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HOME - an amazingly beautiful wake up wall to what our planet is facing

HOME - an amazingly beautiful wake up wall to what our planet is facing

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Year Two a quarter through

Studying's definitely been much more of a challenge this year, which I generally chalk up to a positive experience of forcing me to get over procrastinating and generally being a bit lazy about things. It can be a little bit hectic at times... most of the time... as with even the minimum course load of 16 credits plus compulsory gym class (that's 18 total classroom hours per week) I've got to stay on my toes, or rather stay up late, to get all my assignments done. Witness my midterm experience a few weeks back:

Written exams:
1. Modern Chinese Grammar
2. Reading & Writing
3. Classical Chinese
4. Listening
5. Translation

Oral Presentations:

1. Speaking Ability: talk about a picture of someone's back (related to our Reading textbook). This is one I snapped on a rainy day at the seaside north of the city center

2. Chinese Brush Painting: discuss the importance and technical execution of this Tang dynasty painting: 虢國夫人遊春圖3. Classical Chinese: the ideology of Mencius and "The Four Books" of Confucianism

Special Project:1. Classical Chinese: film a short video expressing the meaning of one of Confucius' famous statements. This was really fun. Our phrase was
which means "Don't worry if others know your worth/greatness/high position, worry about understanding/helping others."

And there you have it folks, a lesson from the morality-laden traditional Chinese society.

: )
If it's not too late, I'd like a puppy for Christmas please
thank you

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Monday morning giggles

It's Monday morning and adding to the standard post-weekend can't-get-out-of-bed phenomenon I'm also sick, so biking to school wasn't the first on my wishlist of things to do. But being the good student that I am (;-)  I came anyway.

As fates would have it, I came across not one but two things that totally lifted my spirits. One was a pair of shoes on a lady. Pink high heels. Hot pink suede, that is. With a furry lavender fringe around the ankle! Other than that, I think she was dressed in a pretty conservative outfit. I whizzed past on my bike, so no time for a photo, but they were not dissimilar to this picture I found online, just shorter and brighter.

Once on campus,I was greeted by a pack of balloon poodles swaying in the breeze on the steps.

I hope these get your week off to a good start, too!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Yo-yo Weather

It has been RAINING here!

I really can hardly believe the amount of water that's been coming down from the sky in the past few weeks. It seemed miraculous if any building didn't spring at least a small leak.Yesterday was all warm and humid like a sauna, some people wore shorts! Today the rains have returned... dumdumDUM!

We splurged on a dehumidifier, owning which has somehow made me feel really grown up. ; 0 Nothing like acquiring appliances to give one a sense of dignity, I guess.

Well, it can't rain all the time. And on the plus side, it's making our back patio flourish.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

First Year of Uni Wrap-Up

A few weeks away from starting my second year of the Chinese Language and Culture degree, I found this video of one of my last semester's final presentations -- and post it here because who doesn't like to watch home movies in languages they don't understand? ; )

Actually, I felt pretty critical watching it, like I could suddenly hear a glaring accent and all these other could-be-better things... I mean of course I don't sound like a native speaker yet. Maybe the fact that I'm picking up my substandard nuances means I'm improving.

In case you haven't seen them yet, some shots from the end of my school year, or first half of 2011.
first year uni wrap-up

I really can't believe it's the end of August 2011. That's less than a year and a half 'till the end of the world! I better make sure I'm enjoying the finest chocolate money can buy as often as possible.

Another typhoon on the way in... If it's not raining cats and dogs when we wake up, we're supposed to go on a hike out to some waterfalls with a bunch of fellow adventurers. Island weather - anything could happen! I hope clear skies are in the cards.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fire.. burnin'.. out here.. for the Ghoooooosts!

It's Ghost Month!!!! OOoooooooOOOh! SpoooOOOOooky!

The 7th month of the Lunar calendar is officially Ghost Month or 鬼月, when the doors of those other ethereal realms swing open and all the inmate ghosts are allowed vacation time, roaming freely as they wish. Since they can suck on your soul, possess you or maybe just muck up your finances, there is a looooooong list of precautions/taboos one is to follow if they're to avert certain doom:

- no buying, selling your house or moving
- no getting married
- no changing jobs
- no whistling, especially at night
- no going near water, especially at night
- no playing flute and wind bells at night
- no travelling
- no revealing addresses to ghosts, eg. publicizing location of events too early on

There is also an increase in both frequency and amount of rituals, such as offering food and incense, as well as burning hell bank notes, fireworks, and having parades with loud cacophonous music.

Here is a typical offering table and urn for burning ghost money, in front of our neighborhood restaurant: And here are some photos and a video of the purportedly mafia-run temple parades I happened upon during my camp days in Xinzhu (aka Hsinchu 新竹). The idea is to chase off the vagabond ghosts. Enjoy and remember, don't do anything rash like whistling until August 28th.

