Saturday, May 31, 2008

The USA, a nice place to visit, but wouldn't want to live there

Warning, it's a long one!

Day One - Saturday, May 10

I flew out of Taipei at 11:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 10 and arrived at SFO on Saturday May 10 at 7:00 p.m. - I love that time difference, get there before you leave, ha! My flight was on EVA, economy, for the outrageous price of US$1321. I'd been moaning about the fact that I couldn't afford the very lovely business class and dreading the discomfort of economy, but I was pleasantly surprised! The plane was one of the new Airbuses, and it was extremely comfortable. I was in an aisle seat with no one in the middle seat, just a woman in the window seat. Even though she got up to pee frequently, it wasn't a problem, because the distance between rows was much greater than on the last economy flight I took, actually enough room for a person to squeeze past! The aisles were wider, too, so I didn't feel as if I were bumping into every single person on the way to the loo when I went. The seats were very comfortable, and I was able to sleep almost the whole way. Well, at least after the small child who was kicking and bumping into my chair when we first took off was finally seated next to her mother and asleep. I think her mother was a bit shocked when I turned around and asked her in Chinese to please not let her daughter keep kicking my chair. Especially since I don't think she understood Mandarin, ha. They were apparently from Hong Kong and only spoke Cantonese and English, because the flight attendant had to speak to them in English when serving the meals.

A quite troublesome family, actually, as the father spent the flight coughing up phlegm and polluting our air. My seat mate and I kept exchanging disgusted glances as he did this, and sure enough, I ended up sick during my stay in the US. More on that later. About an hour or two before we landed, the little girl was once again wide awake, and the mother allowed her to stomp up and down the aisle. Yes, stomp. She was wearing wooden shoes and delighted in making as much noise as she could when she walked. I was ready to throttle all three of them!

Got through Immigration fairly quickly and managed to find my rental car desk. My knee was still not very stable, so dragging that suitcase around was tiring. I'd reserved a nice economy car, a Chevy Aveo, as I knew gas prices were through the roof. Imagine my surprise when the clerk told me I'd be getting a PT Cruiser. They acted as if it was a bonus: "We've given you a free upgrade!" I don't want an upgrade, I want the economy car I reserved. "Oh gee, sorry, we're all out of them." Hello? Does not making a reservation ensure that you will receive the model you want? Isn't that the whole point? The time to say, "Sorry, we're fresh out." would be when the reservation is made, so the reserving party can choose to try a different company. Grrrr.

I picked up the car, brand spanking new from the looks of it, and proceeded on my way out of the parking garage to my hotel in Chinatown. Or so I thought. As I left through the security gate, I asked the guy manning the gate how to get to the freeway for San Francisco. In his broken English he said said to go out and turn left, which I did. This brought me to an upper level and a different rental car agency. They wouldn't let me out of their gate because they couldn't be sure that I wasn't stealing the car I was in. The man at that gate told me to turn around, then take the first left, which I did. Ended up at a dead end, went back to the man, and he repeated his directions, this time telling me to go right. I said, "But you said
left last time!" He started over, once again saying "left" then changing it to "right" when I asked him to confirm. I gave up, drove off to the right, ended up in an employee-only parking area, got further directions from one of the guys driving a rental back to its berth, headed back the way I'd come, and finally stopped at a booth and asked a WOMAN to tell me how to get the hell out of this place. Her directions actually worked, bringing me back to the first dolt who told me to turn left. He looked at me in surprise when I pulled up (I'd been driving around for a good 15 minutes), and when I told him his directions were wrong, he said, "Well, I meant after you first drive to the right and down, THEN go left!" Oh, thanks. Anyway, I finally managed to get onto the freeway.

