Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Sun is Shining, the Weather is Sweet

The sun finally made a long awaited appearance today.
I opened my windows and breathed the sweet fragrance that emanated from the corner in the distance scooters whizzed by on the main drag...I could hear the hauntingly beautiful sounds of a neighbor playing the piano...I like life in the city.

Saturday, March 25, 2006


Hi everyone!
Not much to report from this end.
My Asian ClubMed time (as my friend Laura puts it) has begun though!
This week I took a "tea tasting class." Yes, I had about 40 teeny tiny cups of tea - mostly green...about 12 varieties. It was held in an office-cum-store in a more industrial part of Taipei. The teacher was the owner of a big tea company, ABC Tea, with offices here and in L.A. and Tokyo. He was very charming and full of interesting information.
I attended the class with 5 Aussies, and a young woman from So. Africa and her mom.
At one point, the instructor, Jackson (he's a 60ish man from Taiwan) talked about his good friend who owns Starbucks. They get into it alot about their passions, and the Starbucks owner contends that the Chinese art of brewing/drinking/savoring tea just doesn't jibe with the American lifestyle, to which Miss South Africa replied, "that's because Americans aren't cultured." Hmm...thems fightin' words. Well, maybe I'll bring a little Asian culture back home and have a welcome home tea party! The era of keg parties has ended.
Besides that little unecessary wrinkle, it was a really enjoyable class. I learned that you drink tea much like you drink wine. First you observe the color - either golden, amber or green. Then you close your eyes and hold the small, round cup
(NOT MUG!) up to your nose and SMELL. mmm. Then, you sip but don't swallow just yet - you "chew" the tea - kind of swish it around before swallowing. I'm sure you don't do this with every sip though!
The owner/instructor told us about a very special, rare oolong tea grown on Er Mei Mountain, Hsin-Chu, Taiwan which Queen Victoria dubbed, "Oriental Beauty." It's rare because its tender, white tipped buds are harvested only within the first 15 days of July from this mountain only when these special fly larvae start eating the leaves of the tea plants. They're special flies because they cannot survive anywhere else in the world (flynappers were unsuccessful in their attempts to cultivate this tea plant elsewhere).
I'm a little hazy about the significance of the flies though. Jackson said there was a chemical reaction when the larvae eats the tea leaves...but then I did some research and this is what I found: "Oriental Beauty is no ordinary cup of brew - its flavour comes from insects that live and breed in the tea leaves. The bugs deposit their egg sacks in a sticky goo, which is harvested and brewed with the tea leaves. This gives the tea its unusual scented flavour, like an Earl Grey but earthier and more robust. All Oriental Beauty is organically grown, otherwise the insects would die, and the unique tea would be just another warm drink," so says Brent Hannon on No wonder Jackson wouldn't tell me the truth when I asked him what the deal was with the flies (if the egg sac story is true). But Sujoy told me that HE was told that once the flies appear, that's when the buds need to be picked, otherwise the flavor won't be up to par. So there's a bit of mystery surrounding this tea, which is also known as Champagne Oolong.
The Oriental Beauty was not my favorite tea though. I enjoyed the Pouchong Oolong, which is a fragrant golden brew.
I bought a really cool, easy to brew teapot. Jackson told us that it was invented by a junior high school student (I think he was from Japan). He got $100,000 for the patent. Not too shabby!
Jackson let us keep our little tea cup and gave us all samples of tea, candy made from green tea and a handout on the history and health benefits of tea.
After the class I came home and went to a local shop and bought some beautiful blue porcelain cups with a raised pattern of dragons for $1.00 each (USD).
I think I'm ready for my tea party.
Bring on the cultcha!!!

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Vote for Rachel Fuller & Pete Townshend!

Hey everyone. Please take a moment to make Rachel and Pete happy and vote for their beautiful song, "Just Breathe," on the IAC site! IAC stands for Independant Artists Company. Check out their site (yes I've told some of my friends out there about it).
Rachel and Pete are up for Song of the Year.
It will only take a second and if you poke around, you will discover some new and exciting music.
So, go ahead. Make my day, and VOTE HERE! Pretty please?
Merci beaucoup.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

More funny stuff

I forgot to share this one: About a week after arriving here, I went to a restaurant I really liked, but it was on the late side, around 9:00 p.m. Anjoli and I walked in and we saw the workers eating at the tables...I asked if they were open, but an old(er) lady at the counter pointed to the door and shouted, "GO HOME!!!!" I thought to myself O.K. O.K. I get it you're closed! I was sad. ;) I think what she meant was: "we're all going home now, come back again tomorrow, you should know better than to let your daughter go hungry!" Something like that...

