Monday, May 30, 2005

Cool as a Cucumber meets Traffic Tales

Today was the day to bite the bullet (try explaining that expression to your Japanese friend) and shell out the dough for the air conditioner. But I did better than I had originally expected. Today I bought not one, but three air conditioners AND a clothes dryer for $750 (you will not believe how tiny this dryer is). Not too bad considering that I thought I'd spend that on just one air con. So Thursday, before the intense heat of summer arrives, I'll have one in the bedroom, one in the living room, and one in the office, so I can a cool chick no matter where I am. Yeah, so the kitchen will probably not get too cool, but like I'm ever in there cooking anyway....

As I walked to Carrefour today to make my big purchase, I must have had at least 8-10 brushes with death. You see, there's no sidewalk, and the road is the only road that goes from Taipei to Danshui, so there is always a lot of traffic. Oh yes, there's a little lane that's titled "pedestrian road" but that doesn't stop the maniacs on scooters from using it. And they not only zip by within inches going the right direction, they sneak up behind you going the wrong way! I swear, there are simply no traffic laws here at all, none. The scooters drive on the sidewalks, and they don't care if you're there first. The scooters pass cars and buses on the right, and they don't care that you're walking in the road.

The City of Chico Code Enforcement division would be having hissy fits here. Public right-of-way? hahahaha! Right.... Try walking down the sidewalk - you'll find it blocked by parked scooters, businesses that have spilled their merchandise out onto the sidewalk, businesses that have BUILT the shops right over the sidewalk, causing one to have no choice but to walk into the road. During the rush hours, there are so many people coming and going (and stopping dead right in front of me to make a purchase from a street vendor) that I'm always far into the road to get by them (I really can't believe that human beings can actually walk as slowly as most of the people do here, it's amazing). Doesn't matter if I walk facing the traffic, because the cars coming from behind are passing other cars and coming into the left lane where I'm walking. And my friends are so nonchalant about it. "Oh well, if they hit you, they'll have to pay you money." "Yes, but I can't spend it if I'm dead." I can't wait until I can actually read the Chinese newspaper (the Taipei Times is "designed" for foreigners and never has the juicy, gory stuff) to see how many die every day from being clipped by an old lady on a scooter who is carrying about 50 pounds of groceries in addition to her Siberian Husky (no lie, I've seen this). Or the guy who is delivering six large (20 kilo) bottles of propane and just can't wait for the Auntie to get across the street but has to veer onto the sidewalk to go around her. Or the mother who has her three children on the scooter, all of them carrying bags with their dinner from the vendors, only the bigger kids wearing helmets while the youngest does without.

But hey, you know what? Taking my chances walking the streets of Taiwan is preferable to driving anywhere in the US ;)

It's a girl!

Please welcome the newest addition to the household, a feisty little kitten who as yet remains nameless (so we can call her Wu Ming for now). She was wailing her heart out at Charlene's home, and Charlene took her in temporarily, calling her Shi San (13) because she'd shown up on Friday the 13th. As of yesterday, she's the queen of my place ;)

So far I've considered the following names: Shan Dian (lightning), Wen Hao (question mark) - these two because she has a crook in her tail, Li Hai (uh huh, I'm bad), Hu Xu (whiskers). Considered calling her Tuxedo Two and using T2 as a nickname (I used to have a black & white kitty named Tuxedo), or Dizzy (which is DZ, the initials of the fabulous drummer, Dino Zavolta). I'm waiting to see how her personality develops before sticking her with a permanent name.
Here's hoping she doesn't destroy the house today while I'm school....

Saturday, May 28, 2005

Caged animals

Went to the Taipei Zoo yesterday, mostly because I wanted to get some exercise and it's a nice place to walk around, very lovely grounds. I realize now that I don't enjoy zoos as much as I did when I was a kid. Back then I was oblivious to the fact that these animals are kept in habitats that confine and constrict their movements and in no way resemble their natural habitats. After watching some of the big cats pacing manically back and forth, some of them in nothing more than concrete pits with dead trees, no form of green plant at all, my heart was aching. Oh sure, many of the animals have nice little homes, but the zebras are in what's basically a mud pit with a little grass, and the hippos are in a concrete enclosure with a very shallow pool of water at one end. These are creatures that should be in a river, completely submerged!

