Wednesday, December 25, 2002

I went to a church service last night. I found the service a bit unsatisfying, as it was mostly in Chinese, making the service more of a language exercise than a spiritual one. I couldn't remember the lyrics to "Doxology" (yes, I haven't been to church in awhile), "Joy to the World," and "O Little Town of Bethlehem," so I followed along in the Chinese hymnal and sang the occasional word that I could read. The one song that they did have the English lyrics to, "O Holy Night," ended up being a solo. Fortunately, the sermon was in English, and from the Chinese translation, I learned a new word, zhi hui, which means wisdom. Lessons from the sermon: wisdom is absent when there is pride, as wisdom comes with humility. And Henry David Thoreau once said, "it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things."
Warm and fuzzy birthday wishes to Melissa and TC!

And for the rest of my faithful readers, here's a small gift to you. Remember to turn on the speakers or pop in the headphones, if you have a sound card, because the card is much better with the music. This card is not just any generic corporate electronic greeting card, because it was MY project at work, and I came up with the concept, picked a vendor, worked with the vendor in creating the card, and then coordinated the infrastructure implementation and execution. Next year, I'm starting the ecard project in September, I swear.

Friday, December 20, 2002

Yesterday in a conversation with friends I was presented with an idea I had never considered before: by decreeing martial law, a government instantly takes away its authority in the eyes of the people.

The effects of being under the rule of martial law longer than any other nation in history continues to be felt today, as the Taiwanese develop their political culture and grapple with the question of their place in the world.

Friday, December 13, 2002

I realize a ridiculously long time has passed since I made a post, but I have been quite busy at work, the results of which I hope to be able to post here soon. In any case, I had a lovely Thanksgiving Dinner. Jen and I organized a dinner party the Friday of Thanksgiving weekend at United Mix. The kind folks at United Mix put us in their private dining room in the basement, so our meal there was almost like having a home-cooked meal at home. And, I mustn't forget the sparkling presence of Joaquin and Mate, without whom the rest of us wouldn't have argued over which practice was Thanksgiving tradition based upon the different parts of the U.S. we lived in.

Friday, November 29, 2002

I laughed yesterday as I stepped out of my building on the way to work and saw a senior citizen with one of those pink plastic bags that are ubiquitous throughout Asia on top of her head, to protect her curls from the rain, as she did her morning tai chi exercises.

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

Despite that fact that I went to MIT, over concern over my Nerd Pride credentials--I constantly confuse Star Wars for Star Trek, and vice versa (having never seen the original Star Wars trilogy or watched much of Star Trek)--Benson, Jen, and Eric thought we should have a Star Wars movie marathon Saturday night to bring me up to speed.

Unfortunately, since the original trilogy is not available on DVD, and due to technical difficulties with rapidly becoming out-of-date technology (the VCR), Luke Skywalker and Princess Leia had to be given up in favor of "Star Wars: Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace" and "Mission to Mars". We hit the wall, so to speak, after "Mission to Mars," so after a long rest, my movie marathon ended with "Star Trek II - The Wrath of Khan" last night.

And what have I learned from this education? Even a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, talented young children were as precocious and (at times) as annoying as they are now. And even in the 23rd century, some men (such as Khan) need to work on anger management so that it does not get in the way of achieving their goals.

Sunday, November 24, 2002

I forgot to mention that the Mandarin pronounciation of Harry Potter is something like ha li po te (Harry is pronounced like Halle, as in Halle Berry, and Potter comes out like "poah-tuh"). Now imagine a bunch of Taiwanese kids jumping up and shouting, "Harry Potter, Harry Potter!" Cute, huh?

I finally have climbing photos from my trip to Lung Dung (long dong)! Lung Dung is on the northeast coast of Taiwan, past the port city of Keelung. The area is known for it's fishing and scuba diving, and the scenery is quite nice. We had a few climbing routes, several on the cliff edging the hiking trail, and another on an outcropping of stone near the water. I was quite proud of myself when I reached the top of my last route, which I thought was the most challenging. This was my first time climbing outdoors, and compared to the indoor rock climbing gym, I found climbing outdoors to me more of a mental, rather than physical, challenge.

Friday, November 22, 2002

I found out the proper name for the Chinese massage treatments I have been receiving is called acupressure, which predates acupuncture by 2,500 years.

Tonight, Jen and I will go see the latest Harry Potter flick courtesy of my company. I am looking forward to 2 hours and 41 minutes of magic, spells, and flying broomsticks. Warner Brothers has done a great job marketing the film here. A few weeks ago, I was waiting at an intersection when a city bus sped by, an advertisement for the film emblazoned on the side. "Harry Potter! Harry Potter! Daddy, I can't wait to see the film!" cried two little kids, as they jumped up and down and tugged at their father's arms.

Thursday, November 21, 2002

Yesterday, a woman in her late 50s or early 60s got caught in the doors of a city bus. She was boarding the bus from the back doors when the bus driver shut the doors and took off, unaware that one of his passengers was caught in the door until her cries and the cries of the other passengers alerted him. Taking the bus is cheap in Taiwan, less than fifty cents, but board quickly and hang on tight!

Wednesday, November 13, 2002

As they say, what a small world we live in. While doing a search on the web for Asian rock bands, Wayne Pan, my elementary and middle school classmate, stumbled across this humble blog. I haven't seen him in over five years.

Tuesday, November 12, 2002

Saturday after Carol and I finished volunteering at the nursery, I met up with Benson, Barbara, and Eric at the mountaineering store to salivate over (and purchase) climbing equipment in preparation for Sunday's climbing trip to Longdong. After money was exchanged between our party and the shop proprietors, Barbara had to go to a wedding, and the rest of us went to the West Gate District for the best niu rou mian (beef noodle soup) in Taipei. We wandered through Camera Street (where I finally got a rugged compact camera bag for my new Canon S200 digital camera) and then headed over to Nova, for more salivating, this time over electronica. Mobile phones, PDAs, wireless routers, tablet computers, iMacs, and iPods, oh my!

Friday, November 08, 2002

Today at the gym, two middle-aged ladies were HOGGING the cross-trainers, gossiping away instead of actually using the machines. After they noticed me looking at them, they half-heartedly stepped a little harder, but didn't pause their chatter. I gave up and instead jogged a few kilometers on the treadmill. Grrr.

Wednesday, November 06, 2002

Yesterday, I went with Jen to see a Chinese masseuse. Now, these are not the kind of massages that you think "ahhh" while receiving it. Rather, the experience is more like:

"Oh, found a spot where your chi is blocked. Let me push harder to get that chi flowing again!"

In any case, I think it works. I feel like my body is in better balance, and for less than US$10, this certainly does just as much good as taking a battery of tests and popping pills to figure out what is off. I definitely sleep really well the night after receiving the massage.

Tuesday, November 05, 2002

Alex appointed me to be the department representative at a quarterly meeting Human Resources held to hear employees concerns and suggestions about improving the work environment. This was a most instructive meeting, as it was conducted all in Chinese. I discovered one of the most pressing issues at hand is the funky smell of the toilet paper in the women's restrooms. Personally, I have never bothered to sniff, and as far as I can tell, the paper does its job fine, but gosh darn it, some fellow colleagues of mine have a problem. I wanted to suggest using regular facial tissue to blow one's nose (and leave the toilet paper for soley its intended purpose) or not inhaling, but refrained from doing so.

Now, my question is: do all corporations--around the world--eventually deal with employee concerns such as this? Or is this something specific to Taiwan?

Monday, November 04, 2002

Today, Jenny helped me to print out the lyrics to two songs by Mayday, a Taiwanese rock band. One song's lyrics are in Mandarin, the other is in Taiwanese. I am determined to learn them before the next round of KTV. Flora's farewell KTV party last Friday reminded me once again how much I want to learn some Taiwanese songs. James and May had kindly given me a VCD of Mayday's album so that I could practice the songs at home. Unfortunately, I hadn't yet learned the songs when they showed up Friday night. "Berta!" May chided me, "you should know this song!"

I attempted to sing some familiar melodies, Taiwanese folk songs that my parents and their friends sang while I was growing up. One of these days, I'll have to ask my mom for the lyrics and the romanization, since my character-reading skills are still quite limited. A great feature of going to KTV, though, is that hearing the words and seeing the characters improves both my Mandarin and Taiwanese reading skills.

Friday, November 01, 2002

Double-fermented, extra-funky, super-foul stinky tofu

My colleague Jenny brought in chou doufu ru to the office for our colleague, Richard. Richard is quite fond of this product, which is fermented chou doufu. And what is chou doufu you may ask? Literally, it means "stinky tofu" and is tofu that is fermented in a brine till it take a distinctive odor. Stinky tofu can be served steamed or fried. Now, I like my soy products and tofu in many of its forms. But the smell of stinky tofu (which reminds me of an open sewer) always makes me nauseous. In comparison, this twice-fermented stinky tofu, chou doufu ru, made stinky tofu smell like a designer perfume. Even many of the locals can't stand the smell.

Of course, Richard would have to open the package to accompany his oyster rice noodle soup, which Carol had treated the whole office to. I had to move to another part of the floor for over an hour to get away from the smell.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

I found the streetscape of Tainan to be more personal and human than Taipei's streetscape. At first, I wondered if perhaps the streets were wider than the ones back in Taipei. I was assured by many that this was not the case. I think perhaps the shorter buildings scale everything down a bit. And Chikan Tower has lovely landscaping.

Wednesday, October 23, 2002

Lesson learned: never, ever edit your Blogger template using Mozilla. I love using Mozilla, but it's just not going to work. The links always get messed up. *sigh* All fixed now.

