Saturday, July 24, 2010

[11] Missing small cuties

My aunt sent the poodle away last weekend. It's strange not having him greet me when I come home and sit with me while I eat breakfast. Not that they're anywhere the same, but it makes me wish Trang, my roomate's adorable two year old, around. It's nice to come home to someone small and adorable who's unabashedly happy to see you.

7/18/2010 Public Spaces

Sun yat-sen Memorial Hall:

I've had a lot of trouble keeping Taiwan's history straight. It's so complicated! Of course, I say this as someone terrible with names, dates, and places. Sun Yat-sen is an interesting figure in history as he is both respected in Taiwan and Mainland China.

There were over a hundred dancers and people doing partial arts on the 'porch' around the building. The park out front was completely empty. The sun here is rather hot. Everytime I've had to do some landscaping in my projects I look at all the places without shade and wonder if anybody will use them. I guess I've never been around for Taiwan's winter.

Display of historic objects:

This wall snaked back and forth through the room displaying important documents and figures:

Performance by honorary soldiers:

The Living Mall was pretty boring as a mall, but it's one of the stranger buildings in this city.:

I don't think I'd ever see item two on this sign in the US, or at least not anywhere I've lived. It's hard to answer questions some people ask about the US and which make it into one homogeneous place. They ask me about climate and I think of Pennsylvanian weather versus Maine, California, Texas, Michigan, Florida, or... Alaska. So what's the American winter like? I remember someone in Ghana reminding us not to talk about Africa as if it were one same thing. It's hard not to with places you are not familiar.

Sign outside the mall:

Cracked out building. From far away I wondered what the pattern on the building was.:

One of many unending escalators. Zhongxiao Fuxing Metro on my way to Maokong.:

This was probably my most introverted moment of the whole trip. I took the subway to the Maokong Gondola (Cable Car) to go to the tea plantations out in the mountains and drank tea by myself for a couple hours while journaling. It was pleasant.

I thought this would make for a nice artsy picture, but I guess, in the end, it's just a dead leaf.

They taught me the proper three step way to make tea. Always wondered what those tiny terracotta teapots were good for other than decoration.

Check out the tray. Apparently drinking tea the right way requires spilling a lot of tea out. Four years ago, I went to some really wealthy friend of my grandmother's resort. I remember drinking tea in her tea room. There was a stone table made for the catching of "spilled tea and in memory it seems like just as much tea was spilled out as drank. I asked the owner of this teahouse about it. His explanation had to do with keeping the outside of the terra-cotta or stone teaware warm and also watching the evaporating liquid as a natural timer.

The view was great and the cool mountain breeze was refreshing on a hot day.

Taiwanese standards for "handicap accessible" seem quite low. Many of the ramps I have seen require assistance to be used. When I first saw the one at my office I wondered what it was for until I saw someone push a wheelchair up it. "Holy crap, that's a ramp?". This ramp might not be meant for the handicapped, but still, 'holy crap, steep ramp'.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

[10] Black hair... why?

Anybody know why people in such a hot sunny climate would have sun absorbing colored hair? The weather has been scalp cooking of late. Perhaps I should give into the umbrella on sunny days practice... would feel strange doing so.

Also, playboy bunny? I see so many people wearing playboy apparel and accessories. My grandmother has nice grandmothery playboy pillowcases and towels. I can see how it could just be a cute bunny, but it still strikes me as odd. Do people know what it represents or does it just not matter? I'd actually like an answer to this question... but have not wanted to ask.

Beware those long skirts! They were made to kill! Humorous chinglish doesn't usually stand out to me unless I'm looking for it. I saw this sign multiple times before realizing the english didn't actually make sense. My brain has transitioned to chinese mode:

I always thought spoken chinglish was just something chinese immigrants to the US did, but I'm discovering more and more that english words are part of the language here.

After a rather strenuous morning getting my visa for Shanghai figured out, and realizing that FedEx isn't quite the same around these parts, I went to a buffet with my aunt's family and a bunch of cousins once removed that I'd never met before:
One of the waiters accidentally dropped a glass and me and my aunt got sprayed with glass. After breaking a wine bottle and having glass get stuck in my foot last year, I'm a bit terrified of glass shards. No blood this time around.

