Posted by: discoverynarrative | August 11, 2008

It’s not the end….

Not really, anyway. I’m leaving in just a couple of minutes for Kentucky, but I’ll be updating with my Taiwan adventures soon.

Posted by: discoverynarrative | August 1, 2008

On the road….

Camp finished for me today. It’s actually been extended another day because of the typhoon, but since I had plans/money put down for reservations, I am not attending tomorrow. I’ll be in Hualien from Saturday until Monday when I leave for Taipei. I’ll stay in Taipei until Friday, August 8, and then head back for the dorms until Tuesday, August 12, when I return to Kentucky. Hopefully I’ll be able to explore Kaohsiung a bit before I leave. I’m not going to have my laptop with me, so I won’t be updating from the road, but I will update when I return. I hope that everyone has a great week, and I will write soon. πŸ™‚

Posted by: discoverynarrative | July 28, 2008

The Hello Kitty Ferris Wheel in Kaohsiung

So, I finally got to ride the Hello Kitty ferris wheel atop the Dream Mall in Kaohsiung. The ferris wheel is great because it affords the rider a panoramic view of the city of Kaohsiung: from the harbor, to the 2nd tallest building in Taiwan – the 85-story Tuntex Sky Tower, to the rest of the city, all in a 15-minute ride with childhood friends. How can you beat that? You can’t, I say.

Enjoy the ride!

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Next up: Back to Tainan and the An-Ping District.

Posted by: discoverynarrative | July 28, 2008

Summer Camp!

We are actually having a typhoon day today. Pretty much all of Taiwan’s businesses are closed for the day because of Typhoon Fung Wong. So, camp was canceled for the day and our next (and final) bunch of campers will arrive tomorrow morning. I’ve booked my hostels and purchased my train tickets for my jaunt around the island. I leave on Saturday morning for Hualien on the east coast of Taiwan. I’m looking forward to being away from the dorms for a week. πŸ™‚

Here’s a glimpse of my life for the last three weeks. I’m actually really enjoying camp, but chasing after kids all day is exhausting. πŸ™‚ Thankfully, we have a lot of assistants who are there to help us with the kids (and translating).

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I am teacher Staci. Most often, I am just called Teacher by the students. This actually seems to be a pretty common practice in Taiwan.

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When the kids arrive at the school they get registered for camp, receive name badges, and get split into two groups. Kristen and I work with one group and Dwayne works with the other group. However, there are a lot of activities throughout the week when both groups are together.

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Each week we begin with an opening ceremony in the classroom we use whenever we have both groups of kids together.

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This is one of our classrooms.

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We perform a combination storytelling (my portion) and roleplaying (everyone else) about the Bee Movie each week. I wrote out the story and the dialogue for everyone to use (except for Dwayne and Kristen who adlib their parts).

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We have the kids make cards in English after I put on a powerpoint presentation/talk about cultural differences (and holidays) that we celebrate in the United States. The kids make some impressive cards.

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We tackle that deep philosophical question: What if the hokey pokey really is what it’s all about? pretty much every week. The kids love it.

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Actually, we sing a lot the last couple of days of camp, which is nice. Each group picks a song they want to sing at the presentation and closing ceremony. So far the favorite has been B-I-N-G-O.

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We also teach them American games like Duck, Duck, Goose

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and Red Light, Green Light.

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Three times a week we take field trips on the school’s bus.

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We go to the Dream Mall in Kaohsiung,

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the National Museum of Taiwan Literature and the Confucius Temple in Tainan,

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and the Taiwan Sugar Museum in Ciaotou.

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For some reason, not known to me, there are two gremlins at the sugar museum. They made me miss my dog, Gizmo. 😦

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We also go swimming, watch a movie, play hangman, have a lot of fun, and take a lot of pictures. Not a bad way to spend a week, really. πŸ™‚

Next time: I finally ride the Hello Kitty Ferris Wheel at the Dream Mall in Kaohsiung!

Posted by: discoverynarrative | July 21, 2008

Miscellany and the Gangshan Night Market

Camp is going well. We just finished the first day with our third group of campers. Only one more group and we’re done. Work will end on August 1, and then I will be traveling around Taiwan for a week or so before coming home on Tuesday, August 12. I can’t believe I only have three weeks left here….

On Thursday, July 3, Eddie (the teacher from Scotland) drove us down to Kaohsiung so that we could grab some dinner and go watch the movie Hancock. While I was waiting by the main gate for Eddie to pick us up, I snapped some pictures of one of the trees I particularly like. I just wish I knew what it was.

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Instead of a ticket, you get a token when you ride the MRT (mass rapid transit) system in Kaohsiung.

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Be sure to mind the gap!

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The movie was quite entertaining, and though the theater was kind of hot, I didn’t mind so much, because I got to bring an iced Americano from Starbucks into the show! I wish I could do that in Frankfort!

The next night Kristen and I decided to go to the night market in Gangshan. However, we had about a forty minute wait for our train, so I suggested a visit to the goats. I hadn’t seen them since my first week in town. They were still as amusing (and hungry) as they were then.

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After we fed the goats for a good twenty minutes, Kristen ran off to get something to eat at 7-eleven, so I took some pictures in the train station.

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This is what the signs for the trains look like at most of the regular (non-MRT) train stations. Sometimes, if I am very, very lucky, the Chinese will morph into English, and I’ll be able to read the signs. I do know a few of the stations I use on a regular basis, so I’m not totally lost, but still, I do like when the English version pops up. πŸ™‚

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Sunset was quickly approaching, which was kind of disappointing, because I wanted to get some pictures of the night market in the daylight. I still have a hard time getting used to how early it gets dark here.

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We finally arrived at the night market around 6:45 pm. Gangshan (I’ve spelled it Kangshan on here before, so it is the same city, but the street and train signs are all spelled with the G) is only two stops south of us, on the way to Kaohsiung.

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We were both hungry, so we stopped and got a couple of grilled things on a stick from this guy. I have no idea what kind of meat I had (might have been cow, might have been pig, might have been something else entirely), but it was good, as were the grilled mushrooms (at least those I recognized) I purchased. πŸ˜‰

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These were so cute – they looked like candy, but they were actually washcloths done up like candy. Pretty clever. They were well priced here. I’ve seen then in novelty stores at a much higher markup.

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Now, I’ve seen these snails advertised as “Alcoholic Snails,” but I’m not sure what kinds of alcohol they are soaked in. A google search posits the possibility of wine, but I’m not 100% positive. I’m also not quite sure how they would be eaten, seeing as they are so tiny. I might need to investigate at some point. Either that or direct them to the nearest AA meeting.

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The bakeries at the night markets have quite the selection. I always think that I’m going to grab something from them, but then something else grabs my attention and I wind up being too full for baked goods. Terrible shame. One day. πŸ™‚

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There was one stand dedicated to selling only tomatoes.

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There were a lot of vendors selling shoes at this market. Unfortunately, I didn’t see any that I had to have.

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In addition to shoes, there were a plethora of hair accessories being sold.

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There were also fish and turtles (!!!) being sold. The turtles were about the diameter of a soda can, and were soooooooooo cute. They were only 70 NT$ / about $2.33 US, but I had no idea what I’d do with it when I left, so I refrained.

I was at this night market on July 4th, and I actually saw fireworks that night. They only lasted about one round, but it was kinda cool. πŸ™‚

Up next: A little bit about English Camp….

