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!).