Archive for January, 2008


Lucky Dog

My mom and I were having a conversation the other night when I interrupted her to say something a bit like this…

“Mom, I met someone last Friday night!”

“Ooh?!” (My mother has a very eloquent “Ooh?!”)

“Yes, he came right up to me and he was sooo cute!”

“Where were you?”

“The everything store. I just couldn’t resist him. He had these dark eyes and we just sort of connected like kindred spirits. He came right up to me and started kissing me. I almost decided to take him home with me, in spite of the fact that my room is total mess…”

“So it was a bunny?” (My mother knows me all too well.)

“No, a dog. A really really cute puppy!”

He’d just dashed into the store as if he owned it, and began lavishing tons of affection on me. The guys in the store ended up chasing him a bit when he ventured to explore the back, and told me that he wasn’t their dog, so if I wanted him, I could take him. I realized he was indeed a stray when my hand turned black from petting him. Poor doggie. They said he was a puppy, but probably wouldn’t grow too much bigger.

I had visions of being motivated to go out for walks and wake up in the mornings… Then practicalities started to intrude– I rent out a (currently extremely messy) room, and don’t really know the landlady’s policy on dogs. I’m also afraid that I might be allergic (I’ve given up on ever being able to own a cat). Also, I had a total of 70NT (around two US dollars) on me, since I was a dork and forgot to pay a visit to the magical money machine. So I didn’t really have enough to buy dinner, a leash, and dog shampoo… It was also too late to take him to a vet for a check-up and he probably had fleas (dogs who reach over and nibble their sides are probably nibbling for fleas, right?)

I was contemplating on the logistics of getting him up to my apartment with me, and not freaking him out by shutting him up in a room then leaving the poor puppy while I ran off for money and the above necessities. Then, lo and behold, the smart dog went to venture out to the sidewalk again and met another girl, who after inquiring as to whether he belonged to anyone, slung him over the scooter seat sandwiched between her and her boy and took him home.

Upon some research, I think he was a Taiwan dog mix, (this website’s description claims they have psychic powers of communication), though he was sandy-haired. Half a week later, I decided I would have named him “Lucky” (to quote the guys in the store after the girl took him home).

As my mom mentioned, our family seems to be attractive to stray dogs. On one of our walks with my grandfather to the park in Tainan, my two cousins ended up getting followed by three friendly strays. As the house already had three or four dogs (two or three of which had been rescued from the streets I think), they were forbidden to have more. So the three dogs followed us down the slides, sidewalks, and finally my cousins went to my aunt’s house leaving them around the front door while they slipped out the back and came back to my grandfather’s house. The only dog owned by that side of the family here now is the ultra-cute Shao Hei (which means “little black” when the dog is snowy white, but it’s something of a joke.)

Then there was the dog that led us through Guandu Nature park who was just a friendly tour guide for us this fall. He seemed quite at home and content there.

Though I have seen a few stray dogs in the park, there are certainly less stray animals than I remember when I was visiting Taiwan ten years ago. There seem to be more active animal protection policies in place–from what I hear there is a spaying and neutering program. When I arrived back in Taiwan this fall, I spent a while in the airport waiting for my ride and saw a little promotional video kiosk by the Taiwan government which was essentially a PR piece on the great new conditions of shelters for stray animals in Taiwan. At the time, I found it rather random, but apparently there has been cause for outcry in the abuse of strays by animal control here in the past.

According to this article, some stray dogs are being eaten. When I was in Korea, one of my fellow ex-pat colleagues was taken out for dog soup and learned that there dogs are bred specifically for food and are drugged up and killed in a way that is extremely stressful for the dog, since the hormones or chemicals released by a stressed dog were… um… supposed to be an enhancement for… uhh… “stamina.” My roommates also told me that they’ve heard about restaurants that have dog meat on the menu. I think it’s supposed to be marketed as “fragrant meat” (shiang rou) or something like that.

My mother also cautioned me that if I had taken the dog, I wouldn’t have been able to return to the US with it. However, after some research, taking a dog back to the US turns out to be a decently painless process.

