Monday, May 31, 2010
Friday, May 28, 2010
Haven't taken any photos since arriving in Taipei. Camera was in my suitcase unpacked the first day when most of the family happenings occurred.
7pm MSG kicks my butt. Mom tells me maybe i shouldn't eat out at all due to my allergy. To be in Taiwan and just eat home-cooked stuff would be a sad situation. I shall eat out and endure the pain.
4pm Feeling much more at home here with the Mandarin speakers.
6pm Fixed Price dinner at a rather nice restaurant with all the Taipei relatives. Menu reading is going to be a problem. Made it even harder to have to pick the six different courses.
10pm Everyone over after dinner. Aunt made me take the English portion of the test the students have to take to see what high schools they can get into, said I would get a spanking if I got anything wrong. No spanking. They put the exam questions and answers in the paper. Seemed odd.
10am Took the bus to my work place to make sure I don't get lost when I start next week. Tried to remember all the surroundings so I would know when to get off the bus. Everything looks the same. Realizing how much being able to read is part of the way I orient myself.
12pm 湯包 'soup buns'. One of my favorites.
Cousin mostly keeps himself shut in his room playing computer games. Wonder if I'll even get to know him before the end of the summer.
10am Went to contemporary dance class with my aunt. Was fun. After growing up in a home where dancing was not permissible, (conservative Chinese family within a conservative Chinese community) I'm mostly terrified of dancing because I don't know how. Much easier when nobody around knows me.
12pm Taipei Market. The spring rolls here are quite different from spring rolls I ever had in the US. Soft crepe-like wrapper.
6pm Clam chowder?
8pm Learning new facts about my mom's childhood. Enlightening.
11am This mosquito needs to stop biting me or die.
Wednesday, May 26, 2010
Summer began with a never ending school year. After final reviews, what seemed like summer began, but I had another review to prepare for my design seminar on informal settlements: four boards worth of information, deskcrits, and workshops to attend. Right after finishing those boards, I was informed that one of my models from first semester had been broken and I would be spending the next day and a half working on rebuilding a model I had already completed. The following two days I helped a friend in thesis with her project, then the day after I was informed that I had been selected to submit more work from second semester for studio works. I took my birthday off... other than studying for the Moneo exam the following day... and worked on the studioworks submittal after four hours of essay exam. I sent a copy of the submittal to my studio critic, received the response around 3 am, continued working on the submittal until around 5 am, and finally... it was time to pack, move my belongings, get in a van, go to the airport, and fly to Taiwan. (started writing a paper while at the airport).
Okay, so it wasn't quite solidly packed. I did a lot of good cooking and eating and also went shopping for the first time all year in between traveling by van and traveling by airplane – Four pairs of shoes and a shirt from Banana Republic for a grand total of $2.50, gotta love birthday coupons.
11pm (US) Ran into a childhood family friend on the plane again. Last time it was Eugene Chen sitting three seats away in the same row. I was too afraid to talk in case it wasn't actually him, so for sixteen hours I just wondered. Facebook eventually clarified the issue and we ended up meeting up in Taipei.
7pm (TW) Stopover in Anchorage, Alaska. Kinda wish airports allowed one to experience their locales rather than being non-places. I might as well have been in an airport in Pennsylvania.
8pm Stayed up till eight pm Taiwan time to begin to adjust to the twelve hour time difference. Slept quite soundly the rest of the way.
6am Everything looks older than I remember, or maybe I've just gotten used to how new even the older American cities look in comparison.
7am Taiwanese soymilk with shou-bing you-tiao. First delicious breakfast and many more to come, never want to drink Silk again.
9am I love how everyone rides 'motorcycles'/scooters here including the typical grandmother. There's something somewhat rebellious about it in the States that makes Taiwan's streets seem somewhat comical on first take. Also noticing that nobody locks up their bikes – makes me even more upset about my bike being stolen with two locks on.
11am Spent the morning at my aunt's, apparently they now have a poodle! My macbook has now been licked by both infant and puppy. The two year old is playing make-believe and rather loves eating apples, the puppy should know better.
12pm Went to a Taiwanese buffet for lunch; it couldn't be more different from the Chinese buffet's back home. The typical white American probably wouldn't have recognized a thing. Well, maybe the watermelon.