Posted by: discoverynarrative | July 14, 2008

Confucius once said…

I just wanted to take a moment to thank the folks at Bloggers in Taiwan for making this travelogue the featured blog of the week. That was a pretty cool surprise. πŸ™‚

The same day I went to the Museum of Taiwanese Literature, I went to the Taiwan (or Tainan) Confucius Temple (Chinese | English). (It is right down the street from the museum.) It was the first Confucius temple in Taiwan. The temple grounds are much larger than any temple I’ve been in to date, and there is at least one major difference between Confucian and Buddhist and/or Taoist temples. In Confucian temples there are no statues of Confucius (whereas in a Buddhist/Taoist temple, there might be images of Matsu or another god). This is because no one could come to agreement on what a statue of Confucius should look like, and instead of having many different looks for Confucius, Emperor Taizu of the Ming Dynasty decided that only memorial tablets would be used in Confucian Temples. Also, Confucian temples were often (like the one I visited in Tainan) used as schools as well as places of worship.

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I love me a good “you are here” sign. πŸ™‚

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This is the main entrance of the temple, but there are other entrances. I found at least two others. The grounds are really quite extensive and some of the trees looked to be quite old.

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The temple has been around for a long, long time – around 343 years.

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There were a great variety of relief sculptures along the walls of the main temple area…

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as well as many paintings. Most of the images seemed to be of animals, rather than people.

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As always, the attention to detail that goes into one of the temples here is astounding and awe inspiring.

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Because the temple used to be associated with a school, students who want to do well on exams will come here and put a card detailing the exam they want to have good luck on.

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An example of the memorial tablets. There were a couple of rooms devoted to these on the temple grounds.

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Although they are sometimes called Foo Dogs, these statues that are fairly common in the temples here are actually of lions, not dogs. Who knew?

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A couple of shots from the temple grounds. I have many, many more pictures from here. I was really quite beautiful.

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One thing that is really quite cool about Taiwan is how the old and the new reside side-by-side.

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Don’t feed the squirrels at the Confucius Temple. Apparently the squirrels know they aren’t going to get fed, because I didn’t see a single one. 😦

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Right across the street from the temple, there is an import grocery store. They carried a lot of American food. I bought some Jif peanut butter and a Mt. Dew! It was the first Mt. Dew I’d seen since I got here. Very exciting.

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Before I went home, I wandered around the Confucius temple area, checking out Fujhong St. (and the alleyways off of it) and found a rabbit hopping around on a leash! Too cute.

Up next: The Gangshan Night Market and a bit of miscellany….

Posted by: discoverynarrative | July 13, 2008

Geeking Out on Literature

Yes, another trip to Tainan. What can I say? I really like it there. The people are friendly, it’s easy to navigate, there is a great mixture of the old and the new, and there is just a whole lot to see.

On this trip I went to the National Museum of Taiwanese Literature (Chinese | English) | From Censorship to a Thousand Flowers Blooming: A New Landmark for Taiwanese Literature (.pdf in English only, get Adobe Reader) | A New Landmark for Taiwanese Literature: National Museum of Taiwanese Literature. Unfortunately, the English site doesn’t have a whole lot of information, but the PDF I’ve linked to is quite good, as is the story on, so if you can’t read Chinese, you might want to check them out.

If anyone from Taiwan is reading and has recommendations for Taiwanese literature available in English translation, I would love to know about it!

Okay, so I’m a literature geek. I really enjoy reading postcolonial theory and literature, so the National Museum of Taiwanese Literature was on my list of things to see. It is also one of the places we are taking the campers each week, so the week before camp started I headed out to Tainan to check it out.

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Apparently you get priority seating on the train if you are a panda. πŸ˜‰

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The trip between Dahu and Tainan is quite pleasant. There is a lot of rice (I’m assuming it’s rice – if I’m wrong, please let me know) growing along the way…

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and there is even a bridge that reminds me of home San Francisco.

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The exterior of the National Museum for Taiwanese Literature. The building used to be Tainan City Hall.

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When you walk inside, you can see that instead of tearing down the exterior of the old city hall, they just built around it. It gives the museum a great, homey feel. Of course, I’d feel at home in any museum dedicated to literature, so maybe you shouldn’t take my word for it.

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The quotes read: “Poetry is special in that it can convey finely textured emotions and has a compelling power. Leaping associations become music of thought.” – Shui Lin-Ping The Lips of Natives and “If we love our ancestors, we should not hate Taiwan. Even though the island is small, the sweat and blood of our ancestors is spread everywhere.” – Lim Long-Bim Do not dislike Taiwan. I particularly like the first quote. It reminds me why I have the Chinese character for poetry tattooed on my ankle.

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One of the first areas of the “Discover Taiwan Literature” tour discusses the importance of the water buffalo in Taiwanese culture (and thus, its literature): “Taiwan was originally an agricultural society, and people’s lives revolved around farming. Thus, the water buffalo became a symbol of Taiwanese society and the Taiwanese spirits. Taiwan literature, including folk idioms, folk songs, traditional or modern literature, always reflects daily lives of Taiwanese people and often contains themes and images related to water buffalo.”

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On the floor of this area, there is a concrete poem about the water buffalo. The head is the Chinese character for black (which forms part of one of the characters in my Chinese name) and the horns are actually the character for horns. However, this isn’t just a poem that is shaped like a water buffalo. It actually imitates the movements of the water buffalo when you step on it!

You can check it out for yourself here!

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A couple of children playing with the water buffalo poem.

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There was a display that discussed the influence of Western literature on Taiwanese writers,

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and there were examples of poetry and prose in both the original Chinese and in English translation.

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The museum is on a busy roundabout and in the middle is a park with a statue of Sun Yat-sen.

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After visiting the museum, I stopped in Chef Fresh for a cup of coffee (excellent) and a slice of cheesecake (too dry and crumbly).

Up next: My trip to the Confucius Temple in Tainan….

Posted by: discoverynarrative | July 13, 2008

Kenting: Part the Third

The first week of camp was fantastic. Our next group of campers arrives tomorrow morning, but this week should be a lot easier because we are now just repeating what we did last week. Hopefully this means that I will be able to catch up on posts this week. I hate being two weeks behind. I’m afraid I’m going to forget something….

So, Sunday came and we got off to a late start because Miki had to go help out at the restaurant. She came to pick us up around two o’clock and we headed back to Ali Seafood for one last meal there.

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The shrimp are huge and very delicious.

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This onion dish is sprinkled with spices and dried fish and is really yummy.

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I’m not sure what kind of fish this is, but it was very, very tasty. The tomato sauce covering the fish was seasoned just right.

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I had a hard time taking pictures here, because I was more interested in eating. This was the aftermath. We ate a lot of food.

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Friday night I’d tried tiger shark. It was tasty!

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An interior view of the restaurant. There is more seating upstairs.

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An exterior view of Ali Seafood. I cannot say enough about the food here. If you are in the area, go and eat there. You won’t be sorry.

After gorging ourselves at the restaurant, Miki drove us down to Eluanbi to see the lighthouse there. Eluanbi is at the southernmost tip of Taiwan. On the way up to buy tickets for the lighthouse, there are a lot of vendors set up selling their wares…

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There were hermit crabs in a bucket…

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really cool bird wind chimes (the bird bobs up and down)…

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and t-shirts with marijuana leaves. I found these amusing because on the visa application for Taiwan it states that drug trafficking is punishable by death. Yikes. I don’t think that I’d be advertising any kind of drug, thank you very much. πŸ™‚

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The visitor sign, just in case you don’t know where you are.

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The grounds of the park were absolutely gorgeous.

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After about a five minute walk, the lighthouse made an appearance.

