Monday, April 29, 2002

Thursday night I thought I would try a different exercise class. Also, by the time my Taiwanese class was over, I had only one choice: �pop dance� taught by a fellow named Sonic. I could put up with one rather silly dance move involving hopping around on one foot than another, a move that ended with wagging our fingers at our partners and shaking our butts. But what put me over the top was when Sonic put on �Can�t Get You Out of My Mind,� by Kylie Minogue. Apparently, many of the students had learned a dance routine to the song at a previous class. So those of us who didn�t know the routine had to stand aside and watch the performance. This is an exercise class, darn it, not a dance audition! I left to actually get my heart rate up on a treadmill and do some weight training. Ridiculous.

Responding to Angela�s comments on Thursday�s entry, yes, there are times�Taiwan�s small sewage pipes be damned�when paper must be thrown into the toilet. Although if the rationale for the wastebaskets is that Taiwan�s sewage system is not designed to handle the paper volume that American systems are designed to accommodate, one could logically conclude then that the system is especially taxed when, uh, a certain mass that requires the paper to be thrown into the toilet is deposited.

Moving on, Saturday night I went with Flora and John to hear Wall Tiger, a ska band, play at Riverside Caf�. I met Tim, the leader of the band, at Christine and Benicio�s stand-up comedy night last Monday at Witch�s House. Tim mentioned that he was a ska musician. My friend Jim Berry, a PKT Mass Eta chapter brother, was a ska fan, and the former cook at the PKT house was a member of a popular Boston ska band, Babaloo. I�ve always wanted to hear ska, but had not.

Wall Tiger was great! The band�s songs have both Chinese and English lyrics (and even a little Taiwanese thrown in!). One song that I really enjoyed was about a monkey who had his eye on a female monkey. The refrain goes: got no money / got nothing to give / but if you come up to my treehouse / I will share my banana with you. There was another hilarious song entitled, �Beetlenut Girl.� Wall Tiger will come out with it�s first album in July. Their next performance in Taipei is on May 11 at Witch�s House.

Talking with Linda at our Sunday brunch, I found out that Linda is also a fan of ska. Beyond our discussion of music, Linda got Jen and I excited about the prospect of visiting her in Puerto Rico this summer.

There was quite a crowd at United Mix yesterday. Besides our usual group, Patty, James, Mike, and Barbara were there. Andrew walked in with a friend at the same time as Augie arrived to join our group. Later, Jeff stopped by for lunch with another friend.

Afterwards, I went swimming with Wayne, James, and my cousin, Jay. I am compelled to let you all know that Wayne, besides being the proud owner of a very nice BMW, is also an excellent driver.* However, while Wayne was driving me back to Angela�s home and we were enjoying the lovely weather through his sunroof, a bird pooped�and the bird poop fell through the sunroof opening and landed on the center panel! Of course, Wayne just had his car washed that day.

That�s when I realized that car commercials will show images of people driving their convertibles, with the wind blowing through their hair. But these commercials will never show the inherent dangers of driving without a roof�wayward bird poop!

* This message has in no way been paid for by the Fans of Wayne Sun Club. ;-)

Thursday, April 25, 2002

I'm one for three - yay! Three of what, might you ask? Well, I got bitten four times by a mosquito within five minutes after I got home last night. I was bitten four more times before I went to bed, despite the fact that Angela and I had two electronic mosquito repellent devices going on. I am certain that mosquito followed me to work today. Carol said that she had never seen a mosquito in the office in the year and a half she has worked here. This mosquito delighted in stopping by my cube, and I was unable to kill it in two attempts. Richard was zero for two, as well. Then, while meeting Alex (my boss) in his office, the mosquito landed on his desk. Ha ha! Sweet victory at last!
In Taiwan, toilet paper is not flushed down the toilet after the paper is, uh, used. Instead, one is expected to toss the toilet paper into a bin adjacent to the toilet. Another feature I appreciate while working at UMC is the design of our restrooms. Instead of an open wastebasket (which can be quite disgusting, both visually and olfactory), each stall has its own covered wastebasket with a convenient step-on pedal for hands-free access. The wastebasket is ergonomically located so that you do not have to twist your body in odd positions to open the lid. I have not seen a better system in Taiwan, even in Taipei's best hotels (some of them have covered wastebaskets, but the flip-top lid kind, which in its own way is even more gross than the uncovered ones). I applaud whoever thought up of this system. I really do appreciate the little details.

