Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Typhoon Longwang

Snickering madly over the name of this typhoon, which is currently heading toward Taiwan from Iwo Jima. Why do the typhoons seem to like to time their appearances to coincide with the weekend anyway? Can't they arrive on a Tuesday or Wednesday and give us a day off school in the middle of the week?

Saturday, September 24, 2005

The $20US Cheesecake

Next week my classmate, Kieko, will return to Japan, her long, long holiday finally over. I'm gonna miss her, even though lately we haven't spent much time together. To send her off, I wanted to make her a cheesecake, and it took a long time to find all the ingredients. Thursday I finally found graham crackers (chocolate flavored, but still good for making a crust, just a pain in the ass to try to crush up in the blender - I want a box of crumbs, dammit!), which completed my list. Today I made the cheesecake.

Now, people in Taiwan just don't bake. Really, they don't. There are no ovens in most Taiwan kitchens, unless you have a fancy, ultra-modern, Western-style apartment, which I don't. So, I had bought one of those small tabletop ovens to use. I was uncertain whether this thing would actually bake a cake without catching on fire, and there was one loud sparking snap at the beginning of the cook cycle that prompted me to make sure the fire extinguishers were still outside my front door on the landing. But, all went well, no further mishaps.

I now have a cheesecake that has a slightly overdone top (OK, more than slightly. I meant to turn the bottom element on and picked the top one instead, what a dork.), but I tried a little sliver of it, and it seems to taste close to the ones I produced in the US. The sour cream was a different texture than what I'm used to (the stuff I got is imported from Australia), and I didn't know I was out of almond extract (yeah, try finding that here) so I couldn't add that, but it's still not bad! I tallied up the cost of the ingredients, and it's around $20US, way more than it would cost me to make there. I suppose that's good, because now I won't be tempted to make too many and eat them ;)

I also cleaned my house today, mopping all the floors squeaky clean, and did some laundry. Such an exciting weekend, bet you all with you were here, right?

Thursday, September 22, 2005


When I went back to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs today, I had the same school paper with me that I had yesterday (the one the woman told me was wrong - it wasn't), and I brought receipts from the bank after stopping today to pull out some money. A different person helped me, a man, and he never questioned a thing, everything was fine. That other woman was making problems for every single person who went to her window - she kept telling everyone that they didn't have the right papers, something was wrong, etc. I think she just doesn't like to help people! Glad I didn't get her today.

So, on October 3 I can pick up my passport with my residency visa, then I go to apply for an Alien Residency Card (ARC). Today I shelled out $4400NT ($133US) and for the ARC I have to cough up another $1000NT ($30US). Well, it's cheaper than a plane ticket to Hong Kong, and if I didn't have this visa, I'd have to make a lot of trips out of the country and then back!

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

The Long-Overdue Explosion

For six months now I've been putting up with the horribly noisy family upstairs, which consists of (apparently) one mother, one father, and two demons from hell. Oh, they may look like small children, but I'm not buying it. These two monsters can make more noise than an elementary school during recess. And they never sleep. I mean, never. I've heard them banging around at 3:00 a.m., for crying out loud. Screaming, bouncing things on the floor, overturning the tables, murder (well, that's what it sounds like), all with no regard for the neighbors.

So last night I'm just sitting on the couch reading a book, about 11:00 p.m., thinking it's about time to hit the sack. Suddenly, an air raid siren went off. No, wait - it's the "children" upstairs, screaming at the top of their lungs out the living room window. I suffer it for a few minutes, and then the overturning of tables begins. FUCK! Excuse my language, but I've just had it. Really, truly had it. I was in my Victoria's Secret nightshirt (nothing sexy, purely functional and decent), but I didn't care. I grabbed my keys and headed to the 5th floor.

I rang the bell fiercely, and the door was opened by what looked like a toddler maybe two years old (you're not fooling me, I know you're a demon). Then another one a little older appeared. I glared at them while asking in Chinese, "Are your parents home?" Then a man popped his face around the corner, and I started in on him. Since I've spent months practicing what I'd say to these idiots when I finally popped, I had no trouble expressing in Chinese, "Your children are extremely noisy. Every evening they're yelling loudly and banging on the floor - I can't stand it!" I think the guy was a little bit freaked out to find a wild-eyed, crazed foreign woman at his door scolding him in Chinese. He kept saying, "Sorry, sorry!" while I ranted. Finally, I just said, "thank you," and departed. It was immediately quiet, not another sound from upstairs, and I was able to go to sleep before midnight for a change.

