ptsd: post taiwan sleep disorder

my sleep monday lasted from around 5pm until 7am tuesday (14 hours). i wouldn’t say it was quality sleep. i got up and took a shower, checked my email and such, then decided i’d lay down again. so around 10am i started sleeping again.
i got up around 5pm and met the potts at an ihop at washington and i-10. this was the first time i’d driven a vehicle in two weeks. it felt a bit odd. (i took my pickup.) the potts were going because ihop was giving away a free short stack of pancakes to anyone that day. the martin-webbers were there too (i’d met the daughters at the potts before, but never the parents), as was eric hartley. later, tiffany showed up (who used to work for jack, and i hadn’t seen in some time), and then later her fiancee showed up (whom i’d never met). all in all, there were about 8 adults at the table and as many kids (from just two families). i was the only one who got something to eat outside of the requisite short stack. my bill was as much as the rest of the table’s. and i left double my bill to help with a good tip. while we were there, it snowed outside for about 30 seconds. never saw it again.
jack came back with me in my pickup to my house. i picked up my laptop and did a final sync of my phone and camera to the laptop, then we went over to the potts house. i hung out there until around midnight or 1am, then came home. i got to bed around 2am.
wednesday i got up and went to work. part of the reason i’d gotten depressed in taiwan the second week was because i’d read an email from work detailing the various promotions and new job responsibilities. several times over the last couple of years i’ve tried to break into some new areas that seem interesting to me, but it’s never really happened. i’ve watched a lot of people go around me over the years. sometimes it doesn’t bother me, but for some time now i’ve felt like my position is becoming more and more marginalized. i knew about some of the goings on before i got the email, but not all of them. so that was upsetting. enough that i felt like just emailing them to tell them i was quitting when i got back to the u.s. but very rarely do i ever behave rashly, so i gave myself time to think about it and talk to people. anyway, i got to work and talked to a manager who is a friend and he didn’t seem to think things were like i saw them. i took his advice under consideration, but i didn’t buy it. i left work, then went and did the radio show. it was nice to see the guys and do the show again. i came home and went to bed. i had felt tired in the day, but i felt like things were normalizing as far as sleepiness and sleep pattern.
thursday at work there was a wrinkle thrown into the promotions/opportunities situation. our main aix guy, who had just gotten promoted from senior to lead, gave his two weeks’ notice. this left a huge hole in the aix world, and based on other moves that had just occurred i wondered if they would ask me about trying to get into that area. and they did. aix is big business, in demand, and usually good money. the problem is i don’t really care to do it. they trained all us unix guys in aix (a flavor of unix) a year or two ago, and i saw enough to feel i wasn’t too interested. i intentionally avoided getting involved in most aix-based projects. i prefer the feel and culture of linux and the bsds, or even mac os, to the aix mentality/culture. and if i take this, i’ll have to throw myself in head first. i was ready to immerse myself in exchange, ad, ocs, ms pki. i even stated interest at work a couple of times. but nothing ever came of it. now, instead, i’ve got this opportunity i’m not excited about. plus, i feel like if i don’t take it, i’ll be viewed as not stepping up and taking charge and grabbing opportunity and i’ll be even further marginalized at work. it all kind of sucks.
before i left work, chris came by to let me know they were going to be cooking out and hanging out that evening at his complex for his birthday. i planned to go, but when i got home i sat down at my computer to check mail and such and i fell asleep. at some point i groggily moved to my bed. around 8:30pm jack called and i woke up enough to have a half-coherent conversation with him. after that it was fitful sleep until about 4am, when i woke up and wasn’t as tired. i got up around 7am and shaved and took a shower. then around 8:30am i headed to work.
friday after work i took a nap for a few hours, then sue came by and we went to coffee groundz. they closed down at midnight, so we left. i got to bed around 1am. i was awake for awhile on and off around noon and early afternoon, but then i was asleep again and stayed that way until around 10am today. i basically lost saturday. so i’m beginning to think it’s not just jet lag. my sinuses have been messed up, so i probably have a sinus infection. i’m wondering if i’m having allergy problems after coming back, perhaps from my cat. she’s been desperate for attention since i got back and every time i’m in bed she sleeps close to my head. or maybe i’ve relapsed my mono from being too run-down and tired for too long. i don’t know. i just know i feel a serious lack of energy all the time.
also, during my extended sleep saturday and saturday night and sunday morning i had a series of bad dreams, one of them continuing through at least two points where i woke up for awhile. not scary dreams necessarily, just sad, depressing, and/or frightening. one involved a divorced friend and their kids, the multi-part one involved me and julia (the hrc). i don’t really need my mind creating new scenarios to make me angry, freaked out, upset, and sad — i’ve had plenty of those in real life over that stuff already, thanks. i’d kind of mostly dealt with the emotional fallout from the hrc (although i still miss her fairly often), but now all that stuff i had mostly resolved and/or put away has spilled out and is active in my head again.
man, some sleep would feel good right now. *sigh*
“all i ever wanted was a good job,
and some busfare,
and a rocket,
and a bomb”
–mike knott “rocket and a bomb”

