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Kristina’s Journal: January 15, 1999 Taiwan US$1=NT $32
We are in Taiwan because this is where David’s biological father, Bill, lives with his Taiwanese wife, Ling-I, and their 2 1/2-year-old son, Willie. Bill works as an English teacher at the University in Tainan, which is in Southern Taiwan. We arrived in Taipei, the capital city in the North, originally planning to see the sights there and then take the train south the following day. We had no guidebook, and no idea where to find budget accommodation, so we booked a hotel near the train station from the airport. It was very expensive but necessary. We took the airport bus which dropped us a few blocks from the hotel and walked from there.
After we checked in, we went to the train station to buy tickets to the town near Tainan where Bill lives. We bought our tickets, satisfied with how easy it was after we had someone at the hotel write the destination for us in Chinese. Wrong! When we called Bill to confirm our arrival time, it turns out we had bought tickets to the wrong location. After much hassle, many phone calls, and the return and purchase of new tickets, we discovered that we still had the wrong tickets, but they were much closer to where we needed to go, so we just stuck with them. After all of this, and a departure time around noon the next day, we saw virtually nothing of Taipei. The train ride took about 4 hours and was uneventful. We expected to see farmland as we traveled down the coast, but it seemed like the cities never ended.
January 19, 1999 The Object of Fascination
Never in my life have I been stared at so much simply because of the color of my skin or my hair. Of all the places we have been before, no matter how remote, it seems that there have been many tourists there before us, jading the locals into looking at us as a source of money, not fascination. Taiwan, however, does not get many western tourists and there are very few people who speak English, nor are they many signs in English.
We went into a department store in a shopping mall and walked through the first floor to get downstairs. The first-floor entrance was like any other department store in the States, filled with cosmetics, skincare, and perfume counters, staffed by overly made-up Taiwanese young women. What was slightly odd to me was not the abundance of recognizable name brand cosmetics, but the pictures everywhere of the white supermodels who represent them. It seemed that these companies were still trying to sell idealized western beauty to Asian women. And here I was, the only white woman for miles, with no makeup on, in bad need of a haircut, feeling like I should live up to the standard as well. I felt like these girls were staring at me, expecting something more from me, a female representative for my entire country.
It wasn’t just in the department store that people were curious. In restaurants, people watch us to see if we are capable of using chopsticks. Bill says people comment to him all the time on how well he uses chopsticks and he replies that he’s been using them for over forty years, longer usually than the person asking the question has been alive. We haven’t really done much since we’ve been here, but that’s not why we came. Dave wanted to spend some time with his father and time getting to know his little brother. Bill showed us a photo he has of David when he was the same age as Willie is now and the similarities are really amazing, even though Willie is half Taiwanese. We’ve spent most of our time reading, resting, and writing. It was good not to have to do anything for a while. We did have some good meals here in the little town they live in and in Tainan city. We went out one night for Sushi and another to a place famous for its steamed dumplings, which were indeed wonderful.
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