Monday, October 31, 2005

I love the optimism of youth. These two spent at least fifteen minutes trying to untangle that string. Fifteen minutes was all I could take, because I knew that soon a harsh reality would set in, where they learned that sometimes, no matter how hard you try, life will not allow you to fly a kite. Posted by Picasa

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

food food food

Yes, it's come to that. A little about the food here. Come on, we've all had Chinese food before. If you wanted to eat nothing but Chinese food like you get in any city in the U.S. you would have no problem here. There are healthier alternatives, however. Obviously, rice is big here. Sadly, not brown rice. It's not even easy to find in stores. People here have told me that brown rice is not used in Taiwanese dishes because it isn't sticky enough, like white rice. Yes, but it's way healthier! Doesn't matter.

Anyway, a person can walk into most any roadside restaurant and, by pointing, smiling and maybe a little Chinese, can walk out with a big serving of rice, three sides of vegetables and some kind of meat, usually chicken. It may also come with a little tofu or something that the owner feels like throwing in. I got a chicken drumstick one day, brought it, wrapped, to my school before class, and when I opened the box was oh-so-happy to see a boiled squid on top of my chicken and rice. Bonus. It smelled so bad and looked so gross. I couldn't throw it away inside the school. I had to walk it out to a trash can outside. I eat most things, but squid, whole and boiled, just doesn't do it for me.

Protein is not eaten as much, in proportion to carbohydrates, here. Like I mentioned, people usually eat two or three servings of vegetables to one serving of protein. One thing I love about being here is that I'm only fifteen minutes away from a harbor where I can get fresh seafood. A fairly large tray of sashimi is only about three U.S. dollars. Not bad. That is my weekend treat.

But, the world is getting smaller. McDonald's is big here, as is KFC and Burger King. Even Subway is here. Frito Lay and Mars Candy have their greedy, fat fingerprints all over here. I still eat Doritos, occasionally, damn it. Kids like sweet things here, too, so they are getting fatter.I'd still take any ten Americans in a tug-of-war, but in twenty years, there's no telling.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

have scooter, will travel

There are milestones in our lives. The first steps, the first words, the first day of school, things like that. Then there are defining moments in our lives, like the first kiss, the first time we fell victims to peer pressure, all that stuff. I don't know into which category owning a scooter in Taiwan falls, but it is flipping awesome. Understand that there are more scooters per capita in Taiwan than anywhere in the world, so scooters rule the roads here. Scooters get to drive anywhere, on any side of the road, run red lights, pass cars on the right or left, and the police do nothing! The only laws that seem to apply to scooters are those of physics and those of evolution. The first three days I had my scooter, I was scared as hell. Any road I turned onto was frought with peril. From a bike to a scooter, things speed up tremendously. I had thoughts that maybe I would not be able to adjust to the scooter, that I was stuck on a bike, which would severely limit my ability to travel. After the third day, I found myself doing better. Somewhow I had learned to relax a bit. I liken it to those 3-D pictures, where you have to focus without focussing on any particular point. You have to take in the whole scene in front, beside and behind you, and trust that your reactions are quick enough. That is me on a scooter. It's so fun. I think it is more of a defining moment, at least for my time in Taiwan.

Monday, October 17, 2005

This little guy was playing hide and seek. He thought I couldn't see him behind that tree. Posted by Picasa

Saturday, October 15, 2005

a coy koi

 Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

new things, old things

Taiwan is a fairly proseperous country. I remember seeing "Made in Taiwan" labels and stamps on all kinds of products, mostly crappy, plastic toys and knick-knacks. Taiwan used to be a kind of island sweatshop, and the average person here did not make much money, certainly not enough to have more than the basic creature comforts. This was the case even into the 80's.

Then, Taiwan started to go high-tech. A combination of local business savvy and other countries needing to outsource labor made this the perfect place for computer manufacturing. The county's economy exploded. All the good and bad came with that. The standard of living here is among the highest in the world, the education system seems to be strong, but also consumer craziness took over. Everyone wants the latest gadget and convenience. It is such that, I would say the average Taiwanese office-worker or salesperson is every bit as materialistic as the average U.S. corporate lackey.

