Monday, December 24, 2007

'Tis the Night Before Christmas

Merry Christmas everyone! It's almost 7:00 p.m. on Christmas Eve. I spent my afternoon making a huge pot of minestrone soup, which I'll freeze in batches to provide quick and healthy meals for myself in January (that's when I am determined to get back on the diet wagon, which I fell off of last month). I think I'm going to kick back and watch my favorite Christmas movie, "A Christmas Story" later on. I've seen it a million times, but it's always so much fun.

DZ and I have settled in nicely to our new home. She's still opening drawers, sometimes pulling all my socks out in the middle of the night. Don't know why, she never did that before. I now close my bedroom door when I leave in the mornings so she can't get in. And one night I heard her chewing on the tape that holds the plastic piece that closes off the open side of the end table where I keep my autographed Wu Bai stuff. She knows that's a huge no-no. I ran out of the bedroom yelling at her. She knew if I caught her she was in for a spanking, so she ran into the kitchen.
She jumped up on the stove, then up on the chrome rack, then on top of the bookcase - then she jumped up into the recessed lighting area! She started running around the whole room like she was on was a race track, meowing loudly. I swear, it was so damned funny, and I tried so hard not to laugh, because I was pissed at her! Oh jeez, I wish I'd been able to get video of it. I finally had to climb on the sofa and grab her when she went by to get her down. And yeah, she got her spanking. My Wu Bai stuff is sacred, thou shalt not touch it!

I have class tomorrow as usual, no Christmas holiday here. I'll go have lunch with Nat and Charlene after school, then I'll just come home and hang out with DZ. Wednesday a bunch of us are going to the all-you-can-eat pizza buffet for lunch, and that will be my Christmas celebration.

Next weekend I have four days off, but I'll need to spend a lot of that time preparing for my semester final, a written exam on Wednesday and an oral exam on Thursday. This happened last semester, had time off for Mid-Autumn Festival and spent the whole time studying! Grrr. And no week off after the semester ends on January 4, either. Because we get two weeks in February, we have to make up one of the weeks now, so it's back to class on Monday the 7th.

It's looking like Carol will definitely be coming for a visit in March! We'll meet up in Hong Kong for Wu Bai & China Blue's two concerts then she'll come back with me, maybe for a week (or longer?). I thought I'd be off that week, but I was wrong, the semester ends March 28, so I'll still have to go to school in the mornings and play in the afternoons.

I went to the final round of concerts for Taiwan (making my total five this year, yeah!) on December 15, sat in the front row, really close to the stage. It was the same basic show as the other three I attended, so I didn't see the need to write much about it. The special thing about this time was that friends came from all over - David, Lee Ying, and Lee Yang from Singapore; Ah Wing from Hong Kong; Elsa from Macau; Yasuyo from Japan; Johnny from Malaysia. It was great to see them all, and of course there was a lot of good food involved. After the show, Charlene, Ah Wing, Yasuyo, and I went out for dim sum, and we called Nat to come join us. She is truly a great friend - she gave me a ride home afterwards so I didn't have to pay for a cab! That was a very unexpected and pleasant surprise.

Well, OK, now it's 7:30, and if I want to get that movie watched, I'd better go. Happy holidays to everyone!

Sunday, December 02, 2007


My blog entry title is from a Wu Bai & China Blue song, and it means A Place of Silence. I'm still incredibly amazed at the peace and quiet I've found at my place in Danshui, and I do feel at times that I'm living in a place of silence. It's so quiet that I can now hear the weird noises the refrigerator makes, and I never could before! Once in awhile I hear the people upstairs, but it's rare and never late, late at night. Since my apartment isn't on the street side, there's very little outside noise that filters in. I finally got photos posted today, so please drop in and take a look at my home sweet home. Another thing that worked out absolutely perfectly was that the gas tank at the old place was just about empty, so I was going to have to buy more, but I made it without having to, and the tank at the new place is a full one, so I'm set for another three months.

DZ has been a bad girl lately. I don't know how she manages it, but she gets the dresser drawer opened - it's full of heavy stuff! Determined little bugger, that cat. She also jumped up on the Wu Bai showcase by getting on the small dresser, and then onto the wardrobe, knocked one of the stuffed sharks to the floor, and chewed up the tag. She jumped on top of the entertainment center by first jumping onto the chrome rack in the kitchen, and knocked over the Kirin beer stein Kayun gave me. I know she walked around up there, because I saw her footprints on the center shelves. She might find herself locked up in the spare bedroom during the day when I'm at school if she keeps this up! I'm being very careful where I put posters this time, hoping they are all out of her reach.

OK, so in America when you moved out of an apartment, the landlord expects you to leave it spic and span, and if it's in less than perfect condition, you're going to lose a lot of your deposit, maybe even all of it. I moved out of my place where I'd been for eight years, and I'd even paid to have carpet installed and some other upgrades, and I didn't get a penny back! So, when I saw the horrible condition my apartment walls were in after I took down the posters (who knew that sticky stuff would be THAT strong?), I assumed I'd need to paint the place before getting my deposit back. I even asked a friend if he'd like a job doing just that and was prepared to pay him for his bus ticket here and the labor. It shocked the hell out of me when the landlady told me not to worry about it, she was going to have it painted anyway, and she didn't care about the walls. On top of that, I didn't even have to clean! I'd already swept the place, with help from Shannon last week, but I figured I'd have to mop thoroughly and clean up the kitchen a bit, so I went back yesterday. I had just started, and the landlady came by, told me she didn't want me to bother with it, that she thought it was already very clean and that after the painters left, she'd do it herself. Whoa. She handed me back 100% of my deposit, about $930US, so I felt as if I'd won the lottery. I'd already kissed that money goodbye!

My new landlords are so very nice. They have an air conditioner that they traded to me for two of my little window ones, and a friend has another one he said I could use for free. I'm not going to get them installed until March or April, though, don't need them right now. I was shocked that no one was willing to buy used air conditioners for the low price of only $46US. I paid almost $200 apiece for those things, dammit! So, I gave the old landlady one of them, couldn't bear to just throw it out.

I ended up paying $8000NT for moving (around $248US), and it was worth it. Funck and Carrie helped me one evening, and we moved quite a few large boxes and some small furniture, and it was a royal pain. From old apartment into elevator then into van (a close distance), then from van to new apartment (long distance). Poor Funck, he probably didn't know what he was in for when I asked him if he was free to help. It was great that Carrie had a big van from her work, because we were able to haul a lot. I'm sure if we hadn't gotten that load here, I'd have had to pay the movers about $3000NT more for one more truck. We had two trucks, one small and one large, and they were packed until you couldn't get one more thing in. We started at 2:00 p.m. and had it all into the new place and them gone by about 7:30 p.m. I immediately started unpacking, then Carrie dropped by a little after 8:00 and stayed until about 11:00 or so. After she left, I started again and stopped at 1:30 a.m. Then I got up at 7:00 a.m. on Saturday and worked basically non-stop until 6:00 p.m. Talk about exhausted! After an hour or so, I did a bit more, but then gave up. So, I've been doing it bit by bit this last week, and now it's all in order, at least as far as I can go without another cabinet. I hope whatever the landlord has to loan me will be able to fit, need to get him here to look and see my setup.

Charlene and Natari have been working their asses off lately, sometimes stuck at the office until midnight or later, because their boss has been opening a lot of new restaurants. I'm telling you, Taiwan people work harder than anyone else, and they don't get overtime pay for it, either. You just try to get Americans to work 80 hours per week for $800 to $1860 a month (that's the average salary, office worker to manager)! Ain't gonna happen. I sure hope both of them get a really nice, fat Chinese New Year bonus in February, because they deserve it. So far neither one has had any time to come see the new place, so hopefully next weekend they'll be able to.

Hopefully I'll be able to go to Hong Kong mid March for Wu Bai & China Blue's concert. Unfortunately, the shows are on a Thursday and Friday, and that Friday is the last day of the semester, which means the final exam will likely be on one of those days. I may not make it to the Thursday show, but maybe I can get to the Friday one, if I can find an afternoon flight. I'd need to go in April anyway in order to extend my multiple-entry six-month visa, so going a month early won't be too bad, and at least I'll have a purpose for going. Plus, I'm off that whole next week between semesters, and Carol just maybe will be able to come for the Hong Kong show and then here to hang out with me! Another nice things about living here is that the landlord's mom also lives in this complex, and she'll come feed DZ for me when I'm gone. I met her yesterday when she came by to show me how to turn on the gas stove (not the same at the other one, didn't know about the safety lighting feature that keeps kids from getting burned), and she's really sweet.

I've walked to the MRT station a couple of times in the mornings, takes about 30 minutes. I think I'll continue to do that when the weather is nice, get a bit of exercise. I've not been good with the diet lately, eating too much junk and not walking much, so I need to cut that out. I want to start using the exercise room here in the afternoons, too. No one else uses it, so I'll have it all to myself. It's very bad that right outside the front entrance of the building is a little stand that sells deep-fried chicken nuggets, extremely tasty. And the grocery store is right there as well, making it far too easy to buy beer and potato chips. Must not allow self to indulge too much! Must not, must not, must not. Concert coming up in two weeks, must try hard to shave off a couple more pounds before then.

Well, OK, I think that's enough for now, and I really need to get cracking on homework. Toodles!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Moving is a Pain in the ASS!

Brief update to let you know I'm still alive. Am all moved in to the new place, and I totally love it. Have managed to get most of my things put away, but still have three large suitcases of crap and no place to put it. Leaving it in the suitcases is OK for now, since it's all stuff I don't use much, but I gotta move it eventually. Landlord has some extra cupboards he can loan me, so need to find out what size and see if they'll fit. Will have photos posted soon, waiting until it looks nice - and also for the Wu Bai & China Blue posters to be re-hung. It ain't the same without them.