In unrelated and more appealing news, I went climbing again yesterday. This time, I only went up once, to 8 meters, before getting pooped. I spent the rest of the time learning how to belay from Flora, Benson, and James. I am establishing a trend; I go climbing every time I return from Hsinchu. Yesterday's meetings in Hsinchu were rather dull. In one, I felt like I was surrounded by my parents' friends: a gaggle of senior engineering types chortling at what I assume were engineering jokes.

Wednesday, April 24, 2002

One of the benefits here at UMC is our subsidized lunch program. The employees who work in Hsinchu can eat in the company cafeteria for only NT$25, so the kind folks in upper management have extended that same benefit to their Taipei employees. Since the company does not have its own cafeteria in Taipei, they order biandang (lunchboxes) from local vendors. Every day, I get my choice of about eleven options, equally divided between vegetarian and non-vegetarian meals. I enter my selection in a shared Excel spreadsheet every morning by 10:30a.m., and by noon, my lunch has been delivered to the office. I appreciate this program not only because the US$0.71 lunch fits into my poor cash flow budget, but also because the lunch options are written in Chinese characters. Every morning presents a learning opportunity and a guessing game. I am partial to the vegetarian option that comes with the fruit plate, because not only do I get a filling lunch entree, I also get a good amount and variety of cut up fruit.

Tuesday, April 23, 2002

A bit of cross-promotion: may I recommend you check out my latest entry in electronic paths? I have featured some references on writing. Additionally, I posted to beauty salon yesterday, with an entry on Maggie's beauty routine. That is as sophisticated as my comments feature is going to be for now -- email me and I'll incorporate comments at my discretion.

In other news, last night was Benicio's (aka James) first time as a stand-up comedian, with Christine as his foil. The event, held at a bar called Witch House, was well attended by friends with kind intentions, despite the occasional (playful) heckling from the crowd. Mike tried to teach Benecio how to stand in the horse position of the martial arts style that Mike studies (the name of which Benecio translated as "Buddha's hand coming out of the cabbage"), Barbara regaled us with horror stories about blind dates in Taiwan, and I discovered -- long after the rest of the patrons did -- that Witch House's decor includes hanging bras off of chair backs. I do hope that Benicio will have another go at stand-up comedy.

Monday, April 22, 2002

People keep asking me about what my new job is like and what I do. Well, I am in the Corporate Communications division of UMC, which means that I work on the look and feel of our communications with our clients. My current projects include editing our quarterly newsletter which is sent out to clients, redesigning our corporate brochure, and my favorite, designing a notebook (the spiral-bound kind) that we are making to give away at an upcoming conference. I ponder such weighty issues like picking the right color and texture cardstock, and whether rounded corners are preferable to sharp corners.

I told my mom that I feel like I am back working on the yearbook in high school and college, except that this time I am getting paid to make sure that things look nice and are produced well! My experiences at Technique, the yearbook of MIT, have been particularly helpful, because Technique has always maintained a high standard for quality, especially in content and production. Though I am not doing anything world-changing, I am pleased by the fact that I am getting paid to do something I did for fun before.

On the other hand, I've only been here for a week, so my cousins are theorizing that the really hard work will kick in after awhile.
Another lovely, peaceful Sunday...

Sundays are my favorite days, because it lends itself to leisurely brunches with close friends, which means good food, the Sunday paper, and interesting conversation. As usual, Angela, Jen, Eugenio, Linda, and I met up for brunch at United Mix. Joaquin and Mate were unable to join us because they had company, and their presence was sorely missed. Maria, Seth, and Jeff joined us today as well.

Speaking of Sundays, TC recently wrote this in his blog:

Eventually I became conversant in many different kinds of church ceremonies, i.e., when to kneel, when to sing, when when I could get away with doodling on the program notes for lengthy periods of time during the sermon. I didn't pay much attention to the sermons because if I had I would just have wanted to respond to the pastor's claims, but I knew from confirmation class that discussion was frowned upon. We were God's Flock, dammit. Sheep don't discuss things. Shut up, TC. Nobody wants to hear your theories on why the Philistines might not have been so bad after all.

I laughed out loud when I read it! Thankfully, my co-workers didn't seem to notice. And on another thankful note, in the religious experiences that I've had, people have always been willing to discuss with me my responses to various religious tenets. I do feel like God is always watching over me, which provides reassurance, though...I have not resolved the differences between my political views and views on the way people should live their lives, and the way the average devout Christian in the U.S. lives his or her life.

