Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

14
Jun
08

Serendipity

The other morning I was taking my dry shirts in from the overhang porch where our clothes dry on hanging bamboo and PVC poles. Tired and slightly hurried, I grabbed the hangers and wafted them into the dim apartment. As I turned from the corridor, I noticed something interesting on my shirt. A closer look in the light revealed a perfectly still moth. Being diseased with shutterbug, I had to get a photo of it. I hung the shirts on my doorknob, grabbed the camera, and realized that my light was terrible. I wasn’t sure if the moth was dead or alive, considering how it hadn’t budged down the hall to my room.

I took it outside to the sunlit open window of the porch, and snapped a photo. Then I turned the shirt to the side to get a better profile view of its yellow and black speckled body. With a flick of its wings, it was off, fluttering into the blue.

I guess it was just deep in a dream of… What do moths eat? Oh, right… shirts. 😉

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24
Mar
08

Yesterday…

My students ate so many M&Ms and Skittles that their teeth turned blue. I didn’t even open the bag of peanut M&Ms.

And after we read the The Outsiders a little before the part that makes me cry, but at the part which still drew me in enough to totally forget to mark which parts we would talk about in class and which parts would be served by a verbal summary, we played Taboo! with very generous squeals of the red spike-headed squeaker. Predictably, two kids flicked their socks off, one rolled on the floor laughing, and we had a jolly good time. Also, possibly predictably, my team won. ;D

On the way home, I stopped in my little corner 7/11, where I know all the staff and they all know me dashing in to grab a box of microwave dumplings at three in the afternoon for the day meal that isn’t really breakfast, lunch, or dinner on the way to class or sometimes the night meal on my way home after nine, or the daily bottle of orange juice or cranberry juice or in pre-diluted milk tea days, milk tea.

One of the cashiers was in her day clothes with her little daughter in tow, and two of the teens were manning the register in the requisite burgundy-tan shirts. I was walking back with my bottle of orange juice and noticed a white butterfly fluttering and flitting over the blue-silver tinsel garland hung from the ceiling to decorate Mother’s Day cake promotions. It was suspended in a blur of white wings looking for the heart of this long strange flower-wannabe. The tinsel threads swayed just a little as the white wings frantically beat the air around them. The little girl and I watched it weave around the shining strand and finally settle to take a deep breath on the ceiling, eyes still on the tantalizing tinsel.

It was a cabbage butterfly, I think. My cousin told me that it’s a plague for Taiwanese farmers, as it hasn’t much in the way of predators.  This one was happy drinking from daisies by the river in Gongguan.

Anyway, the tall cashier with a smooth white forehead and curly long hair got a wooden stepping stool to stand on, her hands cupped as they tried to encircle the butterfly without hurting it. She ended up chasing it with a large translucent plastic bag to the back of the store, then a plastic basket. In the meantime, I’d checked out my bottle of vitamin C and thought I should get back, but the drama forced me to stand outside the sliding doors in the darkening twilight and watch as she skipped and hopped trying to get it into the bag.

Finally she met with success and the daughter of the off-duty cashier got to look at the butterfly fluttering in the bag filled with air, a giant slightly opaque white bubble. The mother took her daughter by the hand, and they stepped past the singing sliding doors and crossed the street to let it go in the park.

I got back and found out that more of my long-term lottery tickets haven’t paid off, and I may be destitute as far as having a clue with my life next year goes. I’m homesick, but maybe I’m homesick for a place that only exists in my head. And maybe it’s a strand of blue-silver tinsel that will leave me thirsty, and I’m a butterfly that will end up lost again where it all began.

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

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…

25
Jun
07

Public Service Announcement

When they warn you not to carry luggage down the fast-moving MRT escalators…  They Have Good Reasons!

We decided not to take the elevator, because, as I explained down the escalator, I’d rather feel as if I was moving somewhere than staying still waiting for something, even if whenever the mode of transit arrives, I’ll be moving faster than my feet or other alternatives will carry me.

Besides, I’ve rested luggage down many an escalator before.

I’m usually a bit of a walking disaster, but I stopped the MRT escalator during rush hour, and caused the tumble of one very near and dear to me who was trying to save me from myself and the escalator as it reached the bottom.

We’re okay.  I feel worse than the sting of the usual bumps and scrapes (of which I have none).  It was scary and not a good wake-up call though.  I do not recommend it.

We need to cultivate some good karma.

