Saturday, December 30, 2006

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Earthquake Day!

I'm just quietly sitting here doing homework, and my whole room starts to shake, and it keeps on shaking, much more than what I normally feel. I fire off a message to Kayun, "Wow, big earthquake!" She replies, "Thought I was going to die, still feels like it's shaking." About five minutes later, along comes another one. This time I get a call from Kayun. She's kinda freaked, because she's on the 11th floor and feeling it much more than I am. I just checked the website, but all they have listed now is the one that happened earlier today in Taitung, down to the southeast. It wasn't very big, just 4.6.

Just got the update on the website. The one I felt at 8:26 p.m was in the ocean off the very farthest southern tip of Taiwan, in Hengchun. It was 6.7 magnitude (and some reports say 7.2) and was felt in just about every part of the island, which is not usual. The second one, at 8:34 p.m., was very close to Kaohsiung, also at the southern tip of Taiwan, and it was 6.4. That one wasn't felt as strongly up here in the Taipei area, but enough to make us take notice! From what folks are posting on the message board, it hit pretty hard in Kaohsiung, even knocking out cell phone service.

Wednesday morning update: Five quakes in all yesterday, four of them last night and in the south and one in the afternoon on the east coast. The two later ones in the south didn't shake the north, being at 5.2 and 5.5. I've only been able to access Yahoo! news, nothing written locally yet, but at least one person died in Pingtung when the house collapsed. Sounds as if there was extensive damage in that area and a lot of fires, disruption of phone service, etc. Not a very nice Christmas gift for folks here. At least the feared tsunami heading for the Philippines faded out before causing even more damage.

Taiwan is a very small island, but the quakes were still about 260 miles away from me. Feeling that much shake here makes me really glad I wasn't anywhere near the epicenter. I was very happy to hear from Sharrie that she and her family were OK (she lives in Pingtung).

Wednesday afternoon update: At 10:30 a.m. today another 5.9 quake hit, 42km west of Pingtung, out in the ocean. The Taipei Times reports about last night's quakes: Phone lines and power were cut in many areas of southern Taiwan. At press time, reports were filtering in detailing the damage and TV footage showed rescue workers attempting to locate people suspected to have been buried in rubble. The quakes knocked down two apartment buildings in Hengchun, burying 11 people in the rubble. At press time, the body of a man had been recovered and four people rescued, while six people were still trapped. One of the reactors at the nearby Third Nuclear Power Plant was briefly shut down because of a malfunction, apparently in connection with the earthquake. Cracks in the Kaoping Bridge -- which connects Kaohsiung and Pingtung cities and is part of a major transport artery -- appeared in the wake of the earthquakes, sparking concerns of another collapse of the structure. The bridge collapsed in 2000, injuring 22 people, because of poor maintenance.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Merry Christmas!

Hallo everyone! I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas, and of course a very Happy New Year. As happy as I am here, I do miss my friends back in the US, and I'm sorry I can't share the holiday cheer with you in person.

I'm also sorry I haven't been writing much lately, but there just hasn't been anything to tell. I've been going to school every day, doing lots of studying and homework, doing language exchange two days a week, and spending some time with my friend Kayun, who will be leaving in January to go back to Korea. I'm going to miss her a lot, so I'm taking advantage of what little time she has left here in Taiwan. My three-day-a-week student, Kitty, is in China this month, so I'm only teaching Funck on Wednesday evenings, not making any money at all :( Boo hoo. I don't want to find new students, though, because I need my own time to study. Jennifer, the three-hours-on-Sunday student, should start up again in January, and Kitty will (hopefully) be done with her family's business stuff in China and be back in January, too.

Tomorrow I'm having a Christmas party, starting at 2:00 p.m. and going on until we get tired of partying. I really don't know how many people will show up, maybe only a few, but I made tiramisu for the first time ever, and I have a Kahlua cake, too. I discovered that it's danged expensive to make tiramisu in Taiwan. The savoiardi cost me $6US, the mascarpone cost $9, and the amaretto (should probably have gotten cognac, but I'll drink amaretto as a drink and I won't drink brandy, so cognac it is) was $16. Of course, that bottle should make quite a few batches of tiramisu :) I hope it tastes good, because I didn't spend the $18 for real Italian espresso like the recipe said I should use. I just used plain old Barista Seattle Espresso blend. The recipe was cute, it actually says: Make the espresso and poor it into shallow flat-bottomed bowl. Add one shot of cognac, one teaspoon cocoa, and allow to cool to room temperature. If at this point you've decided to use coffee instead of espresso, take the coffee you've made and drink it. Then make espresso.

I just made some spaghetti sauce, too, not real sauce, just using Classico jarred stuff (it's really not too bad) and adding ground beef, onions, loads of garlic, mushrooms, green pepper, and red wine. However.....I have a feeling that bottle of red wine made the change to something resembling vinegar over the last 10 months that it's been in my fridge. The sauce smells a little strange, and it doesn't taste quite right. Oops, guess next time I'd better taste the wine before dumping it in. It's edible, though, just not super great, bit of a tart tang to it. Good thing I was only making it for me and not to serve at the party!

Let's see, anything else? Well, DZ has gotten a bit chubby since her operation. I guess it's partially being spayed and partially bulking up for winter. Not that we actually have winter.....the temperature has been quite nice, around 68-75 during the day, but a bit chilly at night. It's still not as cold as last year was, and some days I don't even wear my jacket in the afternoons. The Taiwan folks are all bundled up in ski jackets, and I'm in shirtsleeves. They must think I'm nuts. But I have a nice big layer of fat to keep me warm, and they don't.

The Taiwan postal service is pretty good. My dad sent a Christmas card, and he didn't write my actual street on the envelope, but they found me anyway. Probably not that many foreigners living in Zhuwei, they could figure out the street from the alley and lane numbers.

Last week I had a notice in my box that I had a parcel at the post office. I was all excited, thinking "Christmas present!" so I headed to Danshui Sunday morning to pick it up (yeah, they're open on Sunday, can you believe it?). The weather was beautiful, so I walked along the river to the post office. Sadly, it was not a Christmas present. It was a free gift from Hinet for upgrading my ADSL service. Unfortunately, it was a handy little device to help one learn English. Not exactly what I need. I think I'll give it to one of my friends - regift!

Yesterday I needed to apply for the next semester of school in order to get my visa extension. My visa is only good until January 2, so I have to go to the police station next week for sure. The school told me I had to wait until 12/21 to apply, so in the morning I picked up the forms. The assistants at this school aren't nearly as friendly and helpful as the gals at CLD were. The one who gave me the forms yesterday never smiles at all, always looks like she's sucking on a lemon. I told her I'd bring the forms back in the afternoon, so Ye Ying and I stopped at the counter after lunch, before our language exchange. That little bitch looked at my form and said, "The teacher needs to fill out this part." Well, you twit, why the hell didn't you tell me that this morning??? It was too late to catch my teacher, she was teaching another class, so I had to wait for this morning. Now I have to wait until Wednesday to get the confirmation letter from the school. That's just cutting it too close for me, and there had better not be any problems, or I'm gonna strangle that twerp.

I guess I've rambled enough now. Again, Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Love the Faster Internet Connection!

Wow, I finally decided I'd had enough of trying to watch jerky videos, so I switched over to a faster connection. And that means that I can upload vids of my own to YouTube. This weekend has been spent uploading a lot of A.B.S. videos, and one Wu Bai & China Blue one. I have a lot more to do, but even with a fast connection it requires hours of time, which I don't have. So, check frequently or, better yet, subscribe so you'll know when new videos have been posted. But for now, please drop in and check out A.B.S. at My Videos at YouTube

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Christmas Came Early

This post is a big "THANK YOU!" to some really cool friends in the US who made me smile this week.

I arrived home on Wednesday to find an attempted delivery notice in my mailbox that had been left on Tuesday, but I didn't have time to go to the post office to pick up my package. Most of the mail I get at home is junk advertisements stuffed in by the locals, and I sometimes don't bother to use the key to open the box, just peek in through the wide slot at the junk. Alice had said she was sending something, so I assumed it was that, figured I'd grab it Thursday. Not long after I got home, the security buzzer rang, and I answered, expecting my student. But it was a guy from the post office, with a large box.

To my delight the box was from Romita, and it was filled with three bags (three!!) of Reese's Peanut Butter Cups, a box of sinfully fattening Orville Redebacher's Movie Theater Popcorn, a few packages of taco seasoning, some Del Taco hot sauce, and some lemon and rum extracts. I've been thinking about tacos a lot lately, and now all I need is shells (and I know where I can get 'em) to start munching. Thanks Romita!

Just a few minutes later the bell rang again, but once again it wasn't my student, it was another post office guy! So, I made the trip downstairs again to get another package, this one from Alice. Huh? Then what's at the post office? A surprise, I guess.

Alice made me the cutest calendar you can possibly imagine. I'm going to have to take some photos of it and post them, because it's just adorable. Of course there are some photos of Wu Bai in it, but also some kitty pictures and some really cute cartoons. I love it! She also sent a bright holiday dish towel and a Santa ornament, that I have hanging up in the living room. Since she'd told me she was going to mail something, I'd asked her to get me some denim iron-on patches for my jeans, and she sent me three packs of those. Just in time, because my pants weren't safe to wear, as they were ready to sprout holes in an unfortunate place. Amazing what friction can to do cloth.... Thanks Alice!!

So, Thursday I didn't manage to get home until after 5:00, so no trip to the post office. But I went yesterday and found a package from Carol in New Hampshire, and she'd sent me some NH honey and maple syrup (the real deal)! That stuff is pretty expensive here, so I don't buy it, so getting some as a gift is truly nice :) French toast on the horizon, along with peanut-butter-and-honey toast for breakfast. Thanks Carol!!

Edit on 12/17/06: And another "thank you" to Maddy for the beautiful candle set that arrived Saturday afternoon. I love them so much!