Here is an article about a group doing research into where stray dogs in Taiwan can be found.

If you’d like to adopt an animal or learn how to care for your animals, AnimalsTaiwan has a lot of information.

Dogs in Taiwan seems to have information for the Taiwanese dog owner, like vet links and dog playgrounds, though I think the Bow Wow Cafeteria closed. (I used to walk by it and find it vaguely amusing to see the dogs gamboling in the windows.)

Oh, and regarding the bunny my mother mentioned? I am acquainted with a rescued rabbit that’s available to a good home. Drop me a comment or an e-mail if you’re longing for a friendly rabbit.

And Lucky– I hope you’re happy and spoiled in a real family who treats you like a prince amongst dogs, since it couldn’t work out between us… sniff. I suppose I’ll just dog-watch in the park, maybe we’ll run into each other again some day.



Back in the US, the presidential primaries are upon us. I’m looking forward to being back home for the 2008 election, since casting my ballot from Korea in the crowded US consulate was fun, but left me with no one to sympathize with my despair post-election day. I missed being a New Yorker and hearing a collective sigh or shout for joy the way I would when it was baseball season and my neighbor across the courtyard was having a party.

Any other American expats looking to vote in the primaries should check out The Overseas Vote Foundation, which allows you to register and print out and mail your registration for the absentee ballot back to your local election bureau. This article by the Associated Press offers a few more resources for overseas voters.

Here in Taiwan, the election trucks have taken a break and I can get through class without generating general hilarity by innocently inquiring if the martial music wheeling by outside with an energetic voice calling out “by toh, by toh….” was an advertisement for Lin’s Tofu. Apparently, a local politician’s name is not really “tofu” though it sounded that way to me.

Right before the election which saw the blue party (the KMT) which is very popular around here (I am, after all in Taipei), sweep the legislature, there were trucks going around every fifteen minutes it seemed. When I was in the Bronx, the noise pollution during class involved the ice cream truck (ten minutes before school let out, it was parked on the curb and ready), and the local boom-boxed car that would make the street vibrate with salsa or hip hop (try teaching with a straight face while your kids are shimmy-shaking to the beat outside…)

My students here are certainly more politically involved than the ones I taught in the Bronx, having opinions about the green party (Chen Shuei Bian’s embattled Democratic Progressive Party) and the blue party (the Kuomintang or Nationalist Party brought to the island with Chiang Kai Shek). Many of them joined their parents in the rallies that filled Taipei streets with a sea of red shirts and thumbs down, asking for Chen Shui Bian’s resignation after the scandal last year. One of my colleagues told me she overheard her first-grade students arguing over who got to play Ma Ying Jeou (the KMT presidential candidate and former mayor of Taipei), and Frank Hsieh (the DPP presidential candidate) on the playground. Continue reading ‘Democracy…’


An Aside…

At times, being a teacher has been extremely rough for me (the day one class went into revolt and progressed from eraser- throwing to penny-throwing being one….) And while I’ve always believed in the power of education, teaching can be draining (spent my Friday night after class cleaning vomit– one unlucky student had food that did not agree with her. While the cleaning lady got the floor, there were still the table, the wall, and the chairs and figuring out what to do with one slightly unlucky book.)

However, sometimes you get to introduce ideas or books or present things in such a way that they bring joy to your students. It’s an incredible high to excite kids about learning, to watch them make connections and think in new ways.

On Friday, I usually have my students play games after some work and quizzes. They tend to make a beeline for the computers. After I discovered the games mostly involved shooting little bouncing blobs, I banned them. One persistent student, who avoids board games for some reason, asked for permission. I agreed on the condition that I pick the game. She quailed. After a few minutes of boredom though, she gave it a shot, and I introduced her to free rice which combines donating rice to the hungry with figuring out vocabulary words. It happens to be one of my procrastination vehicles of choice (collecting intriguing words being one of my quirks). Surreptitiously watching her and her friend, I noted that they did indeed remember some of the words I’d taught them, and were getting into the game. They asked me to e-mail them the link, and were really excited that they were donating rice in the process of playing. It’s warm and fuzzy-inducing. Hopefully figuring out words will last longer than their knitting attempts.

