Taiwan Day Four: Back to Chia-yi

That’s Chia as in “chai tea” not as in “Chia pet.” As in the city where Jessica’s parents are and where she grew up.
Before that, Mike and I set out to pick up breakfast from the corner shop while the ladies got ready. We got, um, a bit lost, and when we did find the place, they were closing after the breakfast rush (other places stay open all day).
We returned to the nearby shopping area we went yesterday so Mike could pick up some glasses he’d ordered. Unlike in the States, prescription lenses come free with the frames on purchase. I finally wound up buying some frames of my own, months after snapping mine in half and freaking people out when they didn’t recognize me. So soon I’ll be updating the website logo. However, I decided to wait on the lenses, as we won’t be in Taipei for long.
Emi took us on a long busride across the city, passing the Taipei 101 skyscraper, currently the tallest building in the world…I think. I thought we were going to stop, but instead we continued to this area on the other side of the city…so the women could continue shopping in a wholesale clothes district. Blimey. Mike and I opted to go sit in a park and chat.
We became a bit late, rushed back via a scary taxi ride, then shlepped our cases downstairs to another taxi and rushed over to the bus station to catch a coach down to Chia-yi (one way ticket, luxury seats, 3 hour trip: $8). On the way down we were played two videos against our will: “Kill Me Again” (Selma Blair saved from suicide by handsome bankrobber) and “The Weight of Water” (Katherine Bigelow’s little-seen time-jumping tale which hopes that the tale of murder in a fishing village a hundered years ago can compete for our attention with shots of an oily Liz Hurley in a white bikini).
So we turned up around 7:30 and Baba (Dad) picked us up in his mini-van. Currently, Baba tends a family farm as something of a hobby, and Mama volunteers at the hospital down the road. She is also learning sign language to lead karaoke for the deaf (yes, I know that sounds strange. When she practices it looks like a cross between a hula dance and performance art.) Mama did teach me one non-karaoke phrase: “Chen Shui-bien [the president] is an idiot.”
Their house is off of one of the main roads in the city, not far from any number of tiny stalls serving food, boba tea, and more. They’re also right next to a park, so after we ate dinner, all of us headed over there and strolled around the perimeter several times (Mama’s routine.)
(While writing this, I just got bitten by a bloody huge mosquito. Though I was able to kill it, leaving a mess of bug guts and my precious blood on my finger, I still got bit, and now it hurts like a sumbitch. Time to bust out the Chinese red oil medicine.)
Even at around 9:30 the park is bustling (could you imagine this in the States?) A group of ladies are in one paved section practicing ballroom dancing for health. In another a similar large group is doing yoga. All this is organized by the city. Dotting the perimeter are groups of old men playing Chinese chess. Sure, some look a bit, er, drunk, but hey, they’re not shooting smack! By one corner, somebody has set up a pickup truck-based stall and is doing a good business selling coffee. When Starbucks opened stores here some years ago, coffee was mostly a) instant or b) already expensive, served in fancy shops desperately trying to look French. Now it has hit the “stall” level of familiarity. Cool.

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