This evening I went out at 6:00 to toss my trash into the trash truck when it came by, and when I got back to the front of the apartment, the mom and the demons were outside on the steps. Mom was talking on the phone and ignored me, but the demons were staring at me in terror. I resisted the urge to bare my teeth at them and hiss. This evening has been remarkably tranquil, with only some normal sounds coming from above. I wonder how long this will last..... If I have to go up there again, I'm going to really scare the pants off 'em by wearing my custom-made vampire teeth!

It's Raining

OK, so you all know that my main love is Wu Bai. But this is not to say that I don't appreciate other beautiful men ;) The latest, greatest craze to hit Taiwan is a young man (only 23, darn it) from Korea who goes by the name of Rain. I'm not awfully interested in his music, but I sure can appreciate his body! Here's a little something to make you drool a bit :) This guy is hoping to break into the US market, so maybe someday you'll see him over there. He dances pretty darned good (saw a video playing at the underground shopping mall), and I suppose his singing isn't bad, just not my style of music.

I know it's a waste of time wishing for this, but I would like to see Wu Bai parade around with a shirt once in awhile. Sure, he doesn't have a perfect body, but I just so happen to like his body and wouldn't mind seeing it once in awhile, not covered up by long, baggy shirts.

And now on to the bitch session: I hate the system. Today I went to apply for my residency visa. I had to bring a bunch of papers that the school gave me, and they also wanted a bank statement. My bank issues a statement once a month, at the beginning of the month, so all I had was the one dated August 31, 2005. Now, I have enough money in the bank to live comfortably in Taiwan for at least five years. So I take this statement to the visa office, and they whine about it being dated three weeks ago. Hello? Do you think I could possibly have spent that much money in three weeks? Do you suppose it might have vanished into thin air? Did I give it away to charity? I think not. Regardless, I have to give them something with a more current date. On top of that, one of the papers the school gave me was wrong, listed dates that have already passed and not showing that my tuition is paid through December 25. Nevermind that I had the letter from the school that said I was enrolled through then, nor the fact that I had my receipt for paying said tuition. No, I have to go back to the school and get the correct paper. Sheesh! So, I gave it up for today and decided to just wait until my September bank statement is online, which will be around October 5. My current visa is good through November 17, so no hurry anyway.

Time to go coach Guoxi with his English....

Saturday, September 17, 2005

World of Crooks

No, I'm not describing my surroundings - it's a marvelously entertaining traditional Taiwan opera, and I was lucky enough to attend last night, thanks to a free ticket from one of my English students. Our seats (Kieko went with me) were center stage, fairly close, great view. These seats would have cost us $1280NT ($39US, more than the Wu Bai concert was), so we were very grateful to have them.

Please read the Taipei Times review here:

I think a majority of Westerners would not appreciate the Taiwan style of opera, because the music sounds a bit discordant to the ear that is not accustomed to it, as do the singing voices. It is very stylized, with hand and body gestures that look a little odd, until you get used to it. The spoken parts can be very normal sounding, or very "sing-songy" depending on the actor/actress and the context of the speech. Taiwanese is a language with a lot of nasal "twangy" sounds, and opera language is more exaggerated than normal speech. I loved every bit of it.

Sadly, I do not understand spoken Taiwanese (and written Taiwanese is not easy to understand, either). Although subtitles in Chinese were shown on two screens to the right and left of the stage, I was not able to read much of it, because it was too fast, and I also didn't want to miss the stage action. The costumes were gorgeous, the performances outstanding (Tang Mei-yun was amazing), and I will be sure to return to catch a future performance.

The Flip Side of the Coin

First of all let me say that this Saturday started badly. I woke up with one of those nasty headaches that makes me feel nauseated. I got out of bed long enough to briefly answer a couple of e-mails and throw up, then went back to bed until about 3:00. Feeling OK now, but I really don't think it's fair to feel like this without having had a shitload of fun drinking the night before!