20
Jan
07

Hop on a bus…

So, today, with cold in throat, and bag on back, I went to Taipei Main Station. I’ve been there before, of course, wandering through the subterranean mall on my way to dance class. I hadn’t been up to the train station above the subway this time, however, and today, on the quest for a bus, I had the deja vu that I have every now and then in Taiwan, realizing that this is a place I’ve been to before with my family in the time when the streets were a parking lot, at least one of my grandparents was alive, and my hair was long and probably braided.

The skylight ceiling and the big echoing space where the big board still flips through places and times with the same sort of rhythm trains on the track would have called me back.

The last time I remember Taipei Main Station, it was when the MRT was still being built, and the toilets didn’t work because the construction for the MRT had disrupted the water lines. My mother said there was some rather naughty graffiti on the signs apologizing. The space was dark with shadows, and we were hot and tired, and there were people all around us in waves.

This time around in Taiwan, I’ve realized that some of the foreignness of Taiwan to me was just the strangeness of staying in urban spaces for the first time in my life. Tiny apartments on top of each other instead of a house. Busy traffic outside. It was all so different from keeping company with the cherry trees and the grass on our hill in the suburbs.

Anyway, today I was brave and went to Hsinchu to try out a writing group that I’d kind of nudged into existence and then didn’t join as soon as it started. I wandered around Taipei Main Station for about half an hour, realizing that I only had $1000 NT on me, which isn’t bad, $30 US can go a ways here, but seemed skimpy to leave town on, and that I’d left my phrasebook at home. My mangled Chinese was enough to get me to get lost enough to find the bus station and catch a $140 NT (about $4-5 US) bus to Hsinchu. So I sat in the green lazyboy-ish recliner chair with my personal little TV, unraveled my gauge swatch and looked at the lights flickering out of the window as we passed shadows of mountains and rice paddies. Buses in Taiwan can be quite plush.

I managed to not need to call for further directions. Hsinchu is called the windy city, though it didn’t feel too dreadful to me. I had kumquat tea, which was bright orange and hot and slightly tart. We wrote and read and wrote and read and I met some lovely creative people.

Was escorted to the bus stop and ushered onto the bus by my newfound writing colleagues, and mused the whole way back in the dim light of the fluorescent illumination. I love that space to just sit and go.

10
Oct
06

Guangling! (Welcome!)

What was going to be my introductory post became a page meagerly titled “About…” which explains the username and the purpose (of sorts) for this blog. So go click that if you’re curious about this particular new landscape on the world wide web.

I meant to write a proper post long ago, but unfortunately, I’m in internet insecurity here. I’m still waiting for one of two things to happen that will result in happy high-speed constancy for my internet connection. One would be a roommate moving into our six-bedroom apartment that has a computer and a similar internet addiction. The other would be that my papers finish filing (which may take a while as I hear they are all on strike), and my paycheck comes (I wish I could say that counting the days would be an overstatement, but it isn’t), and I can sign up myself.

I have to warn any potential readers… I can get carried away with slightly Faulknerian asides that involve an excess of parentheses. I also tend to ellipse far too often, and can run-on quite a bit.

I used to be an editor, so I’m sensitive enough to be embarrassed about these things, but as a writer, well, I tend to let myself go– perhaps too much.

Since I was born in the US, and English is the only language that I can claim any fluency in, I’ve been trying to learn Chinese, but my attempts so far have been baby-Chinese on my mother’s lap (I can say I want milk and I was bad, but not really carry out a reasonable adult conversation), Chinese Saturday classes (I remember how to say “ear,” and “white bunny,” slightly less than half of the phonetic system Zhuyin Fuhao (bo po mo fo), and some children’s songs– one involving a tiger and one involving a doll), and smatterings of things I have picked up here and there from eavesdropping on conversations I couldn’t really understand (“gkin aah” meaning “kids” generally caused lots of looks in my direction  *edit:  have since realized that this is actually Taiwanese which exemplfies the following…). I suspect that I really know more Taiwanese than Chinese, but I’m not sure since I tend to mix them to the amusement of my parents and until somewhat recently (I think…) I couldn’t tell between them.

So far I’ve been in Taiwan a little over a month and haven’t really gotten into trouble– walking into a parked bicycle, and narrowly avoiding an out-of-control scooter doesn’t really count. I have spent time reflecting on the world that I’ve found here and trying to figure out how to take out my garbage, not ruffle relatives’ feathers, and getting my physical from the hospital (this involved two hospitals–it took me stumbling in bad Chinese to find one English speaker out of four people in the first hospital who could explain that I couldn’t go there for a physical).

Anyway, feel free to say hello!




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