At it again

It may be hard to start anew, but we often forget the lessons of the past and are thus allowed to move forward with more rewarding mistakes. I am "at it again" writing this blog, which begins in in December because I accidently erased it. I am "at it again" living abroad because I I erased from my memory the continous miscommunication and confusion of it. Luckly you can sit back in the comforts of your native language and culture and enjoy my adventures, hopefully with a laugh or snicker.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

New Plan, New Blog

Colin and I are now sharing a blog at www.curryandyurts.blogspot.com. Check it out.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Almost the last post

Well it's Tuesday. I just closed (well removed all money from) my bank account, got travelers checks and Thai Baht, wired money home, picked up our passports from the curt Russian bureaucrat and am now in search of an ideal box to send a tripod home in. Pretty successful, but now I'm tired and don't want to go to my 3rd to last tutoring. I doubt the kid wants me to come either, but I have new books that I can engage him with. All this and we still have time to cook.

I made a really pleasant pasta sauce yesterday, unfortunately I didn't photograph it. We often make pastas with tons of lightly satiety veggies, but I never fell like there is anything that holds them together. This time I hit the nail on the head. I'll reproduce what I did primarily for Robert as he is the only one to have expressed interest in the cooking and food pictures I occasionally post. So Robert listen (or read?) up:
- Start the pasta water and steam cut up asparagus over it. When it is steamed start the pasta.
- Sautee some onions and eggplant. I like the long skinny Asian eggplant, but if you use the American kind you can cut the bitterness and wetness by soaking the cut eggplant in salt of 20 minutes or so and then rinsing it before cooking.
- Add some fresh tomatoes and the asparagus, cook very briefly.
- In a small dish press a bunch of garlic. Add some chicken bouillon. Make a thin sauce by adding a bit of the pasta water and some olive oil.
- you can put in half this mixture to your pan of sauteed veggies before the pasta is finished, to cook and absorb other flavors. When the pasta is done add it to the veggies with the rest of the sauce and a little bit more pasta water just for mixing.

The flavor is really yummy and garlicy and everything is tied together nicely. I could make it again tonight!

Also Colin requested that I put up one more photo from our wedding shots. This is from when we were at the waterfall and a bunch of Taiwanese College kids wanted their picture taken with us. We obliged and then our photographer stepped in to take a shot of us with them. Here is the result.
the funny wedding photo

Monday, August 14, 2006

Heated Hiking

So I guess my last hike was not actually the last in Taiwan. The weather is still brutal, but I've gotten used to it a bit and since we only have 2 more weeks here, we simply had to get out and see a few of the things still on the list. Even though staying inside in the air-con sounded like a good plan for Sunday, Colin and I took the trip down the East coast to RuiFeng. They have a small rail train there that runs up through several towns in the hills. The train was not as cool as we thought it would be. Train buffs think the train is exceptional, but if you don't love trains it seems just like any other. We did have many children interested in us and our presence in this out of the way tourist sight and an old man who came on the train with two bags balanced over his shoulder on a pole. We bought some rice cakes from him.
rice cake- chomp!

We rode the train to the last stop and got off. The main attraction was the remains of a coal mine closed in the 70s. From the looks of it you would think it was closed in 1870. That took only about 20 minutes and then we went off to find a hike. Like all travels I've gone on in Taiwan there was not a lot of great signs and our map was a 10 year old's interpretation of the area. We ended up walking on the highway for some time and I was working to make myself satisfied with that and then we found the trail. It was a typical Taiwanese trail meaning that it was all stairs that went straight up to the destination. When we got near the peak the steps became notches carved into the rock with ropes to help you up.Up the stairs down I thought this was the most precarious peak I'd ever climb without a safety harness until we came to the next peak. By that time I was pretty tired, but while we were deciding whether to go up or not this couple in their late 60s or early 70s came down from the second peak. We asked them how it was and they said it was easier than the one we had just climbed down from and that it would only take a half hour. Xiaozi mountain

I think it took less than 30 minutes, but it wasn't easy. When we came to the final stretch we had to wait for those at the top to come down. Then we climbed up some steps carved in the rock to a metal ladder. There was a ladder because there was a deep crevice on either side. Had I slipped it would have been a long way down. After the ladder there were more, near-vertical carved steps. I got to the top, but part of me wished I hadn't because getting up meant getting down. There were statues of Guanyin at the top and I kissed one before going down again. Colin teased that I had actually just kissed the god of wrath, a joke he could have saved for after we got off the peak. In the end we made it with no problem and I'm proud of Taiwan for making such a perilous climb. As Colin pointed out these are the peaks that in the US you might see at a national park and think, "that would be cool to get up to," but you wouldn't be allowed.From up looking down

We finally got back on a train and decided to skip the other sight, waterfalls. Unfortunately our train didn't go all the way to the end of the line and turned around before we figured it out. We got off at the next stop and figured out that we would have to wait another hour. Luckily we were right next to the river. river frontWe followed a family down and Colin read while I soaked my feet (what I had wanted of the trip all along) and watched a family of nine- dad, mom and 7 naked kids, play in the water.

Friday, August 11, 2006

Wedding photos

All is well here. We have cleaned up the room so it don't seem like there is as much to pack and get ready to go. Last night Colin and I went out and had a splurge night. We spent as much on dinner at a cute little Japanese grill place as we would in the states. We had sake and took turns toasting each other. Then I tried to surprise Colin by taking him to a Gelato place I saw from the bus once. Unfortunately I gave too many clues and he knows Taipei too well. He guessed. We mozied around and had a lovely relaxing evening. Today we are showing a string of people the apartment. We're really leaving soon. I alternate between being exited and being anxious- what's not done?

Well no time for worries. Here are some photos from our Taiwanese wedding shot as promised. Like I said before, we're not actually married yet. I know, it's sacrilege to have our photos ahead of time, but not so in Taiwan.

ļ¼·alking in waves

looking out

where's she going?

Xinliao waterfall kiss

Lean on me

kissing in the stream

hold on

whoes smile is that

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Weights lifted

This week has felt really good. There has been a lot of movement and weight lifted. To start, we've decided to just let Bonnie the wedding planner do the official part of the wedding. I was tired of not getting responses from her and not feeling like she was doing what she had said she would. So we're doing the hotel and dinner part on our own. We may or may not have her photographer and florist. It's really more convenient. Now instead of having to relay thing through Bonnie I can write to hotels directly and ask them if they have room for our group and about details like if they an elevator for Colin's grandmother.

I'm actually not thinking about that now because I'm back in Yilan visiting. I didn't realize it until we got here, but I really needed to get out of the city. The second we got out of the mess of ill conceived buildings that is Taipei I felt a weight lifted. Space, sky, green. For a girl who wants to make buildings I certainly like places without them. Colin and I went with one co-teacher, Kirsty, and her husband up to Taipingshan on Sunday. It was a very Taiwanese trip, lots of driving and stopping, but not stopping for very long. It was beautiful, and the first real escape from the heat I've had all summer. I was even cold at points. It was also so quiet. I forgot it could be so quiet. We got to one place on a little hike and if the four of us didn't talk or move you didn't hear anything but the occasional bird.

Now I'm at Roxanna's house, my other co-teacher, hanging out with her and her family. She has these adorable little boys. One just came up to tell me that we are having pizza now. He described the pizza and I asked now? Because I hadn't heard the door or anything. I went downstairs to discover that the pizza store had just been called, but he thought I should know. I'm glad I came down because it reminds me that I do have real friends here that are not just situation based like I would have eventually come to think.

tomorrow, Julianna and I will give a speech to the new Fulbrighters. That is also a bit of a relief, passing the torch as you will. I had a good time this past year, but I've been reminded of the bureaucracy and problems and miscommunication that they will just be beginning to experience and I'm glad that they are doing it and not me.

Also got our Taiwanese wedding photos, will post when I get home.

Monday, July 31, 2006

One year in Taiwan

So today is the first. I have been in Taiwan one whole year. Infact, next year's Fulbright group is arriving today and I will go down to Yilan to talk to them next week. Hum... Strangely fitting, my schooling has trained me to see things in year long chunks and I am consiquentially ready to get going and start something new. I have felt a little purposeless these past few weeks, and this past week that felling compounded with worrying about my Aunt Susan's health was a lot for me.

i guess I figured I would have a lot to do these to months, with travels and the wedding and all. It's turned out that it's really not that much. We are leaving a lot of our time around Asia free and relatively open. We bought tickets and have the Trans-mongolian part planned. Yesterday I looked into Thai cooking schools since Colin has gotten really into cooking and I love food too. Plus I love activities. Really though, I could leave tomorrow without much fear oof things not being ready.

Now the wedding is a different story. I've done everything I can do, designed a wedding dress, chosen flower colors, worked on ring designs. Now all I have to do is wait for Bonnie, our wedding planner to pull things together, and give us some options, after that all I have to do is say yes or no, this one or that one.

I managed to get some more tutoring on accident yesterday. I guess I didn't realize we were talking about adding another tutoree. Oh well, I guess I can use the money. It's a little far away and in the evening, but I don't know how to get out of it now and it will be less then a month of classes.

What I'm trying to get at with all of this is that I am planning on focusing on my art and photography these next few weeks. I'll get closer to mastering my camera for the trip (color adds a lot of problems for me). I'm having fun with Barb's drawings and I just got a gridded sketchbook for drawing/writing on our trip. It's amazing how quickly I get back into the drawing swing if I do it regularly. I could certainly improve my drawing, but for now just doing it is the best way. I joined a flickr phot group a few weeks ago that I get weekly assignments for. I am having a really good time and you could say I have internet friends, very international group of active members. Anyway, I won last week's assignment (group vote) on public transportation with this photo:
the ride

I have another photo tip website that I'm paying attention to to. Now all I need is photoshop and a computer that can handle that. That will wait for when I get home and probalby when I have a job.

