Two Days

Hi again,

This blog has been laying low since I haven’t done much travel since living in Taiwan. While this makes me sad, it also makes me just as happy to reactivate ACOW (A Case Of Wanderlust) and get cracking at posts again!

This time, I’m headed to the West Coast, along with my boyfriend, A. Together we are a non-stoppable photography duo with a desire to see the world. During our two years together, we’ve seen plenty of east coach states- those close enough to drive to from our home in Jersey City, but nothing on a plane. This trip is our first big trip, and my first time to 2/3 of the states we will be visiting.

Our trip is a ‘take two’ of sorts, a second try, albeit a year later, on our failed trip to Italy. Italy had been foiled by a mechanical error in the plane, so a long plane trip has been long awaited. This time we’re well planned, used our credit card points and frequent flier miles, and have a spreadsheet all worked out.

The journey starts in Seattle, and winds us down through Portland, Eugene, Crescent City, and along the Pacific Coast Highway until we reach San Francisco at the end of 8 days. I still don’t drive, so it’s going to be me and my camera along that stretch of highway!

Come along with us as we navigate car rentals, trying to get Spotify to work in the car, a multitude of hotels, long stretches of highway, and what will probably be breathtaking views. Harry Potter was here (and I was too!)

And forgive my rusty writing. It’s been a while since I’ve been at this, but I’m just warming up for what I hope is the launch of a ‘real’ blog this fall.

Welcome (back?)

Hannah

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Into Town

If you walk into town, you might see this KTV place. I’ve never been to KTV, which is basically karaoke, but it doesn’t really appeal since I don’t know any of the songs. I think half the fun in the activity is botching up your favorite pop songs and having a laugh.

Taiwan is still behind in the feminism category, I’m afraid.

Sad signs abound here, I’m sorry to report.

There are three kinds of convenience marts here: Family Mart, OK Mart, and 7-Eleven. Oh, and Hi-Life. Four. 

Fuo Guang

Here’s where I took Chinese lessons in the fall: Fuo Guang University. The city campus. The other is in the mountains over near Jiaoxi.

I pass this formal dress shop every day on the bus. They change the dresses on display weekly. 

I’ve never worn a dress like this, but boy do I want to.

*sigh*

I’ve begun to think perhaps I never will.

Colour pops.

This is the busy Bei-Men juice stand. You can see that it is quite popular indeed. 

I still haven’t gotten the juice, but many people swear by it.

Here is the Leezen natural food store, where they actually sort of know me. Once I went in and, feeling obligated to buy something because it’s such a small store, asked if they had any Nangua (squash). They did not, but offered to ring me when one came in. Sure enough, soon my phone rang during school and I picked it up later that day! 

They also always wrap my tahini in foam because once I dropped a brand new jar the second I walked in the door at home 😦

Scenes from the Neighborhood

There has been a call for pictures of my life. Sure, sure, I give those to you all the time, but what of my neighborhood?

Weekends I often find myself on a wander. There aren’t really many places to go in Yilan. I’ve tried to find a tea house to no avail. There are no benches or tables in the sports park and really no other places to go than that. So I sometimes just wander round and back again.

I decided to take a ‘picture walk’ for you, to show you some of the sights I see around my apartment.

Shall we begin?

This is the first and last sight I see every day: my staircase.

Here we go.

Our apartment comprises the third and forth floors and you need to go into this stairwell to get between them. The tiles are easily dirty and we even have a job designation to sweep them periodically (the landlord gets annoyed when they’re dusty). When I go up and downstairs, my slippers slap slap slap on the steps.

The door to downstairs

If you go into the room downstairs, you’ll find a living room, and our kitchen. My room mate Rebekah also lives in a room off the kitchen and there is a bathroom downstairs as well. Upstairs you’ll find another common room (dark, without windows, which explains no photos), and Danielle, Michael, and My rooms, as well as a bathroom.

Looking outside. And saying hi!

scary alleyway.

