Archive for the 'Scooters' Category


Things I learned on the back of my aunt’s scooter

1. A wrap-around sarong skirt causes one to reveal WAY more leg than normal outside of a beach or if one had a propensity for hotpants, which I don’t. (There is the way of riding a scooter side-saddle as it were, but considering my difficulty in keeping my balance just walking in a straight line normally… Well, it didn’t seem to be such a good idea. At least it was dark.)

2. Let the bag ride the little rack in the back, as it has a propensity to shift a bit.

3. Tall plant purchases interfere with the driver’s visibility and should be held down so the road doesn’t become a blur of leaves…

4. If there is any way possible for dusty specks to fly into my eyes, they will. However, the wind in my face is delightful.

5. I should stretch more and remember to do my ankle exercises so my feet actually stay perched sticking out like Mickey Mouse ears from the scooter. (Anyone have any tips on hopping onto and off of scooters gracefully in ways that do not cause one to end up with pant-leg/shoelace caught on the scooter and most frightful staggering for the amusement of the locals? I suspect this is complicated by me being short and stubby… even in Taiwan, a large proportion of chairs don’t let me sit with my back against the back of the chair and my feet comfortably resting on the floor.)

6. In case of rainstorms: the bag goes under the poncho, the helmet goes on top of the poncho hood, and one’s legs and feet will get wet. There was a commuter who bagged his legs and feet, so I suppose if one is willing to go through the effort, it’s possible.

ETA: 7. Hair up in chopsticks does not go under a helmet well. A low ponytail is the way to go…


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.


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!



So, once again, it’s late, and suddenly the blog muses open up and want to write… Or perhaps they’ve been trying to nudge my preoccupied mind past my vagaries and just as I finish closing the windows I can bear to close, they pounce.

And instead of one topic, I’ve got two battling it out…  Which would you prefer?  Fruit or leather pants?

My laptop is warming my lap, but my cold hands are impatient for me to finish knitting socks and begin handwarmers.  This may be because I’m headed for the mother of all yarn stores in Taipei in the next few days, combined with cold fingers from recently slicing and dicing a large papaya, half of which merrily went slipping down from the cutting board onto the floor.  Incredibly, considering me, I didn’t slice my fingers as I have been wont to do in the past.  (I did manage to give my head a significant bump this afternoon, so I suppose my injury quota for the day has been filled… actually that’s yet another story involving stray black dogs looking at me beseechingly in a corner eatery, and being refused my bones– perhaps the bump was poetic justice?)

I ended up with sweet papaya slime all over my fingers.  Papaya and mangoes are work-intensive fruits, since they require slicing and peeling, versus the ease of rinse-and-bite tsao tze or liem boo or apples.  I’m terribly lazy when it comes to food.

I was worried at first, peeling it before halving it, that it wasn’t quite ripe enough to be sweet (a nick off of the top and it had the aftertaste of papaya that I originally hated, slightly bitter).

(apologies for the out-of focus half-naked papaya– the little green focus boxes looked like they were on the papaya and not the chair behind it…  grr.)

However, there isn’t much to do with a half-peeled papaya, but finish slicing it.  So, I sliced and wondered if it would ripen redder in the refrigerator.  I ended up eating bits of it delicately with my knife (very pirate-like) and fingers.  It wasn’t the best papaya I’ve had, but it was sweet and not too soft to the tongue.  We’ll see if the rest ripens in the bing shiang (fridge).

Fruit is something of a tradition in our family (and yes, though there hasn’t been any clamoring for it, I know fruit-of-the-week is some months behind).  My grandfather used to come back from his walks laden with bunches of longan (or long yen— dragon eyes), brown round shelled sweet white transparent flesh around a smooth black pit that would come in branches almost like bunches of grapes.  There were always boxes of mangoes in the house from one of my grandfather’s adopted patients, who turned into a nurse who married a mango farmer.  My mother, brother, and I would always have a late night fruit binge after the dinner dishes were put away.  My father would slice up the pineapples or melons– I think he loves his Chinese cleaver, a big flat rectangle blade set into a wooden handle that delicately slices mushrooms and heaves melons into halves.  My mother used to peel and seed grapes for me to eat as a child, to prevent choking.  She said that she used to have to hide the meat behind the grape on a spoon in order to get me to eat it.

I promised myself when I came to Taiwan to eat fruit every day, and try all the different kinds.  I haven’t quite managed that– the 24 hr. fruit market is a bit of a walk away (but it’s always lovely to behold, so many colors and fresh fruit scents with its warm light spilling onto the dark sidewalk at night).  I’ll have to get some shots of it next time I go.  I am a lazybones at getting myself to the traditional market in the mornings, and I kept on getting ripped off by the sidewalk subway salespeople (except for the delectable strawberries).

When we were in Tainan strolling about, my mother and I picked up some fruit, and all the fruit sellers knew my grandfather.

I’ve been thinking about Tainan a lot lately.  It’s one of the few places I’ve felt truly at home.

It’s different now, the kids we used to be, running around and having massive water fights have all grown (not necessarily past a good water fight, just past having the freedom to run around the yard and play with the hoses on a lazy summer afternoon when we’re supposed to be moving orchids that have yellowing leaves now).  Now my grandparents are ashes in bong tzu, the house by the river where all my ancestors rest in rows of little wooden boxes with their names burned onto the front.

