I’m going to spare everyone the details of the flight. It was long and uncomfortable, but uneventful. I’ve always found that uneventful plane rides are the best kind. I will, however, recommend Malaysia Airlines. Great service, good food, and personal TVs in every seatback.
After we landed, Jen’s oldest uncle (A Bei — spelling, not so much. Just pronounce it like that.) took Jen, Chris and I to the hospital so we can pay our respects to Jen’s dad. It’s a Buddhist hospital, and they had everything set up to deal with these situations within the protocols of the faith, which is just great. It’s also the nicest hospital I have ever seen, which is really nice for the family and everyone. After that, we went to the place where they will keep his ashes. His brother had purchased a family section several years ago when the place was built, and theirs is the most desirable of the “resting places”. I know there’s a real word for it, but I don’t know what it is. The grounds of the mausoleum / temple are really peaceful and beautiful. It is high up in the hills and surrounded by nature.
After we left there, we went to get lunch at a hot pot place (cook the food in boiling broth on your table) and then went to the apartment were we are staying with A Bei, A Um (his wife — again, not sure on the spelling), and Jen’s mom in Hsinchu, a large city about 40 miles outside of Taipei. Imagine O’Fallon with skyscrapers, industry and 400,000 people. The apartment where we are staying is very large, at least compared to my mental images before we came, and despite some things with the bathrooms that westerners are not used to (more on that later), it is very comfortable, and we are grateful to have such nice accommodations. A Bei owns this apartment, and one in Taipei as well. He and A Um usually stay in Taipei, but with all of us in town they are staying in Hsinchu and have been great hosts. Once we got to the apartment, we decided to shower and take a nap, as it had been 24 hours of travel and a lot of emotional stress all coming to a head. 4 hours later, Jen’s mom woke us up, and they had dinner ready. It was delicious. All the meals here have been. After that, we were lounging around and A Um (who had gone for a walk) called up to the apartment and let us know that they were shooting a commercial in front of the giant mall across the street. Sure enough, we went downstairs and watched a fabricated scenario where a bunch of hipster teenagers leave the mall and almost get run over by a girl on a moped. Sidebar: mopeds — THEY’RE EVERYWHERE! Anyway, we went and walked around the mall before going back home and to bed. Of course, we woke up at 3 am.
The next morning we went to a Buddhist prayer service for Jen’s father. It was almost two hours of a rhythmic reading out of a prayer book led by a monk. While I didn’t understand a single word of it, I certainly understood the meaning behind it and the power of their prayers. It was a good thing, for sure. We went down to the food court (again, nicest food court ever) to eat with the monk and the family after the service. There, I got to try out my fledgling Chinese skills. Everybody seems to at least appreciate my effort.
After that, A Bei took us on a driving tour of Taipei, taking us past a number of memorials and Taipei 101, currently the tallest building in the world. We didn’t have our camera with us, but we are planning on coming back to Taipei after things quiet down in a few weeks. That part of Taipei is incredibly awesome. Also, we saw some white dudes. We’ve been playing a game like Where’s Waldo, except it’s called Where’s Whitey. It had been over 24 hours since we left the confused German guy waiting for his ride in the airport. That aspect doesn’t bother me at all, but I wonder what people must think when they see me.
One of the most interesting things about Taiwan is the Betel Nut Beauties. Basically, it’s skimpily dressed hot Asian chicks in glass front stores selling Betel Nuts, a tobacco like substance that gives a caffienated buzz. It’s always funny to see one wearing jeans or something where you can’t see their undergarments. We comment that they are “overdressed”. For more information, read the sidebar on this page.
After we got back to Hsinchu, Jen, Chris and I wandered around, found the shopping district (and the Nike store — very important), got lost, and found our way back with the help of a friendly local. A Um had written our address on a peice of paper and even though we couldn’t read it, it saved our ass (or at least a taxi fare). We had dinner with the family, and then went to bed around 8:30. Woke up at 3:45 am. Getting better…