Friday, December 29, 2006

Dad....

I woke up just now with a thought....

When I was maybe 7, I remember dad waking me up in the middle of the night to take me to hockey practice. He arranged free ice time when everyone else was done playing for the night, and we'd go out and work on my goaltending. I guess this is what fathers do. I just never said thanks. Thanks dad.

And then some odd 25 years later, I move my sorry ass to the other side of the world, leaving all my responsibilities back in Canada, and my dad takes care of them. Thanks dad.

And then, a week before Christmas, I get the crazy idea to ship drums to Taiwan, and my dad and brother stay up late for my crazy request to put them in one box (as it turns out, two boxes would have been a bit cheaper--sorry guys). Thanks a lot dad and Jon (I'll never really be able to call you Jonsey)

So, just thanks to everyone in my family for always putting up with me. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. I hope to be able to hug all of you sometime in 2007.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Earthquake

Fun. We had a boxing day earthquake today. Actually, we had 4. Two of them were rather serious, and had many of our clients worried and scared.

We had what the Japanese (and CNN) called a 7.2 and the Taiwanese called a 6.7 at 8:26 that shook the building pretty good. Not enough to knock stuff off the shelves, but enough to let you know the earth is moving. We're on the 42nd floor, and it was swaying side to side pretty damn good. Enough to make you want to hold on... I guess it lasted about a minute. Then 8 minutes later at 8:34, we got a 7.0/6.4 which started as a jackhammer (up and down rather than side to side) for maybe 20 seconds before switching to a swaying motion that caused the building to make some nasty sounds as the glass and steel creaked rather loudly.

The epicenter of both of the big quakes was about 200km to the south, so the reported intensity at Taichung was somewhere between 3 and 4. I was having fun until I saw the look on the faces of my clients. Guess I'm too stupid to know better....

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

The 'P' Party

On October 27th, Columbia held its annual Halloween Party. This year's theme was the letter 'P'. James and I were assigned the task of organizing and managing activities, including Hang 'P' Man, The 'P' Idiom Relay, The Peter Piper Prize Pick (tongue twister game), the Purple People Eater KTV (Karoke), and Pin the Pun on the Pig-u ('ass' in Chinese... snicker!).

When clients arrived, they were served a glass of punch at the door. After the 'P' activities came to a close, clients and consultants alike gorged themselves on Pizza and other 'P' snacks, and socialized in the lobby. Meanwhile, animated
++++++++++++++++++++++++Halloween shorts played in the background.

The client who won the prize for the best 'P' costume wore a most impressive handmade peacock creation! Of course, James and I coordinated our costumes -- I was dressed as Paradise and James was Purgatory!

Saturday, October 07, 2006

The Moon Festival












According to the Chinese lunar calendar, yesterday (October 6th, to us Westerners) was the Chinese Moon Festival. So, everywhere in China and Taiwan, people exchanged moon cakes, enjoyed barbeque, watched traditional Chinese puppet shows, drank beer, and set off fireworks in the streets and on the sidewalks. James and I, the party animals that we are, could not help but partake in the festivities. Below, we have posted photos of our local friends and foreign colleagues participating in the Moon Festival. We will also attach a couple of video clips. Last of all, we have included a few traditional stories that are told during the Moon Festival.


The time of this story is around 2170 B.C. The earth once had ten suns circling over it, each took its turn to illuminate to the earth. But one day all ten suns appeared together, scorching the earth with their heat. The earth was saved by a strong and tyrannical archer Hou Yi. He succeeded in shooting down nine of the suns. One day, Hou Yi stole the elixir of life from a goddess. However his beautiful wife Chang Er drank the elixir of life in order to save the people from her husband's tyrannical rule. After drinking it, she found herself floating and flew to the moon. Hou Yi loved his divinely beautiful wife so much, he didn't shoot down the moon.
The Hare - Jade Rabbit
In this legend, three fairy sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men and begged for something to eat from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. The fox and the monkey both had food to give to the old men, but the rabbit, empty-handed, offered his own flesh instead, jumping into a blazing fire to cook himself. The sages were so touched by the rabbit's sacrifice that they let him live in the Moon Palace where he became the "Jade Rabbit."
The Cake - Moon Cake
During the Yuan dynasty (A.D.1280-1368) China was ruled by the Mongolian people. Leaders from the preceding Sung dynasty (A.D.960-1280) were unhappy at submitting to foreign rule, and set how to coordinate the rebellion without it being discovered. The leaders of the rebellion, knowing that the Moon Festival was drawing near, ordered the making of special cakes. Backed into each moon cake was a message with the outline of the attack. On the night of the Moon Festival, the rebels successfully attacked and overthrew the government. What followed was the establishment of the Ming dynasty (A.D. 1368-1644). Today, moon cakes are eaten to commemorate this legend.
http://www.chinesefortunecalendar.com/midfallstory.htm