Now, all my friends know that I'm incredibly lame when it comes to Christmas shopping, and normally I manage to get gifts out sometime in January. Don't think this year will be any different, because it won't be. But I wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

My Three Seconds of Fame

Charlene kindly pointed out to me that I have the longest "exposure" in the latest music video from Wu Bai and China Blue, Cherry Lover. That footage was shot at the autograph session on November 5, and is my tattooed ankle, then the back of my custom-made t-shirt, then the front. No face, which is fine with me. The footage at the beginning was shot at The Partyroom during the two shows I attended in October, and I get split-seconds glimpses of me, Nat and Charlene, Xiao Niu, and others I recognize, but the picture isn't very clear. If you'd like to watch the video, here's the link:

Yesterday Dino talked me into to going to the Simple Life music festival today. It's going to be freezing cold, and I may be sorry, but I'm going. Eason Chan, a Hong Kong singer I like, is also performing. Wu Bai & China Blue are the last act, of course.

Blogger is having issues. Buttons for uploading photos have vanished. No way to format font, no way to edit HTML. Hope they fix it soon....this seems to happen frequently.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Welcome the Weekend

Well, first week of school is over, and I'm still glowing with happiness. Nice classmates, great teacher, not much homework - just what I wanted! On Monday I will have my first lunch date with classmates, two Japanese girls. Yesterday was Ryoko's birthday, so I baked a Kahlua cake Thursday and brought some to class with me. Everyone was suitably impressed with my cooking skills, except for the Korean girl who doesn't like sweet stuff. The teacher (Wang Laoshi) wants the recipe, because she also loves to make cakes.

Last night Caroline came over for a bit of chat, eat, drink beer, watch Bollywood movies. She wasn't able to get out of work early enough to get to my place before 9:00 p.m., so we didn't have tons of time. I think I'm going to her place in Banqiao this evening, though. I ate way too much fried chicken nuggets and squid tentacles last night, must try to do better today. But dang, they're so good....

The other evening one of my friends saw Wu Bai's car in front of a little noodle stand on a street close to my school and saw him outside waiting for his order. It's a distinctive car, an Alpha Romeo, and she recognized it as she was going by on her scooter. She gave me the name of the stand, and you can bet I'll be going to scope it out ;) Of course, he was there in the evening, and I'm only in that area during the day, but maybe he'll wander over for lunch someday. I want to try the food, because she said it's the Sichuan hot and spicy kind, which I love.

A bit of sadness on the horizon: Guoxi leaves for Australia tomorrow, gone for a year to train as a pilot. I'll miss him, and I hope he stays in touch. I'm wondering if he'll come back speaking English with an Australian accent.

And it appears that I now have arthritis in my right hand. On every finger the first knuckle is sore and swollen. This distresses me to no end, because it's just another sign of my ever-increasing age. It also makes it a little more difficult to practice writing Chinese! I'm taking MSM tablets every day, thanks to a gift from Cheryl, and I'm taking my liquid glucosamine, and while this helps with my knee problems, it doesn't address the arthritis. I've stopped taking ibuprofen every day, like I was for months because of the knees, after hearing Caroline's tale of her grandmother collapsing, vomiting blood, because the ibuprofen had worn a little hole in her tummy. OK, maybe Grandma was sucking down ten pills a day to my two, who knows, but still....I don't think I want that effect. I'll have to see what kind of Chinese medicine is out there for arthritis and give it a try.

It sure seems that last year by this time it was much cooler than it is right now. I clearly remember freezing my ass off on December 16 at the Indie Music Festival, but November holds no clear memories. It's definitely a lot more pleasant than mid summer, less humidity, cool breezes, not much rain, and if it stayed like this I wouldn't complain. It's still warm enough that I have the fan on at night, and also when I'm just sitting and reading (never realized that light bulbs emit that much heat!). Most of the Taiwan folks are wearing jackets these days, but I'm still just in short-sleeved t-shirts. I can't consider 68-70 degrees to be jacket-wearing weather, unless there's a very cold wind blowing.

I hope everyone in the US had a happy Thanksgiving. Try not to stress out too much over Christmas shopping and such ;)

Friday, November 24, 2006

And for my Chinese readers....

OK, I'm ready to unveil my attempt at blogging in Chinese. Don't expect much! I'll be posting what I write for homework and probably some other stuff as well. Please do feel free to correct me or to offer suggestions on how you think I could say it better.

歡迎來看我的文章﹗My Chinese blog

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Love the New School!

I'm so happy, lalala. My new teacher is great, reminds me very much of Ye Laoshi from the old school as far as her personality and teaching method. My class is small, only 7 of us, which means it's easy for all of us to have enough time to talk. I only have to write short essays three times a week, yay!

However, I do need to practice writing characters, so I can't spend too much time writing anything here right now =)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Freedom Ends Monday

It's my last weekend of being a lazy bum, because Monday I start my Chinese classes again. I'm looking forward to meeting new people and making new friends, and also to probably spending more time with the friends I already have, as I'll be in their area every day now. So, hey, maybe next week I'll have some interesting stuff to write, provided I can find the time to blog in between homework and teaching.

Originally, my Mon-Wed-Thurs student had asked me to start a daily routine with her, cutting our two-hour lessons to 1.5 hours. But since she also wants me to spend time correcting the practice work she does, and she doesn't want to pay over a certain amount per month, we're sticking to the three days per week, and then I'll spend two afternoons at home working on her compositions and sentences. She sent me a couple Thursday - 18 pages of sentences in one, and 6 pages in the other. Took me four hours to do. Her compositions are worse, because her English writing skills are pretty weak, and sometimes I can't even figure out what she's trying to say. I think she's asking too much of herself, trying to cram five years of English study into a half a year to prepare for a test that I'd find difficult! The GRE Test is a very advanced test of English, requiring students to discuss issues and present arguments, and I doubt that many ESL speakers do well in it unless they have studied for a long, long time. We'll do the best we can, but at this point I'm not very optimistic about her chances.

The weather is bizarre. It started to get nice and fall-like, with cool (and even cold) days, but now it's back to being hot. I never know what to wear, or if I should bring a jacket or an umbrella with me when I leave in the morning. I'm still sleeping with the fan on at night. If I use the covers, I'm too hot. If I don't, I'm too cold. ARGH! So, I spend a lot of time tossing and turning, trying to get comfortable.

My house is a pigsty, so hopefully I'll muster up the urge to clean today. I truly hate mopping floors, but just vacuuming doesn't do the trick when one has tile and wooden floors. I think they're overdue for a good scrub.

Next week is Thanksgiving, and I do so miss the huge turkey dinners of the past. I'm trying to decide if I want to find a turkey breast and do up a little dinner of my own. I know I can buy all the ingredients for pumpkin pie, too. However, is it worth the effort? Dunno. Some of the restaurants here offer Thanksgiving dinners, but they're very expensive, and from what I've read on the message board, not really all that tasty. Maybe I'll make some Hainan Chicken Rice instead :) Or have hotpot at home, since I bought the pot and still haven't used it.

And of course after Thanksgiving comes Giftmas (Nicole's very apt word). I just want to forget about that particulary holiday. I don't have the extra money to buy gifts for my friends, and I don't want my friends to spend their money on me. I have everything I need, and I don't need a present to prove that my friends love me! I know that already. Christmas cards would certainly be welcomed with a smile, because knowing that my friends are thinking about me makes me all warm and fuzzy inside. Gosh, I suppose I should start looking for my own cards here, too.

Well, the dirty house is crying out for attention, so I suppose I should tear myself away from the computer and get started before it gets much warmer.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Wu Bai's Poetry in Song

This is one of my favorite songs from the new CD. I had to ask my language exchange partner, Ye Ying, to help a little with the translation, because of the use of metaphors. That's the biggest problem trying to translate Wu Bai's songs into English. Chinese-speaking people understand the references, but I don't always get it. I think the poetry of what Wu Bai writes is completely lost when translated, because I don't think English is sufficient to convey his thoughts and ideas. Another problem is the lack of verb tense in Chinese. It's difficult to know whether something is currently happening, or if it happened in the past.

So, here's a song that Ye Ying said she feels is about a guy who loves a girl, and he perhaps promised to marry her but now feels that he can't live up to that promise. He still loves her, but wants to leave and wander on his own, and he's struggling to decide if he should go or not. The wind is a metaphor for the girl and her love, pulling at him, trying to convince him to stay, and the whirlpool is a metaphor for the struggle and possible arguments that they have about him wanting to go.

一千萬個理由 A Billion Reasons

Standing on that windy corner
Jeering at the feebleness of the wind
The world is so vast
Why does the wind speak only to me?

Furthermore, it's not slowly speaking whispers of love
If it were low and gentle talk, I would understand
In the past I did make promises
Can it be possible that we want sorrow?

I quietly muffle my ears with my hands
Do not walk to and fro behind me
I'm already drifting about freely
Can it be possible that you have no way out?

I have a billion reasons
I'm the one who proved he loved you
About my leaving that day and going far away
There's a drawn-out struggle (as if caught in a whirlpool)
I have a billion reasons
I'm the one who loves you
Leaving that whirlpool of love for you
I'm waiting for the wind to let me go

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

New Look

I've switched over to the new Blogger, so I opted for a simpler look. Hope ya'll like it. I also went through a lot of the older posts and put labels on them.

I've started a Chinese blog, so I can practice my writing, but I haven't actually put anything there yet. Once it gets going, I'll put a link in the sidebar for all of you who can read Chinese. I hope you'll help me by making corrections for me, so I can improve :)

My Cat is Weird

Most cats (hell, most animals) drink by placing their mouths close to the bowl of water and then lapping it up. Not DZ. She is such a bizarre cat. She walks up to her bowl, sticks her paw in the water, and then licks the water off her paw. Now I know why her water gets dirty so quickly!

After I take a shower, she'll often go into the bathroom and start lapping the water off the little stand I have in the corner of the shower. I find this very odd, because this water usually has soap suds in it. And for a cat who loathes being bathed, she doesn't seem to mind padding around in the puddles on the floor in the bathroom (remember, I shower directly on the tile floor) and then tracking footprints into the bedroom.

She doesn't like people food, either. Every time I'm slicing cheese in the kitchen, she'll come over, start meowing, and stand up on her hind legs like she's begging for some. But, if I give her a piece of cheese, she just sniffs at it and walks away. Ditto for ham. So far I haven't found any food that she'll eat, other than her canned and dry cat food. She won't even drink milk. This just isn't normal behavior for a cat!

