Friday, November 28, 2008

Excuse me for being sentimental

Dear Allison,

In my attempts to find photos of us together from childhood, I have happened upon what (I hope) were the most hideous moments of our adolescence. To make the experience all the more painful, it appears that either you or I were behind the camera every time we took photos-- I guess that's the 7th grade equivalent of holding back a friend's hair. Considering the many years of friendship we've shared together, it's shocking how few photos feature both of us at the same time. This is the best I could do.

The greatest fruit that resulted from our endurance through our *ahem* "awkward" phase was, of course, the beautiful friendship we have now. The second greatest fruit that emerged from that time, however, was this play inspired by our first viewing of Monty Python And The Holy Grail. While you gave your speech at the rehearsal dinner tonight, it struck me how ladylike you've become in the past 10 years--but, you should know that in my heart, you will always be Agent Jean Simmons. I hope you enjoy rereading this as much as I have.

Congratulations on your wedding, Allison! I love you.


Victoria Chao as Agent K. Robuskiali

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gettin' Hitched

I'm flying home over Thanksgiving weekend to attend a childhood friend's wedding. I probably won't blog, but that won't be any different than now, would it?

Happy Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

My only wish

If I could have just one wish, I would wish for Sudafed. Meth-lab quantities of it.

If I got a second wish, I would also want a truckload of lotion-saturated tissues.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Give me your money!

Would you really travel farther than a few miles to see this? --Photo Courtesy of Shiela Lee

Nothing says, "I'm desperate for your tourism dollars" like a good, old-fashioned, trolley-shaped tour bus in a city that traditionally has no trolleys. The naked grab for your expendable income seems especially transparent when you (as in I) can't imagine where that bus would take its passengers. I love this city, but a river decorated in Christmas lights (aka the Love River) and the island's second-largest Hello Kitty Ferris Wheel (yes, this almost-superlative appears on almost every travel brochure) hardly count as tourist destinations.

Not to put down the good people who have worked hard to revitalize Kaohsiung, but I'm tired of the "If we build it they will come" attitude that pervades every attempt to prepare for the 2009 World Games. It's simply not true, and I wish someone with decision-making power would figure that out.

Sunday, November 16, 2008


If desire were to take solid form,

it would look like carnival food.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

"Oh, to be 75 again..."

If this ain't precious....

...then I don't know what is.

Today Taiping Elementary School held it's 89th Anniversary Celebration (or "Birthday Party," as the principal called it) which, at its core, meant that I had to work on a Saturday, but in the best way possible.

Seriously, why are they so cute?

If it seems like I'm enamored with Asian children in matching outfits, that's because I am. Each grade had a different costume theme. The costumes became increasingly bland as the students got older (Kindergarten students wore sparkly, rainbow outfits; 3rd graders wore bright yellow do-rags on their heads; 6th graders made paper crowns.) Obviously, I mostly took photos of the Kindergarten and First grade students.

Are they supposed to be birds? Native Americans? Mardi Gras revelers? Does it even matter?

Of course, the only thing I love more than Asian children in matching costumes is Asian children in matching costumes while dancing in unison. Pictured below are the kindergarteners doing a dance about being healthy and loving exercise. It reminded me of a Barbie aerobics video, but of course, much cuter. (The least adorable performance: belly-dancing 5th and 6th grade girls).

Like school-wide events in the US, the birthday celebration also included races of the three-legged, potato sack, and Teacher Vicky vs. Her Fulbright Adviser vs. Her Principal variety. There were also some relay races I'd never seen before. One race involved two children running together inside a hula hoop, kicking over some bottles, hula-hooping a few times, picking up the bottles, and giving the hoop to the next pair.

And I've definitely never seen these before in my life:

Apparently they're arm-powered and will only move in zig-zags, making even the very short distance of 6 feet take what feels like a lifetime. (Not recommended as a spectator sport)

One thing I didn't expect was for the event to trigger old memories. As a kid, I remember getting dragged to Taiwanese Association events, enjoying the first hour, and then fidgeting in my chair for another two hours while the Taiwanese Association board conducted what felt like the world's longest raffle. (Of note: the only thing my family ever won was a set of locker shelves that were way too wide for any of the lockers I had in my school days--and none of us had a locker at the time). Now I see that the Columbus Taiwanese Association is undeserving of this superlative--apparently all Taiwanese events include a raffle, and all of these raffles are long.

Playing the waiting game

Of course, there is always a reason to stay: THE ULTIMATE PRIZE! THE NEVER-ENDING DREAM!

One dean, the Dean of Discipline no less, was so excited when I pulled his name that he did a jig and almost cried. Imagine this: the man you're most afraid of seeing in the office, a very serious man, is jumping up and down in excitement. I think (I hope) he's giving the bike to his son.

***Bonus Photos*****

An imagined conversation between Dr. Phil and me as we enjoy massages after losing to Principal Tsai in the running race:

DP: I was impressed. The Principal had a huge head start and you caught up.
VC: Second place is first loser.

Can you see my official staff t-shirt? It has a koala and the word "Cute" on it. How very elementary school!

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Black Pea

I've been on hiatus. You can tell because I haven't been posting, or because my posts haven't been very good. I'd tell you I've been busy, but really, I've developed an addiction to TV.

I have, however, been checking my email and my friend Chloe sent me a blog that touches on many themes very near and dear to my heart. It's called My Mom Is A Fob. Here's a sample post:

Black men on TV
By mmiaf | November 12, 2008

[At the dinner table, speaking in Mandarin except for names]
Me: Ma, these steaks are amazing!
Bro: Mmmm, so good, wowww… thanks Ma!
Mom: Yes, and my grill is so great because it drips excess oil while it’s grilling the meat! Simple and easy to clean, and keeps us healthier. I bought one for your Aunt Jean in Taiwan, too since it’s so handy. I just love my Morgan Freeman Grill!
[Bro and I look at each other confused]
Bro: OMG… Ma… did you mean… your George Foreman Grill?
Mom: You two always like to pick at my English. Their names are similar okay, and they’re both nice black men I see on TV!!!!