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Taiwanese Construction

Danielle got her new cell phone. These are the first pictures (taken by me, of course) to be posted to the blog. Really, these are for dad. This is how it's done in Taiwan!!





























And here's a few more of us wandering about...


Saturday, September 16, 2006

More Teacher Appreciation

And without further ado, it is high time that we introduce our beloved student, Pover. We have not yet taken a photo of him (but I guarantee that we will, as soon as we can), however, you will find an image below of the notebook, gift box and cell phone ornament that he made for me completely by hand as belated birthday gifts (well, he made the notebook and box, but only 'assembled' the cell phone ornament).

Pover is an incredibly keen student who struggles with English but makes every effort to communicate with us as much as he can. He seems to be a very spiritual person who has experienced incredible things in his life -- such as being run over and dragged by a truck. Perhaps as his English improves, we will eventually be able to communicate more effectively with him and get to know and understand him a little better.


The next two pictures that you will see below are of a beautiful creation by Patty, the cellist (who is also a student of ours, as noted in an earlier blog). It is essentially a thank you card (or should I say, poster?) to James and myself, the captains of her Sports-Day team, the Gazelles. (By the way, if you want to see more photos of Sports Day, go to Ling's Sports-Day Photos
. Ling, as you know, is yet another one of our students).

I cannot conceive of the energy and time that both Patty and Pover put into our gifts. I can say, however, that teaching can be a highly fulfilling profession when your students communicate their appreciation in such meaningful ways. Thank you, Patty and Pover!




In other news, James and I had a lovely visit with our former Columbia student, Rita, who will be leaving this week to Taipei to begin a university degree. She brought us to the Taiwan Banana New Paradise Restaurant, where we enjoyed a Dim Sum lunch in a Traditional Taiwanese atmosphere. This restaurant is, in fact, also a museum that contains many displays of Taiwanese memorabilia and antiques/artifacts. Below, you will find a couple of links that will bring you to an image of an old-style Taiwanese ticket booth, displaying Japanese movie advertisements, and to a picture of a traditional roadside shop/vendor display -- both of which can be found in the restaurant that we visited. If you want to find out more about this restaurant/mini-museum, you can also visit: www.vernaldew.com.tw


If any of you back at home, in Canada, come to visit us in Taiwan, remind us to bring you to the Taiwan Banana New Paradise Restaurant. It is a truly a historical Taiwanese experience. The restaurant focuses on a time period in Taiwan, when 'white terror' (when the government would take care of you if you were dissident) was rampant and warnings of Chinese/mainland spies were posted everywhere in the city.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

The Power of Scooter!

At long last, we now have a scooter. We purchased it from a departing colleague, Justin. It is a 125 cc black Yamaha Fuzzy and gets us where we need to go with little hassle. The most difficult part of owning a scooter is remembering where you parked it, since it tends to blend in with all of the other scooters. Therefore, it is important to have a defining marker that makes your scooter stand out from the others. Our scooter can be easily identified by the sticker on the front which reads, "Folly" (refer to scooter images below and at the bottom of the posting and note, the speedometer has both Arabic and Roman numerals!!). We also purchased helmets at the 24 hour store, which stocks virtually everything you can think of... and more. James' helmet is black and mine is pink with Pepsi knock-off logos on each side.

When Ben and his wife, Joo (the owners of our favourite tea shop), found out that we bought a scooter, they invited us out to the infamous 'Fungja' market. So, after they closed up their shop, at about 12 a.m. one night, we all drove on down to the market. They led, as we had never been there before, and kept their speed down to about 40 - 50 kph, since it was virtually the first time James had ever driven a scooter.

