Monday, August 31, 2009

Pride of Taoyuan

The Little League World Series concluded this weekend. Chinese Taipei won the international bracket by clobbering Mexico 9-4, but lost the championship game to California. The final score was 6-3. This is America's fifth consecutive Little League World Series title, sayeth ESPN.

I couldn't decide who to root for. The Taiwan kids are actually from Taoyuan - they live just up the road from me! The game took place in the wee hours of Sunday morning local time, so that solved the "rooting" problems for me.

Taiwan has about one-tenth the population of the U.S., and has more Little League World Series titles than any other country besides America.

Taiwan had 17 championship titles between 1969 and 1996, but this is the first time in 10 years Taiwan has made it to the LL World Series. Let's hope this signals the return of Chinese Taipei as a major LL World Series contender!
EDIT: Taiwan has the second most championship titles. I originally wrote Taiwan was third behind Japan and the U.S. The U.S. has 32, Taiwan has 17, Japan has 6.

We got a fever...

And - unfortunately - the only cure is not more cowbell. Several people in Taiwan died from H1N1 recently, and today was the first day back to school. And we all know how awesome kids are at spreading infectious disease.

As a result - the security guy at reception in my school's building took my temperature before I was allowed in the elevator to go to class.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Adventures in I-Ching

Aren't they cute?!
On Friday night I took the boys to Snake Alley. A fortune teller called us over and in perfect English offered to answer questions for $100NT a pop. Is this "eye-ching?" I asked, using my best gringo pronunciation, as I've forgotten how the Chinese say it.

Curiosity outweighed shyness, and the boys lined up. Always the more adventurous, Ricky went first. The lady had him write down a bunch of information - his address, phone number, age, parents names, etc.
Then she asked him what he wanted to know. Ricky shrugged his shoulders and with a goofy grin said, "My wife?"
From I-Ching

Okay, that's a long ways out, but I'll see what the I-Ching tells me, the woman said, and she set to tapping away on the circular board.
tap tap tap
These guys gathered around to watch my goofy brothers

She told Ricky he would meet a woman of "marriage potential" when he is 25. They'll meet in an academic setting, she said. But they'll both be very career-focused at that time, Ricky more so than the lucky lady. The woman will be athletic and smart. Then the woman said he could ask again in 15 years whether or not she was the one.

Billy asked about the future of his band.
From I-Ching
The teller said it is a "practice band" and not to worry too much about the future. Her assistant had a premonition about Billy in a movie.
From I-Ching

And that was that.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Already Gone

I saw my family off last night. The week just went by way too fast. We did quite a bit of running around, but on top of that I was in charge of all the planning so at the end of every day I was exhausted.

When it comes to driving me nuts, my brothers haven't gotten rusty at all. But then as we took final pictures before they left James had to bark, "Don't cry," to keep me in line.

Since they left late last night, my parents bought the room for the whole night. So, out of principle, James and I are going to go enjoy the pool this morning and eat steaks for breakfast, since it's included with the room.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My People

From Family in Taiwan

They've been here about half a week now, and I'm really not looking forward to seeing them off again Saturday.

We've done the usual tourist stuff - Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial, Palace Museum, Taipei 101, Taroko - but the highlight for me was when James took us to a practice space and I got to hear my brothers go through their band set list.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Baby of the Family, in the morning

My family is in town (!!!). Much more on that later. But, before I forget, I feel compelled to write down what the littlest (age 10) ate before lunch yesterday:

7:30 a.m.

-sirloin steak
-donuts (2 plates' worth)

Mid-Morning Snack

Carmel Smoothie

Later-Morning Snack

Ice Cream

Keep in mind that was followed by a several-course teppanyaki lunch. Seriously, who is this guy?

I'll tell you who - he's the kid who ran out of lunch money early because he was eating breakfast at home and then eating school breakfast half an hour later. When he was really a little kid (5 or so) we'd go out and eat Mexican food. Then, after the 20-minute ride home, he'd rush into the kitchen before the rest of us were even out of the car.

Some things never change.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ghost Month

Ghost month started this week. Ghost month is the month in the Chinese calendar where ghosts get to come out and have summer vacation (or that's how it was explained to me). There was lots of ghost money burning in brass alters all about Taipei this week.