I’m putting the banner on my sidebar. It may eventually migrate South… I do quibble with some of the definitions sometimes, not that they’re technically wrong, but at times they’re the definition that I don’t think is as commonly used. The game is challenging partially because the words can come from anywhere– science, music, archaic uses, etc. I find my French and Latin helpful in random guessing. It would be helpful if there were sample sentences, not just definitions upon getting the correct answer–context and connotations being very helpful in learning words. Anyway, the words go from very basic to rarefied and multi-syllabic.

Go play.

Now if there were only a version for learning Chinese…

(Edited to add:  My student told me that she donated 3,000 grains of rice this weekend.  Whoo hoo!)



When I was packing to come to Taiwan last year, my mother urged me to bring warm clothes.  Having only been in Taiwan in the summer, I scoffed at the idea that Taiwan could possibly ever be cold.  A country without snow except for the tops of the mountains couldn’t actually be cold.

And the people recommending really warm clothes came from places like Texas… oh, and Taiwan.  Of course, I now remember that my fellow scoffer, a New Yorker who had been in Taiwan for bit,  has the metabolism of a furnace and had wintered New York without heat.  Oh, and did I mention I’m cold-blooded?  Naturally, that didn’t occur to me when I took said scoffer’s advice.

I, who have shoveled snow off the top of our roof because it was three feet high, and who have tingled with numbness and that snap of awareness a brisk wind brings in New England winter, thumbed my nose at the supposed “cold” of Taiwan and brought a polartec fleece shirt and a sweater and a turtleneck or two…

This year, the day after New Year’s I wore: two shirts, a sweater (a wool tunic from the 80s which could literally fit two of me in it), leggings, fleece pants, wool socks (also another incredible invention), and blue fuzzy thick soft socks of indeterminate material…  All at the same time.  Then, I crawled underneath the cold covering of: one light summer comforter, one humongous poofy winter comforter covered by what usually serves as another light summer comforter, and a fleece blanket.  In the middle of the night, I took out two wool shawls and stretched them up top.  Oh, and I now know why people used to wear nightcaps.  My head was cold outside of the comforters!  I also need to knit up fingerless gloves.   Continue reading ‘Cold’


Happy Still-Shiny-New Year!

 Okay, I’m late.  However, while perusing my files for something completely different (like inspiration to whittle my history into 250 articulate, personable words), I ran across this photo.

I think photo credit goes to my cousin, since I did take a couple of shots, and they were a bit blurred thanks to my notoriously shaky hands…  That and balancing on the little bridge on my grandfather’s pond.  There’s a saying in my mother’s family that the whole family has dunked into that pond at least once.  I have thus far escaped the dunking, though I’ve scrubbed algae off the walls of the pond, leaning over the edge, had a massive water fight in the yard (the house has a marvelous number of faucets attached to marigold-colored plastic hoses, and my cousin discovered the joy of shooting water out of the showerhead through the bathroom window at us too)., and teetered while taking photos of the flowers.

The flower that blooms at night.

Anyway, it’s the flower that only blooms at night– blooming in my grandparents’ pond during Moon Festival (which, yes, happened a while ago).

May we all bloom this year.


In Between

Note: This post is in-between the missing posts that are overdue, and the ones that are going to be. Please forgive me.

Sorry that I haven’t updated in months. I’ve had the blog on my mind, added to my drafts pile, and just not ponied up and finished a post and… err… posted.

To be honest, my life has been fairly quotidian. I’ve not got any great excuses for not updating in a long long time to keep ye faithful visitors… um… faithful.

I hope that you have been well and enjoying your own adventures this past fall, and that the holidays have been relaxing and fun and cosy and full of fluffy snow for you.

Hm. I seem to be rusty at this blog-posting thingie.

Continue reading ‘In Between’

Free Rice

January 2008
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