Cutting for Stone

I joined a book club earlier this year, through the Community Services Center (they meet in the evenings – yeah!), and this month we read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Verghese. It’s a semi-autobiographical account of a young man (a twin) growing up in Ethiopia, who later goes on to become a respected doctor (and professor at Stanford University!) in America. I won’t spoil it for you by giving away any details but it was definitely a fascinating look into another culture.

As a writer, I’m always interested in what inspires others to write. I decided to learn more about Dr. Verghese: www.abrahamverghese.com/biography.asp and I sent the following note:

Dear Dr. Verghese, in preparation for a book club discussion of Cutting for Stone, I read with interest of your current research into bedside manner. Recently (20 months ago) I became a living kidney donor and, because you wrote so beautifully about the twins’ experience in your book, I thought you might be interested in hearing about my donor experience, as it relates to your current scientific focus. If this is the case, I’m happy to relate my story….

And, he wrote back!! How many bestselling authors would take the time to respond to a random note from a complete stranger? He truly must embody the best of humanity!

A slice of antique HEAVEN!

I was talking with one of the volunteers from the Community Services Center charity auction about antiques and  how I enjoy hunting for antiques back home and had yet to see any actual antique stores/malls/estate sales/ secondhand stores here. She told me about a place on Roosevelt that was known for it’s great selection and low prices on antiques. I’d been meaning to go and finally today I did.

It was raining lightly when I hopped on the 235 and got off at the Guting MRT. I didn’t know the name of the store, only that I was to turn right onto Roosevelt off of Heping and look for a green and yellow building I couldn’t miss. From looking at a map I knew that Roosevelt was the main street adjacent to the Guting MRT but when I double-confirmed (Taiwanese-speak for double-checked) on my phone’s GPS, I didn’t see the name “Roosevelt” where I’d expected to. Hmmmm, now what? I used a life line and called a friend. Turns out I was on the right track, I just needed to cross the street and look for a storefront with “old stuff” out on the sidewalk. And then, there it was!

Wow! I felt like I’d just won the asian antiques lottery: two floors of room after room of every imaginable item. Furniture, pottery, masks, artwork – each one more strange and wonderful than the last! The icing on the cake was that the super friendly staff spoke English. And when I used the hackneyed ” is possible be cheaper a little” phrase in Chinese, the owner laughed, pointed to a sign (“one-price” store she told me) and then offered a 10% discount. Sweet! That’s certainly better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick! I ended up with a Japanese hatbox (complete with a gorgeous black wool hat), a “crystal” ball + stand, a gorgeous handmade wooden box with red and gold painted design, and what looks like an aluminum funnel with a old-fashioned corkscrew on top – to be used as a hat stand.

this is so "me"

Ahhhh, I don’t even know the name of the store but I know I’ll be back!

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!

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