When you go outside, you look around and you see this alleyway full of…well we’re not sure. I walk on that little strip of cement on my way to the door from the bus after work every day. If I’m carrying a bunch of bags, I take the other way round, although it takes longer.

Scooter parking only

Here is the view from the other way, and then the space where everyone parks their scooters and bikes (I have neither-just my legs!)

The view of our apartment. Like I said, we have floors 3 and 4

Roses.

garlic drying.

If you walk out the second way I mention, you see the trash bridge. I don’t know what this man does with all the stuff he accumulates, but….there it rests all the same. 

The other side of the bridge holds this. This is around where I wait for the garbage truck to come.

bridge corner.

a strange button in the street.

Here’s the little ledge by the river.

I sometimes wash the compost bucket here after I empty it, quick as a flash, into the back of the garbage truck. I sure won’t miss this system, but it does test your reflexes! There is a woman who washes her clothes in this river every morning, but I can’t imagine that’s very sanitary…

a typical house

gardens.

typical me.

People dry their laundry every which where.

I think they have chickens?

Here’s the bus stop where I wait for the bus every.single.morning. And English Village in the background.

See? People do dry their stuff everywhere.

Here’s the street going towards Family Mart. The bus takes this route in the morning. 

Dapo Lu, our road.

The way into the alleyway entrance of our house.

Another sign for our road.

Finally, you get to family mart.

F.M. I can hear the song now.

blending modern with traditional.

This is just so wonderfully dilapidated.

This is the food stand that sells fried things that smell exactly like the county fair. I will go out of my way just to walk by because it smells so darn good!

transportation: from legs to busses and everywhere in between.

People here will use any mode of transportation to get around. What you see here is a man and his caregiver both riding on his mobility wheelchair.

dragon boats are beginning! two weeks hence!

Dragonboat festival is in two weeks. This next picture is interesting. Do you see the guy in the water practicing paddling? 

If you continue, you’ll cross the river. I walk across this bridge all the time, which is only slightly scary.

cars, scooters, and bikes.

Cosmos!

This crosswalk.

When you get to the other side of the bridge, you see this crossing. It is the biggest pain to cross. Traffic never seems to stop, and there are six ways to drive your car.

I’ll be back tomorrow with scenes from town!

Love, Hannah

The Field Trip Continues: Yilan Green Expo

Tunnel boring machine.

I last left you thinking about the oddity that is extruded rice sticks. I will now move away from that and show you a glorious photo of some squash (because I know how much you all appreciate it as much as me…)

All my favorites

One thing I have to say about Taiwan is that the fruits and vegetables are always aplenty and are mostly local, since the weather holds for growing all year long!

a bit overcast, but nice all the same

I only felt slightly creepy taking close up photos of this baby’s curls….

On the other side of the bridge, we found some animals in a feeding (but not petting?) zoo type enclosure. 

My favorites were the little baby wild boars with their pin striped backs.but the rabbits, goats, chickens, and deer were great as well! 

‘Don’t look at me!’

I have always wanted goats.

As we walked by, a man stopped me and said, ‘Hello America! I love you country because it is very funny. So glad to meet you!’ I smiled my usual smile and told him it was nice to meet him too. I imagine I am still somewhat of a novelty, no matter how much I have become used to living here.

Another student passed me and called out, ‘Aloha!’ to which I replied, ‘Hello Darbie! is wrong- we don’t say Aloha!’ Hello Darbie is one of the textbooks used by schools here and it teaches that to say ‘hello,’ people in the US say ‘aloha’ which you and I know is not true. 

Tunnel boring machine!

We eventually stopped for lunch and found some 6th graders.  I also found that my balsamic had indeed started dripping through my bag and onto everything else. I excused myself to the bathroom with a wad of tissues to attempt to scrub it away but only ended up with tiny tissue pills everywhere and a sickeningly sweet smell that hung about. Luckily it was warm, so I did not hesitate to give myself the once over (or twice over, as it were) with some water, dousing my dress to rid it of any sticky residue.