This place is so friggin' quiet compared to the old apartment, what a difference. No more waiting until hellacious brats upstairs go to bed at 11:00 p.m. or later, no more suffering all evening listening to them screaming and running and dropping steel bowling balls. I LOVE MY NEW APARTMENT!

Crazy busy due to move and homework and still need to go clean old place on Saturday, yuck.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Moving to California in Two Weeks

Isn't life strange? In March 2005 my friend Nat signed the contract for my apartment on March 6, and I moved in on March 22, coming from California to Taiwan. Yesterday, on November 6, I signed the contract for my new apartment, and I'll be moving in on November 22! And isn't it funny, the name of the new apartment complex is California Community. This whole thing just tickled me, still here in Taiwan but I'll be living in California again.

It was pouring rain and incredibly windy yesterday when Shannon and I got to Danshui to go look at the apartment. The ad said it was only a 12-minute walk from the station, but judging by the map, we knew that was impossible. After a half an hour walk, mostly uphill, we arrived at the building, completely drenched. The complex is huge, four large buildings around a central area that has a big swimming pool and children's play areas. The apartment is on the 9th floor (I can't recall how many floors in all, maybe 16), and it has a very nice view. It's smaller than my current place, only two bedrooms and no actual dining area, plus only two small balconies instead of the two very large and one small one I have now. But the lighting is awesome, with loads of indirect lighting as well as direct lighting, and the kitchen is nice and big.

The bathroom is miniscule, a tub and a toilet crammed together, with the sink in a separate area outside, rather like many hotels have. Not a problem for me, less to clean, is how I look at it.

I'm not really sure all my furniture will fit, and there's not one closet in the whole place. That's one thing I find incredibly odd about Taiwan apartments, most of them don't have built-in closets. People buy cabinets and wardrobes, or sometimes they have closets built in when they buy a place (like my current pad has two large ones with overhead storage space as well), but you don't get any sort of storage space at all in the apartment! Also, there are no air conditioners in this apartment, which is fine now because it's winter, but come summer I'll have to shell out more money for air con, because the ones I bought for this apartment won't work in the new one. The windows are not the same, so I'll have to buy the kind that half of it is wall mounted on the inside and half is mounted on the outside.

The photo below will be my bedroom, it's the largest. The second room will have the computer and the extra bed, unless I decide to put the computer in my bedroom and a lot of my bedroom furniture in the extra room. We'll see. I'll sure miss the huge built-in desk with shelves and drawers that the current apartment has. I won't be able to display all my cool Wu Bai & China Blue stuff!
The complex has, in addition to the pool, an exercise room with treadmills and weight machines (no more excuses why I'm not exercising!), a squash court, a dance studio (costs extra for a teacher and classes), a reading room, a basketball court, pool and ping pong tables, a movie room, and a meeting room. There's a 24-hour security guard, and I will no longer have to chase the garbage truck, as there is a central trash collection area in the basement, and I can throw it away when it's convenient for me. There's also a generator, so if the power goes out, we'll still have it. Doesn't happen too often, but I do recall the day I was stuck in the elevator for 10 minutes in the middle of summer and thought I'd die. There are also numerous shops and food stands within a few minutes walk, a bus stop right outside the main door with 10 different lines, a bus every three minutes, meaning a quick ride to Danshui MRT station. The landlord is going to draw me a map showing me the shorter way to walk, which really is about 12-15 minutes, piece of cake. More exercise for me, that's a good thing. The apartment is also within walking distance of Tamkang University, where I hope to be enrolled next year (keep those fingers crossed).

The best two things: the rent is $3500NT per month less than what I pay now, so I'll save about $100US per month (can you imagine renting a nice apartment in California USA for $370 per month? I can't.) And we went upstairs to inquire if the apartment above was infested with noisy children, and I can cheerfully report that there is a family with one 7-year-old boy, and their next door neighbor (of whom we made the inquiry) said they are quiet. But if they aren't, I can call the managers, and they will go talk to them, an option I do not have where I am now. Gosh, maybe I'll be able to get a good night's sleep! Also, according to the ad, this house has absolutely fabulous feng shui, so I'm assured of a prosperous future and a happy life - yeah!

I have a lot of packing to do, and I'm not looking forward to shelling out big bucks for a mover, but it's impossible to move it myself. Hopefully I can enlist the help of friends to move the smaller stuff and just pay to move the big things, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I'm sure hoping I won't be required to paint the place I'm leaving, just clean it up nicely. I suppose if she wants me to paint, I'll tell her to take it out of the deposit, I don't have time for that.

So, anyone wanna buy an air conditioner? Make you a hell of a deal.....

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Round One: Tainan Concert

Note: Original post was written on 10/28/07 in Chinese, just now getting around to writing the English version (sorry!). So, the "yesterday" was actually 10/27. :)

For the past few months I've been eagerly awaiting the Wu Bai & China Blue concert, and yesterday the day finally arrived. Charlene and I met up at 1:00 p.m., had a quick bite to eat, then boarded the bus for Tainan. I love the buses in Taiwan, with the big comfy seats, almost as good as first-class airline seats (although this bus didn't have the "flight attendant" offering snacks and drinks like the Aloha Bus does). There's a small TV which gives you the choice of watching a TV station or a movie. When we started out, I was watching "Charlotte's Web" but halfway through I got creeped out by Charlotte and decided to sleep. When I was a kid, I loved that book (still do, actually), but I never pictured Charlotte as quite that "spidery" looking! I loathe spiders, ugh.

It was already dark when we got to Tainan, a little before 7:00 p.m. Another one of our friends, Lonely Bird, had driven over from Chiayi with another fan, a girl named Ah Ga (I think), so he swung by and picked us up from the bus stop. We drove directly to the concert locale, where we miraculously found a parking spot right across the street, ran into a little noodle shop where we sucked down some dinner within the space of ten minutes, then headed for the concert.

Charlene is absolutely amazing. The seats she bought for us were in the second row, not only extremely close to the stage but also close to the center. When the concert began, first Da Mao, Xiao Zhu, and Dino came onstage. Xiao Zhu was directly in front of us, Da Mao way off to our left, and Dino center stage on a raised platform in the back. The music began, and Wu Bai entered from our right, carrying a big black umbrella, singing "I want, I want, I want...." as he walked to the mike in the center, the beginning of the song "Innocent Years." He sang the first bit, where he doesn't play the guitar, while holding the umbrella, then it was snatched into the air and he grabbed the guitar for his opening chord.

Every time Wu Bai plans a concert, he spends a long time wracking his brains for new ideas, because he always wants to give the fans a new surprise. This time he threw off his cool rocker look for glam rock look. I'd already seen a photo of him all dolled up in the newspaper, so I knew what to expect. It was a little weird, because the blue eyeshadow he was wearing wasn't on his eyelid, but under the eye. He was wearing a little pair of diamond-studded horns, and his shirt and jacket were Vivienne Westwood designs. It was as if he'd suddenly changed identities and become an adorable, handsome little devil. Ah, Wu Bai, in my book, you don't need to gild the lily, you're already perfect and flawless without any adornment! My preference is Wu Bai drenched with sweat and hair in disarray, and thankfully that came later in the show. :)

As I fully expected, the concert was fantastic from beginning to end, and for over three hours we had a great time. When Wu Bai came and stood directly in front of us, with his face wreathed in smiles, and played that guitar while smiling right at me, my own face was also one big grin. This is one of the things I truly appreciate about him, he will always acknowledge the fans he knows, letting us know he appreciates our presence. Sometimes it's winks and grins, sometimes it's guitar solos in front of us, sometimes it's just a finger pointing our way with a nod, but he will always do it. Since Dino, Xiao Zhu, and Da Mao are always wearing sunglasses on stage, it's difficult to know if they're really smiling at us particularly, but Dino also takes pains to let us know he sees us. I was bobbing my head side-to-side
during one song, and when I turned to look at Dino, he bobbed right back at me, so cute.

Lately Wu Bai has been on a dancing kick, and we once again got a few songs where he danced with four scantily clad young things. I just can't help laughing when Wu Bai dances, because he truly can't dance (I think he's too nervous, and that makes him stiffen up), but I admire him for his courage to try, and he gives it his best shot. The dance they did to "Crush on You" was really cute, though, hope that gets into a concert video for all to see.

The seats in the whole first row had not been available for sale, apparently
reserved for VIPs. Well, it was a total waste, because none of those people
exhibited any sort of energy at all! They barely moved, and even though some of them stood up for a few songs, it was totally without enthusiasm. The woman in front of me was blatantly using her cell phone to video the show, and one of the security folks came over and told her to stop. She just kept on doing it, prompting a second, sterner visit from security, after which she finally stopped. Jeez, if those people don't appreciate the primo seats, then don't let them have them, give them to us instead! Not fair, truly.

Sigh....times passes all too quickly, and eventually the last encore was over (I love the routine of Wu Bai yelling "Hurry and go home!" and all of us yelling back "We don't wanna go home!"). Three of us piled into Lonely Bird's car and took off to the south, to Gaoxiong to see Sharrie. She and her husband now have a little food stand at the night market, where she works until 1:30 a.m. on Saturday nights, so she wasn't able to come to the show. We were there in a little under an hour, then had to find the night market. Sharrie was surprised and happy to see us, and we hung out there for a little while before heading back to Tainan. Charlene and I
boarded the 2:00 a.m. bus back to Taipei, arriving around 5:30 a.m. The MRT doesn't start until 6:00 a.m., so I had to wait a bit before I could get home. It was close to 7:00 a.m. by the time I tumbled into bed, and then I only slept for three hours. I'd slept on the bus back, and also in the car, but it wasn't a good, deep sleep. However, I had too much to do Sunday (like homework!), and in any case, the noise from the builders outside and the brats upstairs ensured that I wouldn't get any rest even if I'd stayed in bed. Next week is the concert in Taizhong, and I know next Sunday I'll once again be exhausted!

