Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas 2008

Ah, my first Christmas in Taiwan.

Despite what ultra-Fundamentalist groups preach about the sinful dangers of the Internet, I say thank God for it, as it allowed me to spend a wonderful few hours with my family back in the United States. I laughed and cried while opening gifts with Austin, Amanda, Chelsea, Mikayla, Theresa, Amanda, Brayden, Emily, Lori, Mark, Holly, April, Wade, Nana, and Papa. These people are my life.

I received some special gifts, including:
  • A huge coffee mug with "coffee" printed in several languages, which I'm using as I write this, and...
  • ...hazelnut flavored Coffee Mate (How I've missed thee!)
  • Favorite chocolates (Almond Joy, Mounds, Junior Mints, and Lindor truffles)
  • A Shrek Chia Pet ("Ch-ch-ch-chia!")
  • A Humboldt County T-shirt
  • A Christmas tree ornament that plays a recording of my kids' voices
Yeah, I got teary-eyed over that last one.

That evening Chyo treated me to an all-you-can-eat barbecue in 南崁 (Nánkǎn). It was cool because each table has a little hibachi and hot-pot bowl to cook your food. We ate ourselves silly on various styles of beef, chicken, fish, shellfish, veggies, and whatnot. By whatnot I mean items like 甜不辣 (tián-bú-là), which I'm still not sure what it is. As an added bonus, I tried fish fins and ostrich for the first time.

These are from Chyo's cellphone, so the quality isn't the best. Click on photos to enlarge.

All this this sizzling barbecue......equals happy tummies

Christmas Dinner 2008 in Taiwan 吃到飽 BBQ

Monday, December 22, 2008

Movies & More in Taipei

On Sunday (12/21) I went to see The Day the Earth Stood Still with Jim. While it had some cool special effects, the film was just OK in my opinion; I could have waited until the DVD was released and saved myself NT$300+. Anyway, had a nice visit with my friend, who still longs to go back to the US.

We had lunch at Burger King in the mall (only my second time eating at BK here), then wandered around the biggest Eslite store I've been in so far (large foreign language learning section). On our way to Starbucks we saw this guy performing an impressive dance with a large hoop. I don't know what this style is called, but here's a video I took:

Ring dance street performer Taipei Taiwan

Saturday, December 20, 2008

♬ Rocking around the Christmas tree ♪

Today I received a box of presents from my family in the US. As I unpacked the wrapped gifts, I felt an incredible bittersweet wave of love and homesickness.

Here is my meager attempt at decorating for Christmas. I considered putting some holiday lights around my statue of Buddha, but that seemed sacrilegious in a way. Just so he won't feel left out, I'll make sure to do something special with him for Chinese New Year.

I'm excited about spending Christmas "together" (through Skype) with my family. Only 5 more days!

Sunday, December 14, 2008

What's in a name?

It has come to my attention that my family doesn't know exactly how to pronounce my friend 邱's name. Of course, I don't mean when I write it like that, in Chinese characters. I mean when I transliterate it as Qiu.

I've been writing it as Qiu because that's the correct pinyin spelling, and that corresponds to ㄑㄧㄡ, the bopomofo (Taiwanese alphabet) spelling. The foregoing pronunciation explanation, though, is only helpful to students of Chinese--like me. My family couldn't care less about the "correct" transliteration; they just want to be able to say his damn name!

Today, while talking with my family on Skype, I found out that everyone thought Qiu was pronounced as "Kwee." Referring to my friend as "Kwee" has kept them laughing, since this was the baby-talk name my daughters used to use for their, uh, private parts.

So, from now on, when I write my friend's name in Roman letters, it'll be Chyo.

I found out through the MDBG dictionary that 邱 is pronounced "kwu" in Korean, so my kids weren't too far off. I just hope Chyo isn't Korean for "weenie."

November outings 4 - Thanksgiving 感恩節

Other than being a topic for conversation with English students, Thanksgiving isn't anything special in Taiwan. So that Thursday I had planned to simply go home after work and eat a nondescript dinner of 雞排 (chicken cutlet) and rice. To my surprise, however, 邱 was waiting outside work for me, and we ended up going out to eat 火鍋 (huǒ guō), "hot pot."

