Tuesday, August 30, 2005

first day

We tried to take a walk outside the hotel; it was 10:30 a.m. and a bit early for bedtime! But after taking a picture I discovered the camera needed to have its photos removed so we went back into the hotel to do that. This required that I remember which of the infinite tangle of cables for my laptop would be required to connect the camera to it. After a few false starts, elimination led me to the correct cable and I was even able to find the instructions for how to accomplish this task in the papers I brought along to guide me through the dark tunnel of technology. Since we were in the room and it was raining outside, and I had used a fair amount of time, we rethought the nap idea. Just after we dozed the phone in the room rang [(!) who knew we were here?]. It was Dr. Wu Jing Jyi, the head of the Fulbright people here, who said we should not stay in today to avoid the typhoon, as we had thought, but come to the office to meet him and stay in tomorrow, when it will be much worse. So I have awakened and dressed again to the extent I can (did I mention the one bag that got lost had my clothes in it?). Peter is snoring and I will awaken him soon to go downstairs to meet the delightful young woman who picked us up at the airport. She (alas not Michael Caine) was standing there with a big sign with my name on it, and a big smile, when we came belatedly out of the customs clearance area. We had no problem with customs but when we went to collect our luggage, circling on the track with all the bags was a big sign saying "Please talk to the EVA people Patricia Golemon." Silly me, I thought they were going to scoot us through (state department you know, VIPs, very hush hush). But noooo. It was to tell me that one of my bags has been lost. [ Teresa, it's your bag, in which most all of the clothes I brought are packed. Just to give you a heads up on that . . .]

We have returned from our visit to the center of learning in the Far East, the Fulbright office in Taiwan. It was understated, to understate. The Director, Dr. Wu, is very gracious and knowledgeable about me personally which is impressive when you realize he has 40 other such lecturers coming in plus an equal number of students. And the school year is beginning and they have a class of students they are grooming to apply for Fulbrights in the U. S. . . . After our visit with him we caught a cab back to the hotel, which proved quite easy and the driver spoke good English. We walked down one of the streets in front of our hotel looking at the shops and people. (I'm going to post some photos, if I can figure out how, to show you what we saw.)

Before going back to our room we made a few stops for water, beer, and fruit for our room in case we can't get out tomorrow. We'll probably do something exciting like watch car chase movines on TV in our room. This life in the fast lane is what keeps me on the cutting edge . . .

Arrival in Taiwan!

We are in our room in the Friends Hotel in downtown Taipei, where everyone is a model of courtesy and decorum. No kidding, I'm serious. The hotel manager told us we could not check in until noon (we arrived at the Taipei airport about 4:30 a.m. and at the hotel about 6:45) and then a few minutes later he gave us a room to use til we checked in and then still later brought the luggage to the room while we were having tea deciding what to do til noon. In any case, we are settled in a hotel, a typhoon is blowing on the streets below, and I intend to take a nap. More later. This is fun!

Sunday, August 28, 2005

Night before departure dinner

Tonight we took Sophie and Ginger and Sonia and went to Ninfa's because I wanted a last ditch Mexican food injection before descending into the Pacific Rim and many noodles (which I am looking forward to eagerly). The service was wretched, the food mediocre, the music (?) noisy rap (go figure, in a Mexican place?). Kids were crying at nearby tables, Sonia was telling me in one ear that Sophie is losing weight and doesn't like the food at the Hampton, Sophie herself was telling me over and over in the other ear that it was too noisy and we would never come here again, Peter was sitting across the table trying to get Ginger interested in the Alexandria Quartet, and it was all I could do to keep from running out the door screaming. I was sitting outside myself watching us play in a reality show; I thought I saw Ozzie Ozborne (sp?) sneaking around in the back. So much for creating memories.

I spent today repacking the bags I had packed yesterday, putting away some of the clothes and toiletries to get down to 4 bags and two carryons. Ginger will take us to the plane tomorrow afternoon and we will fly at 9:15 p.m. to LAX where we will see Stuart (good) and wait until 2:30 to continue the flight to Taipei (bad). Then the torture really sets in. LONG FLIGHTS SHOULD BE BANNED UNDER THE GENEVA CONVENTION. Where are the guys who can beam me up with Scotty? I have some not-very-strong sleeping pills and intend to take a few with a martini to miss as many as possible of the 14 hours of flight time.

But once we get there, it will be great. The Fulbright people will pick us up and take us to the hotel. I have a picture in my mind of Michael Caine in a pith helmet and white cotton safari garb carrying a sign with our names on it, summoning a ricksha. (Of course I know we will not be met in quite this exact manner, but it's a nice picture. Years ago when I did some work in Istanbul people dressed like that actually went around in the bar in the Hilton summoning people to the telephone. Quite picturesque. Palm trees in the lobby, of course.) We will stay in Taipei until next Monday, visiting the Palace museum (where Chang Kai Shek took all the stuff he stole from China when he fled to Taiwan, thus the name) and some markets and whatever other of the many beautiful places we can find.

Once when Peter and I were traveling in Italy with some friends we discovered that despite the fact that the group averaged sightly over two degrees per capita, it took us several days to figure out that "senza unica" was not the name of a street in every picturesque art-filled village. And that was in a place where the alphabet was in letters. I hope some of the cab drivers speak English.

Now I'm rethinking this. After more than 20 hours on a plane my clothes will be dirty, any food consumed will be represented in samples on my blouse, and I will be groggy and cranky. Thank goodness Peter, Mr. Intrepid Traveler, will be with me to get me through it all. He can sleep on a plane in a car on a bus standing against a pillar—you name it, he can sleep through it. No wonder he travels well! While I am walking around trying to get the cramps out of my legs he is snoring away . . .

On Monday the 5th someone from the English dept., perhaps the chair, Dr. Wu E-Chou my boss at Providence University, will come fetch us to Taichung, a smaller city south and west from Taipei. I will move into my apartment on the campus in the student union building which is a great location as they have shops and a post office and a cafeteria there. I will be on the fourth floor, naturally. At the end of that week Peter and I will travel back to Taipei for the orientation workshop and I will meet the other Fulbrighters in Taiwan. That should be fun and rewarding. I want to cajole some of them into participating in some research with me on culture shock.

About Chinese names: the family or surname comes first because in their culture it is most important. Individuals are seen as group members, as "we" as opposed to our "I." My Chinese name is Gao Cui-xia or as E-Chou explained it, "高翠霞" as your Chinese name. "高," a common surname in Chinese, is pronounced "gao," similar to Gole, and "翠霞," "tricia" similar to Patricia. "翠霞,Tricia" means "verdant (tri) morning glow (cia)" a typical female Taiwanese name. Is that charming or what?

How shall I decide what to take on a trip like this? Do I need the steamer for my clothes? The can opener? How many garments can I smush into these bags? What books can I not live without? Fortunately, I recently purchased a CD with all Hawthorne's works on it so I can always read that to prepare for class. How many bars of lavender soap do I need for a semester? Shampoo? How many dressup outfits do I need? How many pairs of jeans? Do I take tea to China? Maybe just one tin of Earl Grey . . .

Tomorrow will be the time to get excited . . .

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Just started!

Only three more days til I leave and I'm not packed, not finished with my annual report, sick, running a fever, and really on the cutting edge of everything. Not.