And now it's November 3, and in a couple of hours I'll be taking off for the Taizhong show. I'm sure it will be the same as the Tainan one, so I'll likely not write about it, unless there are surprises or something cool happens on the journey. At least I'll be getting home sooner this time, as Taizhong is only about two and a half hours away by bus, not four, and we won't be making any unexpected road trips to other places.

You all remember my former friend, Hiyoshi, the one who got married last September, went back to Japan, and since then has never once gotten in touch with me? Well, as we were on the road to Gaoxiong, I received a message on my phone: "It's Hiyoshi, the wife and I have brought our kid back to Taiwan, can we meet tomorrow? I really miss you!" I was spluttering with indignation as I wrote back: "Bullshit. If you missed me, you would have stayed in touch. That's what friends do. I'm in Gaoxiong and won't be home until morning, and I have things to do tomorrow." Jeez, talk about having nerve! How the hell can he expect that I'd just welcome him with open arms after more than a year of silence? He's been off the "Friends" list for a long, long time, and I have no interest in re-writing his name there. Hmph.

In other news, I've been spending a lot of time looking for a new apartment and finding that rent has risen considerably in this area. Tuesday I'll be checking out a place in Danshui, not nearly as convenient as where I am now, but about $100US per month less than my current rent. Wish I could stay in Zhuwei, but everything I've looked at so far that meets the price is pretty crappy, and the nicer places are just over my budget. I'll keep looking, though, just in case something new shows up.

I like my new teacher, Lin Laoshi, although she's a little on the low-key side in class, and sometimes it's difficult to hear her over the sound of the air conditioner. She has an interesting method of teaching which gets us interacting with each other, giving little performances in class, etc. My first test is next Wednesday, no clue what it will be like, but I don't think it will be really easy. She requires homework three times a week, but she lets us decide what to write. My plan is to continue writing one composition a week and the other two assignments will be practicing making sentences with the new words and idioms we study (and that's not easy!).

Sunday, October 21, 2007

There's No Place Like Home

I'm back from my short trip to Japan, with a new visa in hand (multiple-entry, good through April 2008, extendable), and it's so nice to be back home in Taiwan. I like Japan, don't get me wrong, but this is truly home and I missed it.

I arrived at Kansai Airport in Osaka the evening of October 14, where I spent a good 45 minutes in line at immigration. They were moving folks through quickly, but there were hundreds of passengers. My dear friend Kayun was there waiting for me, though, with a big smile on her face. After a bit of discussion with a not-too-friendly clerk at the counter and at Kayun's urging, I bought a three-day Kansai Thru Pass which was supposedly good on all the subway and rail systems in the area, unlimited rides to anywhere, plus some discounts at tourist attractions, for about $44US. Now, I usually only spend around that same amount for a whole month of travel on Taipei's system, so I was a bit shocked. Kayun and I both kinda figured that three days was like 72 hours, beginning the first time I used the pass, which was for the 15-minute ride from the station where the airport bus dropped us to her house, and that I'd be using it up through Wednesday evening. Nope, wrong. I got two days of travel out of it, because the first "day" was that 15-minute ride! And it turned out that I couldn't use it on one of the main systems, either! I therefore ended up spending another $21US to see me through the two other days. That was my biggest trip expense - $65US on subway/rail fees plus $40US on the airport bus. Crazy. I guess one must pay for punctuality - you can set your watch by the transit system in Japan, truly amazing.

Luke and Kayun have a nice little apartment located in the country-like suburbs. The neighborhood is quiet, with small rice paddies and gorgeous trees and flowers. I was totally impressed with Japanese toilets and thought the shower area was really interesting. Luke and Kayun don't have a lot of space, but they make the most of it, and Kayun keeps it all sparkling clean. I slept on a comfortable sofa in a little room with a sliding door, and it was sooo quiet at night, not used to that!

Got up bright and early Monday morning, because Luke was taking me to the visa office before he went on to his school. Kayun rode with us on her way to her Japanese classes (every day from 10:00 a.m. to 2:35 p.m.), and Luke and I continued on to Umeda Station, where we had to switch trains. The subway/rail system in Osaka is so ridiculously complicated that one could never, ever find one's way alone. We got off one train, walked a long, long way underground to a different station, and took a different line to a station close to where we needed to go. After I submitted my application, Luke left me at that station, and I decided to explore a bit. Yeah, I explored all right, the underground shopping area that stretches for miles in many directions with confusing signs and no one who speaks English! I was starving, hadn't eaten a thing, so I ducked into a Doufor Coffee for a bite. Part of the menu had photos, so I could pick out a sandwich, but the rest was all in Japanese. I can read it if they use the traditional Chinese characters (kanji), but if they use katakana (used for words that come from foreign places) and hiragana, which they normally do, I can't read a thing. So, I'm trying to ask what kind of cold drinks they have, and the guy points to the Japanese menu. I mutter in Chinese, "But I can't read Japanese." and the girl next to the guy says, in Chinese, "Wow, you speak Chinese!" What a blessing - she was from Fujian, China, and she got me my orange juice. Turns out she is also a Wu Bai fan, so it was fun chatting a bit to her.

After I left there it took me at least 45 minutes to find my way back to the station I needed in order to get to Osaka Castle. I was exhausted when I got there and still had a bit of a walk to get to the castle itself. The park is huge (and Blogger is having photo issues now, so you'll just have to click the links to get to the pix, and then you can see all the other ones, too), very quiet and beautiful. Actually, most of Osaka was very quiet and beautiful, and unbelievably clean. I found a spot to sit and rest for awhile and then continued on to the castle area. Swarming with grade-school kids, it was, as well as high schoolers. Seems to be my luck that any time I visit a museum, I can't see anything because there are hoardes of children blocking the view. The castle itself was packed from top to bottom, but I still went in and all the way to the top for the view. I like the way this building gives the illusion one can see through it.

Kayun called after she got out of class, and we made plans to meet back at the station near her house. Took me forever to get there, as I got lost under Umeda Station again, but I finally showed up. We went for dinner at a great place that had salad bar and fresh bread for about $9US (and Kayun treated). The bread, OMG, the bread! A waitress with a huge basket of various slices of bread made the rounds, and we got to eat a lot. There was this one kind that had figs and nuts in it, totally divine. I do miss good bread, which is next to impossible to find in Taiwan. The Taiwanese like bread the texture of Wonder Bread and about as flavorful, it's just nasty. I brought back two half-loaves from this bakery, the fig one and another swirl type that is just lucious. Probably have them totally gone by tomorrow! The salad bar wasn't like US salad bars, as it actually featured various types of pre-made salads, all very good and probably even healthy. Before dinner we had gone to the grocery store across the street, where I was shocked at the prices for fresh fruit. Actually, lots of prices were very high, and Japanese beer turns out to be more expensive in Japan than in Taiwan because of their taxes. Made the delightful discovery that there's a Baskin-Robbins ice cream shop near Kayun's home, so we indulged ourselves there, too. Oh man, it's been a long time since I had Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream! Cost me $3US for their "king-sized" scoop, but I didn't mind paying that. Went back the next day, too, ha.

Tuesday it was up early again and out of the house with Kayun, because I didn't think I could find my way to the station without her. I planned to pick up my visa and then explore a bit on my own before meeting Kayun after her class. Got the visa no problem, but once again ended up wandering around underground, searching for a place my little Kansai Thru Pass guidebook mentioned. Never found it. Finally decided I'd rather just go early to the station where I was meeting Kayun and look around there. Found the airport bus station there and checked what time I'd have to be there Friday morning (7:55 a.m.), looked around the area a bit, then found a Starbucks and sat reading my Chinese book and waiting for Kayun. When she got there, we headed for Kobe for the evening, where we ended up eating in Chinatown, because it's one of the few places a vegetarian like Kayun can manage to find food without meat in it. I got a small plate of guo tie (potstickers) that would have cost me $1.50US in Taiwan but was $5US in Japan (and not as tasty). Then we walked to the harbor area, arriving just as the sun was vanishing for good. Everything was decorated for Halloween, and we just wandered around the shops (best find, the Ghibli Studios shop - Totoro everywhere!) enjoying the evening.

Wednesday, and yet another early rise and out the door, this time to meet Kieko in Nara. This time I didn't get lost at Umeda, because Kayun was with me, on her way to the China embassy to apply for a visa for her Shanghai trip. We parted ways before Namba Station, and there I managed to find the right train for Nara, arriving much later than I'd expected, causing poor Kieko to wait about an hour for me at Starbucks. She's a good sport, though, and wasn't angry about that. We wandered a shopping district for a bit, looking for a reasonably priced place for lunch, found one that wasn't bad, ate and chatted, then headed for Nara Park, home of the sacred deer, which terrify Kieko. Seems she was chased by them when she was a child, so now she doesn't care much for them. They are pushy little things, that's for sure. You can buy deer food for them, flat crackers that are yucky (yeah, I tried 'em) but they love them. The deer will bow their heads to you, and then you feed them.....and then you're surrounding by a troupe of bowing, butting, biting deer. They'll tug on your clothes and get deer snot all over you, but they're so cute! Watch this movie, then pop on over to YouTube for two others, including a mating season battle.

Nara Park is also huge, and there are so many wonderful shrines and temples. We walked and walked and walked, took some rest and ate ice cream (mango for me and "some kind of citrus" for Kieko). The deer are everywhere in the park, and the deer poopie is also everywhere, but as soon as they let fly, some little lady comes out with a broom and dustpan and sweeps it up (at least, in front of the shops they do). I bought some Deer Poopie Chocolates to give to a friend, just chocolate covered peanuts, but they do look almost exactly like what was emerging from the deer's hind ends.....yum. After we left the deer park, we walked around other parts of the area to view other shrines. It's so pretty everywhere, even the manhole covers in Japan are artistic. We walked until we could walk no more (well, I couldn't, maybe Kieko could have), then found a place for coffee and chat. Finally, I had to leave for the two-hour trip back to Kayun and Luke's, so Kieko and I parted. I hope she'll come back to Taiwan for a visit - I miss her!

