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Monday, May 14, 2007

Mother's Day 母の日

Amber, Pamela and I, along with my mother-in-law 義理の母, decided to skip the almost certain to-be-crowded Fengyuan (Fongyuan) 豊原(とよはら)restaurants, and celebrate Mother's Day 母の日 by going for a drive along the coast. So, after a quick lunch of Chinese-style fried rice チャーハン at a small eatery in Shenkang (Shengang) 神岡(かみおか), we drove north for a short while to the seaside town of Taan (Daan) 大安.

Ta'an is a typical Taiwanese west coast seaside town - in short, it's ugly, the beach isn't very attractive and the water is no doubt very polluted. However, though the weather has started to get hot, the hordes haven't started descending on the beaches yet, so the sand at Ta'an was surprisingly free of trash. Also, when we arrived, the tide was out, WAY out, so the distance from our parked car to the sea itself (the Taiwan Straits 台湾海峡 in these parts) was vast, and Amber took advantage of the open space to run around and enjoy herself. Amber had a great time today at the seashore, and I'm looking forward to taking her for her first dip in the ocean sometime this summer.

Amber was particularly interested in the thousands of small holes dug in the sand by tiny crabs カニ

The beach at Ta'an is actually part of a "resort" that charges an admission fee. However, today it was closed. Whether that was because the season hasn't started yet, or the business had gone bankrupt, couldn't be ascertained.

For some reason, there were soldiers at the beach, lots of 'em. Even more unusual, instead of arriving in military vehicles, they were brought to Ta'an in commercial tour buses - at least a dozen were in the parking lot.

From Ta'an, we drove south for a couple of kilometers to a wetlands area and bird refuge. Even here there was some kind of military installation. The west coast is lined with observation towers (manned and unmanned), high concrete walls and pillboxes. These days, the authorities are probably looking out more for smugglers and illegal aliens than an amphibious assault from China.

Another aspect to the west coast of Taiwan is that despite the dense urban populations, the landscape close to the sea is mostly rural.

Pamela suggested we next drive to Sani (Sanyi) 三義 to see if the flowers on the Tung trees アブラギリ were still blooming. To her disappointment, they weren't. I, on the other hand, was satisfied with proving my manhood by holding up a bamboo pole with two very heavy baskets containing large pieces of wood, while simultaneously eating a roasted sausage. What a stud! Genki 元気 Amber was all over the place, leaving her mother and grandmother lagging behind her. And the late afternoon scenery was still nice, despite the absence of flowers.

Back in Fengyuan, we tried to have dinner at a Korean restaurant downtown, but the traffic was heavy and parking was scarce. Instead, we ended up going to a quiet Japanese-style diner on the other side of the tracks. The food was just OK (it always is *sigh*), but I did like what was hanging over the cash register - a display of different names of fish in 漢字, with フリガナ beside each character. Maybe Amber can get me one of these for Father's Day!

Happy Mother's Day everyone!

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