Monday, December 31, 2007

Goodbye Jo

I just got word that our dear friend Jo passed away today due to a heart attack. I can't believe it. She was only 60.

Jo was my daughter's best friend's grandmother. She was from Kent, England. I loved her dearly.
When my mom passed away (on 12/22/04) Jo became a surrogate grandmother to Anjoli.

Jo was a community activist and worked for 10 years with a group that tried to prevent a freeway from being built that would have destroyed the rural areas of our small community. Sadly, the freeway was built...
Jo LOVED music - especially the Who and Pink Floyd, and was a MAJOR Dylan fan. She had a beautiful garden and loved all animals - always caring for stray cats and dogs. She had a wonderful way with children and was a nanny and worked in a day care center for many years.
Jo certainly celebrated life - she never missed a party at our house! (We had some crazy parties, didn't we Jo?!).

I will miss you sweetie.
Love you.
Rest in peace.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Merry Merry Happy Happy!!

(Click to see my FABULOUS earrings! I made them MYSELF!!) :)

I hope all of you enjoy your holidays. May you all have a spectacular 2008.

Many many thanks for all your good wishes, prayers and support both before and after my surgery. Words could never convey how much your messages helped me. I continue to heal and get stronger day by day. I am very lucky and truly blessed.

Love this video!

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Anjoli's Music Box

I just had to share this lovely gift that my daughter made in clay class for her Dad for Christmas. I was REALLY impressed. She did it all on her own.

I have more pictures to post but I have to rush to acupuncture now. I have been sick since last Friday, but I have managed to do a little volunteering at the American School this week at their Book Fair and at the PTA Gift shop. (I did lots of Christmas shopping at the Gift Shop!). I'm volunteering at their "Winterwonderland Fair" this Saturday. I'll be helping kids decorate cookies in the morning and helping run the games booth in the afternoon. Should be fun! I loved spending time with the kids at the book fair. I felt horrible if they didn't have enough money...I nearly bought some of them books (but that's kind of frowned upon) so I "saved them" for later when they could drag their parents back and pay for them! :)

My sister is coming for Christmas for a week (Dec. 22-29). We're very excited! We are going for 3 days to a beautiful tiny island off the southeastern coast of Taiwan called Green Island. We're going to snorkel and enjoy the saltwater hot springs. Can't wait! (Yeah like I NEED A VACATION! Yeah yeah I know...).

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More pics of my 'hood!

Yesterday I wandered through some back alleys on my way back from grocery shopping at a store that is like a mini - Harrod's (with matching sky high prices). I discovered a few shops and cafes that I had never seen before. My absolute favorite is the Tom Waits Cafe. They have the BEST coffee on the planet. I haven't been back since returning to Taipei because of my (propensity for) insomnia...but I really am hankering for their coffee. The owner is a very interesting man- he was a label chief for Polydor here in Taiwan(he decided which albums to import and how many), but had to quit his job after a bad car accident. I guess it hurt him to sit for too long. He still puts together really cool compilations and writes the liner notes for them. What impressed me MOST was - he knew who Rufus Wainwright was! (AS WELL AS Ru's mom and aunt- the McGarrigle Sisters, and Ru's dad, Loudon). I will go visit soon and take pics of the interior (they were closed yesterday) and I'll ask if I can take a picture of the owner too. There are SO many cafes in my neighborhood, I need to visit them's very tempting!


You'll have to click of this cafe pic below. It looked very cute and cozy!

The exterior shot of Mais Cafe didn't come out so hot, but it looks like a pleasant spot.

This shop sells tea and BEAUTIFUL tea pots.

Whenever a shop has a grand opening, they have these beautiful flower displays outside the store.The arrangements remind me of funeral arrangements though- the way they are displayed on pillars! (Usually all of the flowers are displayed on pillars). I loved these orchids. I think this is a bedding store. I will have to check it out one day.

Looks a bit like San Diego!

This is a Chinese medicine shop around the corner from our apartment. I guess this customer had lice or something! :)

Here is a close up shot of my latest flower arrangement taken by Anjoli. (I posted a full pic on the previous post).

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Busy being Leisurely

Yup. That's my life in nutshell.
Ok nice talking to ya.


I had a great week. I wish all my weeks were so HECTIC. hee hee.

I enjoyed the tour of Chiang Kai-shek's mountain retreat home even though it was in semi-typhoon conditions! Oh and someone stole my umbrella, but the tour guide gave me one to take home (from a stash of forgotten umbrellas). Anyway, the residence itself was "eh" pretty simple, but the tour guide was fantastic. She was 75 but looked/acted much younger. She was very FUNNY and she was a wonderful story teller. I learned a lot about Madame Chiang - she was a fascinating woman. She was a Wellesley grad, like my sister (the brainiac! I mean that in a good way, Jen). She was tight with Eleanor Roosevelt and was an amazing artist. Chiang Kai-Shek was a very shrewd man (to say the least) and also very interesting . He was a major bully though (well, he WAS a dictator) - he stole the land for this retreat from the Boy Scouts! (It was a Boy Scout camp). I WISH I had pics for you, but I didn't want to ruin my new camera. We went on a HEAVENLY walk through the woods - oh man it was SO cool...even in the wind and rain.

My chaperoning of the botany field trip was postponed last Wednesday because of the bad weather. We're going the day after tomorrow. I hope it doesn't rain.

Wednesday night I went with Anjoli and three of the "ladies who lunch" to the Cloud Gate performance. It was the first time Anjoli and I have been to a full -length modern dance performance. We loved it. The sets - the costumes and of course the dances were gorgeous. One honoring "the fallen" - those who died at the hands of the Japanese - was pretty intense. The dancers wore baskets on their heads - just like the victims who were executed by the Japanese. They also honored the students who were killed during the Tianamen Square incident. I hope to see them every year - they were that good. They tour around the world, so if they ever visit a city near you, GO!

I volunteered at the gift shop at Anjoli's school for a few hours (I'll do it every week). It was fun and the ladies were so nice. There were four of us altogether. They were very happy to have me there and I was introduced as being a "new friend." Aw. None of them were American, btw! ;)

On Friday I took a cooking class on Greens and Tofu, but I was a bit disappointed, because the class was called "Greens Galore and Tasty Tofu" but it should have been called, " Very Tasty Meat, Meat, Meat, Deep Fried Eggplant and a little bit of Tofu mixed into Pork Meat Balls." I was mega bummed, really, because there are a BILLION different types of greens and I was really looking forward to learning about how to cook them. I love the teacher though- I've taken classes with her before when we lived here last year. I think I will just pay for a few private lessons. She's so funny though - she says that she tries to make things low-fat for us porky Americans (my words, not hers!) but "eets just not very TASTY!" I don't get how the women are so tiny here, including the teacher. She makes all this fattening food, but I don't think she eats it!

I had to leave the cooking class before she finished (she started about 20 minutes late) and go to my flower arranging class. I am happy to report I probably made about 50% of it! I wish you could have seen me, because I was RACING her at one point (when I was placing the evergreens into the oasis). She insisted on putting in all my pink flowers and she rearranged my berries. I just had to laugh. Once the pink flowers die I will add white ones and I will also look for RED candles.

TA DA!!!!!!!!

It's not terribly Christmasy, but it sure is purdy!

Yesterday Anjoli had a soccer game. Sadly they lost - the other team scored when there was like one minute left. LAST week Anjoli scored the winning goal in her first game, and her team won the second game too. (They had a double header).
Anjoli is kind of afraid of the ball. I think she's just playing to appease her dad, who is a soccer freak! (She's a real GIRL and prefers dance classesto sports).
Her coach is EXCELLENT! He's funny, but a bit tough, and he really motivates them. Unfortunately he's just filling in for the real coach who is stuck in Turkey.

Here are some shots from yesterday's game:

It was SO beautiful Sujoy thought it would be a good idea to go the park and give Anjoli a few soccer pointers. I ran 6 laps on the track (3K/1.8 miles). I was hoping to do 4K but I got bored! Yeah, really!

I bought a new COMPUTER table and it's so pretty, I just had to take a picture of it!

And here is the view! (If you can see through the screen!).I know you all must be bored with my mountain pics by now. I promise to take more interesting shots soon.

