I’m packed up, less the morning things I’ll need tomorrow. I’ve fully charged all the electronics. I have 10-11 things that I want to get done on the plane (including stitching together the several piecemeal panoramics I took), and history tells me I’ll barely accomplish half of them. 🙂 I napped for a bit earlier, which seemed to help get my back in shape. The 800mg of ibuprofen that I took probably didn’t hurt matters. 🙂
I’m rocking a light sunburn on my shoulders and chest from today’s zoo adventure. OMG, the zoo was so awesome. Admittedly, I skipped the animals that I could see at home. The Formosan bears were playing, and they were so cute. Also, because 2008 is the year of the frog, they had a special exhibit on Taiwanese frogs! I’d never seen a live poison dart frog before. They are exactly as bright as the little toys that dreadpirateains and I bought years ago. 🙂 One frog was asleep on the glass so that his belly was facing us. He was just suctioned on and sleeping happily there.
I will say, too, that once I was out of the Xindi district (aka downtown Taipei), being American became a bit more challenging. 🙂 The signs were still trilingual, and announcements were often trilingual, but the people didn’t speak English. Well, scratch that…they did, but broken and haltingly…and the tough part was that even though I came prepared to every activity with memorized Chinese phrases (and vague ability to understand responses), it was like…well, most people when they saw me just immediately spoke English, so the Chinese became unnecessary. It was often easier to do broken english than to risk a mistake in Chinese, since situations like ordering food, it’s far more important that I know what they’re saying than that they know what I’m saying…and the occasional apology and lots of “please” and “thank you” (hello, goodbye, sorry, please, and thank you are the phrases I have down by heart…oh and “I don’t understand.”) When I did bust out some Chinese, I practically got applause, so that was cool. It was funny, too, because at one point, I was grinning and playing with a little boy while queued for a zoo trolley, much to his parents’ amusement…and I looked up the phrase for, “Your son is adorable,” in my book and said it…and the parents looked puzzled, grinned, and said (in Chinese) “Sorry” and “Hello!”…and I realized that they didn’t know Chinese. D’oh! So, I switched to Japanese…and they rattled off so much that I was taken aback. My Japanese is very rusty, although Chinese has made it come back a little. Anyways, they were impressed. 🙂 That family walked with me for several exhibits as we played “find the animal that is clearly hiding in the shade somewhere.” Whichever of us found it first would let the others know. The little boy was absolutely taken with me, too. He kept tugging on my shirt to have me point at animals and say the name in English. He is clearly learning English in school, and his parents’ English is about as good as my Japanese (which is to say, functional, but not much beyond that).
The Maokong gondola was scarier than I anticipated. It was just like the Heavenly gondola except around 4 times as long. But, it ascended and descended through the mountains, so I don’t think it went anywhere near as high as Heavenly. It was just longer, and it was a bunch of up and down which was somewhat thrilling. Several of the down sections were practically vertical. I was soothed by the fact that 2 of the passengers in my toward-Maokong trip were clearly terrified. At least I’d been on Heavenly’s before…they seemed like they’d never been on anything like this before…and they probably haven’t. Maokong gondola is pretty unique, I think, certainly for Taiwan and possibly for SE China as well.
Oh, and for those who don’t follow Twitter, I watched the Opening Ceremonies live in the Tavern (shown in my pictures). It was packed with locals and ex-pats. The audio was in English (Australian). It was amazing. When Taiwan’s athletes marched, the bar erupted into cheers. The same happened for Canada, Singapore, UK, and the US, but Taiwan got the loudest cheers, of course. I ended up chatting with 2 locals and 1 expat during the ceremony. We ripped on the announcer’s stupidity. He kept saying things like, “Well, that bloke oughta be a wrestler. Well, now, it says here he’s a boxer. Guess I’m close enough.”
To sum up (because I need to sleep), it’s been a really good trip for me. Yay, Taiwan!