Monday, July 25, 2011


When I was in Mexico, I wasn't updating because I was in a bad place. Here, things are a little too awesome to update often. I'm super busy all the time, so there's that. I had a homestay with a Hakka family, an old ethnicity that came over from China around 5-600 years ago, I'm told, and got along fine with the Aboriginals. They were so great - I felt the warmth and hospitality from the first minute I got into the car - a mother, a father, and triplet daughters sixth-grade age. I hope to post about that soon, but now I have to talk about the beach.

The last time I saw the ocean was pretty perilous. I was really cautious about getting back in the water again. This isn't the calm, clear Lake Ouachita water I know so well, this is tides and waves and currents trying to pull people away. I mean, that last experience was a Lesson Learned, and learned well. I desperately wanted to be in water but I was scared, too.

But the intoxicating beauty there... This island is so gorgeous - the Portuguese called it "Formosa," beautiful, and rightfully so. It reminds me of home, only MORE. More green, more mountains, more heat and humidity, and then of course there's the fact that there's ocean to be found everywhere. My study program had an excursion planned to take us to the southernmost beach on a Friday - I planned to stay as long as I could. Booked a room for 10 for Friday night, but everyone was full Saturday. I figured I'd play it by ear.

The school's tour took us first to a sort of museum about what-all could be found in the area. It was fun, but it wasn't beach. Then we were taken to the farthest-south tip of the whole island, which had a lighthouse, and lots of trees, and shops... but it wasn't beach. Then they took us to a spot where we had the single best vegetarian meal yet which was delicious but still not beach. Then we were given some time to stroll around and look in shops which were also not the beach and then they took us...

...TO THE BEACH! Oh...

I mean it was just lovely. A little bay, called "South Bay," and it had some silly music blaring like many beaches do but we went far enough away from it and I slathered up in sunscreen, and we negotiated an umbrella rental from some women who were covered head to toe like mummies because you have to stay white here or you aren't beautiful, and then I jumped in. Even though I was very careful I was caught in something of a weak current at first, but many others were as well, and we worked our way out of it right away. From there I would stand in a shallow part - there was something of a sandbar that went out a good ways - anywhere from knee to neck deep, letting the waves move me around. After a couple hours the buses left, and those of us staying... stayed!

Night markets are awesome here and every town has a few, so once the sun had long set we showered up and headed to drop our bags off in the hostel and check it out. It was great! I ate everything... Stinky tofu, big-sausage-with-little-sausage, fried mushrooms, some japanese gooey rice thing I don't even know what it was with black sugar on it, grilled corn, fried pineapple, mango ice, .... and more I'm struggling to remember. Went back to the awesome room and laughed with 9 friends well into the night, pillow fights, silly jokes, then passed out.

Woke up in time the next morning to check out, left our bags there and headed out for adventure. After breakfast we went to rent bicycles because there is a national forest park that sounded wicked awesome.

Yeah. The map was flat.

After I don't even know how long of biking it felt like an hour but was probably only 15 minutes at an angle that felt like straight up I backed out. I had been going slow because my roommate had too, and I didn't want to leave her behind. Then I realized I had actually been going slow because my back tire was dragging inside the wheel cover, and I was having to fight the friction to get anywhere! Of course this is Taiwan, so it was crazy hot and crazy humid and this was tougher than Monkey Mountain, the sweat was dripping off of me. Turned it around, took it back, turned it in, got my refund, and headed to the beach! I was pretty frustrated because the long version of this story involves a lot of awkwardness due to the size of the group, a lot of "What do you want to do" and "Well what about this" and "What if we" and "Well let's go" and "Are you ready" and "Where's so-and-so" and then even when I got to the beach we were waiting on people and it was getting on toward about 4PM and I had hoped to go snorkeling and I was starting to go crazy from all the waiting and not-doing-anything...

Finally the people we were waiting on showed up, but we'd been waiting to get on their scooters, and they'd gotten too few and didn't have helmets. So they headed off to another beach (Why? The one we were at was fine?) and we had to taxi to get there. More frustration! We started walking and finally caught one and finally got to the other beach and finally spotted our friends (easier than most places - just look for the tall white folk) and then FINALLY I was in the water and oh!

Just wonderful. Again.

That night most of the group that had stayed headed back. I couldn't go back yet. I felt like the day had been wasted and I still wanted to snorkel. We perused the night market again...