I spent more than a few hours with an English speaking cab driver that Anjoli's principal told us about. He's a fault! He took me to Costco - it's hugely popular here...he bought me lunch even (not that I wanted anything but I had to be polite). He's an, uh, interesting person. Very upfront about wanting an American wife! I told him about the Green Card lottery and he got very excited about that. Anyway, he was telling me about his sister who went to college in the states...she got her "masterpiece at NYU." :) I didn't correct him because I thought it was cute. He told me he likes to read before going to bed at night, so I asked him what he likes to read...he said, "oh my English dictionary." (Kudos to him, because he's the only English speaking cab driver I've run across so far).

Depressing Fact of the Day

Did you know if you eat just 10 extra calories per day than your body needs you'll gain one pound per year?

Now go cry in your imperialistic mocha latte.... :(

Monday, March 20, 2006

Even more market pictures!

Old Man Revisited

Like this, Laura?

An Afternoon in the Park

I took these on Saturday while Anjoli and her friends from school were playing in the local park. It was a sunny, balmy day (for a change) so lots of people were out enjoying the weather. I am finally getting up the nerve to take candids. I really like the one of the old man. He looks sad but sweet. I stood behind a bush to take the mahjohng gang.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Pictures of Anjoli's School

These last two are the custodian's garden and house.

I started volunteering at Anjoli's school this week. I'm going to volunteer on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It's really fun! The kids are so sweet. I have a shadow...she follows me everywhere (no, not Anjoli!).
I have to stay all day because it's impossible for most taxi drivers to find the place! It's a wee bit off the beaten track.
On Tuesday I graded papers all day, pretty much, aside from recess duty. It was FREEZING up there! I derive great pleasure from grading - I was born to be a teacher, I think...maybe it's a power trip (as I was telling Ballerinagurl), but I love the red pen, making corrections, giving encouraging comments, and best of all I get to give them ALL really cool stickers! Yeah, it's all good. I also helped the 6th grade teacher grade math homework, which was interesting. I enjoyed that too, and even surprised myself by asking if I needed to deduct points if fractions weren't reduced. Yeah - pure genius - that's me!!
The really good news is I'll be subbing for the first grade teacher at the end of the month - just one day. They definately need someone to be on call, so I told them I'd be happy to help whenever I am needed. It's good to feel useful, and all the teachers were elated to have help. They are all so kind and friendly - and of course it feels good to be around Americans!

More Pics of the Hood!

I really want to start candid shots of the locals - but I feel really weird about it! I'm afraid that people wouldn't like it! I saw the best shot this morning on my way to the gym: a bunch of old men playing mah johng in the park. They were so adorable. I think elderly Asian people are the cutest. I don't know what it is about them. Does anyone out there have an hints on how to be inconspicuous when taking candids?
Sujoy took these. The indoor shots were taken at the Shih Dong Market - this huge indoor market across the way from us. There's alot of mystery foods there! I'll have to take some pictures of the unusual foods there. Some of it will gross vegetarians out though!

Bring on the Blues!

Funny thing about the blues. When you're in a funk, there's nothing better to lift your spirits...and if you're feeling good, the blues can make you feel even better.

Here's a wonderful playlist I found on Real One's Rhapsody. (It's called Blues for Fun by Jonckel if you're a subscriber). I've seen a few of these artists: B.B. King, Muddy Waters, Taj Mahal, Charlie Musselwhite, The Kinsey Report, j.j. cale, Buddy Guy, Etta James and Duke Robillard. (Sujoy and I saw him at our favorite blues bar in Boston, Harper's Ferry. Sujoy had just a few too many drinkies and went up to him after the show and kept telling him,"You're a king! You're a king!" He used to do that alot! Those guys loved it, I'm sure! He met B.B. in NYC and told him how much he is loved in India, much to BB's amazement!). I'm sad that I never got to see Janis, Jimi, John Lee Hooker or Stevie Ray Vaughan...I hope the blues doesn't ever die out, but I'm afraid it may when the last of the greats are gone.

