Thursday, October 8, 2009

New School, New Blog

Hi friends!

I started a new blog to chronicle my new life. Check it out:

So long, so long, and thanks for all the fish!


Sunday, September 6, 2009

If I could Turn Back Time...

I have an adventurous friend who always tries to get me to go along on his crazy schemes, like the backpacking trip through Tibet he planned in 06. I planned to go to North Korea with him this summer to see the Mass Games, a propagandic display of large-group, synchronized gymnastics, but had to alter my summer plans when I got into grad school.

And I missed out on this:
JW: vickyyyyy[9:09:23 AM]
JW: we're ALIVE[9:09:36 AM]
me: are you back from NK?[9:09:39 AM]
JW: yes[9:09:41 AM]
me: i'm so glad you're not dead![9:09:43 AM]
me: how was it?[9:09:43 AM]
JW: amazing[9:09:51 AM]
JW: so utterly strange and amazing[9:09:55 AM]
me: oh man, i'm so jealous[9:09:59 AM]
me: give me a highlight[9:10:06 AM]
JW: might be when we went to the kim-jong-il gift palace[9:11:14 AM]
JW: where they keep all the gifts given to the great leader in a ridiculous building of marble that reeks of fascism[9:11:35 AM]
JW: and madeline albright brought a basketball signed by michael jordan[9:11:52 AM]
JW: and we asked the guide what the significance of this ball was, to the korean people[9:12:16 AM]
JW: and our guide said "i think it is that this ball represents the world, and when our great leader plays with this ball, it is proving that he controls the world."

I've made a huge mistake.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Farewell, Kaohsiung, Farewell!

So long, so long and thanks for all the fish!
I'm blogging from a free internet terminal at the Taoyuan International Airport, conveniently located next to the HELLO KITTY DEPARTURE GATE. For the next two weeks, I'll be in Kuala Lumpur for the Southeast Asian adventure of my dreams--beaching it in Malaysia and seeing Angkor Wat in Cambodia. Don't expect any updates until my return to Taiwan on July 14.
I'll be in DC from July 18-27, in Columbus from July 27-August 20ish. Then it's back to New England for graduate school!
Till then, if you're one of the 4 people who actually reads this, take care!

Monday, June 29, 2009

Consecutive numbers

I'm 23!

My sister gave me $50 to spend at, a site where different teachers can ask for donations for any project they want, and donors choose what they want to finance.

I gave $25 to this project titled "No, Virginia, There Is No U.S.S.R" and am trying to decide where to spend the rest of my donation dollars. Audience suggestions are greatly appreciated, especially since I should be packing right now (while I know a few of you have quite a bit of desk time)--check out the site and tell me what strikes your fancy.

Thanks for your help! Hopefully I'll have a good selection from ya'll when I return from my travels through Southeast Asia.


Friday, June 26, 2009

Hoolay hoolay!

ben: (Oh, I saw a WORLD GAMES ad the other day and thought of you)Ohhh, ok
me: omg, seriously?
ben: Yes. It was people doing gymnastics routines on big ugly buildings

Thursday, June 25, 2009

The Discard Pile

Packing takes me an eternity longer than it should because I aspire to be utilitarian, organized, and free of overweight luggage charges, but at heart I'm just a big pack rat. There are several stages between my "Suitcase" pile and my "Discard" pile corresponding to the amount of affection I have fore each possession. Here are 2 items that won't make the cut but I hope to remember for a very long time:

1. Sexy Lacy Panties from 7-11

Found them nestled between the sunscreen and the condoms while I was looking for bobby pins...

I do have some friends getting married soon.... do you think these would make a good shower gift?

2. Official 2009 World Games Multi-purpose Headscarf

These were given to us by the Kaohsiung City Bureau of Education as a "token of [their] gratitiude for all our hard work"

You can wear it as a scarf!

Or a do-rag!

Or a hat!

So sexy!

So versatile!

The more I look at these, the more I think, "Surely ___ would love these panties and this headscarf!" I need more discipline...

4 days left in Kaohsiung...

