So today was Chinese Valentines Day. We had a good time giving out little chocolates in baskets to all the hotel staff. They were called “little cuties” in the department store next door. Everyone is very busy, the hotel here in Hsinchu is selling out every night, our pal Helen, the housekeeper, can’t stop for more than a few minutes to say hello. We also went swimming in the hotel pool today. Vince’s diaper swelled up into a cantelope-sized package. Went out to dinner with ManFai to a vegetarian restaurant, they had stinky bean curd which made the whole place a bit smelly

Trains in taiwan


So today we went to Keelung (which is really pronounced Gee-lung). “We” meaning Katherine, Vince and me. We took the really, really slow train up from Hsinchu, through Taipei and finally to Geelung. We left at 9:40 am and got there at 12:20 pm. There we met two nice women, one who won a fellowship to travel to the US and that’s how Katherine met her and the other is a freelance arts manager who can speak excellent English and could do some translation for us. We quickly had lunch from a fast-food joint because we were running a bit behind schedule. I had a pita filled with cheese, broccoli and chicken and we listened to Katherine’s friend give a lecture to 100 junior high school students at the Oceanic University located in the city. The students were pretty bored, she had to bribe them with little gifts to get them to answer questions about marine life around Taiwan. Then came the fun part! We all loaded onto buses to go to the dock (all 103 of us) and got into boats which took us to a beautiful island in the bay of Keelung. We walked around the island a little bit, the sun was so bright and beautiful, it was fabulous! The weather was so nice and the air and water so clean, Keelung has become my favorite Taiwan city. There was a little cave in the island that had been turned into a makeshift temple; full of figures, inscense, candles and offerings. Afterwards, we headed back to Keelung on the boats and on the way back, the wind was very strong, all the junior high school kids loved it! All along the handrails, the kids leaned into the wind and tried to get wet from the waves. Then we had a late afternoon snack with our hosts at a hotel overlooking the harbor and started on the long trip back to Hsinchu on a bus. Vince was great today, very happy. He even sat in a high chair for dinner. Here is a picture of him taking a bath!

Katherine in Taiwan

Today Katherine, Vince and I took a bus into Taipei, very quick and easy. We got to Taipei at about 11 and took a cab to the Sunshine kitchen, where we met a grant recipient that Katherine had met in New York. We had a wonderful lunch of noodles. I was expecting a tour of their facilities and perhaps the people they were serving (the elderly, the unemployed, etc…), but instead we got a wonderful tour of Nei-hu, a suburb of Taipei in a rented bus with the whole staff of Sunshine Kitchen. It is quite calm compared to downtown Hsinchu, full of Home Depot-type stores and Costos. We saw a bunch of streams and walking trails that they are renovating. We also went to the hilltop villa of a writer who had written a rather large picture book on the history of Nei-hu. His house had a little tea shop on the top and we sat around and drank wonderful aromatic tea and had him autograph a copy of the book. The air and the scenery from his villa was wonderfully. Taiwan is really quite beautiful once you lift the layer of pollution which drapes many of the major cities. On the way home, we took the Flying Dog bus company, Vince was very unhappy about the whole situation. a little boy’s mother saw how much we had been struggling with the V-man, that she handed back a McDonald’s toy to try and calm him down. It didn’t work too well.

Holland Village – home

Well now a week has passed, and with it our housing plan has changed again. I hope this week is the first that does not bring another revision in our housing plan. The crazy landlord discussed above apparently got herself so worked up thinking about boorish folks like up mucking up her apartment that the deal fell apart completely. First she discussed adding a restriction that no pets be allowed. The realtor reminded her that bringing pets had always been part of the deal. Then she decided it was all right for us to have pets, provided that we took them out of the apartment whenever we left, suggesting we bring them down to the guard shack to keep an eye on them when we were not home. Of course, this is absurd, and when the realtor told us what was going on, we decided we had certainly had enough of this crazy lady, no matter how pretty her apartment is. So that arrangement was canceled, and we went back to house hunting the same afternoon. They found two more units in the same Holland Village complex. One of them was just fine, with 4 bedrooms, standard issue white tile floors, and our choice of furniture. We chose one of them ,picked some furniture out of a catalog, and will be able to move in about 10 days from then, between the 8th and 10th of August. This will leave us all a little cozy in our hotel when Mother shows up, but that will be fine. I just hope that this arrangement doesn’t fall through as well. Apparently the landlord of this unit said that pets were fine. In fact, they said that we could raise chickens or anything else we wanted, with the exception of elephants. So I think this is an promising starting point, and I hope our hunt is finally over

