Glimpses from my journey home to my (very temporary) home in downtown Taipei after a delightful day with friends in the center of the island:
1. It was fun watching farmers work their rice paddies. I wished I could hop off the train and visit with the old men and women who were ankle deep in the water, but apart from it being logistically impossible to hop off and walk off into the fields, most of the small-scale farmers are Taiwanese, as in, they wouldn't understand my limited Mandarin Chinese. At least, I think this is true! (Taiwan friends, correct me if I'm under the wrong impression, please.)
2. The youth culture on the island seems to have changed a lot in the 7+ years that I've been gone. It used to be that school kids had tough rules on uniforms and hair styles, but as I was making my way through the the masses at the Taipei Main Station, I saw all kinds of hair styles, even on guys, and even school boys wearing heavy make-up. Couple that with school uniforms, and you have a very odd sight.
3. After getting off the last train and walking home, I had a plethora of options for dinner. The street vendors were in full swing. Chinese dishes of all shapes and varieties can be bought in small shops or from carts that are parked on the sidewalks. I love that. I passed the chicken feet/liver/hearts vendor (who also sells pig liver on a stick) and looked for steamed dumplings...
When I finally found a small restaurant that sells these, I confidently announced that I'd like ten dumplings, but got the tone wrong, so I actually asked for ten sleeps. The vendor was kind enough to point out my mistake, which I accepted with as much of a smile as he dished it up with.
I really have been blown away by how much Chinese I can remember! I say that with humility and gratitude, since I had a hard time learning Swahili, which is a MUCH easier language than Chinese! And I've had very little opportunity to speak Chinese since I had left Taiwan. But since I'm living and exploring by myself, I get to speak Chinese all the time. Which is fun.
Time and time again I think back to 15 years ago, when I arrived on the island not knowing a single word (no, actually, I knew only how to say hello), and how much more overwhelming the experience was back then, as a 25-year-old! And yet, somehow, I stuck it out back then. I'm thankful I did.
4. Food on the streets is so cheap! I like that. The ten dumplings cost a whopping $1.50. Yesterday, I bought bigger pork dumplings (baudze), which were just 35c apiece. A cup of soy milk (great with breakfast) is about 30c. As a single person, it really is cheaper to buy food at the small vendors rather than cook at home. Seriously.
5. There was a Buddhist monk/nun in the seat behind me on the bus. Their loose outfits (I don't think they'd call them habits, they're gray and white outfits with brown bags) and their shaved heads make it virtually impossible to distinguish the sex of the person. I wished I could visit with him/her, to learn more about what they do etc, but it wasn't possible.
OK, not having gotten 10 servings of sleep, I still feel like I could sleep for 10 full hours tonight, though! I rented a DVD on my way home. Made of Honor. Something light. I don't think I'll make it through the movie before I'm asleep...
I promise I'll try my best to upload photos tomorrow. I don't have the energy to do so right now.