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Sneaking A Swim In Sun Moon Lake: Guestblogging at

Hey folks,

I've been a busy lady as of late, and one of the things I've done while not updating is guestblogging about my trip to Sun Moon Lake for Here's a teaser:

Through the pedagogy of rote memorization, the magnificence of Sun Moon Lake has been ingrained in the consciousness of Chinese-speaking people. My local friends tell me that here in Taiwan, all schoolchildren memorize “Moonlight Reflecting on the Lake,” a poem written by Yunlin County Magistrate Chien Ming Shan in 1875. None of my friends can recall the words anymore, but the message remains. “Sun Moon Lake is a beautiful place,” they say, “you cannot miss it.”

Click here to read the whole thing!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Seek Glory and Glory You Shall Find


Kaohsiung Cab Driver: "They call it Glory Pier because this is where the soldiers would leave from when they went off to war."
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Anthromorphic Charm


found at Taipei Main Station.
Posted by Picasa

Friday, June 5, 2009

At a Bitter Co-Worker's Cubicle Near You!

If hard work were such a wonderful thing, surely the rich would have kept it all to themselves.
--Lane Kirkland

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tiananmen 20 Years Later

Thanks, CNN!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Real American

Daniel Robert Markus is 1/16 Native American--just 1 generation shy of affiliation. This will not stop him.
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Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Exercises in Democracy

The schoolyear is coming to a close, which means the outgoing 6th grade class has developed a serious case of 6th grade-itis, and the 5th graders are preparing for their future reign over the school. One facet of this takeover is the school mayoral election, which takes place tomorrow.

Each of the three candidates has taped colorful signs peppered with clipart images of ice cream cones and basketballs around the school explaining their intended policies. They are mostly in Chinese, which means the signs look like this to me:

My policies:

1. Increase blah

2. Increase dfadsf

3. Increase the limit on library book borrowing to at least 5

4. Increase uoiuoi

5. Ice cream at least once a month with lunch.

One of the candidates--my best English student--wrote the phrase "Yes, I Can!" at the top of her poster. I admire the effort, though I think the populist message of Obama's slogan was lost on her.

Ironically, the school's mayoral election happens to fall on June 4, 2009--the 20th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre. It seems that, at least from the things I've read, the state has mostly erased the massacre from Chinese people's memory through either fear or ignorance. If you can get your hands on a copy of Jan Wong's Red China Blues, I'd highly recommend reading it--she was one of the first foreign students allowed to study in China after communism set in and later (after her commie days were over) covered the Tiananmen Massacre as a journalist for the Toronto Star.

There are also some good readings on the internet. I really liked this article from the Guardian and this one from The Nation.

Update: Weird censorship decisions are going down in China right now. Read James Fallows for more details.

Monday, June 1, 2009

And So It Goes

Last week I received an email notifying me that my childhood best friend's father passed away suddenly. He was a pastor (I'll call him Pastor L.) and whenever he took us anywhere, he would talk to us about the importance of faith and spirituality in that Protestant narrative style that makes even very young children carefully consider these topics of great weight. I'd be a better "show-er not tell-er", but Pastor L.'s daughter and I hadn't been in touch in years so I don't feel comfortable giving more details. The point is, even though I am no longer a religious person, he greatly influenced the way I think today. May he rest in peace.

I can't decide how I should feel about his death--on the one hand, Pastor L. was an important figure in my personal development. On the other hand, his death has no bearing on my day-to-day life. Perhaps this is one of those conflicts we grow to understand as we grow older. The absence of important people in our lives cannot stop life from continuing. It will go on, with or without you.

I have thought about this constantly since I moved to Taiwan. I have responsibilities and a life here, but it feels like it exists in isolation from my "real life" back in the states. In my head, everything will be right where I left it when I return in July, but in reality, I will not come home to the same place. A family friend got in a serious car accident and has been hospitalized for three weeks. The college friend who once told me "The only reason I would save the whales is so I can eat them" is now working for some green project in New Hampshire headed by Al Gore. One of my friends dissappeared from facebook (she's not the type to quit), and it was only after several failed searches that I realized she'd dropped her maiden name after getting married.

