Some days get the time sucked out of them, but others seem like they last forever. If you'd asked me this morning, I would have guessed that this was going to be one of the former. I will spare you the play-by-play of my day, but I will say that it involved getting Nora to preschool, mailing a package, cashing in some winning receipts, taking Cole to the pediatrician, having a follow-up with my own doctor, and taking a load of hemming and mending to the seamstress. It was a little crazy, but some days require a lot of you, and that's just the way it is.
Two things stand out from my busy day, sitting here now in a quiet house. The first happened at the hospital. I have a national health card with my name on it, last name printed first in the Chinese way; it is the same on my alien resident card and my hospital ID. Perhaps because they are familiar with the western order of names, every nurse or doctor who sees my name on those cards calls me by my last name – or rather, the feminine version of it: Michelle. It is uncanny, that not once in very many visits has anyone ever called me by my right name, nor even my right last name. So today I sat waiting for my number to come up, for the nurse to come out and say, "Please? Michelle?" And she did. That was not surprising. What did catch me off guard is that while waiting to pick up some pills at the pharmacy, the player piano in the lobby (this is a very posh hospital) started playing the theme to Cheers. I was humming along, and then came to that bit. You know, where "everyone knows your name." It was very hard not to laugh. But when the pharmacist handed me my prescriptions and said, "Thank you, Michelle," I very nearly lost it. Poor woman, she must have thought I was nuts.
The other great moment came after our visit to the seamstress. This errand has been a long time coming, Tim and I having amassed a sartorial stash, two bags worth, of things to be altered or mended. Our good friend Tiffany offered to go with us, to interpret as well as get some of her own things worked on. We went after dinner, when the woman's sign was usually set out. We arrived at the home of the seamstress, however, only to find the doors locked, the lights off, and the neighbor insisting that no one there did sewing anymore. No money in it, he said, which I can believe. (Most repairs will run you a dollar (NT$30), but if it involves a zipper it might push three bucks.) Undaunted, Tiffany directed us to a different part of town where she had seen another seamstress' sign before. The three of us walking down the main drag of the neighboring little village, bags of clothes hanging from our arms, must have been a sight. We ended up speaking (well, Tiffany spoke and we tried to look like we were following the conversation) with a shopkeeper who told us that the seamstress we were looking for was no longer in business (a disheartening trend), but there was another not too far down the lane and around the corner. At the OrangeKitchen we found success: behind the darkened cafe front, a back room with a pewter-colored, war-era Mitsubishi sewing machine and glass cabinets of thread was opened to us. We were made very welcome, as our host offered us chairs ("Sit-a down!") and summoned the seamstress in the family. She looked over our various garments (eight pairs of pants, one shirt, one skirt), took measurements, made marks with her yellow chalk, and then announced it would all be done tomorrow.
We decided to walk back to the car via a different lane, one which passed a local church (we had passed two temples on the way in, so it only seemed fair). The lane began to narrow, and then ended -- well, not quite. A passage led off to the left, which was the direction we needed to go. We slipped between the houses on that path, listening to muffled voices and kitchen sounds bounce off the stucko walls, walking farther into the dark, only to slip into an even darker, narrower path before emptying out onto the street. Adventure is too big a word for such a brief detour, but the sensation was there, for a few moments, that we were doing something we hadn't done before, walking where no one we knew had walked before, seeing one more corner of Taiwan which will be filed away under "Remember when?" It was a good day, all in all. Long, but good.