Saturday, December 31, 2005

新年快樂﹗ Happy New Year!

Today is the last day of 2005, or the last day of 94, since I'm in Taiwan and their calendar year is different. I have a fun day lined up, meeting Lisa at 10:00 to go to the jade market to (hopefully) finish my Christmas shopping (what, me, late?), then meeting up with Hiyoshi at noon for lunch, then we're all going to see 無極 - The Promise. After the movie we'll be going to 美麗華 Miramar Entertainment Center (it's just a big mall with a ferris wheel) because two of my favorite bands, XL and Mojo, will be performing, along with some other bands. It will likely be crammed with people and absolutely nuts, but what the heck.

So, I'll be back tomorrow to tell you all what it was like to 跨年 in Taiwan - to go across or straddle the year.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Christmas is half over

and I just woke up....

Went to Betty's party last night, what a blast. Upon arrival I was urged to don a Santa hat blazoned with "Heineken" across the front, probably scored from Hooter's, where Natari works. Since Charlene and I had arrived late, almost everyone else was already there: Xiao Niu, Xiao Sui, Natari, Betty, and her new hubby. Xiao Yu showed up a little bit later, since she had to come all the way from Keelung. We headed into the dining room, where the hot pot was waiting for us, smelling so delicious.

What more can one ask for in a party than to have a Wu Bai concert DVD playing while one is stuffing oneself with various seafood, vegetables, and sliced meat cooked up in a pot of boiling liquid while energetically chatting in Chinese (or in my case, listening and drinking beer) and taking photos? Getting together with Wu Bai fans is always such a pleasure - but I think Betty's new husband was a little overwhelmed at having a houseful of crazy women all talking at once!

After dinner we headed into the living room to watch the DVD while we opened our presents. I scored a nice knit hat and scarf from Xiao Yu, so now I have four scarves to keep me warm during the short winter season here. Had I known in advance that I'd be getting some as gifts, I wouldn't have bought the one for myself!

While I was waiting for Charlene to show up at the MRT station so we could go to Betty's together, I'd called Hiyoshi to see if he'd been OK during the day, since he'd had a bit of whiskey the night before. I discovered that he hadn't even been home yet, but was still with Lisa, William, Vivi, and Marx! They were heading into a movie and asked me if I wanted to go with them after to take Hiyoshi back to Wan Li. Since I'd never seen his place, I said sure, and they picked me up at 11:00. First we headed to the new Eslite Bookstore that just opened up near Taipei 101, touted as the largest bookstore in Asia. I was excited until I saw that 98% of the books were in Chinese, with just a tiny little section of English ones. Boo hoo! I guess I'm stuck with shopping at Page One, the outrageously expensive store. We wandered around there for a long time, and spent another long time waiting outside for William and Marx, who were lost in the computer books section. The weather was so nice, not cold at all, so it was nice to be outside instead of crammed in with all those people. It was around 12:45 a.m. when we finally headed out of Taipei to Wan Li.

I'm amazed that Hiyoshi travels this route every day to school. He has to take a bus, and during the day when there's so much traffic it takes a little over an hour to get to Taipei. It only took about 30 minutes in the car at 1:00 a.m., though. When we arrived in Wan Li, Hiyoshi pointed out where the bus drops him off, and then we proceeded to drive up a steep, winding road that climbs the mountain - and he has to walk that up and down every day! William kept saying, "Wow, Hiyoshi, you're my hero! You do this every day? Wow!"

Hiyoshi's place is an older building, which has been springing a lot of leaks lately, and is also quite cold in the winter, since it's right by the ocean and the weather is usually very windy and rainy. Poor guy has pans set all over to catch the drips, and the ceiling is looking pretty bad in places. But, it's actually a fairly large apartment, and it was surprisingly clean for a bachelor's place, especially one who didn't expect he'd have company! He showed us around and then took us up to the next floor, which is where his church is. Hiyoshi's faith is a Japanese religion called Tenrikyo (see Wikipedia entry:, and their worship services employ music and dancing. He showed us the many instruments they use and even played a little bit on the flute for us (as did William, who is very talented). It was very interesting to listen to Hiyoshi talk about their method of "bai bai" or worship.