So OK, I told everyone how cheap it can be to live here in Taiwan. I also recently got my summer electric bill, which I was dreading because I'd been using the air conditioners quite a bit, along with the dryer (because I hate the way my clothes feel like cardboard when I hang them to dry). When the bill arrived, I squinched my eyes closed while I opened it, then took a glance. Wow, only $1557NT! That's like $47.18US, and it was for two months, so only $23.59 per month!!! Holy crap, when I hear how some of my friends in California are paying $175US per month (around $5,775NT) for their summer electric, I know I'm way lucky.

But then we decide to go shopping to buy some "Westerner" food for the house. Most of the local grocery stores have some types of food products that are imported, but there are certain things that are difficult to find, and for those we must make the trek to Tian Mu, to a tiny little store called Wellman's. Yesterday I headed off with Guoxi as my driver, since Wellman's is not anywhere close to an MRT station, and lugging bags of groceries on a bus ain't no fun. I had a shopping list of things I wanted to get to make a cheesecake and my world-famous Kahlua cake, plus a couple other yummies. Here's the sad news:

One bottle of Kahlua - $560NT ($16.96US)

One bottle of Jose Cuervo Margarita Mix - $280 ($8.50US - but dang, I was sure happy to find it!)

Lawry's Taco Seasoning - $52NT ($1.58 US - and in the States you can buy taco seasoning for around $.25 per package. Guess what I'll be stuffing in a suitcase when I go back for a visit?)

Rosarita Taco Shells, pack of 18 - $89NT ($2.70US - would probably not survive being packed in a suitcase.....)

Rosarita Fat-Free Refried Beans - $60NT ($1.82US - can be found at WinCo for around $.50 per can most of the time, will also add to the suitcase)

Kraft Macaroni & Cheese - $52NT ($1.58 US. I actually prefer the cheaper store brands that run around $.25 per box. Not a food I need to eat frequently but it's a "comfort food" for me, so had to have a box on hand)

Sour Cream, 16 oz - $210NT ($6.36US!!!! Damn, guess who won't be making too many cheesecakes nor adding sour cream to her tacos very often?)

Root Beer, 12 oz bottle - $59NT ($1.79US - why buy? see next entry)

Vanilla Ice Cream - $69NT ($2.09US - didn't buy this at Wellman's, thank goodness. What do you get when you add root beer to vanilla ice cream? A root beer float! Yeah, it sounded good, so I splurged on two bottles of root beer)

Pillsbury Devil's Food Cake Mix - $120NT ($3.64US - won't be making too many cakes, either. I don't even know for sure that my little tabletop oven will bake well)

Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, 2 pack - $28NT ($.85US - wasn't on my list, just was happy they had them, because this is the only store where I've seen them. Had to buy two)

Baker's Semisweet Chocolate Chunks, 12 oz bag - $126NT ($3.82US - for the Kahlua cake. No Nestle's Chocolate Chips in sight, just their butterscotch ones)

Well, then I recalled that I didn't have a mixer with which to make the cheesecake and Kahlua cake (and I still haven't found the stupid graham crackers to make the cheesecake crust), so I had to go to Carrefour to buy one, and of course spent even more money.

Phillips Hand Mixer - $990NT ($30 US)

Espresso/Cappucino Machine - $1790NT ($54US - been wanting one of these since I got here, finally broke down and paid the price. There are Mexican Mochas in my future!)

Barista Seattle Espresso Blend Coffee, 2 pounds - $285NT ($8.64US - the best deal of the day, since coffee is usually way more expensive. This is close enough to US prices to make me happy - bought two bags in case the price goes up!)

Was actually surprised that the black ink for my Epson printer was cheaper than the color ink, because in the US, the black is the most expensive. Got a cartridge for $385NT ($11.66US), so felt pretty good about that.

I ended up spending $6753NT yesterday ($205US) with all of the above plus some other groceries and such at Carrefour. Crap, that was way more than I had anticipated. I'll be eating $30NT bowls of noodles for lunch for the rest of the month, no going to more expensive places.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Am I missing something here?

Edited on October 1, 2005, after mulling over more stuff that I think about. Maybe I think about food just a little too much, hm?