Friday, July 1, 2011

speedy Seoul solo

ADVENTURE 2011!!! I really love to change my geographical locale now and again, adds that little bit of spice into life.

Flying out of Taiwan, some (Korean?) rockstar had a bunch of fans lining both sides of the entrance to customs... why do people get so obsessed with celebrities?
Aaah well, onto a bumpy flight that descended into gorgeous islands-and-green-hills surroundings of Incheon airport. A bit tight on time this visit, so I stuck to the capital, but there's sure a lot more nature to see in Korea than I had realized, and apparently it's all quite gorgeous!
One of the things I really dug about Seoul is a certain Old World flavor that often reminded me of Europe, with its twisty cobblestone lanes, sloping streets, brick facades and angled roofs, interspersed with very modern constructions, some with a funky or stylish touch.

Didn't have a good enough shot myself, so this is borrowed

I spent my first two nights at the highly-praised Open Guesthouse, which was a great decision - the entire family is incredibly nice and the host spent a good half hour with just little old me, drawing out routes on maps to make sure I found all the things I wanted to see. I was also mad-lucky because apparently they filled up all the dorm beds like the one I'd reserved, so I got a sweet private double room all to myself and for the same price. Great start all around! After a late night dinner and walk around the neighborhood, I was in bed before midnight, something I hadn't done in... gosh... well, that's what vacations are for! ; )

The next day was a rainy one, so I headed for Insadong, a touristy street whose main drag and side alleys are chock full of stores peddling paper crafts, souvenirs, calligraphy supplies and garments as well as tea shops and cafes, art galleries and studios, restaurants and more.
Nearby is Bukchon Village, a whimsical neighborhood known for its gorgeous old architecture. Besides the pretty buildings, I triple-dare any place to challenge it for the sheer number of coffee shops per square inch... The entire area and especially Samcheong Dong (dong = street) was all cafes piled on top of each other, most of them boasting "World's Best Coffee!" - with the occasional hat shop or Italian restaurant to interrupt the flow of java.

Next major stop: Namdaemun Market, located near one of the old city gates (makes sense a lot of trading would have happened at the hub of comings and goings from the old city). This is a market of clothes, shoes, beauty products, housewares, and more... stuff. For where the young crowds are, head to Myeongdong market for cosmetics, eateries and to see and be seen.

From romp through Seoul

Namdaemun Market
At this point, I'd done a lot of hoofing it around and dinner was well deserved. I got totally full for less than $5 Cdn at Kong's Riceball, a bright little spot serving up giant -yep, balls of rice! - with fillings of your choice.

I meandered for awhile along the Cheonggyecheon stream with the locals out for a stroll or on their way home, then caught a subway train back for a good night's sleep.

The one day during my visit with a clear sky and I planned to take full advantage of it!
From romp through Seoul

Turning right out of my guesthouse, a 20 minute walk brought me to an entrance onto the Old Fortress Wall - a bit of hiking up the mountainside for views, greenery and exercise ; )

Things I saw along the way: forests, hazy-hazy Seoul neighborhoods down below, a temple, military exercises with a double-barreled tank up on a hill, birds, bees and butterflies, rural living and other hikers, most of them locals judging by the flawless "Anyong hasayo" said in greeting. The other word I learned was "gamsahabneeda" which means thank you. On top of that, it seemed to me that the proper way to speak was the opposite of clear enunciation, say if my mouth was full and I was still trying to get words out... ; )
After about 3 hours of up and down on Mt Bugaksan, I got myself to on a bus and down to Gyeongbokgung, the main and largest of the five palaces clustered in the downtown core.

Actually, it was just a scenic walk on the way to lunch and my main cultural attraction for the day, Changdeokgung or Palace of Illustrious/Prospering Virtue (depending on your preferred translation) which is a UNESCO heritage site. A huge part of the grounds are taken up by the Secret Garden - a wooded area of paths and pavilions only accessible on a group tour, so I made sure I was there for the second of two daily English tours.

As this was my last night in Korea with a 7am departure for the airport looming ahead, I figured it was high time to check into a jimjilbang - a traditional Korean sauna and bathhouse created for the sole purpose of getting squeaky clean and relaxed to the max. There are loads to choose from as this is a popular past time, but after a bit of online research I came across Silloam Fire Pot Sauna and was quickly sold on the review describing it as a local joint offering a great night's sleep, not to mention fancy sweat-out-those-toxins facilities or its highly descriptive name! The place is actually 6 floors for bathing, resting (men and women separated and naked in the baths/showers), entertainment (TV, films, karaoke, fitness) and the glorious selection of Fomentation rooms (I'm pretty sure they're using this word incorrectly according to but hey, it's still awesome).

