Tuesday, December 30, 2003

Berta's Bangkok Index:
+ Baipai Thai Cooking School
+ Body Tune massage: ask for Jaruwan (#7) at the Silom Road branch.
+ Yoga Elements Studio: yoga - a self-administered massage!
+ Rut & Lek Seafood: the intersection of Yaowarat Road and Soi Texas in Chinatown. Frong the Ratchavongse pier on the Chao Phrya River, go north and make a right when you hit Yaowarat Road. Soi Texas is about two blocks down the road, and the "restaurant " (it's an expansive sidewalk affair) will be on your left. Highly recommended are the crab fried rice, crab curry, and shrimp with black pepper.

Wednesday, December 24, 2003

Today I had took a Thai cooking class at a school located in the Bangkok suburbs, in a beautiful open air teak home. I learned how to make fish cakes, chicken larb, padaman pork curry, and water chestnuts in coconut milk. I definitely want to come back to Thailand and take the whole 5-course series.

Later, I stopped by a local grocery store to pick up curry pastes and fish sauce (total, less than $2). Thailand is so liveable. There is so much good food, and the grocery store had such a nice selection of food staples. I don't understand why groceries in Hong Kong and Bangkok are so much better than those in Taiwan (although Taiwanese grocery stores are improving). Maybe it's a population issue, a minimum number of people needed in order to support demand for international foods.

Anyways, I must be jetting off to my yoga class now...!
I just had the BEST massage of my life! To all, if you ever go to Bangkok, stop by the Body Tune massage therapy place on Silom Road and ask for Jaruwan (#7), who is the nicest lady and the best masseuse I have ever had. I've had two two-hour Thai massage session in the past 2 days (for only about $15 each) and a pedicure and manicure for only $6.

I also met up with a friend who was in town for about 24 hours, and we ate at what is supposed to be one of the best seafood restaurants -- Rut & Lek Seafood, on a sidewalk in a corner of Chinatown. Fabulous prawns with black pepper, curry crab, and crab fried rice. I love Thailand!

Monday, December 22, 2003

What a change to travel with just a little bit more money! My arrival to Thailand was so much more pleasant to go to the designated arrivals area at the airport to be greeted by a friendly face from the hotel -- instead of hordes of touts pushing the hard sell. Unfortunately, I was very distressed to find that my cell phone wouldn't work; somehow Chunghwa Telecom wouldn't let me roam upon arrival, which caused me to miss a call from a dear friend that I had hoped to meet up for lunch in the four hours we would overlap in Bangkok.

I eventually overcame my disappointment. It was hard not to, the weather was perfect - not too hot, not too cold. My room number has my lucky number, which I took to be an especially auspicious sign. The hotel is located in a bustling, yuppie part of town. Exploring the environs around my hotel, I came across many chicly designed restaurants. And according to Stan Sesser, the Asian Wall Street Journal's restaurant reviewer, one of the best French cafes is just across the road from my hotel.

Saturday evening I took the Bangkok Sky Train (the Sala Daeng station is just 5 minutes from my hotel) to Sukhumvit Road, where I stopped by the legendary Atlanta hotel, which is Angela's absolute favorite. Unfortunately, rooms were unavailable when I tried to make a reservation. I was able to dine in their restaurant (having my favorite soup, thom kha gai - coconut chicken soup, and an unusual and tasty spicy fresh fruit salad) and peruse their annotated menu, which Lonely Planet's Joe Cummings describes as a crash course in Thai cuisine. Fortunately, the Atlanta staged a special performance of Thai classical dance that evening. Apparently, the three performers were among the top performers in Thailand, and a long-term resident of the hotel provided background information. All this, and for free.

My good fortune continued the next day as I trekked from one end of town to another (in the comfort of the Sky Train) in search of shopping bargains. In the morning, I headed to Chatachuk Weekend Market and navigated the 15,000 stalls. In the afternoon, I headed to the BITEC convention center for Jim Thompson's semi-annual sale. This sale happens only two days a year, and I'm extremely lucky to be in Thailand during this time (and read a tiny blurb about it in Thai Airways' in flight magazine). Fine silk products at 50-70% off! For a pittance, my day's bounty included a number of fine Thai silk and comfortable cotton products.

After I returned to my hotel with all of my shoppings, I set out for Lumphini Park, a 7 minute stroll away. Lumphini Park is like New York's Central Park, an oasis in the center of a bustling city. I passed joggers and young families to catch an hour of the Bangkok Symphony Orchestra giving a free outdoor concert. The concert ended with a fireworks display, and then I headed to Saxophone club, where I listened to acoustic guitarist and and a live band playing soul while I ate fiery sliced beef and eggplant salad. All in all, a very good weekend.

Friday, December 19, 2003

I leave tomorrow morning for my one week vacation to Thailand and Cambodia, whee! In Bangkok, I'll be staying at the Swiss Lodge, and in Siem Reap, I'll stay at the Mysteres d'Angkor. Funny enough, even though I'm going alone, Southeast Asia seems to be the place to be, and I plan to meet up with a few friends and colleagues who will also be in town.

Tuesday, December 16, 2003

A rash of birthdays recently: happy birthday to my beloved brother, Galen, and also Maria and Bonnie!

My weekend in a nutshell: Our company had our weiya (year-end party) last Friday at Ruth's Chris Steakhouse. Although I didn't win anything in the drawing, I did get a nice meal out of it. Although I'm not a big fan of this old-fashioned American-style food, where all the vegetables are drowning in cheese and cream. But I am a big fan of American dessert, and I quite enjoyed their warm apple crumb tart--which ended up lasting me three days (and which I shared with a colleague of mine). Saturday I went to my roommate's brother's wedding. On Sunday, I listened to my acupuncturist's admonitions and slept in for the first time in months, and then had brunch with friends. The conversation, as usual, was excellent.

Writing of awesomeness, my trainer is the best! Today at lunch I did ab work, continuing some of the exercises I learned last Thursday. One is where I'm in the sit-up position with my arms over my head, holding on to a 4-pound medicine ball. As I sit-up, I throw the ball to my trainer, who is standing about a yard in front of me, who throws the ball back as I lie back down. Lots of fun and you can really feel it. Another execise I did last week was to stand in a static lunge position, arms overhead holding the medicine ball (yes, it apepars again). As I lunge down, one of my arms takes the ball and passes it to my other arm on the other side, and I rise as the other arm lifts the ball overhead. Very cool. Sheng-hong, my trainer, made it even harder by having my front leg rest on a balance mat, which is an inflatable pad that adds a little bit of instability, so that I train my core that much more.

I always feel so much better after working out a lunch. Too bad my dealings with banks here weren't as pleasant, but I'll save that rant for later.

Tuesday, December 09, 2003

An article in yesterday's Taipei Times explaining the group I traveled with to Ilan. And in today's New York Times, an article covering the latest issue in Taiwan.
I've decided I'm really not a cat-person. My flatmate and I have been house-sitting her friend's cat for the past week, and I am looking forward to when that cat's owner takes her back tonight. Unlike most cats, this cat isn't aloof and standoffish. She literally rubs me the wrong way. Unlike dogs, who are affectionate in a very cute and appealing manner, this cat manages to be constantly underfoot. I've nearly tripped several times, as has my flatmate. And, this cat has managed to soil every cushion on the couch. This morning I saw that she had thrown up in the living room and balcony, always a good sight to see while eating breakfast.