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I found it kind of surprising that there were vendors in the park as well. These hat wearing puffer fish were quite adorable!

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The sky in the Kenting area seems to be constantly in flux. In one direction the skies will be threatening storms…

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but all you have to do is turn around and you will be confronted with nothing but blue skies, puffy clouds, and the only armed lighthouse in the world. Apparently it used to be raided a lot by aboriginal tribes.

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And here I am broiling to death basking in the sun and enjoying the views. Here is where my camera’s battery died. After we left the lighthouse, we headed to the beach. I poked my feet in the water, but I didn’t have my bathing suit with me, so I didn’t get to swim. I did spend a lovely couple of hours digging trenches with my feet and creating nice pools of water to soak them in. The beach was incredibly crowded, but we were still able to get an umbrella and chairs near the water. Besides swimming, there were people jet-skiing, trying to surf, and just generally having a good time. I don’t know that I’ll have a chance to visit Kenting before I leave (in just about a month, now), but I would like to if I can. The area is beautiful, there is plenty to do and see, and the beaches are fantastic.

Up next: I head back to Tainan where I visit the Museum of Taiwanese Literature and the Confucius Temple….

Posted by: discoverynarrative | July 6, 2008

Kenting Trip: Part Two

Camp starts tomorrow morning which means that updates might be a little more sporadic. Hang in there and keep checking. I’ll do my best to post regularly. There will be one more post upcoming on my Kenting trip, then a post about the Museum of Taiwanese Literature, the Confucius Temple, and a bunny on a leash in Tainan, and more on their way. πŸ™‚

So, after we dropped Miki’s grandmother off, Miki drove us to Kaoshanyan Temple near (and/or on Guanshan).

The view from the temple was spectacular. You could really see a lot of the Kenting area from there. For reference, we started our day in Elunabi (the far right of the 2nd sign), went to the beach near Kenting (closer to the middle of the 2nd sign), and would end our day in Hengchun (far left on the 1st sign).

You could even see the nuclear power plant from there. (Look to the left of the three windmills. The nuclear power plant covered a bit in haze, but it is there.)

The temple was beautiful on the outside….

and apparently built around sea caves on the inside. So cool!

As we were wandering around a tour bus full of people came up towards the temple. According to Miki, they were from a similar temple in Taipei.

When they reached the temple grounds, they proceeded to set up some fireworks. Everyone started to hold their ears. I couldn’t quite do that since I wanted to film it…

which I did (though I did get a little shaky, okay, a lot shaky, when they first went off). They lasted quite a while, were quite loud, and put out a tremendous amount of smoke. I was amazed that I was able to film as long as I did, considering my hatred of firecrackers/fireworks.

This was the scene shortly after the noise died down.

After leaving the temple, Miki drove us down to Hengchun. I think I’ve mentioned that the garbage trucks here sound like ice cream trucks back home. It’s an oddly disappointing and slightly surreal feeling to watch people throw garbage into what sounds like it should be dispensing ice cream to children. I took a couple of pictures while Dwayne and Kristen were getting some fried chicken and french fries. They really didn’t eat a lot at the food stand we went to earlier.

Once they had their chicken, Miki took us up the block to get dessert for the two of us.

I decided on this giant mango ice for 80 NT$ / $2.67 US. It was delicious. They actually took a giant block of ice, shaved it, put the cut up mangoes on it, and added some kind of yummy sauce(s). I wound up sharing with everyone, because it was way too much to eat.

Miki got this…. I think it is called do-fu, which is confusing, because I’m not entirely sure that it is made of tofu. It is, however, made of yum. Maybe someone reading this can let me know what it is…. If not, I’ll ask Miki to let me know the next time I see her.

Once our bellies were full, Miki took us to check out one of the four gates that used to be connected by walls and at one time surrounded the town of Hengchun.

All four gates are still up (and some are still used to this day, as you can see in this picture).

However, for the most part, the walls are gone. This section has a fairly extensive wall still attached to the gate. The smaller holes in the brick are where soldiers would put their guns to shoot at enemy combatants.

Finally, there was this really cool M41 tank. I haven’t had time to research why it was there. I’m assuming it is from WWII, but I will try and find out if anyone if interested. That pretty much ended our day. We went back to Miki’s house to rest. Miki went into her family’s restaurant to help out since it was super crowded when we passed by on the way to her place. Around 9:30, we drove back to Hengchun with Miki and her aunt and got some yummy noodles. I ate livers and intestines and found both surprisingly good. After dinner, we headed back to Miki’s house to go to shower, hang out, and sleep.

Up next: Kenting, Part 3

Posted by: discoverynarrative | July 5, 2008

Kenting Trip: Part One

It’s been a busy, tiring week, getting ready for the summer camp. The first week’s campers will arrive on campus on Monday. Yikes. Wish me luck!

So, last Friday, Miki (one of the students here who I met in Kentucky – she spent last semester at our school) came to pick us up and we took the train down to the main Kaohsiung station and picked up the bus to Kenting just across the street.

Apparently there is a Fisherman’s Wharf in Kaohsiung! πŸ™‚

The buses are really quite nice and very comfortable. The seats were gigantic and the air conditioning was perfect.

That evening we ate at Miki’s family’s restaurant, Ali Seafood. It was amazing – best food I’ve had in Taiwan, by far. Pictures will follow in a future post about this trip. After dinner, we drove into Kenting and walked around the night market and shops lining the street. The place was hopping and we had a great evening checking everything out. Miki gave up her bed for the weekend and Kristen and I shared a bed with an actual mattress. I hadn’t slept so good in over a month. It was delightful.

The next morning we slept in, had breakfast/brunch, and finally got started on our day. Miki first drove us to Maobitou in Kenting National Park. According to the sign, “Maobitou is a cape on the western side of Taiwan’s southern tip that separates Eluanbi and the Taiwan strait. The topography of the area is made up of coral rocks that have rolled down from the coastal cliffs. In addition, erosion from the winds and waves has created cliffs, ditches and caverns, making this cape an outstanding geography and topography classroom.”

The coastline was simply stunning. These pictures were taken within minutes of each other. The weather was changing very quickly.

The rock on the right hand side of the photo is called Maoyan or Cat Rock, because it is said to resemble a cat. I

Since the climate in Taiwan is similar to that of Miami, where I grew up, it’s not surprising that I should run across some things that are familiar. Saw grass is one of those things. Miki didn’t know what it was called in Mandarin or Taiwanese.

I particularly liked this plant. πŸ™‚

The first warning sign was at Maobitou. The second one was at the first beach we went to that weekend.

The beach was fabulous and the sand was warm, but the water was very rough and they had it cordoned off. Anyone who went past the barrier got whistled at to step away from the water.

After we went to the beach, Miki took us to meet her Grandmother and Grandfather (her father’s parents). They live about a block from here this area. There were quite a few kids diving and jumping off the pier (?) and enjoying the warm (and relatively calm, safe water).

I finally got Miki to sit for a picture. πŸ™‚

This is Miki and her grandmother. She was totally adorable.

We hung out at the water for a bit and then we headed over to a local food stand. There were a number of people eating there, which boded well. For the most part the food was good. I finally tried pig’s blood congealed with rice and put on a stick. It wasn’t horrible, but I don’t think I’ll be ordering it again. It wasn’t a favorite of mine, mostly a textural thing, I think. πŸ™‚

Posted by: discoverynarrative | June 30, 2008

Looking for Temples and Finding Art

Just wanted to say a quick thank you to everyone who has been reading. This little travelogue has been viewed over a thousand times now – not too shabby. Be sure to leave your email address when you comment. I finally figured out that I can respond to the comments via email. (That only took a month.) Training and prep for summer camp are starting tomorrow (Tuesday, July 1) and the first of four groups of campers will descend on us bright and early on Monday, July 7. Look for a few posts this week detailing my trip to Kenting. First up, though, is the post I promised about street art in Tainan.