Got to the hotel with no trouble, as I'd stayed there in the past and still remembered how to drive in San Francisco. By this time it was close to 10:00 p.m. and I was dying for a beer. I checked in and then headed out to find a nice 7-11 where I could pick up a cold one. Ha, I forgot that I was back in the US, with nary a 7-11 in sight. After walking around the streets of Chinatown and Little Italy for some time, I stumbled across a Walgreen's that was still open, but alas, no beer. I settled for a bottle of soda and a bottle of water, although the shock at the price (over US$3!) dang near killed me. That's at least twice as much as I'd pay in Taiwan. Went back to the hotel and went to bed.

At 2:00 a.m. the assholes in the room next to me came back in, and they were in the middle of a big-ass fight. They were yelling and screaming at each other, the girl crying, and I pounded on the wall. That earned me a "Shut the fuck up!" from them. I thought about calling the desk to complain, but then I thought, "Hm, this *is* America, and lots of people have guns." Decided to just get up and read for a bit, as I wasn't really that tired anyway. Read until the guy left, slamming the door behind him, and the girl called a friend and cried on the phone for a long time. When it got quiet I went back to sleep, only to be awakened at 4:00 a.m. when the girl decided to play music, loudly. Oh fuck it, I might as well just get up. Later in the morning I went to the desk and asked if those people would be checking out that day, because if they weren't, I wanted a new room. The clerk said they were and asked me why I hadn't complained. I mentioned the whole gun thing and he said, "Oh. Well, we have a security guard." Yeah, right. I'd already seen his fat old self and didn't see as he'd be much use.

Day Two - Sunday

Brandi and Lisa were due to arrive at the hotel at 11:00 a.m., and they were staying for one night in another room. Since I was up so early, I headed out to find something to eat for breakfast. It was about 6:00 a.m. or so, and the streets of Chinatown were mostly deserted, which felt so odd to me, as here in Taiwan the early morning hours are when the old ladies go do their shopping, and all the roadside food stalls are selling yummy breakfast stuff. There were a couple dim sum places open, so I just bought a couple pork buns and went back to the hotel to wait. The music was still playing next door, but it eventually went off, and I took a short nap. Eleven o'clock rolled around with no sign of my buddies, and around 11:30 Brandi called to say they were running late. I sat at the little table to read, and shortly before noon I began hearing a thumping sound coming from next door, then some heaving breathing and a girl panting. Oh swell, first I had to listen to them fighting, and now I had to listen to them having sex! I'm thinking, "Jeez, noon is checkout time, what the hell are they doing screwing at 11:50 a.m.?" Then I heard the maid knock on the door, and the guy yelled, "Just 5 more minutes, we'll be out soon!" and they went back at it. Brandi and Lisa showed up, and I made sure to comment extremely loudly on what assholes my neighbors were and how I'd had to listen
to their sexual escapades while waiting for B and L to show up.

It was great to see my two best friends after two years, and we had a lot to catch up on. I still wasn't walking very well, but we headed out to Little Italy to find some lunch and then spent the rest of the day just wandering around lazily and talking, enjoying each other's company. We bought a ton of snacks in Chinatown and sat in the hotel munching on those, even though none of us needed junk food! Dinner was once again in Little Italy, and the food prices were so high that I was choosing the cheapest thing on the menu. When we were splitting up the bill, I had my phone out to use the calculator, figuring each person's meal, plus tip, plus tax. So much easier in Taiwan, no tax and no tip! And it's way cheaper to boot. But it was nice to eat some real Italian food, even though it was pricey. After dinner we stopped into Z. Cioccolato - "The Sweetest Spot in North Beach" to do some fudge tasting, and I bought a tiny box with two flavors. Boy, it's sure hard to choose when there are 65 flavors! If you're so inclined, you can shop online - you won't be disappointed.

Day Three - Monday

The reason I'd stayed in San Francisco was that I need to go to the Taipei Economic and Cultural Organization (TECO) to have them put the stamp of approval on my high school transcripts and diploma, as well as on the bank statement that showed I had enough money to pay for my university education. I also needed to apply for a new visa, as leaving Taiwan negated the visa I was currently using.

We first had a nice breakfast at the Victoria Pastry Company, an Italian bakery which has been in business since 1914. Absolutely scrumptious, and if you go to San Francisco, you must give it a try. Here's their website. We each ordered something different and 
split it three ways so we could try it all. Yummy!