Lately she's taken to jumping way up onto the wardrobe in my bedroom late at night. I store some empty boxes up there, and the first time I found one of the smaller ones in the laundry basket, I thought maybe there'd been an earthquake that knocked it down. Then one night I was awakened by strange noises. When I got up, DZ jumped down from the wardrobe, onto the smaller dresser next to it, and to the floor. She'd been up there banging around. She did it again the other night, once more knocking the small box into the laundry basket. Who would have imagined that she'd be able to get up that high? Or even want to!

A couple of days ago she was hanging out in my bedroom while I was getting showered and dressed. Normally she just lies on the bed, snoozing, but this time she crawled inside the pillowcase on my pillow and went to sleep.

Like I said, she's weird.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

It's Been a FOOD Week

I've eaten far too much this week, oh yes. It all started on Tuesday, when Guoxi invited me to go with him, his mother, and his younger sister to Jia An Village in Taoyuan County to eat lunch. I couldn't figure out why we were driving an hour just for lunch, but it turned out that Taoyuan was where the family lived until Guoxi was about 15 or so, and his mother just loves one restaurant there. The speciality of this restaurant is 活魚, live fish.

We arrived at the restaurant around noon, and we were the only customers. The first thing we did was walk to the rear of the restaurant to the pool where the fish are kept. These are not tiny fish. I'd say they averaged three to four feet in length! Guoxi's mom told the guy which size she wanted, and he snared it up in a net. Then he flopped the monster onto the ground and dispatched it with a few flicks of a very sharp knife. I missed this part, as I was in the bathroom, but I got a play-by-play from Guoxi. Then we all stood there watching as the guy cleaned the fish and scraped the scales off. Mrs. Zhang gave her order, listing six different ways she wanted the fish cooked, and then we all sat down at a large round table to wait.

The fish dishes appeared one by one - a deep-fried tail portion drenched with a tangy sauce that may have had citrus in it, a garlic-laden dish that smelled heavenly and tasted even better, a deep-fried middle section accompanied by a tasty dipping sauce, hot and spicy tofu with fish, a dish covered with dark sauce and full of some unindentified round things that looked like hazelnuts but weren't, and finally a huge pot of soup made with the fish head. Well, they certainly didn't waste any of this fishy. Along with the fish dishes we had some shrimp balls and stir-fried greens called 空心菜. The entire time we were eating, the owners' dog was frisking around the restaurant. Not a small dog, a large one. Once in awhile he'd come over to the table hoping for a handout, and sometimes his friend dog would join him inside, or he'd go outside for a romp with his buddy.

There was so much food we could have easily fed at least five more people. Every bit of what was left was packed up to go, even the soup because Mrs. Zhang had wisely brought along a metal pot to put it in. I was completely stuffed and mananged to turn down all offers of giving me some of the leftovers. It was extremely tasty, but the fish was loaded with bones, and I really don't like bony fish, because I'm afraid I'll get one stuck in my throat. So, the lunch was enough for me, no need to repeat the experience.

Friday afternoon I went to Tamkang University to take my placement test for the upcoming classes. I did a lousy job, because 1) I've forgotten a lot of what I learned and 2) I cannot write Chinese characters from memory. However, the teacher who was giving the test was very nice, and she accepted oral answers rather than written ones. She was satisfied that I read Chinese quite well and really did understand almost 100% of what was on the test, even though I couldn't write the answers in Chinese (I gave her some pinyin, though!). We decided that I should start out in the class that's using the book I've already finished studying, so that I can concentrate on improving my writing rather than trying to learn new stuff. This will also give me some review of what I've forgotten, which is much needed. Not to mention that homework will be a snap! hehe If I find that too boring, I can switch to the advanced class, which is using the book I had just started studying when CLD fell from the government's good graces.

Friday night after our class Kitty took me to a local steakhouse. You can order various cuts of steak, and there's a small salad bar that has, in addition to "normal" salad stuff, Taiwanese snacks like dry tofu, boiled egg halves, fried tofu, tiny stir-fried eggplant, french fries, chicken nuggets, and some of the best melon I've had, not sure what it was. Looked a bit like cantaloupe on the inside, but the outside wasn't cantaloupe-ish. They had papaya and kiwi, too.

After seeing the folks next to us get their orders of steaks smothered in sauce, I asked for mine to be plain, without sauce. Kitty was shocked. She said she'd been extremely pissed off in America when the steak she ordered at Denny's came without sauce. I told her that American's prefer to taste the meat itself when eating steak. I'd ordered the sirloin, and it came on top of some spiral noodles that had an insipid sort of red sauce on them, some frozen mixed veggies, and a fried egg. Hm. I took my steak off the sizzling metal plate and placed it onto my salad plate. This was not easy to do since my fork didn't seem to be able to actually pierce the meat. Trying to cut the first piece off was exhausting work. I don't believe I've ever run into a steak that was quite this tough. I should have spent a bit more money and gotten one of the more tender cuts (if they actually exist). Let us say that I don't think I'll bother with any Taiwan steakhouses again. If I feel the need for steak, I'll go to one of the Western-style steakhouses and pay an exhorbitant price for the real deal. At least the salad bar part was enjoyable, and it only cost me $7.50US, so what the hell.

Yesterday was the Wu Bai & China Blue Airwaves concert over by Taipei 101, so the gang met for lunch at Niko Niko, a California Roll sushi place that is owned by the company that Nat and Charlene work for. We were me, Nat, Charlene, Ah Ci, Shun, Xiao Niu, and PJ (who is one of the chefs there and was on duty) to start out, then Kennie (whose birthday it happened to be) and her boyfriend arrived very late. I let Nat take care of most of the ordering, except for making sure that I got a spicy roll. Everything we had was delicious, and I think I could have forced myself to eat even more than I did. Nat ordered a large plate of sashimi, but I don't really like plain raw fish, so I didn't have any of that. I stuck to the various rolls we got, plus a bit of the salad (boy, that was good, despite the ubiquitous canned corn that was tossed in). Eight of us ate until stuffed and the total was only $840NT (about $26US) because of the huge discount we got because Nat, Char, and PJ work there. I gave Nat $200, which is probably more than my fair share, but I consider it to be pretty cheap for what I got.

We headed over to the concert shortly before it began, not worrying about being in the back because the venue was so small. It just didn't seem worth it to try to arrive early enough to stand right in front this time. The show was loads of fun, but pretty much the same as the shows at The Partyroom, nothing new. Doesn't seem to matter how many times we see the same thing, though, it's always a high to be at a concert. Wu Bai was looking quite handsome and sexy, and all the guys seemed to be having a great time. Well, maybe Dino wasn't so happy, it's hard to say. He did one very odd thing, coming out to the front during one song that has no drums, no bass, and tossing drumsticks into the crowd. The look Wu Bai gave him was half irritation, half puzzlement. We're not sure what that was all about.

So, after the show we started off to San Zhi to visit Carrie. She'd invited Nat, Charlene, and I go her place to sit about and bullshit and do a little drinking. We had to stop off at my house first (it's on the way) to pick up the beer I'd bought the day before, and we stopped at a roadside vendor to get food and more snacks and beer at the convenience store. Carrie met us there so we could follow her up to her place.

Her house is really cool, older with concrete walls that she has decorated with some lips and flowers that she's painted onto them. The kitchen is in the basement, along with a bathroom, and there are some rooms upstairs from the living/dining area. We sat around her dining table and stuffed ourselves on the stuff that Nat bought - fried chicken, fried squid, fish balls, pig skin (not me, uh uh), tofu, enoki mushrooms - and the potato chips and Ritz cheese crackers I'd bought. Nat and Charlene started on the red wine, while Carrie and I had beer. She had wine afterwards, but I stuck with my beer, downing four of them. At about 10:45 Nat said it was time to go. Carrie said we were all welcome to stay there, but only Charlene chose to stay. I was a little worried about DZ, because she'd been acting strange when I got home to pick up the beer, not coming to the door to greet me, just staying on the bed in the spare room. I guess she was just faking it, though, because she was fine when I got home, wanting to play and keeping me up until 12:30 a.m.

So, I have one week before I start school again, and I'll be trying to do a lot of review so I'm prepared. I got the same class time as I had before, 10:00-12:00, but I have a little farther to go now, so I'll have to leave the house by 8:30 a.m. every day. After I get to Guting Station, I have a fifteen-minute walk to the school. Riding the MRT at that time means I probably won't have a seat, which sucks. I used to catch the 9:00 one, and that was perfect. But I don't want the 1:00 class, because then I'd never be able to have lunch with my friends, and the 3:00 class doesn't cover what I need to study. And no way am I choosing the 8:00 a.m. class!

Time to start cleaning my filthy apartment before the landlady comes by for her mail. Don't want to give the woman a heart attack :)

Monday, November 06, 2006

I Can Never Wash This Hand Again

Well, folks, yesterday was the big day, the day I stood right in front of Wu Bai for the first time in the over five years that I've been a fan.

Autograph Session Photos

The autograph session was held in a little plaza across the street from the new MRT station at Fu Zhong. Charlene and I got there at 11:30 a.m. to get in the line, joining Ah Ci and Xiao Niu. Caroline came later, after she was through with her class, and Nat showed up late, too, which meant going to the end of the line, since we'd all been given consecutive numbers and no one could cut in. Didn't matter that we weren't right at the front this time, though. The session was due to start at 2:00, so we just chatted and watched the sun slowly eating the shade we were in. By the time 2:00 came around, we were all in full sun, and it was hot.

The guys performed a few songs before starting the signing, and that was cool. Have a look at this video one fan uploaded to YouTube: WuBai's "Flower" Dance

I wasn't able to get super close to the stage, and there was a really tall guy in front of me and Caroline, so I had to keep moving around to try to see. I attempted to take a video, but lame-brain apparently had her camera on the wrong setting, so all I got was a photo of Wu Bai's backside. Eh.

After the mini-concert, the signing began. I had wanted my lyrics booklet signed, since the only pix of China Blue are inside that. But no, The Powers That Be had decreed that the only thing that could be signed was the outside box of the CD, nothing else. No posters, no scrapbooks, no photos, nothing. One CD per person, thank you very much, and please move along quickly, don't ask to take photos with Wu Bai because you know he's so shy, yada yada yada.