That's about it. I'll try to do something interesting that I can write about soon. I'm going to the library today. I think that is exciting, but I can't really write about it.

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

I good vision of my disillusion

I found this quote by Paul Valery on entering a museum yesterday and need to reproduce it:

My pace grows reverent. My voice alters to a pitch higher than in a church, to a tone rather less strong than that of every day. Prenestly I lose all sense of why I have intruded into this wax-floored solitude, savoring the temple and drawing room, of cemetary and school... Did I come for instruction, for my own beguilement, or simply as a duty and out of convention? Or is it perhaps some excercise perculiar to itself, this stroll I am taking, weirdly beset with beauties, distracted at every moment by masterpieces to the right and left compelling me to walk like a drunk between counters.

This feeling is what I have often felt in a museum and I've liked it, I do like it, but it is cut off. The museum distinguishes itself as different as separate from the rest of the world. A place for peace and repose. I want museums to remain as an alternative sanctuary. It seems to be history has given this roll to museums, primarily art museums. It is also for this reason that I don't want to make my life within this structure. I really believe that art has a place in life, in a dynamic communication with the world. I have seen people, especially in Portland, who have made this a mission with fine art, but it's hard. Fine art's more recent (since the seventeenth century?) history has tied it so close to the elite educated classes that an attempt to bring it back into the world or to make the museum part of the world is always a struggle. It's a valiant and worth while struggle, but it's not what I would be best at. Even at Reed, where being educated was not the issue, it was difficult to get students to step into the gallery on the way to or from the library. At the time I thought it must be that everyone was too busy, but I think now that perhaps the Reedie deep seated fear of seeming like a moneyed elitist kept people out, though of all the museums I've been to, it certainly did not give that vibe. The history of association may just have been to strong.

I think that for me the best mode of bringing art into life is through architecture. This is a field that is inherently tied to the world as it is the creation of spaces that people must interact with. The opportunity exists to affect a person's movement and interaction with the world even if they refuse to acknowledge it's presence. It also has little problem accepting the necessity to bend to the will of the world because even without the will of the client, there is already great restraints placed by the material, location, use of the location and the public law.

Just thoughts.

peaches

I ate a peach from California today. I've done it before here and it gives me pause every time. I sit and think about how global economics allows for me to buy a peach that has has traveled all the way from my home for little more than 20 cents, but it takes $1000 for me to make the same trip. The peach tasted like California too. I know, all this is obvious, but my life has become much more sedate of late.

Saturday, July 22, 2006

The Present Tense

So I realized I haven't really been talking about anything I'm doing except in broad sweeping strokes. I guess that is because I'm thinking (agonizing) more about the future right now. Nonetheless I have collected some stories to tell so I suppose I will.

This past Wednesday, I went with Geoff on his second to last day in Taiwan out to YangMingShan to go on a hike. WhistlingWe decided to climb the tallest peak in Taipei county, which isn't so incredible except that it was very very hot and there is no such thing as switchbacks in Taiwan. It took a while to even find the trail we wanted and I climbed the last 1/2 with my umbrella up for shade, but we made it. We climbed up to where everything except silvergrass couldn't grow and the view at the peak was clouded, but the feeling of space was liberating. On the way down we passed a bunch of geothermal spots with steam spouting out and sulfur in the air.Geothermal The bus ride down was less than pleasant. Old people had (rightfully, I suppose) taken all the seats and so we stood, overheated, in the isle of a minibus as it jerked around mountain turns. I hadn't been to Yangmingshan except to run a 10K and I don't think I would have gone without Geoff's prompting. I suppose it will probably be my last hike of the season.

On Thursday, I got the joy of going to the hospital for a dose of HepA vaccine. The National Taiwan University hospital is in an old Japanese era building with stark western style columns and a lobby with a high ceiling and details that deceived you into thinking you weren't in a hospital. Perhaps this hasn't been changed so that mother's have an easier time getting their children to the doctor. Anyway, the illusion is discarded as you enter the new much more sterile wing. Then we sat down to wait and any feeling of not being in a Taiwanese hospital went away. Since Taiwan has socialized medicine, almost any medical attention you need you go to the hospital to get. You sign up for a number and sit in front of a closed door in a long corridor of closed doors and wait for the bell sound and the digital number to change enough times that you get to go in. I finally went in, got asked a few questions and given a printout. After that it was downstairs again to pay for the vaccine and then to pick it up at the prescription counter and then back up the stairs to have the vaccine injected.

While we were waiting, we found out that Colin is malnourished. The waiting area had these cool scales. When you stand on them a sensor is alerted and a bar comes down and taps you on the head. You can then turn toward the machine and see your height and weight. I have gained five pounds since coming to Taiwan (down from gaining 15 in February). Colin on the other hand has lost nearly twenty pounds. He didn't believe it and weighed himself at least 3 times on various scales. I just laughed. I had said a few weeks ago that we were going to be like the farmer couple in the painting "American Gothic," I was just going to get fatter as we got older and he would just get skinnier. Ah, how right I was. Although I must admit I enjoyed this discovery, it drove Colin to an internet search of exactly what qualified as being underweight. I'm sure he would like you to know that he is only underweight according to some calculations. He has also begun eating pumpkin seeds and sunflower seeds for extra protein, though I don't think they'll do much as it must take the same number of calories to open one of those things as there are calories inside. I'm trying to convince him that more icecream would be a better tactic.

Back to the future again, Colin and I have been looking for wedding bands. Besides the fact that all the sample rings we've tried on have been too small for me and too big for Colin, we are not having much luck. We went on Friday afternoon to a wedding expo at the convention center, but only one place even had weddingbands out and none of them were very remarkable. A few of them weren't ugly, but that's not saying much. Afterwards we thought we'd do more research by going to Tiffany's and Cartier in Taipei 101. Of course they were all outrageously expensive, but nothing even perked our interest. When we left Taipei 101 all that had come of it is that Colin had learned that I was once given a piece of Tiffany's jewelry as a gift and we had bought to books on Taiwanese cooking. Maybe we should just exchange books on our wedding day. They are much easier to find and like and want to purchase. We were also very hungry, probably more from looking at cookbooks than from looking at rings, so we went to the only place nearby, Jason's, the uber Western grocery store. Not only was it super Western, it was like a Whole foods or a Pavillion's. I'm talking about high class grocery shopping. We bought some French bread that to our surprise wasn't sweet and didn't taste exclusively like butter and wandered around eating and pretending like we were traveling through Europe and bread was all we could afford.

We want back out on a ring hunt today and things were pretty abysmal. There are no rings that are really wide enough for Colin and no one here seems to do matching but not identical rings for male and female. That's probably because no one wears their wedding rings here. I think they put them in safes. Ah, what to do? Colin suggested we exchange bagels at our wedding, but I reminded him that bagels will probably be just as difficult to find in Umbria as rings are in Taiwan.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

The travel plans

Here is a visual rough plan of our trip across the world. I'm sure it will be wrong, but when I get home I'll make an accurate one and we can compare. I'm also going to put this in the heading or my porfile or somewhere where it can be found during the trip.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Disconnect

A typhoon is coming on here. I've become Taiwanese in my emotion towards typhoons. They in no way scare me and are instead a lovely excuss to stay inside all day, which is what I do a lot of the time anyway, but to have too, ahh. To get the need for more space out of our system we walked though the pre typhoon rains to the movies and saw Pirates of the Carribean. I was so wet you might not have known that I had an umbrella.

We home again and I feeling a little disconnected. I've been feeling this a lot recently. Colin and I are planning such big things and I keep wanting more council. More people to tell me the dress looks fine, you will be a good architect, don't bother applying to schools where Colin couldn't find a job. I know all this but I want my people, my friends and family closer to share with. I guess part of it is that my nearby close relations have shrunk as of late. I have Colin, but I guess I didn't realize how much my housemates and co-workers meant to me.

My solution seems to be to have checked my e-mail and blog more than neccessary. I have also become obsessed with flickr and am in the process of belonging to my first online community. Oy vey.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

The satisfaction of getting things done.

I have been intensly productive today. I went to FSE and checked out the Architectural School Guidebook. Those 5 hours plus a few other hours have helped me narrow the choices down to ten. Here they are:

Harvard
Columbia
Illinois Institute of Technology
Univeristy of Washington
University of Pennsylvania
University of Nebraska
Berkeley
University of British Columbia
University of Oregon
University of Illinois at Chicago

Now all I have to do is more research to cut the list down to 4 or 5.

In Bridal news I found a picture of that dress I want go to http://insideweddings.com/bridal-fashion/2006/spring/angel-sanchez/ It's dress number 12. If I become a millioniare, Angel Sanchez will recieve all of my money because he is an amazing designer.
This picture is sort of the idea too but not as awesome.
I also like this dress but it is completely different from the other styles.
Tell me what you think about all three and their relationship to my drawing.

Sunday, July 09, 2006

Wedding Post #1- The dress

So you might know that I'm going to have my wedding dress made in Bangkok while we're there. That however means that I really need to know what I want. This is a post all about my dress desires and I'm looking for some input. If you're not interested in hearing me sound extremely girly, I would skip this post.

My wedding dress
Here's the dress. It's based on a dress by Angel Sanchez that I found in Bride's magazine (yes I read a bridal magazine, but I did not buy it) on page 70. I haven't been able to find the dress anywhere in photos online, though many of his dresses are lovely (I hope I don't get sued for posting this).