I’ve been thinking about returning, not just for a visit, but for a year, to work and live in the vicinity of where my ancestors worked and lived for generations.

There aren’t many of my family left there now– my aunt, my aunt and uncle, their daughter and her children live in Tainan, and my other aunt and uncle return there routinely, but it’s paltry compared to the fullness of the house in years past.

I’d have get and learn to drive a scooter, as there’s no subway system and the bus system is rather laughable.  I’d have to get a job and do all the adjustment things that took me a while in Taipei without the ease Taipei has for us waiguoren  (foreigners).  I’m bad a driving a car…  Let alone a scooter (which they say is easier, but I am very wibbly just on a bike..).

However, there’s a certain part of me that loves the idea of driving a scooter and getting a red helmet, and finally having an excuse to get and wear leather pants.  Not that I’ve noticed anyone on a scooter in leather pants lately (they’re all rocking yellow and blue ponchos).  However, naturally, one needs clothing that breaks the wind, and soft leather pants would fit that description.  Tainan might be a bit warm for leather pants, though.  My orthotic shoes would definitely not go with leather pants.  Would leather pants scuff on random outings into the countryside where stickleburrs are rampant?

I love the idea of the freedom one has with one’s own wheels.  If I could manage scooting about without getting myself killed or seriously disabled, then I imagine all driving in the US would suddenly be quite easy.

Scootering isn’t for the faint-of-heart though.  One of my co-workers is missing teeth from her attempts trying to learn.

And I’m already ancy with making left hand turns in a car in the neighborhood I grew up in.  (My driving history includes one wrecked side-view mirror driven into a very shiny black pick-up truck, one seriously bumped bumper, one popped tire from driving off of a road because I thought I recognized someone I hadn’t seen since middle school in a most unlikely place, and at least a couple of dents.  This impressive list is from not all that much driving, actually…  My parents still hold onto the little handle on the side of the passenger door with white knuckles when I drive.)

In spite of these contemplations, I’m fairly content at the moment.  Granted, the upstairs and downstairs neighbors leave something to be desired.  Granted, I’m still going through all of Erikson’s crises at once.  Granted, I’m not as productive as I’d like to be, and things can be a bit blase (with the accent grave which I don’t know how to input).  However, I like a lot of things about my job, have fun with my colleagues, have sunny windows, and fun suitemates, and dance once a week.  And I do love the MRT.

But with a scooter, a helmet, sunglasses, and leather pants…  I could be cool….

I’m giving myself one more year before I grow up, get a cottage, a lavender garden, a papasan, sunny windows, new meaningful work, and clay to bury my hands in again.  Oh, and wheels…  preferably a red beetle, though my conscience would want something hybrid and environmentally friendly, even though I’ve never been able to quite forget the illicit joy of acceleration in a corvette.

Somehow the checks in the mail to pay for all these materialistic leanings will find me, right?


Scooting through–

 I’ve now ridden a scooter thrice now. The first time was when I was fourteen, on the back of my aunt’s scooter, my aunt driving, my little cousin standing between her arms. I don’t think I was wearing a helmet. It was night, and we scooted through the little lanes of Tainan, past a temple, gated walls with shards of colored glass poking out to deter unwanted visitors, and stray dogs and cats. If my memory serves me correctly, there wasn’t much in the way of traffic, and it was a not-oppressively hot night. We were headed back from my grandfather’s former office-converted-to-photo-studio, where I’d somehow managed to be transformed from nerdy teenager into a made-up, wigged, dressed-up glorified version of myself that had hitherto never existed, and has hitherto never showed up again.

(is that the right usage of “hitherto”? Ah, I’m too lazy to check.)

I had changed through three dresses (one with extra padding), four hairstyles (one complete with fake ringlets), and gone through two photographers. There is also unspeakable video footage of me doing my best Scarlett O’Hara impression until the heavy wiglet ponytail fell off, and was thankfully given up on. The results were such, that when shown to my peers back home, I was so unrecognizable that I was able to successfully convince most of them that the photos were of a cousin. (All the rest of my female cousins have had their photos taken and mine will forever rest in the shadow of their gorgeousness.)

Anyway, I was on a scooter, right? It was so exciting, even though we were going very slow. My long hair was floating in the breeze, and I was thrilled and happy and free, headed back to my grandfather’s house.

People ask me why I came back to Taiwan, and honestly, it is one of the places in my life where I was comfortable being myself. Much more comfortable than where I started from, even though I didn’t know the language, didn’t know how to use chopsticks when I was in middle school. In spite of all that, I was spoilt rotten by my family, accepted and loved. I belonged in the lovely meaning of the word, I was part of a circle of love– they loved my parents, and they loved me, even if they’d never seen me before, or only as a baby or a child. Family is so strange and marvelous that way. My mother’s family in particular have always been unfailingly generous and kind.

I guess it was just being in a place I was happy with people I loved and feeling comfortable enough to indulge in my personal strain of wackiness.  I felt beautiful, which sounds silly, since it really has nothing to do with aesthetic appearances at all.  I guess it’s just when life feels marvelously vibrant, and I’m part of it.

Forgive me for the digression– I meant to tip tap more about scooting more recently, but I suppose that will have to wait…

Free Rice

September 2019
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