Well, by this time it was after 3:00 a.m., and we were all pretty trashed - and Lisa's father called her to ask where the hell she was. We said our goodbyes and wished Hiyoshi a Merry Christmas and headed back to Taipei. William had to drive me all the way up to Zhuwei and then turn around and go all the way back to Nanshijiao, a considerable distance! It was about 4:30 a.m. when I finally got into bed, and I slept until almost 1:00 p.m. today.

So, now it's almost 2:00, and Christmas is half gone, and I haven't done a darned thing! My plans for heading into Taipei to shop have changed, since I'm feeling extremely lazy and don't even want to get dressed. Maybe after more coffee I'll feel differently ;)

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Merry Christmas!

Wow, tomorrow is Christmas, and although there are Christmas decorations all over town, and every store and coffee shop is playing Christmas carols, it still doesn't quite feel like the season. I have a tiny little tree that my English students gave me, and last night we had a party (yes, I have a tiny hangover today to match my tiny tree), but it still doesn't seem that tomorrow is actually Christmas. Dunno why.... I'm thinking about all of you and missing you, and I'm hoping you have a very merry, very wonderful Christmas. Some of you will recognize the movie this greeting is from and will laugh your butts off (many thanks to Brandi for the link):

I still haven't managed to get all my Christmas shopping done, but that's been my pattern for years, as most of you know. I tend to support the "Christmas in January" idea, which in the US is good, since everything goes on sale after Christmas. Things aren't quite as commercialized here, with the media push to get people to spend enormous amounts of money on gifts for people, but most of the stores have had sales going on. It would be a great time to buy clothes, if any of the clothes here actually fit my fat ass. Anyway, some of you can expect a package from Taiwan in the (hopefully) near future. And much love and thanks to all of you who have thought of me this year and sent me gifts to brighten my smile :) :) :)

Yesterday was an important day, as it was the day that the new Wu Bai concert DVD was released. Yeah! I picked my order up from Charlene at lunch time, and as soon as I got home, that DVD was in the player and I was plunked down on the sofa watching and reliving the joy of the June concert. I only saw myself once, a shot from the back (not exactly my best side) right after "Long Way Fall." I saw Guoxi a couple of times, as he was working the stage for that concert. I'd forgotten that at that time he had no hair! Watching Wu Bai perform always manages to get drool rolling down my chin, and by the time Hiyoshi showed up I was slavering like a mad dog, but I think he managed some drool of his own when he saw the number Wu Bai performed with that woman who managed (somehow) to get the label, "Most Beautiful Woman in Taiwan." I still don't understand that one, since I don't think she's nearly as attractive as many of the girls I see walking down the street. Maybe the skimpy white dress gets the guys looking away from her face and they don't realize she ain't all that and a bag of chips. Those of you who are waiting for your DVD will be very happy with it, I think. Oh man, I love that silky blue shirt, open halfway down his chest, yikes. I'm quite sure that I'd be unable to keep my hands off if I ever had the opportunity to stand close to Wu Bai while he was dressed in that shirt.

Tonight there's a party at Betty's, all Wu Bai fans, and that should be fun. I'm meeting up with Charlene at 5:30 to head over there together. Betty and her new hubby have a very nice, very large apartment, and I know she's excited to be a new bride and entertaining her friends at her place. Knowing how much Betty likes to eat, I'm expecting we'll have some tasty food tonight, and we're doing a little gift exchange, too.

I had a brief discussion with my friend Cheryl in Hong Kong about the possibility of a trip back to the US in July, renting a car in San Francisco, hitting Chico and Auburn for a couple of days, then driving to Oregon to see her grandmother and go to the Portland beer festival. If we can work it out, and if air fare isn't too high, I may be coming for a visit then. I have a week off at the end of January, but I want to stay over here for Chinese New Year! Hiyoshi and I might go to Hong Kong that week to visit Terry and Cheryl, though. Hiyoshi has never been there, and he has to go back to Japan in mid February, so this would be our last chance.