We checked out of the hotel, and they were nice enough to let us leave our cars parked there in their lot. We walked down to the TECO offices, arriving a little before noon. I didn't have to wait too long before a gentleman was able to help me. The first thing I gave him was the letter my bank had given me with its accompanying notary general acknowledgement. He said that it wouldn't work, because it wasn't all on the same page. I asked him what I should do, and he said to find a local notary and just have him or her stamp the back of the letter. OK, fine.....I left and went to find a notary. After inquiring at several banks, I finally located a Chinese notary and told him what the TECO guy had said. He laughed and said that no notary would ever stamp that document and that it was already fine the way it was, just needed to be stapled together. He did so, gave me his card, and told me to tell TECO that it was fine and legal. I headed back.

By this time the man was gone, and I ended up with a woman, hereinafter referred to as The Bitch From Hell, or TBFH for short. From the first word out of my mouth she was rude to me, incredibly impatient, not taking the time to look at any of the papers I gave her, and telling me that nothing I gave her was right. We stared out with the bank letter. Nope! Won't work, I don't care what the notary says, if it's not on the same piece of paper you're shit out of luck. Fine, forget that, let's move on to the high school stuff.

My high school transcripts are in my stepfather's last name, because that's how Mom registered me, but he never formally adopted me, I just used his name from age 7 until 18. My diploma was issued in my legal last name. I figured this might be a problem, so I'd come prepared with my birth certificate, which had my birth date, place of birth, my mother's name, and the same name as my diploma. My transcripts also had my birth date, place of birth, my mother's name, and a note that the last name was that of my stepfather. To any person with half a brain and the willingness to look at the documentation, this was proof that I was that person. But no, "The last name on your passport is different, we can't approve these documents." "Well, yes, but you see, way back when I was in high school, I wasn't married. The name on my passport is my married name. Surely you realize that American women change their last names upon marriage." "Won't work, it has to match!" "Well now, I just don't think that's possible, since I WASN'T FUCKING MARRIED WHEN I ATTENDED HIGH SCHOOL SO HOW THE HELL CAN I GIVE YOU DOCUMENTS THAT HAVE MY MARRIED NAME?" Of course, I was exceeding polite when I responded to her, and did not use any profanity. That was all in my head. She was shuffling through the copies I'd given her, kept telling me I hadn't given her this or that, then I'd say, yes, it's right there. "I don't see it." Well, fucking stop and look, you bitch. Then she told me I'd have to give her my marriage certificates or I could just forget it. OK, I know when I won't win a battle, forget the high school crap, let's move on to the visa application.

I'd brought every single piece of documentation I'd thought I'd need - school attendance records, evidence of continued enrollment, a letter from my teacher saying I had a scholarship to continue, six months of American bank statements to show I wasn't working and depositing money in that bank, just making withdrawals to deposit in my Taiwan bank, an airline ticket out of Taiwan to Hong Kong in June, and a detailed letter stating that I'd applied for university to begin in September. I gave her the whole packet, and she proceeded to give it a cursory glance, then started tossing papers back at me. "You already gave me this, you already gave me this." Then I'd say, "No, there's only one copy of each, they look the same but they aren't, they have different dates on them." FUCK! This woman just wasn't going to be helpful if her life depended on it. I finally shelled out US$131, handed over my passport, and left.

I'd kept my smile and my composure the whole time, but as soon as I set foot out the door, I lost it. "Bitch! Fucking bitch! ARGH!" Definitely time for a drink. Brandi and Lisa tried to comfort me, but I had a bad feeling. I'd come all this way and spent all that money, and I couldn't get anything accomplished. What the hell was I going to do?