It's June 1, which means I only have a month left in this place. Everyone keeps talking about how they're ready to go home. Certainly I am ready to leave, but I'm also unsure about what going home really means in this case. It's been a year and a half since I've spent more than 3 days in Ohio, and I'm afraid that I may long for a familiarity that no longer exists.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Cultural Exchange We Will All Get Behind

And the caption reads:
The official dance troupe of the Dallas Cowboys (a US National Football League team) perform with local elderly at a downtown park in Shanghai in April. China's sports industry is getting more popular, more profitable, and more international.
Fulbright, take note.


Taiwanese people use the phrase "DIY" (Do-it-yourself) as if it exists in normal conversational English. Then they look really pleased with themselves for using an English acronym. On the inside, I am breaking everything in sight but on the outside I am smiling and nodding.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Unemployment On This Side of the World

The BBC ran a feature on the odd jobs people are working in order to stay afloat during the recession (yes, it's happening here too). It's worth checking out. Here's a sampler:

I was feeling depressed about being jobless. Then my friend took me to
apply for one of the temporary jobs the government was providing for unemployed
"We have to knock on people's doors and ask them to let us into
their homes to get rid of sources of standing water and catch mosquitoes. Our
city will host the 2009 World Games in July, and we need to eradicate mosquitoes
to avoid outbreaks of Dengue fever.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Nutrition for dummies

A balanced diet of fried.

(Consumed across the street from the Green Lake paddle-boating pond in Hualien County)

Sunday, May 17, 2009

I got 99 problems but...

Quick update--my computer has a virus, so I've been avoiding any activities that require login information for a quite some time. I'm slowly growing less vigilant about protecting my personal information, so eventually you will start seeing a steady stream of backlogged posts. There have been so many adventures and not enough sleep.

I've been saying partially in jest, partially in seriousness that I wanted to be the fastest woman in Taiwan. That goal will probably never come true (I am not a fast girl), but I did run the "Sporty Healthy Taipei" 9k last week in which I took 26th place overall and 3rd place in my age division (Women 20-29). Most importantly, I won a trophy, which has never happened and probably will never happen again. The photo above is from the awards ceremony, where apparently I was the only one who was a) happy and b) hot enough to wear shorts and a tank top in 95 degree weather.

A preview of good things to come:
The Kaohsiung Fulbrighters have formed a team to race in the Dragon Boat Festival races at the end of the month. They say that in crew, everyone must be the same strength and having one person who rows harder than everyone else will throw off the boat. If the same principles apply to dragon boat racing, then we are in serious trouble because our teammates range from Dan, the 6-foot-2 former college basketball player, to me and everything in between. To get to the final round, we will probably have to row 500 meters in less than 3.5 minutes. The other day at practice, it took our boat 7 minutes to not quite make the full 500 meters. I can't wait.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Well Said

Excerpt from James Fallows' blog on The Atlantic Monthly Website:

"Torture from Afar"

For as annoyed as foreigners may get with America and Americans, there
have been two saving graces in the world's opinions of our country. One has been
its permeability. Anywhere you go, someone has an uncle or cousin in America.
The other, less openly stated, has been a belief that at some point there
are rules in America. Long periods may pass when the rules are ignored. Big boys
may bend the rules in their favor. Some offenses are never made right. And so
on. But in the end, the American system is supposed to recognize injustice and
respond -- including with public accountability for even the mightiest figures.
It has this in common with the British and some other systems -- which is what
Gandhi relied on in knowing he could "shame" the Brits. For all the increases in
liberty within China over the last generation, this is a striking difference
with the world's currently-rising power. No one expects China's current
leadership to conduct a "truth commission" about the Cultural Revolution or
Tiananmen. But people finally expect America to apply its own rules, even
against its own people. Fulfilling that expectation is not sufficient for
restoring America's image international standing. But it is

Ethnic Theme Park

This marks the second or third time I've seen Taiwan use its ethnic minorities as a tourist attraction.