As I climbed up on the stage with CD in hand, Charlene tugged my arm. I turned to find a girl with a video camera by my side, wanting to shoot my tattooed ankle. Oh great, just what I want. I told her it wasn't finished, that I still needed to get "and China Blue" added to the 伍佰. Then she ran the camera up my body - crap! I hate, hate, hate having photos of myself taken, not to mention a video camera in my hot, sweaty face! I guess the novelty of having a foreign fan who's this crazy about Wu Bai & China Blue hasn't quite worn off yet.

I bantered a few words with Dino, who was on the end of the table closest to me. Then came Da Mao, who greeted me with a big smile and a "nice to see you" in English, then Xiao Zhu, who calls me 老師 (teacher) since they know I'm Guoxi's English tutor. I asked him if his English was improving and he laughed, saying it was non-existent. I love these guys!

Then the moment I'd been anticipating and half-dreading: face to face with Wu Bai. I was so worried he'd say something in Chinese that I wouldn't understand, because I still have this problem of not understanding when people talk to me sometimes. I managed to squeak out, "Over five years, and I'm finally standing here." in Chinese. He then shocked me completely by asking what my name was. I mean, dude, how many foreigner fans do you have who queue in line for days to stand right in front of you at concerts? And I'm pretty sure your mom must have mentioned me to you a few times, hm? So, my tone of voice when I said, "I'm Ma La!" was a bit incredulous. However, he didn't hesitate at all when writing "To 瑪拉" on the CD, and since there are quite a few ways you could actually write those sounds and he knew the correct one, I eventually convinced myself that he was probably just making 100% sure I was who he thought I was (you know, we white folks all look alike, and I'm not blonde like I used to be, got red hair now). Then he asked me where I lived. What, not gonna ask for my phone number? No, I guess with the guard dog (i.e., wife) standing at his back that wouldn't have been a good idea. ;) And then I got the beaming smile (damn him for hiding his eyes behind those ridiculous sunglasses) and the handshake. Awwwwww. Later, as I checked other fans' CDs, I saw that no one else had a personalized one, so I felt kinda special. Of course, there might have been some that I didn't see, but still. He wrote my name .

We waited around for Nat and Xiao Niu to get through the line, then decided we'd stay until the end just in case they were going to perform again. Caroline hadn't gotten her CD signed, so at the last minute she decided to go up at the tail end of the line, and I went along with her, taking another CD with me. Dino laughed when he saw me again, and I think Wu Bai was a little surprised, too. Well, that look on his face could have been leftover from seeing Caroline's ample bosom in the low-cut tank top, ha. I'll bet all the guys appreciated that! If she had been wearing a nurse's uniform, she would have made Wu Bai's day. You know he has some weird obsession with women in nurse's uniforms, don't you? Well, you do now.

So, how do I feel about finally touching the man I think is the most beautiful creature on Earth?'s weird. I don't know if I expected sparks or something, but it was so very ordinary, no pounding heart, no drool escaping down my chin. Perhaps it was just the quickness of the whole thing, a few fleeting seconds of contact. I get more of an afterglow and a high at the end of a concert! I can't say it was a letdown or anything, but it certainly wasn't what I'd imagined it would be. On some level that soothes me, makes me know that I'm not so caught up in a fantasy that I can't see reality. I think I'm sort of happy that I felt so comfortable in front of him, not really nervous, just as natural as I am with Dino, Xiao Zhu, and Da Mao. I think that means that Wu Bai is the sort of person I could be friends with. Despite the way his management wants to promote him as the "Emperor of Rock," he didn't give off those "I'm so much better than you." vibes, and watching him as he signed CD after CD, smiling at his fans, sharing a few words with them, just made me happy all over.

OK, right then, now I need to tell you how much friggin' trouble it was to get a visa.

The whole fiasco of getting a health exam done could take up pages. Let's just say that it wasn't easy, and I ended up making three trips to the hospital before I managed to get it done. I had my letter of enrollment from the school, I had my letter from my Taiwan bank stating that I had almost twice the required amount of cash to support myself during my study, I had my visa application completed with photos attached, I had my letter explaining why I was studying Chinese and why I didn't need to work because I had the money from selling my house to support me for years to come. I was ready.

Got to Hong Kong on a late flight on Monday the 30th, after dropping DZ off at the vet for boarding and spaying. By the time the airport bus got me to Tai Po and Terry and Cheryl picked me up, it was close to midnight. Thank goodness for friends who are willing to go out of their way for me! Stayed up chatting with Cheryl, who was off work that week, but Terry had to hit the sack.

Tuesday Cheryl and I headed over to Hong Kong island so I could apply for the visa. Found the visa office, after getting off on the wrong floor and a bit of slight panic when the office was not there, and there was no one waiting. Cool. Got right up to the lady and handed her all my stuff. Then she asked for my driver's license from the US. Uh....I don't have it with me. I don't drive in Taiwan.

Her: "But you need to have proof of your US address."
Me: "But, I moved and don't even have the same address as on my license." (I'm using my dad's address as my US one since I sold my house.)
Her: "It's one of the requirements. Where are your bank statements?"
Me: "What? I have the letter from the bank showing how much is in there."
Her: "That's not enough. Do you have your bankbook?"
Me: "Yeah, here. Most of my money is still in my US bank."
Her: "Can you bring a bank statement?"
Me: "Well, yeah, I can print it from the website this evening."
Her: "Fine, bring that back tomorrow. And since you have the same US address written on your HK immigration form and inside your passport, we'll take that."
Me: "OK, thanks.

Wah! Stupid, I was so stupid. I completely missed the "proof of residence" on the instructions, because I got sidetracked by the "HK ID photocopy not required for non-Hong Kong residents." That was an idiotic thing. But the bank thing? I thought I had that covered.

Back at Cheryl's that evening I printed my last statement. Then I decided to print the prior two months, just in case. Good thing, because when I went back on Wednesday and said I'd brought the statement they wanted, the lady asked me if I had three months' worth! Then she told me to wait. So, Cheryl and I waited. And waited. And waited.

Eventually, a door opened and a woman called me in to a little room. Then the third degree commenced. Why haven't you been in school since the end of May? I had to explain about my prior school saying they thought they could work out their problems, and I was hoping to be able to return there. Where does your money come from? Well, like I wrote in the letter, I sold my house. How much did you sell the house for? I told her how much, not that that was how much I received, but hey, she didn't ask me that. Why do you have all these daily deposits of $15,000NT or $16,000NT? Because I can only take out $500US per day from my US account, so I go get the cash, then I walk into the bank and deposit it. Just look at the bank book and compare it with my bank statements, and you'll see they're done on the say day. Duh.

Then she told me that I'd already studied Chinese for a long time, and why did I need more. Excuse me? One year of studying Chinese doesn't even scratch the surface! I told her that I want to attend university here to pursue a degree in Asian studies and language, but that right now I'd never be able to understand the instructions. Also, I have aspirations to be an interpreter, and that requires years of study! By this time my stomach was in knots, and I was sure they were going to tell me no. She even asked me why I didn't go to Mainland China. Since I wasn't sure she was actually a Taiwan national, I didn't want to tell the truth, which is, "My god, that's a communist country with zero freedom, why the hell would I go there?" So, I told the other truth, which is that Mainland China has no Wu Bai & China Blue. Guess that worked, because I did get my visa.

Now, Cheryl and I hadn't eaten yet (those cheese Ritz didn't count), and it was after 3:00 p.m. The day before we'd gone to a great Mexican restaurant called Coyote for lunch, and we knew they were having happy hour now, so we headed over for some celebratory margaritas and food. It was expensive, $289HK, which is about $37US, but it was worth it. I can't get decent Mexican food in Taiwan, and a real margarita? Sppff, no way. We then went over to Marks and Spencer, where we had quite an enjoyable time making fun of the clothes, almost as much fun as we'd had in Starbucks the day before, looking at the Elle Magazine fashion photos. Almost giggled myself off the chair a couple of times with that. Most laughable were the bras, so heavily padded for those teeny little mosquito bites that pass for breasts on so many of the Asian gals.

The rest of my Hong Kong visit was spent watching Bollywood and Korean flicks with Cheryl, interspersed with a bit of the second season of "Little Britain." Met Doris for dinner on Thursday and had some good Shanghai-style food that was pretty inexpensive. Took off early Friday morning with Terry so he could drop me at the bus stop, landed in Taiwan at 1:00 p.m. Had to go to the visa office at the airport to get the actual visa attached to my passport, and that little delay resulted in me being stuck in a crowd of Japanese tourists waiting to get through immigration. Lordy, six planes must have landed at once! It took over an hour to finally get through, and my suitcase was sitting forlornly next to the luggage carousel when I got there. Got the bus back into town, took the MRT from Yuanshan home, dropped my suitcase (which, by the way, had been damaged and now the pull handle barely works) off, and headed to the vet to get DZ.

This was DZ's first time away from home. I didn't have much choice, can't keep asking friends to travel half an hour to feed my cat, and she needed to be spayed. Vet said she was a wild bundle of claws every time he went near her, which resulted in said claws being clipped. Also, their two cats were very curious about DZ and kept going over to her cage, which agitated her, so instead of locking their cats up in their cage, the vet put newspaper over the front of DZ's cage, so she was always in the dark. Gotta tell you I'm not real happy about that. She was completely traumatized, and it wasn't easy for me to get her out of the cage. Once I got her home, she was much better, but I got a few bites from her as she let me know exactly how she felt. I have to take her back today to get the stitches out, and that's not gonna be fun. Speaking of which, I need to go, it's getting late. Outta here.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Worshipping at Wu Bai's Feet

OK, I'm back from Hong Kong, and while I wait for my hair to magically turn into a beautiful light copper shade, I'll write about the pub shows I went to on October 27 and 28.

That whole week was pretty busy for me. I had to get all my school stuff finalized (photos, health exam, fill out visa application, school app, etc.). I'd promised to do the daytime queuing since there was no one else available, but then I got a lovely surprise when Kennie ended up with days off and could keep me company.

