Waking up during the 7 o’clock hour has been something of the norm recently, mostly because of the heat and sunlight streaming in through our sliding glass door. The early mornings call for relatively early nights—so there is my excuse, straight away.
Anders invited us out for a kickboxing club event on Saturday night. “A casual drink with friends,” Colin tells me as I’m applying makeup for the “they’re going to stay out till, like, 3” event he had described earlier. That turned out to be OK as, per usual, the girls in the group were all more gussied up than the boys.
The group met at an MRT station and followed Anders through the streets to a poorly lit driveway lined with a wall of kegs. The Factory.
We approached a warehouse with crates of beer bottles stacked outside two-stories high. A Taiwanese band with a chick lead singer played a great “Sweet Child of Mine” inside. We filed in and took up three picnic-style tables, and after a short wait, min-keg after min-keg appeared.
Of the twentyish people present, I met maybe eight, most of who were not in the kickboxing club, but friends of friends or people in Anders’ ever-growing network. Conversation proved difficult against the band, but they took enough breaks for us to meet some of our tablemates.
Three pints each of Taiwan Beer later, Colin and I tottered back to the MRT station, with no intention of staying with the group as they moved from bar to club until 3 in the morning.
Sunday night we had a dinner date with a friend of a former coworker of Colin’s. We met Kyle at the Wedding Banquet for some all-you can-eat-dim-sum fun. Wedding themed too, right down to the boy-band ballads and the happy-couples slide show. Kyle had been once before and took the lead a bit: “No, we don’t need the chicken feet.” I got an idea of what bite-sized nibbles had what meat in them, and loaded my tiny plate with a seaweed-covered ball of shrimp and different beans, a few bites of spicy kimchi (cabbage), and something like a ball of crab salad. So far, so good. The wait staff kept coming by with hot plates and steaming containers, and we’re sure we couldn’t have ordered all of it. Within minutes our table was completely laden with fish on tofu, tofu in sauce, simmering eggplant, just-overcooked bok choy, buns filled with pork, chicken and green bell peppers, shrimp fried rice, mushroom chow mein, and more.
In between bites, Kyle told us about her Watson fellowship, which is funding her yearlong adventure to five different countries to study post-conflict memories. Taiwan is her first stop; next she travels to Cambodia, Rwanda, Bosnia, and finally Cyprus. She’s by herself, though this isn’t her first time living abroad, having studied in Northern Ireland and South Africa. Oh, and being raised in Hong Kong. She turned down a Fulbright to do this, to Colin’s chagrin, and she bluffed her way into an editing internship at the Taipei Times to do while she’s here, to my chagrin.
The conversation kept up through dessert—coconut milk with small, hard clear balls, a seaweed-red rice soup, and tea jello with tiny spoons. We left food on the table, the three of us unable to fit another bite. We parted with a “We should do this again,” which may come to fruition before Kyle leaves for Cambodia in a month and a half; maybe she could recommend me as her replacement at the Taipei Times.