My week ahead is not that exciting, sorry to say. Next week I've signed up to work at the book fair at the American School for five days! (Two and a half hours per day). I am also working at a games booth at their Winter Wonderland Fair on December 15th.
I am keeping myself VERY busy!

Have a great week everyone.

Friday, November 30, 2007


The Original Teddy Bear

Ok WHAT is the deal here?

I am simply beside myself over the fate of the poor teacher from the UK, Gillian Gibbons who was JAILED in Sudan for allowing her class to name a Teddy Bear Muhammad. Even more horrifying is the fact that thousands took the streets in Kharthoum to demand her EXECUTION.

Teddy Bears are a symbol of a cuddly kind of LOVE. HELLO!! I think this is scarier than 9/11, I really do! This poor woman. I can't imagine what she must be going through.

There is so much contempt towards the West following the Iraq war, these fundamentalists are looking for the tiniest offense against Islam to strike back in anger. That's what's really at the bottom of these ludicrous charges, of course.

It just makes me sick to my stomach, how the innocent suffer needlessly. I hate it. I just hate it.

Please pray for Gillian, or send her positive vibes, you choose.

On a LIGHTER note, I found this very interesting article on the origin of the Teddy Bear:

Rose and Morris Michtom
and the Invention of the Teddy Bear

Teddy bears are a symbol of cuddly gentleness and security the world over. It is well known that the teddy bear is named for President Theodore Roosevelt. Less well known are the inventors of the teddy bear, Rose and Morris Michtom, two Russian Jewish immigrants who lived in Brooklyn.

The American bear as a symbol of gentleness is filled with ironies. For generations, bears prompted fear, not affection. The teddy bear’s namesake, Theodore Roosevelt, was a ferocious warrior and big game hunter – a man who killed for sport. However, an unlikely alliance between the rugged, native-born American Protestant president and the inventive, immigrant Jewish couple from Brooklyn created one of the most lovable and enduring American icons.

The story begins in 1902. The states of Mississippi and Louisiana disagreed over the location of their common boundary, which bisected some of the least well-developed land in the United States. The governors of both states invited President Roosevelt to arbitrate the dispute. Roosevelt decided to combine his tour of the disputed territory with a five-day black bear hunt.

The president’s foray attracted a large contingent of journalists, who reported on Roosevelt’s every move. Even more compelling to the reporters than the boundary dispute was the president’s pursuit of a trophy bear. For four days, the press reported little about Roosevelt’s arbitration of the boundary dispute and harped on the ability of the area’s bears to elude his crosshairs. On the fifth and last day of the junket, apparently to redeem the president’s reputation, one of his hunting companions caught and tied a bear cub to a tree so that the president could shoot it. When he came upon the cub, Roosevelt refused to kill it, saying that he only took prey that had a sporting chance to defend itself.

Roosevelt’s demurrer took the nation by storm. The leading American cartoonist, Clifford Berryman, published a cartoon showing Roosevelt turning his back on the young bear, tied by its neck, and public response to the president’s self-restraint was overwhelmingly favorable. The next day, the Washington Post published a second cartoon, depicting the bear as a more placid beast, cementing the docile image of the young bear even more firmly in the public imagination.

Enter the Michtoms. Morris had arrived penniless in New York in 1887, when only in his teens, a refugee from pogroms. He married Rose and opened a small store that sold notions, candy and other penny items. In the evening, to help make ends meet, Rose sewed toys that they sold in the shop. Like millions of other Americans, the Michtoms avidly followed press accounts of Roosevelt’s journey into the Louisiana backcountry. Roosevelt’s refusal to shoot the defenseless bear touched the Michtoms. Morris suggested to Rose that she sew a replica of the bear represented in Berryman’s cartoons.

That night, Rose cut and stuffed a piece of plush velvet into the shape of a bear, sewed on shoe button eyes and handed it to Morris to display in the shop window. He labeled it, "Teddy’s bear." To his surprise, not only did someone enter the store asking to buy the bear, but twelve other potential customers also asked to purchase it. Aware that he might offend the president by using his name without permission, the Michtoms mailed the original bear to the White House, offering it as a gift to the president’s children and asking Roosevelt for the use of his name. He told the Michtoms he doubted his name would help its sales but they were free to use it if they wanted.

The rest is an amazing – yet characteristic – American Jewish immigrant success story. The Michtoms sewed teddy bears and placed them in the window of their shop, but demand was so great they couldn’t keep up. The couple concluded that there was more profit in teddy bears than in penny candy and dedicated full time to producing them. Because of the doll’s popularity, Roosevelt and the Republican Party adopted it as their symbol in the election of 1904, and Michtom bears were placed on display at every public White House function.

The Michtoms’ labor grew into the Ideal Toy Company, which remained in family hands until the 1970s. Ideal Toys sold millions of teddies throughout the world; yet, their good fortune did not spoil the Michtoms. Ever mindful of their humble origins, supported the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, the Jewish National Fund, the National Labor Campaign for Palestine and numerous other Jewish causes. While Ideal Toys could not secure a patent on the teddy bear and many imitators entered the market, the Michtoms created an American — and worldwide — icon. Their original teddy bear, treasured and saved by Teddy Roosevelt’s grandchildren, is now displayed at the Smithsonian.

Source: American Jewish Historical Society

Sunday, November 25, 2007

It's not easy...

being mentally challenged!

I just read a headline on the BBC news website that said "Elephants strike" and under that another line - "festive note"
but the first line caught my eye and I immediately thought: "those Europeans...even the ELEPHANTS go on strike!" You see, I've been reading about the transit strike in France for the past week!

(In case you were wondering,it turns out the BBC posted a video about 3 elephants in JAPAN who have been trained to play "Jingle Bells" while holding bells in their trunks. I think I need to head on over to Japan and pull a Cesar Chavez...get 'em organized! Maybe teach them how to ring out a few bars of "We Shall Overcome." Ooh she's feisty today!).

Yeah it's always a party being me! (har har har).

I was WALKING in Boston one day and it was very foggy and rainy, so I thought, "oh I better put on my headlights!"

The good news is, I can blame the ol' golf ball sized tumour that was taking up residence in my brain for MANY years!

Ok, that excuse no longer works.

I am SO glad Thanksgiving is over, because I was quite sad and terribly homesick. I hope everyone back home had a good one though!

I have an incredibly busy week coming up, and I am really looking forward to it!
Here's what it looks like:

1. Chinese Health Secrets Class
2. Yangmingshuwu in the Yangmingshan Mountains- a former guest house of Chiang Kai-Shek.
3. Chaperoning Anjoi's class on a park field trip for a botany project.
4. Cloudgate Performance (A Taiwanese modern dance company that are supposed to be incredibly fantastic) at the National Theatre.
5. Greens Galore and Tasty Tofu Cooking Class
6. Volunteering at the PTA school gift shop for 2 hours
7. Flower Arranging Class - my teacher will make a lovely Christmas arrangement for me! hee hee. I will ask nicely if I could PLEASE do it by myself for a change!! (Seeing how it IS the last class).

My camera arrived - it's at Sujoy's office, I have to pick it up tomorrow because I am going to Yangmingshan on Tuesday. I may not be able to post pictures for awhile though (probably). Sujoy is in Korea. I know, I shouldn't be so technically dependent. I know I know...

Hope everyone has a great week!

Lots of love,

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

World Cup...BASEBALL!

Who knew there was such a beast...but yesterday, me, Sujoy, Anjoli and Sujoy's partner, Thomas, his wife, Alice and their 1 year old daughter, Joanne, all headed to Tien Mu baseball stadium (1/4 mile from our apartment here in Taipei) to watch the World Cup Baseball final game between the US and Cuba.

This is the second baseball game we have attended here in Taipei. We only lasted 4 innings as it was kind of cool and RAINY. Here, games are never rained out. I will share pictures from both yesterday's game and the one we attended last year.

Oh, in case you were curious, the US team won, 6-3. I don't know anything about the players, but I am guessing they are all minor league dudes.

I still don't have a camera, but I had to take this shot of the Dunkin' Donuts ad with Sujoy's cell phone. (Last week,while waking by the Dunkin' Donuts outdoor patio here in Tien Mu, I heard the Who's "I Can't Explain." You have no idea how elated I was to smell the aroma of DD coffee AND hear the Who at the same moment in time. It was then I KNEW...YES, there is a God. I sampled a strange something that was being handed out... just to hear the Who. I forget what samples were being offered, but it was pretty strange, I remember that!).