Children (not mine) playing in the stream

fields of lavender

We encountered some envy-inducing gardens and Waldorf look-alikes in a wooden slatted building off to the side somewhere on my unreadable map. 

Water Lilies! Or Lily…

This is the machine they used to dig the tunnel through the mountain that runs from Taipei to Yilan. Somehow, I don’t like to think about it.

One way to dress up a squat toilet.

More Green Expo

Interesting Nature

A dinner table set with..flowers?

What a lovely thing.

Still practicing my aperture

uniformed kiddies everywhere.

Wooden boars!

I walked around a bit until I saw everything, then I sat down to read in a copse of trees. It started to rain, but the trees sheltered me- for a few minutes.

Say hello to my reading companion.

Luckily, time was up, so we all met up and headed for the bus.

All in all, I’m happy to have had a field trip. It changes things up. I try to have one ‘spicy’ thing to do each week, so I don’t get bogged down.

Love, Hannah

How to go on a Field Trip!

It’s the day that every student waits for: field trip day.

Little do they know, however, that teachers also await such days with great anticipation. Nothing could be more pleasing than being outside, learning something that isn’t your standard faire.

This explains my excitement when my coteacher, Ellen, told me a few weeks ago that we would be going on a field trip to the Yilan Green Expo with the first graders the next week. Anxiously anticipating this date, I really had no idea what to expect. Would we be charged with chaperoning certain groups? Would I be able to see the whole expo? Would it be big or small? What would the weather be like? None of these thoughts were unfounded, it turns out, because up until we got there, I really had no idea of any of the answers.

Tuesday came, and I packed myself up a lunch in my little green bento and tied it into a plastic bag. I have bad luck when it comes to..well…a lot of things, so I wanted to make sure the balsamic vinegar didn’t get everywhere. I took my normal 40 minute bus ride to school, nodding off as usual, and nothing seemed different until 9:00 rolled around and the  tour busses rolled into the driveway of the school.

First graders getting ready to board the bus

Ellen hastily handed me a hand made identification card (sadly, we don’t wear them at our school) and we raced out to join the first graders.

Don’t laugh, I know it’s a wretched picture that looks nothing like me.

It turns out that the sixth graders were also taking their trip this day, and as we boarded our pink bus, they boarded another. 

Did you ever see such a bus?

Inside, the bus reminded me of my first trip to Taiwan and our trip up the mountain in a tour bus much like this one with its plush seats and frilly curtains that made it look more like a gypsy caravan than a big bus.

Note the curtains

Riding a bus with first graders brings to mind what sort of environment? I bet you’d expect screaming and scampering about but these were surprisingly well behaved.

Helllloooo

I sat with this Cutie

We said ‘bye-bye’ to the school and we were off to Su’Ao.

Bye-bye Kai Xuan!

Passing countrysides so green I almost wanted to put on my sunglasses, the teacher passed out fish flavored snack crackers to everyone riding the bus. I tucked mine into my bag, mentally noting to give them to our Soldier boy, Tony. 

Graveyard, Taiwan style

Green and growing gardens

The entrance to the Expo was through a huge gardening basket complete with tools. How’s that for interesting!

Excuse Tony’s face, he got in the way.

I was surprised to find that there were no discipline, safety or precautionary procedures or rules in place. Or rather, none that I could pick out from what I could understand. Already wearing their purple and gold school uniforms, our students did not need matching hats or tshirts, but other than there, there was no supervision that I could see. I was surprised not to be assigned to a group of kids and given the whistle and a clip board I had grown used to during my time as a summer camp counselor a few summers ago. Grasping at these loose ends, we entered the park. 

Presentation hall and surrounding garden

First off we all headed to the presentation hall for a show before exploring. I usually skip out on shows like this, finding it much more relaxing to explore exhibitions and parks on my own time, but as I was still unsure of what my role for the day was, I tagged along.