My wedding dress back
There was no back picture so I am not in love with a particular back, but here are my options.

Let me explain the dress a little more. I think it is sort of Italian muse Botticelli Primavera like sort of Edwardian England. It is silk underneath with a thin tulle on top. The tulle is bunched or folded over at the top and then is pulled together in an empire waist by a thin cord. Below that it spreads out into a bunch of fabric. I was thinking that it should be a lower empire that is around my ribs instead of right under my boobs. It should just skim the floor. In the back there are the three possibilities. I have to think of the fact that the shoulder straps are a bundle of fabric and what would look best. The middle option would be to keep a bunch of fabric all the way around, perhaps loose, but loose probably wouldn't work with the flow of fabric down to the empire line. The other option is the truncated V and the deeper boat but similar to the front.

So that's what I want, classical, easy comfortable, free flowing. Here's where I need help. First I am worried about the Empire waist, people in Taiwan only wear empire waists if they are pregnant. I wore the one summer dress I had (empire waist) to work two times and both times people asked if I was pregnant. Will I look pregnant? Do people think that other places, say Italy or America? Please, alleave my fears. Second, what kind of shoes would go with this? I should buy them here because, well where else am I going to buy them. Third if anyone can find any pictures, photos, that look like this, send me to where they are. Forth, which back is best. I'm leaning to the V.

You can e-mail me comments or comment on the blog or if you go to the flickr page you can highlight areas of the picture and make notes. You might have to be my Flickr friend to do this, but that is easily done.

Pulling things together

It's been a while since I've posted given that I was posting nearly every other day. I've moved to Taipei and I felt a strange need to organize my computer and myself before I posted again. Plus, nothing seemed important enough to post or I was too tired by the time I would have posted. So here's a brief rundown.

I've changed a lot of my Flickr photos to private, if you want to see them, ask to be my friend and I will invite you or sign yourself up and friend me.

I moved to Taipei, Colin couldn't figure out why I didn't send more things home and my answer, that I might need them, proved unsatisfactory but fair.

I got two tutoring jobs. One I haven't started with 2 really cute little kids and one with a woman who wants to learn hotel English in a month but who I think secretly hopes to master English in a month and be my best friend. I might have to level with her.

We've moved forward on the wedding, but a separate post on that.

We went back to Yilan to pick out 30 of 300 photos for our Taiwanese wedding album. It's a riot, I'll post when I get them.

I decided to be an architect. Oh yes, I suppose that's a big one, I might post my reasoning a little later, or maybe I'll just post my personal statement when I write it because this means that I'll apply this winter and I have to do a lot this summer given the 2 months of travel and weddings.

I've been out and about in Taipei trying to appreciate the range of activities here. My friend Geoff is here on a Luce grant and though he's only been here about a month and an half he's become involved in all sorts of things and met all sorts of people. I went to watch his Capoeira classWatchers, which is truly amazing, but I also went because the metromall that they practice in, off of the zhongshan stop, is the gathering spot on Wednesday nights for tons of teens and twenties practicing hiphop. Some of them have teachers, some are just friends sharing moves and practicing routines. Apparently there are some big competitions out there. It was crazy to see kids really working to hone a style in Taiwan. I don't see that much. Underground hiphop
The Taipei film festival ends today and like all festivals, I had big plans to go see a bunch of movies, but I ended up seeing just one "My Nikifor," a Polish film about a 'famous' Polish folk artist who was pretty much insane, or at least extremely eccentric. It was beautiful but really didn't delve into any of the stories it presented.
Last night was probably the most fun of all these recent events. We went to see Cloud Gate with Geoff and Melati, another fellow Reedie, plus Geoff's dancer friend and all of his friends. Cloud Gate is a modern dance troupe in Taiwan that Geoff is doing his Luce about. They are huge on the international modern dance scene, but you'd have to know about the international modern dance scene to know that and most of us don't. The show was free and outdoors and the stadium was filled. They showed 3 early pieces from the 70s and one recent piece from this year. I enjoyed about 3/4 of them so I will unwriteoff Modern dance. Apparently it can be good if you see good troupes. It is as if I had only ever seen Kinkades and decided painting was bad.

So that's about it. I promise to keep up now

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Audio posting- I am a technologically competent

this is an audio post - click to play


This is just a test. Unless you want to hear my voice you don't need to listen to it. This is how all my posts will look when we are travelling. Now I just need to figure out how to get a map to track our travels with.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

About people and why I love them

Now that almost everyone has left, I think it would be a good time to reflect upon the Fulbrihgters I spent a year with. Though we spanned personalities and interests, they are all amazing and talented human beings.

Priya- Priya has the energy of 20 of me and she uses all of it productively. I was amazed this year at the confidence with which Priya made connections with local people in Taiwan and made herself a part of the community. When I could get her to slow down enough to chat or when I sped up to meet her by going running with her she always had interesting things to say and I left considering her point of view.

Mary- Mary has nearly as much energy as Priya. I would describe her as bubbly, but not in an airy way. She was always happy to be doing the things she was doing and does her best to make you happy about them too. It's a shame that a 30 minute scooter ride deters me from solidifying friendships.

Julianna- I like Julianna because she surprises me. She came from the most "American" background of all of us- daughter of a preacher and part of a family of 7 in the Midwest and education major at Northeastern. Yet, she said the darnest things and often shed and interesting light on situations. She too got a million things done.

Melanie- Melanie and I probably will never be close, we are headed in different directions, yet I always found her even and fair in her opinions and enjoyed her look at life, though it was remarkably different from mine. She is thoughtful and honest, most of all about herself, which I think is a rare trait.

Josh- As the only male, 10 years older than us, Josh was in an unusual position, but then again he is an unusual guy. Josh became friends with my apartment, but you were never sure what that meant, would he ask for fruit and leave, or bring everyone flowers. He was snotty and made lots of sarcastic jokes, but he took the ones thrown back at him in stride. He was bound to say something different from everyone else and remembers a time before the internet.

Katherine- our paths will cross again, I'm sure of it. Katherine was incredibly sweet, but drove after those things she wanted. She is one of those people you could never be mad at. I didn't spend enough time with her, I wish we could have walked though the hills of Datong together. Katherine always got me talking about the art world and somehow scaring and reassuring both myself and her. Katherine, stop worrying, it will all work out.

Fiona- Fiona is the most selfless person I know. She choose to go to nanao this year because she felt that they needed her. She didn't consider her personal desires and needs at all. She has a strong sense of social responsiblitiy and reminded the rest of us of it. Fiona worked on school projects all the time. I was constantly telling her to work when she go paid, but she drove on. She has been a good couch fixture. I hope you don't have TB Fiona.

Katie- Katie wasn't the easiest person to live with, but she wasn't having the easiest time in Taiwan. I appreciate the way she approached her problems, with a reflective mind that was willing to place blame on herself if she should find is and was not easily angered by the world's unfairness. I was amazed at the way Katie decided that if one part of life wasn't going well, she should pursue and build another part and thus developed more close friendships than I could have imagined. I have grown used to the soft San Francisco exterior coating the hard New Yorker wearing the hot pants. When we had our last dinner together, just Katie, Colin and I couldn't help but think how glad I will be to find Katie my friend back in the states.

Annalily- In many ways Annalily and I are very similar. When she says something out of the blue and everyone gave her that look of huh? I thought we must have had our brains built by the same unit. Annalily is very soft and loving. She is very sensitive to the world and engages it with delicacy. As I grew closer to Annalily I saw how she often wanted things her way, but one could almost never bare to not give them to here. She stays by her beliefs fervently.

Catherine- I am so glad that Catherine and I have come back around to each other. She is probably the person I enjoy talking to the most. She is willing to laugh out loud at the crudest or meanest jokes, but stands by her friends. Catherine was never willing to do what she didn't want to do and would tell you point blank why she didn't like something, even if it was the food you were eating. Catherine and I were able to sit hours listening to each other. Catherine accepts the things she has to deal with with a laugh and drives forward, but playfully. She has the mind of a linguist and I think together we would make the perfect academic.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Taiwanese BBQ

So summer has come and what I wanted was a BBQ. I asked around as to whether I could have one in a park, but nothing came of it for more than a month. Then Roxanna, my co-teacher was relating with a giggle that I wanted to have a BBQ in the park across the street. Telling the story she decided we should all have a BBQ at our co-worker's mother's house. All my favorite people were there.
BBQ
Sonia's mom's house is also a bag factory. I never considered where bags were made in Taiwan, but apparently it's places like this. I made hamburgers, which I think was a bit strange as hamburgers are generally a breakfast food here, and they only went over so so, but ummmm, it made me so happy. They could have been bigger though.
Thomas and hanbaobao
In addition to the hamburgers there was about 100 pounds of meat, including rice stuffed sausages- Yummy. Roxanna and Grace's children were adorable.
Jie Jie I especially love this shot of Andrew. Andrew
It was a great way to end out the year with all of them, though I suppose it's not really the end as I'm having dinner with them on Wednesday. Tomorrow Katie and Annalily leave. The home is broken down and I'm just going to sit tight for a few days waiting for the above mentioned dinner and let the place sink in.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Last Day of School

Today was my very last day teaching and time to say goodbye. This week has been weird because I've felt that I should be saying goodbye all week and in fact I've already said goodbye to so many people and who knows when I will have the chance to see them again or if I will have the chance to see them again, or if I have the chance I will feel to shy and awkward and distant.