...oh! I forgot to say how the night before we met the princess of Taiwan! Yes! She told us so herself! Well, she told us in Mandarin, then a boy told us in English, but he also said, "But this is bullshit!" But then she pointed to a sign (presumably, that she had made) and chattered in Mandarin, and the boy told us that the sign said, Princess of Taiwan, and she laughed hysterically and then showed us that she had been sampling her own wares, which was flavors of millet wine and liquor that I bought a bottle of and she had been forcing us to take shots of. What a great lady! Of course I took a photo with her...

...and as I had failed to find a place to crash and as my friends had crashed on the beach the night before, the one boy who'd stayed behind and I headed to the beach. We had a tent someone had lent us, and we set it up, and promptly strolled around the beautiful night beach. What a drastic difference from the night market! The market was crowded, packed with people, you could hardly move - we stopped at one spot to inquire about foot massages (only to find there had been a price increase over the price our friends had paid the night before - weekend price hike I guess) and ended up just sitting at the table there to avoid the madness for a bit until we had enough energy (and our full bellies had relaxed a bit) to head to the beach and set up.

It was so quiet there, almost no people except for some random fishermen with ten foot long poles with lights on the end, and the occasional bunch of kids come to set off fireworks. Fireworks are pretty popular here; they go off all the time and due to some sort of language disconnect, whenever we ask why there are fireworks, we receive not an answer but another question: "Do you not like fireworks?" No, I think they're swell, I'm just wondering what the reason is. We found a mat someone had left behind and set it up as our front yard and laid upon it, laughing our butts off as we swapped stories about our experiences and interactions in Taiwan thus far. We decided it was just too damn nice sleeping under the stars to climb into the tent so we didn't. We just passed out on that mat under the stars.

While I woke up several times during the night because of how uncomfortable the sand was, I woke up at one point because I was freezing! I remember being crazy excited to feel cold for once. I crawled into the tent and passed back out. I woke up once because the sun was coming up, and we'd talked about watching the sunrise the night before, but having had such a crappy sleep, I couldn't move. Later I woke up again because I heard a pack of wild dogs talking trash outside the tent... and I still couldn't move.

Woke up later and felt tired, sore, and stinky... but then, when I woke up, my front yard was THE OCEAN, so yeah I didn't complain. I jumped in for a swim and a rinse and then we packed up the tent and headed up to the 7/11 for breakfast for three reasons. 1) Money's running out. 2) We had more than enough local cuisine at the night market the previous two nights and 3) They have air conditioning. Anyway, no matter what we get there, it ain't gonna be like home. We must have looked a sight, but we loaded up with a bottle of water, a bottle of Pocari Sweat (the local answer to gatorade), a slurpee, and a mess of food each, paid, and set up in the window seats. Oh how we laughed at our situation and the whole unlikeliness and wonder of it all.

At that moment, I felt perfect. I didn't need snorkeling. I told him so. I had discovered I had twice as much money as I thought I had the previous night so I said I'd like to try to go and find the things I wanted to buy at the night market the night before but didn't. We walked up the road but none of it was anywhere to be found. It's literally a completely different street at day and at night. So we turned around, found a random shop to go potty, and hitched a bus back to Kaohsiung so we could train it on into Pingtung. In the train station, we sat down on a bench next to a woman with a tiny precious dog... and promptly fell to cooing over the dog. She loved us, she kept taking pictures and texting them to her friends, so we took one with her on my camera, and then the train came, and we got back to campus and shook the sand out of our bags just as the rain was beginning to fall...

And that was just two and a half days! Can you imagine? So sorry I haven't been updating, but man it's awesome here! And there's still homestay weekend to talk about! This weekend I'm staying here. We're free, no excursions or plans or anything, but the program switches our study companions and roommates halfway through. That's a whole blog post itself there, the reason I think they do it, but at any rate I love my roommate so much and I will be crazy sad for her to go. We're going to spend the weekend having adventures here and next weekend I'm going to visit her in her hometown.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Things Happening

Chinese food is delicious. Chinese food for every meal of every day... starts to get a little old. Only 6.5 weeks to go.

It's been raining a rather lot here. No real typhoons yet, but it does make it tough to explore and bike around.

Speaking of biking around, I went back to the magical pool/spa wonderland again, and took a group of students with me. I think that place is going to have to be a once-a-week outing at the least.