So, after running my final errands on Wednesday a.m. (this is October 25 I'm talking about), I headed over to 京華城 to join the queue, which had been started by Charlene Tuesday afternoon. A couple others had joined her during the evening, and Kennie had showed up at 9:00 a.m. so Charlene could head off to work. When I arrived at 11:30 a.m., Kennie was all alone, just reading up on the 12th floor outside the Partyroom. We spent a couple hours chatting, after moving to a sofa outside one of the other pubs. The place was deserted, I guess because the shopping center is not really that convenient to get to, and it was a little eerie being all alone except for the cleaning staff and the poor girls at the restaurant that had no customers. Xiao Niu showed up at lunchtime, and she and Kennie took off. I had to run back over to the hospital at 1:30, and it took me two whole hours, just to get another original of my health exam! Sheesh.

Anyway, no one else from other groups showed up to queue until late Wednesday, when Ling Ayi and Mei Xue arrived. Charlene and Nat arrived probably close to 8:00 p.m., and Charlene brought with her the new CD, yay! Nat gave me a ride to the MRT station, and I got home around 9:15 p.m. I quickly converted the CD to MP3, then gave a listen to the CD. I didn't like it much at all, but that turned out to be because I was only using the laptop speakers, which suck. The next morning when I listened to the MP3s on the way back to 京華城, I decided it was quite good.

Charlene and Kennie were waiting for me when I got there, both very cold and tired. Although during the day and the evening we're allowed to queue inside, at night we're booted out onto the street. And then that morning one really pissy floor manager had given Charlene a lot of shit about how they didn't want us to line up there, how messy it looked, how the customers would complain, blah blah blah. However, we all trooped in at 11:00 a.m. as soon as they opened the elevator, and no one said a word to us all day. What a kerfuffle!

Thursday was another boring day of sitting around, but at least I had the new CD to occupy me. I had forgotten to bring the lyrics book with me, so I had to keep borrowing Kennie's. There were now quite a few more folks lined up, and more trickling in occasionally. My friend Kayun showed up in the afternoon, and I went to have lunch with her, then she hung around with us, using Kennie as a resource for some Chinese questions she had. When Nat and Charlene showed up that evening, Kayun and I caught a ride to the MRT with Nat, and once again I was home around 9:15-ish.

Friday it was back to do it all over again, but this time at least there was a concert at the end of the evening! Sharrie showed up early in the morning, after having taken a bus from Pingdong all night. Dino came by early in the morning. He'd been staying at a nearby hotel, the same one I'd stayed at in December 2002 when I was there for the shows at Plush Pub. He chatted with us a bit, told us that rehearsal would be at around 2:00 or 3:00. It's always nice to see Dino, and I really appreciate the way he treats us like friends.

The rest of the day was basically the same boring wait, and then when Charlene showed up in the afternoon, she told us that Nat's boss had taken her off to Xinzhu! It was unlikely Nat would be back in time for the show, but we held out hope until the last minute, then ended up selling her ticket. What a drag :(

Xiao Zhu and Da Mao both showed up around 2:00 p.m., and Dino was already inside. Wu Bai didn't make his appearance until 4:00 p.m., walking in surrounded by his security entourage, as if they expect we'll jump on him or something. Yeah, right. We get hugs and kisses from Dino, and the "don't even think about approaching this man" from Wu Bai's crew. I know it's mostly his wife, but still.....we're not like that, you know? Practice sounded pretty good, and knowing what songs would be performed made it easy to decide which lyrics to try to learn first! Kennie, Xiao Niu, and Sharrie busied themselves making signs, and other fan groups were also working on concert projects. Charlene brought our signs from before, so we didn't have to make any.

Hey, finally, it's time to go in! Ah Ci had come to hold our first place in line while we were inside, since he was only going to the Saturday show. By this time Xiao Huang was there, and P.J., so we had them, Kennie, Xiao Niu, Sharrie, Charlene, Xiu Chun, Shun, and me. We got in, and Charlene, Sharrie, and I planted ourselves right smack-dab in front of the microphone, which was horrifyingly close. I had no idea it would be that close. Wow. Well, I just had to hope Wu Bai would be too busy to notice how terribly fat I'd gotten (not that it matters, since he's going to see me tomorrow during broad daylight at the autograph session, but hey, I worry).

The show was fantastic, even with Wu Bai having to have the words of the songs laid out at his feet since he hadn't memorized them yet. He was more talkative than usual, too, and always laughing and smiling at us. Definitely looking good these days, with that long hair that suits him so well. He's lost weight, too, but I kinda like him a little chubby, because he looks more hug-able. I got my 10 seconds of special attention while he was singing the new song "Cherry Lover" which Charlene got a kick out of and kept nudging me in the side afterwards. All I know is that when he looks at me and smiles like that, I just wanna die. One line in one of the new songs is 我知道我幻想的都不可以 沒有關係 - I know I can't have any of my fantasies; it doesn't matter. That's how I feel, too ;)

After the show I said goodbye to Sharrie, who had to take the bus back to Pingdong, hung around a bit with Charlene, and then I waited for Guoxi to come pick me up, since he had insisted on doing so. Who am I to argue? I ran into Da Mao and his wife while I was pacing around waiting, and he thanked me (and the others) for spending all that time in line. It's nice to be appreciated. I ended up getting home around 1:30 a.m., listened to my pissed off cat chewing me out for being gone so long, took a shower to get the smoke out of my hair and the sweat off my body, fell into bed for three hours, up at 5:30 a.m. and back to 京華城 at 7:15 a.m., where Charlene and Shun were sleeping and holding our place in line.

You guessed it - another boring day in line, this time suffering from lack of sleep. I dozed a bit during the day, but not much. As soon as we got inside that morning, Ling Ayi's group started a big argument with Charlene, because they seemed to think we should give up our first place in line and allow them to stand in front of Wu Bai. WTF? Hey, you wanna get that spot, then YOU show up Tuesday afternoon! They claimed that Sharrie had told them on Friday that it would be OK, and this fight went on most of the day. Charlene was so calm and cool, while the other chick who was carrying on was loud and obnoxious. I told Charlene that I didn't mind standing in the second row as long as no one taller than me was in front of me, but I still thought it kinda sucked that they figured they had the right to ask. But I hate fighting, so I said it was OK with me. Shun was furious, though, and he did a lot of yelling before stomping off somewhere. Eventually, Charlene said they'd worked out a deal for the five of us to stand on the right of the microphone, in two rows, while the 20 or so of them would be on the left. Since Charlene and I were the shortest in our group, we'd get front row. Shun was too angry about this and said he wasn't going at all, which turned out great because Natari got his ticket and was able to see the show. Late in the afternoon Xiao Yu showed up, and she said she'd just wait at the end of the (by now) very long line. It was too hot back there, though, so she stayed with us, only going to the end when we started to go in.

So, there we are, waiting for 8:00 p.m. I'd seen Dino, Xiao Zhu, and Da Mao all go in, but I hadn't seen Wu Bai, and it was quiet inside. Suddenly, Wu Bai's wife came out and took off. Hm, he must be in there, since she rarely lets him off the leash, so why isn't there any rehearsal? Awhile later, Dino came to the door, saying he was waiting for his coffee, and "Oh, there is it now." Here came Mrs. Wu carrying a bunch of coffee. Wow, never figured she'd play gofer herself! The rehearsal didn't actually start until like 7:00 or so, and damned if they didn't keep going until 8:30! We were a bit unhappy about this, and so tired of waiting. But, we finally got to go in.

And more trouble began. We got our agreed-upon spots at the front and to the right, and then the other group wanted to push us over even further. That's when we dug in our heels and said "fuck you, we ain't moving." Sometimes it pays to be a lot bigger than most of the girls in Taiwan, because ain't no way that little bitty gal on my left was going to be able to budge me. Surprisingly, Xiao Yu and her friend managed to fight their way over to us, so at least Xiao Yu could see (she's about 4 and a half feet tall and needs to be up front). Xiu Chun and Ah Ci were behind me, Charlene on my right and Nat on her right. We had a great view of Dino and Xiao Zhu, but could barely see Da Mao. Wu Bai, of course, was right on top of us.

Another great show, this time with Wu Bai dragging the rest of the guys out on stage to perform a little disco number to "You Are My Flower." The night before, Wu Bai had done it alone, cracked us up big time. Saturday we were trying to do it along with them, but I was failing miserably. I am just not co-ordinated enough. And I was laughing too hard. I also popped in my custom-made vampire teeth for one song, since it was close to Halloween and there was a Halloween party scheduled afterwards. Not sure the guys could see the teeth, but it was fun, and the fans around us got a kick out of it.

Afterwards we went across the street for hot pot, and I can't believe I didn't fall asleep in my food. I decided not to stay at Nat's, since I'd have to sleep on the floor, and I took a cab home. Never had such a slow driver, so of course it cost me more money, and the guy never shut up the whole time. I was barely awake and just not up to a conversation in Chinese, but he just kept yapping. Got home at 2:30 a.m., didn't even bother with a shower, just collapsed on the bed, dreaming sweet dreams of the sexiest guy on earth (yes, this is just my opinion) and the greatest band of all - Wu Bai & China Blue.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006


Don't expect to see much from me for awhile. Why, you ask?

Tomorrow I go pick up my health report (and boy, that wasn't an easy process, royal pain in the ass, should write a rant about it - but at least it only cost me $20US for the X-ray, HIV test, and the eye exam, try getting that in the States for that cheap), then go to Tamkang University to apply for classes starting 11/20. After that I head over to Core Pacific Living Mall to begin the long days of queuing in line for the two pub shows on Friday and Saturday nights. I'll get to come home in the evenings, but I probably won't feel like writing much and will likely just sit listening to the new CD over and over and over.

Next week I head to Hong Kong Monday evening so I can get my student visa. No, you can't get a visa while you're actually in Taiwan, that would be too easy. You have to leave the country to apply for a visa. I'll be back on Friday afternoon. Doesn't give me much time to hang out with friends there.

Then Sunday the 5th is the autograph session! Yippee skippy, looks as if I'll actually make it to this one. My original plan for going to Hong Kong was leave 11/3 and return 11/9, which would of course have caused me to miss this event.

November 10 is the placement test for the university, then 11/11 is the Airwaves concert, and I won a ticket, yeah!