This is me, fresh off the train in Tainan, at the Tainan Visitor Information Center. I’d stopped here two days previous and talked with Cherry (she’s the girl nearest me) who helped me get on my way to see the temples I’d been wanting to check out. She was very helpful, so I stopped in again two days later (Friday, June 20, for those who are wondering) and asked for directions to the Five Canals (or Channels) district. I was looking for more temples and an older shopping district that I wanted to check out. Cherry told me where to have the taxi driver drop me off and I went on my way.

The taxi ride was fine, nothing exciting. I got out and started walking down a street, not really paying attention to where I was going, but fairly certain that I was headed in the right direction. I walked down a couple of blocks, filled with interesting shops, but there wasn’t a temple in sight. I finally stopped for a moment, took out my map and tried to orient myself. After consulting one of the shop owners, we determined that I needed to backtrack a bit and go over a couple of streets.

On my way to my newly mapped destination, I stumbled across this street art project, Art Street in Tainan (music plays when you open the link, so you may want to turn your speakers down) on Hai An Road. The site does have some information in English, as well some more images from the art on the street.

This was the first installation I saw. I couldn’t believe my luck in running across it and thought that it was just a fluke until I found more street art in the area.

I love that the artists in both this location and the previous one left the remnants of the buildings visible and creating something beautiful out of the bones of the buildings.

There were also quite a few murals throughout the area. Over the course of my walk, I think that I saw around nine or ten different installations of street art, but I think that I missed quite a few.

I turned the corner to walk down to where I saw a temple was and found this sculptor working in his studio. He was gracious enough to let me take pictures of him at work and his works in progress.

Just down the street from the sculptor, was another studio belonging to a much younger artist. He, too, allowed me to take pictures (these are from the walls of his studio). I chatted with him a little while he re-hinged the very old doors to his studio and then went off in search of temples. I found four, but to this day I still don’t have a clue as to which – if any- of he temples I visited were the ones I wanted to see – no one seemed to know their names in English and I didn’t know the Chinese names for any of them.

Finally, after a lots of walking, a conversation with a bird (it spoke, I asked it if it spoke English, it nodded and puffed itself up importantly, and then I called it a liar – silly bird), I stumbled across a store called Beetles Jungle. There was a bird on a perch and both a dog and a rooster in separate cages. Inside there were (either alive or dead and pinned to cards) huge beetles – most of them along the lines of the rhinoceros beetle. And then there was this bunny. So cute. I really do seem to find all the animals. πŸ™‚

Up next: My trip to Kenting….

Posted by: discoverynarrative | June 24, 2008

Throw Another Squid on the Barbie

Part flea market, part arcade, and part food heaven, the night market is a mainstay of Taiwanese culture. There are night markets throughout Taiwan and they vary greatly in size and offerings. In fact, within about twenty minutes train ride of me, I know of at least five. The first night market we went to is one of the smaller ones, in Lujhu (20 minutes south of Tainan), a ten minute cab ride from our school.

We arrived at the night market fairly early (they usually get started around 6 pm, from what I understand) so we wandered around looking at what people were selling.

Just about all the staples of a typical flea market were present at the market – from jewelry to clothing, from dvds and cds to knick-knacks, it was all there. I kept having flashbacks to my childhood. (For those that don’t know, my father had a booth at a flea market for years and many weekends found me there “working” beside him selling either hair products or wallpaper.

They also had sandals… with flowers… in orange… and in my size! At 190 NT$/$6.33 US, how could I resist?

For the kids, there were diy opportunities…

arcade games (often try your luck, carnival style games)…

and other ways to pass the time. (Yet another flashback to my childhood occurred here, since my nana would often play mahjong with her friends. This booth also had pachinko machines. My parents owned one when I was a kid. Crazy how familiar something so far away can be!) I think this mahjong game is probably played more like bingo, but I could be very wrong.

The man running the mahjong/pachinko booth insisted I take his picture. πŸ™‚

There was an amazing amount of dried and fresh fruit at the market as well…

including food combinations I’d never considered. Here prunes are nestled in small tomatoes. The food was the reason I wanted to go to the night market in the first place. After reading about (and watching tv shows featuring) stinky tofu, oyster omelettes, and the like, I was dying to give it all a try.

Food was either already cooked…

waiting to be cooked…

or still alive and waiting to be caught by market goers and cooked by the people at the booth.

Food always tastes better when it’s put on a stick and grilled. I didn’t have any this time, but it all looked delicious.

I was saving my appetite for this – stinky tofu, finally. My nose is rather bizarre. Certain scents (detergents, anything floral) drive me crazy and I’m super sensitive to them. Apparently my nose does not register stink as well. Every time we’d walk by this booth, Kristen, Dwayne, and even Lemon’s noses would wrinkle at the smell. I never even noticed it.

The stinky tofu is served with cabbage on the side. I received a little more than twice what is left here – not bad for 30 NT$/$1 US. I kind of forgot to take a picture when I got my meal, so I took one midway through. It was delicious. πŸ™‚

I love that you can either eat on the go, or you can sit down at the tables set up by just about every food vendor. I also had an oyster omelette (good, but the oysters were stronger than I’m used to), a couple of Lemon’s fried mushrooms (yummy), and I took home a red bean bun from one of the three or four bakeries represented at the market (with a 5 NT$ discount, no less)! I had a great time and I’m really looking forward to going to another night market soon.

Next up: I finally get lost in translation and find some amazing street art in Tainan….

Posted by: discoverynarrative | June 21, 2008

Tainan, Part 3: Winter Melon Tea & Mr. Lin

So, while I was in Guan Gong temple, specifically in the Yue Lao temple, I met a couple of college guys (they attend National Chung Keng University in Tainan). One of them offered to give me some incense if I wanted to make an offering. I politely refused. I ran into them again as I was sitting on the steps outisde the temple, getting my bearings and taking a break in the shade. We chatted for a bit and they headed down Lane 227 (Fortune Teller’s Alley that I mentioned in the last post). After a few minutes (and a couple pictures of the street from the temple), I also headed down the alley where I ran into them one final time. They were both carrying cups of tea and said that I should stop at the tea place down the alley because they had really good tea. I thanked them and we both went on our separate ways. I dodged scooters as I walked down the alley, taking photos, and came across this place:

I had no earthly idea what the giant watermelon looking thing was, so I stepped up for a closer look…

which, frankly, wasn’t all that helpful. I made a note of the shop and determined to check it out again on my way back from the Mazu Temple.

On my way back, this woman was cutting up one of the melon looking things, and as I took this picture, I muttered, “I wonder if it is a fruit or a vegetable” to myself. The woman looked up and said, “Vegetable.” So much for people not speaking English. πŸ™‚ She was very nice (though I cannot remember her name, now) and talked with me for a bit, explaining that the “vegetable” (it’s actually a fruit, but used, like pumpkin, as a vegetable) was winter melon and that it was used as a tea (which is what her shop sold) and also as an ingredient in soup. Intrigued, I ordered the tea. It was quite good (no way that I could tell it wasn’t made from actual tea leaves) and also quite sweet. I would definitely order it again, but with less sugar next time. (Sugared drinks seem to be especially dehydrating here, so I have learned to drink my tea plain and have found that I quite like it that way. Shocking!)

