Thursday, December 31, 2009

Avatar insanity!

I went online this morning (Thursday Dec. 31) to try to book tickets at the IMAX 3-D showing of the movie Avatar in Taipei. I could see it locally at a non-IMAX theater, but that would be like going to a 5-star restaurant and ordering a hot dog.

Anyway, I was hoping to watch it sometime during this long 3-day weekend. There are six showings each day, so I figured 'no problem.' But, I forgot—this is Taiwan. At 9:00am this morning I tried to book a ticket, and everything was sold out except for the 10:20pm show on Sunday, where there were 58 seats available. However, by the time the movie lets out sometime around 1:00am, there'd be no trains back to Taoyuan. Damn :-(

Out of curiosity, I just checked again (10:30am), and now there are only 20 seats remaining for that showing.

In the U.S., shows would occasionally sell out when I was a child. Back then we didn't have the Internet, cable TV, etc., so I guess more people went to the cinema. But since I became an adult, I've never experienced a sold-out movie in the U.S., so this is a bit disheartening.

The ticket price for the IMAX 3-D version is US$13, which is expensive for here, and so I refuse to pay an additional US$30 for a taxi ride back home. Guess I'll just have to wait until next weekend.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Bubble Tea (珍珠奶茶 ) with a Western twist

This comes from Canada, which apparently is a country just as litigious as the US.

Friday, December 25, 2009

Christmas TV

Merry Christmas to all!

My favorite show (姐妹會 Sisters Meeting) had a Christmas episode. Here's a clip where they were having some fun with the host, and you can (once again) see some foreigners speaking Chinese. The guy is from Canada, and the girls are from Belarus, England, China, Brazil, and Papua New Guinea.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

My life in boxes

I'm moving tomorrow, Christmas Day. It's been sunny all week but, of course, the weather report for tomorrow calls for rain.

I'll post pictures of my new place soon. Kind of busy right now.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Biggest earthquake yet

About an hour and a half ago, around 9:00pm, I was eating at a BBQ restaurant with some friends, when an earthquake hit. I've felt about 8 or 9 earthquakes in the past 20 months that I've lived here, but this one was the strongest and scariest for me. During the previous earthquakes I would sit and wonder if it would get stronger, but this time it actually did get stronger. The USGS reports that it was a magnitude 6.4, but Taiwan news reported that it was 6.8, so I'm not sure.

I was sure of the panic in the customers' and employees' voices, though. Most of us were looking up at the roof, which wasn't a roof proper but a series of steel (?) beams covered with some kind of heavy fabric material. There were no ceiling panels to fall on us, but I think we were wondering if the beams would buckle and fall down. Some of the folks ran out of the restaurant. In those few seconds I was weighing my options: Either run outside (which American earthquake experts say is not a good idea), or get under our table. The table, while very sturdy, had a barbecue inset in the center, so there really wasn't much room underneath. Besides, there were two children in our party and I didn't want to take the space from them.

The entire quake lasted a good 30 seconds, with the strongest middle part about 10-12 seconds, during which I truly began to get afraid. Fortunately, there were no injuries or damage that I could see. I don't know yet about the east coast, where the epicenter was located.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Me=Lazy Blogger

I'm still alive, lol. Lots going on...had H1N1, busy at work, and now getting ready to move (just across town). Will update this soon :-)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Sick with the flu

Last night was terrible. I had a fever and terrible body aches. I piled the blankets on and was shivering one moment, then kicking off the covers the next. I took 800mg Ibuprofen which eventually cooled me down enough to get a little sleep.

This morning my temperature didn’t feel as high, but I was exhausted, and my head had that feverish fog, and I still had the body aches. I was a little worried about pneumonia, but I didn’t have any other symptoms.

mask I went to the doctor this morning; he checked me over, determined that my lungs sounded clear, told me I had the flu, and prescribed a cocktail of medicines. Since I still had a fever he told me to stay home from work, and to wear a mask when around others.

So, here’s what the well-dressed flu victim is wearing these days.

