I didn’t blog on Thursday because I upgraded my blog software and broke the formatting, I didn’t blog Friday because I was in the air headed to Taiwan. Well, now I’m in Taiwan and I downgraded the blog software and got my formatting back – so I have no excuses.
It’s hard to imagine a place as technologically advanced as Taipei, but still so busted. These guys design and manufacture some of the world’s leading-edge stuff, but they live in places that Americans would condemn as un-livable. Maybe they just don’t place much stock in “aesthetics,” ’cause this place definitely looks broke-down. There is so much artistic talent here, evident in the ornate temples and some buildings – but the majority looks like a slum (at least as seen through my land-of-milk-and-honey American eyes). Without dogging it too much, it’s a lot like any other big city. There’s a lot to manage, and I guess a lot falls by the wayside. Some places look great, others don’t. They do have a great subway system, and the tallest building in the world – so it ain’t all bad.
I’ve had a blast since being here. Some guy almost passed out on me on the flight over. About 2hrs out of Tokyo he decided he was gonna have a “medical emergency.” Without going into the whole story, we ended up making a really rapid descent into the airport with a prioritized landing and taxi – at which point paramedics boarded the plane and took the sick dude away. Paramedics and authorities in Japan remind me of Lego-people, blocky and rigid with bright primary-colored outfits. Anyway, it kinda spiced up the 15hr flight, which was, this time, much worse than what I remember from my last trip. Got in late, slept the best I could being 16 hours out of sync, and spent Sunday shopping and sight-seeing in the rain.
As always, the food has been interesting. On Sunday, Ben was keeping a photo-journal of all the meals we ate (I think it was Pat’s idea). So far I’ve eaten jellyfish, congealed lamb patties, shark-fin soup, some kind of orange “organ” served inside a scallop shell, and a barely-dead lobster. And actually, all of it was really good. The shark-fin soup surprised me, because I’ve always thought it would be disgusting – but it was actually quite good. They make the broth with other fish and crab meat, but the fin is the main attraction – kinda funny since I thought it was the least tasty part of the dish. We had the lobster at a teppin place where they cook in front of you. They brought out some whole lobsters which had been recently cut in half lengthwise. When the chef put them on the grill they were still moving. He cooked them very briefly and then served them up, orange-gook (which I think is brains and stuff) and all. The jellyfish, while a tad rubbery, was really awesome – I think it was pickled. They served it cold on a salad. If you’re not a seafood person, Taiwan is not for you. I mean, it’s an island, so it’s to be expected I suppose. Almost everything at least features seafood, there’s fish on the salad, there’s fish in the pasta, and even non-fishy things are often flavored with fish sauce. They also eat a lot more fruit than we do. There’s fresh fruit with every meal, either as a dessert or as garnish. I like that.
I haven’t had a lot of hotel-room time, but while I’m here I mostly surf the net and watch the Cartoon Network, since it’s in English and all. Cinemax is also in English, but the movies they play are super ghetto. Not just old, but like made-for-TV movies from the 80’s that just plain stink. I’m not sure if American stuff takes a long time to get here or what, but the driver that picked us up from the airport was playing a Lionel Richie CD that I think came out when I was five? you know, the one where Lionel all of the sudden got an accent and sang “Fiesta” or whatever. Yeah, try listening to that after 24hrs of travel, ugh. I never really realized how many singles old Lionel actually had from that album, musta been a breakthrough for him. If Germans love David Hasselhoff, then Taiwanese love Deep Purple. For real, two separate people at the customer site today asked me if I saw Deep Purple when they played in San Fran recently. Nope, missed it.
I wish I knew how to speak Mandarin, it sounds like such a cool language. I’m limited to “thank you,” “how much?,” and “restroom?” though. Oh, and “beer,” I can ask for beer. The people here have a lot of history, and a lot of beliefs that seem strange to a white boy like me. Just simple things like the thought that modeling buildings after turtles will make them more earthquake-proof, because turtles (and apparently buildings that look like them) have long lives. Like the rows and rows of fortune tellers who employ all sorts of different methods to make readings, from scattering rice to reading palms. But really, it’s no more silly than the customs of other people I guess – just more pronounced when you’re thrown into it all.
OK, I’m out for now. I’ve taken a bunch of great pictures since getting here – and I’ll try and upload some tonight if I get the chance. Until then, Dave is out.