To top it all off, due to a confluence of factors, I was woken up three times last night by calls -- all of which would not have happened if not for the presence of that cat. This makes for a very sleepy and grouchy Berta at work today. I'm turning off my phone tonight before I go to sleep.

Monday, December 08, 2003

I went to the Chilin Cultural and Educational Center in Ilan yesterday as part of a tour group consisting mostly of foreign nationals who played instrumental roles in Taiwan's democratization. At the Center is the Taiwan Democratic Movement Museum. As Jen and I had worked on the english text of the guide to the Museum, we served as volunteer guides through the museum. What was ironic was that although I'm familiar with the topic, yesterday's trip was also my first visit to the museum, and many of the tour group members spoke better Taiwanese and could read more Chinese characters than me. Most of these visitors had been Presbyterian missionaries to Taiwan.

I always find spending time with Lin Yi-hsiung and his wife quietly inspiring, and yesterday was no different. What made yesterday extra special was that I really was able to get a sense of the excitement, trepidation, and sorrow that some of these people went through as they remained steadfast to their beliefs of social justic, democracy, peace, hope, and love while living under an authoritarian regime.

Wednesday, December 03, 2003

Brenda told me the music that was playing at the most fun place (besides salsa) is funk and blues.

Boy, am I glad that Sunrise is having a sale. I bought a wonderfully heavy and warm wool comforter on Sunday, perfect for the now damp and chilly winter weather. Very cheap! The department store was swarming with people hunting for bargains though. Ugh. As Maria wrote, "even top class department stores look like night markets."

Tuesday, December 02, 2003

I went to the most fun place Saturday night, the Saturday Latin Lounge at G-Down. Finally, a funky, beautiful space that plays mostly salsa, a little merengue, and what may be funk, old school hip hop, and jazz (I can never classify music, but I know I like it), a place where the people are focused on dancing and not other unsavory missions. Kudos to all the Salsa Taipei folks who are hard at work arranging these events!

Wednesday, November 26, 2003

I feel like a computer that has had too many programs going on at once and so finally crashed. Today. Woke up in the middle of the night with a fever and worked from home so as not to become a vector of infection for my colleagues. I was worried that the folks at Din Tai Fung might not let me pass through their shiny sterilized doorway to get some chicken soup for lunch, but thankfully they weren't taking temperatures.

Tuesday, November 25, 2003

After all the hustle and bustle of the past three weeks, I spent a very chill weekend, starting off with my first tai chi class ever on Friday evening, spending quality time catching up with Angela while playing with the babies at the nursery on Saturday, and hanging out with friends on Sunday. I also finally saw Shrek and Kissing Jessica Stein at home Saturday night. Kissing Jessica Stein may become one of my favorite movies: its funny and charming, and I identify with Jessica�s desire to meet someone who is both funny and articulate.

Monday, November 17, 2003

If a photo is worth a thousand words, here are five thousand plus words for your perusal:

Proof that I went paintballing...as much as I enjoyed it, this is definitely an activity that requires a recovery period.

Inspiration for all those Chinese paintings.

At our base camp, Jiu Jiu Lodge.

Da Ba Peak to the left and Xiao Ba Peak to the right as we approached early in the morning.

The hills unfolded beneath us as we hiked back out.

Friday, November 14, 2003

I tell ya, there is NOTHING like going to bed at 10:30pm at night and getting a full eight hours of sleep! It makes such a difference in one's outlook at 6:30 in the morning! Today was all happiness and light on my way to work -- I'm a convert!

Funny sight on my way back to the office after a lunchtime swim -- a guy who appeared to be plucking his eyebrows while astride his scooter (thankfully, he wasn't operating the scooter and he was using his rearview mirror).

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

I'm tired and in much (admittedly minor) distress. I'm definitely a night person. I was at the office until quite late yesterday finishing up a project and felt much better between 7:30-9:30pm than I did slogging through normal business hours. Once again, I'm quite sluggish this morning.

Of course, I still haven't unpacked from the past weekend's hiking trip and there are many little errands to be run at home. On top of that, today is our office's grand opening reception and I can't comfortably fit into my suit pants anymore. So I'm wearing my dress, which is just a twinge too tight at the top. And my calves and quads are still incredibly tight from the hike. I think I need a swim, a nap, and to shrink about a dress size, preferably by this evening...ha.

Monday, November 10, 2003

Hike to Da Ba Jian mountain: 24 total kilometers, 13 hours of hiking, seemingly never-ending steep grades, blessedly flat streches (alas, too short), vistas of rolling mountains, cornflower blue skies, velvety greenery, stark rock, sunrise as I hike along a ridge, painfully steep descents, I'd better have a butt like J. Lo's when I'm finished with this.

Friday, November 07, 2003

Okay, I'm not doing a very good job at following my own advice. I was planning on having a quiet night at home last Friday. But then Basil called about a small going-away gathering...so after a (free) massage at my gym, I dashed home to change, met up with Eric (who's in town for two months on a consulting project) and his two co-workers at Shintori, and then met up with Basil and Chris at Carnegie's. A Long Island iced tea later, I was home at 2:30am...and was up by 7:30 to re-hydrate myself and get ready for a full day of paint-balling out in Tamshui. This was my first time going paint-balling, and I think I'll do it again...after I recover from my bruises. Came home from paint-balling and quickly showered and headed out to meet Jonathan to see "Kill Bill." I actually quite liked the film--the gurgling sounds of flowing bodily fluids aside--especially the visuals (the final scene between Lucy Liu's O-ren Ishii and Uma Thurman's "the bride" characters) and the soundtrack. Anyways, after "Kill Bill," I finally got to see the renowned 70s Airport Love Palace via a Halloween party the residents were hosting.

Sunday was a quiet day of sleep and recovery. Monday night I really exerted myself at the climbing gym (and now have injured my left shoulder muscle, sigh), Tuesday night I went with my co-worker Walsh to check out the Taiwan Society of Investment Professionals happy hour (I plan on taking the CFA exam next spring), Wednesday night I was up till 1:30am discussing with Christine and Joann ORIENTED, Inc's structure, and last night I caught up with Doug over dinner and got a foot massage along with Christine and Rose at the night market while waiting for James to re-connect with his mobile phone so that I could go over and borrow a sleeping bag and mat for this weekend's hiking trip to Da Ba Jian mountain. So, not much rest this week, but the adventures continue...

Friday, October 31, 2003

Whiff. This week has been rather exhausting. I know I must seem like I'm chronically pooped, but this week was really a doozy. Note to self: do not go out on weekends. Stay home and SLEEP. Nothing is worse than starting off a workweek tired. I had one good night of sleep, on Tuesday, wehn I got to bed at the delightfully early hour of 11.