I made cookies for my co-workers, took my closest teacher friends out to tea and had my kids write letters to themselve that I will mail to them in a year. Today I just organized the classroom for the first two hours and gathered all my things. At the 10:15 break a binch of kids came and gave me presents and cards and then the teachers pulled out the keyboard and everyone sang the song that everyone knows in Chinese but the name escapes me, something with wo and ai. I cried again and all the kids lined up for hugs.

In the afternoon, we had a farewell tea for all the Fulbrighters and co-teachers. That was strangely anti-climatic, but if we had not met people would have left without me having the chance to say goodbye at all. I guess that would be okay too though, it's not as if goodbyes really do anything for me. Now I'm sitting waiting to go to dinner with a Fulbright friend Katherine, that I probably won't see again for and undetermined amount of time. I feel sort of sad, and just a little strange. I'm looking forward to moving in with Coling, but it's not the same looking forward that everyone elese is doing talking about eating sundried tomatos and doing those other things you can do in the states but not here (I really can barely remember.) It'll still be a long time before Colin and I are back to the home country, but I'm okay with that, even if it's strange at the moment.
On another note, I went to turtle island yesterday. It is the symbol of Yilan and it looks a lot like a turtle and I've seen it every clear morning from my bedroom. That was nice closure I guess, setting foot on the distant island I've seen all year. We saw some dolphins, I got burnt, the island was lush and militaryesque. Afterwards Katie Catherine and I went surfing. I would have backed out because of the feeling of surf culture when we arrived, but Katie drove forward. Once we got in the water I had a great time, overcame my SoCal insecurities about surfing and had fun. Katie, whose last surfing experience was tramatic, ended up backing out at the last minute, but she helped me do it- Thank You, Katie! I still can't say I really like having a headache from seawater up my nose, but at least I know that.

Anyway so much for closure, now it's packing time. That is, somewhere between Karaoke with the housemates on Saturday, tea drinking tonight, and BBQ with teachers on Sunday.

Monday, June 19, 2006

About home

The past two weeks we have had 2 American born Taiwanese in our 5th grade classes. Their mother graduated from our school and since they are here on summer vacation she thought they could get a taste of Taiwanese school and I guess maybe make some friends. They obviously speak fluent English, so my class should be a bit of a joke, but the boy even took the final exam today and helped me grade. He also wrote the extra credit, four sentences using sound, taste, smell and feel.
Here's what he wrote:
sound
In America, the trash trucks don't make sounds to tell you that it has come.
taste
Taiwan's food always tastes better than American food.
smell
America smells better than Taiwan though.
feel
Taiwan feels more like home.

In my last week teaching here, this toughed me deeply. Maybe it's because all the other sentences were "the CD sounds bad," but I think there is a lot of sentiment here. He is making keen observations and that he comes to the conclusion that Taiwan feels more like home is dramatic. I have a hard time imagining what it must be like to have such a connection to a country other than to one you grew up in. Obviously he is also Taiwanese and therein lies the difference. However it is that difference that strikes me, one I know I'll never be privy to, but that I have seen not only in this student, but in fellow Fulbrighters who have family here. I can't imagine having a connection of that sort to Russia or Germany or anywhere my family came from quite some time ago. But if I were to raise children abroad, how would they feel about America? Would they have the duality I've seen? And is a duality like that what you really want to have, can it only be had comfortably in America, where you can be both outside the cultural status quo (an immigrant's child perhaps) and still be culturally American.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Are we doing this right?

Tomorrow we are getting our crazy Taiwanese wedding photos. I felt like I should do something to get ready, so we went and saw a baseball game. I saw my student who meows and he barked hello and Colin talked to some kids who asked first "Where are you from?" and then "What team are you routing for?" When we got back to the house I still couldn't think of anything to do to prepare for the photos so I started looking up gift registry stuff online. I thought that since we weren't inviting very many people we didn't need to do that, but multiple people have told me I'm wrong. I looked and got really overwhelmed, there are tons of things I didn't know I needed. Then Colin told me dinner was ready.

As we shared our dinner of salad out of a big tupperware container Annalily's mom sent cookies in we had this conversation:

Ariel: This owning stuff thing really makes life more complicated. I mean, candlesticks!
Colin: Shit, now we have to buy candles.
Ariel: Maybe we should only register for things we really need.
Colin: Yeah, like jobs.

Ah my baby cracks me up.

And for everyone who has commented on the potential of me buying a pink wedding dress because of the photo on flickr, I'm not buying a pink wedding dress. That was the first of many extremely puffy dresses that I tried on, that the photo studio owns, 5 of which I will be wearing in photos tomorrow, but still not owning.

Thursday, June 15, 2006

Second to last week of school

Well, if I thought I would have a really solid conclusion to this whole Fulbright experience thing, I think my hopes have been dashed. Things are so busy at school that I'm running around like a happy chicken with my head cut off, but then again so is everyone else. Today, my lessons were interrupted because I was to go around the school and take pictures with one of the deans. We will both biye this year, "graduate" that is, from Zhongxing guoxiao and the school is making us a picture memory album. It's really quite sweet and I think it will be a lovely thing to have to ship home. There was also a BBQ with the 6th grade at lunch, which I left early to teach the 5th grade their English farewll speech to the 6th grade, and of course classes, tying up grades and writing the 5th grade exam. Whooo! I did just get back from a lovely shopping outing that resulted in no extra things to send home.

Miri visited at the begining of the week and I tried to play the wonderful hostess while she very adeptly played the wonderful guest. All of my housemates really enjoyed her presence and I loved catching up. We had Taiwanese hotpot and I took her out to my favorite spot, Xinliao waterfall to breath in some ions.

Now I'm trying to make myself extra beautiful for the wedding photos we will have this Sunday and finish up the 700 other things I have planned before I move up to Taipei.

Despit all this business I've had more time to play with my camera, so go check out more photos at flicker. I think clicking on the picture will take you there.
sleeping dog w sign

Monday, June 12, 2006

Voting

Voting is a big deal in Taiwan. They get a turnout of about 80% for even the minor votes for community members. What did Taiwan that we could emulate in the US, you say? Short of having a military dictatorship for several decades I don't think much. The Taiwanese haven't always been able to vote and they do so now with riotous vigor.

You may have heard a lot about recalling Chen Shuibian, but what is more present in my life are local elections. This past Saturday was elections for community representatives. Now we're not talking towns, this is smaller, neighborhoods we might say. Still, each area had at least 3 candidates, large herds of campagaigners wandered the streets giving out flyers, and small truck drove around broadcasting tinny, WWII era sounding broadcasts (as if noisy garbage wasn't enough).

Monday morning after the election I drove to school with the principal. She stopped at a house and she and another teacher got out to talk to the occupants. The remaining teacher asked me if I knew why we had stopped. She told me, but at first I understood that this was a person who had not voted. I thought "Jezz, this is worse than Reed." Turns out though that it was a actually a person who had run and lost. He had a simple house with a lovely garden, old tires hanging from windows, some with plants and some without, a tractor in view and flags still remaining from the campaign. I thought it represented a lot of community involvement and civic duty for our principal to pay this courtesy call.

Thursday, June 08, 2006

Come see my photos

So you should all go take a look at my photos on flickr http://www.flickr.com/photos/arielsshotstoshare/
Here's a teaser to intice you
Wayne
They're all taken on my new camera.

In other news:
Event hough I only have about 2 weeks left of this job, I have not entirely checked out, infact I'm starting to think I'm a pretty good teacher. I have gotten to doing things the easier way, which does not me the bad way. I've just learned what shortcuts allow more time for other things and still get the job done. Today my build a human house game went over really well, I was requested for an encore of hangman (if I'd known they liked it so much I would have started playing earlier) and when my co-teacher didn't come back to class to start the 5th grade, I very successfully did it on my own. Way to go me.

Now I will go home and relax because I suppose I deserve it.

But one more thing- They've set up the room next to mine, which is usually the security room as a dentist's office. Kids keep leaving class to have their cavities taken care of. Part of me thinks this a wonderful thing and that basic medical care should be done at all schools. The other part of me thinks that the set up can't be all that great since the whole thing seems to come and go. It lends a 3rd world, health clinic feeling to Taiwan that I can't say I see in other sectors. Hummm, maybe I should get my teeth checked. On second thought, maybe not.

Monday, June 05, 2006

I did it!

So I did it, I bought the Nikon D50. I am so very happy and I'm sure Colin, who has listened paciently to me debate the merits of different cameras and lenses, is happy to. I'm a very good consumer, perhaps too good. I have yet to regret a well researched purchase though. In fact the only thing I think I'll be sad about on this on is that it puts my little digital Pentax out of a job. I used to use it when I wanted fast and quick but that is taken care of by the D50. I get wrapped up in the talk about the various products and read and read and read and well it takes a while even after I'm 99% sure that I really know what I want. Then there is the question of where to buy.

In this case I weighed the cost difference to the painintheassness of getting a camera sent from the US only to discover that companies can't ship Nikons from the US or at least what I want. So then the question was Luodong from the guy I know or Taipei where things are cheaper. Given that once I know I want something and I'm ready I want it immediatly and given that I don't natively speak this language and wanted to feel comfortable with my purchase, I went with the local guy. I think it was good too. Although he couldn't tell the warranties apart (Taiwan vs. World) because they had no Chinese, he threw in a bag and a really cool weight reducing strap and cleaning kit. Plus he's going to the trouble to order me an English Manual which despite my year in Taiwan, I despratly need.

I suppose I'm only writing because the battery needs to charge and I can't play with it. Ah, I guess I'll go to bed and play tomorrow.

Yeah!

