Everything counts in small amounts

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Settled in to Our New Apartment

So Jiyeoun and I have finally settled in to our new apartment. As I wrote in a previous post, Jiyeoun worked long and hard to find our place. We were very close to signing a contract for another apartment, but we pulled out after reading the contract. The terms were extremely disadvantageous for the renter. We contemplated living with the Lus for a little while. They offered to put us up and it seemed like a good opportunity to experience Taiwan with the natives. But, we eventually decided against that as well.

Then, two long weeks into the apartment search, Jiyeoun stumbled across the place we are in now. It’s a 10-minute walk from the Yongan Market MRT station, about a 45 minute commute to work. It takes Jiyeoun 30 minutes to get to school.

The apartment is a fully furnished, one-bedroom with a separate living room, kitchen and bath. The landlord, an engaged, professional woman, lived in the apartment before we moved in so the place is clean and the furniture is quality. We’ve got leather sofas, a matching cherry furniture set, a laundry machine, and a fully equipped kitchen. She left tones of useful knickknacks: an umbrella, cleaning supplies, hangers, matches, power strips, etc. The only things we had to buy were a coffee maker, iron, and corkscrew.

But, the best part is that there is a huge park a two-minute-walk away. The park has a fountain, wading pool, theater, gazebo, and ample open space. The central library is also located there. I have been told that foreigners can make a library card and check out books at any library in Taiwan as long as they bring their passport. I plan to put this claim to the test soon.

I’ve taken to running in the park in the evenings after work for exercise. I run around the park three times. I guess it’s about a mile and a half, maybe. I’m happy to be exercising after all these years.

Jiyeoun did a good job.

Sunday, September 11, 2005


It’s been a busy week. I don’t know how other bloggers post daily and still have a life. I can’t do both at the same time. I’m sitting on pictures from our first week in Taiwan that I haven’t had time to post. Such is life, I guess.

The highlight of last week was easily Saturday our trip to Danshi on Saturday. Danshi is a small town between the mouth of the Danshi River and the sea. It’s the last stop going north on the red line out of Taipei. The trip takes about an 45-minutes on the metro from downtown Taipei.

Jiyeoun and arrived in the late afternoon. The sun was going down and things were cooling off. The first place we visited was Danshi’s main street.

It was packed with people, food stands, and assorted shops. My favorite store was the made-to-order soup shop pictured below.

Customers pick from beef, pork, or seafood based broths and specify what ingredients they want in the soup. In the foreground of the picture above there are shrimp balls and dumplings. In the background there are bean sprouts, noodles, egg rolls, and pork. They all can be added to your soup. We bought the pearl tea I wrote about in my last post on Danshi’s main street.

From there, we walked along the boardwalk. The sun was setting and we watched from the bank of the river as we drank our tea.

Like Main Street, the boardwalk was full of food stands and restaurants. But, it was also littered with fortunetellers, teahouses, and souvenir shops. My favorite was this karaoke. For 10 Taiwan dollars (30 cents US) you can select from a catalogue of thousands of songs and sing it in front of passersby on the boardwalk. When we walked by, a little girl of 7 or 8 was singing for about 30 people who had gathered to watch. You can see the back of her head in the foreground of the picture below.

From the boardwalk, Jiyeoun and I went to look for a place to have dinner. We ended up having some decent Japanese food: tempura, fish, sushi cones, rice, and soup. But, during the search, we came across this place.

For me it typifies the use of space in North East Asia. This is a soup restaurant. All the people in line are waiting for their orders. This picture does not show the crowd of people at the tables behind the counter sitting shoulder to shoulder eating their dinner. I’ve been in crowds like this in other places and it’s unlike anything I’ve ever experienced.

After dinner, we took a ferry to the fisherman’s wharf about a mile up the Danshi on the edge of the sea. We arrived late so the seafood market was closed. There was little to look at, except for this beautiful footbridge, which connected the wharf to the mainland.

Jiyeoun and I did a quick lap around the market and returned to Danshi on the ferry. It was a wonderful night. The breeze was blowing in off the sea and the mainland was lit up like a Christmas tree. The ferry ride was too bumpy to take decent pictures though. So you’ll have to satisfy yourself with your own imagination.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Pearl Tea

Jiyeoun and I finally had "pearl tea". The Lonely Planet guide book describes it as "sweetened tea with chewy black balls of tapioca at the bottom." It's served in a plastic cup with a tight seal and thick straw. The Chinese word for it is zhēnzhū nǎichá. Don't ask me to pronounce it. Jiyeoun ordered for me.

The tea cost 45 TWD ($1.40 USD) at a roadside stand in Danshui. (More on Danshui later.) The tea was good. It was not as sweet as I expected. It tasted like Earl Grey with milk and balls of nut jelly in it. It was surprisingly filling for tea. I'd rate it as better than average. I'm certainly going to try it again somewhere else. I'm sure there are dozens of variations. The streets are littered with pearl tea stands.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Update on International Aid for Hurricane Katrina

The Washington Post ran a story, "Rice: U.S. Receiving Offers of Hurricane Aid From Around the Globe." In part, the piece says that "59 countries and organizations" have offered aid to help the victims of Hurricane Katrina. The list includes "poor countries such as El Salvador, Armenia, the Philippines and India" and "countries with which the United States has no relations or poor relations, such as Cuba and Venezuela." The article also quotes Rice as expressing her "heartfelt thanks" to all nations for demonstrating solidarity and saying, "Every offer is important.... We've turned down no offers."