it’s a long way home

monday morning ash and i got up and took a cab to the bus terminal. it was 90nt and i paid with a 1000nt note, so i gave ash the 410nt and kept the 500nt bill for the airport. i figured he could use it, and i appreciated him dealing with me and spending money he normally wouldn’t while i was around. plus i didn’t have to worry about him losing face over it since he’s american. plus it was a fairly small amount. (unbeknown to him, i’d also slipped 2000nt under the food i’d left behind at his place.) we said our goodbyes and i got on the bus. then the driver asked me which terminal i was going to and i had no idea. fortunately, they had a list (in chinese), so when i told him continental/jla he was able to look it up and tell me. although i’m sure i could have figured it out at the airport. the drive took awhile, and i took a few pictures and some video of people driving into work in taipei (i.e., lots of scooters). i said goodbye to the betel nut (bin-lang) shops and the betel nut beauties/girls (bin-lang xi-shis) working them as we passed. i got to the airport.
i got checked in and had some time, so i bought a mango smoothie and some snack chips (fiery garlic doritos, seafood platter wavy lays, and…hot pepper giant squid? it didn’t have much in english on it other than the ingredient list) for a co-worker who’d asked for some weird chips. if i’d planned ahead, i could have gotten some other odder stuff i saw at the 7-11’s, but i never bought much of anything to bring back. i didn’t buy stuff for anyone else, or myself. i put the chips in my carry-on backpack and headed to my terminal.
i still had 30 minutes or so to wait, and the airport had free wifi, so i used the wifi with my iphone to call my parents via the skype app. thus the call cost me 0.02/min. not bad. (i used both google voice and skype during my trip — google voice for free text messages, and both google voice and skype for cheap calls to lines in the u.s. they were pretty nice to have, considering calls, data, and texting would have been insanely expensive via my regular phone. of course, i could only use them where i had wi-fi access to the net.)
the plane from taipei to narita was a 747-400, i think. i got a seat on 2nd deck, which i’d never flown on before. the 2nd deck was 3 seats on each side, separated by one aisle. i ended up being the only person on my side of the row. i set near the aisle. i was listening to the music channels they had available, when they played a song i’d heard played at least a couple of times in the clubs in taipei. i’m guessing it is or was popular in the u.s., but i’d never heard it before. anyway, the song will now be forever tied to clubs in taipei that westerners frequent. it’s “hotel room service” by miami-based latin rapper/artist pitbull. (i would say the song is probably nsfw…but i guess that depends on where you work 🙂 i started watching the bruce willis film surrogates, but the flight ended in the middle of the movie.
i got off at narita, went through a security check, took a bus to another terminal, got my boarding pass for continental, then proceeded to wait for a couple of hours. narita didn’t have free wi-fi. i heard on the paging system that the u.s. had enacted tighter security checks for flights into the u.s. when i went to get on the plane, i had to have my shoes and bag inspected and got wand-checked for metal. i think i had been put in the extra inspection line. this flight was on another 777, and it was pretty full. i had an aisle seat near the very back of the plane, and i saw no open seats. i watched whip it (drew barrymore film about flat-track roller derby), part of bullitt, listened to most of a best of album by the cure, watched another episode of “big bang theory”…and i don’t recall what else. i was hoping to sleep on the flight, but i didn’t sleep much. it was a d4mn long flight.
we made it into iah about 1:30pm local time. (fun with traveling: i left taipei at 10am mon feb 22nd, left narita at 5:30pm mon feb 22nd, and got into houston at 1:30pm mon feb 22nd.) i walked until i hit customs. the guy asked me why i’d gone to taiwan, what i did, what i was declaring, then welcomed me back to the u.s. it was kind of funny because he had that kind of serious/badass attitude that tends to go with being a cop or military or some kind of authority figure. i picked up my checked bag (which made it fine again) and headed outside.
i called jack, and he and the kids were already in the airport. it took them awhile to figure out where i was, but they eventually got to me and picked me up. they took me to chuy’s. after not much sleep for the last 24 hours and a stomach full of mexican food (cheese enchiladas, to be specific), i decided to head home for a nap. i set my alarm for 1.5 hours, since i wanted to try and readjust my sleep patterns to here. that didn’t work. i evidently hit the snooze button every 9 minutes for a couple of hours, and around 8:45pm i gave up and turned it off because i decided i could sleep through the night.