The stadium is so beautiful, as are the surroundings. Here are some pics from when we last lived here (last year).

This adorable little munchkin is Joanne- she loves Anjoli.

Not too much to report on...I do have a picture of my latest creation from my flower arranging class. It's a Chinese/Japanese arrangement. I would like to say that it's something I created...but my teacher is a control freak. So...LOOK WHAT MY TEACHER MADE FOR ME! And YES, SHE made the origami horses...OF COURSE. They're in love! :)

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Terry Fox 5 K Run

Terry Fox was the original boy wonder. For those of you who may not have heard of him, Terry was a Canadian university student who lost his leg to cancer in 1977. Before that he had been very active in basketball and running activities. After witnessing the pain and suffering of others (especially children) in the hospital where he was receiving cancer treatment, Terry decided, in 1980, to run across Canada and he called this mission "The Marathon of Hope." His goal was to raise money for cancer research and to make people aware of the suffering caused by this heartbreaking disease.

Terry ran over 5400 km with his artificial leg to show people that even with one leg, he could reach his goal. Sadly, in 1981,Terry lost his battle with cancer, but every year people around the world keep his dream alive by participating in local Marathon of Hope Runs.

Today I ran in the Annual 5k Terry Fox Run. I thought I was going to walk and run, but I ran (ok jogged) the whole thing! It was a blast. I did it in about 30 minutes. It was hard at the end, but I kept pushing myself and I thought of Terry the whole time. He is truly an inspiration.

I kept thinking how lucky I am - that my brain tumor was benign. I truly am very, very lucky.

Here is a beautiful video of Terry (the audio of his voice isn't very good in some parts though).

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Good Times!

Ladies Who Lunch
(Music and Lyrics by Steven Sodheim)

Here's to the ladies who lunch--
Everybody laugh.
Lounging in their caftans
And planning a brunch
On their own behalf.
Off to the gym,
Then to a fitting,
Claiming they're fat.
And looking grim,
'Cause they've been sitting
Choosing a hat.
Does anyone still wear a hat?
I'll drink to that.

And here's to the girls who play smart--
Aren't they a gas?
Rushing to their classes
In optical art,
Wishing it would pass.
Another long exhausting day,
Another thousand dollars,
A matinee, a Pinter play,
Perhaps a piece of Mahler's.
I'll drink to that.
And one for Mahler!

And here's to the girls who play wife--
Aren't they too much?
Keeping house but clutching
A copy of LIFE,
Just to keep in touch.
The ones who follow the rules,
And meet themselves at the schools,
Too busy to know that they're fools.
Aren't they a gem?
I'll drink to them!
Let's all drink to them!

And here's to the girls who just watch--
Aren't they the best?
When they get depressed,
It's a bottle of Scotch,
Plus a little jest.
Another chance to disapprove,
Another brilliant zinger,
Another reason not to move,
Another vodka stinger.
I'll drink to that.

So here's to the girls on the go--
Everybody tries.
Look into their eyes,
And you'll see what they know:
Everybody dies.
A toast to that invincible bunch,
The dinosaurs surviving the crunch.
Let's hear it for the ladies who lunch--
Everybody rise!
Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise! Rise!

I like this song which, I must admit I know from Barbara Streisand's Broadway album (ok I had it on cassette!). It's from two plays - Sweeney Todd (which I loved) and Company (never saw that one).

Oh no! I am now officially a "lady who lunches." :) Please shoot me if I become like one of the ladies in the song!

I have been on a mailing list for over a year for this group of expats who meet for lunch at a different restaurant once a week, and last Wednesday I finally got up the nerve to go. Turns out I knew 2 women from the Center. We met at a very quaint French restaurant which, turned out to be quite close by. The food was great and the conversation was lively and very interesting. Three of us were American (and, oddly enough, we still ARE!), there were 2 German ladies and one sweet older woman from England. She arranges the lunches every week. Her husband is a professor of genetics at a university here in Taipei. I asked her if he ever met or knew Watson or Crick and it turns out he met Watson while studying at Cambridge! I thought that was pretty cool.

Jane, one of the Americans who I knew from the Center (she also volunteers) mentioned that she was getting tickets for this amazing Taiwanese Dance Company called Cloud Gate. She encouraged me to buy tickets pronto because they sell out fast. So I am taking Anjoli and meeting her and Petra (who is from Germany) on the MRT and we are all going to go to the National Theater together! I am so excited. Here is a description of the dance company taken from the Cloud Gate website:

"Cloud Gate's rich repertoire has its roots in Asian myths, folklore, and aesthetics, but it brings to these age-old beliefs and stories a contemporary and universal perspective. The company is made up of two-dozen dancers whose training includes Tai Chi Tao Yin (an ancient form of Chi Kung), meditation, martial arts, Chinese Opera movement, modern dance, ballet, and calligraphy."

From the reviews that I read they sound phenomenal. People have been moved to tears, they're that good.

Jane ALSO invited me to Thanksgiving dinner at the American Club! She is so sweet, but, sadly, she is moving to Shanghai in January. Still, it will be nice to hang out with her for a few months.

I took my first flower arranging class on Friday. Here is what I made...ta da!

Ok the teacher helped me ALOT. I cut some of the inner flowers TOO SHORT. (She said to cut them shorter than the outer ones). I joked and told her it figures I messed up but she said, "Oh no! It's CUTE! There are no mistakes in flower arranging!" You know when people say that, you screwed up royally. I started out doing fine though! Oh well. I'll practice on my own. (And probably take the class again next semester!). I need to enroll in a remedial flower arranging class!

Tomorrow is the Terry Fox 5 K Run. We are all going to attempt to run as much of it as possible (Anjoli, Sujoy and I). I am just a girl on the go!

Anjoli isn't feeling well now though. She has a slight fever and a bit of a sore throat/cold and refuses to eat. Oh no! We had to pass on the Diwali celebration, which is really sad.
I didn't want to go alone (Sujoy just returned from an 11 day trip to China and Korea so we haven't all been together for awhile).

I hope she's better by tomorrow! :(

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The Good, the Bad and the UGLY

Oh I am lame with my titles. How unoriginal…

Good news is…I am feeling more positive and happier than I have been.
Last week (ok and yesterday), all I wanted to do was sleep. I would drop Anju off at school, then come back home and sleep until…noon sometimes. This pattern threw my sleeping schedule off, so I started to get insomnia again – well I have been waking up at 4 or so.

Anyway, starting , ah this morning actually, I DIDN’T go back to sleep because I volunteered at the Center and chatted with lots of sweet FOREIGNERS! You know, AMERICANS. I am always happier on days when I volunteer. I couldn’t for the last 2 weeks and have been missing it something awful. I bought a GORGEOUS photograph (it will be framed by the photographer) of a goddess’ hands in prayer that was taken in Thailand. I always get myself in trouble buying books or handicrafts/artwork at the Center!

Yesterday, my cleaning lady (she helps out twice a month only – I am not THAT spoiled, ok?) showed how kind and thoughtful Taiwanese people are. She wouldn’t let me leave the house until I wore a jacket, and she MADE SURE that I zipped it. She only speaks Chinese, and I caught one word, “bing” which means “cold.” She mimed shivering and sneezing to drive her point home. Well taken, and very much appreciated, Mrs. H. She’s probably younger than me, but I will always need mothering. Anyway it’s “unseasonably” cool now. It must be oh, I don’t know 60 degrees? Let me check Underground Weather. Hang on. It’s 71 degrees/22 celsius today! It may have been 66/19 celsius yesterday! People are wearing scarves, fur lined hoods… crazy! We haven’t seen the sun for weeks… wah!

More good: we had custom made curtains made in the fabric district which is located in the oldest part of Taipei. I promise to take pictures of this quaint little area. Cobblestone streets, nice (OLD) brick buildings – Chinese markets selling all sorts of odd Chinese medicines. It’s a cool area. Anyway, the curtains look LOVELY. Really perked me up after putting them up…but I hurt my neck doing it – I didn’t get Anjoli’s up because it hurt too much. I am a bit bummed about that. It’s feeling better today though, so maybe tonight I will give it a go.