I still think Bush's comment regarding international aid for Katrina's victims, which sent me off on a rant in my last post, was stupid. But, I am happy to see the confusion dispelled. The people around Bush are smarter than he is. Rice said what her boss should have: "Recently, we have seen the American people respond generously to help others around the globe during their times of distress, such as during the recent tsunami.... Today, we are seeing a similar urgent, warm and compassionate reaction from the international community in response to Katrina."
Thank you international community. We appreciate your support.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Superpower Arrogance?

I agonized over what to call this post: super power pride, Bush's arrogance, who donates to the rich?, Bush's stubbornness, when is help bad?, take it when you can get it, or why the hell not? It's all inspired by the same question: why isn't the United States soliciting and receiving aid/donations from the international community to help along the Gulf Coast?

I read the following in the Taipei Times (which, based on my two weeks in Taiwan, is a mediocre paper at best):

Taiwan is always looking to make a good impression in the US. Fox News has noted that no country has offered to help after the hurricane we just had. Maybe offering help would be a good gesture on the part of Taiwan.

Mike McKenzie
Lebanon, Missouri

So, reading this, I had two thoughts:

1) "Well damn. The world is fully of ungrateful bastards. With all of the aid and international help the United States gives you'd think at least one country would pony up and lend us a hand. What's up with that? Is the U.S. that taken-for-granted or that hated?"

2) That's the first time I've ever read an astute comment from Fox News.

Then in the Herald International Tribune, which is decidedly not mediocre, I read:

Countries including France, Germany, Russia and even Venezuela have volunteered assistance, but Bush said: "I'm not expecting much from foreign nations because we haven't asked for it."

This prompted a stream of thoughts:

1) Fox News really is shit. They apparently ran a story claiming that no country has offered help without even checking the facts. All it would have taken was a few calls to the White House. It's really not surprising that they would broadcast the information without checking. The idea that no other country offered to help serves their political agenda. It gives the impression that the United States is an ignored, scorned nation alone in a world of ingrates that take our help when they can get it and turn their back on us when we need them. This image is especially useful when the United States is the lone objector to the Kyoto protocol or the international criminal court, for example. Because then Fox and other conservatives can say: "We'll what do you expect from those ungrateful bastards? They didn't help us in New Orleans and they certainly aren't going to support us now. They are selfish and unreasonable and we are not. So, of course we would disagree."

2) The Taipei Times is worse than I thought. I don't think I will subscribe.

3) Bush is truly arrogant and clueless. (And, this is were I was going with this diatribe the whole time.) Why the hell wouldn't you ask for help? In a disaster of this magnitude, what harm does it do if your worse enemy offers help as long as it's useful? Venezuela is even offering help. Venezuela, whose president Pat Robertson suggested the United States assassinate, is offering help! What the fuck is the logic of not soliciting/taking their help? Is Bush that arrogant that even when the country he presides over needs help, he won't ask for it or, even worse, won't take it? Who is so important, so powerful that they don't need help from even the poorest among us at times? And, if there ever was a time the United States needs help, this is it. People are dying by the thousands along the Gulf Coast. New Orleans is flooding and being rocked by explosions. 5 million people are without power. The Gulf is a toxic cesspool. Life in Louisiana, Missouri, Mississippi, and Alabama won't be the same for months, years, or never. Then, why wouldn't you ask for help? Really, why?

I believe it's because Bush and many Americans are too proud. They have an image of the United States as the sole superpower, incredibly rich, implacable, head and shoulders above the rest of the world. To ask and certainly to take aid from other countries would disrupt this precious image. Better to let poor Americans suffer and die in the South than hurt our precious national pride.

The truth is the United States is richer and is better in many ways. (It's also worse in others.) But, we are not that much better or that much richer. Help is help. Take it where you can get it, especially when you need it most, Bush, you dumb fuck.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Talim Passes

Radar Map of Taiwan at 12PM Local Time

The buzz of rain has been replaced by the howl of wind and even that is slowly quieting. We opened the doors and windows in the house to let the strong, warm wind sweep through the house. It's a nice feeling.

The view out our bedroom window this morning.

We slept through the worst of the rain last night and woke up to the rattle of windowpanes and the rustling of trees. The rain as completely subsided. The south-central area of Taiwan is still getting some precipitation. But, by this afternoon there should be nothing left of Kelim.

Precipitation Map of Taiwan at 12PM Local Time

Everyone is home. Jiyeoun prepared breakfast and Ceilo is cooking lunch. I've been reading the news online and doing laundry. It's a lazy, sleepy day. It's nice.