Homebuilding, take 3

After a 7am wake up call in Manila (and you know I don’t do mornings) I was up and headed down to breakfast. You really get to know your co-workers when you have the chance to see them bleary-eyed after a long day of travel. After breakfast, we loaded up in vans and headed to Laguna (close to the build site) for lunch. Apparently I am the only vegetarian they’ve ever had on this trip so the cook kindly offered to make me a plate of veggies – and then cooked them in the same chicken-based sauce that everyone else’s stuff was cooked in. Oh well…

Then it was  onto the GK build site – it reminded me a lot of AZ during the time of Hands Across America. Lots of dust, heat, and obvious poverty. 150 families living in tents (provided by the Saudi Arabia government).  (photo coming soon) No running water. Trash everywhere. And amid all this: the children and their adorable faces are heartbreaking. Their clothes are clearly second (or third) hand. Many have dental issues (missing and rotted teeth)  and still they smile at us, seemingly unaware of their situation.  I wish my own children could see this; perhaps they’d feel better about having grown up in a middle-class single parent household.

After walking around to view some recently-built homes (rows of 20meters square cement row houses which will each hold an entire family!) we headed back to the Laguna hotel to prepare for our first “build” day. It’s quiet on the ride back. The reality of why we are here is sinking in…

Qigong Center

Each month, I select one of the places I’ve visited in Taipei to “recommend” to the readers of Centered on Taipei magazine. This month, one of my co-workers introduced me to a delightful vegetarian restaurant; we had such a positive experience, I wrote this:

 

As much as I love Taiwan, I still sometimes get a bit overwhelmed by Taipei’s fast pace (okay, that’s mainly the taxi drivers), the constant barrage of sights and sounds, and the enormous variety of everything, available 24/7! Wouldn’t it be lovely to find a peaceful environs, just off the beaten path, where you can have a wonderfully delicious meal, served in zen-like surroundings, soft music playing? And after your meal, you could wander through a modern gallery, perusing museum quality works of art, or browse a selection of colorful east-meets-west clothing? If a thoughtful, peaceful haven is what you seek, then I highly recommend the Meimen “Life Cultivation” Center. The staff at this haven are welcoming and friendly. The food at the restaurant is prepared according to the Chinese philosophy of Five Colors, Five Tastes, and Five Elements. The Qigong area offers both physical and spiritual rejuvenation. Interested in flower arranging, calligraphy, or attending a special tea ceremony? Needing a one-of-a-kind handcrafted wooden tea caddy? You’ll find all that here, and more. Enter with an open heart and leave with a lighter spirit. Meimen Culture Center, 42 Lishui Street (just off of Heping, near Shida), Taipei 106 +886 0223 216 677 www.meimen.org

 

Writer’s holiday party

My work team celebrated this holiday season with a White Elephant gift exchange and dinner at a local “hot pot” restaurant.  I must say I was originally not too excited, thinking “oh great, an a;;-you-can-eat all-meat restaurant with no veggie options”. I could not have been more wrong! The 10 of us sat around a large table with “hot pots” (large vessels set over a gas burner) and selected which liquid to cook our dinner in. We vegetarians shared half a hot pot filled with some tomoto-based liquid and heaped our plates with all manner of non-meat options. In truth, I recognized very little of the plentiful veggie options but that didn’t stop me from trying as many of them as possible.When the liquid was gently bubbling, we used chopsticks to carefully drop items into the “hot pot” and waited for them to cook. (Of course, while we were waiting for the liquid to heat up, we helped ourselves to the dessert bar – my boss actually had 3 HUGE bowls of Haagen Daz!) After the items were cooked, the idea is to place them into a bowl to cool off and then dip them into a smaller bowl filled with whatever custom-made sauce you’ve prepared. Needless to say, I’m now a “hot pot” convert!

Hot Pot extravaganza

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