I wandered around a bit while I drank my tea, and after I finished I went to visit the Tainan Kuang Tsai Embroidery Shop which was highly recommended by both the Lonely Planet and Rough Guides to Taiwan, with good reason it turns out. Not only is Mr. Lin an incredibly skilled artist, he is (according to the Lonely Planet guide) “one of the last remaining embroidery masters in Tainan.” However, all that wasn’t what made my visit to his shop so lovely. I browsed for a bit, looking at all the gorgeous work and then struck up a conversation with Erica, Mr. Lin’s daughter. I showed her the guidebook entries for the shop and told her that I thought her father’s work was incredible, and then Mr. Lin walked in, carrying his lunch. She mentioned that I was here from America and he lit up. He took out a rather large business card holder and showed me that he had received business cards from people as far away as Israel, Austria, and he even had the business card of Robert Kelly, the co-author of Lonely Planet: Taiwan. We talked back and forth with Erica’s kind assistance and she told me that even the newly elected Taiwanese President, Ma, had visited his store. He sells his embroidered works to temples, businesses, and individuals world-wide.

His pieces can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to create. The one that is priced at 126,000 NT$ (approx. $4,200 US) took over three months.

After we took pictures, Mr. Lin offered me a cup of coffee. πŸ™‚ Despite the heat, there was no way I was going to turn down the invitation or the coffee! I sat and drank coffee with Erica and chatted with her (and met her youngest son) while Mr. Lin had his lunch. It was really nice and they both not only kind, but generous.

Before I left, Mr. Lin gifted me with a small embroidered bag…

and an embroidered zongzi (remember, it is the glutinous rice wrapped in leaves that is traditionally eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival). Anyway, I left soon after I finished my coffee, but spending time with them really made my day. So cool!

Up next: I FINALLY go to a night market! YAY!

Posted by: discoverynarrative | June 21, 2008

Tainan, Part Two: Datianhou/Official Mazu Temple

I’ve decided to split my Tainan trip into three parts because I took a zillion pictures that day. This part focuses on my visit to the Datianhou or Official Mazu Temple. I apologize for the lack of information on this temple – there wasn’t a guidebook like there was at the other temple, and my Taiwan guidebooks only dedicate a paragraph or so to this temple.

I can tell you that Mazu (Matsu) is a goddess associated with the sea – she is a protector of sailors, fisherman, and other people who have a connection to the sea. Because Taiwan is an island nation, there are thousands of temples dedicated (in whole or in part) to Mazu. This particular temple is just down the street from the Guan Gong Temple I discussed in the last post and was built around 1830.

Just outside the Guan Gong Temple, there is a sign with directions attached for tourist attractions. I walked down Lane 227, which is also known as Fortune Teller’s Alley (there are Feng Shui masters still at work here, their shops are pictured above), and headed to the Mazu Temple.

Outside the temple, someone had set up a little food stand. I was too hot to think about eating, so I didn’t check out what he was offering. Just to the left of the food stand/entrance to the temple, some women were burning ghost money (that gold paper you saw in the last post). I read somewhere online that there is a movement to burn virtual ghost money, as burning the actual money is bad for the environment, especially during the Ghost Festival when a lot is being burned, but there is a lot of resistance to this idea. I’m not surprised. Can you imagine going camping and having a picture of a fire on your laptop, instead of the real thing?

I find that I’m continually amazed, not just with the attention to detail in these temples, but with the sheer variety of artwork represented.

This particular temple has some gorgeous murals throughout.

The DIY (do it yourself) culture is alive and well here in Taiwan – even at the temples!

These bells were near the entrance of the main temple.

In the garden…

and in one of the smaller temples, there were many sculptures of animals. Again, the sheer diversity of materials and subjects amazes me.

This particular statue was in the temple that was dedicated to babies and families. I don’t know her name, but I really enjoyed her. There were two statues of her, one facing the other. It took me nine tries to get this shot. I’m pretty sure she kept moving. πŸ˜‰

These were all in the same temple (within the Mazu temple). I’m pretty sure that the hen was in this one as well.

Another altar within the temple…

and finally, a statue I saw as I was leaving. Perhaps this is Mazu?

Up next: My trip to Tainan concludes with winter melon tea and a trip to see Mr. Lin, a master of traditional Taiwanese embroidery….

Posted by: discoverynarrative | June 19, 2008

Tainan, Part 1: Guan Gong Temple

I’m going to have to split my trip to Tainan into two posts so as not to completely overwhelm people with an insane amount of pictures. In this post, I am visiting the Guan Gong/Official God of War/Sacrificial Rites Martial Temple in Tainan.

Guan Gong, also known as Guan Yu, was alive circa 184 – 280 A.D. He was a general for the warlord Liu Bei during the time of the Three Kingdoms period in China. Although he is a god of war, he is venerated by many people including policemen, accountants (he was said to be good with money), students studying for exams, and those on the path of righteousness and brotherhood. This particular temple was built in 1665, but did not become a temple as such until 1690. It is still very much in use today.

The outside of the temple really gives no hint as to what is inside. The whole temple is surrounded by these walls.

The entrance to the temple is quite similar to the entrances to other temples I’ve seen – they all have a similar feel to them. However, once you step inside, the differences become more readily apparent.

If you turn back just as you enter the temple, you can see these characters – Da Zhang Fu. According the guidebook I received at the temple, “In classical Chinese these character represent courage, strength, and loyalty, the traits of the god Guan Gong. The name plate was present to the temple by a visiting Qing Dynasty general in 1791. Japanese visitors are often amused by this sign, as the expression has come to mean something like “male chauvinist” in contemporary Japanese usage!”

Also at the entrance to the temple are items for purchase to aid in your worshiping. You can buy incense sticks, paper money to burn as an offering, and more.

Upon entering the temple, I heard some beautiful chanting and once I got my bearings (and my free guidebook), I wandered towards the beautiful sound. These women (nuns? devotees? I haven’t been able to get a definitive answer) were chanting for at least a half an hour. I stood there for around ten minutes listening to them and then continued my exploration of the temple grounds.

One thing I found to be interesting was that there isn’t just one room where the temple is. Instead, there are multiple temples that all have different purposes and are dedicated to different gods. This incense burner is for offerings and was outside the temple just behind the main temple.

The view from this particular temple was quite spectacular. Each rooftop houses a different temple within the temple. Pretty cool!

Somehow I did not get a photo of the statue of Guan Gong in this temple. 😐 However, I did capture Zhou Chang (Guan Gong’s general and bodyguard who killed himself upon learning of Guan Gong’s death) and one of Guan Gong’s sons (unnamed in my guide, sorry).

As I mentioned above, one of the functions of Guan Gong is as a patron for those who have examinations. People write their examinations and dates on cards in the hopes that Guan Gong will help them to do well on their tests. I even found one where the student was studying for the TOEFL (Test of English as a Foreign Language) exam!

I was surprised to find a little pond for turtles. They were adorable and I watched them for a little bit and then wandered over to the more expected koi pond. The garden area was a nice little oasis.

This statue of Guan Yin was one of my favorites in the temple. She’s the bodhisattva of compassion.

This is the Yue Lao Temple. According to my guidebook, “Single people go here to pray for luck in finding a suitable partner. If they are successful, they bring a wedding cake and fruit to the temple to thank the god.”

Requests for that “suitable partner” are placed in glass vials and hung on the wall. Not surprisingly, this was a particularly busy temple.

