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.