Last night was the ORIENTED Taipei happy hour at the American Club. I must say I thought it was a rather successful event. In any case, I was ready to go home at 11 and collapse, but Christine and I thought we should go down to Sigi's and check out how many folks were left. Of course, Christine spotted some old friends, who were very charming people--and whose names I cannot think of at the moment because of the above mentioned fatigue--and we all a nice chat, but these pleasantries happened way too late in the night for me.

I can't complain. We just finished the last stretch of earnings season. One of my co-workers was at work till 1:30am, and my boss and two other analysts were apparently still going strong at 3am in the morning.

Over and out, the party girl with a 30's Shanghai look today.

Sunday, October 26, 2003

Today's session with my trainer--my second session--has convinced me I have found the perfect one for me. Besides being approachable, knowledgeable, and ENCOURAGING, I learned today that he's not interested in the traditional gym routine of cardio and weights. He's also into mind-body movement methods. Today taught me some core-strengthening and flexibility exercises I haven't already done--which I find impressive, since I've taken a number of fitness classes. Apparently my lower spine is a bit flat, and that, coupled with my really tight hamstrings and lower back muscles, has caused a number of back problems.

Hmmm, as I read through this, I realize I'm probably boring you terribly. But in any case, I'm rather excited about all of this, because I'll be learning something new that makes me feel good. Improving my flexibility has long been a desire of mine since I have the worst flexibility; despite stretching regularly, I still barely make it past the bottom run of the "needs work" scale at my semi-annual fitness evaluation (although, I have gained 12cm of flexibility in my back in the past year and a half). Eventually, eventually I hope (keeping my fingers crossed, although I supposed I should be doing the downward facing dog instead) to be able to move up into the "fair" scale.

Friday, October 24, 2003

Wow! I just published my blog! The reason why I've been posting so infrequently these past couple of weeks (besides being busy at work) is that I thought I could no longer publish from work. After one day's futile attempts at publishing, and an email to Blogger Help, I was told my my work's FTP settings no longer worked with Blogger and that I should ask my ISP to change their settings. Yeah, right, like the IT folks will make a change so that I can blog at work. Not that I blog all the time at work, obviously. But being able to snatch moments to get out thoughts on my mind is a great outlet.
Thanks to Felix for rounding up a gaggle of us to participate in the Terry Fox Run last Sunday. Bonnie and I were feeling pretty good after what we believed to be the first half (we were told there were 3km and a 6km runs), so we embarked upon the second part. Gosh, we agreed, the run seems a lot longer when we aren't darting between crowds of participants. Of course, later we found out the first part was only 2.2km. Thankfully, the twice-weekly runs I had taken at the gym in the couple of weeks leading to the Terry Fox Run ensured I wasn't sore the next day.

However, I've been feeling really tired. I think it's the change of seasons. Plus, I tend to run myself ragged during the summer, dashing about here and there, doing this and that. Autumn is a time of recuperation. The weather is really quite beatiful now: today the sunny skies are blue, and there's just a hint of crispness in the air.

Wednesday, October 15, 2003

Yesterday was a day of reconnecting with friends I haven't heard from in awhile. At lunch, I was sad as I realized that I haven't really talked to Galen since he left Taiwan. While he was here, we'd talk nearly everyday. Now that he's finishing up his last semester of school at Berkeley, we rarely talk. Joy, then, when he got online in the afternoon and we had a satisfying instant message chat. Galen always makes me laugh.

Later, I thought to myself how unfortunate I missed meeting Andy on one of his business trips to Taiwan, as I had been to Hong Kong. I'd hoped he'd still be here when I got back, but I hadn't heard from him. Lo and behold, as I was walking back from the CAPT EC meeting, Andy called--he had missed the clearly written line in my email reply to him that I had changed my mobile number, and had called me on my old number. Thankfully, he re-read his email and caught me on his last night in town.

What else is a girl to do but to meet up with her bud? So good catching up--Andy remembers all my life's minutae from the last visit and asks for an update--but as I arrived home at 1:30am with my eyelids drooping, I knew I'd be hurting in the morning when my alarm rang at it's usual time of 6:30.

Tuesday, October 14, 2003

random acts of kindness

It's moments like these that make me so thankful that I live in Taiwan. This afternoon, I thought I would take a break and get some blood flowing into my legs by scurrying out to get a mango smoothie from my favorite juice place. It's just down the street, so I figured I would not heed the changeable weather we've had lately as fall blows in and just bring some cash and my phone.

Of course, the sky always rains when I forget to bring an umbrella. No matter, I thought, as I was sprinkled with a drop here and there. As I approached the intersection, though, the rain began to come down more determinedly. A young woman next to me offered to share her umbrella. Serendipitously, she was going to buy some fruit at the stand across the lane from the juice place. After I purchased by juice, the proprietor lent me an umbrella for my trip back to the office.

Monday, October 13, 2003

I've just had two indulgent, albeit different, weekends. Two weekends ago, I did absolutely nothing -- puttering about the house doing personal projects, getting plenty of rest, taking my aunt and uncle out to dinner at Shao Shao Ke (mmm, Shaanxi food -- fish in citrus sauce, roasted pork ribs), and having lunch with the lovely Mike Co and Ming.

Mike has always reminded me of my college crony, Kuo: both good, solid, mid-Western guys who are always patient with and look out for me. And now that Mike is with Ming, the similarities grow. I've always felt so cared for whenever I go visit Melissa and Kuo; and when I had lunch with Mike and Ming, I found the two of them so complementary to each other, and just wrapped in warm, fuzzy, soft cashmeres of feelings.

Last weekend was quite different. For the Double 10 long weekend, I flew to Hong Kong, where I met up with Melissa (along with one suitcase of her belonings), and my cousins Pei and Yuan-yuan. We girls had quite a weekend that included lots of catching up, dim sum at Victoria Seafood, crab (both the traditional and the "hairy" kind--the English translation doesn't sound very appetizing, huh?), tea, divine chocolate banana cake, colon hydrotherapy treatments, and shopping. Pei, Yuan-yuan, and I realized us cousins hadn't had a meal together in months, and seeing Melissa before she ventured off to big, bad Beijing was ever so good.

So, one weekend like a cashmere blanket, and another like a sparkling glass of champagne.

Sunday, October 05, 2003

Melissa left yesterday to eventually end up in Beijing, where's she's accepted a new job--yet another friend made in Taiwan who moves on. That doesn't mean our friendship is over, of course. I have some friends whom I stay in touch with with more when we're in different countries than when we are actually in the same community. Thank goodness for email and instant messaging systems.

P.J. Hamel, the editor at King Arthur Flour, wrote this in the latest Baking Circle newsletter:

Rachel Carson and Dorothy Freeman, Katharine S. White (that would be E.B.�s wife) and Elizabeth Lawrence� While each of the women in these two famous letter-writing pairs considered the other her closest friend, they spent very little time together, meeting only occasionally. Instead, letters flew back and forth regularly, taking the place of face-to-face (or telephone) conversation in an era when communication wasn�t nearly as simple as it is today.