Luke was already home when I arrived (normally he gets in after 9:00 p.m., poor guy, long hours), and Kayun had made quesadillas, saving one for me. Damn, it was so delicious! She's really a good cook, that girl, using sausage, pork, and gouda cheese to create a uniquely flavored quesadilla. And there was enough for me to have one for lunch on Thursday, too. I definitely need to make a trip to Costco here for salsa and tortillas to make my own Kayunsadillas!

I spent most of that day hanging around at their place, relaxing, finally sleeping in until 8:45 a.m. I went to the 100 Yen Store (awesome shop, so many cool things for only $.87US, wow!) and walked around the neighborhood. I was meeting Kayun in Takarazuka City at 4:00 p.m., so I headed out early to give myself some time to check it out on my own. Lovely little town, home to the Takarazuka Revue , an all-female musical theater troupe. I strolled along the flower road to the river and across, then back to the station, meeting Kayun and walking back along the same route I'd taken, but then in another direction for a different part of town. Honestly, by this time I was pretty tired of walking, so after hitting the 99 Yen Store (one yen cheaper!) for groceries for Kayun, we took a cab back to the station, caught a train back to her house, and met up with Luke for dinner. He treated us to all-you-can-eat BBQ (meat for us, curry and veggies for Kayun), and we were the only customers in the whole place. This was the kind of place where you cook your own stuff on the grill set into the table, and they offered all kinds of beef cuts, some marinated, some not, and chicken and perhaps pork, too. Plus sushi, desserts, curry, takoyaki (not as good as the stuff sold close to Kayun's house), chicken nuggets, too many things to even remember. It was a lot more expensive than the same type of place in Taiwan ( about $18US per person versus about $9US in Taiwan), and we thought it was good, but Luke said the Japanese are picky about quality and likely the reason there were no other customers was that this was not a good place!

Friday morning it was up at 6:00 a.m., to the bus by 7:55 a.m., sad parting from Kayun, and a 90-minute ride to the airport. I was on Cathay Pacific for this trip, nice airline, decent food, very comfy seats - and punctual, too. When I got back to Taoyuan International Airport at 1:15 p.m., I was shocked to see no lines at immigration! I was able to walk right up to the counter and got through in less than two minutes. That has never happened before. Caught the bus back and was home by 3:30 or so, I think. DZ was so happy to see me, and she didn't seem as distressed as she'd been the last time I was gone for a long time. Guess she has now realized that I will eventually come back, so she doesn't panic.

Japan: quiet, clean, good air quality, cars that yield to pedestrians, people who actually wait for passengers to get off the train before trying to get on, coffee shops playing quiet background music. Taiwan: noisy, not so clean, air full of smoke from people burning ghost money, cars that try their best to run you over in a crosswalk, people who push and shove to scramble onto the train hoping for a seat, coffee shops blasting music so loud one must yell to be heard across a table.

Japan: somber people dressed in neutral tones, homes that are beautiful and serene but lifeless, residential streets that have no people in the evenings, old people standing on trains because they get insulted if someone would offer a seat, silent subways and railways packed with people afraid to look at one another. Taiwan: people dressed in a riot of mismatched colors and patterns; homes that are decorated with colorful banners and plants - and laundry drying on the balcony; residential streets full of life - kids, dogs, chatting neighbors; people more often than not yielding their seat to older folks and them grateful for it; trains crowded with laughing, happy people madly chatting away to each other.

Japan: a nice place to visit, but wouldn't want to live there. Taiwan: full of life and loudness, annoying at times but oh-so-preferable to a life of stilted politeness. This is my home, and I love it.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Japan Ho!

Having survived both Super Typhoon Krosa (which really pounded us) and the last hectic week of the semester (3 tests), I am now ready for my trip to Japan. I'm leaving on Sunday the 14th on a 4:00 p.m. flight, which puts me in Osaka at 7:40 p.m. I have all my visa application documents ready to go, including incredibly bad photos taken at the automatic photo both last week, right after I had my hair cut. Scary, really scary. In the mirror I don't look so old, but in photos? OMG. It sucks when your only choices are 1) be fat and look younger or 2) be thinner and look old. I'm not sure I want to continue to lose weight now!

I spent over six hours on my day off Wednesday preparing for my semester final, and it paid off. I got a 93 on it! And miracle of miracles, the test on Monday, where the teacher reads sentences and we have to write the Chinese correctly - for the first time I got them all right! I used to get 100% on the tests Miss Wang gave, because she didn't use words I hardly ever write, but Miss Cao is always using weird words that we've forgotten how to write. So I was dancing around the classroom after that one, yelling "終於!" That means, "Finally!"

I've been looking over my tests for the semester, and I did well on all but one. Scores are:
89, 89, 95, 97, 92, 89, 80, 92, 95, 89, and 93. Those scores plus the fact that I turned in every bit of the homework, and some extra stuff on top, will hopefully get me a high final score, which I need for the next scholarship application. The teacher wrote me a very nice letter to take to the visa office, telling them how studious and self-motivated I am and what a pleasure it is to have such a great student. :) I felt warm and fluffy all over when I read it. So yeah, visa office, I'm a good girl and study hard, please let me continue!

So there I was Wednesday evening, studying hard, when I got a phone call from Natari. She said my landlady called her (she signed the original contract) and said I have to move, because her family is moving back to this apartment. Now, I've been talking about moving for some time, because those little shits upstairs are still incredibly noisy and annoying, and I've been thinking I should find a cheaper place anyway. But now that I have no choice, I'm a bit sad! I really love this apartment and the location. Hopefully I can find something just as nice in this area, maybe for less. My friends are helping me look around online, so I expect when I get back from Japan I'll start going to check out places. My contract is through March 6, but the landlady said I can move sooner if I want, and she won't keep my deposit. It sounds as if she'd prefer the sooner the better, so I'll try to oblige. Sorry to everyone who didn't have a chance to visit me yet, because I may not have much room in the new place, and visiting me may not be nearly as comfortable as it is now! But hey, ya'll had your chance, so pfffft to you. :)

Autumn is finally here, with lovely cool weather that has the Taiwanese wearing jackets and sweaters and me still working up a sweat after walking for a few minutes. But the breezes are nice and the evenings are lovely. This year perhaps we'll have a proper winter, since we sure didn't last year.

Charlene and I decided we're going to Hualian for the Wu Bai & China Blue concert, trading the two tickets I have and can't sell for two Hualian ones. She found a hostel for $37US a night, and split between us that's cheap. The train fare is $24US, not bad. Charlene will buy one of my tickets, and my total cost to attend this show will be $127. I'd rather pay that than return the tickets for only a 70% refund! I mean, what the hell, I'm here in Taiwan, I might as well attend every concert I can, right? Charlene and I joked that we'll just eat instant noodles for a few weeks, ha. So, wow, four Wu Bai and China Blue concerts coming up, how great!

Hopefully I'll have some fun stuff to write about Japan after I get back, and some photos to share.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Getting Krosa to You

Once again we have a super typhoon paying a weekend visit. This time it's Krosa, and it's been krosing in on us for a few days, putting panic into the hearts of many, who say it's one of the biggest, baddest storms in the last 100 years. Jury's still out on that one, since it seems to me that typhoons in Taiwan always remind me of the little boy who cried "Wolf!" all the time. However, it's better to be prepared, so I have a bathtub full of water to use for flushing toilets should our water supply be cut off (apparently this happens) and boiled water to make coffee and for drinking. I think the water problems are more apt to happen in areas like Taichung, though. We had a typhoon on September 17, and everyone got the day off work and school. It hardly even rained in my area and it was sunny most of the day! The wind was howling at times, but not that bad. Didn't even stop the workers from continuing on the buildings that are going up close by.

So, right now I have rain, rain, rain, and then there's a little rain on top of that. Wind is still pretty mild, but I don't guess I'll be hanging my laundry on the balcony to dry today. Nope, the dryer will be put into use (as long as the electricity doesn't go out).

Next week is the last of the semester. Wednesday is a national holiday. Monday I have a small test, Tuesday I have a bigger test, and Thursday I have my semester final. Gee, the teacher just loves tests! We had a four-day holiday for Mid-Autumn Festival, Saturday through Tuesday. The Friday before she gave us four pages of homework to complete and told us we'd have a test on the first day back. So, I spent most of my holiday time studying. Paid off, though, because I did well on the test. I have no idea which teacher I'll have next semester and what the textbook will be like. Part of me is hoping for less homework, but another part of me knows that being pushed is good for me and helps me make progress. I'm a lazy soul and if no one prods me, I tend to not do anything on my own.

I still haven't gotten a working ATM card. The password never did arrive for the first one, so the bank cancelled that one and issued a new card pre-pinned with a password I'd selected. That one arrived, but when I tried to use it at the bank, no luck. Wrote back to the bank asking what the problem was, and got the reply that apparently foreign banks don't accept US cards with passwords beginning in zero! Would have been nice for both me and the patient woman who's been helping me to have this knowledge in advance. So, she sent yet another card, pre-pinned with a different password that I know. That was on 9/21, and it's still not here. What worries me is that I just received my September credit card statement, and stamped on the front was "Missent to Bangkok Thailand." Oh, hooray for the US postal service, which doesn't know one country from another! My friend Wendy, who works for the USPS, once mailed a package to Nigeria. It got sent to Nicaragua instead and took a whole year to finally get to Nigeria! So who the hell knows if my ATM card ended up in Thailand? Thankfully the card for the second account is still working, or I'd be SOL for sure.

My trip to Japan is set for October 14 through 19. I'll arrive very late on the 14th and will return on a 1:00 p.m. flight on the 19th, so really I'll just have four days there, and two of those will be used for visa application and (hopefully) pickup. Kayun is so sweet, she's going to meet me at the airport because she's worried I'll get lost. I think I'd be OK, but it will be nice to have someone to talk to on the hour ride to her part of town. I'll meet up with Kieko, too, and might spend one night in Kyoto at a guest house that's pretty cheap. I'm not looking forward to spending all the money for this, but I need the visa, and the Hong Kong office most likely won't give me one, so it's to Japan I go. And of course I'm very happy about seeing Luke, Kayun, and Kieko!

