Archive for the 'mosquitos' Category

08
Apr
08

This weekend…

Three puppies with the flexibility of the newly-born slept in my lap.

I fed the dog and ended up scattering dog food all over the courtyard because… um, her head got in the way (her head was in the bowl impeding more food from going into it).

I sampled shrimp chips and bought perhaps a few too many bags.

I ate the best shao long bao EVER.

(Ate lots of yummy food that probably means I weigh more now than I did before the weekend…)

We wandered in the companionable cool evening past the oldest temple to Matsu and sat in a Japanese garden next to a large department store.

A very kind security guard let me use his phone (because as is usual, when I actually mean to use mine and NEED to use mine, it and the battery lounging in my bag were both dead) so I could be spared the 50-minute wander through the vaguely familiar environs with a map that showed me where I wanted to go, but which sort of left me lost when it came to figuring out where I actually was. He also saved me from being overcharged by the hungry taxi drivers who alternately made me feel like the most popular girl at the ball and an overdue lunch.

A helmet perched on my head at a drunken angle, bumping into the helmet of my aunt in front of me as we careened home on the back of her scooter. When we got there, it had slid down my head so it looked vaguely like a cartoon head-bump. And… I couldn’t get it off without my aunt’s assistance.

I hopped up the curl of a narrow stairway to the top of the tower where breezes blew through vents in the windows.

I made the acquaintance of banyan trees sprawling through the roof and windows of ancient storage houses.

My cousins and I got to chat for a couple minutes about the limbo of future plans before a shout and cry drew us to the children spreading flower foam dust in the living room and getting their hands on the closed utility knife.

I arranged flowers with my aunt and brought them to the section of shelves where my fourth uncle’s ashes are kept in a sealed wood box gently illuminated by the twilight that turned the palm trees to shadows.

11
Feb
08

Back from frolicking…

I’m cheerful and bubbly again after being feasted far too much and taking quite a few train rides.  Photos to come after I fulfill some ancient Lunar New Year’s resolutions to clean out my hard drive, back up my photographs and video (which I happened to accidentally look through a bit ago and considered posting, but that would require some editing.  I forgot a few times that video doesn’t work like photographs and turning the camera on its side to achieve a better shot is kind of… stupid.  That, and my cartoon voice shouldn’t be exposed to general hilarity.), and figure out more photoshoppy things to play with after my computer gets faster again.

It’s the year of the Mouse, right, so if I’m a packrat…  it’s kind of fitting, no?

No, probably not.

Anyway, I headed down to Tainan and got to hang out with a chunk of the family that’s a bit further-flung from the chill of Taipei.  My two cousins who long ago impressed me with their awesomeness when I first came to visit are still immensely awesome and I was treated to scooter-rides (Look, ma, I’m still alive!) even though no one was willing to cross the maternal dictum that I refrain from being a scooter-zooter myself.

I set off the fireworks at midnight– vastly exciting and somewhat scary.  (My cousin checked to make sure I still had both eyes and no burns when the sparks faded.)

I popped pomegranate seeds all over the kitchen, and a spot of oil on my wrist in my forty-seconds of trying to be domestic as I helped by flipping the loa boa or gam ke,  radish-rice cake (I may have forgotten the correct Taiwanese/Chinese already, tut tut.).

We caught up on silly stories and slightly spontaneously skipped off to Hualien where I listened to the rush of the sea under the popping of fireworks, and ate really yummy salt-encrusted steamed fish.  The apartment we stayed in let us sleep on the floor on futons (the real kind that are not plumpy-thick, but could actually be rolled up and put away), behind Japanese sliding doors, where we were warmly welcomed by mosquitos in spite of hiding underneath masses of covers.  There was a very early morning mosquito massacre when my uncle hit the lights and my cousin and I got up and extracted revenge by slapping all the mosquitos attached to the walls and being rewarded with blood-splats– eeww, but revenge is kind of satisfying, considering it was probably, well, our blood.  Got back on the train which was standing room only, with people lining the aisles two-by-two, and children munching on bien dang lunch boxes in the stairwells by the doors.

The train ride was a vacation in itself (not the standing bit, necessarily, but the views!!!  Oh, the views!!!  I shall go into more articulate raptures with photographic documentation soon, promise).

Got back to Tainan for more feasting and then zipped through Taiwan on the bullet-train back to Taipei too early in the morning.

Right, going to really do laundry and clean…

I hope all of your Lunar New Year festivities were sparkling with yummy happiness!

14
May
07

Processing

I’ve been so busy lately that I feel like I’ve been hurled through the past week instead of actually living it. I’m not sure exactly what I did that kept me so busy, but somehow I never got to finish writing about my last excursion before going on my next one. I’m probably going to give myself a PJ day this weekend.