Tuesday, October 22, 2002

As I stood in the open-air market outside Tainan's Fort Zeelandia Sunday afternoon, I watched the parade of locals going by. There was the classic older Taiwanese man attired in a white undershirt, dress pants, and flip flops striding by; a Taiwanese woman (of a certain age), hair permed and teased out, her figure snugly encased in a brightly-colored dress and heels, her face carefully painted on. There was also the young Taiwanese couple, the male in jeans and a fitted t-shirt, his girlfriend in the tight, faded jeans that is all the rage now here, and with her bleached, very-layered hair. I'm beginning to realize that the Taiwanese are not at all a subtle people. They like things bright, loud, and brassy, whereas I prefer to be understated. Sometimes, a lot of the culture shock I experience are from differences in style.

Friday, October 18, 2002

I have been meaning to post all week, but haven't had time (or the organization) at work to do so. In any case, I met up with TC for dinner last night, where we both lamented our lack of postings to our blogs. TC introduced me to the sooner-that-you'll-expect Taipei-renowed Caramelly Caramel ice cream, available for purchase at the Breeze Center. I expect I'll be back soon.

Last Saturday I went to Luodong City in Ilan County. Ilan really is very scenic, and Luodong features a lovely park with all sorts of recreation facilities, including not just a baseball diamond and soccer field, but also a croquet playing field. The gardens are beautifully landscaped, in a very Japanese garden-like way. At each point on the paths, you can reflect upon a new vista. If I lived in Luodong, I would go running (or at least taking my morning constitutional) every day.

Sunday morning I trekked my way up a very tall hill in Tienmu for volunteer orientation at an orphanage. The babies range in age from 0 to 2 years, and with a staff ratio of about one nurse to seven babies, they obviously need volunteers to play, hold, and interact with the infants. I realized during the orientation how lucky my little cousins and I are: we have parents and a multitude of relatives and friends to ooh and ahh over us as children. I think this will be a really rewarding volunteer experience.

Tomorrow, I will be off early in the morning on a weekend trip to Tainan!

Friday, October 11, 2002

I met TC, Jen, Anthony, Vanessa, and the legendary Graham for brunch at United Mix yesterday. I quite enjoyed having the National Day Holiday. Afterwards, I strolled around the corner to Le Petit Sherwood for afternoon tea courtesy of my lovely cousin Pei-Pei. Jen went to the chiropractor. Later, we were talking about tranditional Chinese medicine. I realized that most of my life, I have been quite skeptical of some of my mother's medical views because they didn't seem to be verified by "science." Yet, I believe in and am quite inclined to do many alternative, environmentally-concious, non-mainstream American activities, preferring to consume organic foods and preferring to incorporate natural and holistic concepts into my health care. Ironically, a lot of this stuff comes from traditional Chinese medicine.
My Mandarin has finally improved to the point where I can actually understand my various voice mail options. I once had Benson translate the basic options, and all I remembered was that selecting "2" meant "delete." Today while listening to my voice mail, I pushed the wrong number by accident. By listening very carefully, I figured out how to change my menu to English. Upon doing that, I figured out how to leave a greeting! So now, if you call me, you'll actually hear me greeting you instead of silence.

This breakthrough comes after nearly nine months of mobile phone ownership.

Yup, the adventures in Taiwan never end.

Wednesday, October 09, 2002

I went to a farewell party for Christine this past weekend. A large proportion of Taiwan's community is transient: since I arrived in Taiwan a year ago (has it already been a year?!?), I've bid farewell to Andy, Paul, Josh, Linda and Eugenio, Annie, Jean, Margaret, John, Vicky, David, and now, Christine. Flora, James, and Mei will be leaving soon. As soon as you meet friends, they set off upon adventures elsewhere around the world.

Tomorrow is the National Day Holiday. I intend to enjoy every moment by completely relaxing and (hopefully!) not packing my schedule too tightly. We'll see...

Wednesday, October 02, 2002

As is my usual pattern, I went climbing yesterday after I returned to Taipei from a meeting in Hsinchu. Barbara was giving me advice on how to balance: hanging from one straightened arm while being supported by the opposite leg. My brain grasped the concept, but my butt sometimes refused to move down so that I could hang in such a seemingly precarious position.

Monday, September 30, 2002

Andy stopped by Taipei two Fridays ago when he came to Taiwan on business for Henkel Consumer Adhesives. We quickly caught up and I learned all sorts of fascinating facts about tape. So folks, the next time you are in need of duct tape, get the brand with the cute yellow duck with the green sash on it. It's the best.

Benson was so kind in chauffering me around Taipei over the weekend so that I could gather materials for the baby shower I threw for my friend Maria yesterday. We ate assorted bagels with cream cheese and lox, basil egg salad, cheesecake with blueberries, watermelon, freshly-squeezed watermelon lemonade, and Maria's delicious blinis with salmon caviar, raspberry jam, or honey. Maria is so big, and absolutely glowing, and baby Max slept quietly in the womb as we celebrated his impending arrival.
Being the aesthetic perfectionist I am, I just changed my commenting system. Of course, I haven't done anything particular interesting for my readers, like update my blog with stories about my oh-so-interesting adventures in Taiwan. But I will. Soon.

Tuesday, September 24, 2002

Ladies and gentlemen, I'd like to thank everyone who made this moment possible...

being part of TC's Cast of Characters is quite a priviledge and honor. Hugs and kisses to all!

Friday, September 20, 2002

I completely agree with an article, "Nu Shortcuts in School R 2 Much 4 Teachers," that appeared in the New York Times today. While language should be fluid and constantly evolving, I find many of the shortcuts used in electronic communications (i.e., "ur," "cuz," "OMG," "props," "peeps," "luv," etc.) annoying, infantile, and gauche. Using them while sending short messages over a mobile phone--in which text entry is quite laborious--is understandable, but in formal writing? Even when I write email, using standard English is vastly more elegant and thoughtful. And yes, people are free to use language in whatever way they want on their blogs. However, that the annoying bloggers mentioned in Ernie's blog entry a few days ago use such language in their writing only serves to underscore the point Ernie made about their characters.

My other thought about this is, why are the people who write in this manner often Asian-American? Gah! You know whom I'm talking about; I'm sure you've seen heard on the street.

Monday, September 16, 2002

I, along with 15,197 other people, made the swim across Sun Moon Lake yesterday. For the record, I was at least 20 minutes faster than Taipei Mayor Ma. The swim was actually quite pleasant: the lake was free of debris, calm, and the temperature just right. My fellow swimmers were more annoying: everyone had to swim with some sort of floatation device (usually a rescue tube), so most people hung off of the tube and slowly kicked. I swam through the crowds.

On the way down to Taizhong Saturday morning, I realized I had forgotten how loud Taiwanese people are. I took part in the swim with a tour organized by the Xindian Carribbean Pool, and on the way down, my fellow riders insisted upon loudly singing karaoke. This was at 7 a.m. on a Saturday morning! I felt like throwing things, but thought that saying "shhh!" and glaring at the two locals talking in rather loud voices behind me was enough Cranky Foreigner Behavior.

Friday, September 13, 2002

I'm now back in Taipei. I couldn't think of what to write for awhile, while reorienting myself to the time zone and catching up with projects at work. But I finally thought of something! One nice bonus to going home is that my parents always have lots of prepared fresh fruit available. I think it's the single life--it's harder to get your fruits and veggies when there is only one person to shop for. I mean, I'm never going to be able to finish an entire watermelon by myself before it gets spoiled. I'm trying harder, though, now that I've returned to Taipei and feel the difference in my diet, to get my five a day. My efforts have been mitigated, unfortunately, by the deluge of mooncakes flowing into our office, as Mid-Autumn Festival is approaching.

I will mark Mid-Autumn Festival by swimming across Sun Moon Lake this Sunday.

Saturday, September 07, 2002

A change of pace for this particular entry, from ruminating to "awww, how cute!" I could not resist putting this photo of my nephew Oliver and me online. He's such a sweet little boy, and I love talking with his mom, my cousin Evelyn, about children, parenting, and relationships. I always feel that my faith in the goodness of humanity and the beauty of relationships between people is strengthened whenever I talk to Evelyn. I had lunch with Evelyn and her boys, Oliver and Ethan, on Wednesday. Afterwards, Oliver gave me a kiss goodbye. I bid a quiet goodbye to a sleeping Ethan.

Wednesday, September 04, 2002

The United States is the land of extremes: an education system which produces both the brightest and the most shamefully unprepared and ignorant students of any advanced nation on earth, McMansions dotting the increasingly homogenized landscape, super-sized fast food meals, croissants the size of salad plates, "family-sized" pizzas the size of an auto tire. I once read somewhere that living in this culture makes it almost impossible not to be overweight. Today while eating brunch, I overheard on the television news that McDonald's is now changing the way they prepare their french fries so that there will be no trans-fatty acids, making it easier for McDonald's french fries to be a part "a balanced diet." My first thought was, Americans are just going to hear this and justify eating super-sized fries as "being healthy for me"--or at the very least, "guilt-free." Whatever happened to moderation and eating wholesome, minimally processed foods? My second thought was how poor the quality was of this so-called broadcast journalism. In so many ways the segment sounded like an advertisement for McDonald's. I've never really noticed how poor reporting is on television, mostly because I rarely watch television, but this quality was espeically noticeable to me on this trip. But I digress.