Lisa headed home to Fairfield, and Brandi and I went to her place in Alameda. We stopped off at Trader Joe's, my favorite grocery store, for some fixings for guacamole and some beer, and I picked up some orange juice and some Airborne, as I was feeling pretty lousy and knew I was getting sick. We had a great evening at her house, watched a fabulous movie called Boondock Saints while eating the guac with chips and drinking beer. Right before bed I discovered that Dad had called and left a voicemail, saying that a woman from TECO had called (I'd given his number as my local number, forgetting that I had the temporary cell phone) and that I needed to go to TECO for an interview. I didn't know if that was good or bad, but figured that at least they hadn't rejected my visa out of hand, so maybe it would be OK.

Despite Brandi's couch being one of the most comfortable places I've ever slept, I could not sleep. I just kept trying to work out what I needed to do, the fear of not being able to stay in Taiwan overwhelming me. Man, I'd die if I had to move back to the US. I got up really early and got online, finding the Washoe County Clerk's website, where I ordered a copy of marriage certificate to Mark, then I tracked down the address of the Yuba County Clerk's office, as I could go there when I went up to Chico. My biggest fear was that there was no documentation anywhere that had my stepfather's last name, other than my high school transcripts.

Day Four - Tuesday

Brandi and I went to lunch at a Mexican restaurant and had margaritas with our meal, then did a little shopping at the second-hand shops in the area. I'd called the TECO office and left a message, and TBFH finally called me back. She told me I had to have an interview to explain why I wanted to go back to Taiwan, saying I'd already studied for two years and that was long enough. I told her that all the schools in Taiwan tell the students that the government allows three years to study Chinese. I made an appointment for Wednesday afternoon (oh swell, I have to drive back to SF instead of going to Dad's as planned). She called back later in the afternoon and
flat out said they wouldn't give me a visa, but if I wanted to give her US$27, she'd fax a letter to the government offices in Taiwan and ask them if it was really three years or two. Oh, right, I'm going to give you even more money! That $131 application fee is non-refundable, and I'll be damned if I'll pay $27 for a stupid fax as well. After I hung up, I decided I'd just go pick up my passport, return to Taiwan for a 30-day stay just using my passport, since I already had the ticket to Hong Kong in June. I knew that once I had the acceptance letter from the university I'd have no problem getting a new visa in Hong Kong. My big problem was getting the transcripts and diploma approved.

Brandi took me wine tasting in the afternoon, and it was really wasted on me, because they were reds, and I just don't like red wine. Well, unless it's mixed with 7-Up or Sprite and had ice cubes in it, ha.

Day Five - Wednesday

Brandi took off for work, and I headed back to San Francisco, parking my car at the hotel parking garage because the fees were comparatively reasonable and it was only a short walk to TECO. When I got there, TBFH was not in sight, and another woman helped me. She was so nice, she already knew about my situation, and she apologized about having to follow the rules. I told her not to worry, I just wanted to pick up my passport and forget about the visa, since having a visa would do no good if I couldn't get the other stuff authorized. I asked her what I could do to get the high school stuff stamped, and she said if my high school would just type "aka (married name)" on them, that would be good enough. She said I'd have to wait for TBFH to get back from lunch, so I hung around waiting. When I saw her in the back, I told Theresa (the nice lady), and she went to get TBFH. As soon as she came out to the front, she started bitching at me, telling me I wasn't going to get a visa, blah blah blah. Theresa told her, no, she's just picking up her passport, she's not asking for the visa. TBFH continued her harangue, and Theresa, with a little more feeling, once again said, "NO, she's NOT asking for a visa, she's JUST PICKING UP HER PASSPORT." Even she was frustrated with her co-worker's bad attitude. I waited again, over a half an hour, mentally tallying the cost for parking my car, and finally yet another woman, a younger one, came out with my passport. She was also very nice and very apologetic. Damn, they should fire that other one, and I'm going to do my best here in Taiwan to complain about her attitude. I know her name!

Back at the parking garage, I forked over $14 for parking fees and headed off to Dad's. Traffic was light, and I got there quickly. It had been quite cool in SF, but the weather started to warm up on Tuesday, and by Wednesday it was pretty darned hot. I'd checked the weather report for the upcoming days in Chico, and it was going to be over 100F (38C) most of the time, yuck. At least Auburn was a little cooler.

