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(Last Mod: 04 November 2010 18:18:42)
It's now April 2nd as I finally start posting these pictures and what I feared would happen is, of course, happening -- the details of much of our honeymoon have become fuzzy and mixed. Phoebe will have to help fill in some of those details. I do have quite a few pictures, though not nearly as many of the type of photos I would like - photos of us together and doing things. Many of the pictures are of one of us taken by the other. I have a lot to learn about photography. Live and learn.
27-29 December 2008
For my part, the honeymoon got off to a pretty rocky start. My right heal started hurting Christmas Eve and it proceeded to just get worse over the next few days. By the time I left Denver on the 27th I was a hurting puppy. I didn't know what was wrong - I've had gout a few times but it has always been in the area of the ball of my feet and big toe, which weren't hurting at all. It also felt different, somehow. I kept hoping it would go away. The trip to Taiwan was a long one, starting with a healthy layover in Minneapolis followed by a very long layover (around fourteen hours) in Detroit.
By the time I got to Detroit I could barely walk. Since I arrived very late at night, there were no stores open so I just had to endure the pain and hope that someplace had some good drugs in the morning. Detroit is not an airport designed with sleeping in mind -- all of the chairs have fixed arms preventing you from laying down across them -- so you are relegated to the floor or, if you are lucky, one of eight cushioned chairs near the fountain. When morning arrived and the stores opened I couldn't walk at all and had to snag a wheelchair from one of the airline guys as he went past. Getting around in a wheelchair is not nearly as easy as it looks. nearly as easy as it looks, but fortunately I didn't need to go far. The store had Aleve, which has naproxen in it which is the anti-inflammatory the doctor gave me for gout. So I took a double dose of that and within a few hours my foot had improved considerably. I don't know if that indicates that it was a resurgence of gout or simply something else that an anti-inflammatory was called for -and I really didn't care. I was at least able to dispense with the wheelchair and get around with a very pronounced limp. The long haul flight to Japan went okay. I had purchased one of those neck pillows and it came in handy. Unfortunately, I made the mistake of paying an extra $70 to get a seat that was behind a bulkhead not realizing that this meant that it would have rigid sides instead of fold-up arms. That made for a long, cramped flight. This was made all the worse by the fact that I am not one to get up and move around on airplanes, so I made the entire fourteen hour flight without once getting out of my seat.
The layover in Japan was much shorter, although they appear to be far less concerned about having a speedy flow through security screening. A 747 holds a lot of people and we had to wind our way up and down a couple of stairways and through what seemed like back halls in order to work our way through one of two screening stations just to get back to the boarding area for the same plane we had just gotten off of. I had the impression that it was a makeshift arrangement and, to be fair, was probably a lot better than what was likely in place before which probably involved going all the way out to the main screening area for the airport. It could have been a lot worse. The big thing I was grateful for was that my foot had improved to the point where I was walking with only a minor limp and I was no longer suffering the sharp jabs of pain with every step that I had been putting up with earlier.
The flight to Taipei was uneventful and getting through customs and baggage claim went smoothly. They are definitely set up to accommodate people that only speak English, for which I was very grateful. At this point I had to find my wife, and this had me a bit concerned. Phoebe had given me some directions on where to meet her, but since I was unfamiliar with the airport I was worried about whether I would be able to understand them correctly. As it turned out, I had nothing to fear. She spotted me as soon as I came out of the passengers-only area although I didn't spot her for quite a while. It was a great relief when I did.
Originally we had planned on going over to see her mom before going to the hotel, but since I was arriving so late at night Phoebe decided that it would be best to go straight to the hotel and get some rest and then go over to her mom's place in the morning. That sounded great to me as I was quite exhausted after a 37 hour trip, especially with the drain that dealing with my foot added, and the thought of a hot shower sounded awfully nice as well.