how do you say “fscking depressed” here?

today ash and i got up and walked for awhile, eventually ending up at the ximending market. (at least i think that’s the one we went to.) this is i guess a trendy market for the younger people. there were lots of people there, and lots of shops. there were also a lot of street vendors, selling food, trinkets, purses, clothes, etc. and some street artists. i had a small corndog, as well as part of an onion pancake ash got. they were both good. we walked around this area for awhile. then we hopped on the mrt (subway) and took it to taipei 101.
once we got to taipei 101, we decided to eat lunch in the foot court area that is in the mall that is attached to the taipei 101 building. my legs and feet were already hurting quite a bit from all the walking i’d done the last few days, but i ended up walking around the foot court trying to find what i wanted to eat. i went to a dumpling place, but they had mostly seafood stuff. so i ended up going somewhere else and getting fried wontons. i also went to another shop and got a preztel dog and a lemonade to drink. the fried wontons were good. the preztel dog was fair. while we were eating i started talking about the trip thus far, and my original desires to consider this a trial toward a possible long-term move to some other country like russia. i had already been feeling down about things but was trying to do some stuff for my last day, but the conversation really bummed me out. at the end of it, i didn’t really care about doing anything. i mean anything. at all. period. so i told ash i didn’t want to go to the observation deck any more, and we could go have a beer or go home or whatever, as i didn’t care.
ash was a bit confused by my change in plans i guess, and didn’t really understand why. he also wanted to go to the observation deck. i told him he could go if he wanted, i didn’t care. so we ended up going to gordon biersch (where tim and i had gone) and had a beer. i had another winter bock.
the previous week ash and i had gone by a dr. marten’s store that was in the taipei 101 area when we ate at kiki’s, and i had decided it’d be kind of cool to buy some docs in taipei. the reason being, they last a number of years, so when i was wearing them i could say “i got these in taiwan.” so we walked over to the doc marten’s store. we went through a park, where they were preparing for the lantern festival. people were putting up lighted floats and such. i also learned at this point the new chinese year is the year of the tiger.
(aside: i later learned while the years cycle every 12 years (zodiac-ish), the aspect also changes, and this year just happens to be the year of…the white tiger! (you recall what i told you that was slang for, right?) well, that certainly makes me more excited about this coming year.)
well, we went to the store and i looked around and i couldn’t really find anything i was interested in. i guess i could have bought a generic pair of docs, but my heart wasn’t in it and i only wanted to buy a pair if they really stood out to me. and nothing did. so i left the store empty-handed.
we took the mrt (subway) back to ash’s place, then we went to meet esther for supper. she’d wanted to take us out for supper, so we went to a place that was sort of japanese-ish. the menu didn’t have much i was too excited about, but esther got a bunch of different stuff (trying to meet some of my taste interests). some of it ended up being pretty good. she was very friendly and nice, and also paid for the meal. at the end, she gave me a gift box that her family’s japanese-style bakery makes. i think they’re mostly used for wedding gifts or something. we thanked her and headed back to ash’s.
once there, i talked with ash a few hours about various things, including how i was feeling and why as far as being depressed. we kind of had to cut the conversation short because we were both tired, plus we had to get up early to get me to the bus for the airport the next morning.

taiwanese national museum. and me.