As a matter of fact, yes, I am. I've been thinking lately about some of the things I actually do miss about the US, so I'm making a list. All of you who have intentions of someday coming to Taiwan, take note. Should there be an item here that you cannot live without, best bring it along. This post will be limited to food items, and there will be a future post dealing with other things.

10/1/05 additional "misses"

a. Great Harvest bread. Do you know how difficult it is to find bread here? Oh, sure, I can find white bread and bread filled with things like red bean paste or shredded pork, but finding good, hearty, wholesome bread is difficult. Sometimes I'm lucky enough to find a weak type of wheat bread at the local bakery, but it's just not the same.

b. Crunchy Cheetos. They have weirdly flavored ones here, don't taste the same. Thank goodness the Lay's potato chips are about the same :)

c. Baskin-Robbins ice cream..... And no way to even bring some back with me. Wah!

d. Salt shakers on the table in the restaurants. Man, I love salt, and hardly any restaurant here has salt shakers. Some of the "western" style ones do, like Chili's, but I rarely go there.

e. US salad bars. Tried the local Sizzler the other day with Hiyoshi. Not too bad, but rather expensive (almost $10US) and not nearly the salad selection as in the States. They had some interesting items, though, and it was tasty. Which brings us to.....

f. Real salad dressing! Oh, for a bottle of Bleu Cheese or Roquefort dressing, or Ranch, or even a good Caesar (which, thankfully, they did have at Sizzler). The most popular type in Taiwan is (yuck) Thousand Island. I hate it. And on the teeniest bowl of salad they will dump one cup of dressing. Bleah!

Original list

1. USA diet Pepsi. Yes, it's different there. It's not easy finding any sugar-free sodas here, and even when I found Pepsi, it didn't taste good. Luckily, the diet Coke is better here than in the US, so I'm drinking that.

2. Splenda. Apparently, since the majority of the population here is so much thinner than Americans, they see little need for artificial sweeteners. I've seen some aspartame-based ones in the grocery stores, but I really like Splenda. I brought a small supply with me, but it's fast running out.

3. International Delight liquid flavored coffee creamers. Oh my, I really miss those. I knew they weren't to be found here, and I'd bought quite a few boxes of the individual hazelnut flavored ones, the kind that don't need refrigeration, thinking to bring them with me. Well, it turned out they were all spoiled. That's what I get for buying them at the discount store! Crap.

4. Monin Zero Free Hazelnut Syrup. Now, see, if I had this, I'd make my own creamer, because we have the plain non-dairy liquid creamer here. Again, serious lack of sugar-free items. I've found regular Monin, but of course it's a) loaded with sugar and b) expensive. I did use it for awhile, but decided I needed to cut my sugar intake, so now I have plain, boring coffee everyday. Pooh.

5. Kashi brand cereals. I love Kashi - Kashi Go-Lean, Kashi Good Friends, Kashi Go-Lean Crunch. Loaded with soy protein and very low in fat and sugars. Can I find it here? No. I'm left with Kellogg's Muesli, which is a poor substitute. And again, cereal is expensive, because it's imported. It's not that I don't love Taiwan style breakfasts, oh no. I just think I need more fiber and less fat in my diet!

6. Reese's Peanut Butter Cups. If you've read previous entries, you already know they're hard to find and hella expensive. But hey, I don't really need all that fat and sugar so I guess it's a good thing. I can always munch peanut M&Ms, although they taste a bit different here. 10/1/05 edit: Found these, and they're not too expensive! Yay, now I can fulfill the craving - and if I make myself walk to Wellman's, then I earn the treat :)

7. David & Sons sunflower seeds. I want my salt! I tried sunflower seeds here, and they are just YUCK! No salt, bleah. I should have brought one suitcase full of David & Sons with me, cuz they're simply the best.

8. Joint Juice. OK, well, it's not exactly a food, but that brand of liquid glucosamine is the best, and it tastes like drinking juice. I was hoping the Costco here would have it, but they don't. I brought along a couple bottles of another type of liquid glucosamine, but it's pretty nasty tasting. I know the pills are next to useless, but once I run out of the liquid, I'll try dissolving the pills and drinking them.