November 19 there's another autograph session in Taichung, but I probably won't go since I'm going to the one on the 5th.

Took the cat in for her shots (5-in-1, rabies, feline peritonitis, de-worming) today, $1800NT ($54US). Taking her back on Monday to leave her for boarding ($1500NT = $45US) and spaying ($2000NT = $60US). Probably cheaper than the US but still more money than I really wanted to spend. Especially since I'm not making any money this week or next!

Bottom line: I'm gonna be busy. You'll see me when you see me.

Monday, October 09, 2006

Finally, About Singapore

OK, I guess I've slacked off enough and should write a bit about my trip to Singapore before I completely forget what happened. All the photos are posted here: Singapore - October 2006

I arrived at a few minutes before 11:00 p.m. on Monday, October 2. I think about 50 other planes must have landed at the same time, because the immigration lines were packed! The whole room was filled with people of all sorts, and none of the lines seemed to be moving quickly. It took about 40 minutes from landing time to actually getting out the door, where David and Tona had been patiently waiting for me. I felt so bad about making them wait so long and told them to just drop me at the hotel and go home, but they wanted to eat first, so off we went. We stopped at a hawker center that was rather famous in Singapore, but David and Tona hadn't tried it. We munched down some good food and then headed for my hotel.

I'd chosen a place I found on the Internet, the Astro Hotel . The description made it sound quite charming, and I'd asked Lee Ying about the area of town, and she said it was OK. wasn't quite as charming as the website made it out to be, and I rode up in the elevator with a guy and his Vietnamese hooker, listening to him giving her instructions on just what she could do for him. Oh swell. However, it was cheap and it was quiet, so what the hell. During my short stay I killed a total of six cockroaches, but they were all little bitty things, not the monsters we have here in Taiwan, so I wasn't too upset. At a cost of $38US per night, I wasn't about to complain.

By the time I actually was in bed, it was after 1:00 a.m., and I was able to sleep in a bit on Tuesday. David and Tona were supposed to meet me for brunch around 10:30, but because there was a heavy rainstorm, David called to say they'd probably be a little late. My room had no window, so I was clueless about the weather. By the time I emerged to do some preliminary exploring, there was no rain, just wet pavement, and the heat was just awful. Singapore has only three seasons, you know: summer, hot summer, and so-hot-you-think-your-hair-will-melt summer. I believe I experienced hot summer this time.

I wandered around the Gelang Serai area a bit. It's the Malay part of town, and since it was the Malay Hari Raya Light-up Celebration, there was quite a bit of activity going on very close to the hotel. Most of it was at night, but there were some things open during the day. I picked a good time to visit Singapore, because it was also the Indian Deepavali (Festival of Lights) and the Chinese Mid Autumn Festival, and every part of town seemed to be lit up with beautiful lights in the evenings.

When David and Tona arrived, we went off to the pork rib soup place they'd taken me to in September. Damn, that stuff is so good! The do-it-yourself seasoning I'd bought was nearly as good. After we had our fill they dropped me off at the shopping center that has books, books, books. I was on a search for some books I'd seen on the last trip. I spent some time there, searching with no luck, then I walked down to Arab Street. It was fun wandering around there, looking at all the beautiful materials and the carpets, but I didn't buy anything. On the way back to the MRT station, I walked through a wholesale market area, where I bought a cheap coffee cup and a spoon, since the hotel had none. Then I stopped for some kaya toast and coffee to give my feet a rest. Um, I love kaya toast!

Walking from the MRT station to my hotel took me through the Malay bazaar, which had all sorts of stuff. It's a bit like the night markets in Taiwan, but not quite. Again, I didn't buy anything. I spent a little time at the hotel before heading off to meet Lilian in Chinatown for dinner. I got there early and walked all over the place looking for a bathroom, because the bathrooms in the Singapore MRT stations are not as easily found as those in Taiwan, and I'd assumed they, like Hong Kong, didn't have them. By the time Lilian showed up, I was pooped!

She took me to a hawker center that specialized in barbecued seafood, and I had stingray for the first time in my life. Oh my. It was so delicious, so tasty, such a shame it's not available here in Taiwan. We also had some clams and squid, and I had a Tiger Draft, which was twice as good because I was so hot and tired. After dinner we drove to Chinatown proper to look at all the lanterns. Sadly, I was too tired to have much enthusiasm, but we did walk around for quite awhile, chatting, and then Lilian kindly drove me back to the hotel, taking a detour through Little India so I could see all the lights (which weren't nearly as pretty during the day, when I went back).

On Wednesday I went alone to the Chinese Gardens in the morning. My friend Li Yan had told me they would be much prettier at night when the lanterns were lit, but I didn't really have any evenings free, so daytime would have to do. I didn't eat any breakfast, because I figured there'd be a place to eat there. Ha, wrong. The teashop was closed, only open at night. So, by the time I finished my two hours of walking, I was famished! I had some pineapple cakes that I was going to give Li Yan, but she never got them - I ate them. But I didn't eat the Kahlua cake I'd made for her, so I'm not such a bad person, right?

Li Yan and I met at 1:00 and she took me to her university for lunch. We ate with some of her friends, including a guy from Shanghai. The food was very inexpensive (I must say here that I actually didn't pay for any of the food I'd eaten so far, because everyone kept insisting on treating me) and there was far too much of it (I got ma po tofu). After lunch we went to the library so I could check my e-mail, then browsed the campus bookstore for awhile. Then Li Yan suggested we go to Haw Par Villa, built by the same guy who had built Hong Kong's Tiger Balm Gardens. She said that although it wasn't as popular as it had been in the past, it was still an interesting place to see and wouldn't be crowded. Sounded fine to me! So, we took a bus (believe it or not, Singapore actually has some non air-conditioned buses, so strange in such a hot climate) and spent about an hour walking around the Villa.

After that Li Yan took me to SunTec City Mall, because there was a used bookstore there. It's a very interesting store. You can choose to just rent the books or to buy them. Each book has two prices listed, and the older books are cheaper than the newer ones. For example, you might pay $15S for the book, but if you bring it back to the shop, they will give you back $12.50S. They had tons of stuff, and I bought quite a few of the books on my list. We walked around the mall a little bit, but my feet were starting to complain, so we didn't stay long.

I had plans to meet up with Angela and Taka for dinner, and Li Yan was going with her family. The two of us went back to my hotel so I could pick up the stuff I'd brought for A & T, and Li Yan's father picked us up and drove me to the place I was meeting my friends. Traffic was bad, so I was about a half hour later than I'd planned on being. Taka and Angela were waiting for me, and we just went to the food court at the mall for dinner. I decided on the chicken rice, since it's soooo good. After dinner we just wandered around in the mall, talking. Neither of them had the time to go with me to Little India, and I was pretty tired from all the walking I'd done anyway, so I just went back to the hotel, arriving around 10:00 or so. I watched a little TV, because there were a couple of interesting Chinese TV series on, then went to sleep.

I spent most of Thursday riding the MRT all over creation, searching out the used book exhibitions in the hope of finding the rest of the books I wanted. No luck, sad to say, although I did find a couple others that were cheap, so it wasn't a wasted day. Lee Ying had hoped to get a half day off to spend with me, but she was unable to, so we made plans to meet for dinner. However, Li Yan wanted to hang out again, so she and I made the trip to Little India. It wasn't quite as exciting as I'd hoped it would be, but I think the heat and my tiredness probably had something to do with my lack of enjoyment.

We met up with Lee Ying at 7:00, and Vynson also joined us. After a discussion about what to eat, we decided on pizza and proceeded to the restaurant. As luck would have it, they had a special on, two pizzas for the price of one - cool! We had a lovely dinner, laughing and talking, mostly about Wu Bai, of course. Vynson told the story of how he came to be the "Singapore Wu Bai" and had us all laughing. After dinner, Lee Ying, Li Yan, and I took a cab back to my hotel so I could get the cake and books I'd brought for Lee Ying, and I spend another evening watching Chinese TV series before falling asleep.

Friday it was up early to pack and then a short cab ride to the airport. I had another chicken rice meal there and then wandered around the shops, stopping at one of the free Internet stations to check my mail.

My flight was on time, but I had the misfortune of being seated next to a couple and their little girl, maybe two or three years old. That kid was incredibly annoying. I was in the aisle seat, and it was the very first row, so there was a lot of leg room. This meant said child could walk back and forth, which she did, frequently, grabbing onto my legs, stepping on my feet, keeping me from napping. The flight attendant didn't help, because she was just encouraging her to keep walking over to her. And then some little boy from the other side of the plane kept coming over to check out the little girl, so I had both of them annoying me. Grrrrrr. After the umpteenth time of being awakened, I guess the mother finally noticed my exasperated sigh and offered to change her window seat for my aisle seat. That was a bit better - until we started our descent. Then the kid began screaming at the top of her lungs, because she didn't want to wear the seatbelt. She kept it up, non-stop, until we were on the ground. I hate kids.

Uneventful bus ride/MRT trip back home, and as I walked from the station to my house, I was treated to the wonderful smells of everyone outside barbecuing, because it was Mid Autumn Festival, and that's what one does in Taiwan on Mid Autumn Festival. It smelled so good, but all I had to eat when I got home was a bagel I'd purchased in Singapore. Wah! Poor me, no BBQ this year.

Many thanks to my Singapore friends for making my visit so nice! I hope you'll be visiting me in Taiwan soon so I can return the favor :)

They Just Keep Getting Better!

Howdy folks, back from Singapore, but before I tell you about that trip I want to write about Saturday night's excellent performance by ABS - All Blues and Ska.

See ABS at New York New York for the full set of photos. Maybe one day I'll figure out how to post the videos I took.

Charlene, Natari, and I showed up at New York New York Restaurant at 7:30 p.m., because we'd been told that in order to reserve a table at the front we had to get there early and have dinner. Huh. Guess they didn't tell any of the others that, because the place was virtually empty. Since it's Mid Autumn Festival, most of Taipei was outside barbecuing with their friends and family. Ah well, what the hell. We ordered a few dishes and had a nice meal, waiting for the 9:00 show.

