To SFO and back: Visiting the Grand Matriarch -Live Blog

So my paternal grandmother is the last grandparent I have. I believe she turned 104 this year. Her health has been declining for the past few years, but my Uncle and especially Aunts have been taking amazing care of her. Despite having active gangrene in her foot feet for the past 3 months, she is still kicking (figuratively obviously). The surgeons deemed her too high risk for amputation, and I wouldn’t wish her to go through that painful process anyway. I believe she is currently under palliative care. Maybe hospice. Wasn’t my decision to make either way.  I’m glad to have this opportunity to fly out to see her.

Currently I await the flight out. I don’t often fly solo. I like having a travel companion.

Pre flight covid test
One of my fav travel buddies

The above picture was when Vivi and I went out for my maternal Grandmother a funeral in Phoenix. Though it was sad reason we had to travel, it was memorable traveling with just me and Viv. I definitely do NOT miss the amount of crap we had to take (car seats, extra clothes in case of emergencies).

I didn’t take a picture of the massive line at the security checkpoint, but I can say getting TSA Precheck is worth it!  The regular line was all the way out to the checkin counter (@CMH).

I’ve ben chillin (that’s for clement) on the plane for 3 hrs or so now. One of the things I do enjoy is access to the movies.

So my grandmother is fairly remarkable.  Aside from the fact she is 104 (I may have some of the details wrong about these stories), but she grew up in a small town in China. She fled to Taiwan with my grandfather and her 2 children my big aunt and my dad) during the Japanese occupation. My grandfather was a law professor, so they woukd have been targeted. In Taiwan she raised a total of four children, and eventually immigrated to the US, where she primarily lived in San Jose, Ca. She would take turns staying with each family member in the states.

Oh, landed!

I’ll update this as the travel continues.

Adventure to Taiwan 2019: intercontinental

Not much here. It’s sad not traveling with Vivi and Juju as planned. Though inevitably a crapfest, I was looking forward to it. I had packed a whole roll on bag of snacks. Once I found out about my passport snafu, that obviously was not going to work.Luckily, the girls got to each pack their own. Roller carry on. We upgraded them to these nicer ones (real luggage vs the plush bear backpack).

Bears vsLooking back at last year’s trip definitely leaves a sense of melancholy.
With the fam 2018
2019 “all by myself” -Celion Dion
Well currently I’m in Houston, awaiting to disembark to SFO. From there will be the long haul to the Formosa/China Taiwan/ROC/Taiwan.Made it to the SFO Unite club lounge. Complementary beer and snacks. Should not have had that beer.Now for the 14 hr flight to Taiwan.Fast forward 14 hrs and the eagle penguin has landed.Awaiting customs.The eternal wait...Waiting for the checked bags is always the worst.Finally got it!

Adventure to Taiwan 2019: Prologue

I like to document my trips abroad mainly because what else would I do with all this free time?

I am currently sitting here alone at CMH awaiting the 24 hr journey. I really hate flying alone.

This trip will definitely be memorable, but probably more in a negative way.

Today is June 4th, 2019. I should already be in Taiwan with my 2 little penguins and their Nainai. We had originally planned to go together May 30th. MommyMD was to keep watch with Combo back home. Well that didn’t go as planned.

2 days prior to departure, Combo passed away (more on that later, it’s too hard to write about that now.

Suffice it to say this was fairly distracting, while packing, but in reality has no bearing in the next debacle. Our flight was slated to leave at 11am. I was nearly done packing and without sleep, I figured I’d check the passports out at 2am.

Juju and Vivi’s checked out as expected. I came to mine and noticed something seemed off. Expired 12/18. Hmmm… That was 6 months ago. Well crap. Panic mode sets. After maybe 5 minutes of paralysis and rereading the passport. Maybe I misread it the first 5 times… Nope. Confirmed. I am an idiot. I am not sure how I booked this flight without reviewing my passport.

So here’s another thing I never knew. For many places abroad, in this example Taiwan. Your passport had to be valid for at least 6 additional months beyond your arrival date, or they won’t let you in the country. I suspect Taiwan doesn’t want visitors stuck there.

So even if my passport was valid and expired in 3 months, I likely would not have bothered renewing my passport. Lesson learned.

