Saturday, January 31, 2009

trill a cheery tune

waking up at 1 really shortens your day a whole bunch. heyy itunes has something called 'genius' which groups songs with similar musical qualities.. just like pandora [which only works in the US, incidentally]. too bad it only selects from songs you already have in your library. i think half the fun of pandora is that it pulls random songs that you've never heard of and expands your music vocabulary a little bit.
if you haven't already checked out pandora, you should. you just plug in a song or a band that you like, and it plays songs that have the same kind of instruments or that are from the same genre. i've discovered some cool bands that i would have never otherwise heard of.
they hired a new girl at latini's. i think she told jerry and i her name is 'priss'. it seems like she speaks english relatively well. she told me that she's seen me around because she lives right by the school i live at. i introduced jerry and i, and told her we're in there a lot, so i'm sure we'll be seeing much more of her.
and bernice is back! i think she chose a new name, but i can't remember what it is.. i haven't seen her in ages. she only works on weekends since she's in high school, and i usually go during the week.
the lantern festival started up in the big park across the street. that explains all of the fireworks we've had for the last few days. i think it lasts two weeks. wikipedia says it's on the 15th day of the lunar new year, so we must be building up toward that.tonight jerry and i just did the whirlwind tour of the tents that lined the edges. there were lots of crafty things and a bunch of traditional food vendors. this man was blowing glass into persimmons mostly. i think its persimmon or tomatoes or pumpkins or apples.. one of the 4 ;)
i've been dying to show you a fresh squeezed juice thing. this is sugarcane that goes through a machine and gets extruded. you regularly see these stands along the streets. it's usually sugarcane, oranges or pineapple and a cup is around 75 cents.
i tried a sip once and didn't really care for it. it just tastes earthy like you would imagine a handfull of sweet grass would taste if you made it into a smoothie.
tiny quail eggs. the stand owner's friend was laughing as i took a picture of it. now they know how it feels to be put on the spot for just being yourself.
dumplings of all kinds. i'm too much of a wimp to try them. they look a lot scarier in person. enlarge the picture and you can see how there's all kinds of stuff sticking out of them. maybe once i learn more food characters.
fancy corn dogs. they're pretty yummy.
jerry being eaten by the claw.
i thinkkkk that there was a contest for best lantern. some were made out of these tiny yogurt drink bottles that come with lunch boxes (like that robot looking thing in the upper left). most were paper though.

there was a big paper temple set up since there's no temple in the park.

i'll ask my kids more about it this week. i can't believe we've gone a week without school. tomorrow's the last day and then we're back at it. i miss most of them. i'm excited to see their new clothes! for chinese new year they traditionally play games, eat fish, eat rice cakes, play mahjong and get new clothes.

the youth is starting to change

something interesting is happening in the dorm in the last few days and i think we're all moving from just being random roommates to actually choosing to be friends and hang out together. during the normal school week, everyone goes their own way and we may hang out in the living room while we all cook dinner, but we haven't gone anywhere together in a big group.

this evening justin, dena, noe, chris, danielle, lesley, steve and i went into taipei for lesley's birthday dinner at an indian restaurant. on the bus ride over, lesley asked noe, steve, justin and i to tell her our life stories while we were all sitting within earshot.
i'll be honest and say that i didn't initially think lesley was really my kind of girl and i had no plans of trying to get to know her, but tonight i found out that she's also the oldest of 3 with 2 younger brothers who are almost jeff and matt's age. and she's my age. the more i talk to her, the more i think she and i could be relatively good friends. i think it's just that she's really independent and set in her ways and i'm social and whatever else.

anyway dinner was amazing. it was real indian food and it was a bazillion times more authentic than ali baba's. although.. the guy who works at ali baba's (and who has memorized my order) is a legit indian guy and does seem to know what he's doing. but tonight dinner was served in cool metal bowls and trays that really looked like they could have been bought in some indian market. and the food was delicious.
i ordered some kind of vegetarian platter. everyone else had one little bowl of curry or whatever and i had a huge platter of rice, a somosa (is it samosa or somosa?), curried paneer, yogurt, something else, cucumber salad aaaand naan. it was incredible.