Something which I do keep in mind is what I once read in The Jesus I Never Knew, by Philip Yancey. In the book, Yancey points out that Jesus was a guy who hung out with the unpopular crowd, and was perfectly comfortable with them. Jesus was a guy whom "those in authority..regarded him as a troublemaker, a disturber of the peace. He spoke and acted like a revolutionary, scorning fame, family, property, and other traditional measures of success." I'd like to have that compassion for others that he had.

I think I am entering a philosophical realm in which I'm not going to be able to express myself as clearly as I'd like to right now, so I'll just leave it at that.

Sunday, April 21, 2002

Very quickly--it's 3 a.m. and I, along with Sophia, Barbara, Patty, and James, are still at Mike's place. Another one of Christine's Great Ideas, we all descended upon Mike's place to give him some badly needed decorating advice. After much moving of books, knicknacks, and furniture, his apartment is much improved. All he needs now are some nice gauzy curtains, fresh paint on the walls (Mike, that bluish hospital white color has got to go), warm lighting, and rug to pull all the elements together. We were well compensated by Mike's generous hospitality...I admit, I came for the free dinner! And of course, to exercise my Martha Stewart-like qualities and because helping a friend in need is always, as Martha would say, a good thing.

Friday, April 19, 2002

Gosh, I cannot believe it has already been two days since I've posted. One of my goals when starting this blog was to update it daily during the workweek. One would imagine that the technology leader in providing foundry services would have better computers for its employees. Actually, I shouldn't complain. I will get a more recent one soon, and the one I have now is already better than the one I used on my first day. I am impressed that Paul was able to put up with that computer for over a year and a half.

Today, I spent NT$2,200 (about US$63) for the priviledge of being able to work in Taiwan. As I left the Bureau of Consular Affairs, relieved that I would soon be receiving a work visa--which would enable me to stay in Taiwan indefinitely--I was amused thinking of my parents, who emigrated from Taiwan to the U.S., for their own individual and their children's educational and work opportunities. And here I am in Taiwan, fretting over whether or not I would obtain a work visa and residence permit.

I also spent NT$1,507 today getting the medical exam UMC requires of all its new employees. I went to the National Taiwan University Hospital, which is a lovely building built back in the days of Spanish/European-influenced colonial architecture. I felt like the human equivalent of a McDonald's hamburger patty, being weighed and measured in one room, poked and prodded in another, my bodily fluids drawn further down the hall, and finally, my chest being X-rayed. It's not like my health care experiences in the U.S., but I did feel that the care was competent and the staff helpful as they guided me through the process with our minimally overlapping communication forms.

However, when I have a child, I would like to be in the U.S. The thought of giving birth in a foreign environment freaks me's hard enough, I imagine, going through the pregnancy and childbirth process, without having to navigate an unfamiliar medical system and language.

Tuesday, April 16, 2002

A very quiet day -- my first "real" day on the job. I met my new co-workers, toured the facilities, became oriented with my desk and some of my new duties. I'm pretty pleased with my employee ID, which comes with a spiffy security pass that allows me to gain access to the locked ladies' room. An added bonus of the ladies' room are the individual cubbyholes. One is going to get filled with gym clothes and a spare set of "professional" shoes for whenever the occassion strikes.

Gosh, I'm tired. Off to my Chinese lesson.

Monday, April 15, 2002

I can barely type this blog entry because...I went rock climbing! My friend Josh is about to leave Taiwan for the States (why does it seem like everyone I've just become friends with is leaving Taiwan?), so I jumped at the chance to try rock climbing before he leaves on Friday. There is a indoor rock gym on the corner of Renai Rd. and Linsheng Rd. I actually went up about 6 meters, and I didn't even notice the height because I was so focused on finding the right holds. Josh was my belay, which means he was my counterweight, so that when my arms got really tired, I just hung in the harness as he lowered me down. I also learned how to tie a double figure-eight knot, which is a way better knot than my usual wimpy tying-shoelaces knot. Rock climbing was the most active my mind and body have been all day.