I'm still on the diet, but I haven't lost much more. The total lost is 9kg, not too bad, but for the last two weeks I haven't gotten as much exercise as I'd like, so the weight ain't budging. Nat and Charlene are doing so well on the Herbalife diet that I'm tempted to try, but I don't think I have the discipline to not eat in the evenings. We'll see, maybe I'll try it for a month or something.

I'm really bummed that Carol can't come for the Wu Bai concerts. Now I need to sell the tickets I got for her, and if I can't, Charlene and I might just go to the Hualien show, because we can exchange the tix for that venue. Originally, we had decided it would just be too expensive, because there's no way to get back at night and we'd have the expense of the hotel. But what the heck, we may do it anyway. If I return the tickets for a refund, I only get back 70% of the cost, so I kinda hate to do that. And besides, I've never been to Hualien yet! But dang, I really wish Carol could have come, since I didn't have a chance to see her when I went back to the US last year, and it's been five years since she's been to Taiwan for a Wu Bai concert!

Another friend, Krista, is mulling over the idea of perhaps coming for a visit during Chinese New Year. I have two weeks off, and even though so many places are closed, there's still a lot to do and see. She thinks perhaps she could come during the last week and then stay on a bit longer when things are back to normal. It sure would be nice to have company, because I'm always so bored then. Maybe I can talk Cheryl into coming over for the first week! Or maybe I can actually go to Hong Kong to see her (depends on what sort of visa I can get).

My friend Ye Ying, who went to Leiden, Holland, to study is finding that the Dutch are not very friendly. Her boyfriend, Xuan Yi, went with her and stayed a couple of weeks, and they traveled to Brussels and to Amsterdam, and he said they ran into some incredibly rude people. It's quite sad, really. I find the Taiwan people so friendly and helpful, always willing to assist me, asking me if I'm lost if I'm looking at a map at the MRT station or on the street. I recall how the first time I needed to take the airport bus from Minquan W. Rd. station, and I couldn't figure out where it was, a complete stranger went out of her way to walk with me and ask people where the bus stop was, making sure I got on the right bus before going on with her own business. I hope Ye Ying will soon be accustomed to the unfriendly atmosphere in Leiden and not let it bother her so much.

I miss my language exchanges sessions with Ye Ying, and next week will be the last language exchange I have with Xuan Yi, because now that he has graduated, he needs to move out of the dorm and go back to Tainan. Then he needs to do his army service before looking for a job. He's going to help me find a new partner. I get to see Shannon sporadically, which is nice, but she's working every single day, not even one day that's completely free, so it's not easy. She's going to spend the night Tuesday, since we have Wednesday off, and that should be some fun (but I have to spend a lot of time Wednesday afternoon and evening studying for my final!).

My Wednesday afternoon brother and sister students flaked out. Pisses me off, because I met with them first, told them that learning English wasn't something that could be done in a once-a-week, one-hour lesson! I told them they'd need to spend time themselves working on it. The brother is just too busy with his business, and since he was paying for the lessons, both and his sister have quit. Now I'm only teaching Claire for one hour on the weekend, and her friend Jessica is supposed to start, also for one hour on the weekend. Meaning: no money coming in. I guess it's OK, because I do need a lot of time for my own studying. I've decided that I'm going to be picky about students. Just like I pay for three months in advance and if I don't go to class, I don't get any money back, any new student is going to have to do the same. I want a commitment out of them! If they aren't willing to do this, then they aren't serious about learning, so forget it. I hate wasting my time, no matter how much someone is paying me. This way I should weed out the flakes for sure.

Oh, here's an ad I happened across, can't even recall where:
"Don't strees any more over which tense to use and how to rearrange your sentences on your college application essay. Let a Berkeley graduate help you to create the best written expression of your qualifications and get into your dream school. I'll get into your head and help you turn your cognition into English. A coheret and fluid essay makes a vast difference!! $2/per please contact via email (removed)

Rather pitiful for a college graduate to produce such a poorly written advertisement with spelling and grammar errors. I can't figure out what her actual charges are, either. Per word? Per essay? Huh? But hey, she could get a job teaching English in Taiwan, because she has a degree!

My friend Aaron is back from England, yay! So nice to see him again, and so funny for him to be talking about how fat he got there. Yeah, right, if he walked outside today, the typhoon would blow him away. I'd be surprised if he even weighs 140 pounds! His sister's wedding celebration is today, and I'm afraid it's going to be ruined by the typhoon. Part of it is supposed to be in Keelung, and that's on the coast and getting battered severely right now. Relatives from Hong Kong were supposed to fly in this morning, but I'm sure they weren't able to. He said when his other sister got married, there was a typhoon that day, too!

I guess I've written enough. I should be doing homework, but I can't get into it right now. Still, the wind is picking up, and the power might not last, so I suppose I'd best get to it while I still have the 'puter to use.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Tasty Tidbits

Spotted stacked up outside a dumpling shop not far from my house. Just sorta makes your mouth water, don't it? Note from where these delicacies have been imported!

And guess what? You can buy fried pork rectums in the US! Yes indeedy, if you live near Rowland Heights in the LA area, stop in and try 'em: Yoso-Silly Discusses Fish Balls and More

Friday, September 07, 2007

Bad Things Come in Threes

Bad Thing No. 1: A few weeks ago I tried to use my US bank ATM card to get money and it didn't work, apparently worn out. Requested new card from bank and began using 2nd account while waiting for new card. New card arrived on August 17, however to this date password has not arrived (suspect lame-o US postal service sent it to the PRC instead of the ROC). Yesterday morning sent e-mail requesting new card and new password. Yesterday afternoon attempted to withdraw money from 2nd account and received the message, "Your password is incorrect." So, now unable to access any of my US funds. Not happy. Edit: Tried the card at a different branch today, and it worked. Happy now. :) And yes, I had the right password yesterday, I've used it for years, and I'm not likely to forget it!

Bad Thing No. 2: Went for a walk last Sunday, brought along insulated water bottle. Placed said water bottle in purse, upright. After taking drink from said bottle, replaced in purse. After a few minutes felt water dripping down my right leg, discovered bottle had tipped over, cap was not on tight, cell phone completely drowned. Purchased new cell phone yesterday and waved goodbye to $166US. Although the new phone is much nicer than the old one, so maybe not quite so bad, but still not happy about having to spend the money.

Bad Thing No. 3: Was eating my cereal yesterday morning, and I bit down on a date or a raisin, sure a but hard but not like *that* hard, and experienced excruciating pain in left rear upper molar. Pain remained all day, and trying to chew anything on that side is one big owie. I fear I've cracked a tooth, not surprising since it's mostly just one large filling with a shell. Crap, more money to spend. Crap, crap, crap. Edit: This afternoon the tooth doesn't seem as bad, let's hope for the best.

Have a test today, studied until late last night. Couldn't sleep. Kept tossing and turning. Finally fell asleep, only to be shaken awake at 1:53 a.m. by very, very large earthquake that rattled the whole island. And of course could not fall back asleep very easily, until right before my alarm went off. Since I'm still in one piece (and so is my house and everything in it), this isn't really such a bad thing. Just don't worry about me, I'm fine. :) Edit: Ugh, did not do very well on the test, because I could hardly stay awake. Blew a couple simple things because of lack of brain function. No biggie, just hate not doing well, you know?

Maybe I'll have time to write more tomorrow.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Time Flies as Fast as a Weaver's Shuttle

歲月如梭 - that's a Chinese idiom for "time flies." And that's how the days are going by now, as quickly as the shuttle flying along the strands of threads as the weaver makes her cloth. My lessons have a fixed pattern: Monday we begin a new chapter in the book, and by Wednesday we've covered all the new words and then some. On Thursday we have a 聽寫, a test that's basically taking dictation (my prior experience taking notes at meetings helps with this one because I first scribble the words in pinyin and then write them in Chinese), and on Friday we have a test on the whole chapter. I'm going to continue to toot my own horn by saying that for each test I've scored the highest in class (teacher doesn't give a numerical score for the dictations, but I've done well on those, too). I rock. We had our fourth test yesterday, and I think I did pretty good, have to wait until Monday to find out. If Joe or De Ming gets a higher score, it's only because they cheat when the teacher leaves the room, using their dictionaries in their cell phones to look up words! Damn, I hate cheaters, I really do. I sit behind them, and I'm so tempted to smack 'em both with my umbrella.

So almost every day when I get home, I'm dragging out the dictionary to look up stuff the teacher taught us, to be sure I understood her explanation. I'm making tons of sentences using the new words and phrases to see if I really get it. I'm writing scads of characters over and over to burn them into my memory. And I'm writing one composition per week, which isn't easy when I have no inspiration, like this week. They're coming back to me with very few corrections, which gladdens my heart, as it means I'm actually learning something. I wrote my longest one week before last, almost 1,000 characters. Is it any wonder my right hand hurts like a sonofabitch most of the time? This is worse than any carpal tunnel syndrom could ever be! Well, OK, maybe not, but it's still hell on the old hand. Right now, just after this little bit of typing, my right pinky is totally numb and the ring finger isn't far behind.

Last weekend Super Typhoon Sepat came calling, but it was a tempest in a teapot up in my area. Although it battered other parts of the island and vegetable and fruit prices are now nice and high, I barely saw any rain and had hardly any wind here. The best thing is that the weather has been cooler (just a little) since then, especially in the evenings. I had to use the air conditioning a lot more this year than I did last year during July, and I don't really want to see my bill when it comes in September!

