Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Taiwan Wedding Vacation Extravaganza!

About a two months ago, I got an email with this heading: Got any plan next spring Opening it, was one question: Would you like to come to Kaohsiung for my wedding next April?

And for some background. When I lived in Vancouver, British Columbia 13 years ago, I became friends with a young lady from Taiwan. Teresa. After she graduated from high school she went to college out in Toronto and I went back to school in Texas. We kept in touch through email for 13 years.

My wife and I helped her a lot with correcting grammar on her English papers and my wife (who has a degree in Marketing) helped her out with one of her Graduate projects. Later on, my friend worked in Taiwan and Japan. Even though she speaks Chinese, Japanese, and English she would still call or email me for help in translating documents, letters, and agendas (I speak English and passable Chinese). So over the last 10 years you could say that documents I helped translate have seen the desks of government officials from Taiwan, Japan, and the USA and officers of multinational corporations and international Universities.

Now, lest you think that all of the diplomatic problems in the world rest on me, let me assure you these were not the policy making documents. For example, I helped translate the agenda for some conference that the US Representative from American Samoa (Eni Faleomavaega) was going to in Taiwan. I also helped script out my friend's welcome speech.

We haven't seen each other since 1997. I have gotten married and had a gaggle of kids. And now she gets to start that wonderful journey. So, I was excited that I would be invited all the way to Taiwan for her wedding. My wife and I looked at our budget for the year and after a couple of weeks of playing with the numbers decided that we would do it. This was a big decision for us. We had taken a trip to Disneyland in May and weren't planning on any other major trips until well into the next decade.

International travel started for me when I was 16. I went to Niagra Falls in Canada. It might have started earlier (when I was 13) when I went fishing with an uncle in Seattle, but we aren't sure if we crossed into Canadian waters. I lived in Canada for 2 years. Then about a month after I graduated from college, my work sent me to England for a week. This was the first of about a a half dozen trips to England. (When you stay at the same hotel each time, and have the same taxi driver take you to and from the airport it sort of becomes a second home.) Later I was sent to India.

Then I switched jobs and worked for a government contractor in an area where they limited the amount of foreign travel. It was here that I found out that Hollywood and the novel writing industry is absolutely completely clueless about "Top Secret" designations and the like. Trust me, it is a lot more mundane and boring than you think. If I told you more, they might lock me away forever - or until they realized the Top Secret information is also published in high school math and physics textbooks. But I digress.

So now I work elsewhere (don't you like the cryptic nature of not giving the reader any real clue as to my background), and going to Taiwan is an option. My wife has never been out the country and she is excited and nervous all at the same time.

Well, first thing I do is check out the State Department website about travel to Taiwan. No visa required - good, that is one less hassle to try to deal with. Lots of people speak passable English - good for my wife. Don't drink the tap water - ooooh this is sounding sort of like India. When I went to India, I was there for a week. After talking with my doctor (actually my wife and kids doctor, I don't have a doctor), he told me that I could get all of the recommended immunizations (malaria, hepatitis, etc) or I could just not eat raw food, not drink the tap water, and not have any liaisons with prostitutes and I should be fine.

So, when I traveled to India, I had just one carry-on. It weighed about 60 lbs because half of it was bottled water. I wasn't going to risk losing my luggage on the way to India (since I was flying all over India) and not have clean drinking water. This was also before they put the ban on liquids on planes. No, I am not kidding, I had 3 gallons of water in my carry-on. Taiwan is more modernized than India, so I think that I'll leave the water in the checked luggage. But since it is for me and my wife, I'll probably take 3 gallons.

This then led me to the American Airlines website to check out the baggage guidelines. I was in luck, for international travel, checked bags are free! Then I scrolled down some more. Under the sporting goods section they have a list of what can be checked (size of plane dependent). Bowling Balls - alright, except your going to go over your weight limit pretty quickly. Hang-glider - you are allowed to check 1 hang-glider for only $100 additional charge. I wonder how often that happens. Javelin - check 1 javelin for an extra $100, although can anyone explain why a pair of oars (about as long as a javelin) is allowed for no extra charge. No kayaks or canoes (which is odd since they can get a hang-glider in there) but you can check a windsurfing board, mast, boom, and sail for $100 extra. I'll have to remember to check the baggage compartment the next time I am on an aircraft that loses both engines and is plummetting to the earth and the evil badguy has thrown all of the parachutes out the door (no airlines do not have parachutes on board for every individual). There may be someone's hang-glider or windsurf sail that I can use.

Anyway, back to the wedding thing. International tickets are a finicky thing to nail down. One month ago they were $1200 to Taiwan. A week ago they were $960. Two days ago they were $1415. Yesterday they were $1006. So I bought. Watching the prices swing so wildly reminded me of the Stock Market during April and May of last year. Sure I made money on the swings, but it is kind of nerve racking to see 30% changes in such short periods of time.

The hotel we are staying at is one of the tallest buildings in the world. And the hotel starts on the 45 floor. So at a minimum, we will be staying in a hotel room that is higher than the tallest building in the state of Iowa. The wife doesn't want to look out the window. I want a balcony! We also plan on taking the high speed rail up to Taipei. It is the perfect transportation for my capitalist mindset. Privately funded mass transit. $30 gets you 300 miles in an hour and a half. I can't wait. Needless to say, I may not get much sleep while I'm there.

Now we have to figure out the whole Chinese wedding thing. I'll admit, I have been to a Chinese funeral, but never to a Chinese wedding (well one sort of but that was between a Chinese girl and an American guy). Furthermore, my friend has asked me to give a speech at the wedding. It seems that her friends and family are all shy, so the gregarious American gets to become the entertainment. Perhaps after I am done, she will think twice about having an American speak at her wedding...

1 comment:

  1. Wow. I didn't know you were going to speak at the wedding!

    It's true that I'm excited and extremely nervous: long flights over a lot of water, tall builds to sleep in, and fast trains to ride it. Didn't I say I hated rides like these in California?

    I just hope the kiddos will be safe while we're gone.