Perhaps it isn�t communication that�s simpler these days, but merely the technology that carries it. Has it ever been easy to speak what�s in your heart? Or to put down on paper what you truly feel, and then mail it to someone? Opening your hidden self to the scrutiny of others can feel dangerous. What will she think of me? Will he still like me?

Here are some things I�ve learned over the years. Set fear aside. Tell the truth about yourself. Admit your shortcomings; we all have them, why pretend otherwise? But don�t criticize your friends. (As a line from one of my favorite movies has it, �Only God can point the finger.�) Take care that your own garden is well-weeded and watered before hopping the fence and working on someone else�s. If you�re invited into the garden, however, make your pruning very gentle; advice doesn�t necessarily need to be preceded by criticism.

At work, praise lavishly, and deflect kudos onto your co-workers; but take responsibility for failure onto your own shoulders. Do more than what you think is your fair share; the other person is probably doing likewise. Accept different work styles; there are many paths to reach a common destination. If it crosses your mind to criticize a co-worker, think before opening your mouth; if, after thinking about it, you still feel like opening your mouth�think some more. And, above all, work willingly, and with a smile on your face. Imagine how stress in the workplace would disappear if we all just looked happy!

And this, I promise, will be the very last on a series of musings on friendship. For a while at least, anyways.

Friday, October 03, 2003

It's funny how things work. I long suspected something--my intuition has always been good at telling me what is going on, although I'm not always good at listening--but instead I pretend to ignore it. It festers in my mind and my heart, and gnaws at me day by day. But finally, after I acknowledge, instead of denying, and bring it out to the open, it ceases to bother me.

Lately my focus has been on healing myself, of holistic improvement. So I've been going to acupressure/Chinese tuina massage, and I started an acupuncture series. I've been trying to do slow down, to spend more time at home to recharge myself. It's a natural process, after all--a cycle of activity followed by inactivity. Restoring after depleting. I am also trying to do more yoga and belly dancing. Bryan Kest, whose yoga class I was able to take while I was in L.A., has the *best* philosophy:

Re-activeness creates tension. Discomfort is a part of life. Unwanted things happen, and wanted things don't happen. Our comfort zones get trampled. No one, no matter how wealthy or powerful, can escape discomfort. Yet within our discomfort, we actually have a choice: Shall I accept it or not? Accepting discomfort is intentional passivity. Non-acceptance is resistance.


The less reactive we become, the more accepting we are of ourselves and others, as well as experiences, and the more peace (balance) and harmony pervades our life.

Monday, September 29, 2003

Felicia came up this past weekend from Kaohsiung and I had the pleasure of her staying with me. Felicia is so thoughtful and perceptive, and she left me with two gems: sometimes a person's greatest strength is often their greatest weakness, and you can't be disappointed if you know a friend's weaknesses. Christine had a few gems of her own, too. What stuck with me was when she said I should be thankful for those times when people I thought were friends let me down, because then I learn, through no effort of my own, what they are capable of giving as a friend and how much they value the friendship.

I feel so blessed to be surrounded by so many strong, smart, engaging, and thoughtful women here in Taiwan. This web of women has been a source of resilience. In Asia, I have learned to fully appreciate the value of my girlfriends--both those that are here and abroad.

Last weekend's edition of the Asian Wall Street Journal featured an article about how tough Asia can be for single western women. Among the challenges, of course, are that while career opportunities are often greater for women, socially, the opportunities are often lacking. Stan Sesser wrote, "single overseas-born Asian women living in Asia have their own set of experiences that in some cases may parallel those of single Western women and in other cases be totally different." The most hilarious line was woman who said, "Honey, Asia is single-man heaven and single-woman hell." Unlike the women profiled in the article, my life outside of work is not at all empty, and my girlfriends are in no small part responsible for that.

Sunday, September 21, 2003

Happy Birthday, Angela and Zofia!

Friday, September 19, 2003

I read a great article in Tech Review today about using technology to name your child. Actually, a better description would be how to utilize technology to avoid giving your child a ghastly name. I've long said that children of Asian immigrants can often be easily determined by their names--they're the ones with names like Eugenia, Esther, Isabel, and Rosalind, names that were popular decades ago but are ones that no self-respecting native English-speaking parent would name their child now.

A particular gem from David Brittan:
The knowledge that Michael means �who is like God� might be a source of inner satisfaction for Michael, but it will always be his little secret. The fact is, our society doesn�t much care about derivation�otherwise people named Bertha (�bright�) and Kermit (�church�), beautiful as their souls may be, would not be consigned to what must surely be a living hell.

A Google Image seach on Bertram (one name my parents were considering naming my brother Galen) yielded this horrendous sight. Thank goodness I picked Galen, as this Galen is pretty easy on the eyes. I'm glad I had enough sense as a three-year-old to recognize that aural complement of Berta and Bertram alone was too much. A search on my name yielded much as I suspected: overweight Eastern European women of a certain age, dogs, and men.

As much as I dislike my name, it is me, for better for worse. At least it is unusual, so I've never had problems picking out an email address or username. And it's not like I could pick a name in Chinese. Now those all sound alike to me.

Wednesday, September 17, 2003

Lately I have felt like I am drowning in Things I Must Get Done. Take last night for example. The CAPT EC meeting ended by 9 p.m. I thought to myself that I had plenty of time to run errands and get to bed early. After I finished doing power yoga, I still had to finish up a load of laundry, hang clothes, wash dishes, pack my bags and prepare lunch for the next day...by the time I finished, it was well past midnight. The business of living takes up so much time, let alone my volunteer committments and trying to achieve my personal development goals...there's a stack of magazines and journals I should be reading. How does one do it all?

Thursday, September 11, 2003

Yesterday was the Mid-Autumn Festival holiday, so I spent a leisurely day recovering from the rigors of travel--unpacking, laundry, cleaning, and catching up with friends online, over the phone, and in person. Yesterday was a day of being unexpectedly touched by moments of thoughtfulness, and also of being disappointed by unintentional slights. I cannot complain, though. My friend Mike Co reminded me on my birthday, my life is already very rich. Of course, he wrote this to excuse himself from getting me cars, diamonds, or jewelry...I don't need any of those items, but gifts of jewelry, clothing, shoes, and books are always welcome. ;-)

Taiwan has been very kind to me, and Sunday will mark two years in Taiwan.

Speaking of good friends, I was simply tickled to meet up with Maggie and her friend, Peter Dworin, who now has another 15 minutes of online fame, while in San Francisco.