Chinese class is great (I'm even writing short stories in Chinese now as homework, and not doing too badly at it!), my friends here are wonderful, the dorks upstairs aren't overly annoying these days, and I'm extremely happy with my life. I'm looking forward to Steve's visit next month, hoping the weather will be nice for him and be too rainy. It's cold now, but it hasn't rained much, so I hope it stays that way.

So, again, Merry Christmas everyone! I'll be back next week with a Happy New Year wish ;)

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Indie Music - Day Two

Argh, major disappointment! Friday night Dino told us that ABS would perform on Saturday at the Indie festival, but sadly, it didn't happen. We did see him and talk to him, but he said Xiao Zhu had said there just wasn't any way for it to happen. Dang it!

However, I did enjoy myself, because I got to see Monkey Insane, even though the performance was far too short for my liking. And afterwards I managed , with help from Xiao Sui, to track down the guys from XL and get them to sign my CD, and then all the guys from Monkey Insane, too. I told them all I was the official English teacher for the Taiwan music industry and that they could give me a call if they wanted to improve their English :) One of the guitarists for Monkey Insane, Joe, said he also wants to be an airline pilot like Guoxi, so he's working on his English. But, before he goes for the test, he has to complete his mandatory 18 months of military service.

Which brings me to sad news (for me, at least). Next year XL will be breaking up, because at least one of the guys has to do his service. This penchant for making war is sure hell on the music industry! And it breaks my heart to think of those cute little mop tops turning into buzz cuts, wah!

Tonight Mojo will be performing, so we'll all be going back to cheer Guoxi, Mo, and Robert on. Last night was freaking cold, so I'm going to Watsons to buy some of those hand warmers before this evenings jaunt!

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Busy days

Just a short update for now, since I have a ton of stuff to do today.

First of all, Doris is here! She arrived Thursday evening, but I didn't get to see her until yesterday, when she and Nat and I took a road trip to Xinzhu to pick strawberries. It was lots of fun, and the weather was just gorgeous, sunny and warmer than it's been. The wind was a bit annoying, though, making it difficult to see the darned strawberries! After we spent time picking, we went for a nice lunch, traditional Hakka-style food, and on the way back to Taipei decided to stop off in Ying Ge for awhile. We couldn't stay long, because we had to get back for the Indie Music Festival.

Dropped Doris off so she could shop, and Nat and I headed for the show, to meet up with Xiao Sui and Xiao Hu. The only band we were interested in seeing was XL, and while we waited for them to start, we chatted a bit with Dino, who was looking like a lumberjack in his plaid jacket. Got a lovely nice big Dino bear hug from him, and a little later I exchanged a few words with Xiao Zhu, who was wandering around taking photos. He's one of the organizers of the Indie Music events, so I didn't want to bug him to much, just told him we were having a good time. We'll be going back tonight to see Monkey Insane and a special performace we're all looking forward to (shhhh, it's a secret for now).

I'll try to write more either later today or tomorrow, but I need to get the place clean before Doris comes, or I'll be horribly ashamed when she sees what a mess it is.

Sunday, December 11, 2005


That's how I'm feeling today, because I've caught my first cold in Taiwan. Not bad, nine months without picking up any of the germs from people around me. My throat is scratchy and my nose is drippy, but I don't feel too awful, thank goodness. It's the weekend, so I can stay home and rest, and maybe actually get my Christmas cards handled!

You know what? Taiwan is gosh-darned cold in the winter! I honestly didn't think it would get this chilly, and I didn't bring any heavy jackets with me. Luckily Guoxi had an extra warm coat to loan me, or I'd be freezing my heiny off. That wind is just no fun. The thermometer may read 50 degrees, but the reality of it is more like 40! But, it's still not as cold as northern California winters, so I can't complain!

