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May. 30th, 2005 @ 06:09 pm a conversation with my father
Current Mood: pompous
Current Music: mom nagging me to send my dad my internship resume
Yesterday, my family went down to the beach by Nanliao for some coffee. Not the postcard kind of beach that immediately comes to mind, with sandcastles and beach balls and bikini-clad women, but the brown pebbly kind with armies of knee-high waves that charge down from the horizon and suicide violently against sand and rock. It's the kind of place where you'd go to watch the world end, a violent haze of blue and brown in perpetual chaos. If you squint hard enough, you can see a tiny twinge of blue on the horizon where the sand ends. Just beyond that, quite appropriately, is the southeastern shore of China, from which the invasion will come--if, and hopefully not, it does come at all.

In America, this kind of place would probably be off-limits during bad weather (lawsuits and all), but here there is not as much as a guardrail or a "NO SWIMMING" sign. Children leap about the rocks, collecting hermit crabs and other ocean fauna in the surf, and fishermen cast their lines into the raging waters. A man stands knee-deep in the water, throwing one of his sandals into the waves, and his golden retriever jumps into them with ever-decreasing enthusiasm to return it. (Poor dog--the waves were twice the size of his body.) There's a paved cobblestone boardwalk by the beachfront, which the merchants of Hsinchu, ever entrepreneurial, have swarmed with little carts and food stands and weighted tables. All that keeps the ocean from swallowing them whole are three neat little rows of geometrically perfect man-made boulders, against which the waves explode spectacularly. The standkeepers came prepared; they serve iced coffee and milk tea in paper cups weighted with plastic ashtrays, and every now and then they run off in pursuit of a renegade plastic chair liberated from its sitting-place by powerful winds. Buisness seemed to be good. There are no brick-and-mortar shops there--even these people aren't crazy enough to build a store in a major erosion zone--but some of the little carts are surprisingly upscale. From one of them, soft jazz played from an iPod on a two-speaker mount. I considered getting a caramel macchiato, amused that a street cart in Hsinchu would be selling Starbucks's flagship drink for half the price, but I decided it would be too decadent and opted for an iced mocha instead. My parents ordered some unpronouncable variety of iced tea.

the actual conversation (it is about economics and kind of boring)Collapse )

We sat in silence for a little while, watching the waves crash against the surf. Offshore, some crazy fool (a mere speck at this distance) was calmly and slowly doing the breaststroke. The waves kept pulling him under, but he kept popping back up. I considered jumping out of my seat and diving into the water to save him, then realized he wasn't flailing his arms or shouting or doing anything to indicate he was in any danger. I wondered what Lisa, with all her years of lifeguard training, would think of this.

"Look at him," my dad said. "That's the way Taiwanese people are. Every year, fishermen die in places like this. When the weather gets bad they just keep fishing."

"Not just Taiwanese people," I said.
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May. 30th, 2005 @ 08:58 pm picture of aforementioned ocean

Taken with my dad's tiny PDA cell phone thing, which is wrapped in white rubber and has no buttons. (My father has so many weird gadgets I suspect he is actually Batman.)

My mother is fine, for those of you who were worried. This makes me very happy.
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May. 30th, 2005 @ 09:01 pm i am two decades old today
I spent my birthday eating dinner at Lao Chen Ji, my favorite greasy spoon.

Doesn't seem like much of a birthday, but damn I missed that place.
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