Happiness

How about a nice reflective post. I haven't done one of those in a while and as things are wrapping up here it seems appropriate.

I spent the weekend with Colin and my family. I was exceptionally happy on Sunday. We sat in the spa at the hotel in Jinshan, ate a leisurly breakfast, relaxed and watched Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and then returned to Taipei and had a fabulous Thai lunch. After parting with my parents Coin and I tried unsuccessfully but interestingly to return a power cord I'd bought for my computer (we ended up in a strangly arty but smokey apartment with hymalayan cats) and then we went to buy get me a train ticket. I somehow lost the train ticket on the way to the train and instead of letting me break down in tears for losing something yet again, Colin suggested I get a later train and we go have coffee. So nothing big and fabulous, but I was incredibly happy.

Which makes me wonder, Have I not been happy all this time? I find myself thinking about the year and coming up with things I really like, my co-workers, the funny things my kids say, how many people say hi to me in the morning while I'm running, the beautiful scenary around my home, Taiwan's trains and mantou. Despite these things I seem to complain more than I appriciate. I can't stand the number of beeps in this country, I'm tired of miscommunication and people assuming I don't know basic things because I'm a foreigner, massive amounts of oil in my lunch, I could go on but I won't. When my housemates and I made up top ten lists they kept coming out negative. Maybe that's because it's funnier or more interesting or maybe it's because I am somehow in a hole that I fell into and didn't recognize I was in. I must have come off to my Dad as not liking my time here because he came to the conclusion that I was never planning on living in Asia again and he seemed to think I was really glad for things to be over. Not so, I don't think.

Maybe it's because my powers of retrospection fail to acknowledge anything but my most happy moments and I am thus stuck in a perpetual old Reed mindstate where everything was better before. Or maybe I simply don't want to accept that life is happy much less than all of the time.

But really, I think I am not part of a community in the way that makes me really happy. Then again, it took me almost 3 years to feel that way at Reed. Hum, maybe I should stay put, stop uprooting these roots of mine that don't seem to take very quickly.

I also think I am very adaptable. That can be thought of as a positive aspect and infact I fear I might sound like I'm bragging, but something I think is lost in being particurally adaptable. To adapt, you must accept things, sometimes simply at face value. I've learned to to say "Hum, well that's strange, carry on" or "I don't understand what that's all about. Oh well." It's a survival technique to only focus on the most important things or the most interesting, but I've lost a lot of wonderment and enchantment because of it. Probably because I saw too many crazy things at Reed.

So that where all of my thoughts have been. Maybe I'm anticipating having too much time this summer and I've gotten a head start on thinking too much.

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Visits

So it seems like everyone came to Taiwan at the same time. Colin's folks, my dad, soon my mom, my friend Geoff and famous Reed prof, Doug. Colin and I did some sight seeing with Colin's parents before letting them trapes off around the island alone and Dad and I have been seeing quite a lot too.

We started out in Taipei on Sat. We went to the Jade market where we bargained for a lovly dark jade pendant and I of course took my dad to the Wisteria house for tea, which was well liked though Dad thought the tea ought to have had sugar. We also saw the Chang Kai Shek memorial which actually, I had never been up to while it was open.

I've done more doing of things I haven't done with my dad here. We tried a new restaurant (eh) the first night in Luodong and then we went down to Taroko. Only problem with new things is that there is a lot of room for problems. I had us go down to Taroko early so we could have a train right to the right stop, figuring we could rent a scooter there. Well, there was one guy with a sign that said he rented scooters but he couldn't seem to figure it out somehow. Maybe the person who really rents the scooters was at church or something early on a Sunday as it was. We asked a few other people and then it was back on a train to Hualian to rent a scooter to drive back to Taroko. It was raining the whole day but it was quite warm so it was still pleasant. We saw more of the gorge than I'd seen before and even climbed up to the top of a temple. The real good thing was is that we were leaving as all of the tour buses were coming. The climb did make us late for the shuttle to the hotel and the shuttle guy kept calling me while I was trying to find the train station to drop off the scooter and find him. I wasn't too great at telling him in Chinese to hold his horses and he just kept talking and saying things I didn't understand while I was pulled over on the side of the road. I finally just hung up and found the train station.

We made it to the Promisedland hotel okay and it was very cool. Dad told the only employee that spoke English that my mom had worked on the project, but he didn't seem impressed. We go a huge upgrade to a room that was more like a house- Prime Minister's Suite. Two rooms, two bathrooms, an entrance way. Funny though, as nice as everything was the buildings hadn't been washed and were covered with mold, the bath wouldn't fill (hot water too slow) and the elevator didn't work. Value engineering as my mom would say. We had a nice evening wandering the grounds and with heavy rains the next day we headed out to go rafting, something else I've wanted to do since I got to Taiwan.

Rafting was fun if not entirely disorganized. We were put in a boat with 5 other people and no guide and sent down the river with a pack of other boats. People in motor boats pushed us away from the rocks and pushed the boat if they thought we were to slow and sprayed water on everyone. Hum... Both dad and I wanted to yell paddling instructions to everyone, but our foreigner status and lingustic abilities prevented that. In the second half, Dad sat in the back and played rutter, which I think was satisfying and kept the boats straight. So straight in fact that we got way ahead of everyone else and the motorboat stopped us. I was ready to be done about halfway though as I was tired of being wet and a little cold, but overall, the overcast day made the hills filled with fog especially beautiful and I didn't get sunburned.

Today has been relaxed, just going up to the xinliao falls and now back up to Taipei to see Colin dragon boat race!

Friday, May 26, 2006

Hot calm afternoon

So I often don't have a lot to do on Friday afternoons. I am at co-school and thus away from my resources and because we have meetings everyother week I have no classes. Someone told me once that I should be interacting with students, which I do a bit, but it's hard to talk to students who don't speak English and laugh at your Chinese for 3 hours. Today I watched the 6th grade practice dragon dancing. That's actually pretty cool kinda like seeing the backstage rehersal of a play, but I teach all the students so I know them. The coach then lectured them and hit one kid in the face. I may have mentioned that hitting kids does not have the definitive no on it the way it does in the US. This wasn't a hard hit, more like batting a cat on the nose. Still very affronting to have someone put their hand in your face.

I then watched art class and tried to talk to kids. Most wouldn't respond, some couldn't stop laughing when I asked how old they were. Pretty funny. Now I'm sitting here contemplating that covering myself in talc has done little good in this heat and humidity and I'm wondering what I will do through the summer. Perhaps I will write more from an air conditioned haven. Perhaps I will have nothing to write because I don't leave my air conditioned haven.

Dad comes in tomorrow. We have a lot planned with the help of my teacher. I must say though, this country would not be very accesible if I didn't have Taiwanese friends to help. It took Roxanna and I nearly all afternoon to book a room at the promisedland, a hotel my mum was project manager on (after I tried on my own) and a rafting trip, and Roxanna is Taiwanese! Hopefully everything will go fine and my Dad will get from the airport without mishap.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

There are pluses to Living in the tropics

Okay so there is only one plus and I'm not sure if it outways the sweat pouring down my back, the air so humid you can feel it and it leaves you aching with cold at 50 degrees and dying at 80, heat headaches and bug bites, but it's pretty good.

Fruit! Fruit is wonderful in the tropics. I just had a small green Taiwan mango. I hadn't tried it before because, well, it was green so I thought it must not be ripe. Wrong, it was sweet and tasty and overall, simply wonderful. My only grip is that it is small. I also have had my share of wonderful (and cheap) papaya, pineapple, starfruit, things I don't really know the name of in English and other yumminess.

I do really think that I am adventurous foodwise, I've tried the dorean and the stinky tofu, but sometimes I get stuck in a stupid rut. Mangoes are about 30-60 cents cheaper than apples. The apples, even the New Zealand apples, ain't so hot anymore as they are really out of season and have to go a long way. I still buy them over mangoes for some stupid habitual reason. I will overcome and then be sad when I'm in the states and starfruit are 4 bucks a shot.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

How big groups cause time management issues or Why I have no friends

On Friday, a group of the Fulbright girls planned to hike out to a natural hot springs near one of Katherine's schools in Datong. I was so excited about this prospect that I forgot my time learned addage- more than three people going someplace together is likely to be logisticly problematic, especially in the Fulbright ETA setting. Annalily, Katie and I arrived only 5 minutes late at 5:20 in Datong. We found Katherine but no one else. After waiting a little while we found out that we were only waiting for 2 people and the rest would come later. Since the hotsprings were sort of off trail on a riverbed, I wasn't sure how they would meet us, but I didn't ask. After attempting to call the two missing people we decided to divert ourselves walking over to the corner store. On the way we ran into a pile of first grade students. They were more enthusiastic than almost any students I've met in Taiwan, they clung to Katherine and after a few minutes to me too. They loved having their pictures taken and practically preformed for the camera. It was certainly a diversion, but we decided after waiting an hour that we would just go to the hot springs the four of us. At that moment the 2 missing girls called to tell us that they were with the others who were coming late. Thanks for calling folks.

We made it to the trail and it was starting to get turn to dusk. Katie was particurally worried about this aspect and given that the trail was a rather dangerous path over a rocky riverbed with a river fording in the middle, she may have been right, but we moved ahead anyway. When we were close to fording the river, the other girls called from the head of the trail. At that moment a major 4wheel drive vehicle comes down a road we didn't know about and fords the river. Katherine stops him and gets him to give the 3 of us a ride while she goes back to get the others. He and his girlfriend say okay, but they are obviously not happy. I don't think they wanted anyone else at their hot springs and they certainly didn't want to help disturb their romance by driving us. I tried to make small talk saying "Ni de che hen bang"- Your car is great. After a long pause he answered slowly in English "My car is small." It was true, we were scrunched, but that ended the conversation.

