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.