When I was 20, I spent six months in a vortex. (Not a polar vortex.) It jumbled me up and made me see the world and relationships and food in a whole different (and more appreciative) way. That vortex was one of the world’s best food cities and just an endlessly fun, urban place — Taipei. Friendships from the vortex lasted, so any time I’m back — even if many of us have children now — we make it out to see each other, reuniting over bowls of Taiwan’s religion (beef noodle soup), partying it up in the smoke-filled clubs and lounges (no smoking ban), and wandering the gritty alleys which are naturally full of food vendors selling buns and soups and Taiwan’s second most popular religion, bubble tea. The only key Taipei activity that we didn’t do this trip was karaoke until 5am and then hit the all-you-can-eat congee bars, but I’ve done enough of that for a lifetime. And with Mandopop stars, naturally.
After five years in Holland, my parents just moved to Taipei. Mom bought a place up near Tamsui, which is a beach town with a boardwalk where women sing karaoke covers of Alanis Morrisette’s mid-nineties hits. So we spent Christmas and rang in the New Year with lots of family — many of my forty or so cousins made the trek for a big family reunion trip. Hadn’t been back since the halcyon days of 2011, before I went to NPR and the CEO quit two days after I started. (Correlation is not causation.)
Getting there and back is the worst. Let’s just get that out of the way. It’s a 14 hour flight plus another three hours after a layover in Tokyo. Or it’s broken up differently and also horrendous. The plane goes from fresh and full of promise to a filthy, lived in, farted-in trash tube. (The flight back, which included our toddler, head colds and an inhuman experience at Dulles in which the agriculture cops busted us for bringing back grapes in Eva’s food bag and not declaring it, was hands down one of my most difficult days.)
Instead of family photos, I’ll show you some of the atmospherics that make Taipei so much fun for us. Like WHITEMEN toothpaste, guardian of tooth:
Taiwanese signs are accompanied by great images. I love the bump on the armless woman:
And hey, don’t fail at speaking:
My cousin got my grandma 3D printed. She said her fake head fell off after a recent earthquake and one of her aides found the head had jumped and landed on a table. She rushed her 3D-printed self to a jeweler to get her head re-attached. You can’t even tell it was missing:
What the F. Doctor Drill ‘N Fill is the scariest toy I’ve ever seen:
This traffic warning guy had moving arms. Amazing:
Why was there a baby with a scary perm on the side of a building? These are the mysteries one encounters when one can’t read Chinese.
And I discovered a great new party game/app through my old roommate (Joe) and his buddy Mike (at right, with phone on his head). Don’t know the name of it, but it’s the electronic version of the board game Taboo or Catchphrase, where your team has to give you clues for the item shown on your forehead, without actually saying the item. Great fun. Let me know if you know what the app is called.
Y’all know how important I think Taiwanese news animations are. So naturally I set up a visit for an upcoming piece. And naturally I found a bunch of motion capture actors just sitting around in leotards, waiting for an assignment:
Thanks for the memories (again), Taiwan. I’m a huge fan.