So today was a really nice day 🙂 We started out by heading east, not knowing exactly where we were going. We ended up driving up and up into the mountains to this place called Five Finger Mountain. At this mountain was a playground for kids which was pretty cool. They had a balancing obstacle where Jeremy walked “across a river” on these two long poles with footholds which were suspended from two logs by metal rods. It’s kind of hard to explain, but he had an audience of appreciative Taiwanese to applaude for him when he was done. There was also a pully cart where kids could sit on a cart on train tracks and pull on a rope and haul themselves across a distance. There was also a seat which was suspended about 20 feet in the air with pulleys so that you could slide across for about 40 feet. But you needed a friend to help pull you back. Also the weather was perfect, it really matched my mood today. It was overcast, so when you looked up at the peaks, they were shrouded in fog. We had a lunch of noodles, chicken and green veggies at a small eatery near the mountain. I gave some of the chicken to a mangey puppy and his mommy who were hanging out at the outdoor cafe. Then we went to the Ambassador hotel and saw all of Vince’s friends. It’s been a long time since we’ve seen them, you could tell that Vince couldn’t really remember it that well anymore. Anyways we ran into Linda, the housekeeper and next week we are going to her house to learn how to cook some food! That’ll be great! We went shopping for an outfit for Vince, more than 75% off, then we headed back home. Took a break and went out for buns… then played in the ball room a bit. Rented some movies which turned out not to have English subtitles (Shaolin Soccer…) Oh well. Had a great day!

Tonight, Johannas, Man-Fai and King-sang and us went to dinner in ChuBei. We went into a pretty popular place with a cute duck on the name plate. We figured they must serve some delicious duck. Turns out they serve some weird concoction with herbal medicine in it which made the duck tough and really ditasteful. Ugh! We also had white asparagus with weird lime green sauce on it. This place has over 200 branches in Taiwan and we will *never* go there again. Blechy!

So today I wore my new low riding jeans. Pretty cool. They almost show my butt crack when I need to take out the trash 🙂 We went out to eat at a nice restaurant around the corner. Had the fried shrimp/mayo/pineapple dish. Yummier than it sounds.

Today Vincie and I spent some time in the plastic ball room of our apartment complex. Vince kept putting one ball after another in his mouth. It was all I could do to keep up with wiping them off. There were about 5 other boys in the jungle gym area all running and screaming their heads off. They all made rules about the different color balls, one was a bomb, the other needed to be thrown, etc. Vince loved it! We also saw Helen and Ms. Liu. This evening, we tried out a place across the street which is pretty much cook your own kebabs, it was OK, not terribly exciting. Then we went to Hang Ten and bought me some low rider jeans. All my old pants are too big now, but I’m still a size L in Taiwan! Hee hee

I’m slowing giving up on the notion that I have to introduce one food a day to Vince. Today he had, cheddar cheese, seaweed, buttered bread and apples. All in very small amounts. Ms. Liu fed him the dried seaweed. I was impressed, bit by bit he ate the whole 5-piece package all up!

So it turns out that they want me to teach English from 3-4 pm on Mondays. That’s when their shift changes and when most of the people can stay late or come early. It’s a bit of a time hassle for me and also I think the 10 people will be hard to teach because they are all at different levels. Jeremy is still encouraging me to do it, but I’m hesitating. Also, I drove to downtown today. Quite an adventure for me. I also drove to the port to get some salmon-type fish for dinner tonight. I wanted to make salmon and salsa, but the avacado I got was terrible.

We went to Tainan this weekend. It was quite a nice city. We drove down on Saturday in the late morning. We kept Vince awake until we got on the road, so he slept for the first 90 minutes or so. Of course, when he woke up, he wanted out of his car seat pretty badly. We stopped at the next exit and found a McDonalds. Officially he is not allowed in the playscape, but I pretend I can not read the signs, and no one bothers explaining the rules to a dumb wai guo ren. I can’t be expected to understand. He has a lot of fun watching the other kids and crawling around. Once he is antsy, nothing but crawling will make him feel better, and so far McDonalds is the most reliable source of rooms full of kids with padded floors and walls.

After lunch we got back on the road and persuaded him to go back to sleep for most of the trip. The last half hour required repeatedly playing and singing Bad Bad Leroy Brown by Jim Croce to keep him from screaming non stop. This is a tip I got from my Uncle Andy, and it definitely comes in handy.

When we got to Tainan, we explored the down town area. We checked out the caves book store, which is bigger than the one I have been to in Taipei, and has a whole floor of English books, which is far and away the biggest collection I have seen in Taiwan. It also has Starbucks, several huge department stores, and lots of attractive Chinese and western restaurants, including one with the name FOZO that had a fancy glass mural with the inscription “No cream No sugar / I drink my coffee black / Surrendering to its authority, I let the coffee pervade all my senses / I swallow the coffee and the coffee swallows me.” We checked into the Tainan Hotel, in the center of downtown in front of the train station, and after letting Vince crawl a bit more in the hotel room, we hit the streets again. We visited a couple parks, and then looked for a restaurant that had an intriguing description in our Lonely Planet guide book. After walking a few blocks down a street of pachinko parlors and arcades, we found the “DongMen Art Gallery,” which is in an old restored traditional Chinese house, with the front rooms used as an art gallery of attractive modern art, and the courtyard and side rooms housing a restaurant and cafe. We had a very nice meal there, before heading back to our hotel.

We should have called it a night at that point, but since it was not late, we headed off to one of the night markets of Tainan. However, our enthusiasm was flagging and since we were neither hungry, nor in need of a new mobile phone case or cover, there was not much for us to do. One amusing moment when I was wondering what to do with the 12 inch high soft serve ice cream I had ordered but no longer wanted. I couldn’t find a trash can, and asked Doris if she would help me keep up with the drips before I was covered. She had the idea that by holding it upside down, all the drips would fall to the ground, which they did, along with all the ice cream. The cone was a much smaller mess without the ice cream, so the mission was accomplished. We walked away from the pile of ice cream, as actually the ground seemed to be the trashcan of choice for pretty much all of the assembled masses.

In the morning, we walked through the National Chengwung University and through some other parks and neighborhoods. The university campus had a very pleasant atmosphere, especially on a large open field of Banyan trees, where we saw groups of children practicing martial arts with swords decorated with colored ribbons. We looked in on the Zhongshan park, and then drove around some other neighborhoods before heading for home. The trip back was uneventful, with remarkably little traffic, and very little noise from Vince who slept most of the way, without once hearing Jim Croce. All in all a very nice weekend.