Anyway, the brief version of the madcap driving about with my uncle and aunt around Chiayi:

Taichung– lunch, old building where there used to be exams, and huge tomb.

Then went to the great-grandfather’s house, grandfather’s house, and then the swanky hotel for my uncle and aunt and their friend, then to the Chiayi Performing Arts Center where we saw Cloud Gate 2‘s Oculus (I was rather surprised at the bit where everyone’s dancing in pretty just their underpants and violently pretending to scratch themselves all over the place. The bit where they danced with balloons was fun though.) I sat next to my first grade cousinlet who was hopping up and down a bit on the huge kid-friendly seat cushion which should be de riguer for every short person trapped behind a tall person in an auditorium (yes, I was envious, I admit it, though there was no way it was comfortable on his legs, since they naturally had no way of ever reaching the floor). His commentary was pretty funny too. (Disclosure: one of our cousins works with Cloud Gate.) I would have liked to peer around the Performing Arts Center grounds and dance in the rain afterwards, but there wasn’t really time.

Anyway, then headed off to my cousin’s place to be plied with fruit and spin tops with the cousinlet. (I now feel rather deprived that I didn’t have a cool top collection when I was a kid).

The next day we were up at 8 again to go peer at another tomb site nestled in the fields.

Then we were off to a really amazing photo exhibition about the history of Shinkang– there were photos of beautiful, wrinkled, cheery farmers, old women with bound feet, suited men in a band during the Japanese occupation, a group of men dressed for sumo wrestling, school photographs of children, just slices of life from before that reached to the present. I would have liked to poke around more, but my uncle was honking the horn for us to pop into the car and head off to this non-profit organization where there was a library (He got quite grumbly thanks to a woman who was calmly reading amongst the children. She was wearing a hot pink top that exposed a significant portion of her lacy green bra… Perhaps her book was so engrossing she just didn’t notice the neckline slipped.), classrooms, etc.

Then we popped off to check out a public school in the area as part of the historian’s quest. We ended up going back to the old house where we met yet another friend and my dad’s cousins. I attempted a Chinese/Taiwanese conversation and discovered that the distant relative that I used to be penpals with is actually in Taipei.

We ended up going to visit the pineapple field of my uncle’s friend, and he walked barefoot through the rows, lopping off a pineapple every few feet with his curved knife. Later he showed us his bare arms scratched by the leaves.

I had no idea pineapples grew on sort of spiky bushes as high as my waist.

A new pineapple plant is grown from an outgrowth like this. Pineapples in Taiwan are really sweet, and the centers are not as tough as the ones we used to pick up in the US which were too chewy to really eat. The area we were in (I forget the name of it) was really famous for their pineapples.

I slept through most of the car rides. My aunt and I did chat about a visit she made to the US that I don’t remember. Apparently I was quite resentful that she was going to be sleeping in my room and was a difficult child about it. I honestly have no memory of her ever coming to visit, but I know I was a pain as a kid (though my dear mother would protest… to a degree). That’s the weird thing about family that you’ve barely seen. The times you’ve seen them are the way they remember or think of you, naturally. In my life, my family are the most consistent in terms of people that have seen me as a child and as a… whatever I am now (probably not an adult per se in the grown-up sense of the word, though I vote).

However, a chunk of our interactions (especially those that are hampered by the language barrier) are often somewhat superficial– an introduction at a huge family dinner every blue moon. As a child, it was smile and nod time, getting my face picked apart– depending on the relative my eyes are my mother’s or my aunt’s or I look more like my father or more like my mother. A generous meal, which my brother often eyed with suspicion, would be served. Then while the grown-ups chatted, my brother and I would play slap-dilly-o-so or have thumb wars.

Part of the reason I’m in Taiwan is that I want to get to know my family better– those here and those back in the US through the shared history. However, sometimes I feel kind of awkward in family settings– I’m with kind strangers who just happen to have similar blood and have seen my baby pictures.

07
May
07

More from the Trip to Shinkang

Shinkang is my personal romanization. Elsewhere I’ve seen it written Hsingang or HsinKang, but it doesn’t quite sound like that to me…

Anyway, I’m still recovering from trying to keep up with my septagenarian uncle and aunt who managed to drive us to see five things a day on Saturday and then again on Sunday after I’d already been sleep-deprived thanks to the mosquitos last week.

I’m becoming an expert on the varieties of Taiwanese mosquitos. Tan ones, little black ones with white spots, they all find me delectable especially in the middle of the night when I’d rather be dreaming instead of slapping at buzzing noises.