9. Sour cream. Can't believe how difficult it is to find this here. I want to make a cheesecake for a friend, and this is just not a popular food! I heard there's a store in Tien Mu that has it, so I'll see. Maybe they have graham cracker crumbs, too, because I also need those.

10. Laura Scudder's or Adam's peanut butter, just peanuts & salt, nothing else. All the peanut butter here is that nasty Jiff or Skippy with added sugar. Bleah.

11. Honey. Well, cheap honey. It's not non-existent, it's just extremely expensive.
12. Weight Watchers vanilla milkshake mixes. Who would have thought I'd miss those? But I do! They're so good in the summer, and there's so much good fresh fruit here that I could be adding to them. Dang. Poor planning on my part.

13. Sierra Nevada beer. Don't get me wrong, I totally love Taiwan Beer and the Japanese brands, but once in awhile a nice cold SN Wheat or Pale Ale would taste pretty good.

14. Good, inexpensive white wine. Not only is wine pricey here, it's not very good when you buy the cheaper ones (minimum is about $10 US per bottle). Such a shame they don't have something like Two-Buck Chuck here (such a shame they don't have a Trader Joe's here, boo). I'd be willing to pay for a nice Fetzer Gerwurtztriminer (and I'm sure that's not spelled correctly) if I could find one, but red wine seems to be the popular one, and the most common white is chardonnay, which I don't like as much.

15. Casa Ramos margaritas. Hell, Casa Ramos food and margaritas! Good Mexican food is not to be found anywhere here, or at least I haven't found it yet. Tried two places - one was merely OK, one sucked. The margarita at the merely OK place was marginal. However, I've found Jose Cuervo tequila and Rose's Lime Juice, so once I find that bottle of Grand Marnier (surely someone sells it), I'll be mixing up my own margaritas at home. Sadly, I can't cook Mexican food, and even if I could, I wouldn't be able to find the ingredients.

16. Rosarita Fat-Free Refried Beans. 'Nuff said.

Now I've made myself hungry, so I think I'll go make a grilled cheese sandwich for din-din.

Tuesday, September 13, 8:30 p.m., after thinking some more.....about all kinds of food that just isn't good for me and I should be thankful I can't find it here.

17. Lynda Cameron's baked goods. Oh dearie....

18. The Upper Crust's peanut butter/chocolate chip cookies and their chocolate-dipped hazelnut biscotti. And their Chocolate Rum Raspberry Oblivion cake! And their broccoli-bacon-raisin salad! Oh heck, I just miss the whole shop.

19. The Council meeting leftovers on Wednesday mornings ;)

20. Mexican Mochas from Has-Beans. We have Starbucks here, but none of their drinks taste quite like the US versions, not really sure why. But no one made a better Mexican Mocha than Has-Beans. I do have some of their cocoa, but I still haven't bought an espresso machine. But when I do, I'm making some!

21. Morning Glory muffins and Tuna-Wasabi sandwiches from Cafe Flo.

22. Pepperoni pizza. OK, so there is pizza in Taiwan, and some of it is pretty darned good (but weird by US standards). However, when I went to Pizza Hut with a friend for their buffet and saw what passed for Double Pepperoni, I was in shock. Sheesh, if there were six slices of pepperoni on the whole pizza, that was pushing it. Hate to see what Single Pepperoni is like.

23. Taco Bell. Never thought I'd miss a fast-food joint, but I do miss this one. At least the McDonald's and KFC and Burger King here have tastier food than their US counterparts (not that I frequent these places, but once in a blue moon get talked into going). Hm, wonder if Taco Bell would like to sell me a franchise for Taipei?

Dang it, I've gone and made myself hungry again. Guess it's time for dinner.

Dead beat

No, not deadbeat, I mean I'm tired. Why? Read this:
Scroll to bottom for my take on the latest Wu Bai & China Blue concert and a lovely photo of yours truly.

May I say that I've never quite had an experience like trying to use a squat toilet on a bus that's going down the freeway at about 60 miles per hour in a typhoon? If you thought trying to pee on plane when there's turbulence is bad, you should definitely try this. I mean, it's not easy to use squat toilets in a stationary stall when your knees aren't the best in the world! At least in the plane you can sit down. And it's always nice to find out someone used the last of the toilet tissue after you've completed your mission and have to hang there even longer and drip dry.