Sometimes in Taiwan, you hear an ice cream truck. And you get all psyched, thinking, hey, ice cream! But the truck is not here to bring you ice cream. The truck is here to collect your trash. That's a little disappointing.

I'm getting a lot better at Chinese. I can form several sentences now. Today in class, our teacher worked us through a typical menu, and then recommended a spot for us, challenging us to find it on our own and order something, then come back and tell her about it. A huge group was heading out from school, and everyone was all slow and waiting and... individualistic-traveler-me just decided to start hoofing it. Asked the guard at the gate for directions, asked a girl on a bike for directions, stopped and bought a dong gua niu nai and they told me it was just on the other side of the light. I got there and was torn between hot and sour soup and dumpling soup... until I found hot and sour dumpling soup on the menu. I had just put in my order when the rest of the group appeared. Good times and great success.

Speaking of class, that's been fun. It was really overwhelming at first. I landed one class up from beginning-from-scratch, and thought about going back with the beginners because after class my brain would literally physically hurt from all the exercise and new connections formed. But then I heard they were working on the damned alphabet so I figured I'd tough it out. It's been a good decision. My classmates are real sweethearts, and we help each other out a lot. My teacher is an absolute angel. She brings us treats and rewards us and gives us no homework on days when study companion time is canceled. Class is really hard but really fun.

The first day was a sort of welcoming ceremony. After taking my entrance exam (and doing piss poor) we had a campus tour before the ceremony. There were some local elementary school kids who played some local music on local instruments, a group of ethnic Hakkas who did some Hakka song and dance, some aboriginal high schoolers who did aboriginal dance, some kids who dressed up as giant baby gods and did some dance to techno music, and three dudes dressed up with painted faces who came in to scare out the evil demons to some drumming... lemme tell you, if I had been an evil demon, I'd have run from these scary dudes!

Since then my days have mostly been sleeping until the last minute possible, making it to class at 9 and getting out at 12, lunch, "culture class" which will either be general info on Taiwan, learning to play mah jong, how to make dumplings, or something similar, then study companion time until 4:30 at which point we all head back to the dorms and split off into groups with plans for fun. Last Friday instead of class, exchange students and their study companions all were taken to Gaoxiung, or "Kaohsiung," the second largest city in Taiwan which is between 30 min to an hour away. We were taken to a huge Buddhist monastery complex where we spent a few hours exploring, meditating, and practicing calligraphy. We were given a decadent vegetarian lunch, then headed off to climb a mountain. We were told it was a "quick hike" to the top. We spent at least 30 minutes literally not stopping, heading up these wooden paths with tons of stairs until we arrived at the place where the monkeys chill. We paused for photos then headed up at least another 15. My shirt was completely soaked through, with sweat dripping off the hem. This is Taiwan, yo. The temp is around 30 or more Centigrade at all times, and the humidity is at its nicest when it's below 90%. When we made it back down to the bottom, there was a small temple with a public bathroom where I stripped my shirt off and rinsed it out in the sink. I felt like a new woman, but I think I scared one of our study companions. Sorry for the transgression, yo, but damn it was hot. After that we checked out a market near the beach then drove back.

There have been other great moments. Exploring night markets, organizing volleyball games, eating shaved ice with locals, having some amazing duck for dinner with my roommate, her boyfriend, and his roommate, getting together with a group of students to go see the Harry Potter flick a solid 16 hours before my US friends, getting drunk on red wine, splashing home through the rain, then continuing to play in the rain once back on campus, tons of mah jong games that last long into the night...

The race issue is still in front of my face at all times. Just the other day I rolled up on a Murrikan kid surrounded by three locals and he was laughing, but their faces were quite serious and inquisitive. I asked him what was up. He said, "They just asked me why black people rap all the time." All the time. They never speak normally. All black people rap all the time. They genuinely were wondering about this, and couldn't understand his laughter nor why I simply walked away. There are no black kids in our group of students. I can't imagine what it would be like. I already hate it when people occasionally ask to touch my hair; I hear black folks get it all the time. There are a handful of kids in the program who aren't white, but all are pretty light skinned. There is such a preoccupation with whiteness here, and we all had to submit a photo with our application, I can't help but wonder if any African-Americans applied, and whether their dark skin hurt their applications? My roommate puts a skin-whitening lotion on before she goes to bed every night. People carry umbrellas here - for the sun. You'll see people riding their scooters with their jackets on in this heat, only the jackets are on backward, and it's just to cover their arms from the evil, darkening sun.