But the fun for the evening wasn't over yet. One thing I learned during my three weeks in Taiwan -- they do things differently over there. Some things they do very efficiently and other things made me shake my head. My first experience was of the head shaking variety. Apparently at the airport in order to get out of the parking garage you have to walk up to a service counter deep in the garage and pay your parking fee and receive a token in return. This token is then fed to the automated gate in order to open it. At first I thought that this reflected a lack of sophistication when it comes to automating things, which surprised me a bit. However, whatever the reason, it wasn't because they don't know how to automate things -- there were plenty of examples I saw later that showed real ingenuity in how to automate things, especially parking lots. Be that as it may, the token slid down the dash along the side of the steering column and, naturally, we didn't notice this until we were trying to get out of the garage. This caused a bit of a traffic problem, but it was late enough at night that it wasn't huge. After giving up on retrieving the token, we drove back to the service counter where they informed us it would be a considerable surcharge (about $22) if we couldn't get the token back. So Phoebe went to work on it some more and after several minutes was able to get it. So the first crisis of our life together was successfully resolved.
In some ways, I think this little crisis was good for us. I could tell that Phoebe was rather distressed by this incident -- considerably more so than I thought it warranted. I couldn't tell if it was because she simply doesn't deal with unexpected stressful situations well or just that she was concerned that it might be creating a bad impression in my mind of her. I had the impression that it was more of the latter and, given how she handled other things that came up later on while maintaining a very even keel I think that was correct. I don't think I appreciated how stressful this whole situation had to be for her; the fact that she was really married and on her honeymoon with someone that she had only spend a few days with several months earlier was probably weighing on her quite a bit. I don't know why it wasn't weighing more heavily on me - perhaps the long trip had me sufficiently exhausted that I just wasn't up to worrying about it. None-the-less, just as she had to wonder what kind of impression she would make on me, I was aware that I was on stage as well and that how I behaved and reacted in the first few hours and days would be critical to defining the path that our relationship would take. Fortunately, I have learned to not get stressed out over most situations and to just deal with them as best I can. This was no different and I think the fact that I didn't get upset or say anything negative to or about her went a long way to putting her at ease. The same was true in reverse at other times when she could have easily snapped at me and she never did. Overall, this incident was typical of many situations we had to deal with during our time together -- you don't spend three weeks someplace and not have adversity creep up from time to time -- and, in each case, I think we both managed to show that we were flexible and willing to adapt and work together to deal with the situation at hand. If our honeymoon is any indication, we are going to get along and work well together. Our long distance interactions, both before and after, strengthen that belief.
You might be wondering where the pictures from all of this are. The answer is that there aren't any. My camera was in my bag and it just never occurred to me, until later, to get it out and take some pictures of the trip and, especially, of Phoebe when we first met at the airport. I did take two pictures at the hotel that night, but they turned out rather poorly. The hotel room was very small, but more than adequate - except for the bed. In the U.S., most hotels have really firm mattresses, especially for someone that sleeps on a waterbed. But Taiwan tends to take the notion of a "firm bed" to a whole other level. This would become an ongoing source of mystery and anticipation - would tonight's hotel involve sleeping on little more than plywood or would it be a soft bed? More often than not it was on the plywood side of the spectrum, but there were a half dozen or so places that had truly soft beds - much softer than anything I've come across in the States. It tended to be the higher end hotels that had the soft beds, although there were a couple of exceptions in both directions. In the States, it's been my experience that the more you pay for a hotel room the harder the bed gets. The only time I've found a comfortable bed here was in Rapid City, ND when I had to stay at a rundown motel off the main street and the bed was clearly old and decrepit - and so worn out that it was soft and comfortable!
30 December 2008
The first pictures above were taken at Phoebe's mom's place in Taipei. Of course, there's the obligatory trading of pictures between Phoebe and me. Then, as you would expect, Stacy pretty much stole the show. The last pictures were taken at a restaurant where we had a family dinner that night. The first picture is Stacy with a new friend from the next table. Next is a picture of Walter and Joedy (Chien Jia Di) with Harold on the far right. Joedy is Phoebe's younger sister and Walter is (as of 28 March 2009) her fiance. Harold is Debbie's father-in-law. Debbie is Phoebe's older sister who lives in Shakopee, a suburb of Minneapolis. Joedy is an air traffic controller and Walter is a 747 pilot for China Airlines. They are a pretty special couple and we hit it off pretty well, I think. Harold teaches English at one of the local universities. The next picture is of Joedy, Harold, myself, and Phoebe's mom, whose given name I don't recall, if I ever new it. Also with us that evening was Phoebe's younger brother, Joe (Chien Jie Shi), but I didn't manage to get a picture with him in it.