My first day at UMC went well: I woke up amazingly perky at 5:30a.m. and made it to my colleague's home by 6:30a.m. (Leo had to go down to Hsinchu as well, so he gave me a ride). My perkiness quickly faded as I filled out paperwork and listened to presentations in Chinese all day long. The Chinese I have learned so far does not extend to understanding talks on company policies and benefits, and fire safety guidelines. So basically, I politely zoned out all day. The staff and my new colleagues were very friendly though, and tried to help me as much as possible. I also learned how to put out a fire with a fire extinguisher -- they lit metal pans full of oil, and we had to successfully put out the fire. Leo got me out of the required English test given to all employees so that we could beat the traffic and head back to Taipei.

I need to go to bed.

Saturday, April 13, 2002

Some exciting news: I had written Tom about the link love, and it turns out his friend Lex had given link love to Christine after finding her site through my blog via the link on Tom's page. And, it turns out that Tom knows of TC because TC happens to post frequently on Don's blog. Don is a friend of Tom. What a small world! Truly a web of connections.

In less exciting news, I met with a trainer from California today. Thursday, I was jogging on the treadmill when a trainer, Erica, approached me.

Erica: [speaking Chinese]
Me: huh?
Erica: You know that as part of your membership, you have four free consulations with a trainer?
Me: Yes.
Erica: The first session introduces how to use exercise equipment. Do you know how to use exercise equipment?
Me: Yes. [while thinking, if I didn't know how to use the equipment, why would I be jogging on a treadmill now?]

So, to get rid of Erica and also because I thought there was nothing to lose, I made an appointment to meet with a trainer, Kernis. Kernis performed a fitness assessment on me and asked me about my health and fitness goals. She asked me if I would be interested in having a personal trainer. Sure, I thought. Kernis recommended meeting with her two or three times a week to maximize results. "Okay," I said. "How much?"

I practically fell off of the chair when she told me that three months of personal training would come out to NT$36,225! That's way more than my monthly income! Aha! This is where the catch is! Her manager came over and gave me the hard sell. Personal training is good because you'll be sure you will learn how to use exercise equipment properly, learn which exercises are best at meeting your goals, and learn what makes a good diet, the manager said. I told her I agreed with all of what she said, except that I was certainly in no position to pay over a month's income towards this service, especially when I had greater expense priorities, like rent, food, transportation, etc..

Manager: Do you have a credit card?
Me: Not a Taiwan one.
Manager: Well, I don't either, I use my Hong Kong one.
Me: Okay.
Manager: You can pay by credit card!
Me: Yes, but you still have a credit card bill at the end of the month.
Manager: Just pay the minimum!
Me: I'm not about to pay 17% interest on a credit card bill just to get a personal trainer.

My gosh. They're quite aggressive, those California Fitness people. Actually, I thought that Kernis was quite nice, and after her manager left, she suggested some exercises to focus on and left it at that. Later, as I was jogging on a treadmill, I was approached by another trainer. This time, I quickly told him I had already been approached by his colleague and had my appointment early this afternoon, thank you very much.

This week, California has been giving away one week trial passes, which I have given to Jen and Jeff. I am sensing a marketing campaign over there...

Friday, April 12, 2002

Yesterday I had my Taiwanese class with Hironobu. The class made me realize that my Taiwanese comprehension is much better than I thought to my Mandarin comprehension. At the very least, I could follow along with what the teacher was saying in Taiwanese, whereas I would get lost when he spoke in Mandarin. He'd ask me to translate a word from Mandarin to Taiwanese, which was sometimes quite difficult for me. Now, if he had held up a picture of the item in question, that would have been easier.

TC also came to check out the class. I was so pleased to find out that he reads this blog and put a link on his site! Another pleasant surprise this morning was more link love from Tom, who's site is one that I envy for it's clarity and aesthetic. I like Tom's photos, too.

I received some comments about my photos of Thong Girl from one of my best guy friends in Taiwan, Jeff:

"Where the hell are the close ups!!!!!?"


Thursday, April 11, 2002

One luxury of waking up in the morning at Angela's place is that her living room gets a nice breeze. I love having my body warm and cozy under the covers, and a breeze lightly touching my face. It almost makes me feel like I am in Venezuela or St. Croix. One of my favorite is napping while lying in the shade in a warm locale next to the ocean.

Speaking of beaches, I had my photos developed! You can see my shots of Thong Girl and the beach patrol. Also check out the third photo on the page and play What's Wrong With This Idyllic Beach Scene?
Mike wrote me to let me know that Eason Chan's name is not spelled "Easan Chen"--I'm glad this blog is being read, and read carefully! If not for Mike, I would not have noticed today while doing crunches at California that one of Eason's songs, "Wo de bei-bao" (my backpack), was playing in the background.