today tim, ash, and i went back to the first place i ate at here: formosa chang. this time i got something i’m more familiar with: rice with shredded pork, and some corn soup. (despite ash not liking it, corn soup is good. it’s kind of like corn chowder.) we then got on the rail to head to the national museum. we could take the mrt (subway) part of the way, but we had to take a bus the last part. while we were waiting, i ended up talking to a guy and his wife or girlfriend who are korean and were headed to the museum also.
at the museum, we stopped at a small restaurant and i had a cappuccino and tiramisu. it wasn’t really exactly what i normally have as tiramisu, but it was okay. we went into the museum and ash went off on his own to see stuff about ancient chinese writing (that’s part of what he’s specializing in at school). tim and i walked around together and looked at three floors of stuff: neolithic era stuff, ceramics, bronze, furniture, more modern work, etc. about the only stuff we skipped was some of the writing/calligraphy and treaty maps and such. there is some pretty cool stuff in the museum. i guess it is supposed to be one of the most impressive collections in the world.
we left the museum and went back to the mrt line. we ate at a dumpling place, which was very good. while there, we started having a theology discussion. i don’t have those conversations much anymore it feels like. tim is a former hardline lutheran, who is contemplating orthodoxy. ash is a fairly entrenched modern non-denominational type. i’m somewhere in the middle…or maybe off to the left or right…or maybe i just bounce around everywhere. we got back to the apartment and tim finished packing and we saw him off to the bus line. (his flight was sunday morning, but he wanted to sleep in a hotel near the airport so it’d be easier for him to get there on time.)
when we left the bus line, we were walking down a street and suddenly someone say “heeeeeyyyy!” turns out it was the korean couple. how bizarre is it that we would randomly run into each other in a completely different part of the city a number of hours later? weird. we talked to them a bit, then headed off to 45’s.
it was at this point that i finally started to completely lose it. there have been a few times here that i’ve been somewhat depressed about things, but i finally started to hit a wall. ash and i started to talk about it some, but then candy showed up so i didn’t really want to be depressed for everyone. i drank enough white russians that i got fuzzy though. candy left before we did. i had been planning on buying her some chocolate and/or wine to thank her for cooking for me, so ash and i went by a 24 hour grocery store and i bought some taiwanese red wine and a bottle of yellowtail cabernet sauvignon and a small toblerone. we were going to take it by her place (since it’s on the way walking), but in my drunkish fuzziness i decided i didn’t want to see anyone or deal with anything, i just wanted to go home and use the bathroom and go to sleep. so i kept walking even though ash was saying my name as i was walking away, and i got to ash’s place and used the bathroom and went to bed.
when it feels like there is no point in living, it’s nice to go to sleep.

goodbye taichung, hello mexican food in taipei

we got up and were in the hotel until around noon. we left our bags with the hotel lobby staff and walked around some. we ended up stopping at a place and i had fried rice. it was good. we then walked over to a starbucks to figure out what we were doing. once again, it was cold and wet. most of the stuff to do in taichung was outdoors, and as a group we were generally tired and cold and unsure what to do. so after some discussion we decided to head back to taipei. i wanted to try and find a battery for my phone though, so we walked a couple of blocks and went into three small stores before we found one that had my battery. i bought it, then we headed back to the hotel. we got our bags and took a taxi to the high speed rail station. we got on the rail and headed to taipei. the only very exciting bit was i took the opportunity to use the bathroom, meaning i was pissing at ~160mph on the ground. not everyone can say that.
we got back to taipei and candy went her separate way and tim and ash and i headed back to ash’s apartment. later tim and ash wanted to go to a mexican food place, so we ended up going to tequila sunrise. the rice was pretty crappy but the beans were okay. i got the flauta and enchilada, and a strawberry margarita. the margarita had tequila in it, but the flavor overall wasn’t quite right. the flauta was pan-fried instead of deep-fried, but it was pretty good. except for tamales, i figure an enchilada is probably one of the easier items to mess up. this was a pretty good approximation. tim and ash kept telling me not to be too harsh, because they never get to have mexican food so it’s not fair for me to compare this to authentic tex-mex in their presence. a female friend of ash’s named esther met us at tequila sunrise after we’d finished eating, so ash and i split a fried ice cream. the ice cream was strawberry, but the deep-fried corn-flake-based shell seemed right.
from tequila sunrise we took a taxi to 45’s. except for tim, who was cold and tired and didn’t feel like being out anymore — he went back to the apartment. ash and esther and i hung out at 45’s, and esther gave ash/me a japanese desert her family makes (i guess they own a shop that makes this kind of stuff). it’s like a flattened ball of rice paste with flour or powdered sugar on the outside, then on the inside is a gooey, pasty filling made of something and green tea powder or something. it was okay, but i couldn’t get myself to eat the whole thing. esther left, then we were joined by a black american guy named devon that ash knows. he’s also pretty familiar with the underbelly of taiwan. we talked for some time, then we all headed over to roxy99. this time i didn’t really end up talking to anyone, and overall it wasn’t too fun or interesting. when we left we walked by some place where there were three slavic looking young people, two girls and a guy, and the guy — who looked like the russian boxer in the rocky movie — kept clocking me. every time i looked over at him he was staring laser beams into me. not sure what that was about. we headed home.

