Archive for June, 2008


Rainbow on a Rainy Day in Taipei

That’s the Grand Hotel and the Taipei Story House in the background, with the Taipei Fine Arts Museum invisible on the side.  Catching this image made me quite happy on that particular rainy day.  That, the exhibits at TFAM, and the pleasant company of my cousinlet were all really lovely.  I really enjoyed the watercolors by Ma Pai Sui (this link’s examples aren’t quite as cool as the work I saw in the museum) and Yang Cheng-Yuan there .  There were also some funky-fun exhibits in the basement– one freaky dark sound installation that had speakers lining a dark room, each playing something different–a classical choral piece, radio static, interviews in Spanish or Portuguese, soundscapes, etc.  There was also a large exhibit that had lots of fun things in it which allowed the viewers to be a bit more interactive– scrawling messages, signatures, pictures and cartoons into a huge blank book, taking a post-it that says “the sky is not big enough for two suns” and other things that were more clearly don’t touch…

I was disappointed that they aren’t publishing a book based on their exhibit of modern ink painting last spring.  It had some incredible work in it.

Anyway, I approve of cheery umbrellas on rainy days.


Around Tai Da

National Taiwan University, or Tai Da, is regarded as the best university in Taiwan.  It’s kind of a mellow place to hang out when one isn’t sweating over taking the GRE test with a bunch of stressed out Taiwanese students poring over their English cram school booklets.  According to my father, it was a bastion of studying students who had no time for fun in his day (though he shoots some incredibly mean pool, so I suspect he learned SOMETHING outside of the library!).

Note the yellow-green spike on the palm tree?  It’s turning over a new leaf.

The main avenue of palms that proudly lead up to the library.

Note: Not a squirrel.  This photo credit may actually go to my colleague B.  I handed over the camera at some point and he crept up to this twitchy lizard.

White flowers in Taiwan always seem to be sweetly fragrant.


There were all these tadpoles bobbling through the pool along with a couple of floating pomelos that looked as if they were some kind of offering that had yet to be received.

The resting remains of one of the first presidents of Tai Da.  It’s interesting that it has Western classical architecture.

Double-decker bike parking!

It’s not all fun and games!


Protecting the “squirrels”

I remember these broken glass-topped walls used to be everywhere in Taiwan.  When I visited Tai Da, my co-worker told me that the girls’ dorm is nearby.  Apparently he used to spend a lot of time in this area admiring the (and here he paused) squirrels.

When I was planning on coming to Taiwan, my father tried dissuading me by painting the country as lawless and dangerous.  Times certainly have changed.  I haven’t seen too many walls with broken glass on top anymore.


Taiwanese Manners

Since Yanni needed some advice on meeting a Taiwanese mother-in-law, I figured I’d list things that got me into trouble with more traditional family members.

1.  Do not leave chopsticks sticking up in your bowl.  It’s the way food is presented to dead ancestors, so a definite no-no at the dinner table.  (I got into trouble with my grandma over this…  This, and thinking that it would be cool to make the faces she did without her dentures in when she happened to be upset with me because I was a smart-alecky kid who didn’t have proper manners…)

2.  Hold the rice bowl with your thumb at the side and your fingers beneath the bottom.

3.  Do not wear red to a funeral or at all when a relative dies.  Dark colors or muted light colors are fine.  (I was prepared for the funeral, just not the everyday no-red rule.  This resulted in an emergency visit to a boutique for a plain white shirt.)

Other things I’ve heard/observed include:

4.  Give and receive gifts with both hands to show respect.

5.  Gifts are generally opened by the receiver later when the giver isn’t present.

6.  Don’t write names in red pen (this one I first ran into in Korea and then in Taiwan–  apparently it’s either how names of the condemned are written or names of the dead are written, I’m not sure which.)

7.  Apparently giving a gift of a tie to a guy is a very personal thing and would mean you want to “tie” them to you… (the female equivalent is presently escaping me)

8.  Don’t give a gift of a knife– it can “cut” the relationship… Or you can take a coin as a token payment.

Of course, this is hardly exhaustive and I do encourage visitors to add in comments for the gaps I’m sure I’ve missed.

Sometimes in Taiwan, I feel like people seem to expect me to know what I’m supposed to do automatically because I look Taiwanese or my parents grew up here.  However, growing up, considering the only Taiwanese people I knew were related to me and we only saw them on long weekends, there were significant gaps in my education.  Since I have the social grace of an elephant with its foot stuck in its mouth pretty much anywhere, yeah, I wouldn’t rely on me to be a proper Miss Taiwanese Manners.  Most awkward situations are bettered by a sheepish grin.

Good luck Yanni!!!


Arranging things…


ETA: AAAGH! WordPress ate my post! Waaah!….

Um. I’ll have to do something about that. Naughty wordpress (or it could just be me leaving things to sit on my computer too long.) sniffle. Off to read “One Art” again I suppose.

ETA some more: It’s gone as certainly as a significant moment, and I’m stuck in the opposite of l’esprit d’escalier. Drat. It was a pretty post, if I do say so myself.


Who needs a limo?

Taken at Tai Da.


Shucking Oysters

When we wandered around Anping, we ran into the overpowering salty mineral scent of the sea. A quick look showed us that it was coming from these ladies who were shucking oysters, which I can’t think of without the rather well-quoted Ernest Hemingway from A Moveable Feast

I closed up the story in my notebook and put it in my inside pocket and I asked the waiter for a dozen portugaises and a half-carafe of the dry white wine they had there. After writing a story I was always empty and both sad and happy, as though I had made love, and I was sure this was a very good story although I would not know truly how good until I read it over the next day.

As I ate the oysters with their strong taste of the sea and their faint metallic taste that the cold white wine washed away, leaving only the sea taste and the succulent texture, and as I drank their cold liquid from each shell and washed it down with the crisp taste of the wine, I lost the empty feeling and began to be happy and to make plans.

–as quoted by Tom Anderson at This Sphere

I certainly wish I felt happy after writing a story and that anything I wrote was truly good. Maybe I should just eat oysters?

I had no idea oysters would be in huge barnacled clumps.

It certainly looks like work to slip the knife through the gap between the edges of the shell, but not end up cutting the oyster within. They were experts though, smoothly severing the two halves and slipping the flesh out.

Rinsing the oysters.

Also, is it just me, or is there a painting of oyster shuckers by someone famous like Picasso?

Free Rice

June 2008
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