I stayed for the whole thing.

Taken at Alishan (aka Ali Mountain) during Cherry Blossom season. Not pictured: throngs of Taiwanese tourists.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Recession Notes

The building across the street from my apartment used to house the Bank of Kaohsiung. Two or three days ago, a 7-11 opened in its place.

Monday, March 23, 2009

Fruitful discovery

Did you know that this is how pineapples grow? I always imagined they hung from trees!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Lazy Sunday

Even if you've done nothing good today, never forget to dream big. To inspire you, here's Gizmodo on the death of a courageous spacebat:

On a cool spring eve, March 15th, 2009, a bat, crippled and wistful, clung to the Space Shuttle Discovery as it was thrust toward the great beyond. Goodbye and godspeed, my magnificent Spacebat.
Bereft of his ability to fly and with nowhere to go, a courageous bat climbed aboard our Discovery with stars in his weak little eyes. The launch commenced, and Spacebat trembled as his frail mammalian body was gently pushed skyward. For the last time, he felt the primal joy of flight; for the first, the indescribable feeling of ascending toward his dream—a place far away from piercing screeches and crowded caves, stretching forever into fathomless blackness.
Whether he was consumed in the exhaust flames or frozen solid in the stratosphere is of no concern. We know that Spacebat died, but his dream will live on in all of us.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Today was nothing

Bathroom mosquito
Fat and heavy from feeding
Smack! Blood on the wall

Thursday, March 19, 2009

From the annals of absurdity: The Cape No. 7 Tour

When the movie Titanic came out in 1997, throngs of teenage (and adult) girls flocked to theaters to watch the ill-fated romance of Jack and Rose. To call it fanaticism would be an understatement. When I finally saw it 2 or 3 months after its release, the theater was so crowded I ended up sitting in the aisle surrounded by sobbing adolescents who recited every line with the movie. It was impossible to go anywhere (even to sleep) without hearing Celine Dion's biggest hit ever, "My Heart Will Go On." I never thought I'd witness anything like Titanic-mania again.

11 years later, however, I find myself in the midst of another pop culture phenomenon: Cape No. 7, the total body experience. Cape No. 7 is a Taiwanese movie that combines the three things Taiwanese people love most: love stories, pop music, and discussions of national identity. The plot involves two story lines--one between a Japanese man and a Taiwanese woman at the end of the Japanese colonization period, and a present-day love story between a Taiwanese postman and a Japanese concert organizer. Both take place in Hengchun Township, a provincial, beachy area at the southermost part of the island.

The local response to this movie has been nothing short of fanaticism. I have co-workers who have seen it at least four times. Earlier this year, the local news reported that the Hengchun County Post Office received thousands of love letters from movie fans sent to the fabled address, Cape No. 7. Discussing the movie is the equivalent of talking about food or the weather. Everyone likes it, no one argues, we all save face and go home happy. Singing either of the hit songs from the movie (if you're a foreigner, that is) is a guaranteed, no-fail recipe for making Taiwanese friends, especially if you sing it at a KTV (that's Karaoke TV, pan- Asia's favorite weekend hangout.)

Recipe for instant friendship with the southern Taiwanese population

Hengchun Township has tried (successfully) to capitalize on Cape No. 7 Fantacism by putting together a Cape No. 7 Tour, where crazed Taiwanese people of all ages drive around Hengchun taking photos at all the sites where the movie was filmed. Hengchun looks exactly like any other provincial area of Taiwan, except with a nicer beach. Just like everywhere else that's not Taipei or Kaohsiung, there are weather-worn houses, stray dogs, lots of scooters and the faint-but-ubiquitous stench of fish. Yet, in spite of its ordinariness, people flocked to Hengchun to take photos of themselves at what appear to be the most mundane sites on the island including but not limited to 7/11, a random house where the main character lived or a shabby old alley. All the postmen trying to deliver mail got mobbed by tourists demanding to get a photo with themselves and a real Hengchun postman.