Blues for Fun

• "How Blue Can You Get" - B.B. King
• "Turtle Blues" - Big Brother & The Holding...
• "Born Under A Bad Sign" - Cream
• "Send Me To The 'Lectric Chair" - David Bromberg
• "New Lee Highway Blues" - David Bromberg
• "Key To The Highway" - Derek & The Dominos
• "John Henry/Worried Blues" - Doc & Merle Watson's Guitar Album
• "Weary Blues" - Doc Watson
• "Jailhouse Blues" - Doc & Merle Watson
• "Sittin' Here Pickin' The Blues" - Doc & Merle Watson
• "Shake For Me - John Hammond" - Duane Allman
• "Highway 49" - Howlin' Wolf
• "I Ain't Superstitious" - Howlin' Wolf
• "Highway 49" - Howlin' Wolf
• "Highway 49 - (alternate take)" - Howlin' Wolf
• "I've Got A Woman" - Howlin' Wolf
• "Red House" - Jimi Hendrix Experience
• "Moaning The Blues" - Mississippi John Hurt
• "Corrinna, Corrinna" - Mississippi John Hurt
• "All Night Long" - Mississippi John Hurt
• "Sittin' Here Drinkin' (Whiskey Blues)" - Muddy Waters
• "Honey Bee" - Muddy Waters
• "Howling Wolf" - Muddy Waters
• "She Moves Me" - Muddy Waters
• "Caldonia" - Muddy Waters
• "Walkin' Blues" - Muddy Waters
• "I Can't Be Satisfied" - Muddy Waters
• "I Feel Like Going Home" - Muddy Waters
• "All These Blues" - Paul Butterfield
• "Cross Road Blues" - Robert Johnson
• "Kind Hearted Woman Blues" - Robert Johnson
• "Love In Vain" - Robert Johnson
• "I'm So Glad" - Skip James
• "How Long Blues" - Skip James
• "Crow Jane" - Skip James
• "Death Letter" - Son House
• "John The Revelator" - Son House
• "Pride And Joy" - Stevie Ray Vaughan
• "Leave My Girl Alone" - Stevie Ray Vaughan
• "Texas Flood" - Stevie Ray Vaughan And Double Trouble
• "She Caught The Katy And Left Me A Mule To Ride - (bonus track, previously unreleased)" - Taj Mahal
• "Going Up To The Country And Paint My Mailbox Blue" - Taj Mahal
• "Voodoo" - The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
• "Mr. Ray "J" / Dead Man Blues" - The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
• "Wolverine Blues" - The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
• "The Pearls" - The Dirty Dozen Brass Band
• "Love In Vain" - The Rolling Stones
• "Stormy Monday" - Allman Brothers Band
• "Born Under A Bad Sign" - Albert King
• "Breaking Up Somebody's Home, (I Feel Like)" - Albert King
• "Strollin' With The Bones" - T-Bone Walker
• "The Hustle Is On" - T-Bone Walker
• "Long Skirt Baby Blues" - T-Bone Walker
• "Illustrated Man" - Johnny Winter
• "Frosty" - Albert Collins
• "I've Got Love If You Want It" - John Hammond
• "Three O'Clock Blues" - B.B. King
• "Can't Stay Away" - Charlie Musselwhite
• "Don't Get Me Shook Up" - Duke Robillard
• "Cold Sweat" - The Bone Shakers
• "Me And My Baby" - Larry McCray
• "No More Doggin'" - Colin James/The Little Big Band
• "Too Early To Tell" - The Kinsey Report
• "I Shall Not Be Moved" - Pops Staples
• "Get Your Lies Straight" - Terry Evans
• "Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl" - Hadda Brooks
• "Down Here In The Real Big Empty" - Roy Rogers
• "Dust My Broom" - Elmore James
• "Tramp" - Lowell Fulsom
• "So Good To My Baby" - Big Maybelle
• "Mannish Boy" - Muddy Waters
• "My Babe" - Little Walter
• "Wang Dang Doodle" - Koko Taylor
• "Little Red Rooster" - Howlin' Wolf
• "Reelin' & Rockin'" - Chuck Berry
• "I'd Rather Go Blind" - Etta James
• "Boom Boom" - John Lee Hooker
• "Shame Shame Shame" - Johnny Winter
• "Help Me Somebody" - Jon Cleary

Sunday, March 12, 2006

If the Thunder Don't Get Ya Then the Lightning Will!

All states that can be returned to external causes are obviously not you, but that which cannot be returned to anywhere, if it is not you, what is it? Therefore, you should know that your mind is fundamentally wonderful, bright, and pure and that because of your involvement with the things of the world you have covered it up and lost it. In this way you are caught on the endless wheel of becoming this or that, sinking and floating in that sea of endless becoming. Awaken yourself now to your own bright mind.

