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Sunday, July 19, 2015

Until next time Formosa...

Three days isn't much time to get things done, especially when that time frame includes flying into and out of a country. Such was the case with my recent Fourth of July whirlwind visit to Fengyuan  豐原, Taichung 台中. With more time on my hands, I would've gone for a hike in Dakeng 大坑, just like in the old days; visited some new spots in Taichung (if any had appeared since the last time I was there, in the fall of 2013); or perhaps took in a baseball game, cheering on Taichung's newest team, the Brother Elephants 中信兄弟. Most of all, I would've tried to have gotten together with as many of my old friends and former students as time would've permitted. But time was a luxury I didn't have on this trip, as there were matters pertaining to my late father-in-law that needed to be seen to, and relatives to see and say farewell to. 

One person, though, I did make time for, and that would be my best friend going back to high school, the man who, for better or worse, was indirectly responsible for my settling down in Taiwan (by virtue of being there when I needed a place to go to during a very difficult period in my life), and who has outdone me by not only marrying a Taiwanese woman, but in having twice as many children as me. And so Sunday afternoon was set aside to spend with Steve. I left Amber (and Pamela) in the safe confines of the Bob Ross studio at the Pacific Department Store in Fengyuan, secure in the knowledge that she would enjoy adding happy little trees to her landscapes, and took the train from Fengyuan to Taichung Station 台中車站, where my friend was waiting:

To make the proverbial long story short, it was great catching up with an old friend. Unlike me, Steve has stuck it out in Taiwan, and his hard work and perseverance has paid off with the setting up of his own English school, Teacher John English. That he did so by following all the proper licensing procedures is a testament to his work ethic and character; many entrepreneurs, frustrated by the extent of Taiwanese red tape, simply give up and operate in a gray zone at best, or under the table, at worst:

The time spent with Steve that afternoon and evening wasn't enough, especially as I have no idea when I can next visit Taiwan:

I returned to Shanghai 上海 on Monday the sixth of July, while the girls would remain behind in Fengyuan for another week or so, using the time (and some of my insurance money!) to take a short trip to Penghu 澎湖, much to my consternation (it's on the list of places I still haven't been in Taiwan and would like to see). My relationship with Taiwan over the years has been a testy one, and rarely do I ever feel the sort of nostalgia and warm, fuzzy memories for the place that I do with regards to Japan. Nothing on this brief visit changed any of my perceptions (or prejudices, or resentments), but as long as I have family and friends living there, Taiwan is going to play a large part in the dysfunctional drama that has been my life in the post-Japan years. With the next nine months to be spent in the United States, followed by two years in Lithuania, it'll probably be a while before I drop in on Formosa again. But I will be back. Whether I want to or not, I shall return.

And maybe I'll finally get to visit Penghu on that occasion. Or drive the roads (inland and coastal) between Hualien 花蓮 and Taitung 台東. Or climb Yushan 玉山. Or...

Amber shows off her Bob Ross-inspired creation

A typical view on the outskirts of Fengyuan

Anywhere there's an elementary school in Taiwan, you'll find cram schools and private kindergartens on the surrounding streets

My farewell lunch at a local Japanese restaurant

Buying a milk tea from one of the few remaining Balance tea stands

An example of democracy in action, Taiwanese-style. In your face, China!

Saying goodbye to my daughter at the Taichung HSR Station

The high-speed train that would take me to the Taoyuan HSR Station, before eventually moving on to Taoyuan International Airport 臺灣桃園國際機場 桃園機場 and finally back to Shanghai

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