Just moving about this bit of L.A. I'm struck by how large so many Americans are. While at Old Navy today, I first mistook the "performance fleece vests" for blankets--they were so large! But I'm not entirely surprised. I had some shopping that I wanted to do, and REI turned out to be a quick fifteen minutes away from my home--but that's fifteen minutes by car, including time spent on the freeway. Certainly quite a different experience than my life back in Taipei, where a fifteen minute walk from my home takes me to the gym, past a couple of lively street markets and stalls...or my life back when I lived in Cambridge, MA, where a fifteen minute walk from my apartment led through the quiet, tree-lined paths of Julia Child's former neighborhood and Harvard University on my way to the T. Southern California seems to be so embedded in its car culture.

Saturday, August 31, 2002

I went to the gym last night, the local YMCA which I have been a member of since I was a wee one, and where I learned to swim. The Y recently underwent an expantion and renovation, and now boasts amenities like a climbing wall and a additional pool dedicated to lap swimming. The locker rooms haven't changed, but I was struck by how high the ceilings are--especialy compared to my gym back in Taipei, which is squeezed into four floors of a building complex. The towels are bigger and fluffier at my Taipei gym, though. And I prefer the climbing gym in Taipei. But for a place that has it all--I'm happy.

Friday, August 30, 2002

Today, I arrived in the U.S. for a 10-day vacation. During my stopover at SFO, I managed a quick trip to Sephora, got myself a Jamba Juice Peach Pleasure smoothie with an Immunity Boost, and a Noah's Super Onion bagel with a lox schmear (reduced fat, of course--it's California!). Yum.

I no longer feel like a behemoth among wispy Taiwanese girls. I feel regular-sized, perhaps even on the smaller end of regular! At immigration and customs, I was happy to see people of all shapes, sizes, and colors standing in line with me at the "Citizens and Permanent Residents" section. I really do miss being surrounded by a variety of people.

Monday, August 26, 2002

The very nice tequilla I drank at Ambassador Wong's was Cazadores Reposado, 100% agave tequilla, for those that want to make a note of it. Also highly recommended by Joaquin are Don Julio Reposado and Herradura Reposado.

Thursday, August 22, 2002

It's just been one of those 24-hour periods: a lot of things that need to get done at work, two friends leaving Taiwan for the States this week, one friend whose birthday is tomorrow, various responsibilities that need to get taken care of, and balancing all the things I ought to do and want to do before I myself leave on vacation to the States next week. Jen reminded me that I do tend to over-extend myself; so...while I prioritize and simplify, this site might not get updated as often as I'd like. I do have many stories I'd like to share, so just sit tight and be patient!

Tuesday, August 20, 2002

The company policy of prohibiting the use of a company computer for activities other than company business is now official. Yesterday we had all had to participate in a meeting where the new policies were explained. Since it was conducted in Chinese, I understood only about ten to twenty percent of it (my colleagues filled out the blank spots for me later). Thus, I spent an hour and a half zoning out. *sigh* My Chinese has improved greatly since moving here--I have the daily life Chinese down--but I am yet again reminded of how far I have to go.

Thursday, August 15, 2002

My short commute to work is always more pleasant when the older regulars are on the bus. An elderly man or woman giving a near soliloquy (occasionally punctuated by grunts from the bus driver) in Taiwanese adds a touch of earthiness to the trip.

Wednesday, August 14, 2002

Noticed on the streets of Taipei:
Your skirt is too short if we can see your buns while you're walking.

The corollary to that is:
Your pants are too low-cut if we can see half of your butt crack.

Some good taste would be verrry appreciated, girls!

Monday, August 12, 2002

The Nicaraguan ambassador to Taiwan, Luis Wong, and his wife threw a farewell party for Eugenio Saturday night at the clubhouse on the fourth floor of their apartment complex in Tienmu. We had lovely Mongolian bbq (the caterer set it up buffet style, and had a grill out on the patio) and very fine Mexican tequila. Then we started dancing...Mrs. Wong is quite the social director! She made sure all of us were not simply dancing, but all over the dance floor, and after awhile, I wondered why I had even bothered to go the gym earlier that day!

I danced the merengue for the first time, and I can now concur with Linda that Eugenio is a very good lead. Dancing is easier when I'm surrounded by good friends--I'm comfortable in their affection for me and don't have to worry about being embarassed by missed steps. The clubhouse closed down at 10 p.m., and the party moved upstairs to the Ambassador's residence. I couldn't pass up the opportunity to see their home, so even though I wanted to take leave go to Vicky's birthday and going away party, I went up to take a look--beautiful home! Very tasteful and elegant, yet comfortable. Eventually, I was able to excuse myself from their warm Latin affection to rush (quite late) to see the glowing birthday girl at Chillhouse.

Jean also stopped by Chillhouse. She returned from touring China and was in Taiwan for less than 24 hours, on her way to joining Linda at Columbia Law, and I was so pleased to be able to see her, however briefly. Vicky is going to be in Taipei for a few more weeks, so we'll be able to spend some more time together before she heads off for business and graduate school at BU.

Friday, August 09, 2002

Last night I belayed by myself for the first time. Two new climbers, my colleague Johnny and his friend, joined the relatively veteran climbers of James (who is more experienced than me) and myself at the gym. My colleague Carol has teased that I am slowly converting the whole office into climbers: first Richard from IT and Ite from Investor Relations, and now Johnny, our designer in my department.

I learned how to thread the rope through my ATC, and after James served as a back-up belay while I belayed Johnny and his friend, he then let me belay him! Thankfully, I passed the Benson test: James dropped off the wall on purpose when I was not expecting and I managed to keep him from crashing into the floor. I'm very excited, I'm beginning to get the movements down. Unfortunately, my climbing was less than stellar. I just couldn't see the paths last night. Oh well.

Now I must be off to the gym. Tonight and tomorrow night are the going-away festivities for Eugenio. Also going on tomorrow night is Vicky's birthday and going-away party. So many dear friends are leaving at once...

Thursday, August 08, 2002

Last night, for the first time in a long time, I slept with only a fan on. Perhaps the typhoons in the region have brought cooler air along with the intermittent showers. I have yet to buy an umbrella in frustration at a convenience store (my preferred method of purchasing umbrellas) after my first two were broken and the last taken. I've managed to run between the raindrops so far...although my colleagues have warned me that one should always protect themselves from the acid rain in Taiwan, no matter how light the rain may be.

Actually, I think I have adjusted well to the climate; I have even worn jeans on casual Fridays! Nevertheless, I have developed a penchant for short skirts and short-sleeved cotton shirts. How ironic that I hate being hot, sticky, and sweaty, and here I am living in Taiwan.

Wednesday, August 07, 2002

This morning I picked up breakfast from one of the vendors that set up stands on the street. Some situate themselves on street corners, others are tucked in under the covered walkway in front of a closed storefront. The one that I like offers fresh kiwi and mango juices, soy milk, and various sandwiches. For some reason, Taiwanese people seem to prefer heavy, greasy sandwiches filled with meat and eggs in the morning. I just like to have my mango juice to go with my bread or oatmeal.

Although now that I think about it, quite a few Americans like their Egg McMuffins and Croissan'wiches. And I admit, I do appreciate pancakes, waffles, omlets, eggs over easy, homefries, maple sausage, and crisp bacon...but those are for lazy Sunday mornings.

Tuesday, August 06, 2002

Saturday night I had ma la huoguo, spicy hot pot, for the first time. I actually didn't find it that spicy, but then, I like spicy food. A two chambered pot is placed upon a heat sources set in the table. On one side is a spicy broth, on the other side is a plain broth. You select the foods you want to eat (tofu, sliced beef and pork, various animal guts, fish balls, diced vegetables, etc.) out of a refrigerated case and boil it in your broth of choice. Afterwards, you can dip your food in a selection of dipping sauces. Quite yummy. The last half hour I was there, I just sat in amazement. I was stuffed, but these Taiwanese people sure know how to eat. And the girls are so thin!

Saturday, August 03, 2002

While walking through Tonghua Night Market Wednesday night, a little boy about three years old decide to drop his ice cream cup, splashing chocolate ice cream all over me (and my light tan-colored shorts). He was not the least bit remorseful, and when his mother came out and tried to get him to apologize, he merely just looked at me. "Excuse me," his mother muttered to me, and went back to shopping.

I was so mad. I really wanted to pick the kid up and make him apologize. Even more distressing was his mother's reaction. No apology to me, no attempt to get tissue to help wipe the mess up from my arm. Alex, my boss, said I should have said, "...and I thought children in U.S. were misbehaved." Just because people are capable of having kids doesn't mean they should be parents. Woman, I feel sorry for you, because as a mother, you are just bringing on years of pain and bad behavior.

Friday, August 02, 2002

Word up: according to international trend-setter TC Lin, quitting your comfortable job and working part time for less money is the latest thing. Oh, and everyone is moving into downtown slums these days, too.

I actually have lots of material to write about, but my two colleagues are waiting for me to finish work so we can all go climbing together. I've been talking about climbing so much that they are interested in checking it out. Benson says he think I can try belaying for the first time tonight...I'll have my colleagues' lives in my hands!

Wednesday, July 31, 2002

Word came back today that all employees' internet activity will now be monitored, and personal email sites (i.e. Yahoo and Hotmail) will be inaccessible. That's motivation to get internet access at home. We'll see how things develop.

Tuesday, July 30, 2002

There is nothing particularly interesting to report from the beautiful island. Today was our earnings release for the second quarter, so our department was quite busy helping Investor Relations host the event, while also issuing a simultaneous press release.