-Surangama Sutra
From "The Pocket Buddha Reader," edited by Anne Bancroft, 2000.

Sue's thought for the day: You're going to die sooner than you think, so why not drop the neurotic baggage and the "shoulds." Let your light shine and just be happy!

Watch Justin Kreutzmann's Video of The Wheel

The Wheel
by Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter

The wheel is turning and you can't slow down,
You can't let go and you can't hold on,
You can't go back and you can't stand still,
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will.

Won't you try just a little bit harder,
Couldn't you try just a little bit more?
Won't you try just a little bit harder,
Couldn't you try just a little bit more?

Round, round robin run round, got to get back to where you belong,
Little bit harder, just a little bit more,
A little bit further than you gone before.

The wheel is turning and you can't slow down,
You can't let go and you can't hold on,
You can't go back and you can't stand still,
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will.

Small wheel turn by the fire and rod,
Big wheel turn by the grace of god,
Every time that wheel turn 'round,
Bound to cover just a little more ground.

The wheel is turning and you can't slow down,
You can't let go and you can't hold on,
You can't go back and you can't stand still,
If the thunder don't get you then the lightning will.

Won't you try just a little bit harder,
Couldn't you try just a little bit more?
Won't you try just a little bit harder,
Couldn't you try just a little bit more?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Funny Stuff

Ok I have to share a couple of funny language confusion stories.
A day or so after we arrived here in Taiwan, my family and I were kind of hanging outside our apartment building, trying to figure out which mailbox was ours (everything - including the numbers on the box is in Chinese).
We soon saw the mailguy, clad in a green short jacket and matching green pants, wearing a green hat. It's so cute - they deliver the mail by scooter. Anyway we saw him ringing a buzzer - and when no one answered, he looked up and yelled what sounded like, "SUSAN!" So, we thought, oh, he's calling me! We told him that I was Susan, and he looked at the letter, then looked at me, with a puzzled look on his face. Still, he let me sign for it...we thought it had something to do with our ADSL/phone service. We asked him which buzzer/mailbox was ours, and he showed us.
A few days later, when Sujoy went to work, he showed the people in his office the letter and asked them to translate it for him. Turns out the person's name is Soo-jin! So they all had a good laugh. Ok it doesn't sound that funny, maybe you had to be there! We later found out that she owns a lock and key shop down the road. I went to buy a lock and told her who I was and she was all excited and even gave me a discount.
The walls in our apartment here are so thin. One night I was lying in Anjoli's bedroom and I hear a man's voice calling "Sue!" so I said "Yes?" and ran to Sujoy's bedroom,(it sounded urgent) but he was it was actually Soo Jin's husband calling her!
Another cute story: We went shopping at a huge Costco like department store called Carrefour one day. (It's kind of cool - you can take your shopping cart up these escaloter-like ramps). We were in the checkout line and I had to use the restroom, so I had to go down a few flights. Sujoy said he'd meet me near the cashier's stand.
Well, when I went back up - he was gone - and I was all a twitter, as usual. Turns out he forgot that he told me to meet me upstairs, so he went downstairs looking for me - ack! So he left Anjoli at the information booth, and he asked the woman: "please watch her for me, I have to go find my wife." So the lady turned to Anjoli and told her:"you stay with me, your papa's going to find some rice!" hee hee. We finally managed to bump into eachother...phew!

Friday, March 10, 2006

Yummy Mountain - Part Two

Yummy Mountain - Part One

Last weekend we took a local bus and ventured up to Yang Ming Shan Mountain (the locals refer to it as "Yummy Mountain) for the annual Flower Festival. The cherry blossoms, rhododendruns and ...ok those are the only 2 flowers I could identify (!) were starting to bloom. It appeared most of Taipei had the same idea - we had to stand on a crowded bus for about 1 1/2 hours to travel a mere 12 miles...but it was well worth the trip as you can see!

Monday, March 06, 2006

Off to School You Go!!