Ugh, just writing this much has worn me out. Gonna go lie down.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Foreigners speaking Chinese and fun TV

When I had a TV, I used to frequently watch a show called 姐妹會 (Sisters Meeting). Although I didn't understand 98% of it, I loved watching the playful spirit on the show. I especially enjoyed seeing the non-native Chinese speakers, as they were an inspiration to me learning this difficult language. If these 外國人 (foreigners) can get to this conversational level of Chinese, then dammit, so can I!

Happily, I discovered that I can still watch this show, sans TV, thanks to YouTube. Below is an excerpt from one episode, where the girls are parodying Taiwan TV commercials.

More videos can be found by searching 姐妹會 on YouTube.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Missionary Rap by Barats & Bereta

In the past week I’ve seen many Mormon missionaries in Taoyuan. By ‘many’ I mean I’ve seen 4+ every day, instead of the 2 I may see once every couple of months.

Coincidentally, my favorite online comedy team, Barats and Bereta, just posted this little gem. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Tsaoling Historic Trail hike 草嶺古道

On Sunday, October 11, I took a hike that’s described in Lonely Planet this way: “If you can only do one hike during your stay in Taiwan, make it this one.” I agree.

Click below to see the photos and read the captions. I’m too lazy busy to write any more right now.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Double Ten 雙十節 Holiday Dinner

Click on photos to see larger images.

Double Ten Dinner 006

My friends invited me to their National Day 國慶日 holiday dinner on October 10th (hence "Double Ten").

Double Ten Dinner 008

Here we are, toasting National Day.

Here are some of the dishes that we ate. View the album for caption descriptions.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Local Mid-Autumn Celebration

Some friends invited me to their neighborhood community's Mid-Autumn celebration (aka Moon Festival). The actual holiday isn't until next Saturday--October 3rd--but they were celebrating it one week early.

It was fun. There was a ton of contributed food. I can't remember all of the dishes, but it included many kinds of rice, veggies, meat, soup, and traditional snacks. It's especially popular to BBQ at this time, and I feasted on all kinds of dishes including barbecued fish and 烏賊 (cuttlefish).

The traditional fruit is 柚子 (pomelo), which many folks enjoy eating while gazing at the beautiful moon. What to do with the peel? Well, you can see the humorous custom in the photo.

Here is a video that captured some of the events. Sorry about the poor quality.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Doing what I love to do

Teaching? Exploring nature? Trying a new ethnic dish?


Click photo to enlarge

Playing mahjong, baby!!

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Monday, September 14, 2009

Susan Boyle does it again

If anyone thought that Susan Boyle was a one-hit wonder...think again. Here is a link to her hauntingly beautiful rendition of the Rolling Stone's song "Wild Horses". [Lyrics]

Note: Hopefully the above link will work by the time you read this. Originally I had posted a YouTube video with the song, but it had been pulled within an hour!

Susan's debut CD goes on sale on November 24; pre-orders on [order CD] have already outsold Whitney Houston's comeback album and other pre-release titles, including the Beatles remastered Abbey Road. [New York Times]

You go girl!

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

I'm on TV in Taiwan

Here it is: My 15 minutes seconds of fame.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Don't worry your pretty little head

The above comic reminds me of a joke:

In the battle between the sexes, men are definitely better than women at doing two things: 1) Peeing standing up, and 2) Reading maps. Who else but a man would think that one inch equals a mile?

Saturday, September 5, 2009

Found in my email inbox

‹sarcasm›Wow, am I lucky or what?!‹/sarcasm›

Dear Sir/madam

My name is Mrs. Linda Chang from Hong Kong I am 63 years old, I am a dying
woman who have decided to donate what I have to the poor/churches/
mosque/motherless babies/less privileged/widows.I was diagnosed with
cancer for about 2 years ago and now i have few months to die according to
medical Report. I want you to help me donate from what I have inherited
from my late husband to poor/churches/ mosque/motherless babies/less

I want this to be the good work i do on earth before i die.I have decided
to WILL/donate the sum of 9 million US dollars which i have with a bank
abroad to you to enable you help the motherless and less privilege and
also for the assistance of the widows. At the moment I cannot take any
telephone calls right now due to the fact that my relatives (That have
squandered the funds I gave them for this purpose before) are around me
and my health status also.