I'm trying to lay low outside of work: I enjoyed taking time for myself this past weekend to workout a lot. Friday night I finally made it to the top of the climbing wall. The last meter took several attempts, as my brain finally figured out the holds (obviously, my minimal brute force method could only get me so far). Benson has lent me a book on climbing, so hopefully I'll know more the next time I go climbing, probably on Friday.

My head hurts, so it's time for me to leave the office and head home.

Friday, July 26, 2002

I need more web skills. It's frustrating not being able to create what I want to create.

Last night was Oriented Happy Hour. Good fun seeing many folks. I am off now to meet Barbara to look at climbing equipment.

Thursday, July 25, 2002

A gripe and some warm fuzzy feelings. I really do not understand the Taiwanese practice of not separating the bathing area from the rest of the bathroom. I find it really disgusting to go into the bathroom merely to use the toilet or to wash my hands and step into a puddle of water. Hello!?! Especially if the shower is enclosed, close the damn door while showering! There's no need to play waterworks! Save that for the interpretive dance in a water fountain outside some building!

TC says I'm railing against something that cannot be changed. Taiwanese people, he says, are renowned for not understanding the concept of an enclosed shower. Taiwanese tourists have been known to flood the bathrooms (and thus, the carpeting in the main room) of hotel rooms, as they--for reasons not comprehended by me--prefer to bathe outside the tub. This is one case when I say, stay inside the lines!

On the warm and fuzzy note, I've noticed in Taipei older men driving mopeds with attached carts or little blue trucks around the neighboorhoods, collecting trash. "Newspapers! Bring your old newspapers!" "Bring out your old windows! Bring out the glass!" a recorded voice calls out in sing-song Taiwanese. The rythmic Taiwanese always sounds so musical to me, evoking memories of my parents chatting animatedly with our relatives, of my grandparents' voices, and I smile.

Wednesday, July 24, 2002

I had a very productive day at work. And now I am leaving at a reasonable hour to go climbing. Now, all I need to work on is getting to bed earlier, waking up earlier, working out more often, cleaning my room, organizing my finances, studying Chinese, practicing Taiwanese, dancing salsa, and...

Tuesday, July 23, 2002

A non-cultural moment, but gosh darn it, I'm tired and frustrated. With just a few simple keystrokes while trying to sync my financial records from the Pocket Quicken software on my PDA to the Quicken software on my laptop, I managed to lose a whole month's worth of my cash spending records. This is something that just doesn't happen when you record things the old-fashioned way, on paper. Although, of course, if I had to record everything on paper, I wouldn't be recording my daily spending.

Of course, being that I was tired and not thinking right, my attempts to recover the data only resulted in me staying up late, not recovering anything, and being short on sleep and cranky today. I can reconstruct the data, as I have saved all my receipts, but I won't be able to have things as accurate as before, since cabs and sidewalk food stands don't give out receipts, and how am I supposed to remember all those amounts for the past month? Grrr. I know it's not a big deal, but the graphs of my spending just won't be as accurate. And since I can be anal, I am going to be irked for awhile knowing that I no longer have all my spending tracked down to the last New Taiwan Dollar. Grrr.

Monday, July 22, 2002

I went to the beach at Jinshan yesterday with Angela, Maria (who is six months pregnant, looking fabulous, and barely showing), and George (Maria's husband, expectant father, and intrigued by our girl talk). Now I look like a cooked shrimp. Despite putting on sunscreen. *sigh* I should have reapplied after going the water (cleaner than I expected). Yeow!

Saturday, July 20, 2002

Last night I went to see and hear the Wall Tigers, who were, as usual, lots of fun. I'm getting to the point where I can sing along with some of the lyrics. There's another live music event going on tonight, where Captain Peanut is expected to play. Who would have expected I would become so interested in garage bands? Lisa Belkin in a New York Times travel article sums it up perfectly:

[the joy of] finding a new love. How often at age 40 do you realize you are jazzed by something that you never even thought to try?

I think this is true at any age.

Thursday, July 18, 2002

I was very cranky this morning. One of those cross-cultural differences moments. There is someone, who I will call Mrs. X, who cleans our office. She is a nice woman, very well intentioned, but the epitome of traditional Chinese thinking embodied in a person. (She is always haranguing my boss Alex to get married so that he will have a woman to clean up after him and take care of him.) In any case, yesterday she spotted pictures I had developed from the hiking trip on my desk. "Oh, I'll take a look at these later," she said.

(editorial note: these photos were already in albums, neatly stacked in the corner of my desk, not spread out across the table.)

I didn't respond because I didn't particularly want her looking at my photos and I didn't know quite how to say it. Later, after I finished meeting with Alex, we walked over to Johnny, a co-worker. Alex noticed a pile of photo albums on Johnny's desk. "Oh, photos!" he said. "I wonder who's are these, and why are they on Johnny's desk?"

I took a closer look and realized that they were my photos, which Mrs. X had taken from my desk (without my permission), looked at them, and didn't even return them! I realize that there are different cultural concepts of personal ownership, and that Mrs. X is so set in her thinking she assumes everyone else must think the same way she does, but sheesh. Please.

To add to my general state of annoyance, last night I realized that five photos had not been printed from my negatives. I went back to the photo store this morning and pointed out their error. "Oh," said the proprietor. "The photos didn't have any people in them, so we didn't bother printing them."

Don't @!$ decide for me what should and should not be printed! If a negative is obviously exposed correctly (i.e. it's not a big blank), then print it. Just because my negatives don't have what every Taiwanese person thinks should be in a photo doesn't mean it shouldn't be printed. They are NOT the ones who should be making these editorial decisions.


Makes me mad.

Wednesday, July 17, 2002

A final wrap-up of the Jade Mountain trip: Sunday was the longest day, covering 16.1 kilometers: up to the summit, back down, pack up at the Paiyun Lodge (elevation 3,402 meters), and hike back down to the waiting bus. We actually made it to the bus area by 2 p.m., but a combination of traffic and a dinner break resulted in not arriving in Taipei till after midnight. And by a dinner break, we're not talking about the American custom of picking up some fast food at a roadside rest area. The tour group scheduled a sit-down Chinese dinner at a restaurant in Jiayi. Flora and I did consider ditching the bus and taking a cab to the nearest airport to fly back, but we didn't have our credit cards on us.

Overall, I enjoyed the trip immensely, and my mobility is slowly returning as the lactic acid leaves my legs!

Tuesday, July 16, 2002

Flora, Patty, Benson, James, and I left Taipei Train Station at 7 p.m. Friday night on a tour bus. The bus stopped at Linkou to pick up more travellers, and we pulled into a lodge near the Jade Mountain National Park around 2 a.m. Saturday morning. Not to my pleasure, we were up at 6 a.m. to get back on the bus to get to the park entrance. We started hiking at 8:40 a.m. and covered the 11.6 kilometers to Paiyun Lodge, near the summit, in a little over seven hours, including periodic rests and a lunch break.

I thought the combination of already being sleep-deprived and a day of hiking would surely lead to quickly falling asleep after an early dinner. Unfortunately, I fell asleep around 11 p.m. and slept fitfully. (Note to self: next time bring earplugs to block out the sounds of snorers.) Even more unfortunately, we got up at 2 a.m. so as to be able to watch sunrise from the summit.

In the darkness, I did something really silly: my left contact never managed to make it into my left eye. Even sillier, not till I was halfway up the summit did I figure out why everything looked so blurry. If I ever write Hiking for Dummies, point number one will be, "make sure you can see." Going up sans one contact was not too bad, as it was dark and all I could really see was the steps in front of me. Going down was more difficult, as my sense of balance was off and I had very little depth perception. Thankfully, Benson helped me:

"Just look for the steps."

"There aren't any steps, darn it, everything looks the same."

"Okay, right foot here, left foot there."

In any case, we were on the trail by 2:15 a.m. and spent 2 hours hiking the 2.4 kilometers up to the summit. The last stretch to the very top was apparently a 70-degree incline. There were chains to help guide hikers. I suppose that if you think of that last stretch as hiking up, it would have been very difficult. However, when I looked at it as a climbing wall, it became a very easy climbing wall, with many convenient hand holds and foot holds to choose from.

I'm really thankful that I've started rock climbing. Rock climbing has given me the focus I needed to be able to do this. Instead of thinking, "my, being on this narrow trail at the edge of a very tall cliff with the possibility of a rock sliding down from above and bopping me on the head is rather disconcerting," I was focused on where my next move would be: i.e., right foot here, left foot there. When I'm rock climbing, I'm never conscious of how high I am from the ground; I'm very much in the moment, calculating my next step and keeping my body centered.

I wouldn't have been this calm even as recently as seven months ago, when Danai came to Taiwan for New Year's and we hiked through Taroko Gorge. I remember asking Danai why I was so slow going up. Danai mentioned that part of the reason was that I would step with one leg, and then bring the other leg in line with the first, instead of stepping further ahead. Hiking through Taroko Gorge also taught me that I should push the incline button on the treadmill a bit more frequently. Further, Flora pointed out that running on flat land and going uphill uses completely different muscles, so even though I had been running regularly when I went to Taroko Gorge, I wasn't necessarily in shape to go hiking.

So for this trip, I was physically and mentally better prepared. Sunrise at the summit was beautiful, as it better had been! The sky was clear, and standing, looking out above all the other peaks, was such an amazing feeling. Wow.

I have never hiked such long a distance before, and with a pack weighing about a third of my body weight, too. And then to make up to the highest peak in Northeast Asia to watch the sunrise, when I am not a morning person and need a lot of sleep to function (and am very cranky when neither of those are met),

I really have accomplished something.