The following slideshow is from my fellow Fulbrighter Billy and I's trip to Hengchun with his host family and a few of my co-workers. Do you see the mobs of teenagers? Do you understand why they're so excited? Do you see why I'm confused?

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Daily Accomplishment

Three or four of the students in one of my third grade classes are apparently "mute," according to their classmates. Whenever I call on one of these little mimes, their classmates always shout "Teacher Vicky, So-and-so doesn't talk, even in Chinese!" Statistically, I find it unlikely that one third grade class at a small school has more than one child who physically cannot speak. The more probable explanation is that Taiwanese children are, on the whole, painfully shy and fearful of making mistakes; thus, they avoid speaking if at all possible, especially in English.

Today, however, one of my little mutes decided to say "I like cake!" during class today, making my heart take a little leap. This was, of course, tempered by the fact that another child cried for the entire class period after being asked to say the same thing.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Another Reason to Go To China Next Year

Lifted from The Guardian:

China to bring Das Kapital to life on Beijing stage

Producers promise blend of Broadway and Vegas for all-dancing, all-singing adaptation of Marx's treatise

Tania Branigan in Beijing, Tuesday 17 March 2009 08.22 GMT

Karl Marx

Whether Karl Marx would approved of his work being turned into entertainment is a matter of speculation. Photo: Bettman/Corbis

You've read the book, attended the seminars and pondered the accumulation of surplus value – now see the musical.

Chinese producers are attempting to transform Das Kapital from a hefty treatise on political economy into a popular stage show, complete with catchy tunes and nifty footwork.

Whether Karl Marx would approve of his masterwork being served up as entertainment for China's new bourgeoisie is a matter of speculation. But the director He Nian – best known for his stage adaptation of a martial-arts spoof – has promised to unite elements from Broadway musicals and Las Vegas shows in a hip, interesting and educational play featuring a live band, singing and dancing.

You can't make this shit up. I strongly encourage you to read the whole thing.

Sunday, March 15, 2009


I accompanied my 70-year-old host parents to a luncheon celebrating the 90th birthday of their priest hoping something absurd would happen, like the birthday celebration actually turning into a secret Jews for Jesus concert. Instead, I got nothing.  No exorcisms, no conspiracy theories, not even weird outfits old people think they can get away with wearing but actually can't.  NOTHING.

It just goes to show that you never get exactly what you wish for.  Except for the fact that they just repeat "Happy birthday to you" over and over again instead of singing the "Happy birthday dear ___" line, there was nothing strange about the music.  I chatted with an American man named Father Chuck from California, and another man told me about his days at MIT.  Nothing extraordinary came out of these conversations.  

Even the food was normal--no pigs feet, no animal intestines, no coagulated pigs blood.  The only thing slightly weird was this green bean-filled rice bun shaped and dyed to look like a peach, and even then, food made to look like other foods is not uncommon (ex: veggie burgers, swedish fish).

How disappointing!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Tchoukball Fans... GET READY!

Taiwan  in 2009 is the place to be for sports fans who happen to follow athletic activities nobody else cares much about.  Last year, Beijing had the Olympics.  This year, Taipei will host the 2009 Deaflympics (something about that name seems like it should be offensive even though it's not) and Kaohsiung, my current home, will host the 2009 World Games.   

"What do you mean by 'athletic activities nobody else cares much about?'" you may be asking.  Please raise your hand if you've heard of the following sports:

More ridiculous than the event itself is the city of Kaohsiung's attempts to build hype around a generally lackluster competition.   For starters, each elementary school must play host* to one competing country and we're supposed to teach our students about the guest country.  Maybe that's easy for my roommate Dan, whose school will host the USA.  My school will host Uzbekistan.  If I were to teach a lesson on Uzbekistan (which I won't because we barely have enough time to finish our curriculum) it would go something like this:

Me: Good morning class
Students: Good morning Teacher Vicky!
Me: Today we are going to learn about Uzbekistan.  Can you say UZ-BEK-I-STAN?
Students: UZ-BEK-I-STAN (repeat)!
Me: Very good!  Now, Uzbekistan is a very important country for illegal trade.  Does anyone know how to say illegal in Chinese?  (student answers) Very good!  Now, who knows how to say "guns and drugs" in Chinese?  (student answers).  Excellent! Uzbekistan is famous for selling illegal guns and drugs....

