it's easier traveling into china carrying a taiwanese passport than an american passport. since china considers taiwan a part of the mainland (not all taiwanese would agree), things like securing a chinese visa is cheaper. just so happens i do have a taiwanese passport, except it expired half a decade ago, and i never bothered renewing since i'd been traveling with my american passport instead. but if i'm serious about shipping off to china next month, it pays to renew my taiwanese passport.

first order of business was getting some photos. instead of taking a new one, i just used the passport photo i took 2 years ago, already laid out in multiple copies ready for printing. with file on usb thumb drive, i motorcycled down to the fresh pond staples to get it printed (glossy, $1.09).

i then went to the cafe. i wasn't expecting to get this passport thing done today, but my father ended up driving me down into boston, to the taipei economic and cultural office (TECO) on summer street, which is the thinly disguised taiwanese embassy in boston. since parking in boston is impossible and/or expensive, i would've been happy to take care of it myself, except i needed my father's help to translate some items on the form since i can't read chinese.

we ended up parking in the upstairs lot above the chinese supermarket (c-mart) on lincoln street. we figured we could buy some groceries afterwards and get our parking ticket validated. the lot was so full, we probably parked in the last 2 remaining spots, and even then the cars had to be double-parked and the car key left with an attendant.

i'd been to the TECO office before but don't remember when. it's not the sort of place where you can simply walk in - a secretary has to buzz you through - and even inside, the workers sit behind a bullet-proof partition. my father helped me with the renewal form, all in chinese. the cost of getting a new passport is $45. they also needed 3 photos, but when the secretary saw the ones i gave her, she said she couldn't use them because they weren't 3 months ago (judging from the photo in my US passport, which was the same one). i also needed a special taiwanese identification that was assigned to me when i was born (sort of like a social security number) but my father said he could find it back at home.

i probably could've waited until tomorrow, gone home to take a new photo and print it out, but we decided to get new photos taken at the nearby CVS. for $10 i got 4 passport photos that looked like i was dying from some disease. since we were gone so long, my father went back to the supermarket/parking to do some shopping, while i returned to the TECO office to drop off the photos (a different secretary this time, told me i only needed 2 photos).

i made it to the supermarket before giving my father a call since i couldn't find him. he told me he was already at the car and coming down. he said the supermarket doesn't validate on weekdays, so we ended up having to pay $16 for less than a hour of parking.

instead of shopping at that supermarket (over an hour, parking increases to $24), we went to the former super 88 (now, coincidentally, also a c-mart) on the corner of washington-herald. i brought a length of string to measure the replacement stainless steel lid they sold there; unfortunately the lid was just too wide and wouldn't fit on my 20 quart stock pot.

we returned to the cafe, where we finally had lunch (rice and curry). i motorcycled back to my place, waiting for my parents to stop by to pick up the seedlings i have in my backyard deck and to pay a visit to the assembly square mall. neither of those things ended up happening, nor could i call them because i left my cell phone with my father. i one point i went outside with some change, trying to find a pay phone. i remembered there used to be one at star market but they must've gotten rid of it. i sort of stood there in the parking lot, out of options, maybe thinking i could flag someone down and beg them to use their cell phone. that's when i remembered: ever since i upgraded my cable to HD, i also got an unnecessary land line courtesy of comcast. i ran home into my closet and found my phone and made my call. one of the rare times when i was glad i have a land-line phone!

i ended up motorcycling to an empty house in belmont. i hung out in the backyard, taking photos of the new flowers (calendulas, snapdragons, and of course peonies), and transplanting the sunflowers from RB3 to the corner of the yard where i'm growing zucchinis.

when my parents came home, we ended up going to the waltham ocean state job lot because i remember there was some sort of special senior citizens discount this week (30% off for any over 62 years old; my father received retirement age this year). when we went to pay though, we discovered the promotion doesn't start until tomorrow, so we returned most of the things in our shopping cart, vowing to return tomorrow. we did pick up a few food items, including some season black capelin caviar from iceland ($2.99 a jar) and some palo root tea brewed from mamajuana, which isn't code word for weed but rather a dominican republic drink. we ate the caviar with thin rice crackers when we got back home. the mamajuana root tea was pretty good, with a flavor that reminded us of anything from chinese medicine to grass jelly. my mother liked it so much she was thinking about selling it at the cafe.

my father found the document that had my taiwanese "social security" number. i scanned them into a pdf document and sent it via e-mail to the taiwanese embassy. it takes 2 weeks to get a new taiwanese passport, which isn't bad considering they have to ship it from taiwan, when it can take months to get a US passport.

after some simple sichuan style spicy noodles for dinner, i returned home to watch game 3 between the bruins and the rangers. it was a low-scoring game (1-1) which made it tedious, especially since it went into double overtime. fortunately boston ended up with another victory, now they're 3-0 against new york, and it's just a matter of when before they close out the series to advance to the finals.