At
the Fungja market, Ben and Joo kindly treated us to the popular 'stinky tofu' (it kind of tastes like sweaty hockey gear if it is steamed or boiled, but we had the fried kind -- chow dofu -- which had a yummy crunchy crust and only a mild stinky tofu flavour on the inside) and foot-tall ice cream cones.


While at the Fungja market, James and I purchased scooter masks. James', of course, is plain black. My mask, however, reads, "Happy Cookies". Many of the captions on posters, signs, t-shirts, pollution masks, and the like, often make no sense whatsoever, or contain grammatical or spelling errors. I have therefore made it my goal to only purchase casual
clothing that bears these traits of Taiwan, so as to carry the memories of our stay here to Canada when we return in the distant future. Note the image of me wearing my, "I'm happy I of you" t-shirt below.

In other news, on September third, Columbia held its first annual 'Sports Day'. Consultants were assigned to either referee or team captain positions. James and I were the captains of the "Gazelles" -- though you'd never know it, given that our team flag bears only Captain James' name. For our team, James and I created 'Gazelles' name tags and activity schedules. Everyone received (and wore, during sports day) free Columbia t-shirts for their participation. Team captains were given black Columbia t-shirts. We got to keep our flag as well.

Our team was eaten alive by the other animals (as Gazelles usually are, in the wild), but everyone seemed to enjoy themselves. In spite of the mid-afternoon thunderstorm (which seems to occur everyday at approximately 3 p.m. this month), the barbecue also seemed to go over well.

And last, but not least, today marked our first visit to 'Jimmy's House' (a place where musicians go to practice and jam). Shaun, from work, showed us where it was and joined us in a quasi jam session. James bought a practice pad and some drum sticks while we were there.






Saturday, September 09, 2006

Gained in Translation!

Because we live in Taiwan, so much of what I search for is in Chinese, so I have to translate.

Take a look at the phone we're considering. Be sure to read the title closely...

Oh, I LOVE translators!!

We've decided to get a video phone. Now that you've regained your composure, let me explain. There are SO MANY things here that we're so blown away by, and we constantly say "Oh, we HAVE to take a picture of that!" but we never have a camera with us, so we're buying a camera with a built-in phone.

And wait for the pictures to pour in on the blog....


Monday, August 28, 2006

Happy Birthday Nella (Part II)

Again, it is a wonderful feeling to be appreciated. Today, James and I went into work and I was greeted between classes by one of my students, Patty, who gave me an incredibly appropriate birthday gift.

Between teaching sessions earlier this month, I was discussing Jacqueline du Près, a famous, deceased cellist with Patty (Patty being a cellist, herself). Patty then headed to Canada for a family vacation and purchased a collection of Jacqueline du Près CDs, along with a little 'Russ' teddy bear keychain and gave them to m
e for my birthday (see photo).

She also wrote me a letter (an impressive feat for an ESL student) and personally brought the gift into Columbia today, even though she was not scheduled for any sessions. From what I understand, Patty is a fairly strong cellist herself. I will have to go see her perform this year at her music school.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

Happy Birthday Nella

Today we went to a Japanese restaurant in celebration of my birthday. The food was delicious and incredibly healthy. Our meal consisted of hors d'oeuvres that looked like ice cream cones (seaweed rolled up like the cone and a mashed potato/fish filing), miso soup, a bowl of rice and ground salmon, sashimi, the proper term for what Westerners know as 'sushi', by the way. Sushi is actually those little rice roll things that are wrapped in seaweed and filled with rice, and pieces of fish, etc. We also had beef fondu, tofu and clams, Japanese tea, and fruit for desert, along with a glass of prune juice.

After dinner, we proceeded to explore one of the markets, where we finally encountered electronics street. We then caught the bus home and bought a Chinese-style black forest cake. As you will see in the pictures that we posted today to the blog, the cakes here are rather decorative. And, as with everything you buy here of course, the cake came complete with accessories: a question mark candle and candle holder, disposable plates, forks and a cake cutter/spatula.

We have been doing A LOT of overtime lately, since summer is Columbia's busy season, so it was a well-deserved outing.


Saturday, August 19, 2006

I'm a bad person

It's true.

