I really should have done some homework before this trip to Taiwan. You see, my family (and I believe they represent a typical Taiwanese family) is all about collecting data points. Life in the States is so very different from life in Taiwan, so to make things more relatable, it really is all about comparing numbers, like median household income, average home prices in the big city, typical rate of savings per household, monthly expenditures, etc. But of course to further complicate my already shaky oral communications, there’s the constant mathematical conversions of currency and measurements (temperature, area, distance)! Thank goodness for John’s iPhone… not only were we able to look up the necessary stats, but I was able to churn out conversions in a somewhat acceptable response time. Boy, when was the last time I had to do real mental math, like serious calculations involving double-digit multiplication and division and shit? Like never. Relying on my brain power alone would have been a total nightmare!
So John and I are wrapping up our 9-day stint in Taiwan. In a lot of ways, I had forgotten about the standard-of-living divide. I mean, my relatives here live comfortably in concrete houses with all the basics plus most luxuries of modern living, but Wulong is still rather rural. In fact, it’s not even considered a town over here– they call it a village. And even though we have an ADSL connection at my aunt’s house, the phone and television connections are really shoddy. I had an awful time trying to find places to exchange my traveler’s checks. When I called various bank branches in the area, the phone line was so crackly, I couldn’t even hold a normal conversation. And when I went in person to like four different nationwide banks– none would exchange my traveler’s checks. I know, it was my own damn fault to assume any bank would perform foreign currency transactions… it’s not as if Wulong is anything close to an international city like Shanghai. I don’t know what I was thinking.
Anyway, this has been an ok trip. Next time though, I think 7 days will be adequate. There’s just a bit too much car travel visiting various relatives. And I think John and I will try to spend more time in the big city, and rent our own car or a moped. It’s just too much having to rely on others to drive us around (the mass transit is especially poor in the rural areas). Plus, people here drive crazy! When we visited my father’s friend in Taizhong last week, the guy drove like a freakin’ maniac. Seriously, I almost thought he was drunk or something: he couldn’t stay in the lane to save his life, and every day, we were trapped in the van for like 4 hours. I took Dramamine religiously and still, I got motion sick! The remaining days of our trip, my dad drove us around and he’s such a straight arrow, his driving here sucks too. Like he’s all anal about parking in that particular parking space, with equal spacing on all four sides of the car. And then he follows all the traffic lights and laws, so whereas most people just blow through shit, my father insists on stopping but he doesn’t realize the light is red until really late, so then we come to a screeching halt. Omg, total hurky jerky! Ugh. Well, like I said, next time, we’re driving ourselves.
My relatives are well. Their lives seem busy, especially with the additional rugrats running around but I think things are generally going well for them. John and I are pretty worn out by the Taiwanese hospitality… John says we’re like veal calves– lots of binging but very little exercise. I’m impressed how attuned my relatives are to our likes and dislikes… for example, my aunt always remembers all my favorite snacks and dishes so whenever I come back, all my goodies are there, ready for me to enjoy. Major attention to detail, especially considering that I only visit once every two years or so. I’m going to start prepping my own mock itinerary for when they visit us in the States. I’ve got to be prepared.