What it ended up begin was considerably frightening; sincerely the stuff of nightmares.

giant costumes with large lips.

I did my best to look away, but eventually had to get up and leave. I dragged Tony with me, although I suspect he was also glad to quit the scene. 

Tiny cuties!

We walked around a bunch, up to the top of the sprawling Expo and back down again, ending at some picnic tables for lunch. I’ll give you some pictures first, then explain the unfortunate happenstance of leaking balsamic vinegar.

the exterior of some building

recycled autos

The green space around the Expo was phenomenal. I was jealous of all the gardens. When I get to New York City, I’m going to see how I can get involved with a CSA- you never who who you’ll meet while on your hands and knees weeding onions 🙂

We ran into some 6th graders and I made them pose for a photo.

I pretended not to know them, and made them laugh by saying, ‘Oh hello, I am the English teacher from Kai Xuan. How are you?’ 

Giant nature book and camera

Scattered with students from any number of schools, the Expo was brightly colored and vibrant.

children playing under Yilan’s famous green onions!

If I had this in my back yard, I’d sit beneath it in a nice chair and read for hours.

This little stream ran the length of the Expo

Aways up the path, we passed some expo tents and checked out some of the local fare inside. Each section of the park was modeled after a section of the Aboriginal tribes, although I couldn’t read the map or brochure so can’t tell you any more.

Wooden bugs in the trees!

One tend had a machine that made extruded brown rice sticks. Into a slot at the top you put the brown rice, and turned a crank, and ba-boom- rice sticks!

Tony with our rice sticks

I bought a bag for NT 50 (which is about USD 1.50) and happily crunched my way through last week….eventually getting to the bottom of the bag all too soon.

Beautiful gardens abound

Here I’ll leave you, and tomorrow I’ll post about the rest of the Expo.

Don’t you just love Field trips? Comment and let me know which field trip sticks out most in your mind? What kind of security for the kiddies do you think is essential?

Love, Hannah

Finally, to Market

I am writing this instead of an assignment I have to complete for graduate school and feeling that sort of guilt that seems to creep around every corner and give me meaningful stares from across the room.

‘Write your paper’ it whispers, the basilisk of my conscience, ‘it’s only an autobiography, it happened to you’

That’s precisely why I can’t write it. Trying to encapsulate my existence into 3-5 double spaced Microsoft Word pages is like trying to fit Taipei into a walnut shell. Of course, I can, but little bits will come spilling out like the suitcase you can’t get to close after a long vacation filled with a bit too much shopping and altogether wonderful memories.

So I’ll write the darn thing, knowing that there will be aspects of me that won’t fit inside the parameters, and that that’s okay. Funny how something that isn’t prescribed seems to flow from my fingers when everything else does not. I could say something profound about human existence.

But I am quiet. My mind ticking and mulling around a hodgepodge stew of experiences. Somewhere in there, if I fish around, is the right combination I need for my assignment. Somewhere in there are the words that will impress my future professors, make them think ‘wow, she’s something special, we’re luck to have her’ make them wish to meet me.

