Thursday, March 30, 2006

Cost of Living

I thought you might be interested to know what I paid for basic expenses during my first year in Taiwan. It might be a little depressing for those of you living in the US! Amounts are in US dollars, not Taiwan ones ;)

Rent: $5,812 (US house payment was $8,220 annually, with another $1,300 for property taxes.)

Electric bill: $192 (average annual cost in the US, for me, was $300 [yeah, some people pay that per month but they're energy hogs, and I wasn't], which doesn't include the propane and wood I used for heat in the winter - that was expensive! I use electric heat here, when necessary.)

Water bill: $50 (average annual cost in the US was $240)

Home Phone/ADSL bill: $220 (average annual cost in the US was $216 just for the phone line plus $140 for dial-up Internet service, total $356)

Mobile Phone bill: $108 (average annual cost in US was $480, and I never used the damned phone, either)

Gas for cooking/hot water: $75 (I can't remember how much I paid for propane in the US, just that it was higher in the winter. I know it's a darned sight more than what I pay here.)

Transportation costs: $640 (I probably spent a minimum of $1,000 per year on gas in the US, if not more, plus auto insurance, car payment, maintenance, and registration. It's way cheaper to get around here, and someone else drives me!)

Tuition fee: $1800 (I think roughly the same price as the class at Chico State, but that class was only two days a week, and my class here is five days a week. So, I'm getting more for the money.)

I'm sure I spent more money on food and books than anything else here. I know I spend more on food than I should, because I keep buying overpriced imported stuff. Little by little, I'm cutting that out. This year I'm going to try to be really thrifty, but there's no way I can stop buying books.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

To tired to blog

Well, I've been spending a lot of time teaching these days, and that coupled with trying to do my own studying has resulted in 1) a lack of interesting things to post and 2) no energy to post even if there should be interesting things to post.

I did go to Mojo's farewell show Sunday night at Luxy, which was, as expected, quite awesome. Guoxi was in rare form, and his guitar playing was sweeeeet. We got there early enough to get in line up toward the front, so we were able to snag good tables right up at the stage, on the left. Although we couldn't see Robert, the drummer, at all, we did get Mo the bassist doing solos in front of us frequently, and Guoxi popped over quite a bit, too. During the encore set, when Guoxi started to cry, the rest of us joined in. Very emotional evening. It was nice to see that Wu Bai sent a huge bouquet of flowers to the band. His wife sent Guoxi an SMS saying that Wu Bai had really wanted to go to the show, but they had been in Japan, and they only got back to Taipei at 10:00 p.m. on Sunday, and by then the show was over.

I'm going to Hong Kong on April 16 to visit my friend, Cheryl, for the week, and I'm also hoping to meet up with some of my other friends there. It should be a fun week of food, shopping, and movie watching. Getting together with Cheryl is always fun, and I'm sure we'll find all sorts of trouble to get into. We'll probably drive her boyfriend nuts.

Oh, here's something pretty cool. I bought an old postcard on eBay because it's a photo of my mom! Back in the 1940s she was in a country band called Dusty Miller and the Colorado Wranglers. The woman who owned the postcard had discovered my photos of mom and the band online and had left a message for me, saying she had this postcard and would be selling it on eBay. I found it, bid on it, and won it. I think Mom would be tickled to death if she were still alive, knowing that her image had made it to eBay!

I skipped school today because last night I went with Guoxi, Hope, and two of their friends for a very, very late dinner. It was after 11:00 p.m. when we started to eat. We went to a place that does all kinds of shrimp, complete with legs and heads, served in metal pots, and ate our fill there. Then we drove up to Yangming Shan, to a very fancy restaurant high up on the mountainside, overlooking Taipei. The night scenery was great, but they had a minimum order per person of $300NT (around $10 US). I got a cup of coffee ($160NT, and boy is was a small cup) and some ice cream with fruit ($200NT), while the others ordered Coscto-purchased fried mozarella sticks and onion rings, along with french fries and tea. Well, that still wasn't enough, so we had to order a second plate of fries before we could leave. I didn't get to bed until 2:30 a.m., and I just couldn't get out of bed at 7:00 a.m. So, here I am, playing hooky.

Now it's lunch time, and I have to go find some food, because my cupboards are bare.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Happy Anniversary!

