Today (a national holiday in Taiwan so I had the day off), I was planning on going river tracing (hiking in a river), but a typhoon is coming supposedly so that got canceled. There was nothing more than a little drizzle all day, but I suppose better safe than sorry. I woke up at 6:15am and got word of the cancellation at 6:30. I suppose I could have tried to go back to sleep, but I had already gotten changed into clothes and “switched on” for the long day, that I had to much energy to try to sleep again.
Instead I decided to figure out what my weekend would be now that my plans had changed. I spent about five hours in my apartment watching TV and surfing the internet before I got up and started the day, but that’s the good thing about waking up so early – you can be lazy and still have a lot of daytime to get things done.
I went to the Tune-Tex Mart – which I suppose is sort of like a WalMart – and got some things for my apartment (including a pseudo-panini press). I dropped the stuff off at my apartment then got lunch at a favorite potsticker/dumpling (I know the difference now!) shop. I was reading and I thought I’d try to find a swimming pool that Google maps says is just a 3 minute bus ride from the dumpling shop.
By now I should know better, but when I got on the bus I actually expected to get off at the stop Google maps told me to get off at. I have now resigned to my fate: whenever I’ve never been somewhere and I’m trying to get there by bus, I will not actually get there.
Here’s the problem: the bus has a nice LED crawl that tells you what stop is next and it even has the romanicized name of the stop that it says in English. The problem is Google maps. Google maps does not have the name of the stop in English. So I try to commit the Chinese characters of the stop to memory, but this doesn’t work either because the bus and Google maps do not have the exact same name for the stop. In Google maps, I was planning on stopping someplace with 6 characters and a pretty distinctive last character that looks like three boxes inside of one big box. But of course, that wasn’t what the LED crawl displayed. I also know that it’s supposed to be 7 stops from where I got on, so when stop 8 rolls around and I still haven’t seen the three boxes inside one box, I get suspicious. I think: maybe I miscounted and the stop is coming up and if I get off the bus now and turn around I’ll totally miss it.
So I stayed on the bus. And once I realized for sure I had missed my stop I got a little peaved. But I was already on the bus and I figured I know how to get back, just get off and cross the street and wait for the 1815 again, so I thought: why not stay on the bus and ride it hobo style to the end of the line?
So I did this. I saw some great waves crashing onto shallows as the highway wound around the coastline. The bus climbed some hills and I got a vantage point of Wanli beach. I sat and enjoyed a pleasant bus ride not worry about the fact that I was “lost.”
But the limiting factor began to kick in. The limiting factor being my bladder. I had been chugging water since lunch to make up for a hydration-less morning and I worried about the availability of a bathroom at the end of the line. I thought best not think of it since thinking off it would only make it worse. But once I did reach the end of the line, I figured I had to find a bathroom quick.
I walked down a busy road in Jinshan looking for a 7-11 or Family Mart (they usually have toilets). I found a Family Mart and there was a toilet, but when I went to open the door it was locked. I asked the attendant if I could use the toilet (I thought maybe she had to unlock it for me) and she said something I couldn’t understand while pointing to the toilet. To me it seemed like she was saying: “Yes, we have toilet. It’s there,” so I went back thinking maybe I didn’t pull hard enough since she didn’t lead me to unlock it. I noticed a sign with the number 100 on it, so I thought: maybe I need to pay 100 NTD. I tried to hand her a $100 when I came back from a second attempt at opening the door, but she shook her head “no.” So I went back one more time and tried the door and tried to discern the sign, but I gave up and I walked out of there.
For a moment I feared I would wet my pants or run into a bush and squat down to pee.
I decided to keep walking and see if another 7-11 or Family Mart had a toilet, but they did not.
Finally I decided to get back on the bus. I figured I would just sit until I got back to my stop, at which point I would book it to my apartment and pee. At least then if I peed my pants, it would be in my own apartment hopefully.
But as the bus wound back through the hills and the coast, I thought: what a waste of a day…
I resolved to try and find the swimming pool. I pulled out my phone and got Google maps up. When I got close to the bus stop, I wrung the bell and got off. Right there was a 7-11 with a toilet. YES. LIMITING FACTOR NO LONGER LIMITING. Now I could adventure for a while looking for this swimming pool.