What are fomentation rooms you ask? In Silloam, rooms decked out with an elemental mineral such as crystal salt, blue jade, ochre earth etc. and heated up so you sweat out all those nasty things you picked up from livin' while inhaling the mineral goodness into your system. Bliss. Hot bliss.

Oh yeah, and you leave all your stuff including the clothes you came in a locker and run around the place in standard-issue uniforms given out to the guests. It was really fun and the entire experience, complete with napping in the hundred-strong dorm bed weighed in at a cool $12 Cdn. For another foreigner's explanation of what these jimjilbangs are all about, click here.

I was up at 5am to get in another round of sweating and bathing before heading to the airport. The place looked like a big slumber party, apparently a lot of the men choose to just sleep in the hallways rather than the sleeping and resting rooms. Don't ask me why, I don't know. If you do, please do tell.

I'd head the rain pouring down during the night and apparently it had settled in for the long haul, so it was quite the wet and grey morning, from what I could see of through the sheets of water on the way to the airport.

To be honest, I wasn't sure we should've been going up in an airplane, especially after the worst turbulence I've experienced yet, lasting a good 20 minutes or more after liftoff. Luckily, this little guy eventually poked his head around the seat in front, nothing like a monkey for encouragement.

11 hours later: Toronto! Whoop whoop!

(To view the entire album of Seoul romping, click on the image below)
romp through Seoul

Monday, May 2, 2011

early May 2011 report

To briefly mention what's been going on with school:

1) Found out that my program is moving to the main campus!!! What this means is that starting September of this year I will no longer be a 45 minute shuttle bus ride away from classes! I can sleep in more and if I happen to be a few minutes late, I won't be forced into expensive cab rides or hours-long public transport to get to class. Whoohoo!!!

2) Some of my classmates and I recently put together a little play... please enjoy it here (English translation provided)

3) Midterms came and went and I managed to score a 95% average, which is pretty darn good. Amazing what last-minute cramming can do... hehehe... Still, I guess I'm really learning something! ; ) 最好時期中考都考完了,可先翻鬆點! (<= A little less pressure for awhile!)

4) Swimming class is still highly enjoyable, I'm perfecting my front crawl and breast stroke (romantically known as the "frog" in Chinese) and we've been taking baby steps towards diving. In 3 classes time, we've graduated to diving in head first from sitting and then crouching on the pool edge. Amazing. How can an island nation be so terrified of water?

5) Just under 2 months left until I finish my first year of uni. Two days later I fly to Seoul for a few days stopover before a 3-week vacation back with the fam in Canada. Aaah, relaxing times here I come. Also, eating times. Much eating of all the things I miss will be had.

This is all for now.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

...and what a year 2011's been so far!

Greetings and salutations!

This post has been a long time in the making, probably because life often feels like a speeding chaotic train and I'm a conductor busy checking in passengers, relegating the monkeys and spitting pythons that someone brought along to the appropriate compartments (i.e. roof) and trying to avoid stepping on chickens and children underfoot, every once in awhile remembering to have a glance at the scenery. Yep, it's a little bit like that.

Nevertheless, a few thoughts:

2011 marks Year 100 in Taiwan, as their own calendar year count began a century ago, when they officially gained independence. Kind of. In their current guise of Republic of China. As Wikipedia states:
The Republic of China was formally established on 1 January 1912 following the Xinhai Revolution which itself began with the Wuchang Uprising on 10 October 1911. From its founding until 1949 it was based in mainland China. Central authority waxed and waned in response to warlordism (1915–28), Japanese invasion (1937–45), and the Chinese Civil War (1927–49), with central authority strongest during the Nanjing Decade (1927–37) when most of China came under the control of the Kuomintang (KMT). At the end of World War II the Empire of Japan turned control of Taiwan and its island groups over to the Republic of China.
To confuse matters further, a second, traditional lunar calendar is used in daily life in observing holidays and ceremonies and changes slightly year to year, falling somewhere in late January to early February. It's also called the Spring Festival (春節) and this year spring "officially" began on February 3rd. That means that was Day 1 of Month 1 of this particular аnnual lunar cycle, which ties into the Chinese horoscope and so happens to be the Year of Metal Rabbit.This is not so much a Metal Rabbit as one of Starbucks Bearistas for 2011 - a collector series of teddy bears dressed up in costumes for various holidays, such as Easter, Halloween, Valentine's Day, etc. I failed to get this one for my sister, as by the time I ventured out into the city on the hunt, they were all snapped up. Sorry, Xe!

Another interesting note is that in Chinese the lunar calendar is called the Farming Calendar (農曆). Makes sense, as in days of old everything depended on the land and whether it was good to you or non-cooperative, ostensibly based on how well and sincerely you prayed and offered.
Just in case all those New Year celebrations were winding down a bit too fast for you, my community of Tibetan Buddhist students also observed the Tibetan New Year, which falls about a month after the Chinese one. So, a 1/6th of the year can be spent celebrating its beginnings.