When we arrived where they thought the springs were, they left us in the back to get out and call a friend to see if they were right. Finally we were able to get out, but not knowing which dark puddle of water we were supposed to get in without Katherine we just sat on the rocks of the riverbed and watched the couple, who were not accknowledging our exsistance, move their car, flashing and strobing from all directions to a place where they could set up their living room for the evening. Katie was ready to leave and we realized just how stranded we were if Katherine didn't come back, they had the flash lights, we didn't, we hadn't forded the river on foot so we didn't know the best spot. I had just said "Well, worse comes to worse, we can sleep on the warm rocks by the hotsprings and go back in the morning, we'll be hungry and thirsty but we'll be okay," when the other's arrived.

We got a lot of apologies, which I'm sorry to say I'm not great at taking. I would have told everyone that if they couldn't arrive at 5:15 then they just shouldn't come, but I'm not as nice as Katherine is. We enjoyed the hotsprings for about an hour. I mostly just soaked up the heat and tried to avoid those whose prior lack of presence had annoyed me as much as their current presence. They had brought mantou to eat, alliviating hunger and all was relatively good. The hot springs was like the one I remember in Steamboat by the river,really hot is some places where the springs flowed from the rocks and much cooler in others where the river water mixed in. After about an hour I realized that I was ready to leave, but I also realized that I was bound by darkness to leave with everyone else. Luckily Annalily thought it was starting to rain and a few minutes later it actually started to mist. That was enough to get everyone back on the trail in a hurry.

We saw tons of frogs on the way back and one even landed on Annalily's toe. I drove the long way home and was back by 10 pm.

Moral of the story, if you value time not wasted, you will probably have less friends.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Classical literature in Modern Music

I feel I have run into numerous lamentations about the decline of reading, especially literature in our culture. I am happy to report then that while I was running this morning I was listening to Kate Bush (awesome artist, thanks Eben for the introduction) I tuned into the lyrics for a moment and heard the words Wuthering Heights. I am reading the book of the same title so I started the song over. It is an entire piece of contemporary music based on the book and in particular Catherine's relationship with Heathcliff. Well, well, well, one point for Kate Bush and one point for Classical literature.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

More stories of my depraved morality


This morning I'm checking my e-mails and my co-teacher tells me we might not (she means won't) have our first class. Why? Because Ronald McDonald is coming to our school to teach children how to wash their hands. I am immediately amused and hop out of my seat when she says that although we won't have class I have to watch the performance. We are standing around waiting for the event to begin so I take the opportunity to try and explain that this would probably not happen in America as it would be considered a conflict of interest, like free advertising of bad health to children who are probably already hooked on fast food in public school. I don't know if she got it. Her response was "Taiwanese parents like to take their children to McDonalds if they can afford it."

The show begins with 6 women dressed in McDonald's server uniforms dancing around the stage and trying to get the kids to follow. The 6th graders I'm with are acting to cool and I mimic them. Then Ronald himself jumps out and low and behold he speaks Chinese. I am slightly irked by this as I can't speak Chinese and I'm sure Ronald can speak the language of every country he has a store in.

He does magic tricks and gives kids McDonald's CDs and finally gets around to the washing hands part. The principal and 1 student put on giant fake hands and 3 more children wear foam soup, tap and tissue costumes. The spray water at the kids and bubbles. Apparently this is the solution Taiwan came up with when a bunch of kids died of hand foot and mouth disiese a few years ago. Get them to wash their hands and they won't get sick. Get Ronald McDonald to show them how to wash their hands and they will actually do it.

The last part of the whole thing was getting a bunch of kids and teachers up on the stage dancing with Ronald. I tried to disappear, act like I couldn', but nothing worked. I danced with Ronald and got a stuffed hamburger on a string for my efforts (I told you free advertising). I have now helped indoctrinate my kids with McDonalds mania and they will be more likely to be like the 1 1/2 year old I saw on the metro, who when offered food by her parents, pointed at a Mcdonald's burger box that a woman near by was holding.

At least I got to practice last week's sentence pattern with the 6th grade "May I help you?" "I want a hamburger."

Going over to the dark side

I don't go to Starbucks. I never have and although I went to Reed and have an obligation to hate them, my reason stems from their proliferation of bad coffee more than anything else. I prefer well roasted well brewed coffee that I find in Portland, but out of Portland I will choose a different bad coffee place over Starbucks, because, well, they are not setting the standard that makes people accept and even like bad, expensive coffee.

Then I came to Taiwan. All of Taiwan's coffee is pretty bad and most people when they offer you coffee are offering you nescafe with more sugar than a candy bar. There are coffeshops though, it's the new chic. Almost all of them are chains- Ikari, from Japan, Dante's, Barista, Detour and of course Starbucks. I went almost exclusively to the first two until I learned how to ask for non-fat milk. Given this linguistic freedom a whole new set of options was open to me, or so I thought. But then I started asking for my non-fat milk and discovered that it was a strange request. Not at Starbucks, however. They in the worldwide American corporation way are happy to provide me with my choice of milk. So for the fist time last week it happened. Colin asked "Where do you want to get coffee, Ikari or Dante's? and I said "How about Starbucks." So I've gone over to the dark side. And I must say it has it's perks- the milk of course, the all too familiar wavy curved design and the soft comfy chairs. Granted they are not as comfy as the torn up couches of my favorite places, but the tables aren't too high to comfortably write at either.

But don't worry, the tenure of my evilness will be short, I will move back to the states with an eye-opening stop in Italy or I will go broke.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Shots, a little late

I finally got a Japanese Encephalitis shot on Tuesday. This was the shot for the disese that kills half of the people who get it and half of the survivors are braindead. Well to get the shot in the states is $300-500 dollars. Here they give it to every child and adults can get it for $10. Trick is you have to navagate the Taiwanese health system. I was really worried about it when I came, seeing the statistics and knowing that although all of the people are vaccinated you can still get it from mosquitos who bit infected pigs. But, then I got here and we were past the high season and I was really busy, so it wasn't until I decided to go to Thailand, where they have more incidents of this that I went to get the shot. I also wanted the second Hep A shot as you need a booster after a year. I spent a lot of time with the doctor because he couldn't find the code for Japanese Encephalitis and he kept telling me in Chinese stuff about finishing the whole series before going to a 3rd world country. He would talk and talk and I would turn to my Taiwanese friend and ask, "what did he say?" and she would answer "Nothing important." I didn't find out anything important until we got downstairs to get the shot and I decided it would be good to see how many shots I needed. That's when I found out that I will get 3, 2 two weeks apart and one after 6 months. That's when Annalily came in because she wanted the shot to.

I had no clue what the best course of action was, but Annalily had a lot of questions for the doctor. He had no answers. He didn't know if we would have any protection between the second and third shots (when we will both be in the zone) and refused to offer any course of action other than "I suggest you complete the series here. But that is impossible." Uh yeah, so what should we do? No answer. At one point he suggested we shouldn't have left America without getting all these shots. We opted to get the shot anyway with the presumption that the one after 6 months is more like a booster, but that they don't explain it that way. So I got a huge needle full of vaccine in my arm making it sore, even two days later and leaving a red patch. And I get to go again in two weeks.

I have yet to do good research on the vaccine they used though I asked for the drug information (mostly Chinese). I don't readily trust doctors in the States. Taiwan is definately a first world country, but I really really don't trust doctors here.

Busy little worker bee

I keep thinking I have something to say and then forgeting to write and then forgeting what I had to say. So I will valently move forward anyway. I've been working hard at school, I stayed 40 min. late today. I'm making a portfolio of the year, a somewhat pointless project, but it gives me a chance to say good things about myself and harbor illusions that some future employer will want to look at this information. I'm also helping kids get ready for the super big English competition. I some how got stuck with the shitty part even though I rejected it before. There is a dictionary looking up competions (my kids think it's really fun- shows how boring their lives are), a spelling competition, a song and dance competition and a speech competition. I declined to do the speech competition, because it is not fun to sit with a kid and watch them struggle to memorize something, but I wrote the speech. Then the student teacher who was going to train the girl coped out so I ended up doing that job instead of any of the other way cooler competitions. The girl is very sweet and she tries hard, in fact she was the only one who volunteered to memorize two pages of words in a language she doesn't really know and say them in front of a big group of people. She's not that good at it though, so she is even harder to prepare. Ah well, all this will be made up for by the fact that I get to be incharge of the English play which is an adapted version, by yours truely, of my favorite children's book ever, "Leo the Late Bloomer."

See how productive I can be.

Sunday, April 30, 2006

Busy weekend

I had a busy weekend, one of those good busy wekends that makes you want not want to go towork and then makes you want to sleep at work.

Friday I went out to eat with my co-workers. I love them, to put it simply, their awesome.

Staurday was my schools sports day. Basically all the students come to school on Saturday along with a big chunk of the community to play games, run races, and maybe make money (the school I mean). It was generally boring, but hilighted by me running in the teacher relay that required me to eat a cookie hanging precariously from a wire suspended perpendicular to a flagpole. When my turn came, I bit and pulled and pulled down the whole cookie tree. Yup, embarrassing. We also got taken out to a banquet by the PTA. Taiwanese banquets are a combination offun and strange and tiring. Food is brought out in waves and you are never sure when it will stop so you don't know how much of each thing to eat and basically nibble for 2 hours. Meanwhile the head hanchos of the event, in our case the Principal and various PTA guys (yes in Taiwan what they call PTA is a money raising organization populated mostly by men) go around to each table again and again toasting them with whisky. Luckily green tea looks just like wiskey in color and most women get away not drinking (or better or for worse, I often feel I would prefer the wiskey, but I try not to unsettle things).

