101: Bags

I will not be copy-pasting this particular definition. It’s much too long.

Sis wasn’t feeling well enough to go down to Pingtung; I went alone at half-past eight Saturday morning. The bus was empty, the MRT was spacious, and Taipei Main Station was impossibly full. Business as usual.

I changed trains at New Zuoyin Station (the HSR ends there) and took a slow train for the penultimate leg. Then I walked home. I remember cursing aloud how hot it was down south. Ah, well: at least the sun isn’t as audible as thunder.

Right out the gate, I made a false move: one turn at the corner 7-11 and I got snared by a smooth-talking student-looking person who tried to hawk a set of “environment-friendly” portable utensils. He talked really, really fast, and kept slipping in phrases like “please do support us.” He almost handed the thing to me, saying “go on, it won’t blow up or anything. Just have a go.” 300 for a set of utensils I’d probably never use. I had to tell him twice (a full sixty seconds apart; I can’t deal with these sorts) that I wasn’t interested.

Uncle was surprised I walked, but he didn’t harp. Grandma seemed to recognize me; unfortunately, she couldn’t understand that Mom and Dad would not be around to visit. I told her five times before she evidently lost interest in the question.

I went out for a walk on Uncle’s suggestion: though lacking customers, the Global Mall was now in full swing. I didn’t go straightaway, though: I traced the most time-consuming hour-long circle ever while trying to follow the tracks again.

… I realized I’d gone wrong when I came upon the tracks visibly running perpendicular to my path. I stopped at this point: I asked for directions back to Park Street, ran into a dead-end at a construction site, and looped way around looking for the tracks I’d now lost for a second time.

As I popped out the other side of the pedestrian path under the bridge, a train rattled overhead; I turned round to watch. The trains of Taiwan, I mused, are still full to the brim with romance and charm. The train that passed reminded me of the only night train I remember taking: a filthy ramshackle tin kettle powered by diesel and with doors that you could jump straight out of without tipping off the conductor.

Uncle took me to get Bubble Ice that night – it was as good as I remember.

Hot pot down south, even in high summer, is good. So is beef noodle soup. It’s a pity that my beautifully developed homo sapiens palate is wasted on the garbage I usually gorge myself upon.

The comic-book store clerk billed me less than I expected. “Are you sure you’re not undercharging me?” I asked. “We automatically take 10% off. If you had a membership card, it would be 20%, but, well…” he fiddled with the computer. “Really now?” I was still mouthy as usual. He fixed me with that look and tallied something up. “You could pay 855 if you wanted – now, take your pick: the cheap option or the expensive one?”

He waved me out the door with a mutter of “wasting your breath.”

Grandma kept asking after me to the last minute; I took some pictures with her, kissed her on the forehead, and closed the door behind me. We were at the train station in no time.

There was a ridiculous line at New Zuoyin station; but the train itself was pretty empty. I was roped into escorting a random elderly couple to the Taipei MRT Station, Danshui line.

There is still a deep romance in riding the Taiwanese trains: the HSR less traditional but no less glamorous: rushing across the Taiwanese countryside at 270 kilometers per hour is still a novelty to me.

… The other day, I rode the MRT blue line again. It sounds exactly as I remember.

I embrace the tangible comfort that comes of the Taiwanese railways.

The piano competition is two days hence. I’m not quite ready; SNAFU SNAFU, I say. I have mixed feelings about leaving Taiwan soon after that. At least I’ll be closer to parents and friends and to familiarity. But it also heralds the unstoppable steps of the next semester, drawing ever closer.

I really see the appeal in religion. I imagine that if I believed today, I’d be measurably less miserable. As always, being a stick-in-the-mud has its downsides: in this case, it inclines me to refuse self-delusion. I delude myself everywhere else – filthy hypocrite that I am – but this is one field that is so steeped in tradition that even I have to draw my line.

I don’t remember my last typhoon experience. I do remember being all alone in the apartment at Taipei. Thunder crashed and I screamed; nobody was home to hear me, so I slithered upstairs in a blubbery mess and hid under the bedsheets in hopes of escaping.

I’m still scared of thunder, but at least I’m now in California, far away from that.

Sis has two or three weeks before her return. Hope she can manage on her own out there.

I’ve got my score for Rachmaninoff’s fourth piano concerto to look forward to. That and upgrading my laptop to Fedora 19; this will be my last post via Fedora 18.



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