Days Five through Eight - Thursday through Sunday

I don't want to detail every little thing I did while at Dad's and while in Chico. Let's just say that I had an enjoyable visit with Dad and Berti, with them insisting on paying for every meal we had. Dad also gave me $700 to pay for the car rental and gas, and Berti gave me $150 for shopping money. I felt so bad that I hadn't been able to do any shopping to bring them presents from Taiwan, but they insisted they didn't need anything. We went to the movies (What Happens in Vegas - bleah), attended one of Dad's retirement luncheons (salad bar!!!!), ate lots of good stuff, and watched TV.

I left for Chico on Saturday and got to Bob & Weiwei's place mid afternoon, where Weiwei had prepared a lovely salad for lunch. They apologetically told me that they had no air conditioning, as they were doing some remodeling and it had been cold up until the day before, so they hadn't worried about getting the air going. No problem, I took off to do some shopping while Weiwei did homework, and I picked up a fan that I could use at night. It wasn't too bad at all. We had dinner at Casa Ramos, and Weiwei and I watched a bunch of "I Love Lucy" episodes. Sunday she and I went out for breakfast and Bob went hang gliding, then we shopped all afternoon. More "I Love Lucy" that evening, really fun.

I'd thought I'd drive to Marysville on Monday to go to my high school, but then decided I'd just go by on Thursday when I headed back to Dad's. I sent an e-mail to the woman there who had helped send me my transcripts, detailing my troubles and asking for a letter from them and amended transcripts.

Days Nine through Eleven - Monday through Wednesday

On Monday I stopped by the City offices to visit with my ex co-workers, then went to my bank to ask them if they could give me a new statement with the notary on the same page. The gal there said no way, the way they did it was the way they always do it and that it was fine that way. She doesn't realize how pig-headed those people at TECO are.

Then I hooked up with Wendy and spent the night at her place that evening. Tuesday I visited with Mark for awhile during his lunch hour. He took me to our old house and showed me all the remodeling that he and Nancy had done, just gorgeous, and gave me a tour of their motor home. Then Wendy and I just shopped around, and I bought myself a nice Sony Viao laptop on sale at Circuit City, only $419! Of course I had to buy some software, Office 2007 and Kaspersky, and a wireless mouse, total came to $719, still way, way cheaper than I could get it in Taiwan.

All this time I was sick, either with a cold or allergies. I was taking antihistamine and blowing my nose all the time and coughing, and my eyes were itchy. My throat hurt and I just felt icky. The wind was blowing at about 50mph (80kph) at times on Tuesday and Wednesday in Chico, kicking up all sorts of pollen and dust. Not fun for me.

I had lunch with Rose on Wednesday at Burger Hut. Man, it had been a long time since I had a good burger! Stopped by the City offices again to see some people who hadn't been there on Monday, and that evening had a nice dinner at Turandot with May, Krista, Trish, Cindy, and Cris. Cindy gave me the new volume two of My Hometown Chico book to go with volume one that they'd all given me when I left. After dinner I went back to Bob & Weiwei's, and I think I kept them awake with my coughing. Kept myself awake, too, so was pretty tired.

Day Twelve - Thursday

I got an e-mail from my friend who works at Tamkang University, telling me I'd been accepted by the Chinese department. I was ecstatic, and I asked Weiwei to print that for me so I'd have it when I returned to TECO on Friday. I stopped by her office and visited with her for a little bit, then for Dad's. Dad had also called to tell me that the marriage certificate from Reno had arrived, yes!

I stopped in Marysville on the way, first at the high school where I was told I needed to come back at 1:00 to see the head counselor, so I went to pick up my copy of my first marriage certificate at the Clerk's office. Got that, headed back to the school, met with the counselor, who of course said the school couldn't alter official documents by putting my married name on them, but they typed my legal maiden name on the transcripts to match my diploma and birth certificates, and they gave me a letter which clearly said I'd attended school under both names and that the diploma was in the legal name.

