Wednesday, May 31, 2006

On the Road to Hualien

After a fun morning at the Center for Traditional Arts, we got back on the Magic Bus and headed for Hualien and Taroko Gorge.
We travelled along the narrow, winding Suao-Hualien Highway. This highway is literally carved into sheer cliff walls along the Pacific. The view was positively breathtaking. I wish I could adequately describe the feeling I had on this part of the journey. To my right I would gaze at the lush, emerald green mountainous forest (it looked like a rainforest) while on my left I took in a view of the majestic turquoise blue waters of the Pacific, its waves crashing into a rocky coast. I was in awe of the marble and granite cliffs which lined the coast for miles.
It was raining hard that day, so, unfortunately, I wasn't able to get many decent shots, but I will share the best ones.

Note: More pretty (albeit rainy) pictures coming. SOMEBODY back in the States was supposed to make my husband a disc but FORGOT. Maybe if I ask nicely he'll put it on the company's server, and I will post them as soon as I can! I may have short videos also...we'll see...

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Ilan Night Market

More scary food pictures!
It seems like a great part of our stay here revolves around food! Our friends from the U.S. who visited were a bit disappointed with the local food. (I think you can see why).
When I first came to Taiwan, I really enjoyed the food here - especially the hot pot (or fire pot). I mentioned it before, and the method varies at each restaurant, but my favorite fire pot is having your own pot of broth (where you can control the heat) and you then make your soup to your own liking. You can add shaved, frozen beef, chicken, vegetables,noodles etc. The food cooks fairly quickly, but you could easily spend hours at one of these restaurants because the food is so light, and it's fun! Unlike in the U.S., waiters never try to hurry you out the door - they're not worried about "turnover" here. (Waiters do not work for tips - they are paid a flat salary. No one tips here, but I do sometimes. ).
I have figured out that the reason why people here are so thin is because they eat out of very small bowls. And can someone please tell me how you could ever get fat eating soup with chopsticks??? That kind of through me for a loop when I first got here! (You drink the broth, of course).
We also feasted like mad when we got here on both fried and boiled dumplings - they're SO good, but I have backed off for a few months now because they're really fattening. Aw...
I LOVE the variety of vegetables here - trouble is it's hard to find just plain, steamed or simply prepared vegetables. They love pork here, and they always add it to vegetable dishes, even if it's just pork broth. Something in the food doesn't agree with me, and I've found that when I eat certain stir-fry dishes I end up with a stomach ache. So, even though the food is often tasty, it's been tricky for me. I eat very little pork in general, so maybe my body isn't used to it.
There are very few beef dishes here - my Chinese teacher explained that they use cows for labor here in the fields, and also they, like people in India, revere cows because they give us milk. But the weird thing is, I didn't think dairy was a big part of the Asian diet. ??? Maybe they give it to their kids - I need to find out more about that.
Getting back to Ilan, we had a hard time finding street food that was palatable to everyone's taste that night. Sujoy, Alice and Thomas have no problem with the street food, while the rest of us...well...

Alice and Sujoy enjoy some street grub

Me eating "Stinky Tofu." Yup that's what they call it. The Stinky Tofu stands reek of this old, moldy sock smell...but everyone says, "It smells bad, but it tastes great!" It wasn't great, but it didn't taste as bad as it smelled! It's not the most flattering shot of me, but I got a kick out of the curious on-looker on the bike!

Peace out!!

We came upon a stand where a man was needing a sort of candy. Some of us waited in anticipation (I wasn't really into trying it). I will let the pictures speak for themselves!

Alice, Thomas, Sujoy and I enjoyed a really good sausage stuffed with rice. (I didn't get a picture, nothing exciting though).
We still couldn't find anything more appealing to all of us (read: the spolied Americans - myself included!!). So, reluctantly, we trudged through the rain and headed toward those Golden Arches...(NO!!)

Anjoli had her usual cheeseburger and fries, Sujoy and I split a salmon burger on a rice bun (I liked it, he didn't). Chris had a burger and Lyn had an ice cream.
The End!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Ok back to the Magic Bus Trip!

Our final destination on our road trip was the small seaside town of Hualien, located in northeastern Taiwan.
We made a few stops along the way though. Our first stop was the town of Ilan, where we stayed in a beautiful, yet simple Japanese style hotel at the National Center for Traditional Arts.

Along the way to Ilan we had lunch in a small town (I don’t remember the name). We ate some really great seafood. Once we entered the restaurant we were immediately taken by a group occupying 2 tables.

Some of you out there may remember the 80s group Men Without Hats and their infectious , new wave hit, “Safety Dance.”
Sadly, they disbanded due to an identity crisis of sorts…and it’s a little known fact that they actually did “find themselves,” after many years…in Taiwan of all places. They now call themselves, Men With Hats:

We tried to figure out what group they really belonged to...even with our friends speaking Mandarin, well, all we got was: "it's a club." I like my theory better. "S-A-F-E-T-Y Safety dance! " doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo doo...

We reached our hotel around dusk. The National Center for Traditional Arts is located along the Tungshan River. It looked like a college campus – and in fact they do have visiting scholars, so artists and students can study there. But not only is it an educational facility, it is also a place where tourists can take in traditional theater (pictures to follow), music, handicrafts, dance, toys and games and acrobatic performances. We visited a museum which featured puppets, pottery and other handicrafts. There was a row of shops filled with beautiful sculptures, traditional musical instruments, jewelry (I got lots of silver earrings and a beautiful silver and glass choker all at very reasonable prices) and other handicrafts. The best part was taking part in DIY crafts. Sujoy crafted a leather keychain and Anjoli and I made necklaces out of clay that you stamp and then bake. Sujoy also made an owl clock out of tile – it came out great. Anjoli made a very intricate mirror – she “painted” the mirror with a mixture of glue and colored crushed glass. It was taking forever – until our friend, Thomas had the ingenuity to think of making a tube out of a plastic bag which we squeezed onto the mirror as if frosting a cake. He saved the day! Thomas the Train is a man of many talents! (Anjoli is posting the DIY craft pictures on her blog, and I will post the link here as soon as they're up, in case you're interested).

Here are some pictures we took at the Center, with a few taken the night we arrived:

Alice in Wonderland:

This puppet costs $5000 USD. I kid you not.

We were able to catch a short opera performance. In this scene, two friends are saying a VERY LONG goodbye. They will not see eachother for a long time. I thought they were supposed to be men dressed as women - however they are actually men...dressed as men!

Chris and Anjoli pose with the performers

View from our hotel

YUM! If you are wondering what we had for breakfast, so was I...

Friday, May 19, 2006

Happy Birthday Pete!

You know him

You love him

Rock would never be the same

Without him!

Thanks for everything Pete.
Have a wonderful day!
Lots of love,
Sue D.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Happy Mother's Day!

I apologize for not posting for awhile.
I've been missing my mom so much this week. She passed away December 22, 2004.
I hear speak to me often though, and tonight I heard her say, loud and clear: "Don't be sad. Enjoy your family."
I did have a great Mother's Day, despite the sadness. Anjoli made me a basket at school filled with cards, homemade chocolate chip cookies (made at school) and origami flowers. She wrote a cute tribute to me. I promise to scan it soon.
Sujoy gave me a beautiful blue star sapphire set of earrings and matching neclace. The earings are very cool - they are tear shaped but the circular parts (with the stud behind them) are Chinese characters- one is a symbol of prosperity and the other represents good luck. I wore them all day today.

Last night, Sujoy took us out to a very nice, loungy restaurant downtown that featured a traditional puppet show by a group called the Shan Puppet Theater, that was really cool. I was surprised! We got special treatment when the owner heard that Americans were coming: he wrote up a brief synopsis of each scene for us. I wish I had brought my camera. We met the puppeteer after the show, and Anjoli and I got to learn how to work these gorgeous puppets. You wouldn't believe what he could make these things do! One of them was an old man who smoked a long pipe and coughed up real smoke! Another one was a beautiful woman with long hair - he showed us how he made her caress her hair (she was flirting in one scene) - she pulled it from behind and then flicked it back over her shoulder. He also got one to spin plates and a big bowl as well - on this very thin stick. He was a really sweet guy and very very cute! ;) We got his business card and I told him I would try to get him a gig at the nearby American School. (We're registering Anjoli there for next year). We met a journalist who was really taken by Anjoli's enthusiasm - so she was really a conduit for us- she translated and encouraged us to exchange business cards. It's funny because on our Magic Bus road trip we went to the Taiwan Center for Traditional Arts and we saw this amazing display of a Master Puppeteer who was known all over the world - he ended up settling in Paris. He died recently, and lo and behold this guy we met (Sam) was his protege! (Or one of them at least).

Today we went for a long walk and found the local recreation center (finally) with 2 huge pools - one outdoor and one indoor - plus a big spa (more like a lagoon), sauna and steamroom. I promised to take Anjoli every day (or therabouts). She's totally psyched.

We topped off the day with a great sushi dinner at a nearby restaurant. I am so full now. Back to salad city tomorrow!
Now it is way past Anjoli's bedtime, so I better say goodnight!
Hope you are all well.
Remember to appreciate your mom and give her lots of hugs - and not just on Mother's Day, ok?
Be well,

Here are some pictures of the puppets we saw.(I found these on the Shan Puppet Theater's website). The first one is of the old man who smoked:

The Shan Puppet Theater:

Friday, May 05, 2006

Too Much: The Magic Bus

I have been hesitant to post our Magic Bus trip...I screamed and shouted "No blood for Oil" last September in a massive demonstration in Washington,D.C. It is a bit hyprocritical of me to post pictures of ah, excess, and wasted fuel. "Do I contradict myself? Very well then. I contradict myself. ( I am large, I contain multitudes)." Yes I always use that Walt Whitman quote to assuage my GUILT.
Other than those valid twinges of guilt, we had a great time - all SEVEN of us: me, Sujoy (hubby), Anjoli(darling daughter), Thomas the Train and Alice in Wonderland (our friends here in Taiwan who are also Sujoy's colleagues - Lyn gave them new last names), and our friends from the states Lyn and Chris (who are bro and sis) along with a wonderful driver Mr. Huang, boarded this lovely monster and headed to the east coast of Taiwan:

That's Alice (she's got a little pup in the oven. It's the year of the Dog - get it??) and Sujoy

We were pretty excited about the karaoke equipment and disco lights. Once we (the Americans that is) tried to sing...we soon realized that we are not really meant for this popular Asian past time. Alice has a lovely voice. Here she is singing along to a pretty Taiwanese song. The video had nothing at all to do with the ballad. It was of a couple getting drunk on sake. I've posted a picture of the guy's chest (!). He drew a face on it. But, these things happen when you have too many drinkies...

But the REAL show stopper was Thomas. Oh MAN! This guy is smooth! He has the most gorgeous voice. Why is he wasting his talent as an engineer???!! Well, at least he seranades his wife. Aw....such a happy couple.

More pics...

Much more interesting pics coming...and I REALLY DO care about pollution. I am not an air-conditioned gypsy. (Ok, maybe I am...).