Sunday: R and I had sworn to work on our manuscripts. We met at noon at a cafe called the Wooden Drawer. R and been there before, but I hadn't. It was blazingly hot outside, but inside it was of course air conditioned. The cafe was not very different from some of the other cafes we have gone to, but it is apparently very hip at the moment. We got there slightly before it opened, and half an hour later all the tables were full. I didn't take very thorough photographs, but here are a few:
There are many more pictures here, almost insanely many. I'm not sure how I feel about the loving attention the photographer has lavished on every inch of this little coffeeshop. But anyway, it is at least very well documented! We were sitting one table away from the bookshelf. Note: the wireless password is written on the little popsicle stick.
I was in a boring part of my manuscript, but I trudged through.
Later we headed to my neighborhood for green tea froyo, and then R did a bit of clothes shopping. She is exactly the average size for a person here and didn't bother to try anything on. Indeed, the things she bought actually did fit. Me, I am too scarred by Beijing. I *think* I brought enough clothes with me to last the summer, barring further laundry disasters.
We met another of our classmates at a Korean restaurant nearby. Here is R getting ready to enjoy the panchen tiny appetizers (Chinese characters: 飯餐, according to our classmate who is an actual Korean person). R is very enamored of Korean food, having never really had it before.
After that we walked around a lot, including passing through the old neighborhood where I lived 12 years ago. Some things I could still recognize, especially along the route along which I walked to school every day. But I couldn't remember exactly which street I lived on.
Down the street from where I live they are starting some construction. I was impressed by this truck, which was carrying scaffolding supplies. The poles were all made of bamboo!
For no good reason, I stayed up really late. Then I was very tired on Monday. All the same, I went with R to a cafe and did some homework. Then after a short rest--and having required a lot of persuasion--I went with R to a birthday party she had been invited to. Lots of Columbia grad students and ICLP veterans. I felt more out of place than I expected, maybe just because I was tired and over-sensitive. Still, making the decision to do a social thing makes the next such decision easier. I know this from experience, even if it's hard to remember that. The party was at a Japanese restaurant. The dinner in the foreground was mine, and it was pretty good.
Tuesday I was so tired that after a quick bubble tea at Gongguan, I just went home and passed out for a while. Did my homework. Went back to bed.
Wednesday was slightly more lively. At lunch I went to hear a talk on Taiwan politics. It was really cool! I learned a lot. Usually the school has box lunches for when there is a talk scheduled, but they ran out of them. So I had lunch at the cafeteria afterwards. No complaints. I do like cafeteria food!
After school, it was homework at Xiao Gongguan, which is a really adorable upstairs cafe. I wrote about half of my essay on the connection between democracy and economic development. Then R convinced me that I should take time off and have fun. So we went to dinner at a Vietnamese sandwich place, and then we went to see the new Spiderman movie. That was pretty fun! Not terribly deep, but entertaining.
I stayed up late again.
But hey, even though on Thursday morning I was dead tired not to mention really hot after my twenty minute walk to school in the blazing sun, I did see this great lizard! Something good happens every day.
We had sworn to work on our real work again. So it was an afternoon spent in a little cafe by the park on Yongkang jie--very near where I used to live. I remember the park. I still couldn't remember which street I was on though.
We were there all afternoon. I ordered this chocolate ice-cream puff turtle, to try to cheer myself up. Still in a very boring patch of the manuscript. Later we went to have xiaolongbao 小籠包 at a nearby dumpling restaurant. R is very good at ordering food.
Today (Friday) is basically the apogee of tiredness. Yet all the same I managed to have a really good day. This morning I went to the Starbucks across from school and ran into the professor who had given the lecture on Taiwan politics. So instead of doing an extra half hour of homework as planned, I chatted with her, and it really made me feel nice. We were almost complete strangers, but she remembered me from the talk, and anyway, we are of the same tribe. It also shows that all the pressure to work so hard at school is totally self-generated--because not doing that extra half hour of homework made no difference really.
It was my turn to "lead" the discussion in my radio plays class. (This is a class where we study short radio broadcasts, which are all little stories.) The story was an interesting one, about gender roles and household chores. It's interesting how some teaching skills translate pretty decently into Chinese--I had no trouble leading a very interesting discussion. In the course of it I found out that of my two classmates who are college age, one (female) would prefer as her first choice to be a housewife and would be willing to do all the housework... but is training to do a job just in case, as a plan B; the other (male) is okay with his (future) wife working full time, and would be somewhat willing to help out with housework... until they have kids but afterwards... well, it's most important to do what's best for the kids. I asked, What if she has a good job that she likes, and which could support both of you--would you be the stay-at-home dad (jiating zhufu 家庭煮夫)? Answer: no. My other classmate, who I think is younger than me but married with kids, does plan to have a career in the next few years, and they hire people to do all the housework. I characterized my situation as, my husband and I split the housework equally (or he does slightly more) and when we get busy we just drop our standards a lot. I also explained our "fifteen minute rule" (we try to do fifteen minutes of housework every day--together--with specific music for the task). It's amazing how much you can get done in fifteen minutes. I also led the discussion toward the question of whether some chores are gendered, whether in their parents' households there is any division of labor, and so on. The answers were all really interesting. Also, it really made me appreciate Pocket of Bolts, because clearly there aren't all that many fellows out there who are as enlightened as he is.
At lunch I went to a talk on the Cloud Gate Dance Theatre, more because of the free lunch than because I was interested. However, I got totally sucked in! It actually looked fascinating! I guess these things are much more interesting when you know the history behind them. Also the young woman who gave the talk did a really great job. She had such a gentle, clear, lively way of speaking Chinese, she was instantly lovable. It actually really made me want to see one of their performances, even though modern dance is by no means a Zapaper sort of thing. These people are clearly exceptional though, and reminded me strongly of the Ballets Russes, with which I was fascinated in college. It is like an Asian 21st century Ballets Russes.
As usual on a Friday, I was too tired to do much more than just go home and collapse. I read and messed around with my computer and slept and soaked up the AC. Pretty much the only noteworthy things was that I had an absolutely delicious avocado milkshake. Wow, Taipei really knows how to do food.