What right do we humans have to take these animals and put them on display for our pleasure? Should the day come when some higher civilization discovers our pitiful little planet, how would we like it if they thought we should be a paid attraction?

Saddest thought of all is that at the rate we're destroying the environment and depleting our Mother of her wild lands, eventually a zoo will be the only place to see these animals. Assuming, of course, that we don't blow ourselves to space dust first.....

Thursday, May 26, 2005

Fabulous fruit

One of the things I missed most about Taiwan whenever I had to leave to go back to the US was the fruit. In the US grocery store fruit usually has a flavor which strongly resembles cardboard. The only time fruit ever tastes good in the States is during the summers when it can be purchased at the local farmers' markets.

Here in Taiwan fruit always seems to taste great, never as if it had been picked greener than a frog and then shipped miles and miles to a store. Right now the melons are popping out, and there are melons I've never even seen before (including one imported from Japan that would cost me $50 US if I were ever stupid enough to pay that much money for a melon). And we have the coolest watermelons! They're green & white striped on the outside, rather small and round, and the inside is a bright yellow. The taste is almost like the "normal" watermelons, but a little different.

The lychees are beginning to show up at the markets, although they're still a little expensive. The grapefruits here are so juicy that I was a sticky mess after I peeled and sectioned my first one. The wax apples (lian wu) are crisp and juicy, not a lot of flavor, but very refreshing. The dragon fruit (huo long guo) is as much fun to look at as it is to peel and eat (bright fuschia on the outside, looks like scales, hence the name), and the inside is white with tiny, tiny little black seeds. Bananas are very banana-y over here. I hate green bananas, like mine to be very ripe, and that's how they are without being too mushy.

I'll have to take some photos of the many varieties of shui guo (fruit) for all of you. It's too bad we can't get mangosteens here, though. They're dubbed the "Queen of Fruit" and I've only found them in Hong Kong. So, when I'm in Hong Kong, I make sure I eat a lot of those.

There are still many fruits I haven't yet tried, but I'll be giving them the taste test shortly. I may even try durian melon, which is about the stinkiest fruit in the world (and sometimes you can buy it fried!).

Monday, May 23, 2005

Past the two-month mark

Well, I've been here for two months now. Still love it, but am anticipating some grumpiness as the weather continues to warm up. Shopped for an air conditioner today, looks like it's gonna cost me between $540 and $670. Ouch. But, I believe it's a necessity.

Must express my extreme displeasure with Symantec at this time. I tried to renew my Norton Internet Security subscription the easy way, by downloading the program. Ha, right. Didn't work. Wrote to them, got back completely non-helpful advice. Wrote again, got a response "we are the customer service department, can't help you with technical issues." Fine, then, do some customer service and give me a refund for the product I can't download. I'll just buy the hard copy, sheesh.

Every day last week the weather report said it would rain horribly in the afternoons, so every day I high-tailed it home to avoid the deluge. And every day it didn't rain, so I spent many hours hanging around the house, just sure that if I set foot outside, it would pour. The reports this week also say rain, rain, rain - but I ain't fallin' for that again. I have a life to live, things to do! And hey, if it does rain, so what? I'll get wet. Hey, maybe I'll even get a couple of packages mailed......maybe.

Oh, hey, here's a picture from yesterday, when two of my Japanese classmates, Hiyoshi and Kieko, and I went to Danshui for the afternoon. We stopped at this temple, very old, very beautiful. I managed to talk them into posing for a photo :)

Not much more to say right now. Just waiting for June 11 and the Li Hai concert to see Wu Bai & China Blue again. And very happy it will be inside, with air conditioning!

Catch ya all later.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Slow, rainy, lazy week

Not much to write about this week, that's for sure. It rained. All week. Every day. Sometimes for hours, sometimes for minutes, sometimes a sprinkle, sometimes cats & dogs. Yes, it's the rainy season here in Taiwan. I don't mind so much, because it's keeping the temperature down, for the most part, although today it's supposed to get up to 84 and the forecast for next week says up to 88, and still rain every day. It does curtail the activities somewhat, though.

Finally got out a bit last night, meeting up with Natari, Charlene, Gin (that's pronounced Jean), and Kieko for some food and chat. My three Taiwanese friends were having a rather serious discussion in Chinese, so Kieko, one of my classmates, and I had our own talk. She's from Osaka, Japan and has been here studying Chinese since February. I'm enjoying meeting people from Japan and getting to learn more about their country and traditions. Although I've read many fiction books that deal with Japanese culture, I'm never sure I can believe what I'm reading or if the author is taking liberties. Hopefully, I'll be going to Japan on holiday one of these days, getting first-hand experience. Apparently, visiting Washington state was an eye-opener for Kieko when she saw a sign at a school proclaiming the place was "gun free." The idea that guns would ever be brought into a children's school is simply unthinkable in Japan. Ditto for Taiwan. Americans might have the freedom to bear arms, but just think how many have lost their lives because of that freedom and some unhappy teenager (or even younger child) taking Dad's prized handgun to school and killing his/her classmates and teachers. Sometimes too much freedom is not such a good thing.....

Instead of taking the MRT at the closest station, Charlene, Kieko, and I walked to the farther one, around 11:00 p.m. Took us a little over a half an hour, and thankfully the rain held off, except for some minor sprinkles. Now, I don't believe I'd want to be walking anywhere in the US with just two girls that late in the evening, but here in Taipei I feel perfectly safe. There are always so many people out and about, many of them teenagers (but not the scary sort), and that fear element just doesn't pop up. And by the time my train dropped me at my stop, it was almost 12:30 a.m., and I walked alone back to my place, about 10 minutes, never once feeling uneasy as I went through the narrow streets and alleys. Some young girls, maybe 14 or 15, got off the train when I did, never having to worry some maniac would abduct them and commit rape and murder. I've noticed very young children out on their own, running errands, playing - and no parents in sight. Nowadays, leaving a child unattended in the US is an open invitation for a child molester to grab 'em. What the hell happened to our country?

Anyway, enough of that, let's just say that I'm happier than I ever thought I could be. Let it rain :)

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Dreams do come true

Fans came from all over to meet up in Hong Kong for the May 5, 2005 Wu Bai & China Blue "Wild Day Out" concert. Doris and Tommy (Hong Kong fans) arrived at my hotel around 3:00 p.m., then we fetched Sharrie, Xiao Sui (both Taiwan fans), and Angela (Singapore fan) at their hotel. First we went for a quick bite and then off to the M1 Lounge to check out the situation. Uh oh, people already in line, but thankfully only three of them, so we joined the queue at the front around 5:00 p.m. One of the gals who was there was a Japanese fan, Yasuyo, who had been queuing since 3:00. The weather was quite hot, very humid, and we sweated profusely as we waited, not very patiently, for the 10:00 show. We chatted, took pictures, kept running across the street for cold drinks and bathroom usage, just enjoying being with other Wu Bai fans and the anticipation of seeing the greatest band on earth. The line slowly grew longer, but never anything like it is in Taiwan (and I do thank the goddess for that!).

At first we were told that we'd be able to go inside at 8:30, but it wasn't until almost 9:30 that they allowed us in. We were given some cool posters, a cold beer, a light stick, and a whistle. Awesome, I love goodies (but I think whistles should be outlawed at concerts). Once inside, we took our places at the stage, amazingly close to the stage, like only inches away from it. There was a plastic line with some flyers hanging from it separating us about at waist level, but since we were sitting on the floor, and the flyers were blocking our view, we took 'em off. We were so close that we put our bags up against the speakers in front of us, and Sharrie even had her camera on the stage itself. The stage was triangular shaped, with Wu Bai's mike at the point, and that's where we were seated. Unfortunately, we were told we'd have to sit through the whole show, because if we stood, the people in the back wouldn't be able to see. What?! SIT at a Wu Bai concert? Boy, that's weird. Lots of grumbling about that, especially since both Sharrie and Xiao Sui were wearing short denim skirts. A little hard to sit gracefully on the ground in those.