Sunday I was in Taipei to run a race with Colin. I decided to do it because it was at Yuanmingshan which is a beautiful mountain. Silly thing I didn't consider was that running at a mountain was going to mean running up a mountain. We had serious hills up for the first five km and then ran down them in the second half. I walked up the major hills and was still panting and I am sore today. I didn't run the half marathon like Colin though, which sounded really brutal.

We returned to Colin's appartment to find his landlord their with some guy. It's really creepy to me that Taiwan doesn't have that law that they have in the States where the landlord can't come over without notifying you. Anyway we were soaked with sweat but couldn't shower so we ate a pineapple instead. Finally Colin's landlord decides to talk to him and let him know he was being evicted so they could remodel and move in. He asked if many people would be coming over and if the landlord could tell him when they would be coming over and the response was "maybe not." So it's not a huge loss except that this month is busy with his parents and my dad coming to visit, plus his dragon boat race and moving is a pain. We did manage to check out an appartment that day though. One of Colin's classmates is moving out of his appartment. It was perfect. Clean, beautiful, in a suburb (sortof) against the hills and along the river and near the metro. Unfortunately they didn't want him because I will be moving in in July and August. This might be a challenge.

We also went to wedding photographers. We found a few good ones and tones of super cheesy places. If you just stop outside these places to look at the photos you get ushered in, feed tea and cookies and then they pitch the wares. It was pretty exhausting, especially if you didn't like the place you were in and were just trying to escape. Now we just have to bargain, or see if that is appropriate.

We also applied this weekend to be on the Travel channel and travel around the world. It's more than a long shot, but you got to throw in your hat to get a chance.

Monday, April 24, 2006

Taiwanese wedding

So I will say right now, if I were Taiwanese, I would elope. Not that I'm not American and doing that more or less, but if I was Taiwanese it wouldn't even be a question.

I went to my first Taiwanese wedding last weekend. One of my Chinese teachers got married. It was actually her engagement which is like wedding part one, for the bride, and the actual wedding is for the groom. There is a difference of ceremony, but it is so unlike the states that I can't explain that too you, especially since it's only for close family and friends. So basically I did what would be rude in the states, I went to the reception, but not the ceremony. The reception was on the 3rd floor of a seafood restaurant. There were weddings on the 1st and 2nd floor too. Actually I think it must have been an auspicious day for weddings because on the drive to the wedding, Colin and I saw at least 5 other receptions.

We walked in and handed over our hongbao, that's the red envelope full of money that you give as a gift for these sorts of things. The wedding planners wrote down how much we had given (you know, so you know who your real friends are) and we were handed a big bag before being accosted with the English question "Sophie's friends? Sofia's friends?" and shuffled off to one of the last open tables. The bag had a big box with a cookie inside that was maybe 18' diameter. That is what our hongbao got us apparently. The cookie is very traditional and has to do with the bride's luck. I was kinda excited about it until I found out that it was stuffed with dried sweetened meat. I've made the mistake of eating that before and was not going to do it again. I don't understand how meat can go in a cookie, but my Taiwanese co-workers like it so I've given it over to them.

After sitting down, plates upon plates of seafood came out. We were sitting with strangers and it was very loud, what with the kareoke in the background and all. I couldn't understand anything anyone was saying, but Colin mangaged to and had a nice conversation that broke the "we have foreigners at our table" tension. We ate for about 2 hours. In that time many people sang kareoke, there were several speeches and they played "Volare" 4 times. Sophia wore 3 different dresses and went around to toast everyone. In the end, people started to pack up the leftovers and soemone took the wiskey too. We got goodie bags of long life soy milk and that was it.

I must say, it made my slight sadness at not being able to have everyone I know at my wedding fade. I wouldn't get to talk to you anyway.

Thursday, April 20, 2006

When grading tests is fun

For my 6th grade's Midterm extra credit I asked them to write about what they wanted to be and why. This example is awesome and so you know my situation, this was among the best in the class.

It said:
I want to be a doctor.
Because I have a small cold.
I want to be a scientist.
Because my scientist is very good.
I want to be a English teacher.
Because my English is very very good.
I want to be a fire fighter.
Because fire fighter is cool!!!!!!

This is the kind of stuff that makes my day.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

What I've been up to

I have been negligent of my blogger duties. Alas, perhaps my dreams of being a celeberty blogger will not come true. But things have been busy here.

As most of you (I think) know, Colin and I got engaged two weeks ago. We had been talking for a while about a quite romatic wedding in Italy at the end of the Great Journey which will follow our time in Taiwan. We had mulled, talked, more or less decided, but not done anything that could make it official in my mind. We went on a hike above the hotsprings town of Jiaoxi and in meandering conversation came upon this odd nugget of official vs. supposed. I'll keep the details to us because it is so distinctly us that I almost feel like sharing is telling a little secret bit of us and I don't want to do that. Anyway, despite the fact that we both anticipated this and nothing inside ourselves has changed over it, we were fuzzy and excited all weekend. We told our parents, but kept the secret mostly to ourselves until the next week.

The reaction in Taiwan has been interesting. In part that is because of the difference between what and engagement means in the US and what it means here. Here it is an elaborate ceremony, half of the whole wedding process and if we were Taiwanese, Colin would have gone to my parents' house, asked their blessing, probably prayed to my ancestors and been involved in a traditional ceremony. Then we would have had a big dinner with our friends and I would have given everyone cookies or a traditional wedding cake. It took me a little while to figure out the best way to say in Chinese that I was engaged so that it would correlate to the American meaning. Our doorman gave us a box of Taiwanese foodstuffs to celebrate and my housemates took me out to a drink where the friendly bar owner asked if I was pregnant after buying me two drinks on the house to celebrate the engagement. I was triplly insulted, first that he thought I would be getting married because I was pregnant, second that I looked pregnant and third that I would go to a bar and drink while pregnant. Other funny things have popped up too. Apparently while local teachers were discussing the teaching of Fulbright teachers, my co-teachers had said there were no problems and I was fine. Someone quickly attributed this to the new fact that I was going to be a wife (Or was that reality actually conflated to mother) and thus was obviously more mature. Humm. I mean, I think I'm mature, but I wouldn't attribute it to our engagement.

Finally something both Colin and I had been thinking has come out of the mouths of our American and Taiwanese friends alike- "Are you going to get pictures taken in Taiwan?" I wouldn't expect anyone to know this, but Taiwan has a wedding photography industry famous thoughout Asia. Colin first heard about it from a Japanese classmate, but the industry has also been exported by Taiwanese businessmen to the Mainland which is crazy about it. I'm not sure I can explain the visual difference between these outfits and wedding photography in the states, but I can definately explain how the process is different. Taiwanese couples go to the wedding photographer's studio sometimes months before their actual wedding. They spend a whole day with the photographer and his crew. The bride's hair and makeup are done not once, but up to five times. Each change of face and hair is also a change of outfit. The bride chooses different wedding dresses and different formal dresses. The men also change suits or tuxes with the bride and I can't be sure, but they might get some makeup done too. Some couples take pictures as basketball players dressed up in jerseys and some dress up in traditional Chinese costumes akin to what those of you who have been to the Mainland would recognize at tourist sights as traps for proud parents of little emperors to get their pictures in. They also have Kimonos and ninja suits to daun. The couples have a variety of shots done indoors and then go on location to parks and farms and gaverment buildings.

Today Colin and I went over to a coworkers house in the afternoon where several other teachers showed up with their suitcases (no I am not exagerating) filled with huge wedding albums. These teachers are all quite young, married in the last five years with tottlers running around the house, but how different they look from the pictures is incredible. We all got a good laugh as Grace opened her album up to her 2 1/2 year old daughter and the girl pointed at her father and made the correct assessment "Baba!" and then when asked who the woman was said "Aiyi!", aunt. I could barely recognize my own co-teacher in photos taken five years ago. She and her husband joke about having kids and getting fat, but that camera lens or makeup artist seems to have done more than time could have. As we passes the books around we also jokes about the size. Each album is a huge 18' by 22' and when you opend them almost evey page had a full picture of the couple or the bride some printed with photoshoped flowers on cardstock and some just large durible matte prints. Roxanna had one book, she joked because she was poor. Both Sonia and Grace had two, but that is not the entire standerd package. The standard package includes the huge albums, two giant framed photos, a scroll photograph or a metal wedding certificate, a small album for the brides family (since presumably she will leave her parents and live with his) and wallet size shots of the framed photos to give to wedding guests.

So this is something that Colin and I have to do, it's expensive (though not as expensive as American wedding photographers), but I think it is a cultural experience we can't pass up. We will have to figure out how we can get away with only half the basic package (please don't make me take giant framed photos of myself back to America), but I think we will figure something out, we jsut have to walk down nuptual lane near ChangKaiShek memorial hall were all the wedding planners are.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

3rd grade rocks

I love the third grade. It is an awesome age mid way into logical development where actions make sense only in the 3rd grade logic. They are more articulate than younger children and more precocious so you know what they are thinking, but they are not yet self-conscious and on their way to puberty.

We had a test in my third grade yesterday and as I collected the tests and imputed them into the computer, I couldn't find one. I asked the student and eventually a folded up test came out of his pencil box. My co-teacher sought and explanation and discovered the logic. He wanted to get 100% on the test, when he realized he couldn't, he decided just not to turn it in. Hum.

