Archive for July, 2007

26
Jul
07

Mango Grove

In the mango grove, they bag mangoes in paper bags to keep the insects away, except for the unfertilized ones, like the little red ones below.

These mangoes were bigger than my head, and supposed to be very sweet. Apparently, they’ve been breeding them into super mangoes!  After they’re picked, they’ll be dunked very quickly into boiling water to remove any remaining insect residues.  They have to be very careful in this process so that the mangoes can be certified as organic and exported to Japan.

With this variety of mango, they pick them while they’re still somewhat unripe, and then pack them in a sealed basket, surrounded by newspaper, and rocks of calcium carbonate (if I’m remembering correctly, and it’s quite possible that I’m not…) in order to ripen them.

I think I had one of these when we were in Tainan, and it had a very sweet flavor with a slight tang to it.

24
Jul
07

In the Starfruit Grove

One of my favorite memories of Taiwan was visiting my grandfather’s nurse/adopted daughter who married a man with a mango farm and going mango picking. When I was in high school, we all went and had a lovely afternoon picking mangoes.

This past visit, we went to visit her again and got the tour of the farm in general.

A baby starfruit and its flowers. As the fruit ripens, it will turn golden.

In the starfruit grove under the canopy of leaves. All the starfruit are covered with the paper bags used to keep away insects. We had to stoop to walk around there.

24
Jul
07

Our Visit to the Family Home

This is the carp pond in my aunt’s community. As you can see by the purple smears for lily pads, my A75 was a bit moody at that point. Though in this shot it kind of came out interesting (to me anyway).

Shao Hei got a significant haircut, which made him look even smaller, and must have been much more comfortable in the heat.

The pond by my grandfather’s house apparently has been frequented by a hungry crane lately, who has gobbled up all the fish and the carp too big for it to gobble, it managed to flip out onto the yard.

In the yard, the longyen tree was beginning to bear ripe fruit (the way to see if they’re ripe is to pick them off the tree and eat them). We hunted mosquitoes with the electrified tennis rackets, which can make a mosquito caught in the cross-hairs sizzle. And my visiting cousin from NJ gave me a haircut with an old set of barber’s scissors I found in the storage area. (No worries, Mom, I just got the trim you wanted to give me but didn’t have time to–nothing drastic this time.) I sat out in the yard, and we brushed the clippings into the gutter on the edge of the porch– perhaps a bird will use it for its nest. My uncles had fun photographing the process.

19
Jul
07

Slightly Random Questions…

1.  If you were to consult an oracle, what would you ask?  I’m visiting a shaman tomorrow night to observe the rendering of answers from the heavens in paintings.  Most likely I’m probably not going to ask anything.  I’m not sure that knowing mysteries is all that useful or fun…

2.  If you’re instructed to stay off your feet, not supposed to swim, need to rest, and have half a week in Asia, where would you go on vacation and what would you do?

19
Jul
07

In Danshuei

On the day we went to the temple, we stopped by a fishing port for lunch, where we serendipitously ran into my other cousins (I have a ridiculously fortuitous record of randomly running into people I know where I’m not really expecting them) at the restaurant we happened to pick.  I really sympathize with vegetarians.  Watching my lunch thrashing vigorously in the net that has just lifted it out of the tank made me feel horribly guilty.  My cousin told me I wasn’t allowed to become vegetarian that day, since after all, I’ve been coughing and running goopiness.

Then we all drove to Danshuei together and I had the chance to visit the private school which was founded by missionary George McKay (pronounced Mc-I by the people I know here).  Presbyterian missionaries had a large impact on my family– my grandmother and grand-aunt went to a Presbyterian girl’s school (my mother tells me my grand-aunt was one of the first girls to have her hair cut short in those days, as well as get an education thanks to my great-grandfather’s progressive views), and my grandfather was quite involved with the Presbyterian church and the first YMCA in Taiwan.

Banyan tree tangle.

“Aboriginal house”– no mortar between the stones.

A bit of Althea University through the iron fence.

Down a steep hill in Danshuei– we passed two wedding photo shoots as we walked down to Fort San Domingo.

Note the many flags lining the entrance way to the fort– it was built by the Spanish, taken by the Dutch, and used as a consular office by the British.  It’s a squarish building.

This is my attempt at the shot in my guidebook I later realized.

