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Published: June 19th 2008
Lao-puo and Yvonne
Yvonne is a most entertaining dinner companion. We had a blast.
Returning teachers are entitled to select the location of their next assignment in Taiwan and (if we were staying) I would be ready to move on to somewhere else. I had to write on the request form that I would not be returning, and the options read like a travel guide:
1. Taipei (City or County)
2. Taichung (City or County)
3. Tainan (City or County)
4. Taitung (City or County)
5. Yilan (City or County)
6. Kaohsiung (City or County)
7. Taiwan Strait islands (Penghu, Kinmen, Matsu)
8. Nantou County
9. Miaoli County
I felt as if I was signing a divorce paper or a surrender document when I picked up the pen—such was the sense of loss after a total of four wonderful years here. Anyway, it’s done. I’m off the market.
It will be as smooth as silk to get the two dogs from Taipei to Vancouver on EVA Airlines—all we need is a big kennel the right size, and veterinary certifications all signed and chopped. On the strength of that, Lao-puo booked Air Canada Jazz from YVR to Cassidy for us. When she tried to book the dogs the next day…oh no no…not on
Hamming It Up for the Camera.
People do love their digital cameras over here.
your life! Air Canada Jazz doesn’t take dogs during the summer because the planes are too full—and our tickets are not refundable. We have to use them up another time, within a year. So now she had to find a pet-friendly hotel in Richmond (ching ching), a car rental with a drop charge (ching ching), plus we have to pay for the ferry (ching ching). The only bright side is that EVA partners with Air Canada, so we get Aeroplan miles for booking with them. Not that we will be ever be able to go anywhere, after all the ching chings I just talked about.
"Weather is here, wish you were beautiful". I have to say that, because the weather has not been good at all. There has been a lot of cool and windy weather, and rain like a fire hose. A typhoon swirled about, well out to sea, before heading for Japan, and brought a lot of rain to us. Now, the weather has cleared—and there is no more glorious place of God’s Earth than the East Rift Valley on a nice day. The rice and taro crops are nearly ready for harvest again. The trucks loaded with vegetables roll out of the market gardens, and the fish and prawns get scooped out of the inland fish farms. I often taunt my mother with pictures of bulging platters and groaning banquet tables, and crammed food markets with mountains of delectable produce and fruit and meat and fish, and ask her, “What’s with the “go pi” you used to give us children, about starving kids in China, when you were trying to unload parsnips or liver or some other Geneva-Convention-violation of a supper on to us?”
It’s the time of year for cicada beetles again—there must be millions of them in the trees judging by the racket they make, yet we never see them. The rivers and ditches are swollen from the rains, but there is no danger of bank-jumping because erosion and flood control around here is engineered to a once-in-a-millennium worst case scenario. The temperature, for the moment a pleasant high twenties, will be well into the thirties by the time we go home. Even at night. Remedy Number 1 is a spin on the motorbike for nature’s air-cooling, and Remedy Number 2 is the recently-filled swimming pool in our building. Most pools are shallow over here, by the way, because relatively few people can swim. It seems astonishing for island folk not to swim, but there is an explanation. There are very few places in Taiwan where it’s safe to swim at the ocean beaches, because of the wicked currents. Remedy Number 3 is to crank up the aircon, but that’s expensive. Remedy Number 4 is “bing de pi jo” (cold beer), but that entails the use of the “c” word (calories).
I’ve been fighting a losing battle all year, trying to get kids to wear helmets on their bicycles. It’s no big deal, to throw in avoidable head injuries with nouns and verbs and vocabulary drills. I’ve used humour (calling them “brain buckets”), subtlety (Hey you! Fool! Get that helmet on!), and everything else I can think of. To no avail. Helmets just aren’t in the culture. Well, last week someone (not a student) got knocked off her bike at Guangfu Lu and Jung Hua Lu. It wasn’t a fatality (head lacerations bleed like billy-be-damned) but there was enough blood on the pavement and enough tears from the sobbing driver to make an impact that I had heretofore been unable to manage.
Now that was a memorable dinner! Yvonne (the friendly train attendant) took us to a really nice little place last Saturday night, and up the mountainside for a beautiful cityscape view afterwards. Her English is on a par with Lao-puo’s Chinese, and they managed just fine. My Chinese makes me sound like I’ve been riding a bicycle without a helmet, so I prudently remained silent and concentrated on my wonderful supper. I loved the T-shirt Yvonne was wearing - a heart and a teddy bear and the slogan “blow wive up” repeated inside the heart. I guess it means “wife” but I can only guess whether the “blow up” bit refers to explosives or an air pump. Either one will rattle the cages of the feminists and the “snags” (sensitive new age guys), and this is a good thing.
A Japanese university has offered me a three month teaching position starting in September, and it will be renewable. They pay air fare (unheard of for a three month gig) and housing—and millions a month. I have a yen to go, and it was Nippon tuck whether I’d accept. I can’t. My parents are too old, and it just wouldn’t be right to stiff Lao-puo with looking after them while I’m gone. I have a few offers in PR China, and I could stay with the Ministry of Education if I wanted. A Christian organization wants Lao-puo and I to start and run a school for underprivileged Aboriginal kids in Nantou County—it’s lovely up in the mountains.
But I have to be close to home. It’s funny, for the longest time living in Asia was a magic carpet ride, with everything so foreign and exotic and interesting. Now, the routine of my daily life seems ordinary—or at least interesting yet comfortable. My friends warn me to expect “sticker shock” at the price of everything back home.
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