Hey, it's been one year since I arrived at my new home here in Taiwan. The time has gone by so quickly, too. I love Taiwan even more now than I did before I lived here, and I'm hoping all my plans come to fruition and that I am able to stay here forever and ever and ever and ever =)

PS - teaching a child is not easy. I think I prefer adults. Actually, I really prefer handsome Asian guy adults, but those are difficult to come by. The search continues.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Good Mojo

OK, so I have this friend named Guoxi, who is a kickass guitar player and who has a cool band named Mojo. At the beginning of February, when Guoxi got back from his month-long trip to New York, he began to record his part of the CD the band had been working on, and it's finally all done. Last weekend he inivted me to go with him to film a couple MTVs to promote the CD. I left home at 9:00 a.m. that day and didn't get back home until 12:30 a.m.! I had no idea what a long, involved process it was to film these things.

We started out by meeting up with two directors (and I only remember the name of one, Ah Mu), Ah Mu's girlfriend Elisa, and Mo the bass player, then all of us driving way up into the hills to the south of Taipei, a beautiful area called Bitan. We ended up at the home of a very cool guy named Alan, who has his own band, Chicken Rice. I'm telling you, listening to rockabilly in Chinese is an experience you need to have! I seriously need to buy their CD. And for those of you who are Wu Bai fans, Alan is the boyfriend of adorable little Mavis Fann, the girl who sings the duet "Sea Island" with Wu Bai on the "Two-Faced Man" CD.

Alan's home was spiffy, more like a huge converted garage/warehouse than a real house. The walls were decorated with drawings and were painted in different colors, and the studio walls were plastered with pages from music magazines, depicting the greatest guitarists of the world. Jimi Hendrix had his own little section, too. The floors were covered with Asian carpets, and a huge Bugs Bunny hung from the ceiling.

I spent some time wandering around outside, because the weather was so perfect, and the flowers were in bloom everywhere. Butterflies fluttered, grasshoppers jumped, and small lizards (I think) rustled in the undergrowth. I took a lot of photos during the day, and you can check them out at

I was happy I'd brought a book with me, because for much of the time there wasn't anything to see and nothing to do. Filming a music video is a tedious task, especially this kind, which was a lot of animated sequences. This means taking frame by frame shots with the guys moving only slightly in between each one. This takes a long, long, long time. I eventually fell asleep on the couch in the living room!

As evening set it and darkness fell, the air turned quite cold, so Alan fired up the barrel outside and lit his tiki torches. This barrel has seen better days. The walls are so thin I could actually see the redness from the embers through the metal! There were some extra logs propped up against the outside, and they actually ended up bursting into flame, whereupon another guy, whose name I never got, tossed them into the fire. He was nice, and we chatted quite a bit. He's an artist, draws comic books, originally from the Philipines but moved to Taiwan when he was eight. He spoke English as well as Chinese, so our conversation flipped between the two languages.

Alan cooked up some tasty fried rice and some spinach for us, and after we ate, we took off. Guoxi had already headed back to Taipei, to our next destination, so I rode back into town with Mo, the bassist, and got to know him better. He'd spent a month in the US on a trip, and together we bemoaned the facts that there are no Taco Bells in Taiwan and that we both miss Cheetos a lot.

We pulled up at our stop - Mayday's (五月天) studio. Mayday is a hot band here in Taiwan, and there was a crowd of young girls hanging around outside, a good indication that at least one of the band members was on site. Sure enough, it was the lead singer, Ah Xin. He was watching a Hong Kong movie (some cop film with Ekin Cheng and Aaron Kwok) while at the same time playing with the computer. There was a very fluffy Persian cat, which promptly attempted to bite and scratch when I offered to pet her. Extremely pissy cat, not the least bit friendly, with an arrogant attitude that fit the arrogant look on her face.

Mayday's studio was interesting, with Beatles memorabilia everywhere. They are obviously much loved and admired by the band. There was also a large poster of Wu Bai in the office, of which I heartily approved. Since I wasn't able to stay in the room where they were filming because I would have ended up on camera, I just read for awhile, talked a little with Elisa, who was also banished, and finally just stuck on my headphones and listened to music.

At the very end of the evening, Mayday's sound engineer, Conrad, showed up with his charming wife Marineha. She and I got to talking, and she asked me if I was interested in teaching an eight-year-old girl. Conrad and Marineha were preparing to return to Switzerland, and this child was in need of a new teacher. So, I said I'd try, and I went to meet with her mom, Jenny, on Wednesday. I ended up getting the job, so I'll be teaching Amy twice a week, for about an hour and a half each time. She's a cute kid, well-behaved, and seems bright. I'm hoping I can handle this, since I simply don't have any experience dealing with children!

Finally everything was done, and Guoxi drove me home, where I promptly fell into bed with only a few token minutes of playing with DZ. What a long day....