Monday, July 15, 2002

We returned to Taipei Train Station from our weekend hike to the summit of Jade Mountain this morning at 12:30 a.m. Physically, I feel fine sitting, and I feel fine standing. It's the in between part that's painful. Eeow! My quads and my calves are very sore. Mentally, I am so proud of myself and the other women in our party: Patty and Flora. We all pushed ourselves mentally to overcome fears and Bodies Acting Out Of Whack to reach the peak of the highest mountain in Northeast Asia (3,952 meters). Oh, and I'm mighty appreciative of the guys, Benson and James, who helped with the footwork and the equipment.

More details will be forthcoming, as well as pictures (including a "I'm the queen of the world!" pose a la Kate Winslet in Titanic and a it's-way-too-cold-let's-hurry-up-with-the-obligatory-photo pose).

Friday, July 12, 2002

Increasingly, I find myself having responsibility over websites. Both at AmCham Taipei and at UMC, I am the one to make sure the website is up-to-date. And now, I have my personal site.

My mother is very funny. She instant messaged me this yesterday:

"There is something wrong with your website. I have been trying to read the latest entry, but the most recent entry is from Monday."

"That's because I've been too busy at work to write anything since Monday."

Also, sometimes when I have sent her an instant message about what is going on at work, she'll respond:

"But the website still says..."

"Mom, that's because I haven't updated the website."

In this increasingly electronically connected world, I suppose we sometimes forget there are real people behind these virtual facades.
I'm going to be leaving work very soon to go hiking up Jade Mountain this weekend. I come back late Sunday night. The schedule looks to be pretty strenuous: we have to get up around 3 a.m. on Sunday morning so that we can make it to the peak to watch the sunrise.

Earlier this week, I was hoping that the hike would be delayed because of Typhoon Nakiri. The past several weeks have been tiring, and I just wanted to hole up and catch up on sleep this weekend. Alas, that's was not the case. I think the hike will be safe, though. It's run by a professional hiking outfit. While rushing about looking up information on what to pack, I started to get excited about the hike. It will definitely be an adventure!

Thursday, July 11, 2002

I had the best time at karaoke Monday night. Annie and Gordon left for the U.S. on Wednesday, so Monday night we had a farewell dinner followed by KTV. Our group was a nice mix of foreigners and locals, shy people and singing enthusiasts. I had great fun singing English, Chinese, Taiwanese, and Japanese songs. Karaoke is great language practice, I must say, although the lexicon tends to follow along the lines of lamenting unrequited love or celebrating love.

Jane and Jean told me that when just locals go to KTV, they usually take their turns singing one at a time while the others listen. Us foreigners tend to sing along in a big choral group--all the better I say, for the pitch-perfect ones to drown out guide those who are more...tone deaf. The best moment was when Gordon, Hubie, and David took the stage and started seranading Annie a la Backstreet Boys.

Not to let the guys out-do the gals, Jen and I have decided that Madonna's Like A Prayer will be our song.

Monday, July 08, 2002

A quick rundown of my weekend:

Felicia came up from Kaohsiung Friday night, so after clearing up at the office, I picked up two shirts from the tailors at the Lai Lai Sheraton and then met Felicia, Mei, and James (a.k.a. Benecio). We ate a late dinner at the Zhongxiao East Road branch of the legendary Din Tai Fung, and then met up with David Okano and Doug Wardlow, new friends of mine, at Q Bar. I met the two last Sunday at brunch through Jen, and already Doug, a law student at Georgetown, is going to return to the U.S. on Tuesday. Such is the case of meeting people here in Taiwan.

Saturday I woke up early to go workout. Afterwards, Felicia met me at the salon, where I got a pedicure and she got a manicure for Flora's wedding banquet. Rain was pouring out of the sky in sheets when we were done, so Wayne kindly picked us up. We had just arrived at the parking garage in the Westin, where Flora's wedding was being held, when Judy pulled up behind us. We all arrived at the banquet fashionably late (but dry), and enjoyed a fine meal. Flora and John were glowing and good sports about playing along with the games--apparently a "tradition" at Chinese wedding banquets--thought up by Patty. Patty, naughty wedding games notwithstanding, made an excellent MC.

I had very much wanted to go to AmCham's Independence Day Celebration, but fatigue got the better of me and I took a nap. I was so glad Felicia was there to help me get ready for my birthday dinner at Mr. Paco's Pizzeria. Present at dinner were TC, Pei-Pei, Jane, Hubie, David Shen, Lester and two friends, Jean, Jen, Eugenio, Gordon, Annie, Grace, and Felicia.

Many more people were waiting at OZ when we arrived after dinner, including Vicky, who staked out the area with her godbrother, Paul. Also present were my cousins Franklin, Jay, Bai-yun and friends, and Jenny. Mike and his girlfriend, Patty, James, Bing, Benson, Flora, John and his friend from Japan, Wayne and his friend Anne, Jay, Jeff, Crystal, Sherry, Luis and his housemate Ricardo, Marcus and friend, David Okano, Doug and their pals, all showed up. I was really happy to see Judy when she arrived, as she did a great job acting as a liaison between Xiao An, the OZ manager, and our group. Afterwards, a few of us went to Plush, where I bumped into my co-worker Richard. Quite a full night.

Sunday was a quiet brunch on the patio at United Mix. Jeff and friend, TC, Felicia, Wayne, Eugenio, Jen, and I chatted under the shade of the awnings, which shielded us from the warm sun shining in the clearest, bluest skies I have seen in Taipei. Later on in the afternoon, James graciously used his family's membership at the Grand Hotel's country club so that Wayne, Felicia, and I could go swimming. All that swimming made me hungry, and Angela's dinner of chicken parmesan, pasta, and salad was yummy. Jean, Felicia, and I went over to Angela's place (the poor woman had to work all weekend for the upcoming Taiwan premiere of Men in Black II, and so was not able to make it to my other birthday events), where we ate and had girl talk till late in the evening.

Yes, a jam-packed weekend. Now it's Monday. I have the "fun" part down of having fun and relaxing weekends, I need to work on making the "relaxing" part a reality.

Also, one of these weekends, I will find myself an internet connection sans firewalls and proxies, so that I can ftp some photos onto my site instead of having to rely on Christine's site, the ever helpful reference to Taipei's social scene. (I know Christine's going to say, "Berta! LOL! You can't call me a 'reference to Taipei's social scene'!" in her charming Southern drawl.)

Friday, July 05, 2002

I am marveling at how quick and cheap it was to get my teeth cleaned just now. Ah, the joys of universal health care--a mere NT$100 to get my teeth cleaned. As expected, the care was competent and fast. Only 15 minutes. I'm certain my dentist in the U.S. takes about an hour. Here, the dentist dispenses with the manual scraper tool and goes straight for the automated one. Also, I don't have my choice of strawberry or mint-flavored toothpaste like I did when I was little and used to go to the dentist. However, my teeth do feel great, and just lying there being still was such a luxury after today.

I'm really quite tired; I've had a lot to do this week, and a full weekend ahead with Flora's wedding luncheon and preparations for my birthday. Today I rushed off at lunch to the seamstress, where I got a matching top and jacket made in a sort of qipao style (mandarin collar, knotted fasteners, light silvery-blue-green silk with golden bamboo leaves embroidered on top). I also got a pair of linen pants made, to wear to work. I know that TC is likely to give me grief about my seemingly extravagant lifestyle, but I didn't pay more to get the pants made to my measurements than I would for a pair bought off the rack in the U.S. So there. It's going to be my birthday.

My birthday is on Sunday, but I'm actually going to celebrate it on Saturday night, because the day after Sunday is, well, Monday, and that's a working day. I've reserved an area of Oz, a bar/lounge, for Saturday night so that my friends can come and go as they please. I feel blessed to have a network of friends here in Taiwan.
I've been busy at work putting together the latest issue of ProFoundry, our quarterly client newsletter. Not even close to bestseller material, you can read the previous issue, the first issue I edited, particularly if you prefer to do some gentle reading before going to bed.

I meant to post last night, as I planned to return back to work after the CAPT Happy Hour, but my friends convinced me to go out to dinner afterwards. We went to one of a row of restaurants on Fuxing South Road that are open 24 hours and serve unlimited rice porridge to go along with dishes served cafeteria style. I first learned about these restaurants a couple of weeks ago. They're quite popular amongst people who want to eat after going out partying. I just sat there in amazement at all the food you can get at 4 a.m. in the morning.

Wednesday, July 03, 2002

Friday night I climbed up 10 meters, my highest yet. I was so close to the top (the climbing wall is 12 meters high), but after several attemps, fatigue got to me. The second time I climbed, I went up only 6 meters. I really enjoy climbing--it's a very intellectual process.

I thought the play that led to Ronaldo's second goal in the World Cup final on Sunday was beautiful. Truly an example of great teamwork. The first goal was really about "putting the garbage away," as my water polo coaches would say--something anyone can do if they are in the right position, but takes the presence of mind and good training to be in such a position. But the second goal--that was really amazing work, and Rivaldo deserves as much credit as Ronaldo.

Friday, June 28, 2002

This is rather silly of me, but I must admit that only relatively recently have I learned the differences between various dumplings, and how their English names often come directly from their Chinese ones. For example, there are guotie (literally, "potstickers," pan-fried dumplings), shuijiao (boiled dumplings), zhengjiao (steamed dumplings), and hundun (wontons, smaller dumplings with a thinner wrapper and usually served in a soup with noodles). I'm rather amazed that as a fan of dumplings in all their forms, I took 23 years to figure out their names and differences.