So tangent aside, I met up with my aunt and uncle at the (unholy for me) hour of eight in the morning after sitting on a curb sipping dojang (sweet soymilk), and nibbling a sandwich. They pulled up in a rumbly green Mazda borrowed from my cousin. With one of their other friends, we drove South. I fell asleep through most of the car ride.

I woke bleary-eyed as we pulled into a fancy restaurant and I was bewildered as we met up with a large party of bespectacled people who it turned out were all historians. I pitied the waiter because they were so involved in their papers and chat that no one could be bothered to remember who ordered what by the time it arrived at the table, so he had to stand patiently with his arms full of food asking at least three or four people whether it was theirs before being able to set down a plate. Moral of the story is that one should not become a server to academics in thrall to their passions.

After being admonished to hurry up with my lunch, we dashed off before I could finish my tea so that we could visit a tomb in the mountains up really little windy roads bordered by bamboo and palm trees.

I’m not really very coherent at the moment, so here are some photos:

The entrance to a tomb we visited by Taichung. The funeral mound reminded me a bit of the mounds made for Korean kings in Gyeongjiu, though those didn’t have that fancyish stone thing going.

Guardian of the tomb.

I found the stone carving interesting, because to me, there was a blending of elements of Western and Chinese motifs (the sort of cornice at the top of the grave for instance seems rather European to me). However, my aunt sternly told me that the “scroll-y thing”– as I referred to it later, was a traditional Chinese thing. I think the deceased contained was supposed to have passed 91 years ago, if I recall correctly.

Then we dashed off to Taichung behind the municipal building to see an ancient building which was once used for civil examinations and was now the home to one very irate loud black dog. He was not happy about a bunch of enthused historians popping in to admire the beams and shoot pictures of the woodwork. My photos of that were not exciting, so I’ll spare you. The building was obviously not viewed as a historic site of value, since there was no attempt at preserving it and it was bordered by buildings that were homes or a barbershop, etc. It’s the sort of building that survives in spite of the present, though a metal gate rolls down in front of it as if it were a store.

I promptly conked out in the car as we drove– I swear, this trip seems to indicate that if ever I can’t sleep, I’ll just have to get a chauffeur to drive me around. Anyway, we visited some of my father’s cousins, who live right next to my great-grandfather’s house.

The front door. (We didn’t enter from here).

The back of the front door– My uncle explained to his historian friend why there is a double door here, but I didn’t catch the explanation– need to learn Chinese and all.

This is the way we entered.

One side of the courtyard. The rooms are all shut up and I have no idea what they might still contain.

The front door of the house.

The painted eaves of the front veranda.

My great-grandfather created a secret school in his house in defiance of Japanese orders during their occupation. I think my father and I may faintly physically resemble him (this is rather depressing in the light of the photos of him in his old age).

24
Apr
07

Reality is interfering with my aspirations…

I’ve got a couple of drafts going for posting, but haven’t been able to bring my head completely around any of them.

So, instead I’ve been trying to make things pretty around here. I now have a guest book of sorts where you’re free to request bloggery about whatever burning questions you may have (though I make no promises), tell me that I babble too much, wave at me, leave me presents, say you were here, etc.

I’ve changed the theme (again), and this one shows my whole photos instead of cutting them off or squishing them to fit. It has rather wussy custom header support, however, so I’m open to shifting it again. Any recommendations for something pretty with a custom header banner, widgets, and flexible width text blocks?

Oh, and here’s a link to what to do in an earthquake, just because. My first earthquake was when I was a kid in my grandfather’s living room. Everything shook. It was like watching a video held by someone with palsy shaking the camera, except we were shaking too. We sort of all just stood there looking at each other, the earth rocking us. It wasn’t a long or very heavy earthquake, though, just enough for my brother and I to shout “Cool!” after my mother told us what it was.

I think there’s been one earthquake since I’ve been here. It was at night, and I was in bed, and ever so briefly, it felt like I was being gently rocked to sleep. (The editor in me is shocked at how many clauses I crammed into one run-on sentence, but I’m too tired to fix it.)

So, hardened earthquake veterans, do you just duck when it really gets shaky? I don’t remember anyone dropping to the floor to cover their heads during that long-ago summer afternoon.

Going to bed– here’s hoping my latest unrequited lover is dead, or has buzzed off. Sleeping with the buzzing in your ear of an affectionate mosquito is really difficult. Ended up looking a bit like a drunken sailor meeting the parents last week– was stung on one eyelid and my pinky finger so that they both swelled pink, combined with the usual gravity-defiant hair. Getting a mosquito net this week in addition to the little plug-in poison diffuser.

Wan An (“good night,” though I think a more direct translation would be “night’s peace”).




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