When Wu Bai, Da Mao, Xiao Zhu, and Dino walked onto the stage, I just couldn't believe how close they were. And dang, it's Hong Kong, so I can take pictures! Hell, I can take video! Not allowed to do that in Taiwan, no way. I did get some good pix, but honestly, most of the time I was too busy watching and enjoying the show to worry about photos. And because Wu Bai moves around so much, a lot of the shots were blurry.

Wu Bai was in a great mood, and he was speaking Cantonese to the crowd. Now, I don't speak Canto, so I don't know if he was doing a good job at it or not, but at least he was making the effort. The crowd seemed to appreciate it. All the guys were smiling so big (well, OK, I couldn't see Dino, just the top of his head, but I'm sure he was smiling), and when they launched into the first song, the energy in the room just took off. The sound was excellent, even though I was so close to one of the big amplifiers that I couldn't hear out of my right ear after the show.

There were two small speakers right in front of me, and Wu Bai jumped up on them while playing, almost hitting his head on the low ceiling (I wonder if he even knows how close he came to doing so). The speakers wobbled, and for a minute I thought I might end up with a lap full of Wu Bai. Not that that would have been a bad thing.... And then he came right off the stage and stood in front of Angela and me, playing that guitar. I could have touched him if I'd wanted to, but I'm far too well behaved to do that ;) The second time he came down off stage, he stood right over Angela, partially bent over, singing and playing, and dripping sweat right onto her! I think I got some of it, too. Ah, dream come true - because before I went to my first concert, I said I wanted to be close enough for his sweat to drip on me. It finally happened!

So, of course I'm mostly watching Wu Bai, and trying not to drool too much, but I also can see Xiao Zhu very well (Da Mao is hidden behind Wu Bai for almost the whole show, and as I said, the top of Dino's head is all I can see behind the drums). Every now and then, Wu Bai is looking right at me for a second, flashing that big smile. Then came a time when he looked at me and didn't look away. He just kept looking, and singing, and I was afraid I was going to end up in a dead faint on the floor. That man has the most incredible eyes....add that smile into the mix, and who can resist? I must have gotten a five-second long gaze, at least. Doesn't sound like much, but try staring into someone's eyes for five seconds, it's longer than you think. I still get shivers when I think about it.

Wu Bai may look like a grown man, but he's really just a little boy in disguise. He has this thing about water....he likes to throw it on the crowd. There he was, pausing for a drink of water from his bottle, and the next thing I knew, the water was all over us! What a stinker. But, it did feel kinda good, since we were pretty hot and sweaty by this time. I'll get him someday, you just wait.

At the end of "Ni Ai Wo" (U Love Me), the chorus is "ni ai wo, ni ai ai wo, ni ai ai wo, ni ai wo......" and first he sang in Mandarin. Then he sang in Cantonese. Then he was in front of me, looking at me, and sang in English, "You love me." Aiya! Me very happily embarrassed :) Just to clarify a point here: I do love Wu Bai. However, I am not IN LOVE with Wu Bai, kindly note the difference. And I also love Da Mao, Dino, and Xiao Zhu, so there.

So, I guess no one told the poor security guys what to expect at a Wu Bai concert, because when we'd finally decided that we'd had all we could take of sitting on that stone floor, and we all stood up (which caused a HUGE smile to appear on Wu Bai's face), the security guys couldn't figure out how to make us sit down. Oh, they tried. We just ignored them, even the one yanking on Angela's hand. When the song was finished, we finally let them coax us back down again, but they had extremely frightened looks on their faces. And of course, we did it again. There is just no way in hell we're gonna sit when the band is performing "Ai Ni Yi Wan Nian" (Love You 10,000 Years). It's not possible. Not, not, not. This time we jumped, sang at the top of our lungs, and refused to be seated. And we knew that Wu Bai was proud of us, because he doesn't like to see anyone sitting at his shows. The security folks also didn't like it when some of the fans gave Wu Bai flowers and other things they'd brought for him, but too bad, they did it anyway. Neener neener.