Then there is the theme song, as shown in the following music video.

I'm surprised I haven't memorized the words yet because it plays non-stop during commercial breaks, AND schools all around the city have to learn dances to the song.

Which brings me to my observation of the day: Some fellow ETAs and I were walking through the Cultural Center (the big park near my apartment) tonight when we saw a group of about 30 or 40 elementary school students performing a dance to the theme song. Most of them were dressed in normal clothes, but there were 3 randomly placed students wearing full animal costumes (dragon, unicorn, and lion).

And I thought I'd seen everything....

*I don't totally understand what "playing host" really means, but everyone I've asked makes it sound like they'll be using our schools as locker rooms.  This seems strange because the desks come up to MY knees and I'm only 5'2, yet most of the World Games athletes I've seen around here are comically tall.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

"Hell on Earth"

Today marks the 50th anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against China. As you've probably read in the New York Times, the Dalai Lama has harshly condemned Chinese authorities for cracking down on Tibetans since a series of riots one year ago, saying that Tibetans have gone through "hell on earth."

It's also worth checking out Chinese coverage of the Dalai Lama's speech. Here's a teaser from Xinhua, China's main news agency: 

Commentary: For whom is Tibet a "hell on earth"? 2009-03-10 22:28:56 Print
By Xinhua Writer Zhou Yan

LHASA, March 10 (Xinhua) -- Tuesday is a special date for Tibetans. For the 2.8 million residents in the southwest China autonomous region, it marks 50 years since feudal serfdom was abolished; but for the 14th Dalai Lama and his "government-in-exile," it marks five decades of futile attempts at independence.


In a speech to mark the 50th anniversary of his exile, the Dalai Lama abruptly shook off his pacifist outlook and smiles to give some gibberish far below the intelligence of the "spiritual leader" himself, and poles apart from truth.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I take it back

Once upon a time, more specifically February 14, 2009, I wrote a slightly bitter Valentine's Day post on this here blog.

But I take back all the bile--thanks to Sexy Beijing for showing us all how sweet Valentine's Day is in China!


When my roommate Katie picked up our dog from getting neutered last week, the vet asked, "Would you like to keep or see his testicles?"

What if she had kept them? Would she keep them in the fridge? In the common room for everyone to enjoy? As a paperweight on her desk?

This episode puts a whole new spin on the "When in Taiwan, do as the Taiwanese do" philosophy.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Lucky Me!

Sesame paste is the Asian equivalent of cheese. It's high in fat and makes everything taste better.

Goes well with leafy, green vegetables and noodles. Haven't tried it with crackers, but I'm feeling optimistic.

Thursday, March 5, 2009

"So, what are your plans for next year?"

Thinking about the next step has gotten this far:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

As Shitty as it Looked

Novelty restaurants always seem like a good idea at the time.  Here we are eating at The Modern Toilet, where you can eat poopy-looking food out of toilet-shaped containers while sitting on a glitter-blasted loo.

Dan and Liz are the All-American couple. They are both smart, attractive, athletic, tall and blonde. They also both hail from Southern California and bring that "Can-do!" attitude to the dinner table. It doesn't get more American than that!

Matt and I are neither a couple nor particularly American*. He might know more  Chinese than English, and I don't like sugar in my tea.  Also, look at my shirt.  No American adult in her right mind would ever wear something so silly.

I'm never eating out of a toilet ever again.

*This is a lie. If there's one thing I've learned about myself over the past few months, it's just how American I really am! 