Hot pot is sort of like Chinese fondu; each person adds to a pot of boiling broth various meats and vegetables of their choice. Note to my students: That's the singular, non gender-specific "their"; I refuse to write "his or her". Fortunately, 邱 showed me what I was supposed to do. For example, you go to the condiment bar and add various items to make your dipping sauce, then to that sauce you add an egg yolk, while the white gets thrown into the hot pot broth.

As always, click on the photos to enlarge.

Beef, lamb, and various sides and veggies, reading for cooking.Still in my work duds, enjoying my Asian Thanksgiving dinner.Dipping sauce: Includes 沙茶 (shā chá) peanut-fish paste, soy sauce, garlic, green onions)

Like the Italians and their pastas, there are several Chinese names for the various types of noodles, none of which I can ever remember.Another view of my Thanksgiving turkey dinner.

Sunday, December 7, 2008

November outings - 3: Yung An 永安

On Sunday evening (11/28/08) my friend 邱 and I went to the beach and a temple in 永安 (Yung An). Click on photos to enlarge.

Of course, we had to start by eating breakfastPosing with 邱's friend, who owns the breakfast shop

Statue of 觀音 Guan Yin (Goddess of Compasion)See how tiny I amTraditional Taiwanese home

The tide was out, which makes for a wide beachNothing says 'style' like a man in a hatI think this was some sort of religious group

I managed to catch a rare shot of this shy and elusive creatureWindsurfingJust when you thought I couldn't possibly get any more glamorous...

After the beach we headed over to this beautiful templeTemple interiorInterior ceiling detail

Time to eat again! Taiwanese sausage, BBQ squid, stinky tofu, ice cream (need I go on?)"這個外國人是誰?"Later, for the first time, I ate 釋迦 (shì jiā, or sek-khia in Taiwanese). Quite sweet and custardy, it's called "sugar apple" and "sweetsop" in English

Friday, December 5, 2008

Proposition 8 - The Musical

Hollywood stars and commedians in this one: Jack Black, John C. Reilly, Neil Patrick Harris, Kathy Najimy, Maya Rudolph, Margaret Cho, Nicole Parker, Andy Richter, and others.
Prop 8 - The Musical


It's a brand new bright Obama day!
What a time to be black, a girl, or gay!
No nothing could go wrong,
So join us in this song
Of happy days, for the gays--
Nothing can go wrong!

Look, nobody's watching,
It's time to spread some hate
And put it in the Constitution...

Now? How?

Proposition 8!
Proposition 8! Great!

People listen to our plea
They'll teach kids about...sodomy!

That wasn't right! That's a lie...

But it worked so we don't care!

Now you wish we'd all shut up...

But make our clothes and fix our hair!

And our love is not a sin...

Well the Bible says it's so!

Well the Bible says a lot of things, you know?

Jesus Christ!

Hey, how's it goin?

Jesus, doesn't the Bible say these people are an abomination?


Yeah, but you know it says the exact same thing about this shrimp cocktail...

Mmm...shrimp cocktail!

Leviticus says shellfish is an abomination.


What else does the Bible say, Jesus?

The Bible says a lot of interesting things:
Like, you can stone your wife
Or sell your daughter into slavery.

Well, we ignore those verses.

Well then, friend, it seems to me you pick and choose

We pick and choose!

Well, please choose love instead of hate.
Besides, your nation
was built on separation
of church and state!
See you later sinners!

Bye Jesus...goodbye Jesus...I love you Jesus!

You know, here's another thought to wrap things up:
Oh, ev-ery time a gay or lesbian
finds love at the parade--
there's money to be made!

He's right!

Each time two grooms say, "Paint that wedding hall"
and lavender's the shade--
There's money to be made!

He has a point!

Think of all the carriages and four white horses;
There's millions lost from all your disapproving.

Well, that's not good...

Think of all the lawyers for the gay divorces;
Think of the tattoo removing!

We get it now...we've been such fools!