The good news is, we can access the rooftop of our dorms. The two things that keep my head right are swimming distances and chilling on rooftops. I have this strange, petrifying fear of heights, and yet I love them. I'm not sure what that's all about, but between the gluttonous water decadence wonderland up the street and the rooftop above me, I think my sanity is in the bank.

Tomorrow morning I get picked up for my weekend homestay. I met the father of the family at the opening ceremony. He seemed like a complete sweetheart, and told me about how his triplet sixth-grade daughters can't wait to meet me. I'm looking forward to a weekend of bonding.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

On my personal experience as a minority.

Because it's just that: My personal experience. I cannot speak for all people who live/have lived as minorities, I cannot speak even to the general experience of all tall white girls in Taiwan. I can only speak about what I personally am experiencing. So this is not a manifesto, just a personal meditation.

When I last wrote about getting stares, I was still in Taipei. North of the island, biggest city in Taiwan, etc etc etc. I wrote that they were minimal, that they were more curious than lecherous, just interested passing glances. Now I'm in a small town in the south. Now the stares are unabashed and lingering. Now I feel like I'm in a zoo, except I'm the animal. And I'm the only one. And they're all here to see me. I wish they'd at least bring food.

I know I'm tall. I know I'm white. I know my eyes are blue. I know I have tattoos and curly hair. Most of these things have been a lifelong thing for me - even the tattoos started eleven years ago. None of this is new for me.

It's pretty new to most of the folks in Pingdong, apparently.

Today some friends were going to go swimming. They asked if I wanted to go. DUH YES. I mean... yeah, if you know me, you know how I feel about swimming. Just what I need, I thought. Especially after last night, drinking with other students in the program and getting into a pretty intense discussion about trans* people and how they aren't unnatural or gross with a bigot in the group.

The place was really magical. For a water-junkie like me, it was a literal heaven on earth. There was a 50-meter long pool for swimming (only one real lap lane that had several people in it, but laps were do-able), and next to it in the corner was this wall about hip-high. Climb over this wall and you find two big soaking pits, one is just warm with these three crazy jets shooting down from the short ceiling you can stand under for a massage, and the other is super hot for soaking, next to some small windows that open into this jungle-looking area with a nice breeze passing by.

And if that wasn't water-heaven enough, downstairs with the dressing rooms (which have both a sauna and a steam room) is this thing called the SPA. Walk down the hallway and you again have to climb over a short wall which puts you in another water pit. This one is kinda lukewarm too, and there are different jet-things everywhere. You can scoot back into a u-shaped cave area where jets will come at you from different angles, you can stand under more of the crazy shower-jets, you can scoot through a maze of little cube-posts that shoot jets out from different heights, you can lay back on the bed-chairs that have jets shooting up at you from underneath... water decadence! It was wonderful! It would have been perfect...

... if I hadn't been the zoo animal.

One girl came around the corner in the dressing room, and when she saw me, drew a sharp intake gasp of breath, her face went all shocked, and she literally jumped back. Yo, .... what? I'm just another human. I'm not some crazy devil monster who's going to attack you. I mean, ... except ...

...that we are literally referred to as "white ghost" here. We were taught this by the program director on a slide in her powerpoint presentation on Taiwanese culture. The slide was titled "How are Americans perceived?" There were bulletin points with racial slurs. White ghost is a little outdated, though. These days, apparently, the popular one is something to do with what freakishly long noses we have. How is that appropriate to teach as a class?

I go through this and I think about my friends of color back home. The thing is, I really don't have it that bad. Sure, I look over in the pool and realize that this old dude is going underwater so he can stare at my body underneath the water's surface, and that's really creepy and weird, but it's not like he's denying me any rights, or spitting on me or anything.

And that's my experience. That I am a novelty, a freak, something to be exoticised, and I don't like it, and I want to complain, and I stare right back now at those who stare at me. And when the little girl who keeps bumping into me in the pool to say, in English, "Oh sorry sorry" finally decides that she's tired of me ignoring her and actually grabs me while I'm swimming and pulls me under so that she can say "Oh sorry sorry" again and surely I'll respond this time, I do, and I look her right in the eyes, and I say, in Chinese, "What? What do you want? What would you like? What?" and she swims away but her friends keep staring and saying, in English, "HALLO HALLOOOO!" and Jesus Christ I just came here to swim people, to get my zen on, to knock out a thousand yards until my body feels completely exhausted and like a million bucks at the same time. I love how my body moves in the water, but I don't want some creepy old man going under to love it too.