I have adjusted my WILL and my lawyer is aware. I wish you all the best
and may the good god bless you abundantly, and please use the Funds
judiciously and always extend the good work to others. 20% of the funds
should be taken by you for your effort and time. As soon you get back to
me, I shall give you info on what I need from you then you will contact my
bank and tell them I have willed (9 million dollars) to you by quoting my
personal reference number: Jlk/Wds/95773/50015/GwrI/3196us/uk and I will
also notified my bank that I am willing that amount to you for a good,
effective and prudent work. I know I don't know you but I have been
directed to do this by my mind.

Thanks and god bless.


Mrs. Linda Chang.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Q: What's in my wallet?

A: Lots of junk (I really need to organize it). Today, though, I added an important item that I'm especially proud of: My scooter driver's license.

My name is just under the first black bar...Kong Shu-wen (孔書文). My birthday is listed under my name as 52/03/05 because everyone magically ages 11 years when they come to Taiwan. (Not really. The year isn't counted from the birth of Jesus, but from the country's founding in 1911. So, in Taiwan, I wasn't born in "1952", just "52.")

Since I have a small scooter (50cc) I only had to take the written driving test; yet, I failed it the first time I took it. Why did I fail it? No, the test wasn't in Chinese. However, it wasn't quite in English, either.

Try it yourself

The following are some actual questions from the test, exactly as they are written. The answers appear at the end of this blog entry (don't cheat!)

Here's an easy, just-takes-common-sense, question:

A. True or False -- Pedestrians, motorcycles, tricycles are allowed on highways. ("Tricycles" will probably give away the answer)

But they can get tricky:

B. True or False -- Heavy motorcycles include common heavy motorcycles and big heavy motorcycles.

OK, you got a 50-50 shot at T/F questions. Let's decrease those odds a bit with some tricky multiple choice questions...

C. Number plate:
1) must be hung in the fixed place
2) can be hung anywhere
3) do whatever
(Did a stoner write this question?)

Not challenging enough, you say? Ok then...

D. Signs and lines can be classified as:
1) warning, prohibition, indication
2) warning, prohibition, restriction
3) all the above

E. Motorcycles running with extremely low or high speed, due to:
1) good stability
2) bad stability
3) doesn't matter
the driver must use good skills to adjust for a smooth driving.

Here are some interesting ones...

F. I am a good driver, I obey all traffic laws. I want the highway patrol to:
1) be more strict
2) be relaxed
3) just check but not report

G. When a motorcyclist is not happy, usually he/she:
1) is emotionless
2) is not compassionate
3) is angry

H. If a motorcyclist wants to show national pride, enhance social safety and family happiness, he/she must:
1) drive ethically and obey the law
2) have great driving skills
3) stop smoking and drinking

From the wtf files:

I. Motorcyclist's clothing:
1) is free
2) slippers are ok
3) must be clean

Can't forget road signs...

1) jolted road
2) slopes
3) protruding road

1) jolted road
2) protruding road
3) low lying road

1) no passing
2) no parking
3) no temporary parking

1) no parking
2) no temporary parking
3) no cars

Here's a freebie; just wanted to throw it in because I thought it was unusual. It means No animal cars and tricycles.

The actual test has 40 questions; you must get 85% to pass. The first time I got 82.5%, but this time I got 97.5%...missed only one question!

How did you do? The answers are below.

A. F; B. F (Believe it or not, "commom heavy motorcycles" are "heavy motorcycles", but "big heavy motorcycles" are not!); C. 1; D. 1; E. 2; F. 1; G. 3; H. 1; I. 3 (guess I can get a ticket for wearing dirty clothes?); J. 3; K. 1; L. 2; M. 2

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

My new baby

After 1 year, 4 months, and 11 days in Taiwan, I finally have a scooter. She's a bit battered, but she's beautiful to me. Ah, the taste of freedom!

Click on photos to enlarge

I used to drive an old Volvo in the US that I named Inga; now I need a name for my new wheels. I welcome suggestions, and if I pick yours, I'll send you a prize! I need a girl's name (traditional for mechanical transportation, plus, well, she's pink!). If this helps, she has a 50cc engine, she's 14 years old, and she's a Yamaha.

The roads in Taiwan have just become a bit more dangerous...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

So busy

Will be finished with summer classes this week. Exhausting. Maybe I'll finally have some time to update this blog.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Typhoon Postscript

All is well here in Taoyuan, but the poor people in South Taiwan need some prayers.

