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Taiwan (Part 2)

On January 30th, Dave took me to Longjin on his scooter. Longjin is the legendary location of video game company ITG Soft. The town also has a second-hand store. These stores are good places to find old video games. Dave drove us back on Xitun (Shē tūn) road which was a different way to get back to Taichung that I wasn’t aware of. Along the way I discovered another KLG, which is a Taiwanese restaurant similar to KFC that sells fried chicken. The original location, was in Qingshui (Ching shwā), where my brother used to live. We also stopped at a stationary store. In Taiwan stationary stores are one of the prime locations for finding packages of balloons. This particular store happened not to have any balloons though. Dave also showed me the coffee shop where he and a colleague would meet to work on their other project, Ni Hao (Nē How) Snacks.

We played video games late into the evening, only this time on a bigger television. This made the games easier to play. We played the Dr. Mario platformer. While playing the game, I came to an interesting conclusion. In Dr. Mario, Mario is a doctor and is prescribing pills to destroy viruses. There’s a problem with this though! Medication doesn’t destroy viruses, it only kills bacteria. Fail! Dave thought my observation was funny.

The next day we were invited to lunch by Angel, one of our friends who works in Taichung where David lives. She drove us to McDonalds. As we entered, a young boy approached Dad and excitedly, in English, asked him if he was an American. They chatted for a few minutes. Before we went upstairs to eat, Dad stopped at the table where the child was eating with his dad and two sisters. Dad said, “Glad to meet you.” The two young girls also responded with, “Glad to meet you.”

Upstairs, while we were eating, I found out that Angel’s favorite fast food restaurant is actually Burger King, and she thought that we should try one in Taichung.

On another note, Dad had been on a routine of going to the Family Mart every morning and buying the Taipei Times which is a newspaper written in English. In that day’s issue, there was an article about a comet which would be flying close to Earth on Wednesday. Dad still reads Taipei Times for free on-line at home.

In the afternoon, Dave took me on another scooter ride. We stopped at a Stationary store in Shalu. They had many bags of balloons. Some were regular sized, while some were what I call “small rounds.” They also had twisting balloons, Happy Birthday print balloons, and heart print balloons, appropriate for Valentine’s Day. In addition, they sold punch ball balloons. If you’re one of my regular readers, you know how I love balloons!

From this store we went through the countryside and into Daya (Dŏ ya). In the countryside, we saw sweet potato fields, as well as an old fuel tank used for military planes landing in Taiwan during the Vietnam War.

That evening my family went to Ikea. We had supper in the food court where I had Swedish meatballs. We looked for birthday gifts for Dave (items to improve his apartment), but had no luck. On the way back, we passed through a park where they sometimes have lanterns. This park was by the Taichung MRT station. The MRT is the metro rapid transit. When I first visited Dave in Taiwan, Taichung didn’t have an MRT station. Sometime in the last three years they constructed one! Taipei on the other hand, has had an MRT the entire time Dave’s been in Taiwan. These stations are very convenient.

It was the first day of February! We had lunch at Super Noodle. The owner at this restaurant must be into Star Wars or something. The slogan is, “Let the noodle be with you.” The inside of the restaurant is space themed. In this restaurant food is ordered and paid for using a kiosk. Then it is served to you at your table.

We made another stop during Dave’s long lunch break. We stopped at a coffee shop across from his apartment. The owners had an adorable dog, Qui-Qui which was dressed up and super friendly. Dave had a Golden Mamba Coffee, while Mom had a hot chocolate. I had a lemon black tea. The shop also had a delicious lemon dessert as well as pound cake. The shop was clean, pretty, had great food, special Japanese syphoned-coffee, free Wi-Fi, nice owners, and a young toy poodle. Plus, it was directly across the street from Dave’s apartment!

That evening Dave taught me how to make skewers for supper from fish, peppers, fresh pineapple and other various items. After we’d eaten, and everything was cleaned up, we took a walk around Taichung. There was a store which was similar to a grocery store on the bottom level, but had a variety of wares on the top floor. They had a wide variety of balloons. In the toy section, they had plastic Poké-balls, each with its own Pokémon. We each decided to buy a Poké-ball to take back with us and open at the Mali’s Cash Bar. During the walk, I also got to see the cram school where Dave works, Vigor.

