I started the day off with what's becoming my regular breakfast - a bacon-cheese breakfast wrap - which I only get so often because it's the one breakfast item that I know how to order. I should really branch out and be more adventurous - and healthy. I ate with Morgan, the girl with whom I went to Fulong Beach, as she was heading out to visit a friend in the south. When she comes back (briefly) in a few days, we plan on going on a beautiful-looking, 14-ish-mile mountain hike from Fulong to another town in the north.
Then I went and saw the second apartment on my short list from the Mandarin
web site, and loved it. The landlord's very nice; knows little enough English that it can be helpful in an emergency but he prefers to use Chinese; and reserved the room for me while I check out my last option this coming morning. The apartment itself is as cheap and closer to TaiDa than any others I've yet seen, and is surrounded by this fantastic market; it's also on a lower floor and significantly cleaner than the one I saw yesterday. Basically, I really love it and I'm only checking out this last one because it's cheaper and a bit closer to school.
I bought a delicious pineapple in celebration, and then... we went to Shilin night market! Shilin is the most famous night market here, and it certainly lived up to its reputation. I found an old, semi-crappy camera that was too expensive and in retrospect I definitely should have tried to bargain for - so, still no camera. I'll take and backdate tons of pictures soon, and use some friends' as well to flesh out my picture of the island, I promise. I'm not much of a shopper, but I was absolutely captivated by a table of glass sculptures.For those who don't know, I adore glass craftsmanship, and glasswork also happens to be the only art form I've ever 1) liked, and 2) not been particularly bad at,though I've only taken a short set of beginner classes. Anyway, I was in love, and I bought two figurines and two larger sculptures, all beautiful and all for a total of 1800NT (about $55 US) - which in the US would be less than the cost of just one of the larger ones. The glassblower, an old man, made a fish in front of us, and in theory lowered the total price for me despite the fact that I had expressed way too much fascination to be in any sort of bargaining position. All were wondrous and beautiful, and that tightly packed box will now be my carry-on when I fly back home.
Then we hung out at the hostel a bit and met some new arrivals - one of whom, Nick, is a well-traveled, worldly, interesting, and personable MMA (mixed martial arts) fighter who lives in Korea. He's fighting at a local club tomorrow - his first professional fight - and I would love to go see it/cheer him on, but I don't want to spend another NT500. Also, I might not be back by then: Raphael has a mystery trip planned for me starting at a train station at 2:30 tomorrow. I'm also invited to Raphael's house for dinner on Monday! Quite excited, as you can imagine.
And, of course, there was karaoke, a very popular pastime among the youth here. One goes with a group of friends and rents out a small room with a couch, a table, an electronic kiosk, a few mics, and a large entertainment system. Food and alcohol is ordered, playlists are created (the place we went to had good selection of both Mandarin and English songs), and then the fun begins. Nine of us rented a room and got food for a total of about 500 NT ($16 US) each, and we had an absolute blast. Our crew has come to include a higher proportion of Chinese speakers and/or students, too, so I'm using the language more now - working up to near-constant usage, perhaps?
Though I apologize for ending the blog on a sour note - I really did have a fantastic day - my one worry about all this is that I've been spending too much money too quickly, especially considering my (hopefully!) upcoming camera purchase. I'm saving some significant cash because 1) I got good China Airlines plane tickets out of JFK, and 2) I spent a lot of time apartment-searching and have found some cheap options... but I'm also staying/traveling an extra week and will probably be doing some more "infrastructure spending" (camera, bike, more phone minutes, pillow and maybe mattress, etc.) in the near future. So while karaoke could be doable, say, every week or two (depending; I haven't reworked my budget yet), the glass certainly helped. So while I don't regret my glass purchase and don't think I regret going to karaoke, I'm just a bit worried; I really should re-budget tomorrow and see where I stand after making a final decision on an apartment.
Right now I'm off to shower and get another very brief night's sleep. This time it's because I've been spending hours listening to my fellow world travelers (I like that phrase) discuss Korean culture and values, especially in relation to the west, which I really knew much of anything about until now.
Until next time,