Friday, January 4, 2008

The day was beginning to turn night yesterday when we left the Internet cafe, so we decided to stay in I-lan one more night. We met a middle school kid that said he'd help to ask if we could sleep at the middle school for the night. Excellent. We got permission from a teacher, and then after some reconsideration, the assistant principal gave us the "no." No worries. I understand.

As we were booted out, it began to rain. Bummer.

We got directions to the university in town and the security guard granted us permission to sleep in the basement of one of their buildings. In the morning, I woke up to sounds of what seemed like a night club. I walked out, and I saw some older folks doing morning exercises. I couldn't get back to sleep because of all the mosquitoes, so I walked around a bit. Further upstairs was partner dancing. It was 5am.

I finally got back to sleep and awoke to morning school bells and students walking through our sleeping quarters.

We met up with our middle school friend and shot some hoops in the rain, and after an hour of indecisiveness, we took off walking down towards Suou.

About 8 kilometers later, we met a man that had seen us further down the road and offered to buy us "bin-lang," a nut that is chewed quite often in Taiwan. It offers a little buzz, I think, probably the eqivalent of chewing tobacco. We went in for some tea and met some of his friends. They gambled around a 4-sided table, a game that involved dominoes.

Now an hour behind on schedule, we picked up our pace and went a little further, and ended up spending some more time at a Mazda dealership drinking coffee and chatting with a salesman.

Later, a man offered us a ride, first a little down the road, and then he said he'd take us to Suou.
We obliged and took his advice for a dip in the cold springs in town.
Gotta run for now. The train's a-comin'. Yeah, we're taking the train, so we can get to Taroko National Park tomorrow.
Will catch up later. For the time being, here's a link to an article written about us in The World Journal:
Yours in Travel,

Thursday, January 3, 2008

For the first time in my life, I am blogging in an Internet cafe. We're sitting in the non-smoking section as the smoke billows in from the other room.

We spent the day here in I-lan milling around in the sun, drinking creamy coffee and looking for a new digital camera. After a few hours, Steve finally decided on one, and here's our first picture displayed on one of the store TVs.

James, our salesman friend sold it to us.

We're supposed to be leaving now, but I-lan is a pretty cool place. At breakfast, we finished and paid, but the lady that served us fed us her home-grown guavas. She gave us one, and then another. After we left to buy the camera, we had to head back toward her store. As we passed, she gave us another guava. Delicious.
It's 4:40pm now, the clouds are building, and it gets dark around 5:30pm. We're late. Off we walk towards Suou.
Let's hope today is the last day of the cold wind blowing along the coast.

The Saddest Popcorn...ever

After about 13 hours of sleep, we're off to walk toward I-lan. This is where I need to change the title of my blog a little bit.

I'll explain: We've decided we'll take some rides sometimes when they're offered, and maybe a train ride if the walking is dangerous. There are thin roads here on the coast, and some cliffside drop-offs that have no return. I know, I know -- "You wussy, Jeff..."

Well, in response to that, I need to live. Afterall, this walk is about meeting people and getting to know the life of others on this island where my parents are from. On my walk across America after graduation, I promise, I won't take rides.

Sooo...we took a ride from some people when we got to a town called Waia, I think. A woman, her sister, and her sister's friend were out having a good time on the beach, and I approached them to ask about directions. We chatted briefly and they decided to offer us a ride to the next big city, I-lan. I talked it over with Steve, and we decided it would be good, as we'd be able to talk to some people. They live in I-lan and know their way around. I would've never been able to get to where I needed to go without them, and for that I am grateful.

We boarded their small truck and went to the next town up, Jiao Si, where they wanted to show us the hot springs, where we could soak our tired feet. We took our shoes and socks off, and I asked Steve to get the camera for some pictures. This is when I began to sing in my head:

I been havin' some hard travellin', I thought you know'd
I been havin' some hard travellin', way down the road...

You see, dear reader, Steve lost our camera -- our camera that we borrowed from a family friend of mine.

A quick recollection of our past hour's travels led us to the point where we left the camera. One of our I-lan friends that we met drove us back to the spot. The camera was gone. We asked the roadside store to see if they knew what might've happened.

Along the road are lots of small shops that serve the truck-drivers that go by. They'll often drop in, buy a beer, eat at the cafeteria, and before they depart, sing some karaoke. To make a long story short, a truck driver ran off with our camera about 2 minutes before we arrived. We drove to the police station to ask them to check the roadside video cameras.