I should be posting to the blog more often. I should be taking lots of pictures. I should be documenting and taking in all of what I'm doing here in Taiwan, and then communicating it with all of you back home.

But I'm not.

Instead, I'm working tons of overtime, and eating at 7-11 too much because by the time I'm off work, everything's closed. I'm sick because of the pollution, and I have to walk in it, sucking it all in, instead of buying a scooter like everyone else, and contributing to the pollution. But at least then I can wear a helmet and pollution mask.

I don't know. Sorry. I'll try and get on the pictures soon. We FINALLY bought a fridge. A wonderfully nice client from where I work drove us out to the 'used' section of town (because I can barely read a map), and spoke for us, and read, and bartered for us, and now we have a fridge.

I'm completely illiterate. I can't read or write. I can't speak the language. I can't take care of myself here. I can't buy food, let alone a fridge! I guess everyone should experience illiteracy at least once in their life, but I've got to get off my ass and figure this shit out now!

Truth is, Danielle and I have been working at our Chinese as well as our 10-hour workdays will allow. I'm beginning to understand the written aspects, and Danielle the oral aspects, of Chinese. We joke that together, we make one Taiwanese person....Truth also is that most expats here never bother to learn Chinese at all. One guy we bought a few household things off of has a Taiwanese girlfriend and has been here 5 years, but is unable to say "He's coming" in Chinese. That says so much about foreigners' own arrogance and insensitivity. Because Danielle and I can say "bichon lu cha" (passionfruit green tea) and "gee pai" (chicken chop, a type of 'boxed lunch'), we're considered "hardcore" at Ben's restaurant.

Actually, all of a sudden, Danielle can say and ask all sorts of things. It happened overnight. She can ask questions about when or where the bus is going, and how much something costs, and she usually understands the answer! I'm in awe. Just don't tell her!!

NEways, enjoy your many days, and pray for rain here. It keeps the pollution down and temperatures low.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

It's Nice to be Appreciated...

Here's a quick post of some pictures from Ling, one of our clients. She's a sweetheart with a great sense of humor, and she really reminds me of my mom....

The typhoon turned out to be a dud. Too bad. Maybe we'll get to see one, but Taichung is very safe because of the mountain range.

Also, something cool happened. Danielle was rewarded for all her hard work. She was ranked second at work, and we both got bonuses (red envelopes of money). Further, she received a free day off (after the busy season), gift certificates to the fancy department store SOGO (it's Japanese) and some passes to the movies. Gotta love private business.

Danielle, as wonderful as she is, promptly gave the passes to Ben. Remember him? He's the guy from the tea house that we eat at EVERY DAY. We called his place "Luke's" after Luke from Gilmore Girls. Now we know his name is Ben, so it's "Ben's" now! Anyways, his photo is below. He gives us free food and great service, so he's more than earned them (not to mention he's taught us pretty much all the Chinese we know so far).

Well, that's about it for now. We're just working and waiting to get paid so we can buy a fridge!!


Monday, July 24, 2006

Typhoon Update

Hey everyone...

I didn't mean to get you worried. There's nothing to be afraid of for me. I may just be house-ridden for a day or two. The storm track has diverted south, so we might only miss one day of work. High winds and lots of rain, that's a typhoon. Can cause mud slides in the mountains, but nothing to worry about here. Some places have flooding, but again, not much to worry about here. I live in a concrete building on the 4th floor, so we're fine.

We'll probably go out for a bit to a typhoon party somewhere in our complex. Or maybe we'll just lay low. Big thing is to have plenty of water and food in case you can't go our or nothing is open. Have candles in case the power goes out....you know, the usual.

No worries. I'm anxious. Typically there are 4 storms a month until about October. It's a way of life here..
Hey everyone,

I've been busy with work and such, so I haven't blogged...sorry. However, I'm blogging this, because it's pretty much a certainty. We're going to get hit pretty hard by Typhoon Kaemi.


Click on the map above to track the storm. It's going to hit us hard. We've got to get ready. This is the real deal apparently. It's much stronger than Bilis (which killed about 200 people in the Philippines and China) and produce prices are going to shoot through the roof afterwards.