Instead of writing my autobiography and laying my life onto the keyboard with fingers red with heat and slightly sticky with melty dark chocolate, I will give you the gift of the night market, whose one instance somehow forms itself into linear sentences much easier than the past 23 years of my life can.

~~~~~~~~~~~

It’s Thursday, the beginning of a four day weekend sounded like heaven and lasted like hell. Spiraling into the anxiety that only spare time can bring, I sat on my bed feeling like I was filled with one thousand spiders, body still, heart and nerves aflutter.

The phone rings. It’s Leo, the guy I met on the bus home from Taipei earlier in the year. He’s stationed at the army base here in Yilan and wants to know if I want to hang out on Friday night. Maybe I sound too eager when I reply, effusive in my ‘yes!’ and keen even in my facial expression, which he can’t see. I’m thankful for something to get me out of my square, rock hard bed. It has been getting to my tail bone. We plan to meet at You Ai, the second department store in Yilan (out of two) and see ‘Noah’ then walk to the night market. I hope he doesn’t think it’s a date. I’m just excited to see that movie and have something to do with my twitchy spider legs.

***

When Friday comes, I put on the top part of my outfit in the morning and the tights, then over the tights I put lounge pants, intending to don a skirt later, but feeling like dressing up inside our secluded abode is unmerited. I’m right. I spend the day in bed until it’s 6:30 at which point I shed the pants like snakeskin, zip myself into the skirt and head out to walk the half hour to the department store. I have six escalators to think to myself before I reach the top floor, where the theatre is, and realise that I’m not sure I remember what he looks like. What if he’s cut his hair? I start looking expectantly at every young asian man, giving them half smiles that can easily be changed into, ‘oh hey there you are!’ Luckily about the third person in, I’m right. I’m also right about the hair: he’s cut it.

The movie doesn’t begin for another half an hour, so we awkwardly walk around the department store. The floor below the theatre is empty with an almost warehouse feeling, yet has the air of minimalism that only department stores selling overpriced furniture can have. ‘Who can afford this here?’ I ask him, momentarily forgetting that his family is from Yilan, ‘I mean, most people couldn’t!’ Time ticks forward slowly and finally we enter the movie, armed with the 3D glasses I had no idea the movie called for. Soon I’m having typical epic movie reactions, complete with hand over mouth action and ‘I need to shield my eyes now’ and ‘oh my gosh how could he!’ Etc, etc, etc. The movie ends after what has been the duration but seems short to me. ‘That’s it?’ I exclaim? My mind is mulling everything over.

Although I’ve never been overtly religious, my upbringing in Waldorf School means that I spend my young years at the knee of my classroom teacher, listening to bible stories and moulding figures out of beeswax. We did a dance to Genesis Creation Story and our third grade play was about Noah’s Ark. I played Noah’s wife opposite Carl, the object of my affection. Typical.

We walked to the night market as I compared everything I remembered from the real stories to the movie adaptation. If there was a time to mess up the translation from page to screen, this was NOT it, although I suppose there was no author to write a scathing review and no rights to revoke. Pictures. I promised I had those for you. If you’ve lasted this far, I thank you. It feels good to be writing again. Each time I begin, I am astonished how I could have ever let it go.

Shoes aplenty

We did about two laps before I finally took out my camera and took pictures. I didn’t want to feel like a tourist in my own city, but needs must.

Fake eyelashes, anyone?

There are any number of things you could want in the night market. I’ve only ever bought boots.

any case you desire

But I expect I’ll need a pair of sandals or two before the year is out. Sneakers are quickly growing too hot for my body which I’m sure is allergic to heat.  And if you’re in the market for shoes, the night market is the place to be. Huge selection. Small prices. Can’t assure quality of course, but I generally take good care of mine.

SO CHEAP! hen pianyi le!

For those of you non-Taiwan dwellers out there, that’s about USD 6.61!

cute earrings abound

This is the only picture I could get of Leo.

Which is the real wig?

These were cats I wasn’t supposed to photograph. Exactly what I was afraid of.

hoochy outfits for your 3 year old?

the night market: where tomatoes reclaim their status as fruits

street scenes

We did a few rounds so I could get photos aplenty and also because we were both feeling awkward and could not stop deferring to each other in terms of what to do next.  ‘What do you want to do?’ ‘Oh you choose. After you!’ Leo taught me a bit how to use Aperture! So I walked around bending at angles and pointing my camera in artsy ways at things. Pity the light wasn’t better. 