Back to the roadside store, and there's some sort of political party gathered around singing karaoke. I couldn't fully understand what was going on, because mixed in with the Chinese and Taiwanese languages was a local dialect called "minan-yu." I have no idea what the Western translation for that is.

We call the manager out, and he gets angry that he did a good deed and told us about who took the camera, and then we bring the cops to his store. I try explaining that we just wanted to view what was on the camera, and the police had to come to take down witness statements. We were sorry; we really were.

We left the store, left our numbers with the cops, and left the whereabouts of our camera to the local police. Some of the roadside cameras belong to the local government, and the cops have to check with them to get the footage.

I'd hate to burden our friends further, and we really needed to get to I-lan, so we drove off. We picked up the others still waiting at the hot springs. They had bought us snacks for the ride.

We got the unfortunate call from the police, and I sat in the middle seat eating the saddest bag of popcorn I ever did eat. It was delicious.

A Beginning Like All Beginnings: Different

Dear Other World,

The last I spoke to you was when I was in a warm Taipei apartment, helplessly buzzing around, packing last minute details and tangible items into my backpack.

Now we have walked about 25 kilometers (not an exact figure because I lost my pedometer...who needs a pedometer anyway. Do you even know what a pedometer is?), were almost run over by a freight train, are on the east coast of Taiwan, and I don't have pictures to show for it....well maybe one or two, but I'll get to that in another post.

The first day on the road was quite something. We got to a late start after my aunt and uncle treated us to a seafood lunch somewhere above the town of Dali. After our first steps from a seaside cafe, we decided to walk a little on the train tracks. It offered a spectacular view, and plus, after reading the book Hobo a few years back, I've always enjoyed the feeling of being on train tracks.

Bad Idea: Within half an hour, at least four trains wizzed by, the last of which nearly nipped both my friend, Steve, and I. We heard the horn a-comin', and jumped to take a squat on the ledge which offered our other potential option -- a 15 foot drop into a muck of a garden and various degrees of trash. Luckily, we're alive to tell the story, and I have minidisc audio to prove it.

Our main route at the moment is Rt. 2. With the openning of another faster route to the coast, the urbanites generally choose to take a faster route to the sea. This leaves the tractor trailors to Rt. 2 zooming down the coast.

After a close call with the train, we walked the road with varying shoulder widths to Dali. We went to a YMCA, but no one answered our calls. Dogs barked us out through the gates. We tried seeking shelter at a temple, but it was quite the tourist attraction, it seemed, and offered no form of shelter. It even had an information center. Mentally exhausted and physically wrecked with a 13-hour time difference, we chose to stay at a hostel, deserted from the likes of the winter "cold." It's chilly here, but it ain't nothing like an American winter. Barely anybody comes to these parts in the winter.

Thank you all kindly for the comments. It keeps me going.

Monday, December 31, 2007

The New Year!

Greetings from 2008! In about four hours, we should be walking South from Fulong. I need sleep.

Earlier, we met up with the all-encompassing David Schultz for an unforgettable New Years celebration. Fireworks blasted off from the world's tallest functional building for several minutes as we drank beer atop a Taipei apartment complex. An estimated 400-thousand were present in the surrounding blocks of the towering Taipei101 building.

We met a whole bunch of English teachers that came from abroad to spend a year or two or lifetime in Taiwan. A fun evening for all.

Happy trails in 2008 -- not just physical ones. I have no idea where we're sleeping tonight.
Peace on Earth!

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Cups - plastic ones

I should be sleeping now, but as you'd imagine, the 13 hour time difference is throwing me off. We went out and got some chicken and bubble tea with my aunt and cousin, and now it's almost 3am.

It's amazing how a day's long flight will get you to the exact other side of the planet. Quite a long way we've come since flagellum.

On the two plane rides over, I tried to use only one plastic cup, you know, because I'm all about the re-use of all things. I failed. The flight attendant reached into the middle of my airplane tray table where I had been doing some work, and snatched it as quick and precise as a bird diving for fish.

"Hey!" I yelled, but she didn't look back. The next time she made her rounds, I made sure to tell her that she ruined all my plans of using the same cup for the trip to the East.

She said back to me, "Now there's an issue; I'll take that up with the chief!"

Anyways, someone told me this is sunrise, but it makes more sense that it's sunset somewhere over Siberia. Either way, it's real pretty.

Tomorrow is for equipment sorting and New Year celebrations.

'Til next time, for the love of recycling,