The bad is: I don’t understand why I can’t connect with Taipei American School moms. I (already whined about this w/lyricgirl/Sue) but…I have had one of Anjoli’s friends from her class over twice. I even took her and Anjoli to a children’s museum, and took them to lunch, then dropped the child off at her home via taxi. Whenever I see the mom at school she ignores me. I helped out at a Halloween party, and the mom completely blew me off- well, she smiled at me once. I made a point to chit chat to her, but she is just really frosty. She even told her daughter that she wanted to meet me after hearing about Anjoli incessantly in September. She WAS friendly when I first met her back in September, but now won’t give me the time of day. Anjoli’s friend insists that she will have Anju over for a playdate, but that hasn’t happened. Oh well. Another mom that I met (who has younger kids) also is elusive, but she talks to me more, at least. Still, she doesn’t seem very interested in having lunch or anything (her husband invited us over though! Well, he said, “you should come over, since we’re neighbors”).

BUT! There is one glimmer of hope- Anjoli and I were invited to a mom’s apartment yesterday for a class on Hinduism for kids. I enjoyed it more than Anjoli (she said it was “Ok”). I don’t view myself as Hindu (yet!) and poor Anju doesn’t know what she is either – but I want her to learn about Hinduism since she is half Indian. I really enjoyed chanting, but Anjoli was very shy about it. Anjoli wished the kids were nicer – one is in Anjoli’s grade but she is really quiet and reserved. Anyway, Betty – the teacher – invited us to her house this Saturday to celebrate the Indian Festival – Diwali – which is the Festival of Lights. We’ll pray and eat delicious food and then light firecrackers, etc. I am very happy to finally socialize. Betty has lived here for 19 years – she moved here from Bombay right after graduating from college. It feels good to have met a rooted expat. She’s very very sweet and kind.

Anjoli is having a hard time this week – missing home and her dad (he’s gone on an 11 day business trip). I hate that after she does her homework she can’t just run out and play with her friends. That’s the hardest thing about living here. She starts soccer this Wednesday though. Can’t WAIT!! We ran a few nights last week at a local running track just to get outdoors. We are jogging/walking in a 5k run for cancer research with her school in downtown Taipei this Sunday (The Terry Fox Run). Should be fun – but it’s at SEVEN A.M. YOWZA!!!

The UGLY is my poor husband who is doing business in Korea (he was in China last week) ran into a bad situation – his laptop was COMPLETELY taken over by a horrible virus. For some reason his anti-virus software stopped working. What a nightmare. He got it working a bit though last night (after getting the blue screen of death). He has had a successful trip though – he found people to distribute his cameras in Korea. (He designs “smart cameras” for inspection of manufacturing materials such as the film used in LCD screens).

Ok I just realized that NOTHING is ALL good, bad or ugly...
Except MAYBE this video!
My friend Chelice sent it to me the other day. We both agree it is highly sensationalized,but it exposes the ugly truth.

Hope you are all well.

Lots of love,

Friday, November 02, 2007

Why are we happy? Why aren’t we happy?

I stumbled upon an excellent video and website today. Check out I encourage you all to watch it. It’s a bit long, but it’s VERY interesting. You may have to watch it a few times. ( I did).

Happiness Video- Dan Gilbert

I think this is yet another lesson in synchronicity for me. Last week, I was feeling SO happy. I mean, I found myself BEAMING while washing dishes. A month ago I threw a hissy fit because we don’t have a freaking dishwasher here. What gives?

I was enjoying this change of pace, but, being analytical Sue, I kept trying to figure out WHY I was so happy. I think, deep down, I am beginning to realize that happiness is not conditional, it’s not EXTERNAL. It comes from within. I am also learning to accept the things I cannot change (ok yeah.. it is part of the Serenity Prayer). The lecturer in this video (Dan Gilbert - a Harvard psychologist) talks about this.

I think I have learned a lot about surrender, acceptance, and being grateful. Sujoy helps me in this regard. “Look around you – READ THE NEWS!” he says. I skim it, because it makes me sad. Anyway, I do pray for peace and an end to all suffering. I know what it’s like to suffer, but what I have experienced is infinitesimal compared to oh, those in Darfur, Burma or Iraq, for instance.

Anyway, the WEIRD thing was…as I started questioning my happiness…it started to slip away. After watching this video though, I understand that I was definitely on the right track.

Happiness is a state of mind that we can all synthesize. Cool!

Most of you know this quote – which someone on used in a comment on the video (no it wasn’t an original Sheryl Crowe lyric!):

“Success is getting what you want. Happiness is wanting what you get.” - Fyodor Dostoyevsky.

What do YOU think is the secret to happiness?

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

Happy Halloween!

Anjoli was a witch today. I dressed up as a gypsy and helped out at her classroom party. The kids made monster cupcakes and I played "Hot Pumpkin" (instead of Hot Potato) with them. It was fun! The kids had their pictures taken and they made cute frames for them. Ingrid, the class mom (an American from Orange County) is very creative and organized...I was impressed. She wants to have a Thanksgiving party...sounds like a lotta work though! The teacher just smiled at THAT suggestion.

Hope y'all have fun trick or treating!

Lots of love,

Sunday, October 28, 2007


Here are a few pics for ya...taken with Sujoy's cell phone.
I just ordered a camera from Amazon...we'll get it mid- November. I can't wait!
I promise to write a proper post soon but I am really knackered at the mo. :)

Oh I spoke to one of my San Diego friends today (Anna). She and her family and friends are all FINE. I was really worried because she got a reverse 911 call to evacuate, and her area got hit really badly during the last big firestorm.

Here is a pretty pagoda in a nearby park (sorry about the glare):

Still kids at heart! I was actually smiling but you can't hoo.

Anjoli and her friends Betty and Jessica- they're sisters. They slept over at our apartment last weekend.

This is the view from our balcony. We are finally getting sunny weather - so I made sure to take a pic today. Ithad been raining for weeks on end since I arrived in early September. October and November are the sunniest and coolest months. Anyway- as I said before, the architecture isn't very pretty, but when I sit in our big overstuffed chair looking toward the mountains the wall of my balcony blocks out most of the apartment buildings. It's a gorgeous view!

Not a bad pic. I look WORSE today for some reason...This was taken on October 13,2007. It will be 3 months since my surgery on...Halloween. I won't need a mask to scare small children! hee hee. My eyebrows are very scary as you can see. I CANNOT find ANYONE who waxes/shapes eyebrows here. It's bizarre...and frustrating. Guess I will just have to make a special trip home soon to the states! Yeah...I wish. :(

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

My tenants evacuated our house

This is San Miguel Mountain- you can see it from up the street from my house!

I'm glad to be here in Taipei, yes, but I fear for my friends and all the wildlife and horses...I think my neighbors had enough time to evacuate their horses. I hope and pray.
I've been praying all day.

I copied this comment from a San Diego Fire Blog:

"I drove to see the St. Miguel fire a few minutes ago and the entire mountain is ablaze. It seems the fire line is 5 miles long. It has crested the ridge and the winds appear to be shifting SE. There appeared to be many homes in the area and very little police activity as recently as 1AM. I hope the residents are made aware soon. It seems this fire is not going to go away as there is nobody fighting it. Apparently some radio towers for PBS, KUSI, and NBC are on top of the mountain and burning from what I hear on the radio."

I just read that the fire is heading away from our community (at the moment). Thank GOD!

Monday, October 22, 2007

She ran calling WILD FIRE!!!!

Ok that was a one of the worst songs ever written. Remember???

The fires are out of control in parts of Orange and San Diego County - including Rancho Bernardo where my baby was born. They have hit the exact area where we lived when we first moved to San Diego. One of my friend's dad lost his home a few years ago - and NOW the fires have hit the same area AGAIN (in Ramona- he lives in Cuyamaca - very close by).

20,000 people have lost power (last I read).

Ok I will take a typhoon over these fires ANY DAY! I promise not to whine about a little flooding. Really.

Scary stuff.


I am watching the Red Sox game...Dunkin' Donuts coffee in hand!
I am sure my friends and family in Boston are drinking something more potent now, but we ARE12 hours behind them.
They're going to go all the way and win the World Series for me, I just feel it.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

The metal plate in my head is itching...

so THAT'S a good sign! I think...

Not TOO much to report from here. I started volunteering at the Community Center last Tuesday. I answered the phone and registered a few ladies for classes. The director was very sweet and bought me lunch. I only had 4 boiled leek dumplings. I didn't want to look like a little pig. She kept saying, "that's not very much!" I am weird, what can I say. Anyway, she is such a cool woman. She's American (I am not sure where she is from, I need to ask her). She told me she was so happy that I am helping them out. She said, if she were in my shoes (recovering from the brain surgery and relocating to Asia all in one breath) she'd be home sucking her thumb! I told her, well, despite outward appearances, I am still shell shocked, but it gets a bit easier day by day. As long as I get out the door, I am fine. Sometimes I just want to stay in bed under the covers. It's dangerous being able to sleep now...I am making up for lost sleep, that's all. (That's what I keep telling myself).

I received the best present this week from one of Rachel's bloggers (she's not on BLOGGER though, sadly). Many of you may know who she is - her screen name on Rachel's is: IBeME. She had a (mint green) prayer shawl knitted for me at an Abbey in Pennsylvania. I just love it. I pray with it every day (the woman who knitted it prayed for me while making it, which is very cool). This woman is related to someone with the same last name as me (DeSimone- not a very common name!). I like to snuggle with it- it is very comforting. It came with a few beautiful prayers also - one by the writer/monk Thomas Merton. I know I sound like a broken record, but I truly believe that my tumour was a blessing in disguise. It was a VERY LARGE nudge from God to teach me that we are ALL CONNECTED. There are no strangers among us - we are all part of one family - it IS an illusion that we are separate from eachother, and from God (ok I haven't gotten THAT far on my spiritual path, but I believe it). SO....VERY SPECIAL THANKS TO TRISH! xxxx

While volunteering at the Center last week, one of the ladies who works there convinced me to go on a tour up Yangmingshan Mountain to a palatial government building called Chung Shan Hall. I am sounding like a broken record again, but I WISH I HAD A FREAKING CAMERA. Oh my goodness it was so beautiful and the location was STUNNING!! I promise to go back and take pictures. It was built in 1965 in just 13 months (during the Chinese Cultural Revolution) by Chiang Kai - Shek and was only recently opened to the public. It is the only structure in the world to be built on a sulphuric volcanic crater (and the architect was a woman - who was only 40 years old when she designed it). It was really fascinating - she had to come up with a special metal foundation that would not corrode. I asked the docent WHY it had to be built THERE and she said...for feng shui reasons...then when I pressed for more information she said, "you'll see!" So later...when we went to the front balcony - she showed us mountains on either side that looked like the arms of an emperor's chair - with one mountain in back forming the back of the chair. So the bottom line was, whatever Chiang Kai-shek wished for, he would receive! It was where the (now defunct) National Assembly would meet (we got to sit in the front row chairs!) and where the President would entertain dignitaries. The art work was especially beautiful - porcelain paintings - I've never seen them before. The watercolors were gorgeous too - one of the artists taught Jackie Onassis.

On Friday we went to the American School to watch an awesome production of the musical, "Once Upon a Mattress." It was really well done - performed by the high school students. Anjoli can't wait to act - she is especially interested in musicals. She sat in the second row with one of her classmates.

That's all for now folks!
Hope everyone is well.
Take care.
Lots of love,

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Our 'hood

I am feeling badly about not being able to post pictures. I am missing our camera something fierce. This is a picture of the Taipei American School, which is about a 10 minute walk from our apartment. Anjoli is in 4th grade and is quite lucky to be attending this fabulous school. She is beaming by the time she reaches school. I have NEVER in my life seen so many happy children in a school setting.

Wait until you see the view of the mountains from my balcony. It's breathtaking. Only problem is the ugly apartment buildings in the foreground. Most of the architecture here is, ah, not very pretty.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Healing and Struggling

I had a trying week. After my happy days (daze?) the giddiness wore off and I suddenly found myself in a black hole. Anjoli has an autumn mini-break (she's been off since Wednesday) and the change in our daily routine really kills me!

Feeling much better now though - I just got back from an acupuncture session. He put needles in different points today and kept me there longer. His nurse also burned mugwort on the needles on my arm today - that was different. She really burned my belly today - weird - it usually doesn't hurt.

I also took a 90 minute yoga class called "Flow" this morning and it REALLY brought me peace. I am THRILLED because I was able to do all but one pose (a headstand...I don't think my neck is quite up to THAT pose just yet). I felt so relaxed and completely centered afterward. I want to buy a package and save money but I don't have the credit cards they accept, so I can't "join" until we get our Alien Resident Card and then we'll get a China Trust credit card. I can't afford to pay for the package in cash up front. I hope we get the card soon! Then I will also have national health insurance - so medical fees (including acupuncture, of course) will be next to nothing! I only pay $20 per session now but I go three times per week.

The line next to my nose is getting deeper and my mouth is straighter. I can close my left eye much faster now and... the GREAT news is that I NO LONGER HAVE INSOMNNIA!!! I sleep like a baby now! woo hoo!! I'm tellin' ya - acupuncture is the BOMB!!!! I was sold even before I had it but, now, I am living proof that it WORKS.

I figured out that it's only a 20 minute walk to my acupuncturist's office. I discovered a beautiful park today. I HAVE to get a camera soon. I keep seeing all these interesting things to shoot. I saw one great shot today of these old ladies in a beauty parlor - they looked so cute under these old fashioned hair dryers. I hope we find a good camera at a decent price soon.

Gotta scoot.

Take care everyone and thanks for your love and support!


Tuesday, October 09, 2007


Yup. I am finally feeling like myself lately. Not that I am always happy...but I am getting comfortable with my surroundings, and I have been keeping BUSY.

I met my new friend, Mohini, FINALLY, yesterday at Starbucks. I had Evian. I don't do caffeine anymore...being the insomniac that I am. She's WONDERFUL. It helps that she's moved here from Oregon, a state where I have never visited, but I KNOW I belong there. Every Oregonian I meet nods their head when they meet me. Yes, it's MY kinda place (especially Ashland, OR).
We just met for about an hour, but then we see eachother at the Taipei American School. She helped Anjoli with her tendonitis. Anjoli walked for the first time in a week tonight! woo hoo!

Today I volunteered at the Community Center. I won't divulge the mind numbing task I was given...but they were so happy with me that they've asked me to volunteer every Tuesday. Hurrah! Oh I need this so badly. It was heaven - hearing English spoken (by Americans mostly). I know, how NATIONALISTIC of me. Yeah yeah. I miss my homeland!
But I am enjoying Taipei now. I appreciate how it is SO DIFFERENT from home.

Today I ALSO saw my new acupuncturist for the second time. He is such a sweet man, but he has a bad short term memory. The first visit he asked me 4 times about when I had my surgery (when did the Palsy start?). Today, while walking to the acupuncture room, he asked me how I was sleeping. Then, about a half hour later, while removing the needles, he asked me again how I was sleeping. He said after 5 visits or so, he'd give me herbs to help me sleep if I needed them. I am psyched! I love seeing all the herbs, mushrooms...weeds (whatever they are). I can't wait to see what he prescribes. I am Hecate incarnate - a witch (according to one of my profs of Greek mythology from BU).
In addition to acupuncture, I am getting a treatment known as "moxibustion." The nurse burns a stick of cotton and the herb mugwort and she runs it in weird patterns on my belly. It has to do with warming my "chi" (energy) which is too cold. It works in conjunction w/the acupuncture. I have read on the internet that studies have proven that this combination has cured Bell's Palsy. I HAVE seen results already. The line next to my nose is deeper and I am feeling lots more sensation under my eyes and still next to my nose. I am sleeping a little better also. So it's ALL GOOD.

I even took the bus ON MY OWN to the doc today! Mohini sent me a site with an English translation. I could never figure out the busses last time I lived here. Now I am psyched. I do enjoy walking - I still have a good walk from the stop to his office though. I love walking in the city (I am not afraid of getting run over by scooters anymore. Although I nearly got hit by a car this evening! oops).