In other news (literally and figuratively) we got our TV finally. We have 4 channels. The news here is very different. I saw a report about a bad car accident, and the news shows everything. And when I say everything, I mean it. Blood, guts, bodies, you name it. No censorship here! VERY graphic. As I type, I'm watching a report where someone drowned, and the cameras are directly over the person trying to resuscitate this drowned boy. VERY graphic.

Well, I'm going to run, because we need to be up early to get supplies for the storm.


Thursday, July 13, 2006

This Just In!!

Check this out! A University professor teaching that 9-11 was an inside job! There's been lots of fringe talk about this, but on CNN?!?!

**NEW**

I can't link to the video. It's javascript! Goto cnn.com and search for "University of Wisconsin" and check the videos section.

Typhoon!

Well, typhoon season has arrived earlier than anyone expected. We're on a watch cause Typhoon Bilis is about to make landfall. Apparently we're going to get hit pretty hard, so we've bought extra food and water in case we can't go out tomorrow. But maybe we'll miss work!

You can follow the storm track at the Central Weather Burreau in Taipei.

We'll keep you posted....meanwhile we're battening down the hatches!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Pollution

Heads up folks!! Multiple posts here. Scroll further down for the apartment.

But right now, I want to talk about the single worst problem here. The pollution is aful. I mean, it's really bad. You can taste it. You can see it. People need to wear pollution masks when going outside. I'm glad there's decent air filtration in buildings and air conditioners, or else we'd all be goners.

Typhoon season is coming, so lots of mixing of air masses, which means lots of wind. Very brisk this morning. Kept things moving along nicely. The picture below is a nice one of the southern mountain range. Not often that we can see it, since it's usually obscured by smog.


Below is a picture to the south of Will's apartment. It's the scene we see every day, except today (Saturday morning) it was clear.

Here is the same photo a few hours later, when things picked up in Taichung (people woke up). This is typical of many days here. The smog you see is not fog, but pollution. Yes, it's THAT bad....

Here's a photo to the southeast of Taichung. Just to the right of the white building in the photo above. Notice the clouds of pollution being blow eastward where they become trapped by the mountains. This is how it is in Taichung. Fortunately, most of the pollution blows past us since we're central. But I'd rather be west....


So if our time in Taiwan is shortned, this will be the only reason. We're going to have to learn to deal with it....

We're In!

Yes, we moved in today. Photos shown are of the empty (what's considered furnished) apartment. It's semi-furnished. I wish they would have given us a fridge, and the A/C would have been in on time, but we've got our own place!

First, some photos from Will's, which everyone agress, is the best apartment held by an expat in the city, as well as the best deal anywhere.



Can you believe this? I love the elevated rooms. We sleep up high, and live below. The celing is about 7 feet high, so like a basement apartment. This room is the result of high celings.


Another view to show you what's going on. This is the spare room, which Sass uses to do laundry.


The bar in Will's apartment. LOVE the 12' celings!!



Now, without further ado, our new apartmen in Taichung City, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

What we wanted most: a smaller place with lots of wood and high celings. We both
agree that we like the look of the darker Oak better than the lighter maple.



A view of the living room and enterance from the elevated floor (less useful than in Will's apartment). I think we'll use the floor to meditate.


Another view, from the stairs. The master bedroom is the door to the right, and the second bedroom is the door on the left. So the second bedroom has the low celing, and the master bedroom has the high celing. Directly behind me is the bathroom, and to the left of the master bedroom is the kitchen.


See? Here's the kitchen. The fridge is supposed to go to the left of the counter. Nice touch is that almost all stoves (nobody really has ovens here) are gas. Schwing!


My office. Small but functional. Notice again that there's no shower curtain, and a drain on the floor. Every bathroom here has a hand-held shower head (like downstairs Morin) so water gets everywhere....


The master bedroom. This is our furnished apartment. Actually, a lot of people sleep on the floor like this. But not everone. We'll splurge for a bed sometime. What's cool is the matress, which is reversible. The top is wicker to keep you cool in summer, and the other side is regular, to keep you warm in winter.


Here's the wardrobe that's in both bedrooms. Nice, functional, and intigrated. No complaints.

Well, that's the new apartment. We'll post more pictures as it develops, and we can afford some basic furniture (in a few months).