Totoro!

In case you want a silicone bow for your phone.

by all accounts this ice cream, despite looking beautifully towered, is tasteless.

fruits

corn dogs get a one up with french fries applied

squid on a stick

more food on a stick

chicken feet. obviously.

Night marketing under the bridge

meat things. sausage, tofu? pigs blood and other un namables

steamed corn on a stick

candied red things

I like the night market. I believe I’ll find myself back there quite soon for to purchase some sandals as the weather gets more and more unbearably hot.  Love, Hannah

Desperate Times Call for….

Hello All,

Yes, the seasons have abruptly turned and now Sprummer is in full swing here in Taiwan. What’s Sprummer, you ask? Well obviously the vicious sudden onslaught of sticky, hot, oppressive weather coupled with random torrential downpours and the unrelentless infestation of ants. In simpler terms, Taiwan’s wet, chilly winter really goes straight into full blown summer around April.

Being a person who dislikes hot immensely (one does not here question the fact that I want nothing more than to move to London), I find this exceedingly difficult. To console the melting, puffy, sticky mess that I become during less than desirable temperature conditions, I resort to some life-preserving tactics that usually work for me.

1. Problem: Ants. Yes, they come. I’ve tried the cinnamon trick to no avail. I don’t know the psychology of ants and indeed this is most likely a very difficult thing to study, but as soon as the weather turns warmer, I find them crawling in all the most likely and unlikely places. Under my suitcase, down the side of my toothbrush, up the wall, behind my wastepaper basket, inside the crevices of my desk, up the edge of my curtains, through the poorly sealed sides of my not defunct air conditioner, precariously close to my vitamins. None of these places are places where I would like to see them.

Solution: I suddenly become a master of steeling myself against emotion as I stomp and squash everything that moves. If this does not work (it doesn’t) then I will rush outside my room in a fluster, pointedly grad the can of insecticide, and spray it all over every blessed crevice in my room to keep the darn pests at bay. Everything barring areas I touch, that is. I still think that stuff is poisonous.

2. Problem: Being hot. I am convinced that I am allergic to heat. Symptoms range from swelling, headaches, boredom, stir crazy behavior, irritability, anxiety, restlessness, lack of hunger, and prickly skin and rashes. Sounds like an awful affliction, does it not? Back in the first months I was here, I can recall being so uncomfortable from the very moments I stepped into the sunlight of 7am to walk to our daily orientation seasons at the centre of town.

Solution: There are many solutions to this that I have found.
a.  One of which is taking cold showers. I took cold showers until the end of October and I think the time will soon come when I again no longer feel the need to turn on the gas and steam up our bathroom.
b. Another solution is compression stockings. I don’t reserve these for hot weather, indeed I quite like wearing them all the time.  Lest you think I am an old lady, I assure you that they do wonders for your circulation.
c.  Keeping the doors and windows closed and covered. I can thank my lovely Mother for this tip. As crazy as she gets about it, I now understand and appreciate her efforts to keep the house cool.
d. Drink lots of cold water. During the winter and at the suggestion of my Taiwanese colleagues, I stopped drinking cold water all together because I was told it was bad for your body. I know, I know, I for anyone should know that there is no one ‘truth’ to health, but it also was unpleasant to be drinking cold water when it was  heatless inside and damp to boot! Now that the hot weather has begun again and there is mostly no reprieve from the quickly skyrocketing temperatures, I find it necessary to keep at least three water bottles in our mini fridge which I can guzzle thirstily at moments notice.

3. Boredom and Restlessness. For some reason there is something about summer that gives me a strange duality between being bored out of my mind and completely restless and also entirely too exhausted to get up and do something. Paradoxical, I know.

Solution: Boredom sleeping and binge-watching Call the Midwife (or insert current GOOD show here) on Netflix. As a rule, I don’t watch TV (see my nose in the air?) but there are times when I can really get into something.

If you haven’t seen Call the Midwife, it’s amazing and exquisitely well done and you should glue yourself to the couch to watch all three seasons. I, myself, have not yet finished season 2.

Another marker of its being a quality show? The episodes are 58 minutes long instead of 23, so you know that there is actually a story line, not just something producers threw together to pacify an audience for 20 minutes after dinner.

Solutions to all things: Dreaming of home and planning all the vintage outfits I am going to sew.

Love you!
Hannah