Still plugging away at the diet and have managed to lose a total of 7.9 kg (17.5 lbs) now. That's still 3.6 kg (8 lbs.) more than I was when I got here two years ago, and it's also 8.7 kg (just about 20 lbs.) more than I was back in November 2004! Crap. Why is it so easy to gain weight and so hard to lose it? My fruit-selling family vanished on me, taking away my extremely convenient buy-it-on-the-way-home method, so I haven't been eating as much fruit as I should. Now I have to go over to the busy and congested street for fruit, so I often just blow it off because I don't want to deal with the crowds and the cars that keep trying to run over me. I'm gonna make a fruit run today, though. And my Kashi Go-Lean cereal, that I was able to buy last time for about $3US because the store had it on sale, is now costing $7US! Uh uh, no way, I'm not paying that, it's hard enough to pay $5US for Kellogg's Just Right Mueslix. Why is it that fattening food is so cheap and anything healthy costs the earth?

I'm looking forward to the next four months. In September Taka is coming with her family from Singapore, so I'll get to see her briefly, probably just long enough to hand over some Wu Bai merchandise Angela ordered. There's also a possibility that my former stepson, Chris, will be coming. He's in the Navy now (amazing), currently in the Gulf, and he said they're coming to Taiwan for a week. But, he doesn't know exactly where in Taiwan they're going. And now I'm not sure he's actually coming to Taiwan, because his last e-mail said "everyone I work with that has been to Hong Kong says its a blast there so I am looking forward to it." Perhaps he's not sure just where Taiwan is, I dunno. (Edit later same day. Yup, he thought I lived in Hong Kong, said he's sure that's what his dad told him, and despite at least five e-mails that talked about him going to TAIWAN. Kinda worries me that this boy is in the Navy.) Also in September is Aaron's return from England, right around Mid-Autumn Festival (which means a day off school).

October gives me another day off school, right before the end of the semester, and brings me my trip to Japan mid month and then the Wu Bai concert at the end of the month. It will hopefully bring Carol, too. Slight chance of Cheryl also being able to make a stopover on the way back from a training seminar in Korea.

November has the Wu Bai concert on the 3rd, because Thanksgiving is meaningless here as I can't possible cook a turkey dinner. But I will probably make a pumpkin pie, so all is not lost. This month might also see the return of Guoxi from his airline pilot training in Australia. He'll be back either October or November, I'm pretty sure. He can't wait, says the food in Australia sucks and he misses Taiwan food.

December - another Wu Bai concert! This one is bringing some Singapore fans over, which is always a treat. So far Lee Ying and Lee Yang, David and Tona are for sure. Angela, Taka, Vynson, and Nicole are possibilities. I hope they can all make it. That show is my Christmas present to myself.

OK, I'm stopping before my hand gives out completely. I have to save it for the Chinese writing I'll be doing later. Bye now.

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Everything is Swell

Got my report card from last semester - 92%.

Got my visa extended with no problems, good through Oct. 19.

Neither of the two typhoons that were headed this way caused any problems for us, just a lot of rain in certain places and a bit of cooler air (not much).

That's all I have time for now!

Monday, August 06, 2007


OK folks, you're not going to see much of me for the next three months. Last week was the first week of the new semester - I got the strictest teacher in the school. We had two tests last week - two! But ha, I got the highest score in class, high five me! However, I'm hitting the books at lot harder this time, and I'll be spending loads of time studying and writing, so I won't be playing around on the computer. If something significant comes up, I'll write about it. If my stress level gets out of hand, I'll write about it. Otherwise, it may just be a stray post here and there, sorry.

Best news is that Wu Bai & China Blue are having four more concerts this year, and I'm going to two of them. Related to that is the fact the Carol will most probably come over for the shows, too (won't you?), and that makes me very happy. I'm dying to have friends from abroad come and visit, but so far only Ranger Steve and Cheryl have taken advantage of my hospitality.

That's all for now, gotta go keep practicing writing characters (which is also making my right hand very, very, very sore, another reason I'm not typing much).

Ta for now!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Steaming Toilets

A quote from funny friend Cheryl's latest dispatch from Hong Kong:

"you know it's hot when the toilet bowl is steaming. yes indeedy, when you flush the toilet here, steam comes out. the water in the pipes is that hot. silver lining: you get your toilet bowl and your ass steam-cleaned for free."

And here in Taiwan, you feel a blast of heat when you raise the lid. Haven't quite noticed steam upon flushing, though. Suffice it to say that it's demmed hot.

I've spent the foregoing week on holiday from school, and as expected, bored out of my mind for the most part. What's the use of time off when it's too hot outside to have fun? I did manage to read the new (and final) Harry Potter book, but that only took up about 9 or 10 hours total. This was a long-awaited book, and it was over far too quickly. I was left with a bit of a sad feeling that the Harry Potter tales are now over. Gosh, couldn't Rowling have dragged them on for a few more years? How could she end them so abruptly??? Nine years of my life with Harry, watching him and his friends grow up, and now no more. Phooey.

I've also been reading Japanse author Haruki Murakami's (村上春樹) excellent novel, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle (發條鳥年代記). If you've never read his books, run right out and buy one now. I know, I've only read Kafka on the Shore and this one, but that's enough for me to know that all of his works are marvelous. I have to thank Wu Bai for allowing me to discover this author, because the only reason I bought Kafka was that I knew that Wu Bai's favorite author was Murakami. Not all of his novels have been translated into English, but I fully intend to read everything that is, providing I can find them at decent prices, which ain't easy.

And I went into town (read: Taipei) twice, for language exchange and teaching, but the rest of my time has been spent loafing around the house, with only brief forays to nearby shops for victuals and the weekend beer, fans and/or air conditioner at full blast, computing, reading, and watching movies. I watched Arthur and the Minimoys, Death Note and its sequel Death Note: The Last Name, Night at the Museum, Curse of the Golden Flower, Monsoon Wedding, Lady in the Water, 300, and most of Devdas. While none of these flicks sucked, none rate glowing reviews, either. The least enjoyable was probably Lady in the Water, which I found simply too far-fetched and weird. It borders on sucks without actually falling completely over into it. Night at the Museum was better than expected, with some pretty funny scenarios (loved the "throw the bone" dinosaur skeleton); Curse of the Golden Flower was a feast for the eye with its incredibly lavish sets and inspired in me a desire to learn more about the Tang Dynasty; Death Note featured two quite adorable young Japanese actors who weigh about 121 pounds (or less) sopping wet, along with a couple of well-animated Death Gods for laughs (and let me tell ya, I'm on Kira's side all the way); 300 took liberties with history that made the Persians out to be right weird folks and had me wondering if all those buff guys were weighing body suits or were really that buff; and Monsoon Wedding and Devdas are the usual fun-filled Indian movies that pair comedy and tragedy so well. Arthur and the Minimoys....I need to re-watch this in the Chinese dubbed version, because Wu Bai was one of the dubbers. Don't know which part he dubbed, don't really care, just like hearing his voice. Cute movie, anyway, and I hope to see lovely little Minimoys hanging around in the garden someday.

I haven't neglected my Chinese this week, either. I've read the next lesson, practiced writing the new characters, looked them all up in the dictionary, and have started typing my compilation of synonomous grammar (jeez, how many ways can you say "if"???) that I hope will be helpful as I write compositions. I still have no idea who my teacher next semester is, but I sure hope it's not the dragon lady the students who were switching to an 8:00 class were afraid they'd be stuck with. I'd rather end up with the not-so-lively Chen Laoshi, whom I had for one week in February, than this fearful woman who seems to enjoy yelling at the students in class. I'll be the only girl in class this semester, and I don't like that. I'll miss my female classmates and am not looking forward to having to Westerners in my class, especially since one is a friend's ex-boyfriend.....

Poor DZ, she's also much too warm these days. She tries to find a cool place to sleep on the tile floor or waits for me to go into the living room and turn the fan on so she can lay in front of it on the coffee table. I gave her a bath last weekend, hoping to cool her off and clean her up in one swell foop, and I got hate glares from her the rest of the day. But damn, she was filthy. Even though she doesn't go outside, the crap that blows into the house is pretty bad. For months they've been slowly digging away at the little hillside next to my building, and every day dirt is coming in through the open windows. I should probably get myself a few air filters to put around the house, but that's money I don't want to spend.

How's the diet coming along, you ask? Well, it's not. I was so pissed last Saturday when I found that a half a kilo had come back, and I'd been darned good all week! I'd walked, eaten sensibly, hadn't pigged out, and still I gained some back. Well, that just made me feel less like being good this week, and I haven't. I didn't gain back any more, but I didn't re-lose that half kilo, either. I'm going to try to force myself to walk a lot this next week, even if it's 108 degress outside (you know, we had the hottest day in July in 80 years last week or the week before - global warming, ya think?). I'm not giving up this fight!

I'll be back next weekend with more of this exciting report from Isle de Formosa!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

What Dreams May Come

Today didn't start easily, for I read the news that my friend's husband, Tim, had left this world behind. Cris and I were co-workers and friends for many years at my former job, and although I didn't know Tim well, I liked and respected him and was especially fond of his political views, and I will sorely miss reading his thoughts.

I've been following the story of their last journey together since the day Tim was diagnosed with incurable lung disease a few months ago. The journey has been too short, but the pain of one has now ended while the pain of the other grows stronger. I can't be there to hug my friend and give her what little comfort I might offer, so I will ask any of you who read my blog to visit hers and discover this lovely lady with a beautiful mind, and leave her a short note. I know she's strong and that she will handle whatever life dishes out to her with grace and aplomb, but every little bit of love will help.

Cafe Imagine

Tim, I hope your adventurer's heart is finding this new journey to be wonderful and exciting. I hope there's a river for you to ride, mysteries for you to delve into, and music for you to enjoy while you wait for Cris to someday join you. You touched so many while you were here, and you will be missed.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

The Dog Days of Summer

{Trumpet Fanfare} Hear ye, hear ye! Please note the passing of 6.5 kilos of ugly flab! That would be 14.3 pounds for you US folks. Ah, the little things in life that can make us so happy.