Crazy landlord

Well now a week has passed, and with it our housing plan has changed again. I hope this week is the first that does not bring another revision in our housing plan. The crazy landlord discussed above apparently got herself so worked up thinking about boorish folks like up mucking up her apartment that the deal fell apart completely. First she discussed adding a restriction that no pets be allowed. The realtor reminded her that bringing pets had always been part of the deal. Then she decided it was all right for us to have pets, provided that we took them out of the apartment whenever we left, suggesting we bring them down to the guard shack to keep an eye on them when we were not home. Of course, this is absurd, and when the realtor told us what was going on, we decided we had certainly had enough of this crazy lady, no matter how pretty her apartment is. So that arrangement was canceled, and we went back to house hunting the same afternoon. They found two more units in the same Holland Village complex. One of them was just fine, with 4 bedrooms, standard issue white tile floors, and our choice of furniture. We chose one of them ,picked some furniture out of a catalog, and will be able to move in about 10 days from then, between the 8th and 10th of August. This will leave us all a little cozy in our hotel when Mother shows up, but that will be fine. I just hope that this arrangement doesn’t fall through as well. Apparently the landlord of this unit said that pets were fine. In fact, they said that we could raise chickens or anything else we wanted, with the exception of elephants. So I think this is an promising starting point, and I hope our hunt is finally over

First impressions of Taiwan

Vincent really loves Taiwan. He is like a movie star here. Everywhere we go we hear people saying, “hao ke ai, yan jing hen da”, and reaching out to touch him. I had him in the infant carrier on my chest as we left a crowded train, and many people reached out to grab his hand or touch his face as he passed. He loves it, and has learned to look for tables of young ladies to try to get their attention. At restaurants, he looks around, and when he catches someone’s eye, especially a lady, he gives them a big toothless grin trying to get their attention. We have been making the most of Vincent’s movie star glow. We have had several meals where the waitresses handed him around for the whole meal, leaving us to eat in relaxed peace. The realtor and the relocation consultant carry him whenever we are with them, and when Doris asked the concierge at the hotel to arrange some daycare, they said it was not necessary, and took care of him themselves. So he spent a couple hours in the lobby with the whole hotel staff. Now they rush up to greet him whenever he appears, and they even showed us some polaroid pictures they took with him while they were watching him. He is always ready with a toothless grin, and hasn’t the slightest shred of shyness. Perhaps we have another Ben on our hands. This week we spent a lot of time and anxiety looking for an apartment. We thought we had settled on one last week, but the landlord violated his oral agreement with our realtor and gave the place to someone else after we had planned to move in. So on Friday we went out again and looked at some new places and our first choice of the apartments we had seen previously. One of the new places was very nice, and in some respects the best we had seen. It was within walking distance of the train station, but on a quiet one-way alley. It is also near a nice quiet park, which runs about four or five blocks along a little creek. It is within a couple blocks of our hotel, so we have had a chance to walk around the park and go to some restaurants n the area. The park usually has some old men taking walks, and is fairly pleasant and quiet. So it was sort of the ideal spot by our original criteria. But in the mean time, our ideas have changed a bit. The main change is that we have reconsidered our plan to have Ruby join us in Taiwan. It is hard to imagine a very good life for her here. There are several things we are worried about. The first is that because of the pollution the prospect of taking her on long walks is not very attractive. We are also worried that her Texas hospitality will not go over well here in Taiwan. We have seen some dogs around that are her size, but they do not approach people to say hello, and we are worried that Ruby will have some trouble getting used to the greater emotional distance between humans and dogs here. The other place we saw, that we have settled on is in a sprawling complex called Holland Village. It has about 10 buildings of 25 stories or so each. The complex has a very nice pool and recreation complex, but at the moment they are all closed pending some sort of dispute with the management company or something. It is not clear if and when they will reopen. Our apartment will be on the 20th floor of one of buildings. It has a very good view, and is 46 ping (roughly1500 square feet). It has a nice master bedroom with a large closet dressing room attached (we will put Vincent’s crib in there). It also has a study with two large built in desks, and off the living room is a japanese style room (common here) that can closed off with class screens. We will use the Japanese room as a play room for Vincent which will double as the guest room. We are going to get rubber floor tiles with the bo po mo fo characters to pad the floor, and perhaps a bunk bed that we can reconfigure as side by side twins when we have guests. The landlord of this apartment is very proud of her apartment. It seems as though everything from the configuration of the rooms, to the appliances, floors and furniture is the result of a long and expensive process she led. She told us several times that her black leather couch cost 300,000 NT ($10,000), and likewise for the dining table, beds, etc. The apartment is for rent furnished, but she wants to take a few of the items with her to their new place (they are moving to the suburbs so that she can get a dog). So we made arrangements to go to a furniture and pick out some replacements that suited us, with the understanding that she would buy them. We found a couch with a cloth covering roughly yeager’s color and also picked out a very inexpensive bunk bed. After we chose them, we got another call saying that she had reviewed our selections, and rejected them as of insufficient quality/price. We agreed to meet the next day at the furniture store so that we could make some selections that would be mutually agreeable. When we got there, she informed us that she had looked around the store, and that there was nothing in the store that was acceptable to her. She proposed instead that she would choose the replacements and let us review them, and for this she needed at least a week (she would have preferred a month). So that is the arrangement we have now. She is supposed to have everything completed by Tuesday the 6th of August, so it looks like Mother will be around to help us move in. I am sure her selections for the bed and couch will be fine. Somehow I doubt that we can agree upon a bunk bed, but as this only costs $US 70, I think we can just tell her to forget and go buy it ourselves.