Earthquake!

I’d just gotten back upstairs to the apartment (after taking the trash to the garbage truck) and was watching Terra Nova when it happened! I heard a grating noise and then I felt (and saw) the room shake! Having experienced other earthquakes (most notably soCal and WA state) I was fairly certain I knew what was going on. A quick call to a co-worker who lives a few blocks away confirmed it: 5.1 in Yilan @ 11:17pm.

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Chunghwa update…

After I’d signed up for Chunghwa telephone services and requested a bill be sent in English, I received a nice, if grammatically incorrect (I believe it began “Dear Sir”), letter from them informing me that they would send me a bill in English.

Since I thought they’d want to know (the letter was signed by Chunghwa’s president) I sent back a note with my suggestions for a correctly- (I didn’t use that word) written letter they could use for future English-speaking customers. I also included my business card so that they’d know I knew how to write a letter in English! I thought that would be the end of it.

Today, via REGISTERED mail, I received a letter from Chunghwa’s president, addressing me by name and thanking me for my “valuable” assistance:

“We especially appreciate the information and advice you have shared with us. It is our great pleasure to know that you enjoy our services. Once again, we highly appreciate your kindness.”

That was nice of them/him.  I feel I should frame this letter. (Darn it, why didn’t I save the original letter?!) Does this mean that my MOD won’t go out on the next scheduled holiday?

Charity Auction

Last weekend, the Community Services Center ( a local non-profit dedicated to supporting “foreigners” during their stay in Taiwan) held its annual Charity Auction.  I had heard about this organization from a German journalist living in Taipei writing for a German news agency and offered to help the night of the event, being held at the Grand Hyatt, next to Taipei 101. I took the day off work and spent the morning helping to set up the slide presentation that would play throughout the evening. It was amazing watching the ballroom being transformed into a lush setting for the 200+ guests that would arrive after dark.

those are live roses under the gilded birdcage!

That evening I donned the only dress I’d brought with to Taiwan, along with 4″ heels, and headed to the Hyatt. What an amazing evening! The event raised over 2 million NT and I had the opportunity to make some new friends. Now that’s what I call a win-win!

Taipei World Design Expo

Entrance to Songshan venue

As a teambuilding activity, all of our company’s Taiwan-based tech writers took the day off  on Friday to go on a field trip – and what a day it was! Taipei was selected to host the 2011 Design Expo divided among three venues: Songshan Cultural and Creative Park (great name!)  and two Nangang Exhibition Halls. We met at Songshan @ 10am under gorgeous skies along with hundreds (thousands perhaps) of like-minded design aficionados. After waiting in line to get a program we entered the Expo. Much like a county fair, there were exhibits in various buildings; we opted to start in the “back” and work our way to the front, since it was obvious that the exhibits closer to the entrance were mobbed! Every type of object (for work or play) you could imagine was represented. My favorite was the floor housing the “Golden Pin” award winners for innovative design of products sold in Taiwan!

The eponymous golden pin!

Room after room of colorful, useful, imaginative products! I love this stuff! I could have spent all day there but our plan included catching all three venues in one day, so, off we went. After a wonderful lunch at a nearby pizzeria, we road the MRT (blue line) to the end-of-the-line: Nangang. The giant exhibition halls housed more industrial displays with vendors from all over the world. My personal favorites were the BMW booth with it’s upbeat music and crazy lighting and a local handbag designer:

Designer handbags

speed demon

Mortality

Yesterday I got an email from my high school’s graduating class Yahoo group telling us that one of our classmates had recently died. I didn’t remember her by name but my heart went out to her friends and family.  It can’t have been easy for her, hearing the words “breast cancer”. She was so young! Too young to be gone already! And then it hit me: she is MY age! Sigh…..