Next week is the last week of the semester, with the semester final on Thursday. So, I've been cramming for that, plus trying to write the compositions that I haven't yet written (yeah, I'm a slacker sometimes and do my best work at the last minute). And after the semester is over, I have 10 days off before starting the new one on July 30. I'm guessing I'll be bored senseless most of the time.

However, I do have one lovely thing to look forward to - Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows! The book comes out on July 21, and I've already pre-ordered at Eslite. So this week I'm re-reading The Half-Blood Prince, since it's been two years since I read it and have forgotten some of the details. This is a strange sort of anticipation, because this book is the final Harry Potter book, and I'm so sad about that. How can Ms. Rowling leave us like this? I'm hoping she won't, that she'll continue writing books related to other characters or at least set in the same magical universe. Surely she needs to make even more millions than she currently has.

One of my friends here in Taiwan is writing a book, and she's been letting me to read it as she writes. It's a quirky vampire novel, and I love it! After reading some of the complete drek that's on the market now, I'm quite sure she'll have no difficulty getting published, as her work is miles above a lot of that crap.

The weather this week has been truly miserable, hot and humid like you would not believe. We had one or two days of marginally cooler air thanks to super typhoon Man-Yi that was making a fly-by on its way to Japan, but it wasn't enough. Today is supposed to be a RealFeel of 106F, bleah. At least there's wind, which does help a bit, and it will probably rain sporadically all next week. Being the bright bulb that I am, on Tuesday I decided it would be an excellent idea to walk from school to Zhongshan MRT station. The temp was probably around 103F degrees and not a cloudy day, and no breeze. After my almost one-hour walk, I damn near collapsed at the station! First thing I did when I got home was take a cold shower and then guzzle down a bunch of water. Yikes, won't be doing that again soon. Although I will try to force myself to go for early morning walks along the river while I'm on my school break, instead of sitting on my fat ass in the house all day long.

I started teaching a brother and sister last week. Jerry, the guy, is quite good looking (IMO) but a bit shy. He's 33 and is an interior designer with his own business. His 31-year-old sister, Celine, is an interesting person. She says she has "healing hands" and can use qi gong energy to help people heal. I'm hoping to get her to try on my bad knee, which still bothers me quite a bit sometimes. And I'm trying to surreptiously find out if Jerry has a wife, girlfriend, or boyfriend, because if he's single and straight, I'm going to introduce him to some of my friends!

Wu Bai & China Blue will be going to Malaysia in August for a concert at Genting. I will not be going, because if I leave, I ain't got no visa to come back. Just as well, since it would cost me tons of money that I can't afford. I also didn't go to the autograph sessions that were held today in the central and southern Taiwan because 1) it appeared that it would be just Wu Bai and not the whole band and 2) I have to study for my final. Hopefully there will be a session in Taipei that will feature everyone. Not that I don't madly adore Wu Bai, of course, it's just that if I'm going to get a CD autographed, I want EVERYONE'S signature since EVERYONE worked on the CD, not just Wu Bai.

Just one more month and my friend Ye Ying will be leaving for Holland for her studies there. I'll really miss our language exchange sessions. She's an excellent teacher and a fine friend, and I'm so proud of her for passing her IELTS exam and being accepted at Leiden. If the opportunity arises, I'd love to be able to visit her there, but I'm afraid it's probably far too expensive a trip to make.

And then in September my good buddy Aaron will be returning from England, where he's been studying for the last year. It will be great to have him back, and I know he'll be happy to be on home ground again. He called yesterday, and we talked for an hour and a half. One of his best friends had gone to England to visit him, and the cheap bastard sponged off Aaron the whole time! This guy is a teacher who makes good money. The only thing he brought as a gift to Aaron was one single pack of instant noodles, that's it. He stayed in Aaron's dorm, in Aaron's bed, while Aaron slept on the floor. Aaron had to spend his money eating out every day while his friend was there, and not once did the guy offer to pay for a meal - even after he won 25 pounds (around $50US) at the casino! Like they say, with friends like that...... So yesterday on the phone I taught Aaron all sorts of new words: cheapskate, tightwad, miser, stingy, penny pincher, niggardly (which I told him to avoid using, as it sounds far too much like a very unpleasant word, despite having nothing at all to do with that word). I'm so grateful that my friends are the generous sort.

The first year I was here, I wasn't very careful with my money at times (what a dork!), and I also spent a lot furnishing my apartment. My bank balance dwindled by $22,621 that year, which is not bad by US standards but for a person without an income not so great. So the next year I was much more careful, and I also managed to earn a bit more from teaching. Yesterday I finally calculated the cost of last year to my bank balance, and it was $11,223. Wow, I managed to cut expenses in half without even realizing it! I've been working on paying off the two credit cards I have, so I've been spending about $250-$300 per month on that (and was spending a lot more per month that first year). So, once I get those paid off (I have about $2300 to go), I'll be spending even less. I just want my little nest egg to get me through four years of university, and I think I can squeak that by, especially if I can keep teaching just a little bit.

By the way, a big thank you to all of you who faithfully read my blog instead of sending me e-mails asking me what's new (yeah, you know who you are, if you finally dropped in to read, cuz I already chewed you out for it). I have to say that it's truly disappointing to know that some friends don't bother to read it, especially now that I write so little, so it's not as if they have to spend hours a day catching up on my doings. I admit that I don't check my Chinese friends' blogs very often, because it's not so easy to read the Chinese, but everyone who blogs in English gets an almost-daily visit from me to see if there's anything new. I may not always leave a comment, but I'm reading!

Wednesday, July 04, 2007

If at First You Don't Succeed.....aka No Joy in Mudville Part Deux

Steeeeee-rike two!

I didn't get the scholarship. Again. Despite having the highest grade in the school (no applause, just throw money), they didn't give it to me. Why? Because out of 110 hours of instruction (one semester, 11 weeks), I missed 8 hours (4 days of classes). Two hours was because I had a recording job that day and earned $1,800NT, nothing to sneeze at, but I could have not gone. Two hours was because I was home puking my guts out after eating something bad, and there was no way I could get to school. Two hours was because the fucking unhelpful girls at the front desk couldn't be arsed to tell me in advance that I'd need two weeks to apply for the ARC, causing me to make a frantic run to the Banqiao immigration office in the morning for a short extension and then on a futile trip to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (you'll recall I didn't get the ARC), leaving me no time to make it to my 1:00 p.m. class, which wasn't even a real class, as the teacher had taken everyone to a teahouse that day. Two hours was because I had to friggin' leave the country because I didn't get the friggin' ARC and there weren't any cheap flights on the weekend or even later in the evening, so I had to vacate on a Friday afternoon, again missing a class.

The Powers That Be at the school only allow you to miss 6 whole hours if you want a scholarship, so I was over by 2 hours. The rules the government sets down for student visa requirements allow one to miss 10 hours (5 days of class) per month, and you'd think they'd be the stricter ones. Deng Laoshi told me that although they really, really, really wanted to give me the scholarship, they thought the other students would complain. How the hell the other students would even know how much time I missed was a question she couldn't answer.

Pissed? Yes. Disappointed? Yes. Giving up? No. But I swear, if they blow me off one more time, there's an explosion gonna be happening.

Saturday, June 30, 2007


The title of this entry, Zheng Zhong Xia Huai, is a Chinese "proverb" which means to be just what one hopes for, or fit in exactly with one's wishes. Since that's mostly the way I feel about the concert last Saturday, I feel it's apt.

Caroline and I met up at Xinpu station and caught a cab to Xinzhuang. When we arrived, Nat, Charlene, and Sharrie were already there, out front with Wu Bai's parents having a chat. I haven't seen his folks since 2005, so it was a treat to see them again. Wu Bai's mom (whom we call Auntie in Taiwanese, sounds like Ah Mm) looked great, seems to have lost quite a bit of weight, and his dad (Uncle in Taiwanese, Ah Bei) looked the same as always. I love to watch Ah Mm smile, because she has the exact same smile that her son has. He definitely takes after mom, not dad. Sharrie went with them to have some dinner, and the rest of us went to another place. By this time we'd been joined by the rest of our crew, and after some lovely potstickers, we headed for 7-11 for drinks. There I ran into my friend Dan Qi, whom I haven't seen since April. Her hubby, who hates Wu Bai, had graciously brought her to the show and would sit in a coffee shop the entire time waiting for her. Then Tona and David from Singapore showed up, and then Hui Lian and Yumiko, also from Singapore. We all headed back over to the stadium to wait until show time, finding a sort of cool area where the air conditioning from inside was leaking out. I bought a little bit of the concert merchandise, but I wasn't awfully impressed with what they had this time, so I got to save some money!

This much-anticipated Wu Bai & China Blue 15-year celebration was certainly different, at least in the beginning, than other shows, for it seems that recently Wu Bai has been bitten by the dancing bug, and there were at least three numbers in which Wu Bai did not once play guitar, just sang and danced with the girlies. Unfortunately, he appears to have been only partially infected by said bug, and his dancing could still use a few years of daily practice! I do have to say that he's awfully cute when he's on stage surrounded by scantily clad, skeletally-thin women and so obviously nervous trying to match their fluid movements. I think for someone like him, who really is so painfully shy, to be willing to get in front of thousands of fans and risk their laughter is quite a feat. I know the man has rhythm, because I've seen him shaking his ass quite nicely while he's holding his guitar. But you take that security blanket away from him, and he becomes totally awkward (while retaining that Wu Bai adorable-ness that I love so much). He did a few songs from a tiny stage in the midst of the audience, with no guitar, and at one point he just picked up the mike stand and tried to play it! Definitely out of his element sans guitar. So after a couple dance numbers, Nat turns to me and screams at the top of her lungs in order to be heard, "Wu Bai cannot dance!" I screamed back, "I know he can't dance, but at least he's trying!" "But he CAN'T DANCE!" And then I noticed, not far above our heads and a bit to the right, the microphone that was being used to record the show. Oh peachy, two women yelling in English that The Emperor of Rock can't dance, that's gonna be quite obvious when they play that back. I shouldn't have told Dino, who just about busted a gut laughing when he heard, because he'll probably try to find that bit and point it out to Wu Bai.