Some people avoid travel and swimming in the ocean or rivers during ghost month. Actually, lots of Chinese people never swim in the ocean because it's dangerous. But the water ghosts are supposedly out in full force now.

One of my Chinese teachers says she sees ghosts - some heavenly, some from hell.

I asked my buxiban kids about ghosts.

"Who thinks ghosts are real, who thinks ghosts are not real?"

All hands shot up for REAL.

"YIDING YOU!" The brainy kid scoffed, which is Chinese for "of course there are," as if I'd asked her if gravity were real.

From there, the class was devoted to personal ghosts stories. We didn't get through much book material, but even the quiet students wanted to tell their ghost stories. And hey, whatever gets them to talk...

One girl told me when her father was young, he saw a ghost rattling dishes in the kitchen. Must've been one of those hungry ghosts. One boy said he and his cousins saw a blue boy ghost in the kitchen when he was little.

A pair of sisters said they always hear footsteps when there parents aren't home. They said they live near a cemetery, and it's the ghosts walking. They didn't say whether they live in a giant complex like most of us here, in which case I would guess the footsteps are one of their bjillion neighbors.

But the sisters also said they have an adult family friend with a keen third eye who doesn't like to spend the night with them because there are too many ghosts. When she sleeps in their home, she can feel the ghosts pressing on her chest.

One student warned me that if I swim in the ocean a water ghost can make itself look like my mom, but when I ask it a question it'll grab my ankle and drown me.

Then someone told me about a ghost possessing a girl. In one day, the girl's hair became very long. And her baby died, and she cradled it even though it was dead. The ghost possessing her was a dog ghost, so it couldn't talk.

By the end of class I had a full-on case of the heebie jeebies. You try two hours in a tiny classroom with uniformed Chinese schoolgirls staring up at you with their dark-brown-almost-black orbs warning you about all the ghosts to watch out for.


Stinky Kid Mistake

I have a stinky kid in one of my Friday classes. Actually, she wasn't stinky today. But some days she's pretty ripe, poor girl. She's real quiet, a good student, and the other kids are - of course - completely unforgiving and heartless. I can't tell if she really doesn't notice when they're teasing her or if she just puts up a super good face.

Anyways - today I made a big mistake and felt awful afterward. I had a rowdy boy in the front row who kept distracting his friends. So I ordered him to switch seats with Stinky, who sits in back with the other good kids.

As soon as she sat down in the front row - it was like a magnetic field went up and everyone scooted their desk away until she had a three-foot clearing in all directions.

She didn't even smell bad today. I didn't want to draw more attention to what was going on by making the others move their desks back.

But I definitely should've picked a different kid to change seats. Poor girl. Kids are so mean.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why I have got to learn to curse in Chinese

This evening I was walking back to the apartment when a still-glowing cigarette fell from an apartment above just a foot or so in front of me.


I thought a moment: All that came to mind that I knew how to say in Chinese was, "Here has people walking!" or "I'm walking below you!"

Neither of those quite has the ring of, "Hey asshole, there are people down here."

And by the time I'd formed a not totally dorky response, the moment had passed. For all I knew this idiot had returned to the dark recesses of his home where he could more completely ignore the people around him.

So I settled with shaking my fist, muttering, and hurrying the rest of the way home.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Taroko Gorge Weekend

A couple friends plus James and I took the train down to Hualien this weekend. It's hard to capture a magnificent twenty-kilometer gorge in pictures, but I did the best I could with my point and shoot:

Indiana- Jones-style rope bridge
Shrine for the 200 people who died building the gorge highway.

At the train station, we hired a cab to take us around for the day. Then that night he drove us to Carp Lake - the biggest lake in Eastern Taiwan - for a water/dance/fireworks show put on by Hualien aboriginals:
Free show on Carp Lake on weekend summer nights

On our way to Taroko, we drove through an aboriginal village with a little cemetary where all the headstones were marked with Christian crosses. Our driver said the tribe is all Christian now, because of missionaries who came and helped them a long time ago.

Cute father/son pair dancing to the music at Carp Lake

James has to go home early Sunday morning for work. The three of us went to the beach:
at the beach
It was pretty, but not suitable for swimming.

