Well isn’t this cute? I am tucked away in the corner of Taipei’s biggest bookshop, Eslite, in a little French café called La Hana. I am here with Summer (who once wrote of Kahaila in Shoreditch, London, GFD fans will recall). This bookshop sprawls over six floor and has two more underground and is more of a department store than a bookshop, with little zones for pens, furniture, tiny sculptures…
I’ve been here less than a day, and have been warmly greeted by Summer’s family who have kindly procured an unoccupied apartment for me to stay in for the week. They argue amongst each other about how easily I will be able to use the bus, how I can get a phone, whether I will have enough to eat… all in Chinese that is lost on me. It’s nice to see Summer again after all this time, and she hasn’t changed a bit except that instead of a dissertation almost killing her, it’s a job she does for FIFTEEN HOURS PER DAY (!!!) that is almost killing her.
In here I have the first black tea I have had since departing from London. 紅茶 – hóngchá – black tea. It comes with a sand timer which tells you how long to let it brew. As the sand falls we talk of the past few months in which we have had to tackle the world alone, without each other to depend on for emotional subsistence. Summer gets a cream tea which comes not with cream but with butter, and some yellow stuff in a tiny wine glass, biscuits, and a creme brulee. It’s not very cheap for a tea, but this is central Taipei, who cares?
A big wooden novelty knife and fork hang from the wall, and a medium sized tree sits beside the couple near us. Over there is a small step and something like a room – a room in a room – with windows looking in. Most of La Hana’s patrons are in there.
Taipei’s weather is like a stepmother’s temper, so they say. Ever since I got here it has rained. Clouds swirl around Taipei 101 over the road and the locals have become proficient users of umbrellas. But never give one to someone as a gift, for the word for umbrella is 伞 / sǎn, which sounds similar to the word for departure. Goodbye!