Feeling a bit sad, knowing that it will likely be a long time until the next Wu Bai & China Blue concert.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

This week's highlight!

Wow, way cool - just got a phone call from Lisa Kling, who works for Butte County back in California, and it was so great to hear her voice and chat for over 20 minutes. She's the assistant to Butte County's CAO, and since I was the assistant to the City of Chico's Assistant City Manager, Lisa and I spent a lot of time talking/e-mailing each other trying to set up impossible meetings. And let me tell you, you have no idea what a challenge it is to try to get staff from two big organizations together in one room at the same time! I think that aspect of my job was one of the things I really hated. I remember one time when the City Manager asked me to set up a meeting that involved Butte County staff, City staff, City Council members, Butte County Association of Government staff, and some of our legal counsels. I looked him in the eye and informed him that I didn't think I could do it, because I'd left my Wonder Woman outfit at home that day. But you know what? Between Lisa, Karen (the City Manager's Assistant) and I (and Cheryl at BCAG, too), we managed to get the job done. Not for nothin' did Cris dub me St. Marla, the Patron Saint of Hopelessly Unscheduable Meetings!

So, Lisa's call brought back some memories and just enforced the fact that I'm quite happy I'm no longer scheduling meetings :) Thanks so much for the call, Lisa, and for not forgetting me.

On a side note, another stinky typhoon is making eyes at our island. So far the satellite photo and projected path shows the eye missing us, or at the most just clipping the northern tip. All I know is that it had better not interfere with the Wu Bai & China Blue concert I'm going to in southern Taiwan on Saturday, or someone is gonna hear about it. I have a bad feeling that it's going to be pouring all day Saturday, and of course we'll be outside waiting for the show. Rats! Oh well, after September typhoon season is over.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Oh Lord, Stuck in Zhuwei Again (apologies to Creedence Clearwater Revival)

Typhoon alert, no school, a boring day at home. Yes, the wind is blowin' outside my door - but no rain right now. Yesterday was another story. When I left for school, rain was coming down in sheets, and although I was wearing a rain poncho and carrying a large umbrella, I ended up soaked walking through puddles and having rain hit my legs. No problem, dried quickly, and once I got to Taipei it wasn't even raining. Lots of rain last night, along with strong winds, but when I see the devastation that Katrina wreaked in the Gulf states in the US, this little old blow here seems like a spring breeze (the worst winds were recorded in Keelung, close to where my friend lives, 103 mph, and we had a total of 37 flooded areas around central Taiwan). Thankfully, the second typhoon seems to be veering north, going toward Japan, and will likely miss us. I'm glad, because it's a lot bigger than this one! Satellite photo:

I promised an update about my week, so here it is, and it's a long one. Last week itself was pretty run-of-the-mill, nothing much special. In fact, I barely remember it at this point, so I guess it wasn't too noteworthy! I already discussed the movie day, and I think that was the highlight. The rest was just hanging out with Hiyoshi after school. Oh wait.....I did have a meeting with two sweet gals, Lisa and Trista, who will be my new English students. We were supposed to start this week, today, but that pesky typhoon came along, so we'll start next week. They asked me if three of their friends can join us, so I'll be teaching five - four girls, one guy. Wish me luck....

The weekend was another matter, very fun. I went with my friend Natari on a road trip to Taichung, where she was taking her mother to participate in an all-day Buddhist ceremony related to Ghost Month, and also to do some errands related to her father's business. Her mom's thing started early, so we were supposed to head out at 6:00 a.m. Sadly, the MRT doesn't start running until 6:00, so I couldn't get to Nat until almost 6:30.

