Last weekend was a three day weekend because the Taiwanese have Moon Day Festival on the day of the full moon in September. People get together and barbeque all weekend. They bake and share moon cakes, a dense cake-like bread with some kind of filling, often pineapple goo. Pomelos are a staple fruit for this holiday. It’s similar to a grapefruit but not sour and unpleasant, so really it’s not like one at all. It is sweet like an apple, you eat it like an orange, but it’s shaped similar to a pear.
Here is what I wrote during the Moon Day Festival weekend:
I am currently experience the jolly and folly that only a three day weekend can provide. So far I have…
1. eaten at our favorite breakfast place, Good Morning, and ordered: Taiwanese style egg pancakes with Japanese style sauce and a piece of thick toast with blueberry cream cheese. The menu didn’t lie; the toast was the thickest I’ve ever seen. I shared it with Joyce, a high school girl who was sitting with me due to Good Morning being a little too popular as always. It’s not a chain, so when it’s crowded I have that content-with-waiting feeling instead of that annoyed-at-yourself-for-being-unoriginal feeling. I like Joyce. The cream cheese is not what it sounds like in case you’re thinking it would be like cream cheese because it’s called cream cheese. Names mean less here. Lower your expectations, go with the flow.
2. finished the second book in the series The Rho Agenda.
3. poked around on the internets
4. fixed my bike. (See below)
I bought a bike!!!!! One day when I was in the Everything store, thinking only about what I needed for my classroom, I heard someone whisper, “Eeemily”, but when I turned toward the creepy voice, there was no one. I went around the corner and saw my friend Duncan pretending to be nonchalant in his perusal of the scrap book stickers. When we were leaving the Everything store later, he offered to take me home on his bike. I was planning on taking the bus, but the bike pump sounded more fun despite my having to awkwardly hold a huge poster board the whole time. Maybe it was the pathetic nature of my situation that made Duncan announce, “I’m taking you to a bike store on the way home.”
When I saw the bike that was to be mine, I knew. There was this connection, like when you see a cute baby in a stroller, and you want to take her. First I rode a few USD$35 bikes that all had a fair amount of rust, pathetic brakes, and weren’t the best style for stop and go city traffic. But the bike that was to be mine has the words “City Bike” printed across it in big letters, and it cost USD$50. I didn’t even have to take its word for it; I rode it, and it felt like the perfect city bike. It is a mountain bike with good shocks, excellent brakes, and gears! I prefer a stance somewhat above the handle bars, making it easy for me to react and maneuver quickly in sticky traffic situations.
It’s a bit on the smaller side, so it’s fairly manageable in general. I take it in and out of an elevator twice per day, and I’m glad it just barely fits. I had the store owner raise the seat a bit, and I saw him check the tire pressure. I was about to pay and ride off when Duncan pulled me to the side and explained that though they won’t want to bargain with the price, I can request that a bike lock or bike lights be thrown in for free. I brought all the basics with me in my suitcase from Austin, so I decided to ask for a basket and a bell. Dorky, yes, but in Taiwan everyone has a basket, and if they’re going to jump off the cool people cliff, I’ll gladly follow. He attached both to my bike, and I gave him the $50.
When Duncan and I parted ways he told me that he’d meet me at my house at 10:30pm to take us on a bike ride along the river. I hurried home, told Carrie, and thirty minutes later we were riding along the river, making small talk and feeling fine.
Then the inside part of my knees began to hurt which is quite unusual for me. My joints and bones don’t typically feel worn out even if I am overexerting myself, only if something is wrong. I didn’t feel tired out yet anyway. I figured my seat is probably still too low, and Carrie confirmed this. I didn’t want to cut our ride short because Carrie seemed to be having so much fun, and I so badly wanted to be too. After a while Duncan and I were both riding a bit slower than her. He may have been hanging back with me because he felt sorry for me or because his used bike isn’t that great either. His seat is too low too, for example. Carrie was now clearly having a much easier time than us. Her bike is brand new, and she’s definitely a better biker anyway.
I convinced Duncan to let me ride his bike, so I could tell what the problem is, my bike or me. It was definitely my bike. Riding his bike was so easy and fun! After riding for thirty more minutes on my bike, I told them, “I’m sorry, but I have to go back; it’s really hard for me.” Then Duncan noticed that my back tire was flat! I guess either the store owner didn’t check both tires, or I ran over something on the way. I felt like such an idiot for not noticing and thinking that the problem was merely my seat being too low.
We were at least an hour bike ride from home at this point, even at a normal speed. It was grueling to keep riding on my flat, so Carrie kept coming up with schemes for how we could manage to get home. First she put her arm out and pushed me while she rode her bike. If I pedaled too, it helped us go faster, but the movement my pedaling caused sometimes made it hard for us to stay close enough together. Then she steered my empty bike (while riding her bike), and I ran alongside them. I liked this way best, but it was difficult for her because my handle bars kept hitting her leg as she rode. Then, finally, she spotted a dirty knotted rope in some rubble on the side of the road. She had been keeping her eye out for a rope the whole way. We took turns beating some of the sand out of it, so it wouldn’t fly off into my eyes while we rode home. Then Carrie tied it to my bike as I watched; I was rapidly become even more useless because with all the excitement of buying the bike and going on my first ride in Taipei, I hadn’t eaten dinner. I was literally running out of energy, and it was about 1 am in the morning now. My job was simply to sit on my bike behind Carrie and steer as she pulled me and my bike the remaining two miles or so. I was doing some pedaling especially when we went up hills. It was just like being in a pedicab except I was sober and scared of crashing. Finally we reached an area we are more familiar with, and I left my bike chained near a bike rental place with plans to retrieve it the next day and ask the rental place to air up my tire and raise my seat.
It was still a couple miles from here to home, though, so Duncan pumped me. When we reached the 711 by my apartment, we stopped in for some ice cream. We were majorly pooped, making the ice cream taste even dreamier.
This morning after eating at Good Morning, I brought the bike to the shop I purchased it from. When the owner saw me point at the tire, he reached for the air pump, so I shook my finger and said, “No, no”. Then I made a poking motion and a farting noise, hoping he’d understand. He did. He took the tire off, and inspected the tube by dipping it into a pan of water. He found the leak in no time and patched it. After checking the inside of my tire for the culprit of my puncture, he replaced the tube and aired it back up. When he was done I pointed to my gears and made a tightening motion, he understood immediately and tightened them with an Allen wrench. When all this was done, he held up two fingers and I pulled out $200 NT (less than $7 USD) but he shook his head. I realized he was saying $20 NT (less than 80 cents). WOW, that’s all I can say about that.
P.S. I’ve never had the desire to take a baby home; that was a joke.