Taiwan: Tamsui

I’ve tried to condense this post the best that I can, but I’ll go ahead and tell you now that this is part one of two.

A few weeks ago Nick and I took a trip to Taiwan. He used to live there, and at one point we were even planning on moving there. Our plans changed, but we both felt that it was really important to take a trip to go see a country that he holds so dearly / transformed him into the Nick I fell in love with. I’m beyond thankful we made the decision to go.

We got into Taiwan really late in a veeeery jet-lagged blur, but the first thing I noticed (aside from the 90 degree heat and 62% humidity) is that everyone (I mean everyone — middle-aged people, grandma and grandpa aged-people, infants, pregnant ladies, SLEEPING people — proof is below, dogs, cats) rides around on motos. They weave in and out of pedestrians and cars like one big moving unit.

The morning after we arrived, we started a routine that we carried throughout the rest of our time there — wake up, throw on clothes, and walk down to the main street in Tamsui to get a delicious breakfast called dan bing, an egg / tortilla-like pancake with cheese and whatever else you want mixed into it. The man who made it for us would take peoples’ orders for hours. That was his life — cooking and serving. Surrounding him were other vendors doing similar tasks — some selling fresh fruits and veggies from their farms, others meats and flavored teas.

The area we were in was located right next to a beautiful river. This was one of the best places to people watch. There were loved ones walking arm and arm, kids dragging their parents along to try different foods, families on bikes, and more umbrellas than you can imagine. Everyone in Taiwan carries umbrellas because they WANT TO BE PALE (guess who fit in swimmingly?) and protect their skin. I’m going to try really hard to make this trend take off in Los Angeles…

On our fourth day there we went into Taipei and visited Taipei 101, one of the tallest buildings in the world, standing at (you guessed it) 101 stories tall. You could feel the building swaying when you were standing on the top. Nick and our friend Adam loved it. All I wanted to do was curl up into a ball and cry — you’ll see me desperately clinging to the Taipei 101 mascot below. I suppose the pictures were worth it.

I’ve had a lot of people ask me what my favorite part of the trip was, and my answer has been the same for everyone — simply being there and experiencing a new culture. There’s not one particular moment that really stands out to me as a highlight above the rest. The best moments were walking along the streets and seeing new plants and trees, communicating with a simple smile because it was the only way we knew how… and it was enough every time, new smells, new foods, slightly different everythings. It was crazy / amazing to see Nick so familiar with a place that was so new to me. I had to keep reminding myself that he’d lived there for nine months and wasn’t just making really good guesses about how to navigate the town and predicting the best places to find dan bing. This trip proved that it’s so important to know where someone is currently, but it’s just as important to know where they have been.

The last seven pictures that you’ll see below were taken at Tamkang University. Analia and Lachlan (our hosts for the week) were meeting with a friend there and asked if I wanted to come along to walk around. Nick was meeting with an old friend for coffee, so I jumped on the opportunity to get some time to myself. As an extrovert married to a mostly-introvert, I’m discovering that alone time isn’t always a bad thing. In fact, I even like it sometimes.

The campus was absolutely beautiful — a pond with fish and turtles, lush greenery, with every building covered in detail. During my walk, I stumbled upon a gazebo. I decided to sit down for a while and just look around. I wanted to make sure I was really taking everything in. A few minutes after I’d settled, a woman frantically came running up to me. She had her phone out with a picture of a little boy pulled up. She managed to tell me that he was her son, he three years old, his name was Yon, and that he was lost. I’d never heard someone deliver four simple facts with so much fear in their voice. In very broken English, she asked me to keep him there with me in the gazebo if he were to come by.

She went off running back towards the entrance of the college. I decided that the chances of finding this little boy were far less if I were to just sit there, so I got up and took off running in the opposite direction of the woman. I was screaming his name over and over, turning down long pathways and praying Yon was just as adventurous and easily distracted by nature as I am — that he’d seen an animal or pretty tree and wandered away for a second and was perfectly safe.

A few minutes into my search, prayer answered. I spotted him walking along the other end of a very long path. When I yelled his name, he looked at me. For some reason that I’m still unsure of, he calmly came over to me, a complete stranger, and let me pick him up. Knowing he wouldn’t understand a word I was saying, I resorted to the tickle monster. We slowly made our way back to the gazebo to wait for his mom. Just before we got there, I heard her yell his name. Sobbing, she ran towards us. I put him down and he ran towards her too. They embraced like they hadn’t seen each other for a lifetime. What an insane whirlwind of emotions for two people to have to go through.

The lady asked if she could take a picture of Yon and I. She repeatedly hugged me and thanked me and then allowed me to take a picture of she and Yon. I’ll probably never see them again, but I’m really glad our paths crossed that afternoon.

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For now I must be going. Talk soon, friends!

Kate

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