After that, we had lunch in town and headed back to Taipei. The train ride was definitely a highlight, lots of beauitful scenery along the way. Back in Taipei, I managed to leave my backpack on the train. But I was so impressed with how quick and helpful the transit folks at Taipei Rail Station were. They got on the phone with the next station and assured me my bag would be back in Taipei today.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Morakot Relief

EDIT: Michael Turton and Forumosa have information on donating locally.

We had it easy up here in Nankan, but down South there was terrible devastation: The death count is in the hundreds, and thousands of people are trapped in rural areas without supplies. Hundreds of people have lost their homes.

If you're moved to do so, this is what I've found about giving:

The Tapei Economic and Cultural Office (Taiwan's equivalent of an embassy) in Los Angeles has set up a fund:

1.For checks

Please make check payable to: TECOLA 88

Send check to:TECOLA 88 3731 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 700,Los Angeles, CA 90010

2.For wiring

Receiving Bank: Mega International Commercial Bank, Los Angeles Branch
ABA No.: 122040922
Address: 445 S. Figueroa St., Suite 1900,Los Angeles, CA 90071
Swift Code: ICBCUS6L
Beneficiary Account No.: 1004564
Beneficiary Account Name: TECOLA88

World Vision is also raising funds.

I'm still scratching around trying to figure out where to donate locally here in Taiwan. So if you read my blog and you live here - let me know!!

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Wuthering Heights Abridged

Two people are in love, but one is poor. So they marry other people, have lugubrious arguments, fall sick and die. Unfortunately, they don't die before procreating. Man named Heathcliff carries 20-year grudge. He steals some people's land and provokes others into emotional fits. Those people, once provoked, also fall sick and die. Eventually, Heathcliff himself falls sick and dies.

I know medicine was not super awesome in the 1800s ... but did people actually get so emotionally distraught they just keeled over? Often enough for it to be believable in a book?

My Chinese school has a leave-one-take-one book bin. It was either the Heights or One L: First Year at Harvard Law School. Guess I made the wrong choice. Oh yeah, someone also dropped in some sort of proselytizing literature, the kind I was totally handed for free at college. Whoever you are that dropped that in the box, that's totally cheating.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Good News?

I saw it made national news yesterday The Seattle Times - where I interned last summer - made some money! (Aside: If you were standing in the photo, turned right and walked a dozen paces you would be at my desk. So's ya know.)

Sounds like this was due to the fact the Seattle P.I. stopped circulation, and most everyone switched subscriptions over to the Times. The Times will still have to deal with circulation that will presumably continue to decline, but it's nice to know there's still room for a newspaper in the rainy city.

The Times is a family paper. Last summer one of my editors told me Frank Blethen, fourth-generation publisher, had a tattoo of the Times' logo. And that he would pay for anyone who wanted matching ink. Sounded like a good job security move to me: When layoffs come around, the guy with the company tat. wouldn't be at the top of anyone's list. Even if he's not that good! What would that do to morale?

Print journalism majors: We have to consider all the options. I was only there for a ten-week internship, so my first tattoo will still most likely be an eagle exploding out of a skull riding a motorcycle that's on fire.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Daily Chinglish

This afternoon we went to Taipei to try out a Mexican restaurant we haven't been to yet just so we could get out of Nankan.

The big yellow sign outside the place proclaimed, "Amigo! Around The Mexico."

I had a burrito. It was okay. But I had to pass up the "pork internal sofa tacos."

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Morakot Watch Pt. 2

We woke up this morning to drizzly and patches of blue sky, not exactly storm-of-the-century weather here in Nankan. However, some areas of Taiwan got up to 2 meters of water and several people died. So we weren't about to embark on any major Saturday adventures either.

Instead we drove to the mall to watch Bruno. There were a few really funny jokes, but I thought for the most part it was gross-out and lame. Then I came home and watched the entire season of MTV's 16 and pregnant. Shameless, I know.

I have got to get out tomorrow.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Morakot Watch

James made spaghetti for dinner and we opened a bottle of Yellow Tail cabernet. Then we plugged his laptop into our new TV (thanks, James' parents!!) and rocked out to Spoon and The National. I found if you sing loud enough you can't hear the wind scream.