February 2nd, is Dave’s birthday! He picked Donio Spanish Grill Steak Restaurant for his birthday meal. This is an upscale establishment. They, had single meals and two and four person share meals. Dave and I and Mom and Dad each got a two person share meal. At the end of the meal, they brought out a little birthday cake, and we all sang Happy Birthday! Afterwards we went to Costco. The Costco in Taichung has two floors. On the bottom was their café. The top floor contained their merchandise. The cart rides with the customer on the escalator. We called for a taxi from The Seven to take us home with our purchases.

Thursday was a busy day! While Dave was at work, I stayed with his cat Richard, while Mom and Dad walked to Carrefour and finally found the presents, they wanted for Dave. My parents first had lunch at the Coffee shop with Qui-Qui. They asked how to get to Carrefour. Though they got directions, they were advised against walking there since it was too far! In reality it wasn’t. In Taiwan culture, people don’t like walking any distance. They walked all the way back, carrying an Electrolux upright vacuum and a clothes hamper. Dave seemed really pleased. They laughed at how silly they probably looked carrying everything back, but it was easy to do.

That evening we went to the Night Market. Our friend Angel invited us to go to the night market with her for supper. We had steak and noodles. She also had us play a ring tossing carnival game. If the ring landed around an item, the person won a prize. None of us won anything, but this is the first time that I can remember playing a carnival game! I also enjoyed a few fireworks that were put off at the night market. Mom was looking for fried chicken. The market didn’t seem to have any, though she found a stand serving sweet potatoes that she enjoyed.

Later that evening, Dave and I took a walk around Taichung going to various stores looking for components for Ni Hao Snacks boxes. We primarily went to such stores as Family Mart, 7 Eleven, and Show Bah. Even with going to as many stores as we did, Dave still had to stop by a store that was closed that evening, over his lunch hour the next day to pick up an item. It amazed me all the time and effort that goes into collecting items for the snack boxes that they sell. I didn’t realize that he had to go all over the place to find the items.

On Saturday was a major event of a different kind! Dave had to work a “make up” day from Chinese New Year. In Taiwan, people will often be required to make up days that they have off for vacation. Saturday was this day. In the morning, I discovered there was a leak in our inflatable bed. It wasn’t firm anymore, and any time Dave moved, it would push me to the side. Once when Dave got up, his weight caused the bed to push my feet up into the air. The leak never was found, but a temporary solution was put in place on Monday. Dave ended up sleeping on the comfy couch (to put less weight on the bed,) and I would blow the bed back up once in the middle of the night.

We met a different friend of Dave’s, Mr. Stamp, at 8:00 AM to go on a hike on Sunday. We went to the mountains and hiked part way up a trail to look for wild monkeys. Unfortunately, we didn’t see any, but it was a nice scenic route. There were also two temples at the bottom of a steep set of steps. One of the temples was a Buddhist temple. From the hiking trail, we went to a Macaque Education Exhibition Hall in Ershui (Are-shwā). Though we were able to read about various monkeys, we didn’t see any real monkeys at the hall either.

We stopped at Mr. Stamp’s house for lunch. Mrs. Stamp had made dumplings, pumpkin soup, and chia soup (a dessert called Frog Egg Soup.) They also offered jujubes! (a green fruit similar to apples), peanuts in the shells, and candies. We saw that Mr. and Mrs. Stamp grow their plants on the top deck of their house, where we ate lunch. We stopped at two other places on the way back to David’s. One was a temple that had a coffee tree, and a mango tree on its premises. The second location was a park with a large white house which is used as a theater. In the park people were sitting in the grass, flying kites and blowing bubbles with wands.

Dave’s refrigerator broke that evening. I remember it was time for Dad and Dave to make supper, and they discovered the refrigerator wasn’t cold anymore. Dave lost meat and shrimp we had bought at Costco, but it was worth it because the landlord, bought him a brand-new nice-looking refrigerator. The old one was in bad shape, and constantly made noises prior to this problem. The door wouldn’t stay shut either.

On February 7th, we met with Dave’s British co-worker/friend for lunch at a Japanese restaurant. Again, meals at this restaurant were sold as sets. The major topic of discussion was Ni Hao Snacks.

In the evening we walked a long way to Taichung’s Lantern festival. It was held in a park. Since the new year was the Year of the Rabbit, many of the lanterns at the festival were shaped like rabbits. They had light-up Bobo balloons. Some had pictures of Pokémon on them. Others were simply clear. All had colored lights inside. One child had a balloon with all green lights. Another stand was selling LED bunny ears. Dad bought Mom a pair of bunny ears to wear. There were images of rabbits flashing across the lit-up water, and a show featuring an image of a rabbit in the sky. On our way out, we stopped and got some refreshing ice cream. We were exhausted and took a taxi back to Dave’s.

