So there haven’t been many updates about my day-to-day recently because, well, it’s been very day-to-day. That is to say, less than interesting. Monday through Friday we get up between 8 and 9, turn on our computers first thing to reconnect with the world we’d been disconnected from for eight hours, and while away the time we have before class perusing the news and doing homework. Then we have class for three hours, after which we return to our apartment and decompress from the mental workout that is learning Chinese. Wash, rinse, repeat.
But that’s no excuse! What about the weekends? Those wonderful two days offer the opportunity to make day-long plans, as we did last weekend, by spending Saturday down in Wulia hiking in the river again with Pascal and Andy, and Sunday with the cousin of Colin’s aunt by marriage—essentially family.
Also, on Saturday night we were late to a rooftop patio house-warming potluck for Anders and Melissa, and there was a glorious pasta salad with tomatoes and tuna that Colin and I circled for a solid 15 minutes upon arrival—fabulous. We brought a highly praised circle of cornbread.
Sunday we were not late, and we clamored into Jeffery’s silver Mercedes parked outside our MRT station at 11:10. Jeffery sped out of Yonghe and across the river into Taipei proper. It was as though we’d just arrived all over again: all of our running around has been either underground on the MRT or very, very local. Jeffery, in slow, accented English, pointed out lesser known or more personal attractions as we drove past: his high school sitting in the shadow of an ornate Japanese temple, historic buildings set with Roman-style columns that were under renovation, the Museum of Fine Arts (currently housing a Pixar exhibit I’d really like to check out).
We approached his apartment complex (as in the one he owns), and parked in the block-sized underground lot—one for the whole block because that, too, he owns. A mirrored elevator climbed to the eleventh floor, where there are two two-story penthouses: one for Jeffery and his wife, and one for his older brother. The youngest brother has the thirteenth floor to himself. We slipped off our shoes in the foyer, and Jeffery provided us with house slippers.
He led us into an elegant living room with brilliant purple geodes that sat two feet tall and Italian glass coffee tables and a Persian rug that ran wall to wall. He took us on a tour of the rest of his equally elegant pad to show us his views of both sides of Taipei, the Italian glass sculptures recessed into the stairwell, and his multiple Italian glass light fixtures. The place is impressive, that’s for certain.
We had lunch at a Japanese restaurant that he frequents. Jeffery was stopped by the parking lot guard, but got us in no problem by saying either “But sir, I own the building,” or “But sir, I’ve got polio,” or perhaps both.
Once inside, the staff showed us to a table for three next to the window overlooking the courtyard. A minimalistic staircase descended from the street (we were technically in the basement) to the stone entryway, which was surrounded by a koi pond rimmed by dark slab water features.
Colin and I both ordered the sushi lunch, a long tray with about ten pieces of fish on top of sticky rice and two sets of tiny rolls: cucumber and salmon (I think). Colin pointed out the uni (oo-nee) that he had so disliked in Japan: sea urchin. The light-orange paste of the sea urchin shared the space with reddish-orange salmon roe the size and consistency of pomegranate seeds. I was expecting gag-inducing bad, but it just had a bit of an odd texture that was slow to leave the mouth. Colin couldn’t sit there and watch me eat the uni no problem and leave his sitting there, so he Gauchoed up and cleared his tray.
Food kept coming: giant shrimp (an oxymoron, I know, but these things were easily five inches long and as fat as a grown man’s thumb) coated in taro root and lightly fried until crispy, sugar cube-sized bites of gray and purple root or vegetables sitting in a light orange-colored sauce with carrots cut into flowers for garnish, and familiar miso soup. The four people working in the room kept the green tea coming, mercifully, as the air conditioning was on high and I hadn’t brought a wrap to go over my sundress.
Dessert came as pieces of fruit—crunchy nashi pear, speckled dragon fruit, and peach that I’d bet came from California—and tasty vanilla flan.
Jeffery wanted to show us a bit more of the town, and when Colin expressed an interest in the nearby Yangmingshan National Park, we were off—climbing up the mountain on the winding, tree-lined back route. Jeffery drove us past the main campus of our school, perched on one of the peaks with a completely unobscured view of Taipei, simmering in its hazy heat some 900 meters below.
We stopped at a tea house whose prices had inflated with the elevation and had a sweet on the patio, the bushy green mountainside laid out before us. The talk ranged from American holidays and their representation in Taiwan to the apparent mistrust of spaying or neutering pets in Taiwan. Jeffery told us of his travels all over the world, which had mostly been business related, as he was a member of the Taiwanese business council for many years.
After the sun had fallen well below the shade of our umbrella and everyone’s glass was drained, we left. Jeffery had a dinner appointment, but encouraged us to call him to hang out again: “I’m busy for five minutes and that’s all.”