My baby started school last week. She's in 2nd grade. Man, what a trooper. Sujoy and I took her up Yang Ming Shan mountain by cab. We got there a bit early, the classroom was locked, and some of the kids were waiting by the door. They were looking at Anjoli's boots and matching raincoat (see above pic) and were snickering. Big mistake on my part! But it had been raining, so I figured it was muddy...but NONE of the kids wear boots. Oh well.
The teacher soon appeared and we chatted a bit, and helped Anjoli settle into her desk and cubby. All the kids wear slippers in class - cozy! That's the Chinese way.
Sujoy and I said goodbye, and it looked like Anjoli was holding back tears (can you imagine what it must have felt like?) - but I had to take one shot of her at her desk which you can see. I made her smile for the camera - but believe me she didn't look too pleased, naturally. MOTHERS!!
After saying goodbye, we spoke to the principal for a bit, then I had to peak
through the door to her class (it had a window), and she was just fine! phew!
Her first day was a little rough - some of the girls kept laughing at her for some reason - but she's a lot tougher than I thought - she calmly told them to stop - but they continued. The second time she was a bit more adamant, and then they listened, and haven't laughed since.
Two girls gave her "welcome cards" - one of them is SO sweet - I have to scan it - I love it. This girl also gave her 2 little gifts - a rainbow made out of wax pellets and a little glass penguin. Anjoli was thrilled.
She's been reading the second Harry Potter book- and she took it to school. It's a Christian school, and I was unsure about how tolerant they are of HP, so I warned her - but I wanted to see what they'd say. Sure enough, on her 3rd day, the teacher reluctantly told her: "we don't read HP at this school. I was waiting for you or your parents to figure that out and didn't tell you right away since you are new here." Ok, so now we know! I called the teacher to apologize, but I let her know that we don't believe in magic or witchcraft or anything...but I understood (I don't agree with their beliefs, but I respect them). Anyhoo, no biggie really.
I was brought up Catholic, and still pray to Jesus, but we don't go to church. I am actually happy that she's learning about Jesus, but I fear she may be confused (join the club). For example, her teacher told her that God is going to burn the earth one day and take us all to heaven! So Anjoli comes home and tells me this, then says, "but I thought God loved us!??" Being brought up Catholic - well, I was never taught all this fire and brimstone stuff! I asked her if she liked learning about Jesus and memorzing verses and she actually does.
She especially likes learning Chinese - she's learning how to speak and write Chinese characters. Actually, our friends and cab drivers are teaching her how to speak it - her school is really only teaching her how to write the characters.
I spoke to her teacher the other night about volunteering and she was very happy - she needs help grading papers, which I'll gladly do. I really miss being in school with kids. Anjoli will be happy to see me of course! I asked how Anjoli was doing and she said, "I've never seen anything like it. She is so strong and brave. She introduced herself, and answered everyone's questions...she's very confident. She's at the top of the class - but it helps that she speaks English, of course." I'm so happy...what a relief. She's made lots of friends and she's always in a good mood when she gets off the bus. She talks about her day without me having to pull info out of her. So it's all good! Only downside is the long bus ride - but her bus is a cushy little tour bus kinda deal. She gets carsick easily - but she carries homeopathy (carbo veg ) and that settles her stomach.
Tonight she was saying that she really misses home though (of course) - her friends, her teacher - Ms. Gliman, and most of all her kitty!

[Reminder to friends and family: don't forget to click to enlarge pictures, ok?]

Saturday, March 04, 2006

Thursday, March 02, 2006

In the Attic Returns!!

Wow what a show! It was so good to see the old gang again! I pulled an all nighter and it was well worth it. I had to see it live and join the other crazed fans in Molly's chatroom. What a blast- it was great to have Rene and Bex there too. We got quite carried away at the end there!

I was a bad mom though - I woke my daughter (Anjoli) and Sujoy laughing (at 3:30 a.m.) - plus I had the volume too high. Anjoli had already got to bed very didn't make it to school today (she was complaining about earaches and a scratchy throat). This morning she was watching the ITA loop and right after she heard Rachel's beautiful cover of "Riverman" she ran to her room and started playing her Casio keyboard. She has been teaching herself Beethoven's "Fur Elise" and she played it perfectly - adding a few more notes this time (we just got it shipped to us yesterday from home). She hasn't played for about 3 weeks. Anyway, she loves to experiment with the sounds - and today she discovered a whole slew of them. She found a sound called "feedback" and just started playing this riff all along the keyboard. I know it's boring to hear - but she was just jamming - it was SO cool!! She hasn't had any lessons - and I don't want to stunt her creativity - so I'm going to hold off for a bit and just let her keep playing from her heart. Incredible.
So THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU Rachel, Pete, Mikey and Simon!!
Well worth the black circles under my eyes today.
Don't more hooky playing...but: