Sunday, July 31, 2005

I'm a good girl

Since I sat on my heiny all day yesterday reading, I forced myself to go for a walk today. I took the MRT to Danshui and walked back on the bike path, about one hour. It was frickin' hot today, and there's precious little shade along the path. I was soaked when I made it back to Zhuwei, and I ducked into the grocery store for a six-pack of diet Pepsi. Unfortunately, the peanut M&Ms were screaming my name, so I picked up a small package of those, too, just to shut them up. Ate 'em all when I got home. So much for the walk, huh? Perhaps I should consider getting my lips sewn shut.

Time for a bitch session

I don't want my friends to think I've morphed into someone completely different, so I guess it's time to air some of my gripes about Taiwan life. Nothing is major, nothing makes me hate it here or hate the people, but I do tend to get annoyed a lot. It's still better than driving in the US! And since I'm not alone in my observations, I thought I'd share.

Taiwan people have this weird way of walking. It seems to be completely impossible for them to walk in a straight line. And they apparently have zero peripheral vision, because they are constantly veering into me when I'm walking alongside them. My Japanese friend, Kieko, relates the same experiences. We laugh about it a lot as we're walking together, trying to avoid the people who are so intent on crashing into us. And they will come out of a store without bothering to check the sidewalk for other people (and there are always other people), but will just walk right in front of me (I'm usually charging along pretty rapidly) and proceed to mosey along at a snail's pace.

Their speed of walking is the other thing that bugs me. I can't walk that slowly if I try. I just can't. My normal pace leaves most of them in the dust, and if I'm trying to exercise and walking at my three-mile-per-hour stride, it's like I'm running compared to them. This is probably my biggest frustration here, trying to get somewhere fast and being unable to because I'm in a traffic jam of slow people. I'm pretty good at weaving, but there are parts of town that are so clogged at lunch time that I just have to grit my teeth and slow down a bit. I'm hoping that in time I'll be adopting more of this lazy, I-don't-have-to-be-anywhere-soon way of walking.

Apparently Taiwan people drive much the same way that they walk, because I hear the guys who ride scooters to school complaining about the way the cars just veer from one lane to the next without looking. I guess my friend drives like that, too, but it's not so noticeable inside the car, and she's a darned good driver (anyone who can navigate their way through Gaoxiong traffic deserves a medal, in my opinion). I still can't figure out why it can take 8 hours to drive to Gaoxiong on a weekend, when it's only the same distance as from Chico to San Francisco, a drive I could make in 3 hours, no sweat. Granted, the roads here aren't quite as wide as California highways, but 8 hours??!! Sheesh.

My final gripe of the day is reserved for the people at the convenience stores who don't seem to understand the concept of a line and the person who got there first being served first. It's kind of funny that this very polite society can be so pushy and rude at a 7-11! It just doesn't fit with the rest of the place. You gotta be quick here to get your items rung up, because if you hesitate for an instant, looking for your wallet, someone will barge in front and get their stuff paid for before you have a chance to say, "Hey! I was here first!" And heaven help you if you aren't fast enough to get out of the way after you paid for your things, because whoever is behind you will push. That seems to work at the other stores, too.

So, why are these people who are in such a hurry at the stores unable to walk a little faster to get to their destinations outside the stores? It's a mystery.

None of the above makes me love Taiwan people any less. I prefer their company to that of any other place on earth and will gladly put up with these minor annoyances to live here. At least here I don't read the headlines every day to see that a child was murdered, a family was killed by the father because the wife wanted to leave, police officers were shot at while on a simple domestic disturbance call, etc. Yes, we have crime, but not on the same scale as the US. It was a complete shocker last week that a teenager was kidnapped and killed because the kidnappers grabbed the wrong kid. That's an infrequent occurrence here, not a daily one. And when they catch the perps, it's likely they'll be executed, not stuck in a posh jail for a few years.

Saturday, July 30, 2005

How I Spent My Saturday

Got up at 8:30 a.m. Made coffee, turned on the computer. Answered massive amounts of overdue e-mail while drinking coffee. Didn't get entirely caught up, but managed to cut the in-box down to 28 messages. Figured I should take a shower just in case Kieko called about going to the computer expo. Ate some cereal. Started reading The Twelfth Card. Finished reading The Twelfth Card.

Yup, I sat my ass on the couch all afternoon and read, except for 40 minutes I spent on the phone with Nat when she called. Never heard from Kieko, so never stirred out of the house.

I consider today to be a rousing success!

Friday, July 29, 2005

Just in time for the weekend

When I left for school this morning, I discovered my box of books from - yay! Would have been nice if the delivery person had actually buzzed my apartment yesterday when he/she dropped them off, because the box wasn't there when I got home in the afternoon, so I must have been here when it arrived - but I didn't go out again last night.

Already read one of the books this afternoon - Eleven on Top, the latest Stephanie Plum novel by Janet Evanovich. I love Stephanie and her adventures in bounty hunting. Just wish I knew how she can eat so much cake and donuts and still retain her figure. Oh, maybe it's because she's a character in a book and not a real person......

So, although I have tentative thoughts about getting out and doing something constructive this weekend, I may get sidetracked by The Twelfth Card (the latest Lincolm Rhyme novel by Jeffery Deaver), Broken Prey (the latest Lucas Davenport by John Sanford), or Long Time Gone (the latest JP Beaumont by J. A. Jance).

I will try to go to the computer expo at the Taipei World Trade Center, because I hear they give away a lot of cool stuff to the people who attend. We'll see if Kieko gets up early enough tomorrow to make the trip.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

OK, when do I see the results?

Felt ambitious today, and walked from school to Shilin Station, approximately 7 kilometres (4.35 miles). This time I was bright enough to buy two bottles of water before leaving Shuang Lian Station, and I stopped to rest a couple of times, so I didn't feel as if I were going to pass out from heat exhaustion. The temperature today is around 33.5C (92F), but the humidity is way down, only around 57%, so it doesn't feel as hot as it did yesterday. Plus, there's a decent breeze blowing. All in all, it was a pleasant walk, and I discovered two new parks and found out where the fine arts museum is. Check out the route on the map (it's the lime green line):

Me, tired? Why do you ask?

I just want to know when the weight will start coming off. How many hours of walking do I have to do each day, huh? What's that? I need to stop eating so much, too? WAAAAAHHHHH!

Nothing like a good book

On Tuesday I got ambitious. On the way to school, I got off the train at Yuan Shan Station and walked all the way into Taipei. Took about 45 minutes, felt pretty good. After class I got the bright idea to walk back, go across the river, and go all the way to Jian Tan Station. Note to self: next time you decide to walk in stifling, humid weather for over an hour, bring a bottle of water with you. By the time I got to Jian Tan, I was parched and feeling dizzy, so I walked even farther, to the 7-11, and bought a bottle of Pocari Sweat. I don't like the stuff, but when you've been sweating rivers, it's a good idea to replete the body of all the crap you just sweated out. I gulped that down and staggered to the train, gratefully collapsing in an empty seat.

As I dragged my poor, exhausted self up to my front door, I spied a box on the ground by the mailboxes - my order! Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince! Oh joy joy joy! I'd assumed I'd get a notice in the box and have to hoof it to the post office to pick up the package, but I forgot that this is Taiwan, a country where the mail can be left out on the steps and no one will touch it, because it's not theirs. Even the letter boxes have openings wide enough that I can fish my mail out from the outside sometimes. Can't do that in the US because someone would certainly steal your mail. Ah, this is a great place! I'd ordered the book from Amazon, because even with the shipping charges, it was cheaper than buying it here. So funny that it was shipped to me from Germany - but it got here fast, that's for sure.

Of course, I immediately plunked down on the couch with the book and managed to get a couple hours of reading in before I headed back to Taipei and dinner with Betty. I walked more, from Taipei Main Station to Xi Men Ding. Not really that far, but after the walking from earlier, I was pretty wiped out when I arrived. Some damned taxi almost killed me in the crosswalk (note to travellers - just because the little man is green does not mean that cars, especially taxis, will not try to run you down when you're crossing - this is not Hong Kong), and I was so angry that I thumped his trunk HARD with my fist as he barely avoided running over my toes when he passed in front. I hope that shook him up, at least for a second, thinking he'd actually hit someone. Probably not, but one can dream.

I didn't get home until 6:00 last evening, and as soon as I fed the cat and started my laundry, it was back on the couch with Harry and the gang. I finished the book at 11:00. There's always a little bit of a letdown when one wraps up a good read, and with Harry Potter it's rough, because I know it will be a long time before the next one. I know this series will have to end someday, and I dread that! Yeah, I'm just a kid at heart, I know, but I could cheerfully read about Harry's adventures for the next 20 years.

Ah well, am now awaiting the next Amazon order, four new books from some of my favorite authors. The package has been shipped, and let's hope it's arrival is a timely as Harry was.

Question for today: do I walk or not? The knee that I injured the week I got here is still not healed, and after the exertions on Tuesday, it was complaining loudly yesterday. I was nice to it to hush it up, but I think today I need to get my fat self back out there for some serious exercise.....

Monday, July 25, 2005

Now that's what I call getting your hair washed!

Wow, just back from my first visit to a Taiwan hair salon, and it was nothing like the US! I'm used to a quick wash with the back of my head hung uncomfortably over a sink, then a cut and a blow-dry. Usually doesn't take more than half an hour for the whole thing. It's a teeny bit different here.

First came the cut, with me trying to convey to the stylist what I wanted done. I can say "haircut" and "just a little" in Chinese, but she was asking me stuff I didn't understand. Oh well, go with the flow. Instead of hanging me over a sink to wet my hair, she began spraying it from a spritzer bottle and cutting a section at a time. I was leafing through the hair magazines, being envious of all the cute little Asian girls with their perky smiles and tiny figures. When I finally looked up, I realized my hair was waaaay shorter than I'd wanted! Yikes. OK, it will grow back. Then we got to the bangs, and I stressed "just a very little." They got chopped pretty short, straight across. Ugh, not a good look. OK, they will grow back.

Then it was time to wash my hair, so I got up to go to the sink. "No, no, wait there." Huh? OK.... A different girl came over while the woman who cut my hair started on the next client. The girl put a towel around me and then proceeded to squeeze a watered-down shampoo onto my head, being very careful and working up a lather. Ooooohhhhhh, magic fingers! This was not just a hair washing, this was a full-on head massage! The wash took much longer than the cut, with the girl using her nails to systematically scratch all over my head a few times, scraping from neck to top and face to back. Then she started massaging the very back of my neck, then my temples. Then she repeated everything. I thought I was gonna melt. Now I see why Doris from Hong Kong always goes to get her hair washed when she visits Taiwan!

When she finally done working my head over, then it was time to lay down with my head over the sink, but it was far more comfortable than the US style, more flat with the head over a drainboard and supported. And the water pressure, yeah! You can't get water pressure in California because of the water conservation gadgets but here, oh my. The rinse took quite awhile, too, and felt mah-velous.

Now it's time for the blow-dry, back to the woman who cut my hair. And by the time she finished, I looked kinda cute. The cut is almost flapper-like, probably better suited to a younger gal, but not too bad. I think I can get used to it. And it's sure a lot cooler without all that hair on my neck. It's all about chin length now. The whole process took just over one hour.

And the cost? $250NT for the cut, $120NT for the wash (yes, you can do just one or both here), which is about $11.60 US. Dealio! I'm going back to the same salon (it's a couple minutes walk from my house) to get re-highlighted, since the cheap-ass Revlon color I used has already mostly washed out. Back to blonde highlights in time for Wu Bai's next concert on September 10!

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Day trip to Taoyuan

On Saturday, July 23, 2005, I went with my friend Betty and her co-workers on a trip to Wei Chuan (Wei Quan in pinyin) Amusement Park. Betty works for a computer company in Taiwan, and they took all their employees on a day trip to show their appreciation. Each person could bring a friend for free, and Betty picked me (because her boyfriend works on Saturdays, ha). I've posted the photos here: so have a look as you read about the day. There's a website for the place, and it's in Chinese, but you can still go have a look around. Just keep clicking stuff :)

The bus ride was about one hour, and we got to see most of the new animated movie, Madagascar, on the way. Unfortunately, they had the sound turned way down, and I had to resort to trying to read the Chinese subtitles to know what was going on. I finally gave up and fell asleep, so I missed a lot of the movie.

We arrived at Wei Quan at 9:00 a.m. First order of business was getting some iced coffee to keep us awake (I'd gotten up at 5:00 a.m.), so we hit eCoffee for some of the best and cheapest "bing ka fei" that I've had in Taiwan. Only $35NT per cup, what a deal! That's around $1.10 US, and compared to what Starbucks charges, cheap cheap cheap.

The company-sponsored BBQ wasn't scheduled to begin until 10:30 a.m., so Betty and I started wandering around to check things out. Thankfully, the weather was relatively cool, lots of clouds, low humidity, so we didn't suffer too much. We noticed a place where we could rent bicycles and determined to return there in the afternoon.

There were loads of families there with their kids, but it still didn't seem very crowded. People were cruising around on tandem bicycles, regular bicycles, motorized scooters pulling carts, in horse-drawn carriages, and on a cute little train. As usual in Taiwan, the cars, small trucks, and motor scooters were trying to run over the pedestrians but at least there weren't many of those.

We wandered first through a nice garden area that had some cute little fountains and some statuary, along with some bamboo sculptures (including a huge peacock that one could walk through). We then found a path along a little stream, teaming with koi carp. And, oh joy, they had a fish food vending machine! Now, you know how much I love to feed the fish and watch them scramble for the pellets :) I sat on a rock right down at the water and was even able to pet the fish as they came up for the food, tumbling across each other in their frenzy to grab that little snack. As soon as they see people on the shore, they make a beeline (fishline?) for them, knowing the chances of food are pretty good.

Right before it was time to head to the picnic area to start barbecuing, we found a nice little lake that had paddle boats for rent. Cool! Another thing to add to our list of what to do after lunch. OK, time to eat, save the rest of the park for later.

The picnic area was huge (and one of the few places I didn't photograph, sorry). Loads of tables and a grill for each. Taiwan people use REAL charcoal to BBQ, not those manufactured briquets used in the US, and no nasty charcoal lighter fluid. They have lighting a BBQ down to a science, and before long the coals were bright red and the food began to sizzle. We had been supplied with bacon wrapped around green onions and skewered, sliced pork, chicken chunks, steak with black bean sauce, some small fish, sausage (Taiwan sausage is yummy, kinda sweet), squid balls (no, not THOSE kind of balls), green peppers, bean sprouts, and corn, along with sliced white bread, which is what Taiwan folks use sort of like a hot dog or hamburger bun. Betty loves to BBQ, so she jumped in and started cooking. Since I still don't feel my Chinese is very good, I didn't have much to say to the rest of the group, which consisted of three guys and three girls, so I just watched Betty cook and listened to the karaoke (some good, some quite awful) going on over at the play area. During the BBQ the company had all sorts of games for the families to play, which was great because there were so many little kids. And all of them extremely well behaved, I might add.

After lunch we cleaned up and then Betty and I headed back to the lake to rent a boat. We had to wear life vests, which made it a little hotter and a little uncomfortable, but since I can't swim I didn't mind too much. We paddled off and quickly realized that both of us would be sorry the next day because our legs would hurt! That was when we decided drifting was preferable. We only had a half an hour, and it went by fast. While on the boat we spotted a little pavilion that looked inviting, so after pulling back into shore we walked over there for a rest. There was a lovely rock garden called "Stone Forest" at the back, so pretty. If I ever manage to own a house here in Taiwan, I want a garden like that. The pavilion was cool, with a great breeze blowing off the lake, and we actually fell asleep for about 15 minutes.

Time to stretch the legs again, so we walked the path around the lake, discovering more beautiful gardens and bridges and streams. So peaceful, could have just sat with a book and read for hours. But, too much to do and see! So we headed for the bicycle rental area, on the way deciding not to stress our poor legs anymore by renting something we had to work at pedaling and opted for the motorized scooter with cart. We took turns, first Betty driving and pulling me, and then I got to drive. Woohoo, look out! Can't go too fast on those things, but it sure was fun, and maybe I can actually learn to drive a real motor scooter, huh? We made a brief stop so Betty could go feed the calves (did I mention this was some sort of diary farm? It is...), then we drove up past the lake and found an absolutely incredible garden that looked like something out of a Greek myth, very out of place in Taiwan. OK, we gotta come back on foot to explore this. Our half hour on the scooter was over too quickly, and then we headed back for that garden.

All this traipsing around made me suffer from thoughts of ice cream, since I'd already seen it at the little store and also at the various vending stands. After we finished checking out the Greek garden, we went back to the BBQ area and got ice cream for me and Coke for Betty. She was tired of walking by that time, so we sat at a table to eat/drink. We were close to an area where there was some sort of show going on, but we couldn't really see it, just heard the music. Eventually we moved closer to see what it was. Turned out to be a group of four foreigners (and for some reason they looked Russian to me) doing acrobatics and gymnastics. One girl was so amazing, lying on her back and spinning a cylinder with her feet, then spinning two pieces of carpet with her hands while kicking the cylinder all over, then adding hula hoops to her arms - she was going four different actions in different directions at the same time! Jeez, I can't even chew gum and walk. And the thighs on this chick, my lord. I wasn't close enough in my first photos of her to see her clearly, but when they all came to bow, I got a good one she's the one in the red. Proof positive that one doesn't have to be the size of a stick to look marvelous! If my legs were as powerful as hers, I wouldn't care what size they were. Hen li hai!

Well, now the day was done and it was time to go back to the bus. The movie on the ride back was a recent Hong Kong flick titled House of Fury, starring Stephen Fung (who also directed), Anthony Wong, and Daniel Wu. Didn't get to see the beginning, and we got back before the end, so now I have to go rent it, because it was darned good! And they had the sound turned all the way up for this one, humph. It was dubbed in Mandarin, so I got some practice listening and trying to understand. I was able to get quite a bit of it, reading the Chinese subs along with listening to the dialogue. Hey, I'm learning!

The bus dropped us off at 6:00, and I got back to my place around 7:20 (bus ride from Neihu to Yuanshan Station, then MRT back to Zhuwei), and I was pooped. I managed to stay awake until 10:15 then gave it up and hit the sack. And slept until 9:00 this morning, too!

What the hell is that sound?

Since I finally got to see one of these things when I was at Wei Quan, I thought I'd bump this post up to the top. There were quite a few dead on the ground, so here's a photo with Betty's finger to give you an idea of the size.

Every day, from my office window or from the kitchen, I hear a noise that sounds like large sprinklers, the kind that pulse out water back and forth across a lawn. It goes on all day long, and I knew it couldn't possibly be sprinklers, because there aren't any lawns to water! There is, however, a forested hillside a short way down the street from me, but I didn't think anyone was watering that. Just couldn't figure out where that sound was coming from.....

When my friend Li Hua was here on July 2, I asked her if she knew what the sound was. Turns out it's an insect! Must be a type of cicada (, and the little buggers (well, maybe these are the big ones, I haven't seen any yet) are incredibly loud. It's not really an annoying sound, because it's easy to tune out, and I'm happy to finally discover the source!

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

Hm, so that was a typhoon.....

I'm sure if I was living on the eastern coast or in central Taiwan, where they really got pounded, I'd feel differently, but this typhoon in my area was (thankfully) rather ho-hum. Nothing of any note happened in Zhuwei last night, and today it just rained all day, not even hard, more like a good, steady sprinkle. I hear the south is still going to be having heavy rain through tomorrow, but we're scheduled for just light rain. Nice to have it cooler, though, that's a huge bonus. It's about 78F (25.7C) now, and I'm sure feeling sorry for the folks back in Chico who are sweltering in 106F (41C) heat!

Monday, July 18, 2005

"Haitang, the worst typhoon to approach Taiwan in five years"

That's what the Taipei Times calls it. The TEALIT typhoon alert site says, "From around 6am Monday July 18th the storm stalled over its position and began making a looping motion. This process went on for some 6 hours. Weather officials have not seen this stall/loop behavior since 1992."

Last night the wind started howling, and it was raining pretty good at times, and I closed up all my windows. Went to bed around 1:00 a.m. with the fan blowing on me because it was so hot. Not sure what time I woke up, drenched with sweat because the power had gone out and I no longer had the fan. Tried to go back to sleep, was miserable, so I opened my bedroom windows, which helped a little. Sometime later I was awakened by the feel of cool air from the fan. Ah, power for morning coffee! I made sure I ground enough beans this morning to last a couple days. I can always boil water on the gas stove if we lose power again.

Right now the sun is shining a bit, but that's because my little area of Taiwan just happens to be underneath an open spot in the typhoon that is completely obliterating the tiny island on the satellite picture. I think the center is heading directly for me, and I have no idea what sort of weather that will bring. "Currently winds are 114 miles per hour at the center." Sounds like fun, huh?

Today has actually been pretty mild, with some periods of heavy rain and some wind gusts, but really nothing any worse than the winter storms in northern California. People have been outside, some of them riding their scooters, and while the street outside is littered with some plants and other things (someone is missing a bra), it's not total devastation, and there haven't been any floods here (and since I'm on the fourth floor, even if it floods, I'm OK). The cicadas are in full swing in the little forest, and the temperature is steadily rising (dang it). I have all the windows open, and when I'm lucky enough to catch a good breeze, I'm happy for it.

Not sure what tomorrow will bring, don't know if school will be closed again or not. The train service was suspended nationwide today, and if it's not running tomorrow, I can't get to Taipei anyway.

Keeping fingers crossed for continued power for playing online and watching movies ;)

Sunday, July 17, 2005

Argh, just lost everything I typed!

I had a nice little post going here, detailing my adventures (such as they were) last week, and then I hit the wrong button and lost it. Damn it anyway!

Here's a picture of mango xue hua bing (frozen snow flower), a delightfully icy treat that Hiyoshi and I like to indulge in when we've been walking all over Taipei for an afternoon and are loaded with sweat. A new shop called Red Coffee opened in Taipei Main Station, so we've gone there twice to cool off before saying goodbye for the evening. Last night we found an even better shop in Ximen Ding, one that has tons of flavors and cheaper prices, so I'm sure we'll be going there frequently.

On Friday afternoon we made a return trip to Ying Ge so Hiyoshi could pick up the cup he'd made on the first trip (Betty was a driving force in the adornment of the cup - left to his own devices, I'm sure Hiyoshi's plain and simple Japanese character would have produced a cup with a lot less decoration!). We didn't spend too much time wandering around the town this time, because we'd gotten a late start. We first walked from school to Shida Road for lunch and to pick up Hiyoshi's plane ticket from his friend's office, so we didn't get to Ying Ge until around 4:00 or so. Once again I successfully avoided buying the $68,000NT vase ($2,131 US) that the shopkeeper graciously offered to let me have for only $20,000NT ($627 US). Whew! Maybe I can just talk Hiyoshi into giving me his work of art, huh?

Yesterday we went to the weekend jade market so Hiyoshi could shop for some gifts for his family and wandered through the flower market ooh-ing and ahh-ing over the gorgeous orchids. Then we went to Da'An Forest Park and stretched out on the grass in the shade for awhile. It wasn't too bad being in the shade, and the clouds were rolling by quietly in a blue, blue sky. We walked around the park and Hiyoshi made a new friend.

I think we spent most of the day walking yesterday, starting at 12:15 and ending around 7:30 p.m. Hiyoshi stuck around with me in Ximen Ding until Charlene and Shun showed up, then he headed home to Wan Li and the rest of us went to my place to drink some beer and wait for Natari. Around 10:30 p.m. the four of us headed to San Zhi to our favorite beach cafe and sat out on the deck talking and drinking coffee/tea, enjoying the sea breeze. It was about 2:00 a.m. when I finally got to sleep.

All in all, it was a great week, lots of fun, and I'm not looking forward to the next two weeks without Hiyoshi :( It's not as easy to force myself to walk alone, but maybe I can get Kieko to go here and there with me - after the typhoon has gone, that is!

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Typhoon coming Typhoon Haitang is due to hit Taiwan early Monday morning. This one is a Category 3, pretty big, but Charlene tells me that it will just be more wind and more rain, and that the weather gets a little cooler. I certainly won't complain about that! I know it's not as hot as it is in Chico right now, but this humidity makes it feel hotter. Likely I will not have to go to school Monday, maybe not Tuesday, either. Oh darn!

Thursday, July 14, 2005

China cuisine

Reading this article made me very glad to be living in Taiwan, where the oddest food I've seen is probably "ya xie" - congealed ducks' blood mixed with rice. The Mainland definitely has us beat for food oddities.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Oh, and another thing or two

Can you believe this? I'm forgetting my English! I had to buy a dictionary just so I could find the words that have been pushed out of my head by all the Chinese (and a little Japanese) that I'm forcing in there.

And a note on the weirdness of Taiwan: yesterday Hiyoshi and I went to Ikari Coffee to kick back out of the heat and chat. My ears were treated to the sounds of good old American classic rock & roll. The first song I noticed was "Love Potion No. 9" which, of course, I remember the lyrics to. I lamented to Hiyoshi that if only I could purge my memory of the things I *don't* need, I'd have room for the things I *do* need! Where's the delete button anyway? As we were getting ready to leave, the song in the air was, "Davy, Daaavy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier!" And let me tell ya, it's flat-out weird to be hearing that in a coffee shop in Taiwan....

Blonde no more

For years my hair was either purple or red. I mean, years. I can't even remember when I started coloring it those colors, but if it wasn't Plum it was Black Cherry, or Dark Auburn, even Bright Copper. Then I got the wild idea to live the life of a blonde and see if they really did have more fun, so I started highlighting my hair, with just a few streaks of red. Surprisingly, I liked the look (even though my level of fun did not noticeably increase), so I kept it.