Tuesday, September 09, 2003

I had hoped to update my blog last week, but Blogger was giving me problems. I had a very busy 9 and 1/2 days in the States that included many meals with family and friends, a pedicure, yoga classes (including one with Bryan Kest!), fitness evaluation, rock climbing, swimming, and shopping as a one-woman import-export machine for my Taiwan-based friends hungering for some American goods--all interspersed between a quick trip up to San Francisco and my Pi Reunion in Vegas. In Vegas, I saw Cirque du Soleil's O!, which was a simply amazing production, caught up with classmates at the V bar, had a enormous creme brulee dessert at our class banquet at the Venetian's Grand Lux Cafe, and then partied with them at Studio 54. While in the States, I ate raw cuisine (my dish was called 'Harem in the Raw' - falafel balls, zucchini hummus, quinoa taboule, and olives served with tahini on a purple cabbage 'pita') at Juliano's Raw, yummy plaintain empanadas and poblano quesadillas at the Too Hot Tamales' Border Grill, great seafood at Pesce, and a divine raspberry-rhubarb pie that I picked up at Whole Foods.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Melissa asked me yesterday if I was looking forward to Friday. I had to think for a bit before I realized she was referring to my departure to the States for vacation. Yep, I'm going to L.A. to see my parents, visit some friends in the SF Bay Area, and attend my Pi Reunion in Las Vegas.

Actually, I've been dreading Friday's approach, not only because I have so much to do before I leave--errands to run, the ORIENTED Happy Hour to plan and host, and other volunteer commitments--but also because I haven't lost any weight (in fact, I've gained a few pounds) and I'll see my mother on Friday. Every time I go to my parents' place, I'm racked with concern about my body--am I fatter, thinner? What will my mom say this time?

I know that this is pretty typical as many of my girlfriends get the same kinds of comments from their mothers, but sometimes I'd like to be more relaxed about my weight and not be so on edge about all of this.

Friday, August 15, 2003

My brother Galen leaves on Sunday back to the U.S. The seven weeks he has been here have swept by so quickly. I'll be sad to see him go, but I'll also take the next week to rest and recover.

This is not to say that Galen has ever demanded much of me. I've just felt the need to spend as much of these past precious seven weeks as possible with him, to entertain him, to make sure he has a good time as I try to cram two years of experiences into a summer. Have I been a good older sister? Have I taken him to different restaurants and holes-in-the-walls to taste what is rare in the States? Have I exposed him to the country's different cultural aspects? Shown him Taiwan's gorgeous natural beauty? Taken him to the hippest nightspots in town? Have I been too overprotective? Am I acting like his mommy, and not his sister? Have we caught up on each other's lives?

Maybe this is my way of validating my decision to live in Taiwan--see how much fun Taiwan is! Don't you want to join me? And Taiwan is a fun, warm place to live with--for me, at least--great career opportunities. I hope he's been able to feel that himself.

Wednesday, August 13, 2003

Post-lunch walk.

The heavy, humid air cloaks itself around me like an angora shawl around my face, making breathing difficult. Thunder heralds the arrival of cool bursts of air that briefly lift the shawl away from me. Still, I look forward to the freon-ated environment of my office, and scurry faster as a curtain of rain chases me.
I've been so busy these past couple of weeks I haven't had much time to sit down and reflect. I had a rare party weekend two weeks ago: on Friday, I hung out with Melissa, Sherwin, and James Shi, among other people, until the wee hours of the morning at Whisky and Kama. Saturday night, Angela threw a wonderful surprise farewell dinner party for Joaquin and Mate. Now, not only is Angela a model and singer, she's also a producer, director, and actor. After the party, we headed to Chic to wish Wendy a happy birthday. The evening ended with dancing at Plush. I think that's enough partying for the year; I certainly needed the whole week to recover from my weekend!

With the realization that Galen will be leaving this Sunday, last week I decided to take him to more unusual restaurants. Monday night was Taipei East, a Taiwanese restaurant that had an excellent omlet with a basil filling and a simmered tofu dish. On Wednesday, we sampled the food of Xi'an and Xinjiang at Xiao Xiao Ke. Dishes not to be missed include their whole-wheat flatbread (xiao bing, pork ribs (zi pai, crusty on the outside, incredibly tender on the inside), soba noodles, and fish with kumquat sauce. Thursday night, we picked up the suit and shirts we got made for Galen--all he needs now are a snazzy tie and cuff links and he'll be quite the suave ladies' man. Friday night, we saw Melissa off on her much-earned vacation to Canada.

Over the weekend, we had a yummy dim sum lunch at San Want Hotel, arranged by Carol. The cha sa su are not to be missed. Bonnie and I went for a reflexology session, and in the evening, Galen and I attended another farewell party for Joaquin and Mate, this one an elegant cocktail party at Jay's beautiful appointed home. Afterwards, we went to Brown Sugar to listen to jazz. Sunday we had a family lunch and dinner at my favorite huo guo place.

It's only Wednesday, but already, I feel like I am near the end of the week. On Monday night, we say Welly Yang's musical adaptation of Ang Lee's The Wedding Banquet. And last night, I played golf for the first time. This has all been interspersed between extremely hectic days at work, as I've been wrestling with the most uncooperative of Excel spreadsheets.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Virtualberta presents another only in Taiwan moment:

Convenience stores are ubiquitous throughout Taiwan, and are known for changing their merchandise frequently, particuarly in sync with holidays and the seasons. Monday was Valentine's Day in the lunar calendar. The 7-11 near my work had placed a display next the the checkout counter, with Ferrero Rocher chocolates, petit fours from a famous Japanese bakery, and a tastefully-wrapped, pyramid-shaped box of...condoms.

Well, now, that's being direct. "Aw, my valentine sent me a box of condoms to the office!" doesn't quite ring as well as, "Aw, my valentine sent me a bouquet of flowers to the office!"

Wednesday, July 30, 2003

Writing of shocking sights in Taiwan, as I walked down the street the other day, a little boy stood at the entrance to his parents' restaurant, a stream of pee making an arc as it fell to the street.

Tuesday, July 29, 2003

Happy birthday, Carol! Carol threw a lovely pool party on Sunday, complete with a yummy spread...I was still full when I woke up Monday morning. And Carol was a gracious host--Galen was impressed that she remembered his name after only one meeting.

Saturday, Galen and I went to Fulong Beach on what was supposed to be a CAPT beach trip, but ended up being a rather intimate outing. What I had noticed at the Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival was reconfirmed on Saturday: in Taiwan, women do not wear bikinis and men do not wear swim trucks with ample coverage like they do in the States. Instead, women are covered head-to-toe, with long-sleeved t-shirts and pants. The men prance around in the teensiest scraps of fabric.


Thursday, July 24, 2003

Listening to Sticky Rice, a Taiwanese rock band, that I first heard a couple Sundays ago when James, Galen, and I went down to Fulong for the Gungliao Ho-Hai-Yan Rock Festival. Here's an article about the festival that appeared in the Taipei Times.

Sunday, July 20, 2003

I've really reset my body clock. Now that I get up so early on the weekdays, I really can NOT sleep in on the weekends. For example: right now. We spent the night at James' place, after a pleasant evening of hanging out, listening to music, and a trip to the night market for some vittles. We all went to bed at about the same time - 4am. I have been up since 10am, and have now washed the dishes, surfed the internet, replied to every single email on my backlog, and am now updating my blog. Everyone else--James, Galen, Benson, and Melissa--is still sleeping. When will someone wake up and play with me?

Friday, July 18, 2003

Thankfully the condition of my foot has improved considerably. I'm glad I diligently took my round of pills, as Zofia so helpfully pointed out that one of her lab mates had a similar problem and was diagnosed with cellulitis, so my prescribed round of antibiotics was probably warranted.