Also, my mother's daily careful reading of my blog has reminded me that I have never specified how I get to Hsinchu. Well, the company usually calls for a car, and usually, that car is a Mercedes-Benz. I always feel like a high-powered businesswoman when we pull up to our headquarters, stepping out of the car. I was mighty appreciative of that air conditioned, leather luxury Tuesday afternoon, let me tell you.

One fairly common sight I am not appreciative of are the dress styles of some middle-aged women in Taipei. Women of a certain age just should not be wearing short, tight skirts and high heels. I find them very confusing, as I can never figure out if they are mature call girls, or members of the ladies who lunch set.

In an unrelated vien of thought, a reminder to all (including myself) to register to vote, especially if you are an American citizen living abroad.

Thursday, June 27, 2002

Really quickly, since it's 9:23 p.m. and I'm still at work. One observation that I forgot to note yesterday was that Tuesday, while dining in the employee cafeteria at our headquarters, I was pleased to see our president and vice-chairman, Peter Chang, standing in line with the rest of the employees to return his lunch tray, dishes, and utensils.

The Tech Forum appeared to be a success to my untrained eye, and the Ambassador Hsinchu was a surprisingly swanky hotel.

Wednesday, June 26, 2002

I was in Hsinchu all day yesterday at our headquarters, United Tower, stuffing bags that we will give away to our guests at our Technology Forum today. Unfortunately, the powers that be didn't give us an ideal room for package preparation. We ended up stuffing bags in a storage closet located off of the parking garage for about four hours. I'm talking about preparing 600+ bags and moving heavy boxes around with no air conditioning and no ventilation save for one fan.

Even though I didn't have time to go to the gym, with the package prep and hauling the garbage and recycling out in what must be 35o heat with who knows how high humidity, I feel like I have gotten a workout in.

Now I am in the Taipei office at 5:30 a.m., making sure that no last minute items are forgotten for the final trip to Hsinchu. Among these items are these cute little round cookies (in cocoa and plain flavors), with "UMC" debossed on them. I'm proud to say I brought the idea to our department, after I noticed Intel giving away business card shaped cookies with "Intel" on them at Computex. I'm actually looking forward to the Forum, since it is my very first one.

Tuesday, June 25, 2002

I do want to recap last Wednesday evening, which I didn't get to in my enthusiasm of setting up this site. Wednesday night I met TC for dinner. I was eager to meet his friend Kirk, renowned for his ability to take the piss out of people in Chinese, and TC obliged. I now know what to say the next time I encounter bad service. It's all about the tone and expression-a healthy dose of sarcasm.

We ate dinner at a little restaurant serving Yunnan-style food. The restaurant was quite quaint, with actual vinyl records supplying the music. The sound came out of really old speakers, that visibly vibrated to the music. We listened to what sounded like old salsa music in Chinese and classic Chinese folk drinking songs. Besides teaching me cheng yu and other choice phrases in Chinese, TC and Kirk wrote down the name of the album for me. One of these days, I'll have to search for the album and hope the recording is available in a more modern format.

Saturday morning I got up early to participate in a focus group sponsored by a Ministry of Education task force on how to improve undergraduate education in Taiwan. Also participating were David, Annie (both here on Fulbrights), Jane, Gordon (here visiting his girlfriend, Annie), Susan, and Jean. Grace Huang, who is here doing field research for her dissertation and one of the first people I met here in Taiwan, recruited us. UC Berkeley, UC Davis, USC, Brown, Barnard, MIT, and Harvard were represented on our panel.

We had been told to prepare a ten to fifteen minute presentation. However, we suggested that we all first introduce ourselves before beginning our presentations, and soon, that idea was thrown out the window as we engaged in a free-flowing discussion.

Among the topics discussed were how our physical surroundings affect our behavior, and even though the task force wanted to revamp Taiwan's educational system, their traditional assumptions on learning had crept into the focus group. I arrived, expecting to be seated in chairs arranged in a circle, balancing our materials on our laps, but instead we found ourselves at a large conference table, the task force on one side, and the panelists on the other side. This was a classic case of the teacher on one side, and the student on the other.

I think it was a learning experience for all. I was surprised to find that the average Taiwanese student takes ten classes per semester. However, unlike the more in depth U.S. system, each of those classes meets for only two hours a week, and there are no assigned readings. The instruction is entirely lecture-based. Naturally, the learning suffers if the teacher is poor.

The other surprising bit of information was learning that Taiwanese students don't write papers until they get to graduate school. In the U.S., we start writing papers at a very young age, from book reports in the third grade to term papers in high school to senior theses in college.

I had always assumed that the poor quality of writing that I have edited was due to the differences between the Chinese and English languages. By poor quality, I mean unfocused writing, with no clear arguments, missing topic sentences, weak supporting evidence, and abundant redundancies. However, I now realize that part of the problem is that people don't get much practice. Further, Annie mentioned from her experience researching at the Academia Sinica, academics in her field are under intense pressure to produce four to six papers a year, even though in the U.S., the time expected to produce a quality paper is six months. So, the poor writing is a combination of quantity over quality, minimal training, and language differences.

Later, I met up with Vicky, Steven, Judy, and two of their friends for dinner. Vicky has been busy helping her family move to Taoyuan, and Steven was in Taiwan for less than a week, so I was so glad to be able to see the cute couple twice this past weekend. We took a photo of the three of us, and as soon as I finish the roll, I'll have it developed. It will be fun to compare this latest photo with the one I have of the three of us, when the two were on their third date. I've enjoyed watching the romance blossom between one of my closest girlfriends and a classy gentleman.

I was in such a good mood Sunday night. I am truly enjoying this yoga class at my gym. Although my Chinese has improved immensely, I appreciate how the instructor also calls out the poses in English. I'm familiar with the names, so I can just flow straight into the next pose without having to stop and look around first. So much of daily body movement lateral-just forwards and backwards, that just moving gently in all sorts of directions feel so good. Afterwards, I always feel so strong, yet loose and relaxed. I can't help but exude beneficence towards the world as I float home.

Friday, June 21, 2002

I intended to workout after work (ha ha, a play on words), before meeting up with friends to see the World Cup. Unfortunately, it's been another unexpectedly long day at the office. I should have gone during lunch. Darn. Hopefully I can squeeze in some crunches and stretches tonight, between watching the U.S. vs. Germany match and preparing for tomorrow.

Tomorrow, I will be participating in a focus group on how to improve Taiwan's undergraduate education by speaking about my own experiences. I'm looking forward to it, and I'll be sure to write about it here later.
Yay! The bulk of virtualberta is now to my satisfaction. Now, all I have to do is figure out how to get around my work computer's firewalls and proxy server to upload photos. I think the solution to this problem is to find an internet cafe, or figure out how to connect my laptop at home to my housemate's ADSL connection. Until then, y'all will just have to put up with this rather text-heavy site. Hopefully, you find my writing lively in comparison to the visuals. I, for one, find myself endlessly fascinating.

Thursday, June 20, 2002

I'm really quite excited that I've begun transitioning material over to my new web domain. Having this sites allows me to add more features, such as the commenting system, courtesy of enetation. I'm definitely going to be reconceptualizing this site.

I've been in such a good mood today, mainly because I've been learning a lot lately. Yesterday, I not only learned my very first cheng yu--four syllable Chinese idioms--but also my second one, as well. Jen taught me the first: jian se wang you, literally, "meet color, forget friend." This idiom refers to people who, as soon as s/he has a love interest, forgets her/his friends. TC and his friend, Kirk, taught me the other: ru jing sui su, literally, "enter border follow culture." This one has its own english equivalent, "When in Rome, do as the Romans do."

Fun, huh?

Hello, all! Exciting news: I've registered a domain name, so please update your bookmarks and links to the new I will no longer post on Blog*Spot, although I did have a good experience with them. All of my blogs have been moved to, and the links on my site should work.
I hate fish with lots of bones! Eeow! My gums hurt from being speared by the bones in my fish in today's biandang. Gosh, now I know why Taiwan has universal healthcare--it's a danger just eating lunch. Eeow!

Wednesday, June 19, 2002

Speaking of medical care in Taiwan, I now appreciate all the fuss about having national health insurance. After being without any medical insurance for eight mildly nerve-racking months, I am now covered under Taiwan�s National Health Insurance Program through my employer. I�ve always been health conscious--after all, my body is the home of my mind and soul�so it�s immensely reassuring to know that besides having coverage when something breaks down, I can now also monitor my well-being.

In other news in the health and fitness front, here is some of the inane conversation I have to put up with in the locker room at my gym:

Trendy Asian Girl A: Oh, there�s so many cute guys here!
Trendy Asian Girl B: Yes, but it�s sooo embarrassing working out in front of them, you know? [pout] But they're why I work out.
Trendy Asian Girl A: There�s a little room where we can workout and the guys can�t go in.
Trendy Asian Girl B: Oh, lets go in there. Do you think they'll let us in the class later? [quizzical expression on her face]
�and ad naseum.

Whatever happened to exercising so that one is able to run around and do cool things? I�m always in awe whenever I see a dancer or athlete. I think having so much control of one�s body to create a beautiful sight--whether it be a pose, leap, throw, kick--or to move quickly through air or water, is

just fun.

Unfortunately, I can�t see myself being as strong in the water again as I was while on MIT�s swim team. However, no longer training 2+ hours a day, 6 days a week, for many, many weeks of the year has given me time to explore a few new physical pursuits.

