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.