But other than having to watch cutsie pseudo-sexy stick women drape themselves around the object of my adoration (one wonders what thoughts of violent death Mrs. Wu had running through her mind during these displays), the show was fabulous. When they began, Wu Bai wasn't on stage, but slowly emerged from a hole under the stage, holding an umbrella, to sing "Innocent Years." There was an extra guitar player in the back, near Da Mao, and a bald fellow out front playing. Didn't really pay much attention to them, as I tend to focus on Wu Bai most of the time, and I think we were at least four songs into the show before I realized that the bald guy was Xiao Zhu! Now, we've always known that he was balding and that's why we've never seen him without a baseball cap or a head scarf, but he's had the long ponytail running down his back all these years. Gone, completely gone, shaved that skull bare he did! You can bet that today, when we go see ABS at the Canada Day beach party, I'm asking him what on earth possessed him to do such a thing. I would have asked his wife, who was standing down in front of us, but it was too difficult to try to talk while screaming. Perhaps he just decided that's it's too flippin' hot to wear hats all the time and that if he shaved it all, no one would guess it was departing on its own already.

We had very nice seats, quite close to the stage and off to the band's left. As I mentioned, there was a small stage, called the Rainbow Stage, in the middle of the standing rock area, and that was even closer to us. When Wu Bai was there, the fans could crowd around and even get their hands shaken, if lucky. We watched our friend Xiao Hu, arms leaning on the stage, right at Wu Bai's feet and gazing up at him in pure adoration, and were completely jealous. When Wu Bai sang "Only Love" all the house lights were on, and he could clearly see the audience. There's a part of the song that says, "I used to be alone, and was used to being alone. Why did you bother to give me that kind of kiss? Maybe I've awakened and shouldn't take this seriously - you stole my soul away." During the "you stole my soul" part, I was singing along and pointing at Wu Bai, and damned if he wasn't pointing right back at me. I don't think it was my imagination, either, because Charlene gave me a good hard whack on the back from behind, so she thought so, too.

The second part of the show was very cool, because it was a recreation of the old pub days at Live-a-Go-Go, back in 1994 and 1995, I think, when the band was first starting to build up a following. They even had shirts just like they wore when they filmed the Wu Bai Live DVD, those pirate-y looking ones. And Xiao Zhu wore his head scarf (thank the goddess). The whole stage extended out farther into the audience, bringing everyone even closer to us. As they were preparing for this part of the show, they showed the Wu Bai Live video, getting everyone all worked up. I sure wish I could have been there at the beginning, part of those intimate pub shows that made the band so famous.

There were a lot of encores at this show, and during one of them the whole band hit the stage to dance to "You are My Flower." Damn, they're so cute, really. There had better be a concert DVD for this one! The show ended at 11:30, much later than I'd expected (I'm not complaining!), and I was in a daze by that time, so thirsty but having to pee so badly. Caroline and I went to the ladies', and when we came out everyone was gone, except for David and Tona. It took forever to get a cab, and the MRT had already ceased for the evening, so I had no choice but to pay for a cab ride home. We dropped Caroline in Banqiao first, then headed toward Taipei 101, where David and Tona's friend lives. They'd brought their baby, Kimi, with them, and the friend was babysitting. Would have loved to have gone out to eat with them, but it just wasn't feasible. The cab driver had arranged for another cab to meet us along the way so I could make the switch, and I got home around 1:30 a.m. It was still incredibly hot outside, and my apartment was stuffy and muggy. And DZ was griping at me for being gone so long, as usual.

I spent the next few days running the show back through my head, getting silly smiles on my face when I thought about it. On Monday I met up with David, Tona, and Little Kimi, and we went for lunch at Shanghai Dumpling then to Coldstone Creamery for dessert. Wow, it has been so long since I've had really good ice cream (the cheap stuff doesn't tempt me one bit, and I won't pay the price for Hagen Daaz, however you spell it). Coldstone is actually affordable, as a bowl is around $3.35US for a decent-sized serving. Then I added another buck for the chocolate dipped waffle cone bowl. Ummmmmmm! Good thing it's so far out of the way and not easily accessible, because it could make dieting a bit harder!

Oh yeah, I've lost 12.75 pounds now, 5.8 kilos. Was hoping it would be more this week, because I've been doing a lot of walking (and sweating), but it didn't drop much. Perhaps next week will be better. I did go out for lunch twice this week, but I tried to just eat fruit in the evenings on those days. Since I'm going to the beach party this evening, I'll try to be really good the rest of the day.

I thought the school would announce the scholarship winners this week, but they didn't, so hopefully next week I'll know. I gave up my Wednesday night teaching, because it just didn't seem worth it to me. The students don't really have the time to study, and two hours a week just won't help them make progress. It's wasting their time and money and my time. I found a new pair of students, a brother and sister, and I'll start once a week with them for two hours, and they might bump that up to twice a week. The guy is a cutie, but of course too young for me. Still, I'd rather be teaching a handsome fellow than a butt-ugly one, ha.

Ye Ying got her IELTS score last night, and this time she passed! I have mixed feelings - happy for her because she made it and will be able to go to Holland to study, but sad because she'll be gone and I won't get to see her for a long, long time. And she won't have time for our language exchange, because she'll be working more in the next couple of months before she leaves. But now her boyfriend, Xuan Yi, is finally finished with his thesis and will graduate, so he's going to start again in her place.

I can't believe this semester is almost over, only three more weeks left. I need to write a few more compositions to meet the teacher's requirement, and I'd best get my butt in gear! Sometimes it's just difficult to think of a topic, and I want to make my compositions interesting. I suppose I can just wing it, after all it doesn't have to win the Pulitzer Prize. I've been thinking about writing a letter to Wu Bai, so maybe I'll use that as an assignment, be good practice for me.

OK, enough, I have so much that I should be doing before I take off at 4:00, including studying for the test on Monday! Over and out.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Deja Vu

Went out for all-you-can-eat pizza and fried chicken for lunch yesterday with three (very skinny) friends. Only ate a grapefruit for breakfast and wasn't one bit hungry in the afternoon and evening after stuffing my gut with pizza. Did more walking than usual to try to make up for it, too.

So, fearfully I got on the scales this afternoon when I got home. Normally, I only weigh on Saturday or Sunday morning, since I tend to get discouraged if I weigh every day and don't see any loss, then I eat because I'm bummed. But today, wow! I'm happy to say that I've lost 11.24 pounds which, gee, puts me exactly where I was on June 15, 2006. Yes, I keep a record of my weight, so I know just when I was the fattest. So at least I've gotten off what I gained during the last year (some of it came back with me from the US after my trip back!), and now I can work on the 14 pounds I gained during my first year here. And after that I will tackle the 10 pounds I gained between my September 2004 concert trip and my March 2005 arrival!

Then maybe I can actually buy some clothes that fit. And wear my Wu Bai & China Blue concert t-shirts. Yup, good incentive.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Countdown to Happiness!

Getting through the next few days won't be easy. The anticipation is building, fueled by the very short performance we saw Saturday night at the Golden Melody Awards. This Saturday, June 23, is Wu Bai & China Blue, yeah! An added bonus is getting to see Tona and David with their new little baby, as they'll be coming in from Singapore.

The awards show was tons of fun, got to see a variety of performances, including the classic band Wynners, featuring Alan Tam. The Korean boy band Super Junior was there, as well as a couple of Japanese cuties whose names I don't know. They all look around 12 years old but quite adorable. Jolin Tsai kicked off the night with an impressive number featuring dancers wearing Native American-style outfits. She was a co-presenter with Wu Bai and also ended up scoring the award for best female artist (Mandarin language).

Today is Dragon Boat Festival, so we have a two-day holiday (yesterday and today). I'm just kicking back at home, staying out of the heat.

I'm so pleased with myself, because I've lost 10 pounds since May 1! Yeah, yeah, I'm still 15 pounds heavier than I was when I got here, but hey, I'm working on it! Hopefully my determination will not waiver and I'll continue to get the flab gone.

I completed my application for the scholarship last week, and I think next week the results will be announced. I'm sure hoping I get it, as it's around $361US per month, which goes a long way here. That will pay for my plane ticket to Osaka, at least!

I will try to go to Hong Kong in November, too, because my friend Maddy will be going over with her good buddy Maxine, and it's such a good opportunity to see her. I think the last time we saw each other was February 2001 in San Francisco!

Last Wednesday my class and I went to the National History Museum to see the Terracotta Warriors exhibit. It was a disaster! There were millions of school kids there, and it was almost impossible to get close enough to anything to see, and the kids were running all over the place, crashing into us. Or seated on the floor in front of exhibits while getting a lecture, effectively keeping anyone else from viewing it. What a waste of time and money. Extremely small exhibit, too, truly not worth the NT$150 we paid for our tickets. I mean, the main museum charge for students is only NT$10, for crying out loud! Later we found out that the afternoon was basically child-free, as one of the other teachers took her class there, too, and she said it wasn't crowded at all. Our bad luck to have morning classes, I guess.

Another countdown is to July 21, when the new (and final, boo hoo!) Harry Potter books is released. That's gonna cost me at least $30US, I think, but I don't care, I'm buying it! Hopefully Page One will have it on a 20% discount. Also, author Darren Shan will be making a visit to Taiwan in July, and if Caroline goes around to see him, I might tag along. Haven't read any of his books yet, but would really like to. Argh, my list of books I want is so very long. Hm, maybe if I get that scholarship I'll go on a book-buying spree at Page One! I picked up quite a few used books a couple weeks ago at Whose Books, which was nice.

That's about it for me, not much going on here. Hope everyone is well and happy, just like me!