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 . . .


At 4:40 AM, Blogger Peter Williamson said...

I am sure you want to do this. I want you to. But I will miss you terribly.

At 7:06 AM, Blogger Pat Wente said...

I don't do all that well when you and I aren't in the same geographic region. But I am determined to wave bye-bye cheerfully and wish you well on this fabulous life adventure. The Harpies will miss you dreadful lots, too.

At 7:25 AM, Blogger Liz Glassman said...

Now I can follow you on this great adventure. And I will... So thank you Pat, for the blog comments and the instructions.
Think you are writing into the ether? Think again. Your readers and fans wait for your fascinating take on all that lies ahead.
Travel well -

At 9:46 AM, Blogger Gene K. said...

We will all miss you, Pat, but we're also excited about your adventure!

Concerning your temporary new home, I just found A History of Taiwan in Comics, a web site reproducing much of a ten-volume set of books. The print is often very, very tiny, which is a pity. Even though the history seems to targeted primarily at children, it also looks to be fairly comprehensive - there's much more detail than I would have initially guessed. The site opens with an animated cartoon introduction with audio (and English subtitles), but my first link above takes you directly to the books themselves.

I learned about this via an article in the Taipei Times.

Bon voyage!
(Minister of Miscellaneous Manga Minutiae)

At 12:42 PM, Blogger Bryna said...

Pat, I'm slowly learning...don't know how to compute with my computer, but here I am, in the bloggin mode. How wonderful that this opportunity arose and you took advantage of it. Hope to keep in touch, wish you well, be healthy. Hugs

At 4:48 PM, Blogger Deborah Wilkins said...


Funny how you can infrequently see or talk with someone but miss them terribly when they leave. I guess it is that sometimes, just knowing that a kindred spirit is nearby is comforting.

Okay, enough of that...(wiping my eyes and smiling gamely)

You are going to be a hit in Taiwan! Thanks so much for this blog! It will be great to read your (no doubt amusing and endlessly interesting) posts and experience your great adventure with you! Kisses!

At 6:09 AM, Blogger Kelley Coyner said...

I always hate the actual departure to a new land. The logistics of packing, the difficulty of farewells, the anticipated exhaustion from the long travel.

But the first weeks and months are tremendously interesting and (over)stimulating.

Take lots of walks. Take lots of notes. Savor all the sights, sounds, flavors, smells.

Thanks for setting up the blog.

I started to write yesterday, but young Andrew distracted me with building a tower.

Harpie once removed in the Andes.

At 8:00 AM, Blogger K. A. Laity said...

Bon Voyage!

I just have the picture in my mind of Bill Murray in the elevator in the Japanese hotel from "Lost in Translation," surrounded by much shorter locals.

May many Taiwanese look up to you in awe, Pat. Here's to your great impact on the nation!

At 3:58 PM, Blogger Patricia Golemon said...

These comments are very heartwarming and I am delighted to hear from some old friends like Lizzy and Deb. It truly is an adventure and seems quite surreal at times but so far is fun and very funny. Like the young man in the LAX EVA waiting room who talked on his celll phone the entire two hours we were there, jiggling his legs up and down as though he were bouncing an invisible baby on a knee. He giggled and said nothing worth being awake at 2:00 a.m. to hear (in my humble estimation) and had I been the party on the other end would have disengaged even more completely than was the apparent case. And lest you all think I'm a snoop, I only listened when he caught my attention, in random snatches. If only I could see myself, as Burns noted, as others see me, no doubt I would be a much better person.

Dr. Wu has put me onto some articles about different ways of seeing in different cultures after a conversation we had in which I mentioned that the Chinese students learned very differently from the western ones. Some of you might be interested in this topic; I find it fascinating. A guy named Richard Nisbett at Ann Arbor is doing some of the research; you can google him. Note to world: Does Google need a capital letter now that it's been transmogrified to a common verb?

At 1:25 PM, Blogger Robert W said...

Hey Dr. G.,
This is so cool, though your husband is a bit graphic,maybe he should teach professional writing, we need some excitement in the program.



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