News story:
Hundreds missing as typhoon Morakot buries Taiwan village


Friday, August 7, 2009

Typhoon Morakot

It's 11:30pm and we're in the midst of Typhoon Morakot—"Emerald" in the Thai language. It's certainly been a jewel for me, because we had a typhoon day off today (like a snow day in the US or Canada).

This is proving to be a slow-moving typhoon; the eye hasn't even hit landfall yet. By tomorrow it's predicted that the eye will pass directly over Taoyuan, where I live, and that means...another day off!

Besides the days off, though, we really need the water. It's been a dryer-than-normal season, and our resevoirs were just reaching water-rationing levels. Morokat will definitely help the situation; all of Taiwan is under an Extreme Torrential Rainfall Warning: 350mm+ (14+ inches) of rainfall within 24 hours. The mountain areas have already received over 700mm (27 inches).

Wednesday, July 22, 2009


I just came back from taking a walk to grab a fàn tuán (飯糰) for breakfast. I purposely timed my walk to coincide with today's solar eclipse, its maximum coverage of 82.5% occurring at 9:40am in my area.

People were gathered in the park and on the sidewalk with their special glasses to view the event. I brought along a makeshift pinhole camera (just a piece of paper with small holes punched in it) but it didn't work so well. A friendly guy on the corner let me use his viewing glasses at the time of maximum coverage. It was pretty cool to see the big 'bite' taken out of the sun. Appropriately, the Chinese word for solar eclipse (日蝕 rì shí) literally means "sun nibble." I marveled at the power of the sun, because even though at that moment we were receiving only 17.5% of the sun's light, I didn't perceive any lighting change in the area.

I learned something today: You don't need special glasses to see the effects of a solar eclipse. Just look at the shadows from trees. Sunlight passes through small spaces between the leaves, casting interesting crescent-shaped shadows

Click on photos to enlarge

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

A student's poetry

One of my students, a woman my age, wrote the following. It comes from her bittersweet observations of her grandmother's aging process. I think it's a beautiful poem, all the more so since English is not her native language.

     If it could be allowed
     That one body be occupied by two souls--
     I hope the one with beauty, grace, and some kind of humor
     Leaves me first.
     Go ahead, my dear!
     You shouldn't be cooped up in such a body.
     And as for the remaining one
     I will learn to know your sadness.
     Let's begin from "Let me introduce myself."

Tuesday, July 14, 2009


It's 2:20am, July 14th. Just got woken up at a little after 2:00am by an earthquake. I stayed in bed for "the ride", listening to the glass doors in my cabinet rattling, wondering if it would get strong enough for me to get up.

Went online and the premilinary report is that it was magnitude 6.3 of the northeast coast. It got my heart pumping for a bit, but now I'm sleepy again. Goodnight.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

North Korea 北韓 북한

I wonder what it must be like to be an average North Korean citizen. Some writers have described living in its government-controlled society as like existing in a bubble, but I don't think that's quite right; even in a bubble, you can see the outside world.

Perhaps "living in a bubble, with Dear Leader's soap in your eyes" would be more accurate.

Even a seemingly innocuous news story about a new Italian restaurant in Pyongyang is turned into a self-glorifying tribute to Kim Jong Il.

There is a restaurant specializing in Italian dishes in Kwangbok Street, Pyongyang.

Its main dishes are various kinds of pizza and spaghetti dishes including pizza margherita and spaghetti vongole bianco. It also serves famous Korean and foreign dishes.

Manager of the restaurant Kim Sang Sun told KCNA:

There is a moving story behind the appearance of this restaurant. Leader Kim Jong Il took care that a restaurant specializing in Italian dishes was opened, saying the Koreans should be let to taste world-famous dishes. He took necessary measures, learning that the restaurant found it a tough row to hoe, having no cook experienced in Italian dishes. Now our cooks are just as good as Italians in making Italian dishes. No wonder the Korean and foreign customers are satisfied with the famous dishes of the world served by our restaurant.

I think The Onion did a perfect job of parodying the North Korean fantasy-world propaganda machine in the following video. Enjoy...