Sunday, March 1, 2009

You Can't Take It With You

I thought of two ways to write about these photographs:

1.  The scooter is (as far as I can tell) the most popular mode of transportation in Kaohsiung, and it's amazing how much stuff they manage to fit onto one little vehicle.  It's not uncommon to see a family of four riding together--older child standing behind the steering column, dad in front, mom in back holding baby.  My roommate claims she once saw five dogs on one scooter--a small one in the front basket, a large one hanging over the streering column, one sitting on the (human) driver's lap, two in cages strapped to the back.  Since these spectacles tend to zoom by before I can dig my camera out of my purse, this elementary school student and his science project will have to do.  Plus, he's way cuter and seemingly less dangerous than some of the more outrageous scooter balancing acts seen around these parts.  

*Note: I hear that scooter-packing in India and Vietnam makes Taiwan look, well, safe.

2.  Taiwanese education experts constantly bemoan the state of "Creativity"
 on the island.   At least one of the schools that host Fulbright English Teaching Assistants has a "Creativity Center" (oh, the irony of building a center for creativity is not lost on me) where either a bunch of teachers plan events to encourage kids to be creative or kids go to be creative, though it's unclear which of these options is actually the purpose of the center.  One of my co-workers is apparently working towards a masters degree in "Creativity Studies," but his failure to explain what that actually means makes me suspect that Creativity is some sort of meaningless buzzword in the Taiwanese education field, sort of like "green" or "all-natural" in the United States.

Regardless of what Creativity actually means to a person living in Taiwan, perhaps educators who see this photo might breathe a sigh of relief knowing that their children are not actually robots.  Judging from our young hero's mother's expression pictured below (and her yelling, "This is much too big!  How can we possibly take it home!"), I assume that his project was unique among his classmates, at least in terms of size.  So worry not, Taiwanese Education Officials, your kids are not doomed to crunch numbers for the rest of human history!

3. In the spirit of creativity, I'd like to host a little contest--how would you write about these photos?  Leave all your ideas in the comment box.  I'll check them out at the end of the week.  Best entry gets a special postcard from Taiwan (and they're good ones, believe me!)  If you're timid about submitting, just think that if you're the only one who submits, you automatically win!  

Friday, February 27, 2009

Thursday, February 26, 2009

I wish it were a mystery

From the grocery store around the corner:

Would Magic Molly eat it?

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Mystery Meat

Found at the Kaohsiung Lantern Festival on February 13:

Seriously, what are these?  They're too small to be chickens, but would Taiwanese people really eat roasted pigeons?

Monday, February 23, 2009

Recommended Reading

10-word summary of this article from the LA Times:

Methane bubbles under the melting Arctic might bring our demise.


When I left Taiwan on January 20, it was still chilly enough to wear a jacket.  One month later, I'm wearing shorts and sweating through my shirt at work.  And it's only March.

Tomorrow's forecast: 31 degrees celcius (that's 87.8 degrees Fahrenheit for the philistines who won't do metric.)


Sunday, February 22, 2009

Puppy Love

What happens when you try to take a webcam photo with a dog around.

Friday, February 20, 2009


This is not my crotch. It is Gao Xiao Gao's crotch--she sings for an indie rock band in Taipei called The White Eyes.

The White Eyes played a show last night at a place called the Underworld near Taipei Normal University*. I won't pretend I know how to write about music or concerts, but the energy level at the show seemed comparable to the other two shows I've seen in recent memory (Dengue Fever in July and the What Cheer? Brigade sometime last spring). All 40 of us who crowded into the smoky lair of Underworld bobbed our heads at the very least, and most people danced. I felt like I was 16 again, lying to my parents about "sleepovers" so I could catch punk shows on campus or begging one of my acquaintances who house-sat for Karen O., the lead singer of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, to steal her underwear when no one was looking.

I'd been whining about not being able to see live music more since I arrived on this island, and I'm glad that a) I finally saw a show and b) it didn't suck. Hopefully more is yet to come!

*Note on culture: In spite of the East Asia's affinity for conformity, the term "Normal Universities" is not meant to distinguish Normal Universities from "weird" universities. "Normal University" is actually an old-fashioned term for teacher's college.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Count Your Blessings

It's already Tuesday, but I've still got a "case of the Mondays." I guess it's kind of like a hangover without the liver damage. After my month -long winter break during which I promised myself to make the most of this final semester in Taiwan, I find myself sliding back into my old habits and attitudes; it seems that the good will and positive thinking built up over a month of seeing old friends, travel and meditation depletes itself pretty quickly.