Arrived safely in Taichung, dropped Nat's mom off, and headed for (if I remember correctly) Da Jia, to check out a dam that had collapsed during the 1999 earthquake and is now a memorial site (as well as a working dam). It was pretty impressive, and I was totally pissed that my digital camera picked that day to decide to die a horrible death. So, I have no photos of the places I visited, crap. After the dam we went to a fancy rest area called Qing Shui (Clear Water) for some coffee. It's quite a tourist trap, and they trapped me good. I spied a candy stand that had Jelly Bellies and made a beeline for it. Oh joy, they also had Reese's Peanut Butter Cups and other American candies! The price seemed OK, $90NT for 100g. The problem is that grams mean nothing to me, since I'm used to pounds and ounces. I had no idea how much (or little) 100g was. I filled up a large bag with Jelly Bellies and smaller ones with Reese's and some licorice pastels, then headed to the checkout. Holy shit! It was $826 NT - that's $25 US! It was too late to put them back, all the Jelly Bellies mixed together, so I just paid for it. Now I know that 100g is a little over 3 ounces and that $90 NT for 3 ounces is outrageous. Live and learn, huh? But boy, those Reese's sure taste good....

After finishing Nat's errands in Taichung, we went to Lu Gang (Deer Harbor) to check out the old temples and tourist sites. That's where we spent the most time, wandering around the Lao Jie (Old Street) and visiting the many temples, all of them quite old. The Matsu temple was great, and since it's Ghost Month, it was quite crowded with people there to pray and offer ghost money and other things. The area around it is a pedestrian-only section with lots of little stalls with interesting food. Had some yummy e ah jian (oyster omelet) and a deep-fried oyster thingy for lunch. The Long Shan (Dragon Mountain) Temple was undergoing serious repairs and wasn't all that interesting, but I'd like to go back when it's renovated and check it out - it's huge, over 100 sq. meters. We walked and walked and walked, mostly trying to find what the tourist map had billed as the "Wall of Pot" which of course had me laughing hysterically. It's actually a wall made up of large pottery jars, and after finally finding it, it wasn't worth the effort to get there!

Nat drove our exhausted selves back to Taichung to get her mom, and we headed back to Taipei around 9:30, arriving in time for me to take the MRT home. Nat was a bit panicked at the thought that she might have to keep on driving another half hour to get me home :) Fell into bed around 12:30, very pooped.

Sunday morning I spent studying for my upcoming Monday test, writing Chinese characters over and over and over..... I write Chinese quite well, but not so well from memory, only if I first look at the character. I'm proud to report that I did very well on the test, scoring a 97%. Hope I do as well on the one next Monday.

Sunday afternoon I took off to meet up with Charlene and head for Luxy ( for the Bungee Jumping Party. This show was Monkey Insane, XL, and Six Plus, three of Taiwan's hottest bands, their music a mixture of rock, rap, hip-hop, and nu-metal. Now, if you go to Luxy's website and watch the video they have, you'll see a completely different scene. The night I went, it wasn't filled with the sexy, glitzy chicks (thank the goddess), but the heavy-metal, head-banging crowd, mostly very young kids. That's my kind of folks, because I don't deal well with the bling-bling girls and guys and prefer to be around tattooed and pierced people. The concert rocked, with all the bands putting on awesome performances. I adore Monkey Insane, and I'm fast becoming an XL fan and picked up their CD at the show. Six Plus wasn't bad, but their music doesn't have what grabs me and makes me buy the CD, although it was fun to listen to at the show. The best part was the finale, when Wu Bai & China Blue's bass player, Xiao Zhu, came out to join all three bands for a rendition of "Lonely Tree, Lonely Bird" which brought the house down, yeah! Xiao Zhu is very involved with Taiwan's independent music scene and was one of the promoters for this show. A bunch of us Wu Bai & China Blue fans were there: Natari, Xiao Sui, Sherry, Xiao Niu, and Charlene and I. Also one guy, and I don't know him very well and can't remember his name, cute fella with longish hair streaked with red. We sat up at the front, right by the door to backstage, so we saw Xiao Zhu before the show and said hello to him. After the show we found Da Mao in the audience and got to say hi to him, too. He was looking quite good, very buff as if he'd recently been working out. Almost didn't recognize him with his crewcut, though!

So anyway, that was my week, and this week my Monday through Wednesday was very ho-hum. Hiyoshi and I went for a pizza blowout at Pizza Hut on Monday, stuffing ourselves to the gills. Strangely enough, I've managed to lose the 6 pounds (2.8 kilos) that I gained since I got here and now weigh a tiny bit less than I did when I arrived. Hopefully I can keep losing as I continue to walk. Of course, sitting at home watching a typhoon makes one eat more than one should.....maybe tomorrow the weather will be better.