All good things come to an end, and so this great concert also ended, much too quickly. As we were milling around with big goofy grins on our faces, so incredibly high, a guy came over to me and asked me if I would come with him and give an interview for a magazine. He had seen me singing along with the songs, and since I'm so obviously not Asian, he wanted to find out who I was and how I knew about Wu Bai. Doris came along to help interpret, and I ended up with an autographed "Two-Faced Man" CD out of the deal. Here are links to the article (page 2 has me): and

Angela and I got back to our hotel around 1:00 a.m., and although I was completely exhausted, I still found it difficult to fall asleep, because I just kept reliving those moments of eye contact with the most beautiful man on earth. I think I only got around 4 or 5 hours of sleep, which left me in a semi-coma the next day, but it was sooo worth it, and I can't wait for June 11 and the Li Hai concert here in Taipei!

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Here in Hong Kong

I arrived in Hong Kong last night, and it's even hotter than Taiwan. Whee. Not going to write a lot at this point, but wanted to remember that two very lovely ladies assisted me in 1) finding the airport bus and 2) providing "ling qian" for me when all I had on the bus was "yi bai kuai."

Today I'm off to the embassy to apply for my next visa back into Taiwan and tonight is the concert. Won't be back online until Friday, when I return to Terry's place.

Terry's place: wow, hard to believe a single guy is living here, it's so clean. Nifty spot in Tai Po, kinda country-ish. Whoever designed it seems to think people have arms that are five feet long, because the toilet paper holder is on the wall opposite the toilet, rather than being right next to the place where one does one's business. If you forget to grab paper before seating yourself, big trouble. More on Terry's abode later, too.

Oh, Hong Kong "bi jiao gui" as far as food. That's "more expensive" for you who don't speak Chinese ;) Last night's dinner was the equivalent of $13 US, and we could have had the same in Taiwan for around $7 or $8. Damned good jiao zi and bao zi, though.

Gotta go......

Sunday, May 01, 2005

There's been a little change in the weather

Today was hot. Very hot. Sticky, icky hot. But, there was a decent breeze blowing, so it was bearable, although my apartment did get up to 90 degrees. My classmate, Hiyoshi, came to visit at noon, and after we spent a little time munching some cold noodles with sesame sauce (very yum) and watching some Wu Bai concerts, we headed off to Danshui to see if it was any cooler by the river/ocean. It wasn't. Hoards of people there, so we strolled along very slowly, had some very weird ice cream that melted faster than we could eat it, and watched some of the temple celebration parades. Then Hiyoshi said he wanted to go to "leng de di fang" which is a "cold place." So, I took him to Carrefour, whose motto is Tian Tian Dou Pian Yi (Everyday All Cheap)! We shopped as best we could considering the crowd, got me a new floor fan (with Winnie the Pooh on it, soooo cute), some fruit and munchies, and headed back to my place (note to self: take Hiyoshi shopping with me all the time; he carries the parcels and doesn't complain).

Well, my apartment by this time was darned toasty, and the breeze had all but vanished. After more chit chat, a bit of movie watching, and some fresh pineapple (oh, you would not believe how delicious the pineapple is here in Taiwan), Hiyoshi headed off for his two-hour trip back home to Wan Li. Me, I took a shower and left my hair sopping wet, turned on both fans, and settled down for a bit of reading.

All of a sudden, the breeze kicked up again, ahhhh, so nice. Then the breeze became a wind. Then it turned into a very large wind. I started hearing things crashing outside, blowing over. My kitchen balcony door, which is a screen door latched with a loose chain, was banging as the wind buffeted it, and I could hear other doors in the building doing the same. I'm thinking, "Hm, typhoon coming in?" and all at once, it's quiet again. Just a gentle breeze blowing in. As we say in Chinese, "Guai guai de!" (very strange)

Happy May Day everyone :)