I followed Google maps to the address and as I did I realized that there was not going to be a swimming pool at this address. This was very clearly a hilly residential area and the picture of the pool on the website looked large and outdoors. Nonetheless, I went to the address and thought to myself: maybe the family that lives here sells pool equipment? Who knows. I’ll never know.
So I laughed at myself and got on the 790 bus, which, like the 1815, stops right in front of my apartment. But I had this feeling like I should stay on the bus, go into the city proper and look for long leg spandex. You see, I’m considering going surfing tomorrow and last time I went surfing the board cut up my legs something FIERCE, so I thought some cheap, long leg spandex would help prevent that in the future.
But part of me just wanted to retire to my apartment and rest.
I have this new saying I created ever since coming to Taiwan based off Newton’s Laws: if I can do something now, I’m going to do it now. I’m not going to wait. An object in motion stays in motion. And object at rest stays at rest. Why do I think that later I’ll feel less lazy than I do now? And if now I’m already moving, I might as well keep moving. So I decided to stay on the 790.
At Wuling Street, I peered out the window and saw two Western women. If I were in the U.S., obviously seeing two white people would not be cause for alarm, but outside downtown Keelung it’s weird. It’s like seeing a dog walk on its hind legs. Part of me wanted to say hi to them, but the bus was quite crowded and they began speaking Chinese to a few Taiwanese ladies around them and I thought: okay, I’m just going to stand here.
I started to feel dumb. I started to think: why am I here when I can’t even speak Chinese? I can’t even ask someone if I can use the toilet. I can’t even read a map and get off at the right bus stop. I can’t even read a website to find out where a swimming pool is. What made me think this was a good idea? What made me think I should come here when I don’t even know Chinese?
A negative spiral of thoughts until I realized: if everyone only did what they were “prepared to do” we’d have a lot less things. Not just less people (because people wouldn’t have babies until they felt “prepared”), we’d have a lot less innovation and thus less technology. I’m learning a lot and I’m surviving and I think that’s all that matters.
The bus was like sardines, but when it thinned out a little, one of the ladies said: “Hi, I like your backpack*.”
“Thank you!” I replied and we made chit-chat. Immediately I felt dumb for not saying something sooner, but oh well. It turns out their Church of Latter Day Saint missionaries, so that’s cool. They invited me to an event this weekend. I just want to let you know this is the second time I’ve been proselytized on the bus – the first time was from a Buddhist lady. But I took their card and said they might see me there. In my opinion, you should never close any doors. And why did I come to Taiwan – for the experience. Why not experience a Church of Latter Day Saints event while in Taiwan?
Once in the downtown, I walked into some clothing stores I thought would have spandex, but it was either too expensive or not there. Whenever something like this happens – an inconvenience – I think of what I would do if I were in the United States. It’s a horrible habit, but I do. I think: I would drive to Target. I know they have spandex there. I can visualize the aisle. But I ain’t in Kansas** anymore so…
So I leave the store and cross the street and plan to just walk back to the bus stop and go home. I think how the trip to downtown was a waste, but maybe not because I got the story about running into these Mormon ladies. But I worry about tomorrow and surfing and the inevitable scars on my knees.
So I decide to keep walking: an object in motion stays in motion. I’ll try one more store.
And on my way to that one more store, I pass by a store that has exactly what I want: cheap, long spandex.
Back at my apartment, as I’m typing up my day, I get a message from the girl I was going to surf with. She says that the typhoon’s planning on being bad tomorrow and she thinks it’s best if we not go. Essentially, the whole day after lunch was a waste.
But I wrote some words on the bus***; and I saw Wanli beach, which I might want to go back to later; and I met some Mormons; and I know definitively that there is no pool where I thought there was a pool fifteen minutes from my apartment. It’s like I tell the kids: your hypothesis can be wrong, but scientists still learn from every experiment.
*It’s a little multicolored speedo bag I found on SwimOutlet.com
**Coincidentally, one of the Mormons was from Kansas.
***The diary entry from the bus: All up until college, life is a rigid path. You know where you need to get and you know how to get there. 18 years of your life is set up in this sense. Then college. And then you see that life is no rigid path. It’s more like the banks of a muddy river: shallow, then deep, capable of being washed out with every passing storm. How terrifying. You can dig your trench wherever you like. You can solidify a channel in whichever of the 360 degrees you choose. Your future is a Frontier to be surveyed and trailed. People say: “the Frontier is closed,” but that’s impossible. The Frontier is alive in the mind of every young person.