On top of that, there is a bit of a problem with computers. Taiwan was so good at what it does (did?), that the wages here are now too high, and labor is being outsourced, mostly to China. There is some concern here about keeping up the economy and keeping the country in business. That, coupled with the fear of China acquiring the island as its own, keeps people a little concerned here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Like magic, I am in the sculpture. Posted by Picasa

This reminds me of Chicago, but this isn't so much a bean as it is a shiny, symmetrical sculpture. Still I call it mini-bean. I do know the real name of the Chicago sculpture, Sky Gate. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 09, 2005

A real. modified AR15 assault rifle for a children's game. I think it is a great idea to associate automatic weapons with fun and prizes. This was taken at an open-air flower market that is open on weekends. Children get bored easily, so there are booths with games to keep them occupied. To keep the proper balance between sex and violence the market could use a sex-game booth, where children place the big, multi-colored, inflatable penis inside the talking, cartoon vagina. Maybe I can make some money on the side.  Posted by Picasa

A nice, calming photo after the last one. Life is best in its extremes. Posted by Picasa

Friday, October 07, 2005

Another market shot. In the foreground is a cart that is attached to a bicycle. Taiwan is an amazing mix of old and new. The person with this cart has probably been coming to this market with this cart for years and years, but now he's being passed by scooters and 700 series BMW's as he pedals down the road. Posted by Picasa

Doors outside a temple in Hsinchu. Posted by Picasa

column in a temple in Hsinchu Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 06, 2005

the more things change...

Yeah, I'm living in an exotic place. Whooooo! Big fucking deal. There are foreigners (remember, you= foreigner) here who may as well be living in the suburbs of, say Kansas City, which we all know of as hell, right Mr. T?

Point being, you can be anywhere and still be closed off to anything new. I do not count myself as one of them, although I could be more proactive about learning Chinese. I am meeting many new people, foreigners and locals alike. I am wandering around in the city, visiting street markets and strange stores with strange items, or going into temples and watching how people here practice their spirituality. But you know what? If a person chooses to make his or her life adventurous, it is not necessary to go anywhere. We can find adventure in our bathroom if we want. God knows I have.

I see some people here, and have seen them everywhere for that matter, who feel entitled to be entertained, like it's life's fault if their lives are boring as hell. I've done that before. But, for fucksake, life owes us nothing!!! I did not come here to be entertained. I came here to learn about myself, learn things that I could not learn if I was comfortable in a big, American city, where I can, by virtue of speaking the language and earning a decent living, have pretty much everything at my disposal. I want to be challenged. I insist on it.

I could see myself staying here for another year after my initial contract is up, but not in the same school, because that would be too comfortable. I am also flirting, coy little devil that I am, with going to Japan for a job with a business-English firm. That is a good lesson in and of itself, never to burn bridges. I'm still in this owner's good graces after he sent me a job offer from Japan that would have necessitated my leaving Chicago immediately. But we worked it out, and he feels obligated to giving me another opportunity with proper notice sometime.

I'm on my way to a language exchange.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

A dog day. There are many stray dogs in Taiwan, and not so many stray cats. Cats may be better at hiding, I suppose. This little guy was just chilling out in front of a dress shop, and the owners did not seem too bothered by his presence. You don't have to worry about strays very much. They're very docile, and Taiwan is rabies-free. Posted by Picasa

Monday, October 03, 2005

jumping in (feet first)

I found an apartment. It is a really nice place, furnished, that I share with another teacher. No pictures yet, because we want to spruce it up a little. It is in a big complex about fifteen minutes from downtwon Hsinchu. We're on the other side of these foothills, and the air and scenery are really beautiful. It's so quiet and serene out here. I don't see many foreigners out this way, either.

I'm starting to meet some locals. It is pretty straightforward if you want to try and learn some Chinese, because you can set up a language exchange situation, where you meet at a coffee house or wherever and do some English conversation and then practice Chinese. I posted an ad on a local web site, and had a lot of responses. It's a good way to make friends, plus it's good to meet people other than foreigners.

So, now that I've got the teaching more or less down, I'm finding new ways to entertain myself. We plan on having a party within the next few weeks to break in the apartment properly. If anyone is in Hsinchu, you're welcome to come. Life is pretty good right now.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

I have to be crazy, but I am leaving my apartment that I share with two women. The lovely woman with the toothbrush is Carissa, and the woman on the sofa is Sarah, another lovely. The school provides teachers with an apartment rent-free for the first month, then we are charged rent. The nice thing about the place is that it is very close to the school. But it doesn't have a proper kitchen, and we have to share a bathroom. Neither of the girls liked my idea of group-shower night very much. Posted by Picasa