And yet I can't have these experiences without thinking about how I really don't have it that bad as a minority here. Yeah, when I complain to a friend who went with me to the pool, he says, in English, "But it is because in Taiwan, we think foreigners are so beautiful!" And I realize he means it as a compliment, genuinely, and so does the creepy old man, but that doesn't make it not racist.

The other night I took a train with a few friends (two Taiwanese, one Vietnamese-American) to Kaohsiung, the second biggest city in Taiwan which is just a half hour up the road. When the conductor passed, he said something in Chinese, and the two locals started laughing. They explained it to the Vietnamese-American, whose Chinese is way better than mine, and he explained it to me. The guy said what he always says, but this time, he said it "like an American would say it." Once he saw me, he decided, I guess, he should do his best American accent. And they all thought it was hilarious and dissolved into laughter.

And I think, well, but I'm still allowed to ride the train. It's not like there's a "White Ghosts Only" car in the back or anything. But I can't help getting pissed.

This has really been a busy and interesting week. There was an opening ceremony, a few days of classes, and a school-led trip to Kaohsiung with a huge Buddhist monastery, a mountain climb with monkeys, and a harbor visit. It was all rad, and I know I should have written about it by now... but I've been kindof confused about how to write about those awesome things and also this prevailing weirdness. So here's this post dedicated to weirdness, and hopefully tomorrow I can write about awesome things only. In the meantime, hopefully, I will just learn and grow.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

My Letter to Governor Mike Beebe

Helpful links about what's going on:

An abridged version of this letter is now up on the Arkansas Times website at , and can apparently be found in the Times's newsstands this week.

Dear Sir:

I need to tell you a story about my grandmother. Do you actually read these, or is there (more likely) a crew of employees who screen them for you? Either way, it is a cautionary tale, and a tale that you desperately need to hear, I'm afraid.

My grandmother was born Virginia Dare Swepston in something like 1911 or so. She married Beauford Jennings Wallace, with whom she'd been in love literally since the second grade, and gave birth to three baby boys, one of which was my father. My father grew up on a farm with a grain company owned by my grandfather. By all accounts, they were the typical Arkansan family, real "salt of the earth" type people.

The story that you need to hear, and you do honestly need to hear it, is a story my father tells me about my grandmother, for whom I am named. He tells me it was a day in late September, 1957, and he was in the kitchen, watching my grandmother do the dishes. She was very dedicated to her husband, their family, and their home, and caring for all three was her full-time job. My father was watching her wash the dishes until she looked out the window... and what happened next is what you most desperately need to hear.

She glanced up and saw a line of military vehicles passing in front of the house. At that time, there was an old Arkansas highway that ran past my father's childhood home going from Memphis into Little Rock. When my grandmother saw these vehicles, she became enraged. She threw down her dishtowel and ran outside to stand in the front yard with her apron on, shake her fist angrily at the vehicles, and yell at them.

It just so happens that these vehicles were, in fact, the 101st Airborne on their way to help the Little Rock Nine attend school at Central High, where their very lives were in danger from people like my grandmother for simply wanting equality.

I wonder how this story makes you feel. I wonder if you think that what my grandmother did was wrong or whether she was right. I wonder if you can imagine the shame I feel when I tell this story. My memories of my grandmother are good ones. She was always so kind, so extremely classy. She was the perfect example of a Southern belle to me. This one story, however, this brief moment discolors my memory of her. It makes me remember that at her core, my grandmother was a racist woman who went to her grave holding on to her beliefs.

It's easy to say, "But that's just how things/people were back then." But saying that is the wrong answer, Mr. Governor. Saying that excuses behavior that was wholly wrong and minimizes the importance of the issue. Without the people who stood up to question that type of behavior, we would never have had positive change. We would never live in a world like we do today, where I can look at what my grandmother did as wrong and pray for her forgiveness.

I tell you this story, Governor Beebe, as a warning. My shame will become your grandchildren's shame if you do not change your words and your actions and soon. I am embarrassed by this tale. I am ashamed of my grandmother. Even as I have good memories of her, I cannot forget that racism was a big part of who she was, and it leaves me feeling disgraced and humiliated when I think of it.