everybody taichung tonight

the plan for today was to take the train down to taichung, which is a city maybe 150km or so from taipei. feeling we probably needed to get an earlier start on the day, ash came over and brought taiwanese breakfast. which was sort of an omelette-ish sort of thing with something sort of like maybe spinach or something in the egg, as well as maybe rice paste…i don’t know. it was good.
we packed our stuff for a one or two day stay, then went by and picked up a friend of ash’s named candy (who is the girl who cooked supper the first full day i was here). we all went on the mrt (subway) to taipei main station, where we then bought tickets to take the high speed rail to taichung. you can take a normal train or the high speed, the high speed is about twice the price but half the time (and has only assigned seating). i’d never been on a high speed rail before. in addition to riding high speed rail, it also gave me a chance to see some of the land outside of taipei. the area the train travelled was somewhat hilly/mountainous, and also some tributaries/rivers with water running toward the ocean (we were traveling on the west side of the island).
we got to taichung and were picked up by two guys in a toyota suv. the driver is a friend of a classmate of ash’s, and is currently a student of ash as ash is teaching him english. they drove us to a place to eat in taichung. i had some meat that’s wrapped in a thick ball of rice paste and boiled, then when you order it they drop it in a bowl and cut an “x” in the top. i also had some rice noodle soup with meat. i didn’t eat the stuffed intestines. but i did eat some sausage, which has a casing made of intestinal lining. from there they took us by the hotel we’d be staying at. we checked it out and said “ok”. there were always several employees in the lobby of the hotel, and every time you walked in or our or whatever, they’d bow over and over and say “you good?” and “thanks” (in mandarin). it seemed more like japanese style to me than what i’d seen in taiwan. then they took us to get some bubble tea. usually i’ll get fruit smoothie or milk tea with bubbles (tapioca “pearls”), but this time they also had me add…it was a kind of clear jelly without much taste in long thick rope shape. i described them as clear snot worms. they were ok, but it’s kind of weird sucking on the straw and suddenly sucking something that keeps coming through the straw for longer than you’re used to. we went by a place where you get a traditional food item of taichung, which is the sun cake. but they were sold out.
as we were moving on, ash talked to them about beetle nut and me, so they stopped at a beetle nut shop. we were outside taipei, so the beetle nut shops had beetle nut girls. in other words, there was a very scantily clad girl in each beetle nut shop selling the beetle nut. we bought some and ash’s friend showed me how to eat it: you bite the top of the nut off and spit it out, then you pop the rest in your mouth and chew. the first time i spit it was a sickly yellow, sort of like bird vomit. the second time i spit it was a dark red, which is what it continued to be. within a minute or two it felt warm, and it wasn’t too long later i got lightheaded. before we drove off i spit it out, but i continued to have a buzz from it for awhile.
we drove to a mall and went to some place whose name i forget. it was a microbrewery with a mixture of typical bar/pub food and asian food. i had a large dunkel beer, plus i had some fries and a german sausage variety platter. when it came time to pay, they put the bill near me, so i put money to pay it all in and handed it to ash. well, one of the guys taking us around told the waitress in taiwanese (which none of us whities spoke, ash knowing a little) to leave our money and pay with theirs. when i figured out the ruse, i told ash that they shouldn’t have to, because i wanted to thank them for picking us up and driving us around. continuing my explanation because it wasn’t accepted, i told ash this was a type of service you’d pay for, and ash immediately gave me the smack down. you see, in most asian culture everything is about “face” — gaining face, losing face, etc. (it’s similar to concepts of honor in european cultures i guess, but a lot of that in the u.s. has become less pervasive than it used to be…remember duels?) so there are all kinds of expectations and ways of interacting and such. since ash was his teacher, and you are supposed to have ultimate respect for your teacher, he wanted to pay. ash said the rest of us weren’t his teacher, but he said they were friends of his teacher. plus if i paid he/they were losing face, and if he/they paid they were gaining face. anyway, being polite is different. so i felt stupid and like i’d done something wrong and there was no way i could talk my way out of it, even though i didn’t know what i was doing at the time.
we left there and wandering around a bit in the mall, then we headed over to a bar called “amuse”. they dropped us off there and left. you could order drinks individually, or you could pay 500nt and drink as many as you wanted off a set list. we did that. the drinks were okay, but they were pretty weak. while we were there a band showed up and started playing all kinds of songs, some asian and a lot of u.s. hits. they played modern pop stuff as well as older hits (like nirvana, lady gaga, etc.). we stayed there a few hours, then we got a cab back to the hotel.
the hotel was okay, but it didn’t have any heat. and as i said before, it’s been cold and raining all the time. it was down there too. and the hotel had no heat. the bed was hard and cold, but the comforter was good and the bed warmed up pretty fast. ash had decided he wanted something to eat, so he’d gone to walk to a 7-11 while tim and i went up to the hotel room. once tim and i got into bed and gotten warm, neither of us really wanted to get out to let ash in. so i said we could play “rock, paper, scissors” for it. tim immediately went to sleep. so i watched tv to wait for ash. and i waited. and waited. and waited. eventually i started falling asleep, then ash came in. (he just explained to me the desk lady let him in.) turns out he’d gotten lost for awhile.

