Thirty days ago I left Taiwan for Borneo. Roughly twenty days ago I left Borneo for Taiwan. In forty days I leave Taiwan for the USA. I suppose I’ve got some explaining to do. Unfortunately, every time I try to start explaining I find myself not sure where to start, what to say, and beguiled about what to even mention about the last 30 days. So, here’s what comes to mind right now…
Borneo is a wonderful example of irony in environmental tourism. You fly into Kota Kinabalu the city to travel to Kota Kinabalu the mountain and experience the splendor of nature. Before you get there though, you have to deal with the random garbage on the streets and the rats that feast on the designated garbage disposal points around the city. The islands that you can visit just outside of the city are small – you can walk around the largest one in no more than an hour. Even so, the islands appear to be magnets for plastic bottles, food containers, and a myriad of other garbage. Sandakan – which serves as a jumping off point for Orangutang sanctuaries – is an equally large environmental disaster.
My current life in Taiwan has no real overwhelming excitement, but I’m okay with that. I joined the gym at the YMCA and walk around 1.5 miles there nearly every morning around 7:30 to 8:30 AM. For the most part, the gym is filled with 60 year olds who have very creative interpretations of what some of the gym equipment was originally designed for. I’m fairly sure that all of the old ladies believe one specific shoulder machine was designed as a back scratching machine, and I’ve seen a few people hanging upside down on the assisted-dip machine. There’s also a large sex toy in the gym – a 3 foot by 3 foot padded square that sits on a motor and does nothing but vibrate. It’s a rare occasion to find it sitting unoccupied.
A few weeks ago I went to a street festival called Dream Carnival. It seemed to be the Taiwanese version of MartiGras and it had an accompanying parade of people in full costume. The following week was gay pride – which had a very similar parade accompanied by people in very similar costumes…but much more leather.
I’m currently occupying my time by obsessively and painstakingly pouring through the thousands of pictures I’ve taken and putting them into a photo book that I plan on printing for myself as a souvenir of sorts from the trip. Once or twice in my life I’ve been called anal-retentive…so it’s going about as fast as I’d expect.
I booked a flight back to the USA on December 17th. For 100,000 Delta Miles I fly from Tokyo to JFK and JFK to Detroit – First Class. The going rate for a coach ticket was 70,000 miles…so the extra 30k seemed like a worth-while value. The fun part of this travel plans is that my final destination is neither JFK nor DTW. Instead, I’m planning to get to Cincinnati…eventually. I’m hoping to fly non-rev (standby) from either JFK, LGA, or DTW to Cincinnati on the 17th or early in the morning on the 18th…but the first week in November isn’t exactly the right time to check the flight availabilities of planes 40 days from now. So – currently I wait. Best case scenario I can fly through customs at JFK (ironically ranked as the SLOWEST international customs airport in the WORLD) and catch the direct flight to CVG from there. Worst case is a blizzard that wrecks travel plans across the east coast and I have to look into more creative options…
After flying halfway across the world, I’ll stay in Cincinnati for about 9 days before flying back to New York for three days, then down to New Orleans for New Years and the Sugar Bowl, and then back to Cincinnati for two weeks before heading north to Madison, Wisconsin for the annual beer and cheese festival…and an interview.
Yes, an interview. I’ve already got once scheduled for mid-January and have been working to schedule other interviews around the same time. I’m quickly coming up on March 1st – the one year anniversary of when I quit my old job and started on this entire trip.
It’s November – which more or less officially makes it “winter” in Taipei. The high temperature hits 75F /24C most days and the low is around 66F / 19C. What this means is that most people are walking around in puffy winter jackets, sweaters, jeans, and leggings (and still carrying around umbrellas…). What this also means is that I think it’s still warm enough to wear shorts. Further, every morning when I walk to the gym in my sleeveless shirt and gym shorts I become a walking bullseye for everyone’s eyes. Not content to be stared at constantly just because I’m white, now I’m the crazy white guy that’s inappropriately dressed for winter.
A few days ago I ran 6.6 miles – also known as a 10k – in a time of 1 hour. This isn’t a good time, and quite frankly I haven’t been running as much as I used to since I’ve been going to the gym. Similarly there was nowhere to run in Borneo. I mention this though since last year for Thanksgiving I ran the annual Thanksgiving Day 10k in a time of 44 minutes. I find this is interesting since I was carrying with at least 20 pounds more of me last Thanksgiving.
One of the stranger experiences I’ve had in the last nine months – I recently went shrimping. Imagine 100 people sitting around pools stocked with shrimp while talking and drinking cheap beer. You pay by the hour and after you’re finished they will cook what you’ve caught into any number of shrimp based dishes. I stuck to the beer.
Lastly, I’ve recently been wondering if a travel blog without travel is just a diary, or is something else. I suppose I’m really wondering what I’ll do with this site in time.