When I got to Auburn I decided to make one more stab at the bank letter, so I stopped by the branch there. When I told the gal what I needed, she said, "No problem!" and proceeded to give me a new statement with the notary all on the same page. Huh, and why couldn't the Chico branch do that? Dunno. But, I had it, and I was happy. Now I had everything I needed!

Another nice meal with Dad and Berti at a very nice restaurant, with them once again treating me. Tried a new beer called Duvel Golden Ale, a Belgian ale that is bubbly like champagne. It was fabulous, and I've discovered I can buy it here in Taiwan, so I'll be making a run to Jason's soon for some of that.

Day Thirteen - Friday

Now, my original plan had been to go to Fairfield and spend my last evening with Lisa and Steve there. However, now I needed to go to San Francisco, which is about an hour farther south than Fairfield. Did I really want to drive back to Fairfield on Friday afternoon, the start of the Memorial Day long weekend? Uh uh. So, Lisa called Brandi and asked if the two of us could stay with her in Alameda, and she said sure. Great, I'd get to see both of them one last time before I came home!

I got to TECO around noon, and was happy to see Theresa at the window. She told me TBFH was off that day. Oh gee, too bad I missed her. I gave Theresa everything, the marriage certificates, the birth certificate, the high school stuff, and explained each and every page. She said she wanted to confirm with her boss that all was in order, and of course that meant I had to wait for an hour for her boss to get back from lunch. More parking fees! No problem, I went for a cup of coffee then came back to the TECO office to play with my new laptop while I waited. Eventually Theresa called me over and said that everything was fine and that they'd be able to approve it all, just not on that day. I'd come prepared with a postage-paid Priority Mail envelope so they could mail it all to Dad, and I'd left him money and instructions to send it on to me Global Priority. Man, what a fiasco getting this done! I swear, if this stuff gets lost in the mail, I'm either going to go on a killing spree or just kill myself.

Hung around Chinatown waiting for Brandi to get off work, got back to her place just as Lisa was getting there, and the three of us went our for Mexican food and margaritas. Then we bought a bottle of tequila on the way home and had more margaritas while we watched a hysterically funny movie called "The Lost Skeleton of Cadavra", a parody of the old black and white B movies of the 1950s. I highly recommend this one, and Brandi kindly gave me her copy to bring back with me.

Day Fourteen - Saturday

My flight was leaving Sunday at 1:40 a.m., and I needed to get the car back to the rental agency by 8:00 p.m., or I'd be charged for an extra day. Brandi, Lisa, and I went out for breakfast, then we went shopping in Emeryville. I was afraid my suitcases were already over the weight limit, so I couldn't buy anything else, boo hoo. Then we went to Hangar One for some vodka tasting. I didn't like most of them, but they had a marvelous pear liqueur that I loved, and Brandi bought a bottle for me to take home.

We parted at 6:30 p.m., I drove to the airport and dropped the car off (got a tiny discount for early return, too), then spent many boring hours waiting for the EVA check-in window to open at 10:00 p.m. I'd done the online check-in, so I figured it would be quick and easy. At 10:00 I headed over to the check-in counter, and there was an enormous line already. I didn't see the online check-in window, so I asked where it was. "Oh, we don't have one here." Peachy. If I'd known that, I would have gotten in line sooner! Took me over 45 minutes to get checked in.

When I went through security, they pulled my carry-on and said they needed to inspect it. Apparently the fudge from San Francisco looked suspiciously like a bottle in the X-ray, or maybe they thought it was plastic explosive. I had the carry-on packed with chocolate stuff, because I was afraid it would melt in the suitcase, and that earned a strange look from the inspector. Once they were satisfied that it was edible stuff, they sent me on my way.