At my co-school we played a game where all the kids had to cover their eyes while I choose one student. In one class many peeked and my co-teacher gave them a lecture. On student said "Wo tou kan bu dao"- I didn't see any thing. To which my co-teacher responded "Ni tou kan bu dao haishi ni bu tou kan. Bu yiyang"- Basically you didn't see or you didn't look, they're not the same. But in the 3rd grade mind no seeing seems a reasonable excuse for guilt.

In 3rd grade the kids are also still super affectionate. At my co-school, the 3rd grades yell my name at every turn. I look to see what is wrong and I get a big smile and hello. No matter that is all they can manage to say. At my home school the girls always want to give me hugs and hold my hand. We went on a field trip yesterday and I had girls vying for each of my fingers. Plus, they wanted me to sit with them and insisted that I play rock paper scissors again and again, a game, by the way, that has lots of variations and can predict age, number of boyfriends and comes with lots of songs. Who knew.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Changing of the seasons

The swallows hace come (or are they starlings, I don't know). In the last few days I have seen tons of them gliding and darting above the rice fields. They seem to love the rice fields though they must be eating bugs above the rice because they never dart into the rice. So I've learned that swallows (or what ever they are) like rice. I've learned quite a few other things about rice here. For one, it grows like a weed. Rice planted less than a month ago is more than a foot tall now and makes a nice russling sound when the wind brushes through it. Other birds, namely egrets, like to be around when rice is harvested, probably a lot of good bugs churned up. I've also learned from a combination of observation and an article that rice does not need to be under water, it is just tolerant of that state of being semi submersed and it is a good weed provention technique. Finally you can plant rice with these tractors that just drop small plants every few inches. And I have yet to see an ox or yak in a rice field anywhere.

So now you know.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Another Taiwan Mainland difference

When planning for my teacher's class last week I looked for a topic that I though would be appealingto the teachers, one that could span many levels and one that I was interested in. I came up with the idea of ancestors and family history. I knew that many people on the mainland were interested in their family history and knew about it quite far back. I also was curious what my co-workers families were doing when the Qing fell and when the KMT took Taiwan as well as during the Japanese occupation period. Well the topic fell flat on it's butt. They did fine talking about their brothers and sisters and parents but many couldn't go beyond that. The just knew that at some point (200 or so years ago) their families had come over from Fujian. According to a few of the teachers if you were successful in Taiwan you would go back to Fujian and if not you were a failure and lost contact with the Fujian part of your family. Another person felt that since in the past many people died, life was not so worthy of being kept track of in the geneology sort of way. So now I know. I did learn that my perception that most of the people in education (I gleaned this from lord knows where) had family who came over with the KMT, was pretty clearly wrong.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

You'd think I'd learn

Long time followers of this blog will know that I accidently erased the whole thing sometime in December. Well you would think that I would learn not to mess with clicking yes to chinese language things. Well I didn't and I subsequently erased all the music from my ipod. Yup, that's me. I try to break into the world of technology and it can only go badly. It makes me wonder if the digital camera of my dreams is really a good idea. No need to cheer me up. I do that pretty well for myself plus Fiona describes my experience not as stupidity but as being adverturous. I like that, adventurous.

In other news it's raining again, I got to go to costco this weekend and bought real oatmeal. You have no idea how much I love oatmeal. In fact if you had told me that before I came here I would laugh. Thank Annalily for being a wonderful oatmeal chef.
I went to the hospital to get a Japanese incephilitus shot and had a conversation all in Chinese in which I was basically told the doctor didn't know who could do that for adults, they only give it to kids. So though I triumphantly visited the doctor myself and told him my needs in Chinese, I still probably have to go to Taipei. I'm also not sure if I will be able to stay after my visa runs out on August 1st. Looking into my crystal ball I see a pile of Chinese language buracratic trouble. But I might get something out of my ticket home that I thought I might just need to let float into oblivion so who knows, maybe I will farm for WOLF in Thailand for a month this summer. Or is that a bad idea, does that sound like going on a sailing trip from Tahiti to Hawaii? A good sounding idea with dire possiblities?

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Names

I added four new classes today at my co-school. They are 3rd and 4th graders and of course I had to introduce myself and it had to be pretty simple. I went around to all the students asking their names and telling them mine. Some of the names almost made me crack up and say really, I mean names like apple and bananna. Then I learned that my co-teacher gives the kids who have a really hard time names that are easy and that they will definately know, namely words from their phonics like apple and bannana. I hope these kids get better at English soon so they can get better names and I hope that they don't for some reason decide to keep them and end up applying to graduate school in the US with a name like Bannana Hua. On the upside there are 2 Lions and one Tiger. Tiger won a game and I couldn't help myself from saying Grrrrreat! Luckily I just look like a strange foreign teacher when I do that since children's cereals aren't too popular here.

Fearful possiblities, maybe?

Today two of my 3rd graders came into class saying to me "hen chao, hen chao" and I of course responded to them in English with "Yes, very noisy." That's when I realized that it was indeed noisy and the reason was because jets were flying overhead. Not one jet, but lots. And let me tell you, we are not in a flight path of anything. I have never heard jets before and I don't think there is a military base near by. Now, there is no problem at all, but I stood there inbetween classes where I had to loudly yell the lessons and wondered "what would happen if those were Chinese jets." What if today was the military takeover of Taiwan by China and I was having a beautiful day with my wonderful students an hour and a half train ride from where I assume an attack would take place- Taipei. Then I started to wonder what I would do if that happened. I would probably be whisked away by the American government, but it could be really interesting to see. I get the sense that it wouldn't be very violent and there would just be a fluid transitions to Communist strangness. Anyway, it won't happen this year and it won't happen while I'm here so don't you all worry over there. It's funny where your thoughts go when you hear jets.

By the way, can anyone tell me about podcasts?

Monday, March 13, 2006

For my arty friends

Today I taught a 5th grade ugly, pretty, dirty clean, polluted. I pulled a bunch of images out of magazines only I don't have to many magazines. I used an image of Patricia Piccinini's "Nature's Little Helpers." I wanted to let the students decide if it was pretty or ugly. Well I got a resounding "UGLY" out of the whole class and their were several students in one class who couldn't stop laughing every time I pulled the photo out. They were however very curious and wanted to know what it was and what it was made of. Plus I had a short but interesting little art discussion with my co-teacher about how the creature starts really ugly but becomes cute and endearing the more you look at it. So what I'm saying is, way to go contemporary art in classrooms. And sorry Patricia if you google yourself and find this. I think they would enjoy the piece if they were a bit older.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

My mamma is gone, what will I look forward to now

My mom came this weekend and we had a grand old time. She came in on Thursday afternoon after I had taught an awesome class on the three little pigs. I took the afternoon off and we went to lunch anf then to the market to by some fresh tuna for pan-seared tuna steaks. It was fun to see her grossed out by the things I've gotten used to- namely pig faces hanging on a hook. We also got our hair washed. Mom's massage was to hard and I didn't get a massage at all and then they put a funny currly-q in my hair and curled my mom's. We looked pretty funny, but our hair was exceptionally clean.

On Friday morning went to my school. Even my normally unshy students all ran away. I guess two Waiguoren is one too many. I showed mom my classroom, she took the requiest pictures and laughed at the somewhat awkward sentences I teach and have gotten used too. We hightailed it out of there and then went off to renshan. The weather was perfect, warm but a little cloudy. We hiked up to a waterfall and then I made my mom climb up about 100 too many stairs with the promise of monkeys. We saw a pretty garden, but I couldn't deliver the monkeys. We almost skipped sanqing temple but luckily didn't. I didn't think it would be very active on a Friday morning, but there were tons of people around worshipping and it was cool, even for me who sees temples every day. In the afternoon we went to Jiaoxi and got a foot reflexology massage. The guy was a big talker and I played translator with relative success. He like everyone else noted right away how young my mom looks and then he asked her her exact age. I guess it's good my mom looks young, maybe that runs in the genes, or maybe it's just that I already look old. After our massage we soaked in the lovely hot springs of Jiaoxi and then ate a well earned shabu- shabu dinner.

On Saturday we had a relaxing morning and then went up to Taipei. I tried to flex my Sadoku musceles for my mom on the train, but failed to finish the 5 starrer she gave me. In Taipei we checked into the luxurious Hyatt, met Colin and took the fastest elevator in the world to the tallest building, which, if you didn't know is in Taipei. We ate Greek food in the evening which gave me a bit of indigestion, new old foods, Ahhhh. I didn't sleep well because the bed was too soft after my board like bed, but Mom slept well though she hadn't on my bed so one of us go a good night's sleep each day. Consiquentially I woke up early and went down to the gym to run. I got to use a running machine like the one at Reed and realized I've become a much better runner. Maybe BBC helps. We ate an unbelievably western breakfast and then headed to the art museum. The show was only alright this time, but it was good to show Mom one of my favorite spots. We then had tea at the traditional Wisteria house and tried to have lunch at one of the most famous restaurants in Taipei. Note to self, you need a whole extra hour if you want to do that. BAck at the hotel I was really losing it to sleep deprivation and an upset stomach and I probably wasn't the best host those last few hours. Mom got on a bus and Colin and I waved her off. I went to the train station and started crying. I guess it was really sad to have her go so quick, especially since everyone Taiwanese I talked to expected her to stay for a month or so. I guess these two cultures really have diferent expectations for family visits across the ocean. Well, someone else better volunteer to come out and visit me so I have something else to look forward to. Otherwise, it might be a sad few months as I miss you all.