Today I had a veggie-filled day. Jen and I had a late lunch at Fei Tai Tai, a restaurant with a all-you-can-fill-two-plates salad and dessert bar. Perfect! I always feel like I never get my Five A Day (servings of fruits and vegetables, preferably not well-dressed with oil and soy sauce) in Taiwan, and you can never have too much dessert. Later, as I was walking to California after my salsa class, I passed a new Subway shop and couldn't resist going in. I'm so happy to have had so many veggies and whole wheat bread today! I think I eat more meat and oily foods in Taiwan, though cab drivers and my relatives always assume that all Americans eat hamburgers everyday. They've never considered organic foods-eating tree-huggers such as myself.

Today was also a reassuring day. I decided to accept my job offer from UMC, after much thought accompanied by an extra metaphysical reassurance. Jen's cousin, Sean, graciously agreed to read my fortune. One thing about fortune telling or a coin toss -- doing so always clarifies your true feelings towards the matter at hand. I have never really consulted fortune telling before, but this is quite the practice in Taiwan. The end result is that my fortune reading confirmed what I had concluded after much rational thinking. So now all I have to do is figure out how I will get myself from Taipei to UMC's corporate offices in Hsinchu at 8:30a.m. next Monday morning!

Tuesday, April 09, 2002

As they say in Mandarin, "hao jiu bu jian!" (It's been a while). I have wanted to add to this blog all weekend, but unfortunately, Blogger was down Saturday night. Last night I again spent the night at Angela's apartment. I really enjoy staying over at Angela's place. Angela is very hospitable and makes me feel like her home es mi casa. Plus, she has a fabulous eye, so her home is beautifully decorated -- feminine and relaxed, not fussy and floral. I love her couch -- it's coffee colored courdoroy-like fabric -- and very comfortable. I always sleep well at Angela's place.

On Saturday, I went swimming with Wayne. I love how I feel after having a good swim (I swam 2,100 meters), shower, and meal -- when I am physically tired, clean, and my tummy is full. The biggest lesson from Saturday is that not all Asian-American BMW owners are shallow. I have this sterotype of certain Asian-Americans who drive luxury cars as being solely concerned with having the right brands. My point is, although Wayne is a BMW-owner, he has many other interests, and I respect and find interesting people who have such interests. Thank you, Wayne!

On Sunday, I was a participant in a Cultural Experience. Eason Chan, apparently the rising pop star in Hong Kong, performed at the Breeze Center. Mike Lee, successful contract lawyer at Squire, Sanders, and Dempsey during the work week, is a Asian pop music fan. He goes to concerts where he waves his copy of the performer's CD and joins the rest of the fans (some of whom are 'tweens) in shouting with excitement when Easan Chen casts playful glances towards his way. Mike is not ashamed of being a groupie, which is very cool. Power to the people who are open about their interests!

Mike is also quite patient, as he faced quite a tough crowd of cosmetics connoiseurs (Flora, Patty, and myself) Saturday evening as he attempted to do his NuSkin presentation. We brought out our products to compare with his NuSkin products, and had lots of fun doing chemical experiments on all these products. Just FYI, Aveda and Declor are just as pH balanced as NuSkin products. But do they have as kind and patient a representative as Mike?

Joaquin and Mate have decided that my Berlitz Think and Talk Spanish CD-ROM is very inadequate. They are going to teach me Spanish that I hope will be useful! Cualquier cosa que te quieras imaginar... Laugh!

Friday, April 05, 2002

Today is Tomb Sweeping holiday, so I went to the beach at Fulong with Christine and Felicia. The weather was beautiful: sunny and warm, and the beach more attractive than I expected. The only drawback was the strong wind picking up the sand and peppering it across our bodies. My day at the beach had an unexpected highlight, which occurred while Felicia and I were walking at the water's edge.

My, how times have changed. My mom always talks about how conservative Taiwanese people are. I was feeling relatively risqu�, as it seemed like only us foreigners were wearing bathing suits -- all the other beach goers were attired in long shorts and t-shirts. Then, I spied a local girl wearing a teeny bikini bottom -- a thong, as a matter of fact. And that was all. Nothing else. Just a strip of fabric and her breasts for all the world to see. She was bent over rubbing sunscreen on her female friend. (The rest of her girlfriends were wearing conservative bathing suits.)