distorted realities in taiwan

today i got up fairly late, and tim and ash and i sat around the apartment and talked for some time about various stuff. ash was giving tim and myself some time, which also gave him some time to do things he’d not been able to do since i was here, so we wondered off in search of some food. this whole week being the observance/celebration of chinese new year, it’s still hard to find places that are open. we were planning on going to the night market, but i turned too soon or too late or something, so we just kind of wandered around some other areas kind of near ash’s school. eventually we saw a sign down a side street that said “kgb”. we went over to it and it was “kiwi gourmet burgers”. we decided to eat there. i had the special for the day, which was a mango-jalapeno burger. it came with fries, and i added cheese and bacon. and a coke. man, that food was good. i sort of felt like i was cheating by eating food i’d normally eat, but i soothed my conscience by saying it was new zealand food and not u.s. 🙂 we sat in there for a pretty long time, getting free refills and talking. i later told ash about the place and he’d heard of it but never been there.
we left kgb and headed into the mrt (subway), where “true north” tim hustled us onto a departing train. headed the wrong way. i figured it out after about 5 stops without ever seeing the guting stop. we went pretty far south, but we hopped out and got on the correct train. we went topside and it was a different world. perhaps i should explain. living where ash does, i think it’s probably a pretty accurate depiction of most of taipei (and probably most of big city living in taiwan, although i don’t know that for sure). the place we were at now was the area around taipei101, a building which held the honor of being the tallest building in the world for several years (in fact, until just a month or two ago when the place in dubai opened up). the neighborhood around taipei 101 could be any big metropolitan city of the world: tokyo, new york, etc. no mopeds but cars, lots of buses and taxis, huge typical multi-story print ads for cartier, prada, or whatnot. we walked through a huge mall structure with movie theaters, burberry, dolce and gabbana, and all kinds of very expensive stores and places to eat. it wasn’t “local” at all. if i had been on business or visiting a friend who lived in that area, i would have a very different perception of taipei. i think it would be an incorrect one, and i actually felt like i shouldn’t be there. but i guess it was good to see, just so i have the experience and can compare it to what i’m normally experiencing. we went into the bottom of taipei 101, which has a multi-story mall, but we didn’t go up to the observation deck. at one point i saw a body shop and since the soap i brought was about to disappear, i went in to get a new bar since i like their soap. tim felt odd about two guys going into the body shop (which it appears he doesn’t patronize), so he said he felt like he needed to go get a beer afterward. but i really like their stuff, so i bought a bar of coconut soap. we later went to a chain place called gordon biersch (sp?), where i had a winter bock and he had a schwarzbier. we hopped back on the mrt (subway) and headed back to ash’s part of town.
we went to 45’s and met ash there. he had a couple of girls in tow. one of them spoke some english, the other one not so much. we all had a number of drinks and laughed and joked a lot. i think i had 4 or 5 white russians and a blue monday. i have a habit of tying knots in cherry stems with my mouth (something i picked up in high school i guess), so as the night wore on i had a collection of knotted stems. this is something the hrc (julia) was particularly fascinated by and appreciated. i wouldn’t say i was drunk, but i kind of ended up taking a picture of all the stems on a johnnie walker coaster written in chinese and sent it to her with the text “i’m in fscking taiwan”. which is stupid, since i haven’t talked to her in some time, and the last time i emailed her i basically told her if she couldn’t have some kind of normal relationship/friendship with me that i didn’t want her sending me anything anymore. yeah, i’m stupid. but i already knew that.