The artwork in the temples is sometimes amusing and sometimes astonishing – usually a mix of both. πŸ™‚

After about two hours I took my leave of the temple, but I think I fell a little bit in love with it. I really enjoyed how vibrant, yet peaceful it felt. This is a view of the street from the entrance to the temple. After I left, I wandered down a small, winding alley to the right, but that is a tale for another time.

Next up: Part two of my journey to Tainan, including a Matsu temple with gorgeous murals, melon tea, and an embroidery master….

Posted by: discoverynarrative | June 19, 2008

Miscellany, medicine, and malls….

I just wanted to thank everyone for the comments they’ve been leaving. It’s nice to know that people are reading this…. πŸ™‚ If there is anything in particular you are wanting to see, let me know, and I’ll try to get pictures! My apologies for the randomness of this post – I had a lot of little things that I wanted to show y’all and this is the result….

Zongzi is a traditional Asian food eaten during the Dragon Boat Festival which fell on Saturday, 7 June this year. We were in Kaohsiung that day, but the races had been canceled due to rain. Zongzi is made from glutinous rice, usually wrapped around meat or beans, and then wrapped in leaves and cooked. Lemon’s mother made this one and I kind of ate it without taking a picture of the inside, so if you are curious, click the first link. Also, check out the story of how zongzi came to be made. I love it! Holly, who is from one of Taiwan’s indigenous tribes, also brought some Zongzi for us to try. I liked hers a little better, actually. Unfortunately, I also ate that one without taking a picture.

The laundry facilities at Shu Zen. There are only around 5 or 6 washing machines and two dryers, yet I’ve never run into a problem doing laundry. Part of that could be explained by Helena’s reaction to my doing laundry downstairs. Apparently the boys mostly use those machines; thegirls, on the other hand, use the smaller machines on the floors or wash their clothes by hand and dry them on the racks provided on our balconies. Helena seemed to be concerned that I would catch boy cooties by washing my clothes in the same machines, but I think I’ve escaped them so far. I’ll keep y’all updated though. πŸ˜‰ I was relieved to see that both the washing machines and dryers had buttons and instructions in English.

Yeah, it’s a cicada of some sort. They are incredibly loud here and I am beginning to think they are stalking me – first Kentucky, and now Taiwan. I had nothing to do with this cicada’s demise – it was like this when I found it. Promise.

Oooooh! A bag from a bookstore! What’s in it?!?!?

Eddie recommended this book/workbook/cd combination and was able to get a 20% discount on it for me at the bookstore near his wife’s school! It cost me 1140 NT$ / $38 US which seemed like a pretty good deal for all three items. Have I mentioned that learning Chinese is hard? No? Well, it is. I’m trying, though. πŸ™‚

So, I got sick Wedneday, 11 June, in the morning and by Friday, 13 June, I was having stomach cramps so bad that I was doubled over in pain. I finally had Jonathan take me to the doctor. It was an interesting experience. I was in the waiting room for maybe 3 minutes after filling out the paperwork, and then was immediately seen by the actual doctor. (I didn’t get her name, unfortunately.) She spoke English and when she didn’t understand what I meant or I didn’t understand what she was saying, Jonathan helped translate. After about ten minutes with the doctor, we were ushered out to the waiting room. The visit and the medicine together came to a total of 450 NT$ / $15 US. Amazing. The medicine was dispensed at the office and placed in different colored wrappers (white = take before I ate, green = take if symptoms returned, red = take only if I got a fever). By Sunday afternoon I was feeling much better, and by Monday I was 100%. Hooray!

Despite not feeling super great, I decided to go to the Dream Mall on Saturday with Eddie, his wife Cathy, Kristen, and Dwayne. On the platform at Dahu station (the station closest to our school), I ran into some students from Shu Zen. They approached me and we talked for a bit, and then we posed for pictures while waiting for the train.

On the train from Dahu to Ciaotou Station (pronounced chow-toe), I saw these two men and tried to sneak a picture. Apparently I’m not at all stealthy, because they totally realized that I was taking a picture. 😐 Obviously, I wasn’t holding the camera completely still either, but I still like the shot.

The view from Ciaotou Station. We met Eddie here on the local train, and then transferred to the MRT which was just opened this year (image of stations in English) and went into Kaohsiung.

We picked Eddie’s car up at the station in Kaohsiung and drove a couple of miles to the Dream Mall. The weather was not ideal, and this was as close to the Hello Kitty Ferris Wheel as I got. I will prevail, though. Never fear. We’ll be traveling to the Dream Mall four times during summer camp, so I will definitely get pictures of the ferris wheel!

The Dream Mall was pretty much like any mall in America, only larger. Everything was rather expensive, so I just window shopped.

I had Cathy (Eddie’s wife) take a picture of me in front of the Guess store.

A puzzle shop had these amusing (and linguistically confusing) jigsaw puzzles.

This is the entrance to Eslite Books. They have a fairly good selection of English language books, and the store feels like a Barnes and Noble. I did buy a little notebook and a small flashcard set secured by a ring to practice my Mandarin.

Finally, there were some wood sculptures just outside of the bookstore that I liked. All in all, it was a good day, but I was again disappointed by the amount of Western influence I kept seeing and was left longing for a more traditional view of Taiwan.

Up next: I get that more traditional view in Tainan, Taiwan’s first capital and oldest city! Also, I finally visit a night market!

Posted by: discoverynarrative | June 17, 2008

This week on MTV Cribs…

So, I lied. I was planning on posting about my trip to the Dream Mall in Kaohsiung, my trip to the doctor, and a few other miscellaneous things, but then I realized that I had planned on doing a dorm life post and never did. So, I only lied to correct a lie… or something. Anyway, I took pictures of the floor I’m living on and my dorm room today. Enjoy.

The picture is a little dark, but this is the main lobby area of our floor. People don’t use it too often, other than as a waiting for other people kind of place. The furniture pictured here must have been purchased in bulk, because the same furniture is scattered throughout the college, pretty much in every common area. It’s not terribly comfortable, but then it isn’t terribly uncomfortable, either. So, there you have it.

Also in the lobby, opposite the sitting area, is this bulletin board, full of what I’m sure is VERY IMPORTANT INFORMATION.

There is a television in the lobby – only a couple of students actually sit there and watch it though. Most of the time it is turned off. There is also a Christmas tree. I suppose that now is as good a time as any to say that I have not a clue in the world why, but there are Christmas decorations up everywhere in the dorms. It’s strange, especially given that only approximately 4% of the 23 million people that live in Taiwan are actually Christian. Come to think of it, that might explain why they are still up. Maybe they don’t know Christmas only happens once a year. πŸ™‚

Our elevators. They are lovely and efficient and are only operational when it is raining. However, I maybe might have acquired the power to turn them on at any time. Maybe. Shhhhh. It’s a secret. Please note that there are Christmas decorations stenciled on the door of the elevator on the left.

There are a couple of phones in the lobby for those who are gifted with calling cards. You can’t receive calls, but you can dial out. I was saddened to see that in Taiwan, just as in the United States, there is a need for domestic violence services. I imagine that the Coast Guard number is there in case of typhoon, but I could be wrong.

If you are coming off of the elevators and turn left, we are the first door on the left. Come on in!

If you look to your right just as you walk in the door, you will be confronted with our bathroom. I find the lack of a door on the outside a little frustrating, given its proximity to the front door, but at least there are doors on the shower and the toilet areas.