Never have been in this situation, I figured the only thing to do was to Google “I have a flight tomorrow and my passport expired” to figure out what to do. Surprisingly. I’m not the only idiot that has done this. I obviously had to reschedule my flight, but I found out about these emergent passport expediting services with 24 hr turn around time.

I spent 4 hrs searching flights and researching the passport expediting companies.

So here are a few thing to be aware of. These companies are not open on weekends. They are usually 9a-7p.

Now you can book an appointment with the local passport agency and get an emergent renewal (as long as the passport had not expired >5 years), but the turn around is stated to take 7-8 days. According to people online they have been able to get a passport same day.

The special expediting companies specialize in doing this and will act on your behalf. The speed in turnaround appropriately reflected in the cost. They claim the 24 hr turnaround time. That’s 24 hrs from submission of your documents to the passport agency to get the renewal done. This does Not include the transit time to the expediting agency and the return shipping.

In my situation the closest passport agencies were in Chicago and i Detroit.

I opted to trust in the expediting companies.

Next caveat is that each company is allowed so many “time slots” with the passport agency each day. Being Thursday, I would have to overnight all my paperwork and expired passport. The first 3 companies I prepaid were unable to accommodate as they had no Friday slots. Now takeaway here is that each company had so many slots. I kept calling, and finally came across

They had ONE slot left. Of course I took it.

It was fairly seemless and they rep walked me through everything. They even do a document review where you send pictures of everything for them to make sure there are no hiccups during the actual review process.

I overnighted the documents. They got it them next morning and went straight to the passport agency. They kept me updated the whole time.

By 430pm they had my renewed passport in hand. They overnighted it back. Being a weekend and how late it was when they could finally send it back, Saturday delivery was not an option. Now this shouldn’t be a big issue but I took a gamble and rescheduled the going to leave Tuesday (today June 4th). Luckily I received my passport Monday morning.

The next step was not to get to the airport by 440 am. As I will be give during MommyMd’s birthday, my gift to her was to not have her drive me at the asscrack of morning. (Is that a saying?)

So today was also my first foray with hailing and UBER. It was fairly seemless and not too costly.

Now I am here

Half asleep awaiting to board.

I’m going to take a nap.


Day 5: Taipei, in the city

Today we go to Taipei! Only reservation I havevis we will drive there and it’s about an HR drive. Ugh.

Need to work out first. Still doing the 60 day challenge and it’s hard not to eat all the good food.

So after working out I came across this at the local store:

It looks a little familiar

Right Dan Kim?

This “lion’s teeth” seems to be a knock off of Formula O2 devloped by 2 local Ohio guys. It also claims to be a recovery drink of sorts. I tell you it just tastes like diluted juice.

I really do like formula O2, esp the mango. (Go try it)

They waste a lot of sunscreen

After a dizzing car ride with cars cutting us off, sudden stops, we make it to lunch. We have dimsum at brothers hotel (one of my dad’s favorite).

Juju is sad about the dead duckies

We then visit my Grandma’s apartment. Since it’sin Taipei, it’s a ridiculously expensive condo, but as you can see definitely different compared to the on in Tamsui. Frank and I spent many summers here.

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Now to the Living Mall

Vivi has been having about going back here. It used to be a fairly upscale mall, with lots of stores. Over the years it apparently has not done well. Most stores are gone and now replaced with many child play areas.

Check out this massive bounce house.

It was a little sad seeing this place. It was remiscent of what City Center looked like.

The girls were exhausted after 2 hrs of crazy bouncing.

The trip back to Tamsui was rough, long car ride with exhausted kids make for irritable angry kids.

We took a stop at this massive fruit stand

The rest of the night everyone pretty much passed out.

Day 4: swim and still recovering

I was thinking the jet lag is over. Wrong.

Still up early at 6am. Plan is to take the girls swimming and to go check out the local community center.

Supporting Team AidenBear fight cancer

Greeted by a mantis

Unfortunately didn’t get any ohitos swimming or or at the community center. They didn’t allow photography for whatever reason.

On the way back tried out a local establishment.

Promptly pass out for a few more hours.

Then get ready to eat some more traditional local cuisine.

The girls got to ride the bus for the first time.