tourism: the good, the bad, and the ugly

today was the first day i actually did much that was “touristy”. we started off by eating lunch at mos burger. it’s a japanese burger place. burger doesn’t necessarily mean a beef meat patty though. and although they have bread buns, they were originally served on sticky rice cakes. so i got an original style with the rice cakes. the meat was sort of like cheese steak. it was good. it’s also the first time i’ve had a soft drink since i’ve been here. i got a coke.
i should point out here that it’s been pretty chilly and raining recently. i don’t like carrying an umbrella, so i decided i would risk not carrying one. it turned out to be an unwise choice. it never poured, but it sprinkled and lightly rained pretty much the whole time we were out. the ground got very wet, there were lots of puddles, and my knit cap, shoes, pants legs, etc., all got pretty wet during the rest of the journey.
ash left tim and i to our own devices at that point. tim and i walked to the chiang kai shek memorial. the entrance is a giant gate painted white (wall with multiple archways) which opens into a huge concrete/stone courtyard area (several acres). on the right and left are huge buildings. one is the opera house i think, and i don’t recall what the other is. in front of you is the cks memorial building. there are probably 80 to 100 stairs up the front, then there is a building on top of that several stories high with a big open archway that houses a statue of cks sitting. you can’t walk up to the statue, and there are two ceremonial guards on either side. (don’t worry, i took pics of all this…i just haven’t uploaded stuff yet. but it’s not like you can’t find pics of this on the internet.) from there we went into the lower 3 stories of the building. there are a few exhibit areas, plus one telling the history of cks. we walked through that, which was interesting. we also saw a couple of exhibits of a couple of contemporary artists. one was mostly paintings of tigers. a few were funny because they had a naked woman with the tiger. the funniest (to me) was a naked woman with a white tiger. that’s funny because the term “white tiger” used for the zodiac or whatever sign is slang for a woman with no hair…uh…down there.
we left the cks memorial and started walking toward the longshan temple. or so we thought. i saw a phone store and we went in, but they didn’t sell batteries. or maybe just not for my old razr. we stopped and got some bubble tea, then we stopped and got some kind of jerky. that’s pretty much all they sold. they had pork, chicken, and beef, as well as something called “fusion” which looked sort of like bacon, but i’m thinking maybe it was pork and beef woven together. it’s sweet, but they also have some that is spicy as well as sweet. we started walking again and then we were at a park. da’an park. which is one or two miles in the wrong direction from where we were planning on going. so we turned around and walked back.
we passed the cks memorial and started heading in the right direction. we went past something we thought was the south gate, but it wasn’t. then we found it a little further down the road. except it looked exactly like what we originally thought was the south gate. kind of odd. we kept walking (man, i was tired of walking at this point) and thought we’d found the temple. but we weren’t sure. and we weren’t right. we went in and took some pictures. at this point i decided i didn’t want to walk anymore, so we went into the subway and took the subway back to ash’s part of town.
at the place we left the subway, we stopped at a dunkin’ donuts and i got a donut. i got a square one with a hole, and it had boston cream filling on one side and chocolate on the other. it was covered in an icing that was semi-sweet. ash met up topside and we went to find a place nearby to eat. we ended up eating at an italian place called grazie or something. i got some bruschetta for an appetizer. maybe it’s because i’d just walked like 7+ miles, but i think that was some of the best bruschetta i’ve ever had. i ordered some drink that was like blue caracou and something milky. then ash, tim, and i ordered pizzas and shared them: four cheese, margarita, and bacon/mashed potatoes/peas. they were all great.
once done there, we went over to 45’s. i had a couple of white russians, then tim headed for the ash’s place and ash and i went out to seek entertainment. we walked to roxy99, but they were closed. so we caught a bus to go to carnegie’s, but they were dead. so we got a taxi to take us to the brass monkey, but he thought we wanted to go somewhere else. on the way we drove by brass monkey and it appeared to be dead, so we let him take us where he thought we wanted to go. it turned out to be this place called “my other place”. there we ran into an american who was drinking at the bar. his name was lee. i had a malibu and pineapple, then he bought ash and i tequila shots. i had another malibu and pineapple, then lee bought us jager bombs (jagermeister and red bull). later, lee started talking to me all about taiwan, and asking if i wanted to experience the underbelly of taiwan. he evidently had a steady girlfriend (who was married), a side girlfriend, and two other girlfriends. and he went out all the time and knew places where, if you knew someone so you could get in, you could get a 20-22 yo girl to do whatever to/for/with you. while lee was busy hitting on some girls at the bar, ash and i slipped out.

another day in taiwan

today i got ash to go walking with me toward a river that runs somewhat near his place. he’d never walked quite in that direction. we walked over there and ended up by a big park. the street signs to the main entrance said “youth disaster prevention park”. although the rest of the signs all just said “youth park”. we went through a footpath under a highway and were at the river. there was a big open concrete area with lots of firework remains. we looked around, then left that area and went back to the park. we walked by a place where there was a guy standing guard in full military clothes and helmet with an automatic rifle. i don’t know what that place was. (there are always two or three cops at the entrances to ash’s building — evidently a politician or someone famous moved in awhile back and now there are cops stationed 24/7.) while we were at the park we saw some squirrels. the squirrels here look like squirrels, but their coat has more sheen and they are a black and dark brown (instead of the lighter brown/tan of u.s. squirrels). they don’t have big ear hair like russian squirrels though. the park was really nice. it had a skating area (wheels, not ice), tennis courts, golf driving range, baseball field, basketball courts, swimming pool, water park, plus lots of paths and trees and some ponds and such. ash said he’d never been to the park so i said “well, i’m glad i could show it to you.”
while we were walking back to house, i got ash to stop with me while i got some beetle nut. evidently this is some kind of plant/nut that some people eat here. i guess it’s sort of like chewing tobacco. i think it’s considered more rural or lower class, but you can tell where places are that sell it because they have neon fan shapes outside the building. and i’ve heard there are “beetle nut girls” that walk around and promote or sell the stuff or something, and i guess they are hot young taiwanese chicks in skimpy clothes (sort of like the girls promoting/selling beer or alcohol or whatever in bars/clubs in the u.s.). when we got back to ash’s place, i asked him if he could ask the police how you eat it or whatever. he said they would probably love that a foreigner wanted to do that. they did seem pretty happy/excited about the idea, although one of them didn’t seem as happy and told ash i shouldn’t eat it much or i’ll get cancer or basically it’s bad for you. i’m supposed to try beetle nut with one of the police later.
from ash’s place we went over to the first starbucks i went to here. i used the restroom again, but this time i was a seasoned veteran and knew what to do. we hung out there until the police at ash’s place called to say tim had shown up. we walked back to ash’s place and took tim up to ash’s apartment.
we decided to get some food, so we walked over to the night market by ash’s school (ntnu). it was still very dead. we ended up going to a burger king for a snack. from there we went over to ash’s department area. we ended up going on top of the building, but it was misting and started raining so we didn’t stay up there long. we left there and walked around the night market again until we found a thai place that was open.
we left there and walked to 45. i had a white russian, a b-52 shot, maybe another white russian. then ash and i got absinthe shots. one regular and one cinnamon. absinthe was mostly illegal in the u.s. until not too long ago, so i figured i should try some. i can’t say as i’m planning on getting an absinthe habit. (although i’ve always been told about using the spoon and some sugar, and we just had shot glasses.) after drinking there for awhile we headed back to the house.
it seems like every day i’ve been here it’s gotten a little colder and a little wetter. i took an umbrella out with me today and used it some. (i try to have a more british view of an umbrella, and only use it when it’s raining pretty good, not just if it’s misting or sprinkling or whatever.) i didn’t really pack for it being cold and wet. (although ash has said this is far wetter and colder than taiwan usually is, even during this season.)

happy chinese new year! we’re closed.

today was pretty mellow. ash and i got up and talked for quite awhile about all sorts of things. eventually we walked over to the big park we had walked by with the german guy chris. it’s called da-an park. it’s a pretty nice park. we walked around in there for probably at least an hour or two. from there we walked over to a starbucks (a different one than we’ve gone to in the past…they’re all over the place here too). we sat there for an hour or two, then we went to the night market area near ash’s school (ntnu) to find something to eat. the first time i went there it was packed and really busy, but since chinese new year started it’s been almost completely dead and almost all the places are closed. we ended up finding an indian food place that was open. man, it was good. we had some naan and i had a mango juice and chicken coconut curry. on the way back to ash’s place we stopped by an electronics store and i helped him get a router/switch with built-in nat. i helped him set it up so he could have a local network for all of his systems, as well share his internet connection. as an added bonus, i can now get online without having to disconnect his ethernet cable from his desktop. i also configured my macbook air to serve up an ad-hoc wireless network and share its internet connection. that way i can use it to get my iphone online (and thus download mail, use the apps, etc.). it’s chinese new year, so pretty much everyone has left the city. the traffic is way less than the last days i’ve been here, and almost everything is closed. i’m not sure how much of this is normal for a weekend, and how much of it is specifically due to the new year holiday. oh yeah, and the holiday actually lasts for a week. due to lack of choices for this reason, we ended up eating at a familymart. which is a chain of convenience stores, evidently all over the place in asia from what i hear. i had some pork dumplings and some rice vermicelli with vegetables and small bits of meat. there were a lot of fireworks going off as it got later, but i didn’t stay up too late (for me).