The shower room. The water pressure is good, there are shelves for your shower necessities, and a towel rack that I don’t use. (I hang my towel over one of the bunk beds so that it will dry better and stay dry should my roommate decide to shower.) As long as you remember to get in the shower between 5 and 10:30 pm, you are pretty much guaranteed hot water. Around 10:30 the hot water starts its journey to becoming lukewarm, and by 11:15 it pretty much turns ice cold. No thanks.

The always scintillating toilet shot – the toilet was manufactured by a company called Shangri-La.

Finally, we have the sink. For the curious, my stuff is on the right.

This is kind of a shared desk. I was doing laundry today, so my laundry basket is out – it’s usually housed in one of my closets. The desktops don’t work too well, so we’ve relegated them to this desk, along with bottled water, sweet tea in juice boxes, the couple of snacks that were purchased as a welcome gift for us that we’ve not devoured yet, and the bottle of detergent that was also given to us upon our arrival.

The big, gaping hole is where my laundry basket usually resides. All my toiletries, medicines, and assorted other necessities live on the top shelf, my shoes on the bottom, and my shorts and t-shirts are in the middle. Fascinating, I know.

Since we are sharing a room meant for four students and we are only two people, we each get two closets! YAY! All my work clothes are in this one, along with assorted other clothing bits, and some state of Kentucky giveaways for the summer camp kids.

My desk! I usually sit with my back against the wall and my feet up on the chair closest to the closets. It’s quite comfortable. πŸ™‚

We actually have two air conditioners in our room. This is the super special one that works all day long. We don’t bother with the other one. We usually keep the temperature between 25 and 27 degrees Celsius (77 – 80 degrees Fahrenheit), which is surprisingly comfortable. Well, surprisingly for me, anyway.

And here is my crib bed. I don’t sleep in the loft beds, mostly because coming down in the middle of the night to use the bathroom would suck. So I sleep on the crib. For someone who likes to sleep stretched out with at least one limb hanging off the bed, it’s not the most comfortable, but I’m adapting. The bed isn’t made because of the aforementioned laundry doing, but I usually sleep with my head towards the phone and stick one leg out of the opening. It suffices. Barely.

What I find most challenging, though, are the mattresses. There isn’t a lot of stuffing and they are backed with hard, tatami-like mats. Frankly, it’s just not enough and my hips really resent the bedding. I’m sleeping better, but I still wake up just about every time I turn over. I wish I could sleep on something other than my side, but that just isn’t going to happen. I originally only had one “mattress,” but I got another one after the first couple of days. It really hasn’t helped much, though. 😐

Well, that’s the tour. Please close and lock the door on your way out!

Next up: Medicine, malls, and miscellany…. (Really.)

Posted by: discoverynarrative | June 16, 2008

School days…

Sorry for the delay in posting. My stomach decided that it hated me, and I spent the last few days trying to get better. I finally wound up going to the doctor and getting medication, and now all is well again! YAY!

This is Lemon. πŸ™‚ Lemon is a fourth year student (I think) at Shu Zen and she is studying English as a foreign language. Her English is quite good and she’s been our guide around Shu Zen, especially when it comes to food. She’s had to field a lot of “what is that” kind of questions and she hasn’t appeared to get tired of them – yet. She is from Tainan (a city just north of here) and will be working with us during the English camp.

This is Helena. She’s a nursing student, but she’s quite adept at speaking and reading English. She’s helped me out a couple of times when I wanted to know what a particular bit of food was, as well. She’s very nice and will sometimes join us for breakfast.

In the classes (which are over until English Camp starts in July), we would mostly spend a lot of time talking with the students. Often they would have a set of five questions ready for us and we would break into three groups and each person in the group would ask me their questions. After we were done answering questions (or working on their resumes, or reading aloud from their textbooks and having them repeat after us) the students would usually want to take pictures with us. It seems like every student was armed with either a camera or a camera phone and they love taking pictures.

Graffiti on the wall of one of the classrooms. If I didn’t know better, I would think that the girl in the glasses is me! πŸ™‚

Sometimes we’d leave our phone numbers (or room numbers) with the students and sometimes they would stop by our room to chat, which was pretty cool. We’ve also received some invitations to go and visit their homes, but nothing definite has come out of that yet. I’m hopeful that when school winds down (they are in their last week of classes and finals are next week) that I’ll be able to go home with them. πŸ™‚

When we went to visit Maria’s class we were given a present of Bubble Tea (or Pearl Milk Tea) which is a drink that originated in Taiwan and one that I had tried (with Krikit and Lily) on my trip to California last December. I wasn’t fond of it then and I’m still not a big fan. The tea part tastes okay (too milky and sweet for me, but the taste is fine). However, I just can’t get used to sucking up the tapioca balls through the big straw. Also, the texture of the tapioca balls is strangely chewy in a never ending sort of way and they don’t really seem to have any flavor. Anyway – it’s not horrible, and if it was the only thing available, I would drink it, but I’m just not a fan.

Regardless, above is a picture of Jenny (one of the students who will be working summer camp with us) and my bubble tea. πŸ™‚

Maria at work and some students in the background….

one of the students singing an American pop song (can’t remember the name of it, sorry)…

and a picture of me and Maria after the class ended.

When I said that in most of the classes we wound up taking pictures with the students, I wasn’t kidding.

We snuck into a practice room and watched/listened to the band practice for the graduation ceremony.

Last Thursday, I found a stray puppy and kidnapped her for pictures and petting. She slept underneath the desk during the first period I was having conversational practice, but got a little too frisky (and was trying to teethe on the purse Sara made me), so I let her out of the room during the second period. Luckily there was another animal just waiting to be petted in the group that Kristen and Dwayne had…

I promise, despite what it looks like, that I did not actually eat the cute, little hamster. Really.

On Thursday, the night before graduation, there was a concert on the steps right outside our dorm. I wasn’t feeling well, but I did manage to get a couple of pictures (any help with who was at the concert would be delightful)…

And that’s about it for now. I missed graduation (and class on Friday) due to being sick, but I’ve got more pictures to post and will do that either later today or tomorrow. We’ve got a long break right now until English camp starts in July. We just need to get things organized for the campers ahead of time, so I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make a couple of day trips to see the sights.

Next up: Medicine, malls, and miscellany…. Dorm life…

Posted by: discoverynarrative | June 10, 2008


I just wanted to give people an idea what kinds of things are available at the Family Mart (convenience store) downstairs from our dorm. Some things are familiar and some things just aren’t…. Enjoy!

Feel the need to get rid of some wrinkles? Is aging getting you down? Try some Perfect Collagen Drink! Yeah, I don’t know. For some reason it sounds like you’d be swallowing the stuff they put in breast implants. Okay, maybe not, but still…

I have no idea what these are – something somewhat like the Perfect Collagen Drink above, probably, since they were merchandised right next to it. I like the bottles though πŸ™‚

Doritos are now available for the Hip-Hop set! πŸ™‚

There are a lot of varieties of potato chips that have some sort of seafood. Witness the following:

Everyone says good, good to eat, so why does she look so sad? 😦

I’m afraid that Lonely God isn’t fairing any better. Maybe the two of them should hook up!

Another Hello Kitty sighting! This time the beloved kitty is in ramen. I’m not sure I’d want to eat her, though 😦

Below is the lemonade I was going on about in my first real post – Sweet Honey Lemon is delicious! I want to try the cute orange drink as well. (I took a picture of these in the 7-Eleven in Kaohsiung – they don’t carry these drinks here at our Family Mart. Boo.)

Everyone loves chocolate milk!