Dad and Mom wanted to help Dave out. We were at the apartment during the day while Dave was working. Dave was tired when he came back, and generally we wanted to do stuff. Two major things we did to help was do the laundry and take out the garbage. For doing the laundry we went to the laundromat across the street from the apartment. It had a variety of washers and dryers. Clothes, including Dave’s, were washed and dried while Dave was working. Dave actually has a washing machine, but it’s old and doesn’t work that well. As for a dryer, he doesn’t have one of them. In fact, in Taiwan it seems people don’t have dryers. It’s normally hot, and people hang their wet clothes to dry.

Taking out the garbage was a unique task. In Taiwan, they make heavy use of recycling. Unlike in the United States, the recycling people require everything sorted out. There is a separate can for paper goods, metal cans, and plastic bottles. Everything must be torn apart, and put in the correct can. Some items seem ambiguous as to where they are discarded. Besides recycling there’s also normal garbage as well. I suppose people who use the system regularly get used to it.

Taking the bags out is something else. The garbage truck and recycling truck come to the area most days. How do you know when they come? Each truck plays a different tune of classical music that gets louder as the truck approaches. So, when we heard the tune start to play, Dad and I rushed down the four flights of steps, and out to the corner to get rid of Dave’s trash. They made sure we did it right. If it isn’t sorted correctly, they give a harsh schooling.

The next day I finally got to eat at “Stupid Noodles.” I had heard about them for many years, but never had the opportunity to have them. I thought they were spicy. We went with Angel, who had taken us to McDonalds previously. I also had some cold tea from a tea shop as well as Lemon-Lime pie from Rose Pies. In the evening, Dave and I had supper on our own at a restaurant called Robbers. We then hung out with a graduate student friend of Dave’s, who had just returned from an Eastern Asia tour involving stops such as Cambodia and Laos.

The next evening, we ate supper at a great Turkish restaurant very close to Dave’s place. While at the restaurant, we held a meeting concerning the Poo Panties stories, of which my dad and I are authors. The meeting lasted through supper and continued back at the apartment. We received some useful advice about how to improve the process of getting the books illustrated, as well as making the books more well known. Also, we stopped at a bakery to buy pineapple cakes and sun cakes to take home with us.

On our last day before heading back, we had lunch at the shop famous for their bubble milk tea. This restaurant is where the concept of bubble milk tea was created. We also stopped at a stationary store that had a cute cat. This store didn’t have any balloons.

That evening we met up with the Wangs for one last time. We went to Mao King, which is an upscale restaurant based on Elvis Presley. They played quiet old music, though none of it was Elvis. The women ordered us many courses of food to eat.

On February 11th, it was finally time to go home. We headed to Xin Wuri (Shin ūj ra) station to pick up the high-speed rail. Surprisingly, the trip back to the states went a lot smoother than the trip to Taiwan. The plane took off on time, in fact we arrived early to our destination! I remembered to stow my luggage for take off and landing which allowed me to put it all in the same compartment this time. I also remembered how to make my seat recline flat.

Once we reached NYC about 9:00 PM, we spent the night in the Radisson Hotel, so Dad would be well rested for the drive home. It was also required that to use a Park and Fly, the person books one night at the hotel. One major surprise came on February 12th. Dad woke up early sometime between 5AM and 6AM, but closer to 5. We all woke up early, got up, and prepared to leave. Around 6:30 AM we reached the lobby. Surprise! It was jumping! There were a lot of people from a bus either entering the hotel or leaving the hotel. Who would have expected all those people so early in the morning? What leaving early did do, was get us out of New York City before all the traffic started, which was useful for Dad. We arrived back home around 11:15 AM. We would never have planned to do this after a long flight because you never know how you’ll feel. By the way, we got our thirteen hours back! Plus coming home takes about two hours less, due to tailwinds.

Our latest installment in visiting Dave in Taiwan was a whirlwind of a trip. It was relatively short, and the time was used up fast. We did a little of a lot of things. What it seemed we did mostly was eat ( look back at the blog, and you’ll see what I mean!) The most important thing was that we got to spend time with Dave. Before this trip, we hadn’t seen him since the beginning of February 2020, almost three years!

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