Another mixed blessing is that my clothes don't fit me (most of them). They are TOO BIG!! I'm now a medium (size 10) in the US. But I am still a blimp by Taiwanese standards! I may have to shop at this plus size shop - no lie. The name of the store is 5X. I so don't want to set foot in a store by that name. I think I'll just have my clothes altered instead. I know, quelle probs, ay?

Hope you are all well.

Much love,

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Typhoon Season is here!

Yikes! Taiwan is getting slammed by Typhoon Krosa (Cambodian for "crane").

I've never seen such fierce winds - it's pretty scary. Our bedroom got a bit flooded due to a big gap in our wall where we had an air conditioner installed. What a pain! We are having a TIME soaking up the rain, but thank goodness Sujoy remembered that I had brought home duct tape on my flight from Boston (don't ask me why!). So it's much better now.

I am thankful that I am safe and sound with my little family, and I am praying for everyone else's safety too.

I seem to be running into many (nature induced) obstacles lately. Anjoli hurt herself, so I couldn't meet my "new friend" for lunch last week and I missed both my yoga AND Buddhist meditation classes today due to the typhoon. Mother Nature is very humbling, and I am learning to just roll with things, no point in getting frustrated. I am sure that will be a big part of my meditation classes...learning to be at peace with the way things are. I am becoming more and more patient every day. It's not easy, that's for sure.

Hope you are all well.

I miss San Diego and my friends so much.

Lots of love,

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Oh no!

Took Anjoli (my 9 year old ) to the doctor today. Turns out she has Acute (Achilles) Tendonitis. Poor babe. She's in a lot of pain. The doc told me to borrow crutches from her school, so we did. She may need them for two weeks! (I hope not). Bummer because she wants to sign up for a girl's soccer team - it starts next week. I will be a "soccer mom" of course and ask nicely if she can maybe attend practice but watch from the sidelines until she's good and ready to play. I am SO tired of her being indoors so much. It's hard - it's so hot, but more than that - there's nothing to DO here in our neighborhood. She really needs to be part of some athletic team. Fingers crossed it will work out.

So I didn't get to have my lunch with my new friend today... I've haven't met her yet (she's a friend of a friend). See- I'm an optimist (most of the time). So we are meeting for coffee Monday morning. She's a physical therapist and she sweetly offered her services (stretching/massaging) to help Anjoli. That was very kind of her.

I am getting used to Taipei (again! We lived here for 6 months last year as many of you know). The scooters really annoy me, as they did last year. The "scooterists" somehow feel they are above traffic laws. I have stopped caring about whether I am going to get hit by one while crossing the street though. My attitude is, "you want to hit me, go ahead." So they just swerve around me. I would love to see an aerial view of traffic here. Cars (especially TAXIS- cabbies are truly insane), pedestrians, scooters - they all just snake around each other. I have spent a lot of time traveling in India where you honestly see your life flash by every 30 seconds if you are traveling by car, so I guess my ticker is used to it. People (for the most part) do obey traffic lights on main drags here though. This is a very un PC thing to say, but one of our friends said he's going to print up a bumper sticker that says: "Fuck you, I'm Chinese!" I know that sounds unlike me to write, but it's SO true! Ok you should never call a Taiwanese person Chinese, but you get my drift.

Speaking of the "F" word. People here are very into wearing t-shirts with silly sayings that often make no sense. Last night at the gym I saw this very demure looking woman - she was maybe 30- with a t-shirt which had Dunkin' Donuts colors and lettering - it had a picture of a glass (maybe it's supposed to be a styrofoam cup) with liquid spilling out of it - and it said "Go fuckin' nuts."
I wanted SO badly to ask her: "Um, do you know what your shirt says?" Of course I DIDN'T, but I am 99% sure she had no idea what it said. I could be wrong! [Anjoli thinks she most likely doesn't know what it says].

One OTHER thing that bugs me is, well, the sidewalks here are very narrow, and sometimes you're forced to walk in the street. I have noticed that in general, people DO NOT scoot aside for you. I am ALWAYS the one to make way! I don't care, but I wonder why that is? Tonight I stepped aside for a woman and her two kids (well, no problem there) and I smiled at her little boy who was probably 4. He looked up at me and kept looking behind, smiling at me, as if to say, "hey thanks!"

The other WEIRD thing (it doesn't bug me) is that, whenever a cop is driving his cop car, he MUST keep his flashing lights on, and that goes for the cops on scooters too. (I saw a cop on a scooter for the first time today). I can't remember if he obeyed the traffic light or not. I'm guessing NOT. :)

Monday, October 01, 2007

Celebrating the Moon Festival and a pic of my face

Someone stole our camera from our I apologize for the lack of photos. I need to buy a new camera.

Sujoy took this pic last week with his cell phone. You can see my new 'do.

Sujoy took this pic last night. I didn't smile because it's very crooked! It's the best I have looked so far. You can see it's going to take time for my facial nerve to heal. I hope and pray it does....I know I know be POSTIVE.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Gettin in the cultcha!!!, in my search to keep busy, I went to the Center the other day. It's a wonderful non-profit community center where they hold classes, offer sightseeing tours....they basically help "foreigners" orient themselves to Taipei.
Last year when we were here I took Survival Chinese there - but didn't try very hard! I really just wanted to meet other ex-pats...and I did. I learned A FEW words...I plan on taking private lessons at the Taipei Language Institute. I need to be held accountable (i.e given homework/tests!!).

Well, it looks like I have to wait until November for the real fun to start, but this is what I signed up for:

1. Shungye Museum of Formosan Aborigines - a guided tour. I am fascinated by aboriginal culture. Should be really interesting.

2. Yangmingshuwu- guided tour of Chiang Kai-Shek's guest house located in a "tranquil forest surrounded by lush vegetation and singing birds". Sounds lovely!

3.Chinese Health Secrets- A lecture which is supposed to tell you "early warning signs using simple methods" (like checking your tongue and pulse). I am intrigued by Chinese medicine so I can't wait for this lecture.

4. Flower Arranging - 3 1 and 1/2 hour classes. This will be SO cool, and relaxing too - I look forward to learning this skill and vow to always have fresh flowers in our home.

5.Green Galore (I think she means "Greens") and Tasty Tofu - a one session cooking class. I have been craving greens lately. Tofu is tofu is tofu. (maybe not???? yeah dream on).

6. Thai-riffic - Thai and Indian food are my faves and I have never really tried to make Thai food. It's also a one session cooking class where we we learn how to prepare 3 dishes. No Laura, they're not vegetarian. Maybe I will take a few private lessons with the instructor.
Cooking is GREAT therapy.

Speaking of which - last weekend, Sujoy and I bought a bamboo steamer and steamed a HUGE red was AWESOME. Just melted in your mouth. Sujoy cut himself on one of the (teeth? some part of the fish) and his finger swelled. That was weird. Anyway, it was our first experience w/a bamboo steamer and it was a success! Hurrah!

I am also going to volunteer in the Center's office. They are having an fund raising auction and will need help in early October. Thank goodness they need help because I am truly going nutters with so much time on my hands. I am also going to volunteer at a few school events - but they're not for awhile.

Anjoli has had a stomach flu for the last two days, so I have barely been out since Wednesday. I miss my workouts and couldn't get my face massage from Sean. Oh well, at least Sujoy massages my face EVERY night before bedtime. Good man. :) He is an awesome masseuse!

Oh good news: I have a weird, tingling slightly painful sensation near my nose on the left side where it's paralyzed and a line is starting to form!!! I believe this is good news - it wasn't there before, and neither was the feeling. I am taking this extract of 7 mushrooms that I brought with me from the U.S. It's supposed to be good for the nervous system and immune system. Maybe it is helping. It helps cancer patients.

I know my posts are long now...but like I said, I am going stir crazy! Oh I have a "lunch date" with a friend of a friend I met in my Chinese class last year this Wednesday. Finally I will have a social life. Phew!

Hope you are all well.

Lots of love,

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Good Times (for a change)

Yesterday was a great day for me.

(I realize most of this is boring and LONG - the last two paragraphs are about the fun I had!).

In the morning, I went for a first visit to a local (family) physician. I had a laundry list for myself, but the main reason for going was to see if I could get a medical excuse for my daughter to not have the MMR vaccine.