Although spring "officially" arrived over a month ago, I'm not quite sure when and if it got the memo, as our weather goes through all kinds of seasonal changes, sometimes within a day. A lovely breezy sunny afternoon is just as likely to turn into a cold snap by night as to continue along its merry way of balminess. I think global warming has given climates everywhere one serious case of indecisiveness. All that whinging (that's one of those endearing Brit words for complaining) aside, right now it's a pretty stellar day outside my window and I should really take my grumbling outside to catch it while it's here.

My second semester started with a bang, when we all realized that the coddling phase of our program was well over and replaced with mountains of homework. I'm actually glad in a way, as you gotta put in the effort to really gain something and the seriousness of the workload actually feels like I'm in a real university program, rather than a stream of activities interrupting the regular schedule, ranging from compulsory KTV, to indecipherable presentations by speakers who forgot we had the language skill equivalents of 8-year-olds, to dress up gags to make the mayor look good with foreign presence, to all-day field trips with a more educational spin. Luckily, they've kept the last of the bunch and I'm much looking forward to next week's outing to an outdoor sculpture museum set on the Northeast coast of the island. Here's a preview:In other exciting news, I worked my very first gig as a movie extra for a bonafide Hollywood production of Life of Pi, currently being filmed mere hours from Taipei in Taizhong and I'm going to boast the honor of being personally asked to go down for the shooting, while riding the subway train and approached by a very desperate assistant casting director who was told to get 10 more foreigners or else! before the end of the day. So there is some possibility that in the final version a hand or toe of mine will grace the silver screen in the background for a 1/80th of a second. As the scene we're in is 1957 hot August day around a swimming pool en Paris, the dated bathing suits, make-up and wig! were pretty fun, even though they happened at 6am, after we'd arrived to the pick-up point at 3:30am and bumped along on the coach bus for hours. The rest of the day was a combination of freezing our everything off by the said swimming pool (it's still semi-winter here, remember?), doing the same thing over and over ad nauseum and waiting while we weren't needed for hours and hours on end. Really... quite a boring and exhausting day. But I can now truthfully say that I looked on the drawn and quiet persona of Ang Lee in the flesh and as he looked out across the empty swimming pool full of shivering extras waiting to be placed around the set, there was a moment where he acknowledged my garish make-up and pointy swimsuit chest and told his assistant to tell me to go sit on a chaise-longue... *sigh* Now who can claim that kind of divine experience? (Besides the 80 other people who were there with me? ; )

Anyway, the pictures people snapped at the set are all quite... illegal based on our confidentiality contracts, so I'll have to wait 'till the movie's out I s'ppose to post 'em here. I just started reading the book and it's quite deserving of its Booker Prize so far AND written by a Canadian! Go Yann Martel go!

Well, that about wraps it up for now. I'm off to another museum with my class and then, some homework and such things to follow. Maybe some autograph-signing sessions to follow, we'll see what my agent's lined up! ; )

Thursday, January 6, 2011

New Year Update

~ H`a`p`p`y```2`0`1`1`!!! ~

I knew it was bound to happen sometime, but wow... it still snuck up on me a bit. Also, I can't believe this browser's dictionary is telling me "snuck" is misspelled... I suppose I should write "sneaked" and make the Americans happy. But I won't!

The weather in Taipei has been there and back again... it's really something, the myriad changes, sometimes in one day. It's a bit hard on our fragile mortal organisms and most everyone I know is either sick or getting over it. I'm taking it as an excuse to sleep more.

Sleep outside of studying time, that is. Tomorrow is my very fist university final exam! I feel like that's an achievement in itself. Next week I have 4 more, one of which involves reading a memorized passage with good intonation and all the right Mandarin tones. Someone, please give me a pep talk. ; ) Actually, it's not so bad, really, and after next Thursday the 13th I am off from school for 5 glorious weeks!! I already have my courses picked out for next semester and waiting to her for the final judgment on which of my gym course choices came through. Gym is compulsory for 6 out of our 8 semesters, but we have to give them a list of our desired choices and see how the cards fall, I guess. I'm keeping my fingers crossed for swimming, tennis, ping pong, yoga, martial arts, gymnastics, tai chi and in-line skating, in that order, but keep in mind some of the ranking is based on the time slots and skews my overall preference somewhat. A pretty wide array of options, though! I passes on things like weight-training and jazz as well as folk dance. Those last two could really go either way.

Well, I better make use of the hours before bedtime to cram a few more things into my brain.

Wishing you and yours a happy and wonderful start to a prosperous and wish-fulfilling year ahead!