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Another "food first" for me

This past Sunday I went to the Jhongli night market with a couple of friends, where I tried a new dish.

Click on photos to enlarge

The night market crowdHere's what I ate......snake soup (蛇肉湯 shé ròu tāng)

Honestly, the soup was quite tasty--nothing "weird" about the flavor at all. There really wasn't very much meat, and I had to take care when eating because of the many thin, fish-like bones. The flavor of the snake meat was pleasant and reminded me of chicken or shark.

A simple yet delicious brothSnake is said to be good for certain skin conditionsLots of little bones make it challenging to eat

Also available are various snake wines, including bladder, penis, and venom winesMy friends who introduced me to reptile cuisineEven the pooch likes it

Of course, this being a night market and all, we couldn't leave without trying some other dishes...

Fish skin (I think?)Here I am buying some Yilan style green onion pancakes (蔥油餅 cōng yóu bǐng)85°F, 75% humidity: Time for some refreshing shaved ice (剉冰 cuà bīng)

Friday, June 19, 2009

Photos from Chinese Pod meet-up

On May 3rd I went to Taipei to meet a couple of Chinese Pod members face-to-face. Here are some photos from that trip.

Click on the photos to enlarge
Brent, on the left, is one of the Chinese Pod members. We met Carrie and Pavinee, on the right, outside of Taipei 101 while waiting for Alice, the other Chinese Pod member.
All of us
Brent, Alice, and me, from Chinese Pod

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Student denied diploma for blowing a kiss

Diploma Denied to Student Who Blew Kiss to Family, Pointed at Friends

Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Fox News

A Maine high school senior was denied his diploma at graduation after he took a bow when his name was called, pointed to friends and blew a kiss to his family.

Justin Denney was graduating from Bonny Eagle High School June 12 and had gotten up on stage to receive his diploma when he gestured to his friends and relatives.

School Superintendent Suzanne Lukas abruptly told Denney to return to his seat, according to WMTW TV in Maine. He didn't get his diploma.

His mother, Mary Denney, is livid. Her son told her that the superintendent warned, "There's no fooling around up here."

"He just kind of looked at her because he wasn't fooling around. He didn't consider that fooling around or misbehaving in any sense of the word," Mary Denney told WMTW.

Lukas reportedly asked the soon-to-be graduate why he thought he deserved a diploma.

"He goes, 'Because I worked hard and I earned it,' and she goes, 'No, go take your seat,'" his mother told the station.

Other students also walked away empty-handed because of various disruptions during the ceremony. Some started playing with beach balls and others were separated from their friends, according to WMTW.

Mary Denney doesn't believe her son violated any code of conduct.

"There was no misbehavior. Showboating is not misbehavior," she told the station. "A bow, a kiss to your mom is not misbehavior."

The angry mother said she wants Lukas to apologize to her son and present him with his diploma while he is in his cap and gown.

The actual video of Justin's "misbehavior" can be seen here:

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Coming soon...

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Teaching children

I've found that I prefer teaching adults. Perhaps I just need to change my methods...

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Some photos from the past month - Part 4

After Jinguashi we headed to Jiufen. The last time I came here was on a weekend; the place was jam-packed with people and it was raining. But on this day, a Friday, the weather was beautiful and the streets weren't as crowded, although that may be hard to believe when seeing these photos.

Click on the photos to enlarge

We made our way to a shop to eat the obligatory 芋圓 yuyuan : Chewy taro, plus sweet potato, red beans, and other items over ice.We next headed to a shop for some fishball soup. However, something was not quite right about this place......why do I have this creepy feeling?

Seriously, though, the owner had her photo plastered on all four walls. Chyo and I weren't the only ones who felt weirded out; other patrons were looking around the room with the same disbelief in their faces. And, if that weren't bad enough, she owns a second restaurant in town and it, too, is covered with her face. Strange.

We later had tea at one of Jiufen's many teahouses, which afford a fantastic view. Doesn't that picture of the foreigner look like it could have been taken at a café in Europe?

Before we left, we just had to take a look at this curious condom shop. Nearby was this woman demonstrating her effortless artistry. Finally, there was no way I was going to leave without getting my favorite "ice cream-peanut-cilantro burrito"!

What's the best part of a fun day? Making a new friend!All in all, it was a great day!