Good morning, it’s time for some cerul! I’m not sure that is an entire serving size, but I like the combo milk/cereal container – pretty cool!

You can get an amazing variety of “milks” and juices here. Check out the Papaya or Watermelon Milk…

the always wonderful asparagus juice…

and I have no idea what this one is. I haven’t tried any of the more exotic (to me) juices, but I will. πŸ™‚

And finally, the cookie selection at the Family Mart is quite good. I tried the Koala cookies in class one day (a student shared) and they were good, and of course, I love me some Pocky. πŸ™‚

Next up: School life/Dorm life…

Posted by: discoverynarrative | June 9, 2008

Waiting for Kaohsiung

On Saturday, I slept in and got breakfast at the one restaurant that was open downstairs. I’m not 100% sure what it was that I was eating, but it kind of tasted like a combination of matzah brei and some sort of kugel. Whatever it was (eggs & noodles, perhaps?) it was delicious. A lot of the food on campus, particularly breakfast, is eaten with little sharpened sticks. I also had some yogurt and some of the yummy veggie/fruit juice drink.

After breakfast I just hung out and played on the computer until around 10:30 when I got ready. Eddie, one of the teachers in the Applied Foreign Languages department here at Shu Zen, made plans to meet us (Kristen, Dwayne, and me) at 11:30 am with the idea of going into Kaohsiung, eating lunch, getting Kristen and Dwayne cameras, checking out the Taiwanese or Formosan Rock Macaques (click the links for pictures), and possibly going to the Dream Mall (where the Hello Kitty ferris wheel lives). Eddie picked us up on time and we drove the thirty or so minutes to Kaohsiung, stopping to pick up his wife, Cathy, along the way. On the way down we decided that we would eat at the Italian place Eddie recommended called Mama Mia’s.

Not surprisingly, I went for the gnocchi. Including in the 400 NT$ / $13.33 US price for a meal was a salad (with dressing that tasted like an orange dreamsicle, yum), a cream of potato soup that was very delicately flavored and delightful, iced tea, the gnocchi with chicken (the chicken and the tomato sauce were top notch, but the gnocchi was kind of disappointing – it didn’t melt in the mouth, was very chewy, and they probably served me around 50), and a fruit mousse for dessert. I only made it about halfway through the gnocchi, but I managed to polish off everything else. Eddie rather generously picked up the tab, which was very sweet. (Eddie is from Scotland and is 6’6″ and his wife is Taiwanese and about 5’2″.) πŸ™‚

After lunch, we drove about 10 minutes to Carrefour for Kristen and Dwayne to look at digital cameras. About an hour and a half later we left the store with cameras in hand and headed for Monkey Mountain (Eddie called it a hill) at the Shoushan Nature Preserve. We parked where we wanted our walk to end and walked over to where we planned on starting the ascent. Along the way we saw a couple of the monkeys just hanging out near the streets, but they moved too fast for me to take pictures. We passed by a couple of temples on the way – the following pictures are from the first (and the one we were able to get closest to). I really enjoy amount of detail that goes into making these temples and I’m impressed at the wedding of the modern and the traditional. This temple not only had loudspeakers, but it also had an LED screen running on the front of the temple. Pretty neat.

Just around the corner from the temple (I’m still trying to figure out the name of it), I ran into a familiar friend….

In front of us was Monkey Mountain – it doesn’t look like all that much….

However, the “path” up the mountain is so steep in places that it would rival some of the steepest hills in San Francisco. I made it as far as the first resting spot and was having an asthma attack and my legs were shaking. Realizing there was no way I was going to make it up to see the monkeys, I told everyone else to go on and that I would wander around taking pictures and just meet them at the car. At this time, Cathy, who was wearing low heels, also decided to bow out since she was supposed to meet her parents for dinner around 6:30 and it was already almost five. We walked down the road a bit to one of the zillion 7-Elevens and had them call us a taxi. I snapped this shot right outside of the 7-Eleven. See the angle of guy’s legs in the sculpture in the background? Yeah – that’s why I didn’t make it up the mountain.

I was kind of bummed, since I had been looking forward to seeing the monkeys since before I left, but Eddie had a great idea for where I could wait for them to finish their hike…

Look familiar? Sure tasted familiar. Cathy ordered my Americano for me just the way I like it and I gave in an had a slice of blueberry cheesecake. I hung around Starbucks for a while and then wandered outside to see what was on the block….

The Western influence was very plainly obvious in this neighborhood. It was kind of disconcerting, actually, kind of like a dream where everything is just so slightly off from what you know. I ducked back into Starbucks to wait for Eddie, Kristen, and Dwayne (since I don’t have a cell phone here, it’s hard to wander too far when you are expected to be somewhere).

While I was waiting I chatted (somewhat) with the people at Starbucks and was then approached by a guy around 27-ish who wanted to chat. His name is Andrew, he’s a Tibetan Buddhist who has been to Tibet nine times, and is studying to be a pharmacist. He was really nice and we talked for a while about where I should visit in Taipei. I was telling him where I was teaching English and it turns out that he attended the pharmacy division of the school I’m at here in Taiwan. Crazy coincidence! We wound up exchanging emails.

Eddie, Kristen, and Dwayne showed up while I was talking with Andrew, and I told them about the optometrist two doors down that I had visited. An eye exam (if you don’t have Taiwanese medical insurance) is only 450 NT$ ($15 US) and both Kristen and Dwayne had mentioned that they wanted to get exams and glasses while in Taiwan. A couple of hours later they had new prescriptions and three pairs of glasses on order between them.

By this it was around 8:30 or 9:00 and we were all starving. We tried to go to a restaurant that specializes in hot pot (I’ve had a modified version at school, but not the real thing), but Dwayne has a lot of food restrictions (no pork or seafood) and apparently the vegetarian version at that spot is horrid, so we walked across the street to the grocery store, Dollars, where there was also a very large and varied food court. First we went into a bakery…

where I bought some matcha and red bean toast (they call bread toast here – and then they roast the toast). Dwayne and Kristen hit the restaurant with the hibachi, but I headed over to the sushi and picked up around 15-18 pieces of sashimi and sushi for 229 NT$ ($7.63 US). It was delicious. The unagi melted in my mouth and the rest of the fish was quite fresh and tasty. The only downside was that there was only one tamago. Somehow I soldiered through all the pieces. (I’d say that I ate around $30 US worth of sushi. YUM!)

While I was eating (badly, with chopsticks), I looked up and saw a familiar face. Yes, in a city of 1.5 million people, I manage to look up just in time to see Robert (another teacher in our department) and his girlfriend Juliet. We looked at each other for a second and we were both all – “HEY!” It was funny. He introduced me to his girlfriend, asked what I was up to, and then when I said something to the effect of making a mess with chopsticks, promptly grabbed my hand and moved it further up the sticks. Voila, control! Who knew?

I finished up early and wandered around the grocery store where I picked up some Skippy (sadly, they didn’t carry Jif) peanut butter, just in case I start having a craving. As we were leaving, we were stopped by some guys who had a table set up at the front of the store (maybe for a bank) and they gave Kristen and me balloon animals and we talked with one of the guys for a bit (everyone wants to practice their English).

And that was pretty much the day. I saw a little of Kaohsiung as we were driving, a little while walking, but most of the day was spent indoors. We are planning on returning next weekend and going to the Dream Mall. I’m going to try and come up with a couple of other places to go that don’t revolve around shopping as I need to save my money for my travels once I am done working. πŸ™‚

Up next: A brief food interlude….

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