 

Junk Mail

What’s annoying and clogs the mailbox? Junk mail! Most people throw it out – but not me. I save mine and take it to Chinese class. I really do want to know what’s being sold, what’s on offer,  and where all the good deals are! Usually I can get the gist of any circular by reading, re-reading, and reading yet again, scouring the symbols for patterns and any recognizable numbers or words. I’ve figured out “2-for-1” and how percent-off works: if something is 20% off, the price is listed at 80%. Maybe that makes it easier to do the math and figure out the price? One nice thing about shopping here – there is no tax, so the price you see is the price you pay (unless it’s on SALE!).

so colorful!

Halloween in Taipei

Who knew the Taiwanese were into Halloween?

Walking down Guangfu (after coming out of the Sun Yat Sen MRT)  I noticed a crowd gathered around the entrance to a store up ahead. As I got closer I could see it was an all-Halloween store! WOW! Once inside it felt like any Wal-mart in America: the exact same items (made in China, of course). I selected some spider webs, face make-up, and a bright green mask. I think only my boss is dressing up so I’m not sure what I’ll do with my treasures…

Take a “crack” break…

A few months ago I noticed some cracks in my brand new apartment’s livingroom wall….WTF?!! Since there’s not a lot I can do about it, I just forgot about them – until I found this little product:

How funny is this? And so totally Taiwan. Take a flaw and turn it into ART!

gimme a break!

Hilarious food descriptions

You’ll love this! When you shop the 7-11 or Wellcome or any of the local food stores, you’ll find English translations printed under the tradition Chinese characters on some packages. For instance, here’s a cream wafer that is deemed “evolutional” by the manufacturer. Hmmm, what does that mean, I wonder. Is it the next generation of cookie? If you eat it when you’re pregnant will your children be farther along the evolutionary chain than they might have been had you not eaten it? I have no idea! I did ask a native Chinese speaker to interpret the characters and she came up with “super creamy”. Ok, I buy that. And they were delicious…

say what?

The hills of Taichung, part 2

First stop, though, is a side trip to visit my host’s parents house in Yingge where I’m excited to have the opportunity to see some of her father’s art work. He creates pottery with unusual finishes and glazes; not the stuff you see in many shops in town.

Next up, DINNER! We stop at just outside Taichung  at a *barbeque* place owned by my host’s cousins. I typically avoid these places since they mostly serve meat but I was pleasantly surprised. I had “dou fu” (tofu), tofu skin, and green beans on a stick; hao chi (how-cher). Good eating. Bu hao (not bad)!

kebabs, Taiwan-style

After spending the night on the outskirts of Taichung, we went up the winding mountain road to my host’s Grandparents’ home. The whole family turned out and we spent a day of eating (very popular pasttime here!), playing card games, drinking tea prepared on an outdoor stove, and talking about the family history. My host is 7th generation Taiwanese; her grandparents, 5th. “Grandpa”, and his ancestors were all farmers who had come over from China. Behind their home you could see fruit orchards built up on the steep hills. They served up persimmons, guava, and the largest asian pears I’ve ever seen (literally 8 inches in diameter) from their orchard. What a treat! We heard how the matriarch and patriarch had met: he came to work in the orchard and would spend the night in the family home.

All around the porch, were dozens of bonsai trees, carefully pruned and lovingly tended. “Grandpa” told us that one of the trees was more than 200 years old and had been taken from the ground of the orchard. Amazing! This lovely family truly exemplifies the warm hospitality of the Taiwanese people.

there is beauty all around

When we left, on the way down the mountain, an older well-dressed lady on the side of the road, flagged us down. We pulled over and from the conversation I gathered that she needed a ride into town. So, of course, we obliged! (Where else but here would this be advisable or even possible?) She kept smiling and patting my hand , apparently happy not to have to wait for the bus in the rain.

On the way back to Taoyuan (where I would catch the train to Taipei) we stopped at a rest stop. And by that I mean, a party on the side of the road! The place was HUGE and the atmosphere was like a giant amusement park….to me, the most amusing thing of all was the MUSIC (ok, asian musak) playing in the restroom! I’m calling it “music to pee by”! I guess that makes up for the lack of TP!! LOL

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As for me, I will take the road less travelled…