right before i ventured out on my own today, ash texted me to see if i was up. i replied and said i was thinking about going out on my own. i went outside and tried to orient myself in my head to the map he'd drawn for me. but i misunderstood. i started walking down a road, but the things i was supposed to find never showed up. so i went down it a ways, then crossed over and came back to the intersection in front of ash's place. then he called me and asked me to walk down the street to meet him. except i was still unsure of the streets, so i chose another wrong one. after awhile i decided it was probably the wrong one, so i turned a corner to try and get to the right one. ash called to see where i was and i told him the intersection i was at, and it turned out i was about a block away. we met and then went to eat lunch. i also realized part of the reason why i stopped using the razr: the battery doesn't hold a charge. well, it holds it, it just discharges very quickly when being actively used. i may try to buy a new battery for it soon. (hopefully it's just the battery and not a fault in the phone itself.)
we ate at formosa chang, which i guess is a fast food place. i had...some stuff. a small plate with some cabbage (?) and maybe spinach and some other plant. another small plate with some kind of sausage and a couple of sticks of...not sure what...maybe some kind of fried tofu...with hot mustard and a thick soy-based (i think) sauce. and a bowl with sticky rice, some chicken, some tofu, some fried tofu, half a hard-boiled egg, a couple of slices of the same sausage, and a piece of fish. (i gave the fish to ash.) some kind of cold, sweet, bean soup -- a thick-ish, sweet clear liquid with things sort of like bright orange dried grapes, acorns or nuts of some kind, cabbage or some leafy stuff, and small asian dates or plums. i guess this is a dessert soup.
things to note: i ate all of it, other than the fish. i used chopsticks for the first time. i've had plenty of opportunities to use them in the u.s., but i've always avoided using them because i didn't want to not know what i was doing and feel/look foolish and/or end up frustrated and/or feel pretentious, plus i found it easier to just get a fork instead of "play" using chopsticks. i didn't really have a choice this time, although i could have used the spoon that came with the rice bowl. but i didn't. ash left to get a drink (which i guess is fairly common here, as food places don't always sell drinks since they consider soup to be a drink), so this was the first time i was alone and someone tried to talk to me or ask me something. i just looked at him blankly and smiled until i guess he realized i didn't know what he was saying. they did sell a plum drink there but ash doesn't like that, so i bought one when we were leaving so i could try it.
we came back to ash's, then we had to go get another key made for me. on the way back i got ash to stop at the 7-11 so i could pick up some drinks. i got some milk tea, a peach and orange smoothie, juice milk, and malt milk. i drank the strawberry milk tea that i bought last night during the day today. it was good. we got back to ash's, then he wanted to take a nap so i did too. i slept about 2 hours. i was pretty groggy when he woke me up.
ash originally wanted to go to a coffee shop, but it was going to close soon, so we ended up going to...a starbucks. yep, they're here. the interior design was even similar to some starbucks i've been in before. the girls working there spoke english, but i ordered a misto and got a plain drip coffee. i didn't see misto or cafe au lait on the menu in english, so maybe they guessed. i read some of my walking dead graphic novel (courtesy of wheresthatbeen.com), then i decided to go to the restroom. and here's my first interesting toilet story.
ash had told me they're weird here about flushing toilet paper down the toilet. plus i guess most people don't have rolls of toilet paper, they use what has the consistency of toilet paper but comes in soft containers and dispenses like facial tissues. maybe it's multi-purpose for napkins, etc. anyway, he told me not to flush more than one of these down his toilet. so, back to starbucks...i walk in and they have normal toilet paper. however, they have a sign above the toilet that says not to put tissue or paper towel in the toilet. i didn't see any facial tissues, so i decided they were talking about toilet paper. there was a large metal waste basket next to the toilet. i looked in it to see if i could see or smell toilet paper, but all i saw was the paper towels for drying your hands. hrmh. while surveying the situation, i also noticed it appeared someone had put what appeared to be some kind of makeshift weapon against the wall almost behind the toilet...a metal shank about 1.5 to 2 feet long with some electrical tape wrapped around one end. i thought that seemed odd, so i decided maybe it was affixed to the floor or employees used it for something. to add complexity to this equation, the toilet itself looked like a toilet i'm used to, except at the bottom there was a black rubber slotted stopper (like you'd see over a garbage disposal in a sink). below that i could see a metal plate with some holes in it. so i wasn't really sure how this thing would work. i finally decided to just go ahead with it. i did my business, and when i was done there was a nice bit of solid waste in the bowl. i hit the flush handle and...some water went in the bowl, some water drained out. but absolutely nothing happened with the crap. i sate there and tried to figure out what to do, as i didn't really want to just leave a big log hanging out in the bowl for the next person. finally i got my phone and called ash (since i didn't want to open the door) and asked him. he didn't really know either, so he suggested i leave it. i decided the least i could do was...well, i could have tried to get it out and put it in the waste basket, but that seemed gross and wrong...so i decided i would get some paper towels and push it past the rubber piece. so that's what i did. eww. then i threw the paper towels in the waste basket. i decided to try flushing it, and right after i did that i quickly realized with fear "oh great, now it's going to stop up the metal grate and the toilet will overflow!" the water started rising, but then all of a sudden the toilet behaved differently than the previous one or two times. the grate moved and things sucked down fast and there was loud sucking noises and whooshing sounds. and with that it was all good. i washed my hands and walked out, a wiser man. i told ash about my victory, then as i was mentioning the odd homemade weapon i suddenly realized why it was most likely there...it wasn't a weapon, it was a tool. :|
we left starbucks and went to meet chris (a german guy in the same program at the school here with ash) and his girlfriend whose english name is vicky (who is the person who ordered the ipod touch and had it shipped to my house in the u.s.), then we all walked to the place of a friend of theirs whose english name is candy. (i must mention here i hadn't drank much of my coffee from starbucks, so i took it with me. i felt kind of stupid being a white guy walking down the street with a starbucks cup. i wanted to tell everyone "no! i'm not a 'typical' american who goes overseas and only goes to places they are familiar with! i don't even like starbucks that much!" but maybe that's just me projecting my own issues.) she had cooked a meal for us. other than the fish which i passed on, i had sticky rice with some beef with a green vegetable, some bitter gourd or balsam pear or something, and some dish with tofu and meat i don't know what else in a dark orange-ish sauce. (i think ash said the dish name literally translates to something like "old woman's pock-marked face" or something odd.) chris and vicky had brought some taiwanese beer, which we had with the meal. and for dessert, fresh strawberries with a sugar cream glaze. they spoke in english some, but all of them also spoke in mandarin a lot too. chris speaks german of course, and candy also speaks spanish.
when we got back to ash's place, we talked and watched part of the darjeeling limited (which i still hadn't seen yet). as we were watching it, i started to realize my digestive system...well, perhaps it wasn't too excited about my sudden change in diet. or something. my system felt unsettled, sort of like it does in the very early stages of it planning on evacuating things in one direction or the other. ash gave me a couple of pills of something, and so far i remain in an uneasy truce with my digestive track. also of note is that evidently in my consternation over the starbucks toilet i forgot to zip up my pants. it's a good thing i tend to wear un-tucked, longer t-shirts or there may have been an international incident.
(i'll work on making some pics available soon, hopefully. i've not taken many at this point though.)