after dinner we headed to a jazz bar that lesley wanted to go to because she apparently has a thing for live jazz. unfortunately, when we got there, the owner told us that the band had cancelled so although they would normally have been there, we were out of luck tonight. dena went home because she doesn't drink, and the rest of us headed down the street on the recommendation of this betel-nutted out man who was creepily hovering beside me when we were trying to figure out where to go.

we ended up at a bar called roxy junior and we played cards for a while in this cool little area all to ourselves with comfy khaki couches and pretty halogen lights beaming down. there is more fluorescent lighting in taiwan than you can imagine. even in people's living rooms in their houses. the buzzing alone would drive me insane, but the greenish tinge it casts is unbearable.

we played a card game called presidents and assholes and i won 5 times in a rowwww. people underestimate me because i'm girly and bubbly, but i don't mess around with cards. we spent many a night in high school/college summers and winter breaks playing hours and hours of cards.

at the end of the night, a mai tai and a cosmo later, i felt like i knew everyone a little better and some people considerably better. i think i'm going to go back to not spending any money on alcohol though. it's expensive and i don't miss it when i don't drink it. i think i deserve some credit for not bending to drinking more than i know i should and doing anything else i'm offered that i know isn't for me. it can be really difficult not to give in to a bunch of people who are doing things you know you don't want to do. but i'm an international lady and i do [or don't do] what i want.

Friday, January 30, 2009

wait for the dawn my dear

it's lesley's birthday and she wanted to go to this jazz club in taipei, but it's closed today.. so we decided to bake everything we could think of, drink wine and play twister. it was a good night.

the post office is closed this week and i was feeling kind of sorry for lesley that she probably wouldn't receive any packages or cards this week because of it, so i made her a happy birthday banner with whatever i had handy.
it felt good to be creative again for an hour and i think she appreciated it.
this is the birthday girl. who knows how old she is. my guess is 26.we made chocolate chip cookies with dark chocolate, peanut m&ms..
i didn't actually taste any. i was way too sweet-ed out by the end of the night.
i found a recipe for carrot cake online and it turned out sooo well.
it's amazing that any of the icing actually made it to the cake. i think i ate at least 1/2 a cup of it by itself. that's danielle and i.
jerry was rocking out with his guitar. i'm envious of his ability to just play and sing in front of everyone.
josh's girlfriend elva, lesley, noe, chris and dena.
danielle's boyfriend, chris. twister master.
martyn finally showed up around midnight. i guess he was in tainan all day.

playing twister with tile underneath you is about 100x harder than playing on carpet.

fun day. it's not often that we all just have fun and hang out together. i think it's happened.. 3 times in the last 7 months.

note on taiwan: tea stands.
there are tons and tons of tea stands on every street and i went to get some green tea tonight to try to qwell my headache. you pick what kind of tea you want (oolong, red tea, green tea.. with honey, with lemon, with sugar), and then you pick out what ratio of 'tea liquor' and sugar you want, and then you pick how much ice you want. heck if i know what any of it means, so i usually just point to something somewhere in the middle. usually it turns out well.

there were a bunch of high school or a little older aged guys standing in line next to me and sure enough, one saw me, nudged his friend, the friend turned around to look at me and nudged the other friend, who turned to look at me. then they all took about 2 steps away from me and kept glancing every 3 seconds.