It's getting on around 11 p.m. now. We're watching Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, which is miserably self-referential and boring. But I'm happy we haven't lost power, or yet at least.

I keep checking the news, but I'm not sure whether Morakot has landed yet or not. Some news sites are saying it could last into tomorrow. So stay safe everybody.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Typhoon Season

sideways rain > umbrella

I had a lunch date at a friend's house today. I lingered over cardamom tea in her living room watching the rain over the Xindian river until it became obvious it wasn't going to let up. Despite my umbrella, the space between the top of my head and my nose was all that was still dry when I made it to the subway station. Then the bus was stop and go on the ride home. It took so long I'd passed from dripping to lightly damp before we got back to Nankan - only to get drenched again walking to the apartment.

Typhoon Morakot may hit us tomorrow. We'll find out tonight. I wouldn't mind a day of holing up and watching movies. On the other hand, tomorrow is pay day... le'sigh.

Edit: Typhoon. No work tomorrow!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Takeout Night

Yesterday I had one of those nights where I throw my hands in the air and go, "There's nothing I want to eat in Nakan! Why can't we go to AMERICA for dinner?"

The first couple months, I was eager to explore the blocks and blocks of mom-and-pop joints that surround our apartment. I still love the abundance of cheap, delicious Chinese food. But sometimes I want options: "Do I want a foot-long meatball sub, carne asada nachos, or Denny's Grand Slam breakfast for dinner?" kind of options.

I'm tired of the Nakan KFC and McDonalds, and I'm too poor right now for the nice sit-down western option in town, so we wound up getting takeout Chinese and eating in front of the TV.

When I thought about it, I laughed. Chinese takeout + movie is such an American thing to do: Blockbuster, chow mein, and those cute little boxes with the red pagodas on them.

But our food came in flat, rectangular, lunchboxes. We had marinated duck, pickled cucumbers, cold eggplant, bamboo shoots, and tofu with thousand-year egg.

And we watched Connected, a Hong-Kong remake of the American movie Cellular.

It was a night rife with postmodern irony. But I still want to go to America for dinner.

I'm at the point where you could take me to Fresno for dinner and I'd be ecstatic.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Boop Oop A Doop

One of my students has a pair of shorts she wears regularly. Embroidered along the cuff in curly red script is "Botty BooB."

And that, my friends, may be the epitome of unfortunate rip-off children's clothing choices.

In America, wouldn't you get sent home for that?

Sunday, August 2, 2009


"I was hiding under your house because I love you. Can I stay?" - Talking Golden Retriever.

I saw Up today and LOVED it.

Three weeks until Inglorious Basterds.

And The Proposal comes out in Taiwan on my birthday! I know, I know it's already out in the States, but I'm excited. I laugh at the trailer every time I see it.

As for our movie, we got an email from the producer. We're still in the running. Now we need to revise our treatment because of location-feasibility issues.

Ooooh, I hope, I hope, I hope.


People do depraved things in bathrooms the world over, I need only ask my old coworkers from the restroom crew at Honeyman State Park to know that.

But never have I been to a place where women so frequently peed on the seat and floor of public restrooms as they do in Taiwan!


I think the problem stems from the fact toilets are half and half here: Half are Western-style, and half are squats (read: oblong ceramic depression in floor).

For whatever reason, a much-too-large percentage of women like to treat sitters like squatters and then fail to clean up their misfired pee!

Thankfully, the subway restroom crews are quick and frequent. But it's bad enough that if I have a choice, I'll pick the squatter first rather than deal with the possibility I'll be faced with a messy seat.

I suppose this counts as an overshare post.

Taiwanese seat sprinklers, you're on notice.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Their Thoughts on Colonialism

Today we went to Yingge - a little town in Taoyuan famous for ceramics. There was a festival going on at the museum, and as part of the events there was a goofy little skit in the amphitheater about the history of local pottery.

Part of the play chronicled the forced removal of the Dutch from Taiwan.

The Dutch colonist was played by a young Chinese man wearing a beaky white nose and a raggedy-ann style red wig. He spoke all his English lines with an exaggerated, whiny, stereotypical-gay accent.

The Chinese characters delighted in shooting him with foam darts.

Unfortunately, I wasn't carrying my camera.