i woke up in the middle of the night to check on the status of the taiwanese general election. democratic progress party (DPP) incumbent president tsai ing-wen was expected to win over kuomintang (KMT) party candidate han kuo-yu. my parents went to taiwan specifically to vote for han even though they already knew his chances weren't very good. the unknown was taiwan's parliament, whether it might secure a KMT majority, thereby curbing's DPP's power. but by late morning it was announced that not only did the DPP win the presidency, it also gained a parliamentary majority. what a change from the 2018 election, when the KMT won overwhelmingly. the reason why is quite obvious: citywide anti-china protests in hong kong then the subsequent violent mishandling made taiwanese voters re-evaluate creating closer ties with china (the KMT platform). if the KMT doesn't shift away from china (and attract younger voters, who predominantly vote DPP), it may never win another taiwawnese election.
i finally got a chance to speak with kevin this morning (9:30am). i asked him if he had any plans today, he said no. i told him in that case he might be interested in visiting deer island; he'd expressed an interest in seeing the ocean (his china hometown and his schools were all inland), and although we did see the water from the boardwalk that one time i took him into boston, that was only the harbor, you have to go further out to actually see the ocean. i also added that with today's rare warm january weather, it was perfect for an "island" visit. but then he said work was getting busy and he had to go to the office today. i didn't press him after that, his loss i suppose.
kevin was still home when i left at 11am. originally i planned on leaving around 10am, but since i was going solo, i was in no hurry, and had some yogurt and cereal for breakfast before finally walking down to harvard square around 11am to catch the MBTA. starting last weekend, the red line is closed at porter square until april. i wore a hooded sweatshirt as a precaution; despite the warmth, it was also very windy, and i was afraid it'd be cooler along the coastline; but i immediately regret my decision, figured i could just wrap it around my waist if it really did get too hot.
i've been to deer island a few times, but not recently. the closest i got was back in august 2017, when i biked to constitution beach, but i didn't continue further into winthrop. the last time i was there was back in september 2016, with my parents to try some belle isle seafood before visiting deer island. prior to that, i visited it twice in 2012, once in november with drew, the second time with my father and his visiting friend in december. in all the times i've gone, it's either been by car or by bicycle. this was my first time going by public transportation. the route was pretty straight-forward: red line to park street, green line to government center, blue line up to orient heights, then catch either the 712 or 713 bus to point shirley (deer island). google maps estimated it'd take around 1-1/2 hours to arrive.
when i got to orient heights, i couldn't for the life of me figure out how to actually get out of the station, or more precisely, how to get out on the correct side. and even after i figured it out, i also had to decipher where to get onto the 712/713 bus. fortunately i had some time before the next bus was due to arrive, so it wasn't a full blown panic, and there was hardly anyone around to witness how baffled i was. because the way the MBTA fare is structured, the bus ride was considered a subway transfer, so the entire trip - all 1-1/2 hours of it - was just $2.40.
riding the bus, some of the sights looked familiar - belle isle seafood, withrop town center - but others not so much. i recognized enough landmarks that it felt familiar. i even knew that when we got to the intersection of washington avenue and shirley street, that the bus should've taken a right instead of a left, and i got up to ask the driver about it before another asian man got up to ask the same question. it was just a strange detour, but afterwards i went back to the right direction. the guy was looking at me and smiling, and seemed like he wanted to say something, but i think he was trying to figure out if i was chinese or not.
as we approached shirley point - the entrance to deer island - i could see the waves crashing up against the sea walls, spraying a few cyclists who were riding by. that was how windy it was today, almost as if a violent storm was approaching. i asked the driver if this happens a lot, she muttered something but basically ignored my question. later i saw another bus that had streaks of dried salt spray all on one side of the bus.
i arrived at deer island around 12:30pm. i spent the first few minutes just watching the waves crash against the coastline houses. i wonder if those houses are expensive, i wonder what it's like to live in one of them. maybe not so bad when the seas are calm, but on days like today, or when we have a terrible winter storm or summer hurricane, i can imagine it'd be a real nightmare. one of the houses had a weber barbecue outside. i was surprised it hadn't been washed away but i noticed the lid was gone.
so i started my (clockwise) walk around deer island. it was exciting, like the feeling i used to get when i did a lot of naturing, the expectation of seeing something new or surprising. even though it was warm, i was glad i brought my hooded sweatshirt because of how windy it was, and be a bit chilly in the shadows.
since it was the weekend and the weather was nice, there was a lot more people, but still not crazy, deer island really isn't on the tourist map, mostly just locals, joggers, dogwalkers, families out enjoying the weather.
one thing i wanted to see was deer island light, a small light tower built on top of some exposing rocky outcroppings. in 2016 they replaced the old tower with a simpler one built on a metal frame. devoid of character, it's more utilitarian than anything evoking a sense of history. it has an automated fog horn that can be triggered using marine VHF radio. i did think about bringing my baofeng radio to test it out, but decided against it, not sure the proper maritime rules for turning on the fog horn when not required.
and yes the birds! winter time is a good time to visit the seashores as we get bird visitors that normally live up in the arctic. i saw flocks of eiders, common goldeneyes (yellow eyes, white patch by their snouts), greater scaups (with their blue bills), herring gulls, great black-backed gull, and brants. i also learned something: best time to see some of these wintering sea birds is during low tide. as the ocean waves recede, it exposes seaweed covered rocks that contain food for the feeding birds.
i got back to the entrance by 3pm. the next bus to arrive wasn't until 10 more minutes. i leaned against a sea wall, hoodie bundled tightly to stay warm from the winds, drinking from my insulated tumbler which contained some warm bengal spice tea. with the sun soon to disappear, the temperature started to drop. i had thought about staying long enough to watch the sunset, but for that i would've needed a warmer jacket.
the bus took be back to orient heights. in hindsight, i should've walked the short distance to constitution beach to get some photos of the landing planes. to go inbounds, i had to talk the stairs to cross over to the other side of the train tracks, i basically followed where everybody else seemed to be going. i got off at state street station, then grabbed the orange line one stop to downtown crossing. i don't remember ever being in state street station before, it felt unfamiliar to me. from dtx it was a simple matter of catching the red line back to harvard square. i finally got home a little bit before 5pm, the sun had already set by then.
there was a package waiting on the doorstep for kevin. judging by the size and weight, i knew immediately it was a set of dumbbell weights. he had mentioned it to me a few days ago, i thought it was just for fun, didn't realize he'd actually order them. had i known, i would've told him no, because they'll damage the wooden floors in the bedroom. i'm not quite sure where his mind is. maybe he has a fantasy that by the time his 2 year stint is over, he'll go back to china all jacked and nearing his phd.
kevin came home around 6pm. i warned him about the dumb bells, said he needed to keep them on some sort of padding (like a thick piece of cardboard) otherwise they'll damage the wooden floors. he didn't ask about my trip to deer island, but did tell me he had hot pot with a coworker for lunch, just an at-home cook at his friend's house. so when i invited him earlier, he had no intention of going since he had other plans, he should've just told me. i'm going to post some deer island photos on wechat so he can see what he missed. it's not every day we hit 70 degrees in january.
later kevin asked me where he could find a custom woodworker. he said in china they have these services where he gives a carpenter some basic plans and they made whatever he wants for him. i told him custom carpenters exist here but they're incredibly expensive, not something he can afford, and they probably waste their time on nailing together some simple wood object. when i asked him what it was he was trying to make he didn't give me a clear answer. later i found out it's supposed to be a valentine's day present to his girlfriend of 2-months back in china.