[Background story: I waited until last year to pick and choose which vaccines to give Anjoli. A year before she was born I researched and wrote a lenghty article on the cons of vaccination. I was always worried when we travelled to India, but I breast fed her for YEARS and gave her homeopathy and herbs, etc. Thank goodness, she never got that ill in India. Her pediatrician was adamant about her getting polio, DaPT and Hepatitis A before travelling to Taiwan last year (when we came the first time). So I did.

A few weeks ago, I received a letter from her school (the Taipei American School) stating the records show she is missing the MMR and must get one. I went to the nurse and explained that I was not planning on giving her this. About 6 years ago, Sujoy's cousin, who lives in Liverpool, gave her infant son an MMR and he became autistic shortly after receiving it. His doctor even warned her about the controversy surrounding the MMR and Hepatitis B shot. Both are preserved with mercury, and there is mounting evidence of a link between children who are "sensitive" to mercury and the onset of early childhood autism].

The doctor was WONDERFUL. So warm and friendly - he spoke perfect English. He was extremely compassionate - couldn't believe my brain surgery story. Oddly enough, while he was in graduate school at NYU, his wife (who was his fiance at the time) had a similar brain tumour. Her host family's "dad" happened to be a neurosurgeon and diagnosed her shortly after her stay with the family. We talked about how everything is in the hands of the Divine - and how it was NO ACCIDENT that I was diagnosed in Boston - where I had access to possibly the best medical doctors in the world.

I told him how upset I have been - how I was diagnosed when I was "homeless" en route to relocating to Taiwan. I started to cry a bit - he held my hands and said "OF COURSE YOU ARE UPSET! YOU ARE SUFFERING FROM POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS SYNDROME!" Wow. A doctor who actually CARES and listens. I told him I needed a refill and higher dose for my anti-depressant - he checked on -line to see if he had the same type (the doctors here have their own pharmacies). He did - so he gave me a month's supply.

He asked me if I was comfortable with acupuncture - so I told him THAT story. Then he gave me the name of a local, top notch acupuncturist who cured him of temporary hearing loss. He explained that he was a professor of Chinese medicine and was once the head of the Dept. of Chinese Medicine for Taiwan's Dept. of Health. Cool! So now I can see someone locally (but I love my Buddhist Hospital - I still want those face massages). I am really looking forward to seeing this doctor (I hope he speaks English though- I forgot to ask).

Then, I nervously showed him the letter from Anjoli's school - and he explained that he was out of the vaccine at the moment. I told him that I didn't want her to have the vaccine and he said, "oh, I understand your concern." Then he pointed above my head to a certificate on the wall that said something like, Specialist in Heavy Metals and Toxicology.
"This is my specialty. I am going to a seminar in Singapore in November - and he showed me the brochure - and the main reason for going was to hear a doctor speak about the link between autism and mercury!
My mouth dropped. I couldn't believe it. It felt SO GOOD to be validated - because most people think I am nuts. He explained that in his 14 years of practice, he has seen a significant, steady increase in autism in children. We blabbed and blabbed about vaccines, bureaucracy,and chelation (removing heavy metals from the body). He has cured kids of mercury induced autism using chelation. I told him about our cousin's son, and he gave me his CELL NUMBER and email so Sujoy's cousin could speak to him about (possibly) curing her son. He explained that there are doctors in the UK who could help her son.
I finally said, "I better go- there are other patients waiting!" I could have chatted for hours with the man. We had so much in common. He was excited to hear I was from San Diego, as he attended a conference on autism there and - oddly enough, his wife's name is Susan too.

Then I came home and rested a bit before getting Anjoli. Around 5 o 'clock Sujoy and is friends Thomas and Alice (Thomas is his business partner too) came to pick us up to go shopping for BBQ food. Thomas and Alice invited us over to their condo to celebrate the Moon Festival (which is actually today). There is a legend behind the moon festival, which I was going to include but this post is already a mini novel, so I will just say that the moon festival is very much like our July 4th. Families and friends get together and BBQ (you MUST BBQ), light fireworks and eat very rich, sweet Mooncakes.

We had a great time barbaquing - Thomas and Alice have an adorable one year old girl, so that was a treat- playing with her. They have a "penthouse" - so we all hung out outside on the balcony which has a great view of the city. They live alongside a river - and loads of people were out partying along the banks. We watched a beautiful display of fire works - right outside the building - I've never been so close to them before. It was fun - the highlight was when I opened a bottle of champagne and let the cork fly over the balcony (I didn't hear them say "aim for the wall, Sue!" well, I am deaf in one ear). Thomas was worried about me damaging cars. Immediately after popping it I though to myself that was really stupid - I could have hurt someone. No cars or people were injured though! phew.!! We toasted the moon and went home. My first bit of fun in a LONG time!!

Friday, September 21, 2007

Not so good news

Well, after doing research tonight I found that electro therapies are not recommended for facial paralysis and may actually DAMAGE the nerve.
Oh well.
I will keep eating healthy, exercising and massaging my face though!
From what I have read it can take YEARS to recover though.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Whole lotta healing going on...

Today I had a lovely facial massage from a sweet young Taiwanese man...yeah yeah some girls have all the luck. (He's my physical therapist- today was my first appointment with him - I will see him twice a week for however long I need to go). My only (minor) beef was he used Johnson & Johnson Baby Oil. He was going to use the lotion which I REALLY can't stand (I am kind of allergic to perfume). A female PT suggested I bring my own oil next visit. On the way home I found a health food store that carried organic NEXT time my boi can grace my face with some sweet smelling Jojoba Oil. Ah...

I'm supposed to massage my face 3 times a day. "Sean" taught me the technique...first you stroke, then you knead, then you scrunch up your face and pretend you're playing the piano all over your face! Cute eh?

Before the massage I had electro muscle stimulation on my face for 15 minutes. Sean explained that it won't heal the paralysis but it will help improve my muscle tone.

He told me that in order to heal I must think positive and pray. I told him I sometimes get down about my face. "No no no," he said , "You MUST be positive...and pray, pray to God." Then he said "God bless you," when I left. I'm so glad HE'S my PT. Such a sweet soul.

I also had my electro- acupuncture. I love all this pampering! This hospital (it's called the Tzu Chi Buddhist Hospital) is SUCH a find. I LOVE IT!! It's so calming, I can't tell you how good I feel there. It's a 180 degree turn from the frenetic pace of western hospitals (not that I don't APPRECIATE American hospitals - well the staff anyway, I do). It takes an hour and a half to get there, but it is SO worth it.

After acupuncture I went to the food court for the first time and found a fantastic vegetarian buffet at the "Minder Cafe." The food was FANTASTIC. The BEST vegetarian meal I've ever had.

I left the hospital feeling SO good!!!

I came home and had a "coffee break," ok that's code for a coffee enema. It works (as a detoxifier) I am NOT joking. I juiced 5 huge carrots and ginger...yum. Yes I drank it, I didn't shove it up my bum, ok? I was feeling really really pumped (you DO get a caffeine buzz, but it's NOT the same as drinking a quart of coffee!! Yes I do take in a quart and hold it for 15 minutes! Yikes. I know I know too much info....).

Loving life at this point, I headed for the gym where I worked out HARD for one hour. I jogged and did the mountain climber machine (that's what I call it - the slidy thing - not the elliptical trainer). Anywho, I burned 400 calories! Yahoorama.

I have been praying like crazy lately. I can tell that others (you?) are praying for me. I can feel it- truly. It has changed my life - having so much faith, and having the WORLD pray for me (it feels that way). One prayer that I say more and more is simply, "thank you, thank you God." I have an attitude of gratitude. (I heard a voice inside tell me: "you need an attitude of gratitude, girl." So I listened).

Tonight - I started to feel little twitches and tiny bits of pain in my face. It's the first time I have felt this sensation. I am SO EXCITED!!!

Today is the BEST I have felt since my surgery - which was only seven weeks ago. It's all coming together now: the praying (yes,that includes YOUR PRAYERS as I mentioned), my diet/detoxifying, the acupuncture and now PT - physical therapy that is, but yeah, the other PT, along with his beautiful soulmate, Rachel, have healed my life... Of course, being at HOME with Sujoy and Anjoli has made ALL the difference in the world.

I feel good. I KNEW that I would...eventually.

Monday, September 17, 2007

This post has nothing to do with ME and my face!


