I am having a great time! In particular, the food here is terrific.
It is now Year of the Pig and there are images of pigs all over the place, plus a cage of two adorable black and white piglets in a park. Despite the multiple jokes passerbys were making about suckling pork, I think those were pets. At least, they were being cuddled by a woman who seemed to be their owner and were wearing fancy collars.
We started the New Year with a banquet with family and miscellaneous aunties and family friends, with many, many courses. At the end, a lion dancer came in, accompanied by drums. Oyce's father is a wine fancier, and so all meals have plenty of good wine. I am sadly not a conoisseur, though I enjoy it. But mostly I appreciated the food. I have so far had somethign like four multi-course banquets. It is amazing. At the last one, just as we all thought it was over, we were each presented with a small lobster tail!
We left Taipei and (again with miscellaneous aunties, friends, etc) took a bus to a hotel outside of a forest, which is not so much like Yosemite or aomething very wild of that nature, but more like a park with lots of moss and very big trees. Cedars, I think. The drive up into the mountains was very Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, all thick mist and green bamboo, but the park/forest had broad paved roads and paths, plus a number of reindeer made out of logs. I suggested that (peering at the map, which had some English notations) that we walk to the "Giant Rock" but that suggestion was quashed. After we all ended up exhausted one-quarter of the way up a mountain which had the Giant Rock on top (or miles off in the opposite direction, I forget which), I understood why.
The slightly strange hotel, which in some ways reminded me of eccentric Indian hotels I have known, had magnificent huge pillars which looked like marble but, when tapped, proved to be hollow plastic. Polished cherubs made of black metal, in golden pharoah headdresses, flanked a display to celebrate the Year of the Pig. In the hotel rooms, the transparent shower walls appeared to be thickly beaded with water, but upon touching them, we found that they were completely dry, and this effect was created by applying clear plastic lumps to the walls. I am not sure why.
At dinner in the hotel that night, we were served bowls of bamboo and chicken soup at the start of the meal. At its conclusion, we were served a tureen of the same soup again. I am pretty sure that was a mistake.
To amuse ourselves on the bus trip, we began playing "Initials," in which one person supplies the initials of a person (or animal, etc), and the others must guess who it is via yes-no questions. This leads to many amusing moments when the character is in an anime or manga, as many basic questions can be ambiguous. For instance, this:
Oyce: "Is she dead or alive [by the end of the story]?"
Me: "Hard to say."
Oyce: "Is she a zombie?"
Me: "Um... no."
Oyce: "Is she a robot?"
Me: "Not really."
Oyce: "Is she immortal?"
Me: "Maybe in a way?"
Oyce: "Is she human?"
Me: "Sort of."
(This was a character from Neon Genesis Evangelion, and if you've seen it, you'll know which one.)
I must go to bed now as I have to return to Taipei tomorrow, but will write more later. Probably with many descriptions of food.