And for those of you who got the Black Pea reference, I hope you're laughing. For those who didn't, I'm sure it'll come up later. It's probably my favorite mom story in recent memory.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Break Out Those Earmuffs...

Winter is finally here! And by winter, I mean it's finally dipped below 80 degrees Fahrenheit for three days in a row!

All of my students have been wearing fleece vests and heavy wool coats to school. I love this island....

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Arrested Development

It's been an exciting week in politics, and no, I'm not talking about the recent U.S. election. I'm also not talking about Arrested Development, that most awesome of awesome sitcoms.

Chen Shui-bian, former president of Taiwan's pro-independence Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) was detained today for alleged corruption. Last week, DPP protesters stormed Taipei to express their displeasure over the arrival of the Chinese envoy Chen Yunlin, chairman of The Association for Relations Across the Straits. And for good measure, I should probably mention that protesters also mobbed the vice-chairman of this association at Tainan's Confucius Temple on October 21.

Here are the images I associate with each event (these are especially important since television news goes too quickly for my poor listening comprehension):

November 11: Chen Shui-bian holds his handcuffed arms up in victory as the police lead him away.
November 6: EMTs carry away a woman who has fainted in the midst of the angry, violent mob. It's night, and lots of people wear long, yellow ribbons that say "Taiwan is my country." The ribbons look like they're made of the same plastic as garbage bags or caution tape.
October 21: Daytime--a small crowd of people pushes down the vice-chairman. Then one of them (I think he's wearing green) jumps on top of the envoy's fancy black car. He stomps around, leaving wide, shallow dents on the roof.

I could have sworn that Chen was already found guilty of corruption, but since the media here is unabashedly partisan, I'm afraid that I've been swayed by my father's political persuasion in believing that he's embezzled 14.8 million NTD (that's $480,500 US). The BBC keeps saying "alleged charges," so I guess I'm wrong.

Here's where I get confused--the BBC has printed the following quotation from Chen:

"The KMT and the Chinese Communist Party see me as their number one prisoner as I am the biggest stone blocking their way to reunification," Mr Chen told reporters, according to the French news agency AFP.

He said the Chinese envoy, Chen Yunlin, "had a bad time in Taiwan... so Ma Ying-jeou wants to put me in jail as a sacrifice to appease China. I am very honoured and proud to play such a role."

Initially, I felt like Chen was just manipulating people's Sino-phobic emotions, but that was before I realized the charges were alleged and not proven. So what if he's not guilty? Is he really President Ma's sacrifice to appease China? To be honest, I still feel like Chen is playing the spin game, but is that my bias talking?

Only time will tell. Until then, I'll be in a perpetual state of second-guessing.

Saturday, November 8, 2008

Why I Love NPR Reason No. 1: The NYTimes sucks at Podcasts

The host of The New York Times' Weekend Business podcast has a nice tenor to his voice, but sounds like he's reading off a cue card, or you know, talking to a Taiwanese elementary school student.

I know the major news outlets are taking their first wobbly steps in this new world of multimedia. In time, I'm sure they'll figure it out. But I probably won't listen to another NYtimes podcast until someone recommends it.

Friday, November 7, 2008

On Michael Crichton (but not a eulogy)

Someone once told me (retold as I remember the conversation but most likely not verbatim):

After graduating from Harvard, my husband and I moved out to L.A. to try to make it as writers. My husband, in a bold move, decided to cold call Michael Crichton and ask him out to lunch. He actually accepted.

They went out to sushi later that week, and all Michael Crichton wanted to talk about for two hours was how much better L.A. was in the 60's because you could tear down the highways as fast as you wanted without worrying about getting caught and have sex with as many women as you wanted without getting AIDS. I mean, I know he probably wanted to tell the young buck about his glory days, but my husband is a skinny little Jewish guy who came this close *sticks out thumb and index finger till they almost touch, starts talking in nasal voice* to going to med school.

I've never read a Michael Crichton book or seen a Michael Crichton movie, not even Jurassic Park, so this is all I have to go on. I like to compare it to James Fallows' goodbye post.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Final Note on the Election

What fascinates my 5th and 6th graders most about the election is not the fact that Obama is black and McCain is old (though they find this interesting too), but that I could send my vote through the mail. During the 2004 Taiwanese presidential election, Taiwanese people living abroad flew back to the island in droves in order to vote. Can you imagine sitting on a plane for 24 hours (48 round-trip) just to cast a ballot?

Which is to say, I take back all my griping about the hassles of voting absentee from two days ago. I guess it's the little things that make me proud to be an American.

Well, that and the fact that Franklin County finally voted my way. Way to go, Ohio!

Monday, November 3, 2008

On a non-election-related note...

This is my new favorite blog. Possibly the best blog ever made:

The Election From Abroad

Biggest roadblocks to voting from Taiwan:

1. Deciphering the first question on the Federal Voting Registration and Absentee Ballot Request: Asking yourself, "am I living abroad temporarily or indefinitely" inevitably leads to an existential crisis about the future.

2. Making 2 trips to the post office (once to mail off absentee ballot request, once to mail off the completed ballot).
***Correlated challenge: locating the nearest post office, hoping its office hours don't conflict with your work schedule.

3. Knowing your address

The moral of the story: please enjoy the relative ease of your voting experience tomorrow. The lines may be long, but at least you don't have to translate your contact information into English.

Please, please, please don't forget to vote (especially if it's for Barack Obama)