But you know, this is Taiwan, and this is ABS, and we know that they never, ever start on time. It must have been at least 9:30 p.m. before we got any music, but it was worth the wait. The show was kicked off by a solo performance of a guy named Mark, half Taiwanese, half American. My goddess, could this guy belt out the tunes. If I hadn't been looking at him, I'd never have believed he was white. The guy can sing. Dino said he, Xiao Zhu, and Da Mao had played with this guy way back before Wu Bai ever showed up on the scene.

We were actually a little bit sorry to see Mark leave the stage, but Dino promised the audience he'd return for the encore. Then ABS kicked in and all was well. They've added another guitarist, Lao Liu, who we'd seen playing with them at the summer street party. Between him and Xiao Yang (whom Dino calls Stevie Ray Yang) the guitar riffs were flying back and forth all evening. Xiao Zhu's bass and Da Mao's keyboards were smoking, and I thought Dino's drum kit was going to explode from the force of his blows. He's not known as 大力打鼓 Da Li Da Gu (Hits the Drums with Vigor) for nothing!

There was a surprise guest at the show. Xiao Yang's regular job is playing guitar for Bobby Chen (whose "Love You 10,000 Years" duet with Wu Bai can be found on the Wu Bai Live CD), and Bobby was in the audience. Unfortunately, Bobby was doing what Bobby does best - drinking. Wu Bai's song "You're Drunk, My Dear" is aimed at Bobby. He's only gotten worse over the years. He got up on stage with the guys, dragged out his harmonica, and they all did one of Bobby's songs together, with a nice round of applause from the audience afterwards. And then Bobby refused to get off stage. And Dino and Xiao Zhu were getting progressively more pissed off. They tried to reason with him and said, "Later, for the encore, OK?" but he wouldn't budge. Finally, ABS departed the stage and left Bobby up there alone. Shortly, his other two guitar players came up, looking quite embarrassed, and they played while Bobby drunkenly sang another song. Bobby's keepers managed to get him off stage so the guys could return, but he came back up to the front later, stood in front of Da Mao, poking him in the chest and grabbing his keyboard as he was playing. Another keeper, a woman, was able to get him to let go. There was another nutcase who kept getting on stage, too, a guy Charlene said used to be on TV and was a reporter. He ended up with a tambourine in hand and was smashing Dino's cymbals and the movie screen behind the stage. Every now and then he'd pretend his elbow was a camera (you had to be there). Weirdo......

Dino's beautiful girlfriend Carrie was there, along with his son, Alex (who was pretty drunk by the end of the evening, ha). Xiao Zhu's wife Du-du and Da Mao's wife Bee were along for the ride, and the three ladies spent some time in front of the stage, dancing up a storm, joined by another gal who I assume belonged to either Xiao Yang or Lao Liu. I've only said "hi" to Du-du, no conversation, but Bee has always been a sweetheart when I talk to her, and of course Carrie is a living doll (and Dino is one damned lucky man). What a contrast between these three fine ladies and a certain other wife who has nothing but sour faces and glares for the fans and who would never condescend to a friendly conversation. I guess some women are just more confident in their men and aren't threatened by fans who have no interest in trying to bed their boys. Likewise the guys are always very friendly and talkative when we go to the ABS shows. I think they really appreciate the fact that we admire them as musicians in their own rights, not just as a backup band for Wu Bai, which so many people make the mistake of doing.

It was around 1:30 a.m. when things finally ended, after a kickass encore that even got me up dancing around a bit. It was far too late to catch the MRT home, so I stayed at Natari's place, waking up at 6:30 and heading home, where I fell back into bed for a few more hours. I was in kind of a daze most of the day yesterday and didn't do much at all. The house is filthy with cat hair and cat litter, and I really have to clean today! Really. I do. So, Singapore story has to wait.

Monday, October 02, 2006

I'm Leavin' on a Jet Plane

Taking off this afternoon for Singapore, back on Friday evening. Looking forward to Saturday evening and a fine performance from ABS. Also looking forward to the upcoming Wu Bai & China Blue pub shows on October 27 and 28, although not looking forward to queueing in line for three days, mostly alone since the others in the group have to work during the day :(

The new CD comes out this month, and I hope that means an autograph session. I have so many autographed CDs and other things, but not one them I actually got done myself. I think it's about time I stood in front of the guys on my own, huh?

Apologies to everyone I owe e-mail to. I'll eventually get around to it. I hope.

Monday, September 25, 2006

We're All Just a Bunch of Fruit

My dear friend Brandi sent this one to me last month, and I decided I liked it so much that it deserved a place here.

Women are like apples on trees. The best ones are at the top of the tree. Most men don't want to reach for the good ones because they are afraid of falling and getting hurt. Instead, they sometimes take the apples from the ground that aren't as good, but easy to get. The apples at the top think something is wrong with them, when in reality they're amazing. They just have to wait for the right man to come along, the one who is brave enough to climb all the way to the top of the tree. Share this with women who are good apples, even those who have already been picked.

Men are like a fine wine. They begin as grapes, and it's up to women to stomp the shit out of them until they turn into something acceptable to have dinner with.

Happy stomping, those of you who have grapes. And for those of you who are still hanging around the top of the tree, be thankful. You could be rotting into a sodden mush on the ground, within easy reach of some sour grape.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cops: Taipei

The police in Taipei drive around with the lights on the tops of their cars constantly turned on, revolving red and blue. I've often wondered just how they actually get offenders to stop when they wish them to. Now Johnny Neihu, the funniest writer at the Taipei Times, has cleared up some of the mystery.

Stop! Or I'll shoot you hesitantly

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Nag, nag, nag

Awright, awright. I'll write something! I've been getting a little nagging from friends who haven't seen anything new here in awhile. Sorry, but on top of still teaching English every day, I haven't had much excitement in my life to write about! But I can muster up a little bit now.

Best this is that this week, due to a visit from Singaporean friend, David, I got to have dinner with some of my favorite people: Natari, Charlene, Dino, Carrie, and another friend who must remain un-named for the time being. The bonus guest was Dino's son, Alex, who is here visiting from California. Nice kid, 18 years old, looks so much like his dad (despite the bleached blonde hair), and has eyelashes so long and thick that women everywhere (including Carried) were trying to figure out how to steal them. I won't be posting any photos of Alex, because I don't think it's a good idea to put the children of stars into the public eye, but here's a cute pic of David with Dino. Dino is demonstrating how he copes with frustration.

David is a huge fan of Dino's and is currently studying drumming. He was able to pick up a few tips from Dino during our evening out. He also scored a pair of Dino's drumsticks, the ones he used during the Singapore concert at the beginning of the month. As you see, Dino must have suffered a lot of frustration to leave the sticks in this condition!

After eating a little bit at Din Tai Feng, famous for their xiao long bao, we moved over to one of the whackiest restaurants I've ever seen: Indian Jurassic Park. You have to check out the photos of this place: Indian Jurassic Restaurant

It was a very noisy place, and rather smoky, but lots of fun. We had some tasty food there, including fried rice, deep-fried squid, Three Cup Chicken (三杯雞), some clams in a yummy sauce (炒海瓜子), some veggie (空心菜), and some fish. The fish was beautifully presented that I had to take a photo. If you can work your way through the Chinese at the above link, you can see some photos of other food. We of course also had beer.

I was happy to have some time to spend chatting with Dino's son. He was a little jet lagged, so he wasn't too lively, but he seemed to be enjoying himself. We share some of the same heritage, American Indian and Italian. And we've both lived in Wyoming, him in Laramie and me in Cheyenne. He's not too interested in becoming a drummer, but he might want to be an equestrian veterinarian when he grows up. He just graduated from high school, and now he's trying to figure out what he should study in college.

Anyway, that's about the only really fun thing I've done. My Korean friend, Kayun, has begun studying English with me and is coming twice a week. After class sometimes we watch movies, which is fun, especially now that I have the new Pioneer DVD player and surround-sound system. This week we watched a great Korean movie called "Welcome to Dongmakgol." A big thank-you to Cheryl for passing that one along to me. And last week I finally got to see "Old Boy," a movie I've had for over a year and a half but never watched. It was just as intense as all the reviews had said.

Let's see, what else? Well, my friend/student, Aaron, left for his year of study in the UK. His family invited me to a goodbye dinner, and the food was excellent. His mom and dad are both fantastic cooks, and I really appreciated them asking me to join the rest of the family that evening. I'm going to miss Aaron, and I hope he adapts well to life in England. At the end he said he really didn't want to go, but it was too late to change his mind.

I've started trading English lessons for Chinese ones. Ye Ying, one of the teachers who had been at CLD while I was there, is planning on going to Holland to study Chinese culture. Personally, I think that's a bit weird, going to a European country for Asian studies, but she said the school is famous for it's courses. She wants to improve her English, and my Chinese has been regressing, so we're doing a trade. It will be good for me to get back into the study habit before I start at Shi Da in December.

I'll be heading back to Singapore on October 2 for a three-day, four-night stay. I spent some time yesterday online making a list of places I want to see, and I'll mostly be alone on my journeys. But, that's how I like it! I was able to find a very inexpensive hotel (only $156US for four nights), so I won't be spending too much. However, I am a little miffed that I didn't know earlier that Wu Bai & China Blue would be in Macau for a show on 9/30, because I would have gone there instead! Dammit, they never make these announcements early enough. Also, my friend Maddy from Florida will be in Hong Kong while I'm in Singapore! Again, had she told me sooner, I would have gone back to Hong Kong so I could see her. Rats rats rats!

I've completely avoided discussing the political situation here in Taiwan, because I really do hate politics and politicians. I'll briefly say that a bunch of people who have their heads up their collective ass are currently doing a sit-in protest to try to convince the president, Chen Shui Bian, to step down. They're all riled up because of alleged corruption. I think they should read this informative editorial in the Taipei Times: Taiwan's Color-Coded View of Corruption

If I have to choose between two evils, I'll take the lesser, and Ah Bian certainly qualifies as that. No, he's not perfect, but he at least wants Taiwan to be an independent, democrat country, while the Kuomintang would rather give it back to China and lose all the freedom we have. Idiots. And I can't even begin to explain how incredibly stupid Taiwan's vice president is. Root around in the editorial archives of the Times for some interesting stuff, if you have the time.