I know that giving thanks is usually an activity reserved for Thanksgiving, but it seems like an appropriate time to take stock of the little things that bring me joy out here.

1. The Internet: thank you for bringing me Skype, GChat, the online graduate school application and The New Yorker.

2. My roommates: Good company goes a long way, and luckily for me, good company is never far away.

3. Emails from Paul: "so i spent valentines day [at my sister's college] with my mom; it was nice to know you are never too gay to be oedipal."

4. Employment: the only thing worse than being employed is being unemployed. Truth.

5. Coworkers who send me photos like this:

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Be Mine

Taiwanese people celebrate not one, not two, but three Valentine's days--the Taiwanese one in August, the American one in February and the Japanese one on March 14, which is really like Valentine's Day part II.

Having surpassed the two-year mark in singledom, the holiday no longer registers in my brain. When I remember to think about it, it's mostly with indifference--I like couples and have nothing against love or the expression of love. At the same time, it amuses me that greeting card companies have convinced people spend lots of time, energy and money on a holiday that commemorates the death of a martyr who was stoned, clubbed, then beheaded. All in the name of love! But I digress...

As it turns out, I should probably be more sensitive or aware of holidays that might mean something to someone, especially when a whole island of those someones have so much love to give that its expression overflows into three, non-consecutive days each year. I absentmindedly scheduled three interviews with local Brown applicants at the Starbucks around the corner from my apartment today. When I arrived, there was a line stretching out the door. Must be the Saturday afternoon crowd, I thought. After reaching the front of the line and ordering a drink, the barista asked if I wanted two. "Two?" I asked. "Why would I need two hot chocolates?"

"It's buy one, get one free!" she exclaimed. I briefly considered--after all, why get one when you can get two? Then I looked around. The closet-sized lobby was packed shoulder-to-shoulder with caffeine-deprived-but-giddy couples. I was the only one alone.

"Oh, it's Valentine's Day! I just need one, thanks," I replied. Her smile softened into a countenance of deep, profound pity. I almost changed my drink order just so her face would re-inflate to its former perkiness.

But, beLOVED reader, spreading misery makes no one happy, so I'll end this post with the wise words and clever crafts of Ms. Alexandra Kleeman:

"...given a choice, it is usually better to be enthusiastic about something than unenthusiastic."

and so I SHOUT (emphatically, of course)

image stolen from

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Foods and Hiatus

One of the best things about living abroad is that every meal is an adventure.  I was in Taipei over the weekend with some friends, and we got a dessert called Yu4 Yuan2, which are sticky Taro balls. The problem with Asian desserts is that it's hard to convey how delicious everything is.  Everything comes in sticky ball form, and somehow the name Taro balls just doesn't come out right.

Since my college friend Matt was only in town briefly, we had to get the house specialty.  Unfortunately, the house specialty involves Yuyuan on black sugar ice and cold grass jelly (yes, I know that sounds putrid, but give it a shot!), and Matt happened to come on the coldest day of the year.  Being the wasteful young lady I am, I could only get through a little of the icy stuff before giving up and ordering the hot grass jelly version.  Here I am fishing taro balls out of the ice.

I'll be on hiatus for a while--I'm heading to Japan and Thailand for winter break.  Happy Chinese New Year to All, and to all a good night!

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Taiwan: Touch Your....

Today an old woman walked up to me as I was waiting for the bus to work.  She said something to me in Taiwanese, and I looked at her quizically.  Then she reached out and touched my chest, one breast at a time.

Then she laughed, got on the next bus, and rode away.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Ouch is Right

My dog, my dog, why have you forsaken me?!

Friday, January 2, 2009

Maybe this year will be better than the last....

The list of people I love but cannot be with for emotional (not proximity) reasons continues to grow. What an awful trend.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from the Chateau Hotel in Kenting, Taiwan!