I'm back from Taiwan! I got back late Tuesday night, but managed to stay awake during the majority of my flight, so was able to fall asleep after I got home and slept soundly till 8 am. It was a good trip. Not great, but good. I'm not sure it was quite the vacation I needed at the time, because it was overscheduled and not very relaxing. But it was still fun.
I arrived in Taiwan on Sunday morning, met some of my relatives at the airport who also arrived that morning, then was off the the hotel where the rest of my relatives were staying, got on the tour bus, and was off. It seemed that every minute of the tour was scheduled. Wake up call at 7. Breakfast at 7:30. Load the bus at 8:30. We were at a different hotel every night, so each morning we had to pack up all of our luggage and go. But it was a good way to see the whole island, and bus time was time to catch up with relatives I hadn't seen in a while, nap, play cards (Taiwanese poker, hearts, gin), video games (Bust a Move!), eat snacks, watch movies--some good (Princess Bride! Snakes on a Plane!), some bad (Snakes on a Plane!), some pirated (Snakes on a Plane!). We made plenty of restroom stops at these tourist traps where the same assortment of snacks and knicknacks were on display, and the vendors called out to us as we walked by "Ni hao! Ni cong nali lai?" (Hello! Where are you from?) Most people guessed that I was from Singapore or Malaysia. It seemed that a few aunts bought some kind of snack at each stop, and once we got back on the bus, the bags of snacks would be passed around--always something different. Mochi, sesame candy, mooncakes, crackers, oranges, etc. My cousin Andrew bought a different milk tea or coffee project at every convenience store we passed. I got a papaya milk from 7-11 and BBQ ribs-flavored Ruffles. We saw a dam, waterfalls, a gorge, swam in hot springs, played ping pong, pool, video games, worked out, watched HBO in hotel rooms, went to night markets, shopped, went to museums, Tsunah, an Aborigine village, Taoyuan, Hualian, Kenting, Tainan, Taichung, Taipei. It was a packed trip, to be sure. The food was the best part. Breakfast buffets at the hotel every morning--congee every day! We didn't have a Thanksgiving dinner, but we did pig out at a fancy buffet dinner in Tainan.
Things I learned on this trip that I never knew before:
1) The crease I've always had on my arm, about an inch above my inner elbow, is apparently a sign of aborigine blood. My mother also has the mark, and said that when she was younger her classmates would tease her about it. It wasn't desirable to have aborigine blood. My father and younger brother do not have the mark. Not sure about my older brother. My mother said that my father's nose is a sign of Dutch blood.
2) When my mother told her mother that she was engaged, my grandmother was worried, because she had not yet met my father (since they had gotten engaged so quickly). So she asked my mother where my father went to college, and then called some friends/professors she knew there to check up on him, see if he was a good guy, check his transcripts. Everything confirmed that he was not bad, so she approved of the match.
3) I remember both more and less Chinese than I thought.
4) Ben can read on buses and cars--I had thought that he got carsick like me.
5) There is a Thai instrument that was made from human femur bones, traditionally made from people who have died violent deaths.
6) The Taiwanese Atayal aborigine people used to have a tradition of head hunting and tattooing.
7) I like smelly tofu.
9) It seems that Taiwanese Americans look younger than the Taiwanese who grew up in Taiwan, at least in my family.
10) Distant cousins who live in Taiwan have read my blog, particularly my Love Story post and Marathon post.
11) One (or more) of my aunts is obsessed with marriage, and doesn't think women can be happy if they don't get married. She also thinks that whiter skin is prettier than dark skin, and thinks I'm lighter now than I was nine years ago when I lived in Taiwan. She can't understand why I'm not married.
12) Taipei has a great subway system now.
Added on 12/7:
13) KFC has the best egg custard
14) My family has a temple that honors our ancestors called the Hwang family temple, and my mother's relatives who maintain it own a golf ball company
That's all I have for now. At any rate, it's good to be back. I always love coming back to New York after vacation--a sure sign to me that I consider New York to be home.
I haven't really been jetlagged much--I've been getting a bit tired in the afternoon, but not horribly so. I hope I can fend it off. I'll try to post some pictures tomorrow--I took over 400 of them. Now it's time for bed!