3pm Headed to Baishan.
6pm Got off the bus and immediately covered myself in deet. Mom gets bitten.
7pm Everyone wants to make me fat.
8pm Showered next to the toilet with a pool of ants.
9pm Went to sleep on a wooden box with a few spiders that, according to the grandparents, I don't want to kill because they'll help eat the mosquitoes and cockroaches. I guess going to bed with a tarantula looking thing is better than cockroaches?
5/18/2010 North Mountain
My grandparent's house is at the same time one of my favorite places on earth and the one that makes me the most neurotic. They live in one of the five houses on an entire mountain. It's a great place for clearing my mind, getting away from things, and just enjoying how absolutely gorgeous untouched nature is. At the same time, nature has way too many biting insects; in the past I would step out of the car and immediately have ten new mosquito bites. This time I brought the deet cream they gave us in Ghana to keep us from all getting malaria.
This video shows the drive down their street. Mountain roads remind me of the winding roads in mario kart – that I usually fall off of – except in real life. The end of the video pans the view over the side of the mountain.
The pictures above are all from around their house. Largest backyard ever. It's basically a side of the mountain. There's a cute little lizard in one of the pictures if you look for it. The first morning my grandparents cut some bamboo sprouts from just behind the house and we had fresh bamboo soup with our congee a few hours later.
The house itself is an interesting reflection of their way of life. The windows and doors are all barred with multiple gates because of the lack of protection from robbery in rural places. There's also large wooden sticks everywhere. I still remember as a nine year old being toured around the house and shown where all the big sticks were for beating up bad men. There are windows between all the rooms of the house – including the bathrooms – to allow for natural ventilation. They also create much less space for privacy. There's much more of a sense of everyone being together here than when I'm back home.
The main reception room is the only thing visible at the entrance of the house and is a relatively large and showy space. At least in older Taiwanese culture there's huge concern with putting on a good facade towards outsiders. My ah-ma (grandmother) was upset when she found out my dad didn't wear a suit and tie on the plane. She has also been picking out my mother's outfits for every time we go out and see anyone. The way she talks about how people look is making me seriously self-conscious for the first time in a long while – Prejudice against the color of skin, weight, age, clothing, financial situation. She specifically directed me to find a rich husband that would get me a big beautiful house so that everyone could see. She even told me what age to get married. Of course, also by traditional culture; I, the younger in the family hierarchy, sat in tacit agreement.
7am After traveling to various foreign countries, I've found that food markets are a pretty defining moment within a culture. America is the most sterile. Kumasi was the most intense. Taiwan exists in a semi-comfortable in between. In Ghana, shop owners would grab onto our arms and tug us towards their shops, constantly telling us to come and see. It took some effort to remove them and keep moving through the narrow four foot wide pathways. In Taiwan, although the markets are still crowded and loud, at least one can keep moving. The fact that one can taste test pretty much anything before buying or move onto the next stand is also a big plus.
12p Found out it's unacceptable to leave chopsticks upright in a bowl. Too much like the offering of incense to the dead.
6pm Ate noodles and fish for my grandfather's birthday longevity. Had to be careful not to break the noodles before they got in our mouths. He's turning eighty for the second time since seventy-nine is an unlucky number.
7pm Taiwanese delicacy doesn't seem all that different from the home cooked stuff. I'm beginning to miss the diversity of food available in the States.
7am Ah-gong (grandad) made a juice from boiling the kind of berries that are mostly just stepped on all over Ann Arbor. A2 should make more juice; it was delicious.
11am Ah-ma kept talking about taking us to a some church made out of paper from Japan. Got there and it was made out of paper tubes. Pleasant surprise. Architects know what I mean. Forgot to take pictures of it. Here's pictures from the area around instead.
12pm Education's in a strange place in Taiwan this year. There aren't enough students since people have stopped having children. This elementary school where I used to play only has twelve students now. Students have also begun to protest the amount of work and a record amount dropped out before testing to get into high school a couple days ago. They're now trying to get students from China to come study here.
8pm Flying ants everywhere. It will probably rain tomorrow.
5am Rain on corrugated aluminum roofing is deafening, can barely hear my music even on the highest volume.