And end the day with one more stop at the mega grocery store CarreFour (Walmart like place)

Tamsui Taiwan Day 3: getting settled in Personal time exploring

Jetlag? Nah. Up at 5am local time. Let’s go workout for a run.

Had to get my bearings first. Without highspeed internet this is difficult, but luckily I have something and can at least use Google maps to get my way home. About 1.5 mile run to the beach but get stuck at this barrier. #Tamsuiborderwall

So many stray dogs. I wanted to pet them then I realized… Not a good idea. So I didn’t

Didn’t do much the whole day otherwise. We went to the local market to get supplies and eat.

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MommyMd and I did get chance to explore some more we ventured to get a local SIM card to get some highspeed data.

For references for anyone ever planning to go to Taiwan, you need a passport and another ID (usually your driver’s license). Current law allows for one mobile phone number per person.

For internet you could rent a portable Personal 4G wifi router that you pick up at the airport upon arrival. We should have done this but did not. They also sell local SIM cards at the airport. I prefer to get the prepaid cards from there local telecom shops. Just remember to make sure your phone is SIM unlocked.

Depending on what carrier you use, they have different plans. Far EasTone offers a 1 day, 3 day and 5 day Unlimited data use. You can also get a 30 unlimited option.

After getting out SIM setup it was way to hot and tiring to walk back so we tried out the YouBikes. It’s a bike sharing program they over in Taipei. You get a bike for about 3USD and ride it around for 4 hrs. You get charged more for the money you need it.

Can’t really see the bike

Riding back up home was much quicker esp in this heat. It’s kinda scary to ride here with all the crazy traffic. Also not helmets. Noone wears a bike helmet here.

After passing out a few hrs we have dinner at home and end the night with some lychees.

Taiwan Day #2: arrival

After 24+ hours of travel, we arrive in Taiwan.

Touchdown. Juju’s first time in Taiwan and Vivi’s second

They love their Yeye. First thing they do is start to headbutt him

The girls love their Yeye. They only hey to see him a few times a year since he only come back stateside a couple times a year.

It’s nice having T-Mobile overseas. You get free international data, but it’s at 2g speeds. Good enough to look something up or post a few pix.

At Home (in Taiwan)

Hi tech toilets

Amazing lychees, can’t get this in Ohio

First (whole) family trip to Taiwan: Day 1

Semi live blog:

It has been 13 years since MommyMd and I went to Taiwan. Vivi was fortunate to go back with Nainai right after her 4th birthday.

5/2016 vivi’s first trip to taiwan

Now 13 years later with a Juju, we venture back to the humid hot island of Taiwan.

6/2018 family trip, Vivi’s second adventure

Waiting for the plane

Up at 3 am finishing packing. Vivi and Juju we’re a little difficult to rouse but the excitement set in and we were off to the airport.

First let me tell you TSA Precheck is amazing. First time using.

There was a super long line to get through security, and no line at the PRE check. If you don’t have Precheck, get it!

6am: Now that we got here super early, we got 2 hrs to wait.

Might as well explore

Exploring concourse B @CMH: family bathroom


Things are getting silly now: “I’m queen of the world!” ~Juju


8:20am local Chicago time (9:20 in Ohio)

Excited to be enroute to the next flight.

Going through that lighted path at ORD

I used to love running through here

Enjoying the United club. If you happen to have an extended layover anywhere, access to the United Club is very nice.

9:37am Chicago time: on the plane, let’s go to SFO


1215pm (315pm ohio) touchdown to SFO.

Short layover then on the Long haul.

And after a 1hr delay

225p:Ready to board

So grandma got upgraded to a better seat so it left a gap in our eating. Somehow I got screwed with a center seat between strangers. Yay.

12hrs + of fun

They look like they are having fun

Must be nice

Complimentary treats with the international flights.

So I caved and purchased the inflight internet. I can only watch so many movies nonstop.

Finished Geostorm, Justice League, 12 Soldiers, now watching Downsizing.

Very hard to sleep and not end up leaning on your neigbor.

The girls are splayed out and are out.

I’m not even sure what time it is. I thinks it’s 1018p Ohio time. Still 9 hrs left.

6.5 hrs left. Just finished I, Tonya and now Hostiles

Done with jumanji. Less than 2 hrs left

Someone just woke up

Less than 1 hr left.