Felicia and I were extremely amused, and then noticed two police officers walking by. Uh oh. Would they arrest the girl? Demand that she cover herself up? No way, they totally checked her out! It was hilarious! And I took a photo to record the moment. Once I get my film developed, I'm putting the photo up! (Don't worry, my zoom lens is not that good, so the people should not be identifiable.)

Thursday, April 04, 2002

This evening is the CAPT's monthly Social Hour. As the new Brand Marketing Manager of the CAPT Executive Committee, one of my responsibilities this month was to create nametags.


In the U.S., I would have just gone to the nearest Staples and bought one of those Avery packages, which comes with software templates for designing nametags, and perforated sheets to feed through the printer.

Except that I'm in Taiwan. There are no Staples! What did people do before there were Staples? A-ha! They shopped at Mom-and-Pop shops. Except that as a foreigner here, I'm not sure where these shops are.

Eventually, I went to two bookstores to find those perforated sheets. Realization #2: there are different brands here, and none of the stores carry the perforated sheets. This realization came after I picked up many, many packages, scrutinized the contents, and then in desperation, finding a sales clerk, and, with a combination of miming and my basic spoken Mandarin, making my wishes understood.

The nametags got created sans Staples and Avery office products. (Thanks to my cousin Jenny for providing her color printer.)

Although those big box stores and global brands are making the world more uniform, and thus, less interesting, there are times when a familiar name is reassuring and efficient.

That thought is not so reassuring. I like diversity. But I should save that thought for another day and get my tush to that Social Hour.

Wednesday, April 03, 2002

On Sunday, a strong earthquake rattled Taiwan. Having grown up in California, I was not perturbed -- the Northridge Earthquake felt more serious. Of course, this cavalier attitude is also because I have been blessed not to have two construction cranes fall on me. As people say, there but for the grace of God go I.

When the quake occurred, I was in a caf� with Clair and Yu-ru. They insisted we go outside. Since they're local, I complied, but upon exiting the caf� I looked up and saw power lines. I wanted to go back inside and take my chances because I'd rather be smushed than electrocuted.

Part of this nonchalance also comes from my assumption that in earthquake-prone regions (for example, the land masses that surround the Pacific Ocean which make up the "Ring of Fire"), buildings are constructed with that in mind. After all, very few places are earthquake-risk free, and those that are deal with hurricanes and tornadoes. Especially after seeing Twister, I prefer to live near the San Andreas Fault than Dorothy's Kansas.

However, I am in Taiwan, which is not known for its quality construction. After the quake, Jen and I were talking about the Taipei Financial Center, intended to be the world's tallest building. Envy is the motivator for constructing such buildings. Wouldn't the money being spent on this project be better used on something that the Taiwanese public could all take pride in, something that will outlast the next hubristic real estate developer's latest project? How about refurbishing and improving the National Palace Musem so that it becomes the premier center of Chinese culture? After all, this is an achievable feat that the PRC wouldn't be able to surpass - the Cultural Revolution ensured that.

Tuesday, April 02, 2002

I am finally satisfied with this site and my web of logs. Thanks again to Christine for inspiring me. Creating this has been, although at times trying, an incredibly rewarding experience.

My thoughts on the earthquake will come later, as my Blogger session expires before I've finished writing!

Monday, April 01, 2002

Christine got me excited about creating a blog. However, I think I am confusing blogs with web sites and forums. I have a vision, but not the skills needed to realize it.
Today is my first Taiwanese class at TLI. I am taking the class with my friend Hironobu, who is truly a lover of languages. Although I have some basic fluency with Taiwanese, I am looking forward to the day when I can really talk with Taiwan's taxi drivers-the true pulse of a society.

While working for TOPICS magazine at AmCham Taipei, I've discovered an affinity for journalism. I do worry about committing the sin of oversimplification, slathering stereotypes over nuance. For example, the November 2001 issue of Vanity Fair had a photo spread featuring Shakira, with an accompanying caption about how she escaped a "coastal village" as a youngster and with "Laundry Service," her first English-language album, she may be the Colombia's "greatest legal export." Joaquin and Mate were flaming: the coastal village is the 4th largest city in Colombia with a population of about 2 million, and Colombia is not only about cocaine.