I'm done now. I have to prepare for my afternoon class now. I'll try to be better about posting, but no promises!

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Unimportant Notes

Just a few things I think about and then forget to write about, so I'm finally doing it.

1. I'm making more money in interest now than when I moved here, even though I've spent a lot of money. This confuses me. However, it also pleases me, so I hope it continues.

2. Despite the extremely warm summer and my being at home far more than I was last year and hence using the air conditioner much more, my electric bill for July and August was only $1849NT, or about $56US. Can't complain.

3. I'm buying a new DVD player and a surround sound system. My treasured Malata all-region DVD player began having issues and refuses to play a DVD all the way to the end. So, I decided to go ahead and buy a new one that is bundled with a home theater sound system. I'm tired of listening to Wu Bai concerts through the lousy TV speakers.

4. I finally sold my little refrigerator this week. Did I mention I'd bought a new, larger one? Can't remember. But I did, because I wanted a freezer that I could actually put things into.

5. My Sunday student canceled our classes for the month of September because she's a wedding consultant and has too much going on. Bye-bye $225US. Crap on a rope. Guess this month I'm not making any money, since the guy I've been teaching three days a week is leaving for the UK.

6. Charlene passed along the great news that ABS will be performing on October 7. Coolio, since I'll be back from the next trip to Singapore on October 6. Let's hope they don't change the date to the 6th, because rushing from the airport to the club would be a pain in the ass.

7. The Demons from Hell upstairs have been suspiciously quiet lately. I think perhaps they've started going to school and now are forced to spend their evenings doing homework rather than screaming and pounding and running back and forth. Either that or their parents finally cracked and killed the both of 'em.

That's all, folks.

Singapore Rocks to Wu Bai & China Blue

Let me begin by saying that I understand why a discount airline is called a discount airline. I flew Jetstar Asia to Singapore because the price was right. That price did not include a meal. Oh no, if I wanted food, I had to pay for my meal (and beverage), and no food not purchased on the plane was allowed to be consumed.

Fine, then, I'll buy it. I hadn't eaten since around 1:00 p.m. on Friday, and it was now coming up on 8:00 p.m., and I was starved. The food cart starts down the aisle, not far from me, because I'm in row 8. I can smell it, and I'm getting hungrier by the minute. There were three choices on the menu: Egg Noodle with Seaweed Roll and Mixed Vegetables, Fried Rice with Chicken Teriyaki and Sauteed Vegetables, and Nasi Rampai with Sambal Fish and Sayur Lodeh. The last item was completely incomprehensible to me, and the seaweed roll put me off the first, so chicken teriyaki it would be. The cart reached the row in front of me. Suddenly, the plane began bucking as it hit turbulence, and the captain ordered the crew to return to their seats. The cart was whisked away. Nooooo!!!! I'm so hungry!!!! Finally, after 10 or 15 minutes, the cart returns, and it's my turn. "I'll have the chicken teriyaki." The pretty, perky flight attendant made a little moue. "Oh dear, I'm so sorry, but we're out of that." Huh? How is this possible? I'm in row 8 for crying out loud! "Uh, fine, then I guess I'll have the fish thing." Again with the moue. "Oh dearie me, so sorry, I've just given the last one to my colleague. We have egg noodle with seaweed roll." "Well, what exactly is that?" "It's egg noodle with seaweed roll." "Never mind, can I just buy some nuts and some water?" I'm not gonna pay $5.00 US for something that sounds yucky. If they served it free, I'd try it, but I'm NOT paying for it.

The nuts didn't go far, and about an hour and a half before landing, the cart came around again. "Would you like to purchase a beverage?" a different perky, pretty girl asked. "Food?" I said hopefully, hoping to score some cookies. "Oh, gosh, gee, I'm so sorry, there is none." And then, as the cart returned to the front, at a speed only slightly slower than the speed of light, I heard the guy who was pushing it saying under his breath, "Drinks? Snacks? Drinks? Snacks?" but before my brain had a chance to say, "Hey...wait a minute, snacks is food!" the cart was gone. WTF? Stupid perky flight attendant doesn't know that nuts, candy bars, and cookies are in the FOOD group?

So, I landed in Singapore ready to chew on the arm of the person in front of me at immigration. Luckily they're quite speedy there, and I was into the baggage check area in no time, grabbing my bag and going out into the mob of waiting people, wondering how the hell I'd find Tona and Lee Ying. I only had to look around for a couple of minutes, though, before spotting them, and the first words out of my mouth were "FEED ME NOW!" We jumped into the car, where David had been waiting for us, and off we went for my first taste of Singapore food. That food was prata with chicken curry, and it was sheer heaven. The restaurant was Muslim Indian, I believe, and was quite crowded even at midnight. I managed not to faint away while we waited for the food. After the meal we drove to Tona and David's place (check out the nice view from their living room window), dropping Lee Ying at her stop on the way, and then hit the sack.

Saturday Tona and David took me for breakfast to a place that serves pork rib soup, known in Singapore at Bak Kut Teh. This is a marvelous broth with lots of roasted garlic and strips of lean pork, along with some sort of green veggie. They told me this is one of Wu Bai's favorite things to eat in Singapore (and this is a photo of his favorite shop), and I see why. I ended up buying some of the do-it-yourself seasoning packets at the grocery store to use here at home. After breakfast we drove around, with Tona pointing out various sites to me. We stopped briefly in Chinatown and walked around, but it was pretty hot, and Tona is five months pregnant and tires easily, so we didn't push it. We went to a shopping mall to meet Angela and Takasan for just a little while, and we went around to some used bookstores but didn't find anything good. Then later in the afternoon we collected Lee Ying and went to dinner for another Singapore specialty, Hai Nan Chicken Rice (along with some fried tofu and veggies and beer for me). The chicken is cooked in a seasoned broth and then allowed to cool, and the rice is cooked in the broth, the special seasoning giving the rice a great flavor. A light soy sauce is poured on the chicken, which is on a bed of cucumbers when it's served. Very yummy, and I bought the fixings for that, too.

After dinner it was off to the concert venue, picking up Lee Yang on the way, where we met up with Angela, Lilian, and the other Singapore fans, most of whom I didn't know (and my memory sucks, so I don't even remember everyone's names). We didn't have to wait outside long before they let us in, and we found our seats pretty close to the front. The front four rows had not even been available to the public for purchase, all reserved for special folks. Too bad, because those folks didn't even bother to stand up during the show. Lame arseholes. Why don't they let the real fans have the good seats?

The first part of the concert was Zhang Zhen Yue and Free Night, along with guest MC Hotdog. I don't mind their music, especially "Wo Ai Tai Mei" and the "oh Mama, wo yao qian" song, but ZZY was a bit down that evening. Not surprising since a couple weeks before his girlfriend (or close friend, depending on the source) committed suicide. It's a wonder he was performing at all. The crowd was rather subdued, and it was obvious that most of us were there for Wu Bai & China Blue.

And then the real fun began, with Da Mao hitting the stage and sitting at his keyboards, and then Wu Bai coming on for the opening number, Summer Night Wind. The rest of the concert was typical Wu Bai & China Blue, great performances, Wu Bai forgetting song lyrics (he blew White Dove soooo badly!), and Dino cutting up in the back while DJ eTurn was spinning his records - Dino was pretending to spin his cymbals. The crowd was mostly standing (and that's a no-no in Singapore), at least where we were (except for those fuddy-duddies in the front rows), and we were all singing at the top of our lungs and waving our light sticks. This concert was like a combination of the Love Power tour of 2004 and the Li Hai concert of last year, a good mix, a lot of favorite songs that I can sing along with. Doesn't matter how many times I hear the same songs in concert, I still love 'em.

The show was too short, of course, and the finale was Wu Bai & China Blue together with ZZY's band and MC Hotdog, a fun song, one I'm not familiar with. Then it was over, and we left. We hung around in front for awhile, then walked over toward the car. We noticed some fans waiting at the back, so we drifted over that way, saw some of ZZY's band come out, then Dino, Da Mao, and Xiao Zhu walked out the back door. I yelled Dino's name, he looked around and saw me, then came over to the barricade, shaking hands with fans and signing autographs. Finally Wu Bai and wife, along with other staff members, came out and boarded the little bus that would take them back to the hotel. We waved as they went by, but I'm not sure if anyone waved back, because I was just noticing that Miss Chen wouldn't even look our way and acknowledge our presence. Hmph.

Sunday the guys flew home, and Lilian and Angela went to the airport to see them off. They got to get their photos with Wu Bai and say a few words. I just can't make myself chase after the guy, you know? I mean, going to the show is one thing, but showing up at airports or hotels just feels wrong for me. If it had just been Dino, Da Mao, and Xiao Zhu, I would have gone, though, because they're just down-to-earth cool guys.

Sunday I went off with Lee Ying to meet Angela, Lilian, Eileen, and Li Yan for lunch, which we had at a shopping mall. I've been online buddies with Li Yan for about six years, and this was the first time I'd gotten to meet her face to face. We all hung around chatting a bit, then Lilian, Li Yan, and I headed off on our own. All we did was go to Carrefour at that mall and hit a couple of DVD shops. Then Lilian drove me to the airport so I could meet up with Tona, who was dropping David off for his flight (he works for Singapore Airlines). Tona and I went for dinner, choosing satay, both chicken and beef. Another yummy food! Then we went to a grocery store and ended up finding a book exhibition that had some great deals on used books (I bought four). We were pretty tired, so we just went back to Tona's and kicked back, watching a bit of TV (did you know there's a restaurant in Australia that's a Clydesdale-drawn carriage? check it out, and talking.

Monday morning I was up bright and early, packing all my stuff, and Tona dropped me off at the airport around 11:00. We wanted more pork rib soup for breakfast, but the place was closed, so we decided to wait for next time. I grabbed some sushi at the airport. I was seated in row 2 this time, and I was able to actually get the chicken teriyaki. Too bad, because it was simply awful, half cold and really tasteless. Next month when I go back I'll definitely stuff myself at the airport before boarding the plane!

Landed at almost 6:00 p.m., got on the bus back to Taipei at 6:25, finally hit home a little after 8:00, tired but happy. Now I'm just waiting for the new CD to be released and more concerts!