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Wrap-up

As the year draws to a close, I’m sitting in my parents’ living room waiting for my father to mix me up a Collins, whatever that is!  Things could definitely be worse.  I think reverse culture shock will be gentle, although the recycling and public transportation are things I’ll miss until I return to Taiwan.

I left Taiwan 17 days ago, and I’ve been home in California for 9.  It’s past time to wrap up this blog and start my new life!  I will, however, have a few back-dated posts that got lost in my drafts folder, so feel free to search for those in your spare time.

Happy New Year.  I’ll see you again soon, Taiwan.

Airport

I like the wood and white with soft light. It's relaxing.

It’s weird: I’m not filled with excitement or full of thoughts of home.  At the same time, I’m not numb; I think my brain has just put off processing this for a little while.  I remember thinking when I woke up that the rain was falling far too heavily to be tears for my departure, but that’s about the extent of my dwelling on leaving Taiwan.  Perhaps it’s because my last two days have been filled with hassles like taxes and wiring money and packing boxes to mail.

Looks like a temple! Looks like a church!

Now I’m sitting in the airport, in a very nice and spacious departure lounge.  On my way here, I passed a lot of cute little nooks (Taoyuan International’s upgrading and renovating), but my favorite was the prayer area beside the butterfly garden beside the “King-fu Massage.”  The whole area was quite peaceful, kung fu notwithstanding, and there was a lot of thought put into the design.  If you look at the first picture, you can see that it’s quite modern-looking, and if you look at the first and second together, you can see how each prayer room’s door echoes the design of that religion’s place of worship.

Now I just have to wait for the plane and Japan.  Here’s hoping it’s as good as people make it out to be!

I leave you with the butterfly garden.

Terminal 1 is under construction; I hope when they finish, it all has this much green!

 

Semi-autobiographical

I had a young student who lived in the Taipei equivalent of a mansion.  She didn’t like to be read to, but she loved being the teacher and leading me in activities that she would do in a normal school day.

This stick-figure collaboration came from an offshoot of “Writing Workshop” called, appropriately enough, “Making Books.”

The best part, I think, was when she actually sat still for the 2 minutes it took to read the book, and then we named all of the heads in the last picture.  It included her teacher Mr. Couch, her mom, dad, baby brother and herself, as well as her grandmother and maybe her aunt.

35 minutes exactly

At 3:08pm, I got a reminder phone call.  At 3:34, I had X-rays taken.  At 4:09, I was out the door and on my way to the pharmacy.

What was this quick and easy appointment?  Wisdom teeth!  I had been terribly stressed about it because the overwhelming picture of this procedure in the American cultural imagination is of a chipmunk-cheeked, miserable young adult laid up for a day or two eating mush.  So far, the only real problem I’ve had is making myself understood, and frankly, that happens even without marble-mouth and a cotton pad clenched between my molars.

On the downside, they would only take two teeth and there isn’t time to schedule another appointment.  I guess I’ll get to experience this all over again, but the American way.

PS: It’s 5pm, so I get to take out the cotton pad!  The only thing I need to remember is to swallow my spit for the rest of the day.  No spitting it out; it’s all got to go down the pipes.  I didn’t understand why, but that’s par for the course.  Probably something to do with bleeding…

Music

I bought an ocarina today.  There wasn’t really a reason other than how beautiful it was, but as I looked through the tiny song book that came with it, I found a song that I thought would make one of my friends laugh.  I came out to the landing of the hotel where I’m staying to use the computer, and what song should I hear drifting up from the lobby but “Dust in the Wind.”

That brought on a dose of instant nostalgia as I thought about fun times from high school tinged with the inescapable melancholy of the song, and it all mixed in with my feelings about leaving Taiwan.  I have less than 20 days before I go home and take on the next big phase of my life, which is one of the reasons I came to Jiufen for a little one day/one night vacation.  It’s lucky that Jiufen is so pretty or I’d probably be getting weepy right about now.

I’ll post pictures and more about the town itself when I get access to Bluetooth (tomorrow night when I get back home), but aside from the fact that all the stores are pretty much closed by 7:30, I have had a wonderful day in Jiufen and Jinguashi.  The weather held up nicely and the two towns are gorgeous, and where they’re not gorgeous, they’re excitingly twisty and mysterious.

Level of discourse

Spam comments are getting more confrontational these days!  Check out this little gem from today’s garbage can:

The next time I learn a blog, I hope that it doesnt disappoint me as a lot as this one. I mean, I do know it was my choice to read, however I truly thought youd have something attention-grabbing to say. All I hear is a bunch of whining about something that you might fix should you werent too busy in search of attention.

I had thought my neighborhood was pretty green, but I guess there must be some blue folks around...

I also noticed something on the way to work that supports my argument.  There’s been a DPP poster up for a good long time, but yesterday morning, I saw that someone had blacked out the candidate’s tooth.  As I walked past later that same day, a group of schoolkids was going the other direction.  One boy almost fell over when he spotted it, he was so excited to tell his classmates!  All he could say was “Her tooth!  Hey, you guys, look at her tooth!”  No one cared but him.

It’s okay, kid, I’m with you.  It may not be mature or even very effective, but it’s funny.  Sometimes that’s all it takes.

Out of the blue

On Wednesday nights, I teach a corporate class that really has me torn in two.  On the one hand, I usually have fun with the class, especially the three ladies.  On the other hand, the two gentlemen are way out of their depth and it’s hard to keep everyone learning without embarrassing the guys.

This Wednesday, the louder yet less skilled guy was on business in Hong Kong and that made it quite a bit easier.  The class proceeded pretty normally, ending in a discussion of favorite stars and celebrities.  At the very end, as we were packing up, the quiet guy who never asks his questions in English, but rather in Taiwanese (or Chinese, out of deference to me), suddenly began muttering to the “translator” of the class, a kind and bossy woman who I cannot stop from translating for the slower students.  She said, “Jason would like to ask a question,” and I looked straight at him so he would speak.

And the question knocked me for a loop: “India, 你們美國…..words…..words…..words…..黑人嗎?”  I couldn’t even parse it because it was so out of context, so I sat for a minute to make sense of it.  He was asking, apropos of nothing, about racism against black people.  I answered that it was getting better, but he went on to ask about whether we looked down on Asians, and all of it was just far too difficult to explain at his level.  I settled for saying that it’s mostly a problem of language.  If you sound American, you’re better off than if you don’t.  I also joked it up by mentioning how much people everywhere hate tourists.  Too light?

I love these kinds of conversations, but I wish he’d been at a level to really discuss it…

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