After slacking off for far too long, I�ve been working out daily for the past week. A planned climb up Jade Mountain, Taiwan�s highest peak, from July 12-14, has been a great motivator. From hiking through Taroko Gorge after Christmas last year (when I was running regularly), I know I need to hit that incline button and do some hills on the treadmill more often.

Tuesday, June 18, 2002

A common understanding among the international community in Taiwan is the poor quality of service here. The service at Ziga Zaga in the Grand Hyatt Taipei was particularly egregious Friday night. Hubie, Flora, Felicia, Yukie, Patty, Christine, and I gathered to watch the World Cup. Among the notable moments in service were when the waitress tossed a plate across the table; when the waiter removed my bread plate before I had finished my roll; and when the waitress rolled her eyes and had an attitude when Flora and Hubie turned their attention away from paying the bill to jump up and down in excitement when Korea beat Portugual so that the U.S. could advance to the second round. I was so mad at the service, I really wanted to say some choice words in Chinese.

In contrast, I was pleasantly surprised Sunday morning when I went to the Taiwan Adventist Hospital for an annual check-up. TC had recommended the hospital, and I found all of the staff to be extremely helpful. There was none of the cold efficiency of the National Taiwan University Hospital or the more typical rudeness, why-should-I-be-bothered-with-you attitude of the Taipei Municipal Ren-ai Hospital. The staff at the Adventist were patient with my unfamiliarity with their registration system and the physical layout of the various departments, and did their best to help me fill out parts of the paperwork that I couldn't understand. I had a nice chat with the physician about health issues I should be aware of, and when I left, I felt like giving each of the staff members a big hug and a thank you.

Monday, June 17, 2002

Friday's entry has been bothering me all weekend because it should actually go to Electronic Paths, so I am going to put a copy there. In any case, Felicia came up from Gaoxiong (that's Kaohsiung, for those that don't read Hanyu Pinyin) for the weekend, so Saturday we set off to see the Dragon Boat races. We arrived just in time to see...the very last race.

I'd never seen a dragon boat race before, so being able to watch that one was good. I think it's similar to crew races. Not as much eye candy as TC had led me to believe, but a nice selection of strenously exercising local and foreign teams. Afterwards, we behaved like proper Taiwanese and wandered over to the tents that had been set up, and with Benecio's and Mei's guidance, sampled Tainan xiaochi (little dishes), including Tainan styled cai-zang (savory rice bundles eaten especially during this festival period).

Friday, June 14, 2002

I noticed their ad in the Wall Street Journal yesterday, but the Economist put it quite succinctly in their Business This Week email newsletter:


PricewaterhouseCoopers is to rename its consulting arm "MONDAY:", when it is spun off later this year. Eschewing the popular but meaningless cod-classical, PwC hopes that "Monday:" will inspire "fresh thinking", early rising and the wearing of "crispy white shirts". The many millions trudging to work heavy of heart on the first day of the week may not agree.

Not withstanding the fact that Monday:'s brand and ad campaign looks an awful lot like Credit Suisse's branding, has PricewaterhouseCoopers forgotten MarchFIRST's march into ignominy?

Wednesday, June 12, 2002

I went with Benicio, Mei, Hubie, Grace, Annie, and Yukie to KTV for the first time last night. KTV is how people sing karaoke in Taiwan: you rent a small room, complete with vinyl couches and your own karaoke system. This way, you can sing with friends, people who already harbor good feelings towards you regardless of your singing ability. You can also order set meals, snacks, and drinks. Our room was even equipped with its own private restroom! It's a complete entertainment option.

I'm now inspired to learn some Taiwanese and Chinese songs. Benicio and Mei have promised to help me. This is so the next time we go to KTV, we do not have to resort to Benicio shouting out the lyrics in Taiwanese as soon as they appear on the screen (I can't read the characters) so that I can sing along to the melody.

Oh, and TC took a photo of my housewarming party.

Tuesday, June 11, 2002

Continuing on the subject of making friends, another factor is not letting language hold you back. My lack of proficiency in a any language has never prevented me from trying to yap. I really hate the excuse, "Oh, I thought people here couldn't speak Chinese, and I didn't know what to say in English, so I didn't bother trying to talk to anyone." Just try, darn it, in any language. How else does one's language skills improve?

Speaking of which, I took a yoga class Sunday night--the first one in quite awhile--and I was surprised to discover how much my Chinese comprehension had improved. However, I began to suspect the teacher, who is definitely a local, received her yoga training in the U.S., because she would interject an incongruous "tuck in your ass" in English among the gentle intonations of "breathe in, breathe out, turn to the right, turn to the left" in Chinese. Not an aid in reaching nirvana, but my body did let me know how happy it was to get reaquainted with some poses.

Sunday, June 09, 2002

Last night I threw a housewarming party. Guests munched on fruit and veggies with homemade pan-friend onion dip, brie and sausage on crackers, smoked salmon and cream cheese bagel sandwiches--ingredients obtained while sprinting through Costco--and pies obtained from the back of a van near the Shihlin MRT station. I was pleased that so many people came over, and that there were no mishaps.

My cousin Jay commented that he was surprised at how many people I've met in such a short time in Taiwan. He said he came because he was afraid no one would show up. I don't think it's hard to meet people in Taiwan: both the locals and the international community are friendly. Part of it is also that as a foriegner, I don't have the luxury of a group of childhood and school friends. I do actually have to go out occasionally and engage in small talk to meet people, and eventually, friends are made, who then introduce friends and acquaintances, and relationships and connections just snowball from there. It helps that I find most people interesting, and that I will talk to anyone I find interesting.

Friday, June 07, 2002

This week has just been a Maoman and Vanessa week. Yesterday, I had lunch with TC and them at United Mix. At lunch, Maoman announced he was going to join the blogging world. Speaking of which, some formal link love to Andy! Maybe this will motivate Andy to update his always engaging sports and life commentary. :)

After lunch, TC and I went over to Computex to check out the latest in electronica offerings. Too much renao for me, and definitely hen luan. I was mildly annoyed that the girl at the Information Desk "hadn't ever heard" of AMD, much less where their booth was. "AMD is short for Advanced Micro Devices," I told her. "Look, practically everyone in this area has green AMD bags slung over their shoulder."

In the end, my time spent away from work at Computex was justified, given that I got a few ideas about what others in my industry are doing for their marketing and corporate communications.
I was thinking about myself--who I am, what I've discovered about myself, and my personal growth since arriving in Taiwan...hi Maoman. I hope I didn't scare you there. However, I think what I am going to write about today has great "synergy" with my intro. *laugh!* I cannot believe that I actually read that word in print today. Although I shouldn't tease people for using buzzwords. At work, we have been using the word "solutions" far too often. At least I'm glad the press has stopped using "the Pokemon set"--just say "children," for heaven's sake!

But I am disgressing. What I have found is that more and more, I like Taiwanese night markets. I used to find the renao (liveliness) of night markets too luan (messy) for me. All that sensory overload just gave me a headache, and night markets were places that my relatives dragged me to and were to borne until a sufficiently courteous amount of time had passed so that I could ask to return home.

However, I really like night markets now, even when I am achy all over and have a headache. I'm sure my newfound affection towards night markets is attributable to the pricing there. Where else can on eat relatively well for only US$3? In the two trips I've made to my local night market this week, I've picked up a 33 cent wire soap dish, and US$1.30 laundry basket. Wayne picked up plastic slippers--perfect for wearing on his balcony--for about a dollar a pair. I've eaten ba-oan, a filling of meatballs and bamboo shoots in a glutinous casing made from rice and shaped like a saucer, and thick rice noodle soup, sipped a fresh mango shake, and crunched on juicy and refreshing wax apples.

Only at a night market, my friends.

Wednesday, June 05, 2002

I really wanted to write yesterday, but extenuating circumstances prevented me from doing so. Saturday night, when I met Vanessa, we talked about our jobs:

"I work in video post-production, doing special effects," she said. "I just got off work at 10 p.m. because the director we're working with is such a pain, and so demanding."

"It's funny that you mentioned that," I replied. "Because our company has been making our corporate video, and my co-workers have complained about how the director we hired is a challenge to work with. By the way, I work for UMC."

"Oh my gosh, that's the project I was working on!"

So just as work was ending on Monday night, my co-worker Carol asked if I would mind going out to Neihu with her to review our video "one last time" to catch any last-minute mistakes. Our other co-worker, Jenny, was leaving for the States the next day for our Technology Forum, where we present our latest technology advancements to our customers and to analysts, and she had to bring the finished video with her. I wondered if I'd see Vanessa there, but I didn't see her while Carol and I met with the director and producer. We were finished by 8:30 p.m., and the production house promised to have things ready so that we could go over at 10:00 a.m. the next day for one last final review.

However, they later called Carol saying that having us present while the final changes were made would be better, to ensure the video would get done in time. They weren't sure what time they would be finished-maybe 3 a.m., maybe 6 a.m. I told Carol to give me a call whenever they called.

Carol called me around midnight, right after I had finished showering, and we then headed over to Neihu. Once there, we ended up waiting another 2-3 hours before we could supervise the final editing process. I was pleased to see Vanessa there, and she and the rest of the production staff were very good about accommodating our requests.

I didn't get home till 5 a.m., and thus decided to go into work in the afternoon. I felt awful--achy all over and with a headache--when I woke up, but I had to go to work. Of course, in my state, I forgot that Taipei was having an air raid drill from 1:30 to 2:00 p.m., so I was stuck in Starbucks for half an hour before being able to make my way to work. While at Starbucks, who would I bump into but Maoman? Taipei is such a small city!

In any case, I was relieved to go to bed early last night and get a good night's sleep.