And Taiwan homes also have no heating system. All this tile is mighty icy on the feet, even when wearing slippers. I bought myself a little portable heater, and it seems to do the trick, keeping me toasty when I'm reading or online or taking a shower. My apartment is better than many, having no chinks to allow the wind to get in. When I'm in bed at night, I'm comfy and warm, and all I'm using is a light quilt from IKEA.

I picked up another new student this week, again one of Guoxi's friends. This one is a song writer for Sony Music, a nice fella with the odd choice of Funck as his English name. He's written songs for Wang Lee Hom, S.H.E., Elva Hsiao, Wang Jie, Power Train, Sly (Shen Xiang Long), B.A.D., Lin You Wei, and Wan Fang (that's the girls who did Express Love Letter with Wu Bai). His "real" job is composing ring tones for cell phones! Who would have thought one could get a job doing that.... His English is very good, but he wants to increase his vocabulary and have more practice listening and talking, so we'll be meeting on Wednesday evenings for an hour. So that's Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays that I'm teaching. Keeps me from being bored!

Guoxi will be going for his big interview on Tuesday, the one that will decide if he gets hired by China Airlines and becomes a pilot. He's been practicing so much, and Wednesday evening we went to the radio station to meet up with two more of his friends, DJs Elsa and Christina. Both of them speak excellent English, so the three of us pretended to be interviewers and cross examined Guoxi in both English and Chinese. We're doing it all again tomorrow evening. I think the poor guy is going to be exhausted. He never slept Wednesday evening, because at 4:00 a.m. that Thursday morning he and Mayday left for Singapore for the concert. I know he probably had to spend hours practicing, as well as some time running around with Lee Ying and Tona, searching out good places to eat. Doubtful he got much sleep last night after the show, and they're flying back today. Knowing Guoxi, he'll spend all day tomorrow practicing for his interview instead of catching up on sleep! (HE GOT THE JOB! I'm so proud of him, he passed the interview with flying colors, and next year he'll be heading off to Australia for training. I'll miss him, but I'm so happy to have been able to help him make his dream come true.)

This morning my dear friend Lisa will be calling me from the US. It's been so long since we chatted - e-mail just isn't the same. I'm looking forward to hearing her voice. Finally gave my dad a call yesterday, too (the man still does not have a computer, can you believe that?). I need to call my US friends more often, but I either have to call between 3:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. California time on weekdays, or after 8:00 p.m. on weekends. That doesn't make it easy!

Next week will be busy with school, teaching, and then on Friday Doris from Hong Kong will be arriving for a short visit with her Taiwan friends. This weekend is also the big Indie Music Festival, with Mojo, Monkey Insane, and XL performing, along with tons of other bands I'm not yet familiar with. We have plans to go for all three evenings, so it should be fun. Xiao Zhu, Wu Bai's bassist, is heavily involved in Taiwan's indie music scene, so he'll probably be floating around, and likely Da Mao will show up, too. Dino? Who knows - maybe!

Anyway, that's all for this week, unless something else pops into my head later.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Too Close for Comfort

Earthquake report :) Fifteen minutes ago we had a little one, magnitude 4.0, only 4.5 miles ESE of Taipei City, and only 5.65 miles deep. That's a bit closer than they usually come to where I live! Didn't do much at my place, just jiggled the couch a little. I prefer them when their quite a bit farther out to sea.....

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Branded - 從此我是伍佰的奴隸

Just returned from the big tattoo show at Jing Hua Cheng (The Living Mall), and I did it! I finally got brave enough to get the tattoo on my ankle that I've been considering for about two years. (Uh, that's "Wu Bai" for those of you who don't read Chinese).

Although it wasn't quite as bad as I'd feared, it did hurt like a sonofabitch, and I was glad I was only getting about 15 minutes worth of work done. If you'd like to see this guy's work, go to He's extremely talented. I was a little startled when he put his left hand on my ankle to steady it while he drew the design, because he's missing all the fingers on that hand, looks as if he was in an accident. But his right hand was fine, and I was very comfortable with him.