Day Fifteen - Sunday in the US, Monday in Taiwan

I had an aisle seat against the bulkhead this time, no way for a brat to kick the back, and loads of leg room plus space to stand next to my seat - and right by the bathroom. Sadly, the young man on my left spent the entire 13 hours of flight time snorting snot up his nose instead of blowing it, so I had to keep my earplugs in the whole time to avoid listening to that disgusting sound. He also coughed a lot, and I expect the funny feeling I have in my throat right now means that I caught some germ from him. Sheesh.

I landed at 6:00 a.m. on Monday, breezed right through Immigration (right, I don't have a visa this time, I'm just using my passport, here's my ticket to Hong Kong next month, thank you very much, goodbye.), and got the limo service back home. Yeah, it's pricey, but I still had leftover money from Dad, and being driven home in a nice clean Mercedes beats wrestling two extremely heavy suitcases onto the bus (no, the driver does NOT help), then dragging them to the MRT station, then either getting them on the little bus or taking a taxi for the last leg of the journey. That method requires about two hours, while the limo service is under an hour. Sometimes that's just worth it.

Got home before 8:00 a.m., unpacked all my crap, bought some groceries, took a much-needed shower. The house seemed very empty without DZ, but I wasn't able to pick her up from Selena's until almost 10:00 p.m. Boy, was she happy to see me. She'd spent the entire two weeks hiding behind their couch and only coming out at night. I thought she might enjoy playing with two other cats, but she just wouldn't warm up to them. Selena said she came out once when Mimi was eating and took a swipe at her, then ran back to hide when Mimi hissed at her. Poor DZ, I guess she's just not well adjusted socially. When we got home, she kept meowing and running from room to room, as if to assure herself that she was home and all was well. She used to sleep at my feet at night, but lately she's been sleeping up by my head.

I've spent this week trying to catch up on the lessons I missed, had a test on Wednesday and actually managed to get 91% even though I'd missed the whole thing and just studied it on my own Tuesday evening, and I have to turn in a composition to make up for missing the mid-term test. So, I haven't had any time to write to anyone, just figured updating the blog would have to suffice.

Well, this has gone on for nine pages, and I'm sure it's not been easy for you to read. I guess I'll just stop here, saying that I'm very happy to be back where I belong, and I'm looking forward to my continued studies here in Taiwan. I should be getting my acceptance letter next week, but I probably have to wait until August to apply for a visa. I'll have to go to Hong Kong in June, July, and August, but that's OK, because I'll get to see my Hong Kong friends.

Ta all!

Friday, May 09, 2008

Gone Bye-Bye

I'm outta here tomorrow evening at 8:00 p.m., flight to the US is at 11:30 p.m., and I'll be back on May 26. Dad lives in the dark ages and has no computer, so I'll only be online when I'm staying with friends. Don't expect to hear from me! Yeah, like I answer mail anyway, right?

Let's hope the leg holds up for the whole trip. So far, so good, walking fairly well, but still wrapping it in the brace. Today was the first day I didn't drag that stupid crutch along with me. Guess I won't take it to the US, either.

Wish me luck getting a new visa. Back with a report sometime around the end of May.

Saturday, May 03, 2008

I Can Walk Again!

My knee seems to be getting better every day, thank goodness. I'm still bringing one crutch with me every day to school, just in case I need it, but I'm mostly walking without it. I'm wearing the knee brace when I go to and from school, but at home and during class it's off. It actually feels better without it, I think, but I'm still a little scared to walk without the support. I felt like I pulled a muscle in my left thigh getting off the bus one day while trying not to put too much weight on the bad right leg, but that cleared up quickly, too. The right calf muscles were really sore for days, but now they feel OK.

So, it looks as if I'll have no trouble making the trip next Saturday, although lugging around those suitcases might not be so fun. I'll take it easy all next week, which sadly means I won't be able to shop for presents to take with me, boo hoo!

The auction business is paying well, my total income for March and April was about US$267, and my boss is confident that June will be even better (May will suck because I'll miss 2 weeks of work, but in June my share goes up to 50% from the current 40%). I still make a lot of mistakes, mostly because I confused with some of the Chinese, but it's getting easier.

Back with more later!