Monday, June 03, 2002

Saturday was spent doing a medley of activities. I woke up pretty early, despite having gone to bed quite late the night before because I was arranging my room, and ran some errands. I then went off for a long-desired facial, full-body exfoliation, and pedicure, interspersed with a quick two mile run at the gym. I felt so good about myself--clean on the outside and the inside. All of this glamourous pampering was followed by the not so glamourous task of hauling out 10 bags of recycling to the trash pick-up at 9 p.m.

My Saturday evening was not all about my date with the to-be-recycled materials. Because the trash pick-up was late, I had to execute a quick transformation for a night on the town. Hardly as impressive as a Peter Parker to Spiderman transformation, but still an admirable change from a sweaty person in smelly gym clothes hauling a ridiculous amount of garbage to a la mei in strappy heels and skirt in only twenty minutes.

However, I (and Maoman and Vanessa, though I take no responsibility for their lateness) still left poor TC waiting for half an hour at Watersheds. I spent an enjoyable hour at Watersheds with TC, Maoman, and his lovely girlfriend, Vanessa trying to chat over the quite loud music. The Trainspotting sountrack was playing as I left to go to Ginny's birthday party at Plush, this club on the 12th floor of the Core Pacific Mall.

My day of pampering had been timed and my outfit chosen because Ginny, Judy, Bolai, Vicky, and other ladies who would be in attendance are always sleek and poshly attired. In any case, I felt less self-conscious about my attire once I arrived at Plush, as much of their clientele was similarly dressed. In the end, I had an unexpectedly good time dancing the night away.

The greatest discovery of my Saturday, though, came from a book that I borrowed from Mike, Talking Dirty with the Queen of Clean. The ring of mildew around my sink came off with an application of a paste made with baking soda and bleach. You just apply the paste and when it has dried, you simply wipe off the gunk and voila! sparkling white grout with no scrubbing at all! Of course, please be sure to not inhale too many chlorine fumes when you try this at home, folks.

Friday, May 31, 2002

I was pleased to see many old faces and meet some new people at last night's Oriented Happy Hour. The best aspect of the Oriented Happy Hour is meeting people in person that I heretofore only knew electronically. It's much like the process of meeting people at MIT: "Oh, so you are [username]! That was some zephyr conversation we had two days ago!"

So tonight was my first real chance to chat at length with TC in person, even though we have probably spent too much time having long instant message chats while at work. I also got to meet Anthony/Maoman, who I assure you is 33% funnier than me, and Mark/Cranky Laowai. I also got to see Alex and meet his friend Luis, so maybe what little Spanish I know will not deteriorate despite the fact that Linda and Eugenio, and Joaquin and Mate have left Taiwan (permanently and temporarily for the summer, respectively).

Thursday, May 30, 2002

As they say in Chinese, hao jiu bu jian (it's been awhile since we met).

I was so happy when I came home last night to a clean, neat home. I moved over the weekend, and my new place was not as clean as I prefer.

By clean, I expect the floors to be spotless, corners of rooms cobweb and dust free, surfaces shining, every item in its proper place. Not too much to ask for, I think... although I have been told that I have many Martha Stewart-like inclinations.

In any case, cleaning the apartment was too much for me to handle by myself (I'm not that much like Martha), so I hired Lourdes to help (although Martha does have a few personal assistants and a crew to help her in 4+ homes). Mate and Joaquin spoke highly of Lourdes, and I can now see and feel for myself why. Having a clean and neat home to come to at the end of the day makes such a difference in one's mood.

Thursday, May 23, 2002

The amazing aspect about flying to Tainan is that the flight takes only 45 minutes. And, since domestic flights leave from Taipei's Sung Shan Domestic Airport, which is in the northern part of Taipei city proper, and at most a 15 minute drive away from the city, one can quite literally arrive 20 minutes before the flight takes off, walk up to the counter, purchase a ticket, and then board the plane! There are flights almost every hour, run by one of Taiwan's four domestic airlines (yes, there are four domestic airlines in a country about the size of West Virgina). So flying down to Tainan is as convenient as taking the train or bus from Boston to New York.

I was also quite relieved to find that the planes used on this route was a nice sized plane, with room for an actual first-class section, and not a rattling, smoke-spewing one where the passengers are seated according to weight.

Monday, May 20, 2002

So tired. I took the first flight to Tainan today -- at 6:55 a.m. -- because we are filming parts of our corporate video at our 300-mm fab in the Tainan Science Based Industrial Park. I was excited to see our fab, which is supposed to be one of the biggest and best around, and all the filming equipment. The best was when the hired models/actors were being placed in the lobby and actual customers and vendors would approach the entrance. The real customers and vendors (who were not as formally attired as the models pretending to be company reps and guests) would pause and wonder what to do. It was fun trying to guess whether they would then confindently saunter in or meekly scurry in.

I caught the 8:00 p.m. flight from Tainan back to Taipei. It's time for me to get some shut-eye!
Today I went to Ying-ge with Linda, Jen, and Linda's classmate, Jean. Jean looked awfully familiar, and we finally placed each other when she mentioned she was working as a paralegal at Squire, Sanders, and Dempsey...I met her at an AmCham event with Mike! But I digress.

Ying-ge is a town in southern Taipei county known for its pottery. We covered the usual tourist sites, including the new ceramics museum and a pedestrian street lined with pottery shops. The museum reminds me of Tadao Ando's style -- lots of unfinished reinforced concrete and glass. Tadao Ando designed the Kyoto Train Station as well as the new buildings at RCAST, a research center at the University of Tokyo where I spent one summer doing research. Although concrete and glass sounds rather cold, I felt the way Ando combined the two materials made the RCAST buildings light and uplifting. The Ying-ge ceramics museum was also quite nice (different architect) and had quality displays and descriptions.

The pedestrian street was the prettiest street I have ever seen in Taiwan. The four of us finally identified the causes: the road was lined with palm trees (gasp! greenery to break the built monotony!), and there were no scooters and cars parked on the sidewalks blocking access to the shops, the street was nicely cobbled, and there were no cars careening through, spewing exhaust and honking madly.

Of course, we felt like we really had a cultural experience while walking back, when a convoy of trucks passed us by bearing parts of a huge, very bright yellow Buddha.

Friday, May 17, 2002

Speaking of personal hygiene, tomorrow the water supply will again be cut off for the Da-an district. Taiwan is experiencing a drought right now, so the government has instituted water rationing measures, which involves shutting off water supply in various districts of Taipei and surrounding areas on a rotating basis.

Monday, the first day of the shut-offs, was not too bad. I had a ready supply of drinking water. Also, most buildings in Taiwan have a water tank on the rooftop. Water is pumped into this holding tank, which then distributes water throughout the building. The tank in our office building is large enough so that we could continue to flush the toilets throughout the day. I was especially relieved to discover this, as I wasn't too hot on going a la traditional Thailand, where you scoop water out of a big tub and into the toilet.

Wednesday, May 15, 2002

A ride on the MRT yesterday morning during rush hour reminded me once again how important personal hygiene is in such situations and how some members of the transport riding public forget this is. My favorite bus line, #226, is rarely crowded and the route is very convenient, as it passes by both AmCham and UMC, and my leisure hangouts.

The problem with buses in Taiwan is that bus drivers like to accelerate rapidly (never mind that a little old lady may be making her way up the bus steps) and then slam their foot onto the brakes just as a car or another bus swerves in front of them. This driving style is totally unnecessary, as Wayne points out, because not only is it uncomfortable for the passengers, it abuses the engine and wastes gas.

Tuesday, May 14, 2002

Pet peeve: people who neglect to put a question mark after writing a question. People, please try to remember! Try reading what you write out loud before emailing your message to the world. Sounds silly without the question mark, folks!

Sunday, May 12, 2002

It's 6:55 p.m. on a Sunday afternoon evening, and I am at work. A project needs to be done by tomorrow afternoon, so the designer and I are here getting a head start.

I had quite a full weekend though, starting off with a ride to the end of the bus line. Jeff has left his mobile on the bus, and amazingly, it had been turned into the bus driver and was sitting at the bus depot. He had no idea where the depot was, and I thought there was a potential adventure in Taiwan, so we hopped on the bus. Later, someplace way past Xindian, we picked up his phone, turned right around and caught the bus back to Taipei. Hardly an eventful adventure, but a good chance to catch up.

Later, I met up with Wayne and his business associates visiting from Singapore at Watersheds, where I had my first encounter with a Long Island iced tea. I now know what to go for if I ever want to implement Andy's method of unlocking my superconciousness.

The group wanted to go to Carnegie's, a place I assiduously avoid because of the lecherous old men that frequent there, but they were visitors. Further, they assured me they would fend off these undesirables, so I agreed to go. Carnegie's wasn't bad, although I was quite cold towards a guy who said "hello" to me as I left the restroom. The nerve of this guy, I thought, saying hello to random women as they exit the restroom. Then, I realized this guy was Mark, part of our party, who just happened to be standing there.

Saturday was a quiet day spent exploring the open-air market in Gongguan and the textile market near Dihua Street. Linda and I met Eugenio at the tailors for a second fitting. I had hoped to pick up my shirt, and although it was quite comfortable and very nice, it was not yet perfect. I want the sleeves to be shorter and the bodice more fitted, so hopefully everything will be to my satisfaction on Wednesday when I go to pick it up.

The three of us then rushed to Jeff's place, where he was hosting a grilled meat party. We ate, accompanied by firewater Joaquin brought from Colombia and fun music provided by Mate. We left early to hear Wall Tiger play at Witch House, and they were again lots of fun.