I will someday go back and get "and China Blue" added (or maybe just "& CB"!), but that will take more courage, as well as more money. I got a good deal today, around $30 US. At the studio it would have cost twice that, but they were giving deals at the show.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

My Christmas Wish List (now completely outdated)

For people who want to mail things to me, take note. You are not allowed to mail sweeteners of any kind to Taiwan - no sugar, molasses, saccharine, and other sweetening substances (so I guess that includes honey, Splenda, Monin, and maple syrup as well - but Carol managed to get honey to me, so who knows...). Boy, now that's a weird restriction for ya. Here's a link to the US Post Office list of restrictions, along with a chart for postage fees:

A few people have already asked me what I want for Christmas (or Giftmas, as Nicole so aptly calls it), and while I don't feel that anyone is obligated to give me anything, I know many people enjoy giving presents (thank goodness, huh?), so I'm obliging folks by laying out my heart's desires.

First and foremost on my list of "what do I want for Christmas" is online gift certificates for (Alice, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!) I just seem to be spending so much money on books here! Sure, I could ask folks to buy books for me, but then you'd have all the trouble of going shopping, then wrapping the book for shipping, then standing in those monstrous lines at the forget it! Online shopping, yeah!

Now, in January a former co-worker will be coming to Taiwan for a visit, and he has graciously agreed to bring one whole duffel bag filled with goodies for me. So, if you're a Chico friend and you have the urge to send me something from home via Steve, here's my list of things I would love to have (in no particular order):

Some Smokin' Mo's Sweet Carolina BBQ sauce
A bunch of packets of Taco Bell hot sauce, the hottest kind
A few packages of Lawry's Taco Seasoning, spicy
A plastic squeeze bottle of honey (Carol, thanks, it's great to have!)
A loaf of Dakota bread from Great Harvest, or Jalapeno-Cheese bread (from anywhere!)
Shubert's malted milk balls, not the kind with candy shell, just chocolate on the outside
Shubert's chocolate cordials (rum flavor, brandy flavor, amaretto flavor, any flavor!)
Rum extract - Note: found lemon and almond here, still could use rum Giant bag of California pistachios from Costco (Taiwan ones just aren't the same)
A small bottle of REAL maple syrup, not that crappy imitation stuff, so I can pick up some frozen waffles at Costco (they're cheap, the syrup ain't)
A bottle of Monin Zero Free no calorie, no carb hazelnut syrup (hint: Has Beans has it)
Chocolate-dipped hazelnut biscotti from The Upper Crust
Trader Joe's roasted, salted pumpkin seeds (shelled) - cuz I hear ya'll are gettin' Trader Joe's, lucky bums (Romita, thank you, thank you, thank you!!!)
WinCo brand boxed macaroni and cheese (I like it better than Kraft and it's cheap, cheap, cheap)
Mini Reese's Peanut Butter Cups
A bag of Crunchy Cheetos
A bottle of really good Bleu Cheese, or Ranch, or Roquefort salad dressing (not Kraft, please....)
Huge box of Splenda (to counteract all the sugary stuff I want, right)
David & Sons sunflower seeds - about 20 pounds! Well, OK, maybe just a few big bags.....I sure do miss my sunflower seeds
A jar of Laura Scudder's or Adam's peanut butter, the salted kind that you have to mix the oil up in, no sugar added, just peanuts and salt
A jar of instant, liquid silver cleaner, because my silver jewelry is tarnished beyond belief, and I can't find cleaner here
Orville Redenbacher's Popcorn - the most buttery kind they make, packed with calories :)
A couple packages of Red Vines
A nice mix of Jelly Bellys (partial to buttered popcorn and fruit flavored ones) Kraft Light Mayo (not the non-fat gunk)

Now, my friends, you will have to tell me if there's something from Taiwan you would like to have. Because you know, Steve will be going back with an empty duffel bag, and we can't let that happen, can we?