I've been feeling very worn lately, attributable to the plethora of activities I've participated in. Of course, I take the responsibility--even though I'm tired, there's a part of me that still wants to be part of the action. Take, for example, the night Galen and I went to the Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle premiere courtesy of Angela. Afterwards, some of the girls wanted to have a quick bite to eat. I was tired, but I also wanted to catch-up. Therein lies my weakness.

Speaking of Charlie's Angels, I thoroughly enjoyed the movie, which was a lot of light-hearted fun. Also, Angela is an incredible professional, who knows her industry--the movers and the shakers, and what is going on--as well as any highly-regarded equities analyst. She reads the entertainment newspapers like some read the Wall Street Journal. And, she's very creative in promoting her films.

Tuesday, July 15, 2003

On Saturday Galen and I joined a few of my cousins and their friends for a hike through the Shei-Pa (xue ba, snow mountain) National Park. Galen preferred this to his canyoning experience the week before, as our hike was anchored on either end with a generous lunch and tea time, and there were no steep ravines to scramble out of. I was afraid the whole day might be on of those mountain tours that involved being shipped around from one scenic sight to another on a tour bus, where we dutifully leave the air conditioned bus for the obligatory photo to prove that we were there, but we actually had a quite nice four hour hike. My calves were actually sore the next day--which is a good thing.

The not-so-good-thing is that some insect bit me and now my left ankle is red and swollen. I went to the Taiwan Adventist Hospital to get it checked out last night, and unsuprisingly, the doctor prescribed antibiotics, antihistamines, antiinflammatories, and, to top it all off, an antacid to counteract all the unpleasant effects the other medications would have on my stomach.

Monday, July 14, 2003

My brother Galen is here for the summer to study Chinese through a program sponsored by Taiwan's Overseas Chinese Affairs Commission. I'm thrilled to have him here, as this is the longest time--seven weeks--that we'll have together since I graduated from high school. Still, seven weeks is not much time. Already, my relatives and I are jostling for his time.

Wednesday, June 25, 2003

Simply too much time has passed since my last post, and I have yet to find the time to sit down and properly organize all of my thoughts. So I am going to put my perfectionist tendencies aside and just briefly mention some my latest adventures.

The weekend after I returned from the States, I went bouldering at HeRen (part of Taroko National Park) with some of the folks at the climbing gym. HeRen was gorgeous: clear skies, blue waters, and dramatic cliffs. After bouldering Saturday afternoon, I played in the water. A collection of photos from the weekend can be seen here.

I'm so happy I've had so many opportunities to see how beautiful Taiwan is. In the time I took off after I quit UMC and started Lehman, I traveled down the eastern coast of Taiwan, saw my great-uncle in his village near Taidong, and visited Felicia in Kaohsiung. A couple of weekends ago, I went river hiking (also known as river tracing or canyoning) through the Nan Shih River in Wulai. I'll have photos up as soon as I can.

The more I explore Taiwan, the more I wish others knew about how many interesting activities there are to do here. I used to wonder why anyone would want to come here, but now I realize ignorance about Taiwan's attributes is really due to poor marketing and underdeveloped infrastracture. The Tourism Ministry could do so much for ilha Formosa.

Monday, June 02, 2003

I went to file and pay my taxes last Friday. Despite that over half the nation had yet to pay their taxes (you pay in person, or online if you're a national), the folks at the National Tax Administration were generally helpful and quick. I completed the filing and payment in about 35 minutes. Amazing! the process required only one sheet of paper to do all the calculations and figure out deductions, which was a huge improvement over the ten or so pages I believe I had to complete for my U.S. taxes.

Friday, May 30, 2003

If you are locked into a clash-of-civilizations mentality, you rarely contemplate the patterns of behavior that cut across religion, ethnicity, nationality, and "deep history" itself to shape our present-day world. In this case, these would include cultures of power, violence, terror, and indoctrination--shared cultures, to our shame, of indifference to the suffering of others. Of course there are differences, including cultural differences in the more traditional sense. But these are not, in and of themselves, determinative.

-John Dower, "Rethinking culture," Soundings, Spring 2003.

Wednesday, May 28, 2003

It's my last day in the Bay Area. The weather has been really beautiful while I've been here: sunny, but not too hot. I took a leisurely walk around Berkeley yesterday morning and marvelled at all the different storefronts and the variety of foods available in the grocery stores. Quite frankly, I never get that excited in Taiwan's supermarkets. There's just so much more variety in U.S. markets, especially since my tastes run towards environmentally-friendly products and organic foods. There's all manner of prepared foods and baked items. Perhaps living in Taiwan is very good for my waistline...

While in Taiwan, though, I do want to become more familiar with the wet markets. There's a lively outdoor one in my neighborhood, and I've been trying to stop by in the morning on my walk to work to pick up some fresh fruit.

Back to Berkeley, my brother took the family on a tour of the campus today. We viewed the Wailing Wall, so named because it's where my brother (and other students) have a good cry as they view their grades. We also saw the pool where he swims at, and viewed the San Francisco Bay from the Campanile. We ate at Top Dog, where you can choose from a selection of sausages that range from bockwurst to lemon chicken and are served by Libertarians. I eat at Top Dog everytime I come to Berkeley.

Saturday, May 24, 2003

Well now it's a beautiful morning in San Francisco. Yep, I flew in last night, not to escape SARS, but to watch my brother as he participates in Berkeley's commencement. I did find out on the flight over that wearing a mask actually makes travel more comfortable because the mask kept my breath close to my face, so breathing passages were not as dried out as they usually become in the dry airplane air. Although with the N95 mask and eye shade on, and earplugs in, I'm sure I was quite a sight.

Thursday, May 08, 2003

Of all the silly ways people are reacting to SARS, the Taipei City Government's response has got to be the silliest. On Sunday, Bonnie and I went swimming at the Taipei City Zhongshan Fitness Center. We showered before entering the pool area (as responsible pool patrons) and were stopped by a lifeguard. Apparently, the powers that be have declared that all patrons must first sit in the sauna for a minimum of three minutes before entering the pool.

Now, I doubt that sitting in a sauna actually does anything to kill the virus. I mean, if you're infected, the virus is already living happily inside your body, and any changes to surface body temperature won't have any effect. Further, sitting in a sauna (or hot tub or steam room, for that matter) just raises your blood pressure, which depending on your health, would raise the possibility of passing out during subsequent exercise--not a good thing when you're in the water. So the lifeguards were really just setting themselves up for the increased likelihood of having to make rescues.

Demand has also increased for antibacterial soaps. Folks, SARS is a virus, not a bacteria. Antibacterial soaps aren't effective, and just encourages the development of antibacterial-resistant bacteria.

Thursday, May 01, 2003

Happy May Day! I took well advantage of this labor day holiday--celebrated around the world excepting the U.S.--by sleeping in. Since starting my new job at Lehman Brothers, I have been working twelve hour days. However, so I really enjoy my new job. I'm having much less trouble than I expected arriving at 7:30 a.m. in the morning and the time just flies by.

