Taiwan day four10 Mar 2023 | Adoption
We pushed too hard. If it were just me, I would probably backpack between the cities and see all the top 50 recommended destinations and experiences, but with two kids and a spouse, there are more important priorities. Writing this on the 14th makes me want to skip all these memories and share what it’s like with four kids, but I know the memories gathered in the 6 days leading up to the adoption day matter. After the beach day, we needed a lower-key day.
For the first time since arriving in Taiwan, we all slept through the night without getting up somewhere between 12 and 3! It’s one of those events that passes without notice and only later comes to someone’s conciseness.
We did the normal fruit & eggs breakfast followed by the tears and groans that can only be associated with homework assignments. The laundry was folded and distributed to the various zipper pouches scattered across the floor.
I didn’t want to buy and carry another 1.5 gallon water container, not only was it tedious, it felt wasteful. I wandered around the taiwanese internet for a bit until I found a page on the Taiwan gov site that indicated that they had an app that would identify all the free water refilling stations anywhere. I had to use Becca’s phone as a second screen to translate the login instructions, but I soon found a water refilling station in our local playground! I left with our empty 1.5 gallon and returned with it full in just a few minutes with free filtered water. If I lived here, I’d join in the gamification of the plastic savings to rack up points for something!
I worked on the previous blog post for a while as the older kids worked on writing assignments (felt appropriate) before heading out to once again search for eggs and explore.
From adjacent to our grocery store, I recognized Louisa coffee and purchased a hot mocha. After my initial order we reverted to broken english for confirmation. Yes, hot. While I was waiting for my coffee, I saw a guy on a moped drive by with a bright red parrot on his shoulder. I’m so sorry I didn’t get a picture, some things happen too fast to double check and believe your eyes before fumbling for a pocket supercomputer to procure proof. It was beautiful and confusing on multiple levels, and I suspect that was partly the driver’s motivation.
With a hot mocha in hand, I walked down the road toward the most egg-trusted of 7-Eleven’s. I was looking roadward when I almost ran into a young women. She was emerging from (what I thought) was underground parking, but when I glanced down into the darkness, I saw baskets of food neatly laid out and lit dimly. I paused.
Turning, I stepped down the steep ramp into the parking garage under a residential city block. My eyes quickly adjusted to the dimness, and I saw several market-like stores. This secret market had a fish stall, a land-meat stall, a noodle makery, a fruit stand, and a dumpling assembly line with hundreds of dumplings ready for the frier, steamer, or boiler. Interspersed between the stores were (as you may have forgotten) cars. Every 10m (for the Imperials, ~30 lengths of King Henry’s foot) a square of skylight illuminated my way. The skylight was like a vertical alleyway–just a taste of a balcony all the way up.
Circling around several blocks, I stopped in front of a store called Indo Family, and according to the sign, they sold Indonesian groceries. I’m fairly certain I hadn’t seen an Indonesian store since I was in Malaysia, and maybe not even then! I walked in and just perused the two isles. In what I assumed was a vein attempt, I asked if they had my favorite kind of chip (“keripik singkong” in indonesian). The lady at the counter looked very surprised that this white guy in Taipei spoke Indonesian, and she walked over to the only blank space on the shelf and informed me that it just ran out. However unfortunate, I purchased some krupuk (delicious shrimp-styrofoam-like chips?) and kuih dahlia (delicious buttery-chalk-like danish biscuits?). I never claimed to be a food blogger. These things are both delicious things from my childhood, and my family can’t possibly taste my childhood in every bite.
We had lunch at a nearby restaurant that was quickly becoming a favorite (Good Morning), and played at the park.
In the absence of touristy things to do, I revert to missionary kid things to do. We took the metro to Grace Christian Academy. I wouldn’t say there was a rivalry, but there’s a kind of fame between international boarding schools. I only knew of a few “famous” ones, and Grace was one of them (so was Morrison Academy, but it was harder to get to on the metro). It’s like, if you went to Hogwarts, you know about Beauxbatons and Durmstrang, and you wonder if the shenanigans are similar. Why aren’t any of the books about a completely different kid who’s not so special at Durmstrang? Why’s everything about that Harry kid and his friends? But I digress.
The visit was cut short because, they have a similar virology limitation to our adoption agency. They were very nice, but I’m glad I grew up on a beach with a spread-out campus instead of in a large building in downtown Taipei.
By recommendation, we went to the nearby Nangang Park. It contained a lot of open grass, trees, water, wildlife, and some impressive playgrounds. One of the playgrounds had a zipline! Unfortunately, I was over the weight limit (I’m not a child), but Than and Jack had a blast on it until they started fighting over it.
We were further from the metro than ever before (16 min walk) so we took an Uber home. The kids played pokemon games while I played Hogwarts Legacy. It felt appropriate to the day’s events.
In the evening we went to a night market (not the biggest, but the closest available on short notice). We wandered up and down the street wondering what we could order that Jack would eat. We ended up finding a stall that specialized in fried chicken. While we waited, we chatted with a family visiting from California. They brought their new baby to visit their great-grandmother. Their mom ordered for them and shook her head at their loss of language and culture. Fortunately, she helped us order chicken nuggets for our kids too.
We found a place to eat that was either a public eating area or an area provided by a specific juice vendor. I ventured over to order. Yes, another awkward Robert-tries-to-communicate moment! I walked up and immediately I can see in the poor man’s eyes that he knows this is going to be hard. He only sold juice, juice is all I wanted, but we both knew it would be a struggle to get there. I started with pointing at the sign outside (idiot move), “一個” (one count of whatever I was pointing at).
I was pointing at a strawberry drink. He apologetically both shook and hung his head. They were out of strawberry. He graciously waved me deeper in his establishment an gestured at another wall of fruit drink options. I saw a good second and said, “兩個芒果” (two mangos), and then I saw a dragon fruit in the display case next to me, “和一個” (and one of the thing I’m pointing at). I mentally registered that I saw multiple cups full of strawberries in the display case, but I was in too deep to remove items from the list. After ordering the drinks, he collected the fruit and paused. He seemed afraid to throw off the whole deal. He said what sounded like, “meal?” It took me a second before I responded, “好牛奶” (good milk). He looked very relieved to have not destroyed our tenuous agreement and made the drinks. The simplest part of the conversation was the payment: he held up a calculator with the amount due, and I paid. At least math is math.
The drinks were delicious, and the fried chicken was probably the best fried chicken I’ve ever tasted. I don’t know why that guy isn’t in charge of every place allowed to dunk chicken in hot oil. If he was, the world would be a better place. Becca went back and ordered seconds, even without the Californian’s mom.
Walking home after dark, I considered how safe I felt. We were walking past dark alleyways after dark with young children and American faces with no fear or hesitation. I saw young women jogging with headphone on and old ladies with groceries. That’s the sign that a society is doing right–when people feel safe even in the dark.
Becca didn’t feel the same way at first, but I think she felt better after I philosophized about the nature of governance and just society for a while. I felt better, and we all slept well that night.