This day was a wow. I haven't been too busy at the office so far, but busy in the architecture field is inevitable. After going out to buy lunch, I came back and halfway through my lunch I was whisked away to take some site photos. We went to a site in the Danshui District overlooking the ocean. I'm always amazed by the diversity of places within Taipei:

The large roads running through empty properties gave the site a rather abandoned feel even though it was obvious that the area had not been inhabited except for the few random ramshakle houses that could only be discovered by following not so obvious trails. I can't help wondering if these are legally owned properties or merely claimed land.:

Another site was in the Neihu District. Taipei 101 looks much taller from farther away.:

I decided to go explore the more historic side of Taipei this weekend. First stop was Treasure Hill. I'm sure the name is much less pirate-like in Chinese. This was a basketball court I saw on the way up the hill. Not sure why, but I really liked this view with the lines of the bridge, court, and power at various depths:

Treasure Hill was deemed as a must visit place by the New York Times. It was an illegal settlement and has the character of a favela. After seeing this photo, I was pretty interested in seeing the area. Unfortunately the area is closed for renovation and the only thing open to the public is this temple at the entrance to the community:

On the way disappointed back down the hill. What is this space supposed to be?:

Next stop, the Lin Family Garden, built by the richest family in Taiwan some time ago.

Market on the way. I used to think outdoor produce markets were a thing of the Taiwan countryside, but it is most definitely also a thing of the city.

The garden was so much better than a backyard. It reminded me a bit of the Engineered Picturesque in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont. It took me almost an hour to realize most of the rockscape was artificially made of concrete. Can you believe that this cliff in the Parc des Buttes Chaumont is concrete?:

Those bricks are typical brick sized... This space was small. My head could touch the ceiling. Life was so much more interesting before code:

Concrete and steel cage engulfed in tree:

12pm Longshan Temple
The devotion of the people who came to worship the deities here was impressive. It made me think of the time a Chinese friend came to church with me in the US and was impressed by Christian worship. Being at this temple made me wonder how he could find Christian worship so impressive. When I think about it though, good Christian worship is filled with joy, gratitude, and celebration. It is so different from the solemn, respectful and sometimes desperate pleading of worshipers towards these deities:

It's a new experience for me to be in such a superstitious culture. It's normal for people to talk about their trips to talk to fortune tellers and the directions received, fear of ghosts, contacts with dead relatives. I've gotten so used to being with people who belittle any sort of belief in the supernatural, it's actually hard for me to understand how people could so easily believe in a spiritual realm. This despite the fact that I believe in one myself.

After going to look at traditional chinese buildings, I kind of wonder what happened? Traditional chinese architecture is so distinct and so elegant. The buildings going up in Taipei now are so typical, so square, and often tacky. Sometimes I wonder what the world would be like if different countries had never met each other. How would architecture have developed in different countries? Or what would transportation look like?

I don't mean to say that Taiwanese buildings no longer have their own character. At the end of my trip I'll try to write a post on how I feel Taiwanese architecture differs from the US.

Friday, July 9, 2010

[9] I'm 24

I've aged just by switching sides of the globe. Must remember that I was 1 when I was born.

Pics from 6/23. Out with some of the coworkers:

Museum of Contemporary Art. Summer Holiday exhibit by the director of Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon. A lot of the exhibit was video or in the dark, so it was hard to capture by camera. The exhibit was centered around a character called Lili, a mannequin placed into various realities through the use of photography, video, or stage sets. The mix of real and unreal aimed to question parts of existence or recall life experiences. Pretty interesting, although i would not have understood much of it without the written explanation. I'm guessing that's how most people look at contemporary architecture today as well except there is no caption

Can't see it in the photo, but this figure was set up fountain like, with tears flowing out of its eyes:

Nearby the museum. Confusing rebar.. it's like a sideways version of a typical Ghanaian building which often has rebar sprouting from its top. Also, IT'S HERE:

Walking south through the Zhongxiao metro mall one the way back from the museum:

This pic will probably move to my previous post at some point to join my comment about Taiwan and scrunchies:

I like the Zhongxiao metro mall because it's full of strange non-mall like spaces. There's a big open area with mirrors where people hold dance classes or practice dancing on their own. There's also the underground book street and a bunch of exhibit spaces. This time I stumbled upon some grasshopper (computer program) projects done by some Taiwanese students. The display was titled Pet Ohmu (If you understand the reference, we can be friends.):

Completely forgot that it was independence day until the day after. Still had fun. Potstickers with David C and friends for lunch (Plate of 10 for 4 NTD. That's a small meal for 13 cents!)

Then went to the Taipei Exhibition Hall for their Stationary and Computer exhibit. There were some nice pens, but it was mostly cute and unimpressive:

Afterwards, went to Bitan (South of Taipei on a mountain by the river) and ate at a hut-like restaurant where the specialty was whole chicken. Note the chicken in the picture still has eyes. Proper serving technique was to put on some plastic gloves and tear the chicken to pieces:

These were some of the cauldrons over wood burning stoves that the chicken was cooked in. The chef looks quite professional, no?:
Waiting in line for the subway (zhongxiao fuxing station).

There are way too many Italian pasta places around here. So far they taste terrible.