It's been a busy week since I last wrote. I was sick Friday (it had been creeping up on me all that week) and slept all day Saturday. Sunday morning we walked over to the school for the Bilingual Community Church service; the quarter-mile walk was pushing it, though. I was really wiped out.
Monday was a day for staying home, not because I was sick, but because the air was thick with Mongolian dust. We were warned to stay inside if possible – according to the local EPA report, we were well into the red zone of unhealthy air. Cole and his classmates spent their recess times playing board games in the lunchroom. Tuesday was not much better; the winds were supposed to shift to the east and southeast, but stayed put and kept blowing the particulate our way. The dust cloud from China was an anomaly, but poor air quality is the norm, especially here in the industrial south: factories, truck traffic to and from the port, and of course fires – burning fields, burning garbage, burning ghost money. It all adds up.
Wednesday morning I had my Chinese lesson. I learned how to say maybe, probably not, and definitely (each of those requires a different suffix added to whatever the verb is in the initial question). Very useful, but if I don't practice it I'm going to forget it.
Thursday I helped chaperone Cole's class trip to the Leopard King Safari Zoo. We had a great day for it, not too hot and not too overrun with Chinese students (who travel in packs of fifty and a hundred). Still, it was a bit depressing – an old-style zoo with not a lot of room to roam, and a demeaning monkey show to boot (I wasn't sure who was less pleased with being on stage, the monkeys or the handlers). The kids had a good time, though, watching the pig races, petting a penguin, mimicking the whooping calls of the gibbons. We also got to walk among the mountain deer, the only extant deer species in Taiwan. I've eaten it, but had never met one before. They're about the size of a dog, which surprised me – I don't know if I would have found them as tasty, knowing how small they are.
Friday was business as usual, lunch with Tim at school and then an afternoon of catching up on my housework. I took Cole out later to buy some in-line skates, and he's been busy learning the finer points of not falling down ever since. Yesterday was a girls' morning out as a handful of us from staff housing headed downtown to check out some new stores: Muji (Japanese housewares and clothing, much of which is overpriced – but still fun to look at), and Jason's grocery, also overpriced, but where you can buy things you can't find anywhere else (prosciutto, artichoke hearts, and Quaker Oatmeal Squares). No chutney, though. I don't know why I can't find it here. I guess I'll have to make it myself.
So that's a week in the life of. Not terribly exotic, perhaps, but different enough; it grows on you.