i don't know but i think i'd try to seem less country bumpkin like i'd never seen a foreigner before and not be so obvious when i was trying to peek at them. whenever they do that, it just makes me feel like they need to get out more and meet different kinds of people. or at least not say 'hello' and then giggle like a schoolgirl.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

the luckiest boy alive

who would have thought i'd ever find a shabby chic store right on a little side street in kaohsiung? shabby chic is a style that involves pale colors and distressed antiques. there's a lot of pink, that i don't really care for, but i love the pale aqua. i was all excited to discover the store, and then i tried to explain it to josh and steve. i swore it didn't always have to look so grandma-y..
rachel ashwell is good at making it look young and fresh. she has a ridiculously expensive store called shabby chic. she sells down sofas and punched tin things and white everything. i just like how everything is so airy and open.
this was my attempt in apartment #1, senior year in college. i can't even explain how much i miss sleeping on top of a quilted mattress cover topped with a duvet, underneath another duvet and surrounded by 6 fluffy pillows. it's like sleeping in a cloud.
i have problems with little open jars, trays and bowls though. i like how you can see everything, but it gets cluttered too quickly. like on top of my dresser at apartment #2.
anyway speaking of pretty things, it's nice how there are lots of pretty vines and plants throughout the city here. the picture below is from our trip, but there are lots of vines and tiny gardens randomly interspersed in the city like that everywhere i've been in taiwan.
it's a welcome break from all of the concrete.
i don't know where to put this random picture of the sweetener. instead of packets of sugar, they give you these little containers with fructose. maybe it dissolves better into drinks since it's a liquid? i'm not sure what the reasoning is.
and speaking of drinks, i finally took a picture of a tiny portion of the drink aisle in 7-11. that's literally only a quarter of the drinks they have to offer. it's mostly tea, sports drinks and fruit juice.
time to catch up on some of the books i've been neglecting before i go to sleep.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

day 4

i added in pictures from our visit in kaohsiung, so you should scroll down and catch up on those, too.
well yesterday steve and i made our way to central park and then we found somewhere to eat lunch downtown. (that sign says 'not in service for energy saving'. there were 4 escalators and only 2 were in use since there weren't that many people going through. way to go, taiwan.)the train station at central park had a really pretty stained glass ceiling in the middle. i think their station was only completed in 2008. they have 2 lines and it's around .75 to go anywhere in the city.

we had pizza that was relatively yummy by taiwanese standards. hung out there for an hour or so and then we found a nice little coffee shop on a side street. we played gin rummy and i whipped steve, which isn't usually how it goes when we play cards. then we played speed and i won. then we played war and i won. it just wasn't steve's day with the cards.
the area around central park is called the wedding dress district so there are dresses in all of the windows.

around 4, we met up with bobo and we went to a woman named judy's home in kaohsiung. she's bobo's mom's husband's sister. bobo had never met her either, but she offered to take us to dinner. she had just moved back to taiwan after living in america for the last 30 years. her husband stayed there to work, and her daughters are in college. we had an easy time because her daughters are essentially just like me.she gave steve and i red envelopes for chinese new year with $1000NT ($30US) which was really generous of her. we had a great time. we played mahjong (which is the game traditionally played during chinese new year holidays) with judy, her brother chris, and jack.i've never seen it before, but it was pretty interesting. it's like gin rummy with tiles, sort of.
steve did pretty well. i caught on after a bit. it was amazing to watch how quickly they could set up their tiles.
bobo looking cute while the rest of us played mahjong.

after mahjong, we went out to smoking joe's where we went for dinner the other night. i had roll-your-own tacos with real flour tortillas and real chips and salsa. it's the little things. at dinner, i was admiring the lace collar judy had over her dress and she insisted we go to the night market to try to find one, and we did. i hope i can find a way to wear it that looks stylish.. we'll see how that goes. the night market was much better than taoyuan's. there were people everywhere. it was just rows and rows of shops and stands. blurry squid on a stick.

we exchanged phone numbers with judy and steve and i headed back to the bus station to take the swanky bus home. 5 hours later, we were greeted by chilly, wet weather in the middle of the night. and that was our vacation!

dennis, thanks for the compliments on my blog and for the taiwanese perspective and information. i just like to have a name to go along with the words. glad to have you along.