Well, I've been hesitant to try to find a hairdresser here in Taiwan who is used to working with non-Asian hair and could duplicate the great effect my stylist (Terri, I miss you!) in California could do. So today I reverted back to the old days of do-it-yourself hair color, and I am now a vivacious redhead ;) Since I went from mostly-blonde to red this time, it's really red! And dang, I forgot how friggin' stinky Revlon hair color is, phew. I guess now I'll blend in a little more, since red seems to be a favorite color with the Asian crowd, so maybe Wu Bai will have to try a little harder to spot me in the audience at the next concert.

If I can get someone to take a decent picture of me, I'll post it. However, we all know the chances of getting a decent photo of yours truly, now don't we?

Saturday, July 09, 2005

Antiques and Fish

Yesterday Hiyoshi's Japanese student canceled, so he was free to make the trip to The National Palace Museum that we weren't able to make on Thursday. After class we hopped on the MRT to Shilin Station and then caught a little bus to the museum. As usual, it started to rain on us. Everytime we go somewhere it rains on us. We're getting used to it by now. No matter, the museum would keep us dry!

Although I've been to the museum three times before, each trip is just as awe-inspiring as the first. Sadly, the museum is currently undergoing extensive renovation, and many of the items are not on display. I'll be looking forward to the end of all this construction so I can see some of the things I remember from my first visit in 2002. The items they currently show are some of the most exquisite things I've ever seen, and I just want to touch them, to feel each tiny detail. I have a lot of photos of my Sept. 2004 visit posted, if you haven't seen them:

After finishing up at the museum, we decided to take a stroll through Chishan Gardens, which is right next to the museum. Even though it was raining, it was just a light sprinkle, so we headed into the almost-deserted garden, stopping to rest a bit at a covered pavilion, sitting on small stools carved from some beautiful wood. One could almost believe one had travelled back to ancient China - until the pounding and sawing from the construction shattered that illusion :) We walked a bit more (and I somehow managed to convince Hiyoshi to sing me a Japanese children's song, that was fun - and no, he can't really sing), stopping again at another pavilion on the lake to watch the fish. They were swarming at the top of the water, thinking the raindrops were bugs landing. The fish range from tiny black ones that can barely be seen under the water to huge koi carp in all sorts of glittering colors. Hiyoshi must have been quite hungry, because he kept talking about fishing, saying the black ones were the tastiest ones. We watched some girls feeding the fish from the bridge, and when we continued our walk, we discovered the fish food dispenser! Oh, what fun. We each bought a packet of food and headed to the bridge. I laughed myself silly watching the fish swimming on top of each other, right out of the water, trying to get the little nuggets of food. Some of the tiny fish would even swim into the mouths of the bigger fish trying to grab it! I would have happily spent a lot more money buying food and feeding them, but we had other plans. If you'd like to see my prior photos of Chishan Gardens, here they are:

As we were leaving the museum, I heard a woman calling, "Excuse me! Excuse me!" Turned around, and the group of people we'd seen inside, filming some of the exhibits with a movie camera (and managing to block my way so I couldn't see some of the best porcelain) were coming our way. One woman asked me if I could speak Chinese, and I said I could speak a little. She asked if they could interview me for a TV program they were filming. Yeah, just what I wanted. I'm wet, my hair is a frizzy mess, I'm wearing a huge black t-shirt over biking shorts, and my face is a greasy blob from all the humidity. I said no. They didn't listen to me. Next thing I knew, I have a TV camera in my face and I'm giving an interview, in Chinese. Why does this always happen to me? I had the same experience last September when Romita and I were walking by a temple! Do I have a sign on my back that reads "Media persons please accost me!"? At least I don't have to suffer through seeing myself on TV, since I don't have cable. Hopefully no one I know will watch that program.

Thursday night Hiyoshi had watched a TV show which featured a night market called Tong Hua Night Market, close to Liuzhangli Station. He wanted to go check it out, and since I hadn't any other plans, I agreed to go with him. And yes, it was still raining. We were soooo hungry by the time we got back to Taipei Main Station, but we wanted to find something good at the night market, so we made ourselves wait. It turned out that the market was quite a long walk from the station, but we finally found it and started cruising for food. The rain was keeping away a lot of people, so it was very easy to navigate the narrow street. It was around 7:00 p.m. before we found a spot that had seats inside out of the rain, cheap prices, and an interesting menu. I got mixed seafood fried rice, and Hiyoshi got some noodle soup with seafood. We shared that plus a little plate of huang gua (tiny cucumbers marinated in sesame oil, vinegar, and red peppers). Afterwards, we really wanted to get something icy for desert, but those places didn't have seats, and it would have been too hard to walk and eat while holding our umbrellas.

