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.