Friday, 1 November 2013

Trepidation in Taiwan

Risk of the Day
Just missed a 4.3, a couple of hours before I landed. Hope to catch another one before I go - NO YOU DON'T they tell me. They are absolutely terrifying even if you experience them like us - one or two a month on average. Anyway, no risk mitigation possible as they're utterly unpredictable and they have done all they can to make buildings structurally safe; they even moved Lue's children's school because they discovered it was exactly on the fault line between the Eurasian and Philippines tectonic plates.
Classification:     NAG (natural and act of God)
Control:                Nil (0/4)
Likelihood:          3 (in a week)
Impact:                 0-5
Score:                   0-15

Lue's cousin thought it was no good being sympathetic to foreigners with jet lag. The only answer was wake him up, get him out and keep him busy - and so they did, followed by what felt like attempted murder to keep me awake.

So off from our hotel to her house, close by in suburban Taipei at about 10am. Breakfast as soon as we got there: bread with squishy white stuff inside from 'the best bakery in Taipei'. Quite delicious, but I have no idea what it was - and that is a refrain I have repeated many times since. Then a fried egg and soy sauce. Good. Looking quizzically at a dumpy looking chair in the corner of the room, I was offered a go in it. My feet immersed in menacing cloth pouches, they turned it on and the thing burst into life - and fought with me for a good ten minutes before declaring victory over me. A quick conversation then - possibly only partly understood - set me up for a painful evening.

Back in the car (Mercedes "it's safer") and through the streets to jump out here and there to see interesting ancient shops, or a Tao temple, or other sights. And to the 101 building - and quite unexpectedly, not to the observation deck - but to the fabulous classic Taiwanese restaurant for a five (or was it six?) course lunch*. All exquisitely prepared and presented, and utterly unknown to me. I could have been eating mashed conkers and crispy bat for all I knew - and quite possible was! But delicious and I'm sure nutritious...

Then to the National Palace Museum - with a fascinating commentary from Lue about the immense collection there, the immense antiquity of Chinese culture, and the utterly immense number of Chinese visitors who now come there from 'Mainland China', as they call it. Then explanations of the complex and unsettled relationships between Taiwan (RoC), mainland China (PRC) and Japan. But, despite the hoards of Chinese visitors following their pushy tour guides to get between us and the exhibits, we did manage to get close to the very very famous jade lettuce.

The taxi just about got us to the restaurant in time - for a hastily-arranged family party for Lue's mother, to which I was generously invited**. Hastily arranged by Lue's hyperdynamic cousin, with ages one to eighty seven all sat round a large table with another variety of unknown delights spinning under our gaze. And cups and cups of tea, of course.

That might have been enough for a first day's anti-jet lag programme, but it was not to be. My indiscreet comments about the effect of the massage chair earlier in the day came back to pursue me: the masseuse neighbour was ready and waiting for me. First, half an hour on the feet - almost unbearable agony. I had no idea that it was possible to make feet hurt so much - but in an odd way that feels good for you. Then the neck and back - completely unbearable agony, but I felt it must be very weak, and shameful, to admit it: therefore suffered in stiff British silence. The theory of the last bit - I think - was to suck out all the bad Chi from my spine; the practice was (first) to put six egg-cup sized vacuum suckers onto my upper back and to try and suck all the contents of my chest into them. Like the strange French contraption for delivering reluctant babies - the Ventouse - except six of them, for no reason of getting through a tight spot, to a sentient adult. Then to beat the underlying muscles to a pulp with such strength and determination, that I feared it must be a displacement defence mechanism - about something deep and dark in the Taiwanese soul!

And so to the hotel, and rewriting my talk for tomorrow. Rewritten for two reasons: (1) Lue told me what the Taiwanese psychiatrists would and would not like to hear and (2) my Prezi desktop programme, which I had used on the talk on the flight over, had crashed and lost all my work. Still feeling like London time (late afternoon) so not sleepy, so all done. Ho hum.

* Fist celebration meal
** Second celebration meal / banquet

New thing of the day
Massages so rough they hurt ("in a good way", I felt obliged to report) given by both machines and real people.

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