First excerpt from my Asia travel journal

Ayi = my aunt (my mother’s sister)
Yifu = my uncle (Ayi’s husband)
Hsinchu = the city they’re staying in (they normally live in San Jose but are in Taiwan for a year, which is what prompted our visit)

From my travel journal, Friday 23 September 2011, 6:30 AM in Taiwan (3:30 PM on the 22nd in CA)

When I woke up I had “Waltz of the Flowers” (from The Nutcracker) stuck in my head, because that’s what was playing on the radio (90.7 FM) in Yifu’s company van when he drove us into Hsinchu.

I ought to sleep more but I think my body has just had it with time changes, nighttime and daylight coming at odd hours, and having to go to sleep or stay up when it’s so confused. I think it has decided, “I feel like I should be awake, and it’s morning outside, so we are GETTING UP.” I’ve only slept about 6-7 hours in the past 36 hours, but at least the guest bed is comfortable here at Ayi’s. The room is a bit warm and stuffy, but I awoke naturally to the light coming through around the windowshade, and the homelike sounds of breezes and chickens from the ground far below.

Me on my first morning in Taiwan

Self-portrait, shortly before writing this journal entry

I’m eating melon Ayi cut for us last night. It’s some kind of green-fleshed melon (a little darker than honeydew closer to the rind) and Ayi says the outside looks like canteloupe. It’s firm and juicy and has a frosty flavor that is so refreshing. We’ve almost finished it, but there’s an enormous pile of more fruit on the kitchen counter: dragon fruits in red foam cages, a box of big orange papayas, and a huge heap of odd-looking things Ayi bought in Tainan. They look like pomelos — they’ve got that same dense pored skin — but they’re teardrop shaped and about the size and color of green pears.

I think I like arriving in new places at night. We get a little taste of the place without seeing enough to be overwhelmed, and that gives context to what becomes visible the next morning. It was this way when we visited Hong Kong last year too. Last night’s freeway was so peaceful as Yifu drove us from the airport back to Hsinchu: few cars, smooth asphalt, and the road fencing topped with a continuous line of blinking red lights that gave everything a holiday feel.

I noticed yesterday en route to SFO in Elbert’s Prius that I already had my vacation eyes on. As we crossed the Bay Bridge I looked at the sunlit city with its white mantle of fog and remembered that I, too, live in a place that people cross the globe to see. I felt happy to know I’d be coming back to that.

We’re going down to the corner Family Mart convenience store for tea eggs for breakfast, and then Ayi says we’ll leave for the glass museum at 9.

View from Ayi's balcony

View from Ayi and Yifu's balcony that first morning. I used my camera's Stitch Assist tool and the free program Autostitch to put this image together.