The other big thing on the itinerary for this day was getting our marriage registered in Taiwan so that we could have a ceremony there to augment the proxy ceremony we had had earlier in the month. This involved first going to American Institute in Taiwan, which is essentially the U.S. embassy in Taiwan, however, it can't be called that given the strange situation between China and Taiwan and the U.S.'s unwillingness to use the same diplomatic terminology that it does with fully recognized independent nations. Things went smoothly at AIT, except that they decided that my passport was invalid because of the amount of damage it underwent during my brief stint as an international fugitive from justice back in 2003 (long story). I tend to think that it was really just a means to force me to cough up $70 to have it replaced. Oh well.
Once we got the marriage certificate authenticated at AIT we went to the Taiwan Bureau of Consular Affairs to register it. But there, despite what their website says, we were told that the documents first had to be authenticated by the Kansas City branch of the Taiwan Economic and Cultural Office (TECO). That pretty much nixed being able to have any kind of official ceremony in Taiwan while we were there. Oh well, again.
During this running around I had another one of those "they do things differently here" moments. Parking in Taipei is always an interesting undertaking. We found a spot that had a meter, but it doesn't take cash, only a special card that you either have or you don't. But if you don't have it, that's okay. You just go ahead and park there and then they will ticket your car but as long as you send in payment for the normal parking fee within a set amount of time (I think it was about a week) you are fine. The sign points out that you are required to send in payment whether they put a ticket on your car or not, although given how well people obey any other form of traffic regulation in Taiwan I rather doubt that their compliance rate is very high - which is not to say that I would expect it to be much higher in the States. None-the-less, I thought it was an interesting approach and wouldn't mind seeing something along those lines adopted over here. It's frustrating when you end up having to go downtown and you don't have any change to feed the meters. I admit I haven't figured out how to make it really work well - but maybe getting it to work at least almost as well as the present system wouldn't be too hard.
While we were doing this we stopped and had lunch. Phoebe pretty much took it upon herself to see that I got to sample as much of the local cuisine as possible. While I was, in theory, more than willing to accommodate this effort, it became more difficult as time went by and I came to crave a good old steak or hamburger. But at this point that wasn't an issue. Now, I'm not a very inquisitive diner - I'm just not that big on trying new foods and new tastes. However, I also didn't want to spend three weeks in Taiwan and not give it an honest go. To be sure, there were a number of things that I ate while I was there that were truly delicious. The flip side is true - there were a number of things that I ate that I could barely stand. Then, of course, there was a whole lot of stuff in between - not something that I truly enjoyed but things that I didn't mind and could probably get used to and learn to like. Unfortunately you never knew what would fall into which category - things that looked delicious could end up tasting foul and things that looked very unappetizing could end up being really tasty.
One thing I did notice rather quickly was that most placed offered few, if any, beverages. Tea was pretty commonly available, although even that seemed absent at a number of places. However, I can't stand tea. Some places had soft drinks, but almost none had any diet soft drinks at all. Most places didn't have water and, when they did, it tended to be served boiling hot. The reason for this last part is probably as much technological as it is cultural - you don't drink the water in Taiwan unless it has been boiled. I don't know if this is because they simply don't have the treatment facilities to treat the water adequately or if it is because the water distribution system is so old and has a lot of compromises that introduce bad things into the water supply on its way to homes and businesses.
31 December 2008
1 January 2009
2 January 2009
3 January 2009
4 January 2009
5 January 2009
6 January 2009
7 January 2009
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11 January 2009
12 January 2009
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14 January 2009
15 January 2009
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17 January 2009