Monday, my first day on the job, was quite hectic also because it was the first day Lehman had moved into its new offices at the Cathay Financial Building in the Xinyi District. The offices are quite nice, and I have a view from my desk of the Shinkong Mitsukoshi Department Store across the street. I have to admit, I spent about half an hour adjusting my Aeron chair, ergonomic keyboard rest, and flat screen monitor so that everything feels right. Those Aeron chairs really work--I think I spend more time sitting in front of the computer at this new job, but my butt is not as sore!

The only thing I miss is being able to access instant messaging and web-based mail services. We're blocked from doing so. I can't really complain, since I am ostensibly at work to work. But I do miss connecting in real time with friends and family around the world and in Taipei.

Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Wow. I realized that I am easily accessible on the web through a simple Google search, but until I did one recently, I didn't realize that a Miss Sabine Chen had liberally taken many elements of my blog (as well as some photography from Tom's website. At least she did properly credit one of my writings.

Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, but goodness, I put a lot of thought into creating the titles of the different sections of my blog. I would expect one would try to make their own blog as personal as possible, instead of so blatantly imitating another.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

I've had a very good eating week. Saturday, on my way to the nursery, I stopped off at a Yunnanese food stall by the MRT for chicken curry with jasmine rice and a green papaya salad. Leaving the nursery, Ginny took me to the best chicken nugget food stand in Taipei, just around the corner from the Wellcome Supermarket in Tienmu. These aren't processed bits with essence of chicken flavor, but real chicken chunks, fried till crispy. You can get spicy powder sprinkled on them. That evening, I met up Joaquin, Mate, Jen, and Angela at Kunming, an Indian restaurant. This was my first time eating Indian food in Taipei, yum! By Sunday, I was in the mood to eat Chinese food again, and I had dinner at a small, unassuming restaurant just down the block from my acupressurist. The place was completely full, with others waiting to dine, at 6:30 p.m.

Yesterday, I treated my colleagues to afternoon tea. I wanted to expand their cultural taste buds, so I prepared hummous, roasted eggplant dip, and sun-dired tomato and pesto goat cheese dip, served with whole-wheat tortillas and french bread (I didn't know where to find pita bread, so I improvised with the tortillas, which my colleague Jenny had brought back for me on her last trip to the States). My colleagues were quite fascinated by the tortillas and the dips. Most of the ingredients were actually not that hard to find, once I knew where to go. But the composition of flavors was new to them.

I didn't realize how lucky I was to have lived in major cities in the U.S. There, it's easy to sample a variety of cuisines in the course of a week: burritos one night, falafel the next...Thai, Chinese, Indian, Italian, Mexican, French, nouvelle American, fusion...of course, there's a greater depth of Chinese and Taiwanese available here, but as an American, I suppose I'm spoiled for choice.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Wayne sent me this funny quote by Chris Rock:

"You know the world is going crazy when the best rapper is a white guy, the best golfer is a black guy, the tallest guy in the NBA is Chinese, the Swiss hold the America's Cup, France is accusing the US of arrogance, Germany doesn't want to go to war, and the 3 most powerful men in America are named 'Bush', 'Dick', and 'Colon'."
I haven't made a plug for either CAPT or ORIENTED on this blog so far, so here it is. I must admit that I have met most of my friends here in Taipei in some fashion through one of these fine community organizations. I have also found my current and future jobs through these two groups. So, to "give back to the community," as Angela says, I've become an organizer for both groups. Last Saturday, the CAPT Executive Committee met to plan for the rest of the year. We met at Patty's grandparent's home in lovely Peitou. And now, faithful readers, you all can check out my new haircut.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

Here are more photos of my first climb of the day at LongDong. The route was supposed to be a 5.9, but I hadn't warmed up, so I had a lot of trouble seeing the foot and handholds, as the distressed expression on my face reveals. My lame attempts at smearing weren't particularly effective, either. Eventually, called it a day and later finished some other routes, including one that was supposed to be an easy 5.10. Who knows?

Finally, a "sun-kissed" trio of James, Melissa, and me. Yes, I realize my new haircut is still not visible. That will come later.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

I went climbing in LongDong again on Sunday, this time to a different section of the park. The view was again spectacular. This was a trip organized by EcoPower, a new club that meets "all your leisure needs." Other adventures on the agenda include kayaking, hiking, and other fun outdoor activities. EcoPower is run by the inimitable Duck, and this particular outing was organized by Cherry.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

I startle myself everytime I see a reflection of me--on Saturday, I had my hair cut. Originally, I wanted something along the lines of what Renee Zellweger sported at the 2003 Oscars. However, I also mentioned to my stylist that I have had basically the same hairstyle for the past two years. After hearing about my lifestyle, she suggested that a short cut might be more appropriate. I was a little unsure--what she described seemed to be a little out there for me. Eventually, we agreed that she would cut my hair as I originally intended, and then we could go from there. Well, it was a nice cut, but again, the same old. So I told her to go for it, and when she was finally done...eek! Responses have ranged from "you look older" to "you look like a little boy" (gotta love the refreshing directness of the Taiwanese). Overall, though, most people agree that it has more character. Whether that character is really me, well, I'll have to think some more about that. I suspect it's not. But at least I tried something different.

Thursday, March 27, 2003

I'm excited about my new purchases from last night. Eslite bookstore is having a sale on their foreign books, so I picked up Chinese Characters, Reading and Writing Chinese, and The Peguin History of Economics. The first two books should help me in my current efforts to learn how to type Chinese characters (using zhuyin, also known as BoPoMoFo). Hopefully, all of these books while make me appear more erudite in both English and Chinese.

Monday, March 24, 2003

On the way to my climbing class a couple of weeks ago, for a moment I swore my cab would run into a trash truck. Thankfully, that did not happen. Just another moment of living life in the fast lane in Taiwan, I suppose. After awhile, moments such as these lose their excitement. More interesting as a stretch of road that is lined with bird shops. Bird cages line the exterior walls of the shops, and you can hear the chirping even through the closed windows of the cabs.

Tuesday, March 18, 2003

I feel compelled to write a bit about current events, to go outside the realm of Berta in Taiwan. I remember once telling my cousin Jay that the U.S. media is not as biased as the media in Taiwan. These are the headlines of articles reporting the same event from the three English dailies in Taiwan:

- "DPP eyes referendum-law initiative," Taipei Times
- "Ex-DPP heavyweight stages protest," China Post
- "Protestors clamor for nuke plant referendum," Taiwan News

However, the U.S. media hasn't proven itself much better. A sample of the U.S. media coverage on Iraq:

- Showdown: Iraq, CNN
- Standoff with Iraq, New York Times
- Confronting Iraq, Washington Post

And now, coverage elsewhere around the world:

- Conflict with Iraq, BBC
- Iraq crisis, Financial Times
- War in Iraq, Economist

Paul Krugman wrote an editorial in the New York Times about the role of the American media in this latest story in world affairs, "Let Them Hate As Long As They Fear."