The side we didn’t enter– I find the juxtaposition of the windmill and the red brick arches interesting.

A view of the Danshuei from the fort.

Inside the fort were these little cells with oddly proportioned statues of simulated prisoners inside them.  I couldn’t help but feel bad for the sculptor whose work went into the statues so that the could be set in little dark cells where people would really only see their lurking shadow.

19
Jul
07

For whom the garbage truck sings…

When I first came to Taiwan, there were no such things as singing garbage trucks. Garbage sat on the streets, danced by the curbs, and added to the… fragrance, shall we say, of the city.

On the later visit in high school, we were puttering about, and I heard an electronic version of Beethoven’s “Fur Elise” cheerily singing down the street.

“Is that the ice cream truck?” I asked my mother. She made an inquiry for me which was met with laughter. The phenomenon of the singing garbage truck was introduced to me. In Taiwan now, no matter the city I’ve visited, yellow garbage trucks sing down the streets and people in the neighborhood trail them to hand up bags of garbage to the riding garbage person in the back.

Poor Beethoven– children in Taiwan must go, “Oh, the garbage song!” when they’re assigned to learn it for the piano now. Another song in the garbage repertoire is one of the two piano pieces my mother used to play, “Silvery Waves.” (Correction:  it is “Maiden’s Prayer”) The music is a bit electronically saccharine (I hate the idea of people getting to know classical music by its ringtone electronic incarnations, but that’s one of the minor travesties of the 21st century I suppose), but it does the job of calling out garbage-wielding grannies and housewives.

We haven’t taken our garbage out in an age, so it’s piled up– and I felt as I was in danger of becoming the poor Shel Silverstein character–“Sarah Cynthia Sylvia Stout who would not take the garbage out” — the fruit flies seem to be cheerfully colonizing our kitchen. So tonight, hearing the faint strains of “Fur Elise”– I dashed through the house and collected the garbage (well, not all of it, I suppose there’s still quite a few random bags of it dangling from kitchen cabinet knobs– but such things happen in group living situations). Then popped out into the night to wait– at least six large plastic bags full of rubbish (right hand) or recycling (left hand) dangling from my fingers. It’s hot. My little Firefox weather bar tells me it’s 86 F (still can’t get used to Celsius, I know– I’m a stupid American).

I stood out and dripped on the sidewalk, the traffic and scooters grumbling by as I fidgeted, admired the lighting of night, and waited on my street. One’s not merely allowed to leave one’s garbage on the sidewalk, but someone did, which showed me that I hadn’t missed our trucks yet. But I couldn’t remember– is it 8:40 or 8:45, and I started the garbage gathering around 8:30, so…

Suddenly I saw a silent yellow garbage truck glide past, turning light on. Abandoning all pretenses of dignity (which I’ve given up all claims to long ago), I dashed down the street in my flapping unbuckled Birks (apologies to my physical therapist who would tut tut), and followed it around our corner where it finally started to play “Fur Elise” as it stopped on a side alley branching off of ours and people handed up their pots of kitchen wet garbage to be dumped in the blue can, and bags of everything else, while the recycling truck stopped behind it and gathered the bottles and paper.

And now, as I type, I can hear the faint strains of “Fur Elise” from yet another garbage truck in the vicinity…

17
Jul
07

Taroko Gorge

Is one of those places that a camera cannot do justice to, because there are so many layers of mountains, light, stone, trees, and waterfalls that one cannot fit it all in. My camera has been in purple mode as well, so there are some interesting purple-streaked shots. Visiting Taroko Gorge, I felt as if I was in Lord of the Rings territory, a fantastical place that cannot quite possibly be real, but impossibly is real.

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This was a temple that had to be rebuilt three times because of earthquakes taking it down. It is dedicated to all those who lost their lives building the highway that gets to the Taroko Gorge.

The faces of the cliffs are made of marble. My father was mourning the effect of car exhaust through the passageways we walked along– apparently in his youth, the marble walls gleamed white.

This waterfall went on and on and on, the pool above these was fed by at least three waterfalls on the side. I love the color of the pools, which is more vivid than the river below.

There are many swifts that make their home in the holes of the mountainside. As the evening crept through the gorge, they skimmed through the air, deftly soaring and plunging by turns through the gaps between the rock faces edging the river.




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