Sir, when you spoke in front of the Stonewall Democrats recently, you told them that you do not believe they deserved the same equal rights afforded to their heterosexual neighbors. You told them that not only should they accept their second-class status, but that they should refrain from being visible and active in demanding equality. You were no better than my grandmother standing in the front yard, shaking her fist at the 101st.

Some have tried to explain your actions. Some have said that even though you don't need to say those words in hope of being reelected, that perhaps you have said them in order to help build your legacy, in order to influence the way you will be remembered. What you did, and what you said, will accomplish just that, Mr. Governor.

But you have a choice, in the same way that Governor George Wallace had a choice. He chose to change his position from the easy answer to the right answer. Sixteen years after his 1963 inaugural speech in which he spoke strongly in favor of segregation (“segregation today, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever), he said the words “I was wrong. Those days are over and they ought to be over.”

And hear me when I say, sir, that if you do not open your eyes and realize you are wrong just as he was wrong, just as my grandmother was wrong, that this is an issue of equality for all and civil rights and human rights, your grandchildren will remember you with shame in their hearts. I pray for you just as I pray for my grandmother:

May God forgive you,
Susan Virginia Wallace

Write him yourself at:

Welcome to Pingdong

See, because that's the first thing. The spelling I was taught, Pingtung, is the old spelling from when whitefolk were more concerned with their own pronunciation than the correct one, it seems. Today's correct pinyin spelling is Pingdong. So there's that.

I met a really great girl in the hostel who was also headed to Ping(tu/do)ng for the same study program as I was, so we decided to travel down together. She talked me down from using the High Speed Rail, and thankfully, because it was less than half the cost to just sit on a bus for about five hours instead. It was great, too, to look out the windows and witness things passing by. English on less and less of the signs, until it was only pinyin on some of the road signs telling you what exit was coming up. One of my favorite things to do anywhere is to look out the window and see people going about their lives and think about how that's a slice of someone's whole existence, and just witness it and take it in for a moment. So that was just glorious and fun for me.

Jennifer (the girl from the hostel, and I'll always change people's names when I blog about them to be fair and respectful) is a much better speaker than I am, or at least more confident and I think her vocabulary is bigger, too. So she told the driver we would need to step off at the National Pingtung University of Education, and when we arrived he let us do just that. There were some kids waiting at the gate with cameras, and they walked us to the dorms where our roommates were waiting with cute signs they'd made for us with our names. I gave high fives all around (because, in my experience, it's impossible to give a high five and not smile) and headed up to the room.

Let's talk for a minute about how sweet my roommate is. So so sweet, y'all. She asked whether I was hungry, and I found that I was a little peckish so she put me on the back of her scooter (ERRBODY be driving scooters over here, y'all) and we headed out with a friend of hers. First they took me to a tea spot so I could speak English to a friend of theirs who's apparently been studying it. Poor boy looked so frightened! He just stepped back and another girl stepped up and said HALLO HALLOOOOO! Which is apparently how all Taiwanese people greet Murrikans, and it's really endearing.

From there we went to this little place where they will fry up all sorts of vegetarian goodies for you. I had these mushrooms... holy jesus, y'all, so amazing. They asked did I want spicy, I said yes, middle spicy, and it was .... like my mouth can still remember how good it was and it makes me salivate to think about. I'm going to have to eat that at least once a week.

I shouldn't have talked shit about the food before I came! My roommate took me back out today (after ordering breakfast in, an omelette with tuna and corn, strange but tasty) for some noodles that were ridiculous. RIDICULOUS. NT$35 gets you a serving of noodles, free soup and free sweet black tea. That's like a buck and a quarter, y'all! I killed it. Thick noodles in some kind of bean sauce with sprouts and green onions and heavy sesame flavor. I ordered more to go, it was so good. It was also right next to a tea shop where they had the kind of tea the lady who worked at the hostel in Taipei got the night she took us out to the night market. Some kind of Chinese watermelon that we don't have a name for, dong hua or don gua or something... SO GOOOOOD. Got back and passed out and took a HUGE nap. I had the longest most complicated dream I can remember having in a long time. Which means, the mattress I bought when we went out was a good idea. Last night the mattress they gave me felt like a flat hard tabletop held up by springs, knives, death and hatred. I got this thin thing to put on top for about US$20 and a much flatter pillow and boy howdy it was glorious. I almost flew in the dream, which I haven't done in a looong time.

Guess what's not illegal in Taiwan? Montecristo #4. Pardon me while I step outside for a long and glorious smoke.