We got Hiyoshi back to the station in time to catch his bus to Wan Li, and I actually managed to find a seat on the train home (yay!). I got home around 10:30 p.m., and I was exhausted! DZ was very happy to see me, so I stayed up and played with her, read for awhile, finally crashed around 12:30.

Today was a rather lost day, because I woke up with a killer headache and an upset stomach. I felt so sick that I went back to bed and just kinda dozed until almost 4:00. DZ stayed in bed with me most of the time, actually behaving herself and just sleeping. Ugh, I hate feeling like that, and I hate throwing up, but I knew if I didn't, I'd never feel better. Maybe it was the seafood fried rice.... At least I'm feeling fine now, and I did manage to get laundry done and even some studying! Go me.

Thursday, July 07, 2005

Babies are cute when....

they aren't mine and they aren't crying ;) Today I went with Laoshi, Kieko, Nico, and Hiyoshi to visit Keiko (don't be confused - there are two girls with almost the same name) and see her new (one-month old) baby. Keiko was our classmate until she had the baby, and we're hoping she'll be able to come back when the baby is a little older. He's a cute little bugger, but Keiko's cat doesn't seem too fond of the new arrival. He hid under the bed for most of our visit, but finally ventured out to sniff us all before retreating to a safer location. After Nico left, Keiko took a photo of all of us, with Hiyoshi holding the baby. We joked with him, said he could send the picture to his mother in Japan and tell her it was a pic of his four girlfriends and the new baby. Laoshi, Kieko, Hiyoshi and I grabbed some lunch afterwards, and I had one of those great egg-oyster-veggie omelets called "e ah jian" (that's Taiwanese, not Mandarin). Very good, with a reddish, rather sweet sauce on it.

Hiyoshi and I had wanted to go to Gu Gong Museum today, but there wasn't enough time after the visit to Keiko's, so we went in search of something icy to eat instead. We thought maybe we'd find tso bing (like a snowcone in a bowl with fruit) or xue hua bing (ice with milk added and then shaved thinly and piled ribbon-like into the bowl, covered with fruit), but it was too hot to walk around much looking, so we opted for our usual fare, iced coffee. We ended up at Ikari Coffee this time since Dante Coffee was packed full. We sat there until 6:30 p.m., having our usual strange chat, half in English, half in Chinese, with me correcting grammar and pronunciation as we go along. It's always a kick to try to figure out Hiyoshi's body language. When he can't think of the word in English, he uses his hands, but most of the time I have no clue what he's thinking! Talking with him is always loads of fun, with a lot of laughter. Today he told me the story of Doraemon, the Gadget Cat from the Future. It's a Japanese cartoon that's very popular here in Taiwan, as well as in Hong Kong.

Anyway, I got home late again tonight, and DZ was very happy to see me. I guess she gets pretty bored here alone all day. Now I'm going to go watch Treasure Hunters, a new (old) movie that I bought yesterday.

Sunday, July 03, 2005

Shabu Shabu

One of the delights of Taiwan cuisine is shabu shabu hot pot. One orders a meal that one cooks oneself in a little pot of boiling broth set into the table. There are many choices for the type of meal you can order, ranging from beef, pork, chicken, fish, shellfish, etc. The meal comes with a plate of your chosen meat, plus another plate that has a variety of things to cook, and you can order extra meat or other things on the side, if you wish.

Last night I went with Li Hua and Tony to the restaurant close to my house, and the three of us ate until stuffed for only $20 US (and that included a large bottle of Taiwan Gold Medal beer). I ordered the chicken, and with it I got some cabbage, some sort of green that was similar to bok choy, a shrimp, some taro, winter melon, a couple kinds of tofu, small piece of corn on the cob, fish balls, enoki and shitake mushrooms, crab meat, rice, and a few other things I can't really explain because I don't know what they're called, just that they're tasty! It's a little warm to eat like this in the summer, since you have the boiling liquid right in front of you, but it's sure fun. I prefer the type of hot pot that has hot & spicy liquid to cook in, where you pick out what you want from a buffet-type setup, but this one was very good, and I'm sure I'll be going back to that place frequently!