Last Sunday evening Nat, Charlene, Caroline, and I went to Riverside Pub for Mojo's performance. The place was jammed so full it was ridiculous (what safety regs? what maximum capacity?), and I couldn't really see the band perform. The new CD was on sale, along with Mojo T-shirts, which we of course bought. The guys from Mayday showed up (all except for Ah Xin, who went home with the wifey after the Wang Lee Hom concert, which was also that evening), and the banter between them and Guoxi was hysterical. I had to duck out at 11:00 p.m. in order to catch the last MRT back, so I didn't get to see the final songs. Just as I was getting ready to turn out the light, the phone rang. It was Charlene, excitedly telling me to open up the CD and check the end of the lyrics book, where the guys thanked everyone. Awww, too sweet, Guoxi thanked me! I'm glad I could help him with his English so he'd get his job as an airline pilot. Still can't figure out why he'd rather fly planes than be a big rock star, though....

And finally, for those of you who have been concerned, I'm doing OK. It took a lot of tears, a lot of thinking, a lot of talking and discussing, but the bottom line is that Hiyoshi and I are still best buds, he's still my little bro, I'm not pissed off at him (or anyone else) anymore, and life is fine. And the answer to the often-unasked question is no, I am not in love with Hiyoshi (and trust me, I examined my heart closely and seriously). I love him, he's a great friend, but I just couldn't fall in love with him. I admit to a certain amount of lust (I mean, sheesh, look at the guy, he's gorgeous), but not to the point where I'd really be willing to enter into a physical relationship with him. It's simply an entertaining thought, and one that will never be acted upon, despite his good looks (OK, there's a tiny bit of regret here, but only a tiny bit, honest). He has his problems, sometimes he doesn't think about things too clearly, he often doesn't listen carefully, and he truly needs someone always watching out for him. I'm very willing to do this as a friend, but I could never tolerate it in a boyfriend. If I ever decide to get another guy in my life, it will be someone who is stronger than I, someone I can't push around too much, someone who can support me when I need it. So far I don't feel the need for someone like that, so I'm staying single and happy. I get enough companionship from Hiyoshi, and maybe after he's gone back to Japan I'll want to find a guy, but.....I've been single for five years now, and I'm kinda used to it! And besides, Wu Bai is still married, so I guess I just have to keep waiting for him. Kidding, I'm kidding. I don't think I'd really like him. Most men are better as fantasy.....

Speaking of my best love, tomorrow I'm going to see Wu Bai & China Blue at a press conference, yeah! It's not a huge deal, doubt we'll get a chance to talk to any of them, but just getting to see Wu Bai makes my little heart happy. I've heard they're working on a new CD, which is fabulous news, and I hope there will be a few small shows in Taipei in the coming months. (3/20 - I went, took some photos, posted them here:

Man, see what happens when I haven't written in awhile? Just comes bubbling out, can't stop it.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Wave of a wand....

Certain recent unhappy events have been removed my blog in the hopes that they will eventually be removed from my memory. Thanks to everyone who sent me an electronic pat on the back with a "there, there."

I actually have an interesting post to make, once I finally have enough time at home to do so. I hope I don't forget it all by then.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

How I Spent My First Birthday in Taiwan

An Essay by 500Fan =)

Yay, today is my birthday! Thank you to the friends who sent me online greetings and to Natari and Charlene for spending the whole afternoon with me. And to Vivi, the only person to call me with birthday wishes today. Dad sent a card, though, which was great.

I met up with Nat and Charlene at 2:30 (they had to work until then), and then we went for lunch at the beef noodle souprestaurant that was voted the 2nd best in Taipei. It was wonderful - I love beef noodle soup. When the weather is cold, I can eat beef noodle soup every day. Of course Nat and Charlene treated me, which was even better!

We make the mistake of driving to Yang Ming Shan National Park to see the spring flowers. Mistake because it was nothing but a massive traffic jam, with it taking us 45 minutes to drive a very short distance, after which we simply gave up, because it was soon going to be dark, and even if we managed to get to the flowers, we wouldn't be able to see them. We just turned around and headed back to Neihu and the Carrefour there so I could pick up some cat food, big bottles of soda, and other rather heavy things that it would have been no fun to carry from the store home. Always take advantage of your friend's car whenever possible.

Got back to my place and unloaded the car, and Charlene and I went upstairs with the groceries. When Nat showed up, she had a wonderful birthday cake with her! It was delicious, too, not like some of the desserts here in Taiwan, which only look good, but taste bad. The three of us ate more than half the cake (hey, we didn't have dinner, you know?) and sat around talking for awhile. They left about an hour ago, and my stomach is groaning from all the food I packed into it.