Monday, March 17, 2003

Today while returning from my lunch, I noticed an older woman wearing a coolie hat pushing a cart down the middle of the road. Not just any road, mind you, but Dunhua South Road, a major thoroughfare in Taipei and the location for many of Taipei's financial institutions. Never mind the cabs, cars, and scooters creeping to a crawl behind her, she was going somewhere.
Exciting new in the world of Berta: on Friday night, I overcame the overhang at the climbing gym. Actually, not just one, but two. I felt a bit like Sylvester Stallone in Cliffhanger, although I have only seen the movie poster, not the movie, and I don't resemble Sylvester Stallone at all (which is a good thing).

Saturday night I had a great time with Jen Shyu at a salsa party organized by the Epicureans. The folks that make up the Epicureans did a great job, and I stayed up too late having a lot of fun learning to dance like they do in Cuba. I also felt like I had a great workout, and salsa dancing beats running any day.

Wednesday, March 12, 2003

While in Vancouver, I of course had to make a pilgrimage to MEC, an equipment mecca for outdoor enthusiasts. Shoppers at MEC looked as if they actually used the equipment they were purchasing; they looked fit and muscular. This is in sharp contrast to shoppers at the Nike store in Taipei, many of who look as if they more for form than for function. The last time I was in the Nike shop, I was amazed by a family who must have made close to US$500 in purchases, and who also looked like they rarely even took a walk around the block.

I got the same impressions when I went to the gym at Whistler. Again, those exercising were focused and buff. They weren't lackadasically stepping down on the cross-training machines as they gossiped, but rather getting their heart rates up to their targets, gosh darn it. I was in awe.

I'm not being entirely fair to the Taiwanese, though. At Ting San Iou (dong shan you), a popular outdoor gear store in Taipei, the clientele looks eager to take their gear out and actually use it. The folks that run the climbing gym are organizing a new group for those interested in pursuing outdoor rock climbing, hiking, mountaineering, kayaking, orienteering, and canyoning. This should be fun. At the very least, I'm learning new words in Chinese, like "handhold," "knee," and "flexibility."

Tuesday, March 11, 2003

The Vancouver International Airport has the most lovely and creative arrivals area I've ever seen in an airport. After disembarking from my flight, I entered a wooden walkway that weaved its way through an zoo and aquarium-quality exhibit of British Columbia's outdoors, complete with flora and a rushing brook. A recording of nature sounds played in the background. I almost felt like I was walking through the wilds, and would not have been entirely surprised if an animal had crossed my path. The rest of the airport featured majestic indigenous art.

My initial impression of Vancouver upon leaving the airport was that it looked like any suburban city in the U.S.--broad streets, strip malls, low-slung buildings. For some reason, I kept thinking Vancouver looked a lot like Cleveland. All of a sudden, I was jarred by an HSBC branch, its sign and posters in Chinese characters. Woah! Just when I felt I was back in the familiar suburbia of North America, a sight pulls me back to Taiwan.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Yesterday while bouldering in Peitou (beitou), I finally identified that lovely scent of flowers I first noted the day after I came back from vacation. The flower is osmanthus, known as guei hua in Mandarin, and has a sweet, apricot-like scent.

Friday, February 21, 2003

While on the highway back from Hsinchu, I noticed that signs for highway rest stops display not a hamburger, as they do in the U.S., but rather a bowl and a pair of chopsticks.

Thursday, February 20, 2003

Darn. I recently downloaded Opera, but I won't be able to use it to edit my blog. Yet.

I'll be sure to post my thoughts on Opera as I get more familiar with it, but moving on...my thoughts on my Lunar New Year Ski Vacation Extravaganza to Whistler, Canada will just have to wait till I have the opportunity and energy to sit down and record them and no more events like what happened on Monday night occur. On Monday night, I managed to do what no locksmith (well, just one particular locksmith) had ever seen before: I managed to get a key stuck in a lock, and no amount of grease or pulling would get the key out.

Since the washing machine was broken, I had gone over to my roommate's brother's apartment across the way to do laundry. Unfortunately, I didn't make it past the front door until after the locksmith had jiggled, yanked, jimmied, and finally, physically removed the lock. Earlier that evening, I had been giggling over David Sedaris' Me Talk Pretty One Day, particularly his adventures learning French as an adult. My roommate remarked that after this lock fiasco had passed, I too could one day write a book about my adventures in Taiwan.

Monday, February 17, 2003

Some link love to Maoman, who Jen and I bumped into at United Mix yesterday, while he and the lovely Vanessa were enjoying a late lunch. I was quite surprised to find out as I walked in through the doors of United Mix that yesterday was their last day; I knew they were closing soon, but I hadn't realized how soon. United Mix has been the setting of many a lovely Sunday brunch, not to mention a few dinners, as well.

In other news, I went with Mike and his girlfriend Vivian to see a Chinese-language musical, "What's Love About?" I'm almost embarassed to admit that I hadn't realized that musicals were written in languages other than English. While the singing was fine, I found the story to be weak and many of the characters unconvincing.

Tuesday, February 11, 2003

Taipei is easing back into its usual bustling self after the lunar new year holiday. What I noticed the morning after I returned as I left my apartment were the smells: first incense, and then the sweet freshness of flowers in bloom. Already, the winter chill is skulking away, although the hot steaminess of summer has yet to arrived. My walk to the bus stop in the morning's cool crispness is then punctuated by the smells of exhaust from scooters and cars making their commutes, and of fried eggs and dough sticks for sale on roadside breakfast stands.

Yet as of late last week, not everyone was back at work, and so these senses were particularly potent.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Like running head first into a wall. Tuesday morning I was debating whether I should go workout at lunch, given that I was feeling fatigued and I had a climbing class that evening. By Tuesday evening, I was feverish and could barely crawl into bed (I had cancelled my climbing class) and promptly slept about twenty hours. I'm quite thankful that I have an understanding boss who let me take the morning (and most of the afternoon) off, although I doubt that I would have been much use sitting in a sleepy fog. I'm feeling much better today, although I'm drinking plenty of water, eating lots of fresh fruit, and am paying a visit to my acupressurist tonight.

Tuesday, January 07, 2003

TC has a great entry on his site about the rising popularity of SUVs in Taipei. Now all we need is a Chinese language version of Big Game SUV Tagging.

Monday, January 06, 2003

It was raining last Friday morning on my way to work. I passed a woman piggybacking her grandson. He kept the both of them drying by holding an umbrella. Very cute.

Check out my friend Calvin's website, which has a nice page on his sister Candice, who was a very good childhood friend of mine.

Thursday, January 02, 2003

Since last Saturday, I have been sleeping on a new bed, which has done wonders for my back pain. I hired the movers and felt absolutely odd to be just sitting there while he took apart the frame, hauled the frame and the mattress out, drove to my apartment, hauled everything upstairs, moved my old bed out, and then huffed and puffed while he reassembled the frame and put the mattress on top. Now, I realize the whole point of hiring a mover is to spare me from doing all this myself, but I am just not used to just sitting and quietly reading a book while someone is laboring and sweating away for my benefit.

Wednesday, January 01, 2003

Happy new year, everyone!