Hello friends! We’ve been back for almost a week now (how fast it’s been!) and we’ve really settled into our schedule very well. I’ve always been a creature of habit, and coming back here and living life with my extended maternal family, I can really see where my habits come from! My goodness, but life is regular here. My grandparents leave the park at 9:00 sharp. They eat lunch at 11:30 (no, not 11:35, or else there is much pacing and inquiry) and dinner at 5:30. Life has been very slow for us, which is good in many ways. I like going to bed early and getting more sleep than I have in ages, and I just finished reading Margaret Atwood’s The Blind Assassin, the first book I have devoured (or finished, really) in ages.
However, some parts have been challenging as well. In the months since I bought our tickets, I have been rather anxious about how Otis would spend his time here. In Berkeley, he is used to spending much of his time outdoors, free to run wild and move his body freely, which he really needs to do. Here, however, that’s a problematic issue. He’s not the kind of kid who enjoys the company of adults, so he’s been casting about a bit for amusement. We go to the park most mornings, where we meet up with my maternal grandparents. There are lots of parks in our neighborhood, known as Tien Mou, many of them with these open courtyard centers, and many trees planted around the perimeter.
But since it can get to be about 90 degrees by 9 in the morning, that nice, open center really does us no good. Even at 8am, many are sitting around the edges, as we are here. (Hey, that’s my grandpa, yo!) Otis melts after a couple of laps around the park.
During the summer, the parks are really most lively early in the morning and in the evening. There are lots of classes being taught concurrently – dancing, qi gong, sword movement. They feel very old-skool Chinese in that they are slow-moving, not aerobic. And they’re mostly for the older folks. Oh, and they wear coordinated uniforms! I love that.
We are saved by the pool at my grandparents’ condo, which we visit when the pool is shaded from the sun’s strongest glare, after 4pm. Otis has met a friend there, a Dutch expat who is also 5 and rather lively, and they have found a shared love of squirt guns. Otis has been paddling around with his swimming wings, but I think he might not need them by the end of the trip.
So anyways, this leaves us with a huge swath of the day without physical activity, in a small apartment. I spent much of my time before our trip buying things that I thought would keep him occupied. I hate to buy junky things, but I positively filled our suitcase with anything vaguely amusing I could find, plus a small carry-on case filled with just books. Can you believe that? We are making a lot of art, reading books, and well, Otis is watching a lot more TV than he ever does at home. So I guess it really is a welcome vacation for him as well.
I asked Otis’s pool friend’s mom what kids do with themselves all day here, and she told me that kids don’t really have that much free time. After more inquiries, I’m finding that seems rather true. Kids go to school, then are expected to go to tutoring or supplemental classes during the school year and during summer. I couldn’t fathom such a thing! Though Otis often gets bored at home, I feel like it’s so important for him to have that kind of time, that luxury of getting bored. Can you imagine trying to home school?
Anyways, my family is really enjoying the time with the kids, which is why we’re here after all. F has been in London for the past week on a business trip (Why couldn’t it have been at a time when we could’ve joined him??) and he’ll join us tomorrow. We’re really looking forward to the reunion, and glad that he’ll get to do some Taiwan things with us. I’ll have another Taipei report soon.