my dear readers for not updating as frequently as I would like. It's not that there isn't technology here in Taiwan; it's just that I've been whisked away each day to another sightseeing activity.
Well, time is going by way too quickly during my vacation. Here's a quick run-down of the things I've done since last I posted:
On Saturday, I participated in a past-time popular with the youth of Taiwan (and most of Asia, for that matter): K-TV, or singing karaoke. My cousins took me out to experience this bit of culture, and they sang a lot of Taiwanese pop songs in Mandarin Chinese. I didn't know any of the songs they sang, but luckily there were some English songs, so I was able to torture them with my ear-grating vocals. Afterwards, we went shopping in downtown Hsin-chu, where my grandparents on my mother's side reside. One thing about clothing stores in Taiwan is that they actually have tailors in the stores to adjust clothes for you for no additional cost! I was able to get a new pair of pants trimmed to length without having to pay extra, and for the first time in my life I had pants that fit perfectly! I also bought a pretty new red sweater with a horizontal blue stripe across the chest. We then watched Monsters, Inc. on DVD.
On Sunday, my cousins and I went to Taipei, which is the capital of Taiwan. It's only about an hour away from Hsin-chu. The city is huge! We spent the morning at the Taipei Zoo, one of the largest I've ever been to. They had the cutest penguins in one exhibit, and also lions, tigers, and bears... you know, the works. He he he... in one exhibit, a couple of monkeys were getting a little... shall we say... frisky, and we all got to witness a most fascinating display of animal sexuality to the tittering of young schoolchildren. The real kicker - and I swear I'm not making this up - is that both monkeys were male. Hmmmm. Yeah. So, after we visited the zoo, we took the subway to get around the city, and we stopped by Hsimen, which is a huge hangout for teenagers and young adults. There were a lot of stores and restaurants. One great thing about Taiwan is that there are always a lot of snack stands open late at night, so if you want to go out for a snack or a drink late at night with friends, you can do so. We then went to the Chiang Kai Shek Memorial, which is a huge park and monument in the middle of Taipei. It's an absolutely beautiful tribute to the Taiwanese equivalent of George Washington. Lastly, we headed to Tamshui, which is a nice boardwalk-style area next to a large body of water. The place had a carnival-esque feel to it, with many souvenir shops, restaurants, and game places. Then we took the bus home. Public transportation in Taiwan is amazing. You can get anywhere at any time. Even late at night there were busses going out every 15 minutes or so back to Hsin-chu. There are trains, busses, subways, electric cars, etc. We finally got home at about midnight.
On Monday, I left Hsin-chu and met my aunt and cousin from my dad's side in Taipei. My aunt is going to Japan on vacation next week, so she was in Taipei to do some business by getting a visa for Japan and getting her affairs in order with the travel agency. Everyone is on vacation in Taiwan because the Chinese New Year is about to start. The students all have a month off, and everyone is going out and getting their shopping done. We went to Sogo, a Japanese department store, in Taipei, the largest in Taiwan. It was so crowded there; it's hard to even describe. There were people lined up for a block just to ride the elevator! The store is huge; there are 15 levels, and each level is devoted to different merchandise. For example, there is an entire level for men's casual wear, one level for men's formal wear, one for home appliances, one for children's toys, one for cosmetics, one for the food court, etc. It was hard to move around in the store, as there were so many people. Apparently, it is the most profitable store in all of Taiwan; the store makes millions of dollars each day. At six, we met up with my other aunt and her family. It was good to see them again. My aunt's husband, my uncle, recently had brain surgery because x-rays showed that he had a huge tumor, and he had an operation quickly following that. He is recovering, but he is still quite frail from the major surgery. Just a few days ago, he went in for another x-ray, and they found another tumor in the spot where they had operated. He will have to have surgery again in a couple of weeks. My aunt has been very strong in this, and I admire both my aunt and uncle for being so strong during such a tough period. I hope he will be in excellent health once again soon. I also admire my cousins, both of whom are on their way to becoming medical doctors. In just a couple of years they will graduate from medical school. After dinner, we took the train back to Hualien, where my dad's side of the family resides. It was a three-hour train ride; I slept for most the trip. I finally saw my grandparents at the end of the day, and we talked for some time before I went to bed.
Today, I slept in for the first time since I've been in Taiwan. Each day I've been here, I have gotten up at 7 or 8 because of some activity. I had lunch, and then I spent most of the early afternoon watching television. It's most entertaining to watch Taiwanese television. MTV Taiwan is really fun, also. There are a lot of Taiwanese pop stars, and their songs are pretty good, too. I even watched a little bit of the Disney Channel, which had many of the cartoons dubbed in Mandarin Chinese. It was most fascinating to watch, or rather to listen to, Mickey Mouse speak in Mandarin Chinese. It sounded just like him, just in another language. Later in the afternoon, my grandparents and I went to my aunt's house in downtown Hualien to visit. We had a big dinner because it was my uncle's birthday. After eating the cake, which was beautifully decorated with fruit, I went with my cousin to explore a little bit of Hualien. Once again, Taiwan is cool in that it has stores open late every day of the week, so you can go out and grab a drink or a snack or go shopping until 10 or 11 every night. So, I went out and bought a couple of CDs. I have to comment about how wonderful music CDs are here in Taiwan. The music stores here all carry releases of major Western musicians, from Britney Spears to Bon Jovi to Kylie Minogue. The CDs go for less than $10 each, and they have all the tracks found on US releases, as well as several bonus tracks and special music videos that can be accessed via computer. They also include a special collector's booklet with extra pictures and lyrics. It's amazing all the things you get when you buy a CD here for just under $10. Anyways, I then had some pearl milk tea. Yum! It's tea mixed with milk, with pearls of tapioca on the bottom. I guess it's an Asian thing. Americans don't seem to like the concept of tapioca. Too bad. It's really good stuff. I then listened to my new CDs and went to bed.
:: SL 7:40 AM [+] ::