[All]:I can see
America's calling me.
Yes, gay marriages will save
the econ-o-myyyyyyyyyyy!!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

November outings - 2: Night Market 夜市

On Saturday evening (11/27/08) my friend and I went to the night market in Jong Li (中壢夜市). Click on photos to enlarge.

Entrance to night marketThe first (of many!) food stands that we ate atWe had the pig knuckles and sesame oil chicken soup

Pig knuckle, bamboo, and rice我很餓!Delicious and soothing sesame oil chicken soup

臭豆腐 (stinky tofu) and 筒仔米糕 (rice tube pudding?)
Another food whose name eludes meMilk ice with passion fruit, strawberry, and taro. OMG, so 好吃(delicious)!

Qiu and I tried playing a bingo-type game......that uses mahjong tiles......but neither of us won :-(

We couldn't leave without trying a couple more desserts, including these donut-like buns......and these rice powder treats filled with sesame and peanuts. Again, the names escape me.


Wow, at this very moment, while I'm typing this, we're having an earthquake. Obviously not a big scary one, just some light rolling. I'll post the details as soon as I find out.


Magnitude: 5.2
Date-Time: Tuesday, December 02, 2008 at 11:16:52 at epicenter (local time)
Region: Taiwan
Location: 23.304°N, 121.580°E
Depth: 17.2 km (10.7 miles)
Distances: 75 km (45 miles) S of Hua-lien, Taiwan
80 km (50 miles) NNE of T'ai-tung, Taiwan
120 km (75 miles) ESE of Chia-i, Taiwan
195 km (120 miles) S of T'AI-PEI, Taiwan

Monday, December 1, 2008

November outings - 1: Sushi すし

I was too lazy to do much blogging last month, so now I'm trying to play catch up. Here are some photos [click photo to enlarge]:

Making Italian-style chicken and pasta...

...And here are the results (one plate is missing)

Qiu and I having a sushi lunch

Sunday, November 30, 2008

My first doctor's visit in Taiwan

I have bunches of photos to post, but before I do that, I just had to jot down my first experience at a doctor's office in Taiwan. I'm thankful for my coworker Matt. He's an American who speaks fluent Chinese (and Japanese...God, how I hate him, lol). He kindly walked me through the entire process today.

First of all, today is Sunday. Yes, Sunday—and I was able to see a doctor. Second, no appointment necessary; just walk right in. After filling out one tiny form and presenting my health insurance card, I was seen in about five minutes.

I went to the doctor's because of my frequent neck and back pain (from previous injuries), and the related headaches. The first person to see me felt my neck, head, and back, then took my pulse and looked at my tongue. She asked me a few questions (about exercise, headache location, etc.) then recorded the information on the computer. This is handy because I'll be able to go again by myself without having to explain in my terrible Chinese what's wrong. Plus, the information is in a central database, so I can visit any doctor on the island without having to fill out reams of medical history forms.

After the initial screening, I was laid out on a table and given a gentle yet effective massage. The doctor was able to locate the vertebrae that were compressed and/or misaligned, and massaged and manipulated my body to relieve some of the pressure. I could tell that I was very much out of alignment. I got an intense head rush when I sat up, probably because I hadn't eaten breakfast, so the staff provided some ginger candy to balance out my blood sugar.

After that, I was laid out on a machine that reminded me of a Medieval torture device. For 15 minutes it rhythmically stretched my body. It didn't hurt, but actually felt quite relaxing.

Next, I was put in a neck traction type of device for 15 minutes. I watched TV during the treatment. Following that, electric muscle stimulators were attached to my neck and lower back.

Finally, cool-temperature herbal bandages were affixed to my neck and back, and I was sent on my way with some herbal medicine to take for 7 days.

I was worked on for over an hour, more thoroughly than I had ever been treated by an American chiropractor. The cost for all of this? Only NT$150 (US$4.50!), which included the herbal medication. This low cost is because of Taiwan's national health insurance. I could never afford to get regular chiropractic treatments in the US, but at $4.50 a visit I'm going to try to get in at least twice a week.