I MUST say...kudos to the EU for taking on the Bill Gates.
Darn right Microsoft is monopolizing the market. I wonder what the effect of the suit will be?

Ok that's as deep as I get.
I have been carrying around the cutest list in my purse for months now. It's getting all tattered so I better hurry up and share it. I came across it on a teacher's desk one day while subbing for a First Grade class in San Diego so the kids were 6-7 years old. (Yes I am a nosey, but it wasn't like she was hiding it or anything...). The school was located in a low-income area. The last one is my favorite. Poor babe must have privacy issues...

What would you buy with $100?

1. A big house
2. A picture of me and my mom
3. A bike
4. A car
5. Toys for me, flowers for my mom
6. A car, I think
7. Clothes
8. 100 Apples :)
9. A house to live in
10. Matches in case my stove doesn't work
11. New clothes that I always liked
12. A bike
13. A house
14. A car
15. Candy
16. A bathroom, extra bathrooms, some baby bathrooms for my baby sisters with little doors. :)

Friday, September 14, 2007

Adventures in Chinese Medicine

So yesterday Anjoli had a day off from school. (She has today off also).
My goal since arriving is to start mega treatments of acupuncture to speed along the healing of my facial paralysis (it looks like Bell's Palsy). Our friend and Sujoy's partner's mom recommended I visit a Buddhist run hospital - it's VERY FAR from our apartment.

Getting there was a bit of an tricky, but fun! I told Anjoli it's like finding buried treasure via the subway! I love the challenge of going somewhere new. First we took a cab to the MRT (subway) station. Of course he took the long way but whatever. Five NT more big deal.

Anjoli and I checked out the route - I thought I figured it out but it was a bit confusing. While looking at a map while on the train, I asked someone if I needed to get off the train at the next stop to change lines. She said yes, (then I remembered that even when people don't really understand you, they often just nod and say yes to save face- even though I am the dope that should know Mandarin).

When we got off the train, it still didn't seem right, so I asked ANOTHER woman if she knew the route to Dapinglin station. "What? She said, "you want to eat dumplings? You hungry?" NO! I need acupuncture! Hospital! No dumplings!!! I didn't say that, of course, I just led her to the subway map and pointed to our destination. "Oh!" she said, "you needed to stay on the train!"

So we waitied for the next (correct) train, got off at our stop, then had trouble exiting. Turns out I didn't pay enough for the fare, so we went to a worker there and I had to pay $10NT each more for our tokens. It's so cool - they have these plastic tokens that you scan and it reads the fare. Weird.

So we went up to the street and looked for a shuttle for the hospital. Um...I neglected to find out exactly WHERE to take the shuttle, so we just took another cab. I pointed to the address on their brochure/schedule and we got there in less than 5 minutes.

The hospital was HUGE and BEAUTIFUL. As we entered there were lots of plants, a huge mural of the Buddha smiling over ill folks and lovely, serene flute music playing in the background. I have never felt so good to be in a hospital. No sign of concrete anywhere - just wood (looked like bamboo) and gorgeous Asian art and Chinese calligraphy. (Made me realize I would LOVE to learn Chinese brush painting which looks deceptively easy but it is so beautiful and soothing to the eye).
The registration forms were in English, but a volunteer led me right to the front of the line and a woman behind the counter walked me through the form. Immediately a patient in line chimed in to help as her English wasn't so great. At one point, I thought they asked me: "white?" So I said, "yes, I'm white!" as in Caucasian. "No no! they said, "Do you drink wine?" OH!!! "Nope," I proudly answered, "no more!" no no no. It's not even a thought at this stage in my life. No smoking either. Angelic Sue, c'est moi.

So we made our way to the Chinese/Integrated medicine floor (the hospital is mainly a Western Medicine/Conventional hospital). We had to wait over 2 and a half hours to see the doctor. Poor Anjoli! Good thing I fed her a big grilled cheese sandwich before coming....and she had a snack.

The doctor (a woman) was excellent. Very kind and efficent. I showed her my surgical report. She was kind of taken aback, I could tell. I told her the doctors said it "may" take 6-8 months for my face to come back (the left side). That was unacceptable to her. She told me she wanted me to come see her 3 times a week, but to ALSO go for Rehabilitation Therapy (Physical Therapy) on the same days and they would do muscle stimulation on my face (which is exactly what I had done in Massachusetts, but I only made one appointment).

I had one half hour of acupuncture - she used electrodes on the needles on my face as well, so it was a weird sensation. The good news was I felt an itch coming on on my left side of my face! I took that as an excellent sign. She also inserted a needle in my left hand between my thumb and index finger - I believe that is to help with my insomnia. She told me she can help me with my insomnia- phew! I did sleep REALLY well too, but I still took my Ativan, which I will wean myself off of very very soon, now that I will be busy and on a good sleep schedule. I am asleep by 10:30 now and up every day at 6:30. Perfect.

We didn't get home until 7:00 - we left at 12:45! Oh well. Next time it will be quicker. I have a yellow card which I show to the nurse and I just will immediately go for acupuncture (with an appointment of course).

I am HUGELY relieved that I will get a combination of eastern and western medicine. It's a huge trek but that's fine by me. I have all the time in the world to heal! I have been eating a "caveman's diet," lots of organic grains, almonds, pumpkin seeds, flax seeds, coconut water, veggies (not enough probably), fruit,plain yogurt, fish. Barely any meat but I did have chicken and a bit of shaved meat in my hot pot dinner the other night. Eggs, salmon. ALL good stuff. I also started, yes, I know people think it's freaky, but I am taking coffee enemas. They helped me get pregnant I swear (I also cleaned up my diet).
It's an adventure in healing.

I'm drinking organic apple cider vinegar in water - two caps full in a cup of water. It's supposed to give you energy. I feel a little more awake, but I sure would love a cup of coffee! I am too paranoid to drink it now for fear that I won't be able to sleep at night. I just want to cut out all caffeine.

Oh another thing, I have been BUGGING out because my left eye is SO dry since it doesn't blink that often due to the palsy. The weight helps a bit. This morning, I am happy to report that it is pretty teary (it still feels odd with the weight in my eyelid- I hope to have it removed ASAP).

Oh and of course, I pray like crazy. I am still confused about religion and going to/finding a church. I have DEEP faith on my own, but I do recognize that it is important to give thanks and praise to God and show respect by making the effort of going to church. Plus it is nice to be a part of a community. Being surrounded by Buddhist nuns and volunteers, I felt so much at home. I am very eastern minded, spiritually. I want to explore Buddhism, but still hold onto my love for Christ. While waiting for the doctor, I realized I can of course do both. Buddhism is more of a philosophy, a way of life. People do not pray to Buddha (I don't think) he wasn't God. But they DO believe in God, they just do not believe in an afterlife - they believe in reincarnation. That's the rub for me, because so do I! Yikes.
That would really set off a die hard Christian. Oh well. This is Sue. I never do things the easy way.

This is long, I know. I don't expect anyone to read it all! If you do, bless your heart.
Lots of love to you all,

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Sue the insomniac

Ok it's 4:30 a.m. here in Taipei. I have been up all night because I took a 4 hour nap yesterday. Ah well. It will take time to adjust. I am now 12 hours ahead of eastern time.

I am finally in a good place after feeling suicidal and ending up in a psych ward! I thought it would be a place where I could get HELP or SOMETHING. Well I did get something, but let me tell you, the mental health care in the U.S. in abysmal. I don't think things have changed much since One Flew Over the Cukoo's Nest . I need to read the book now. Truly it was similar to the movie, EXCEPT, I must say there were NO Nurse Cratchetts - the counselors were fantastic - one was even coaching me on how to get out. Even the nurse who checked me in thought I'd be out in no time (she knew I didn't "belong" there). Well, I was sent 75 miles from my cousin's house on a Saturday, after spending all day Friday in the ER. Things do not start moving until Monday. They do not let the patients out for supervised walks (unless you ask for "level one" as I learned and had to wait forever to ask the psychiatrist for it). Only 3 of us were given permission out of um, maybe 20 people?

The patients do NOTHING all day. They MAYBE have one half hour "group" session per day but they were pretty lame. The place was FREEZING - I didn't have any warm clothes and had to beg for a jacket (they have a room of donated clothing - mostly men's) from my roommate who hoarded all the warm clothes. She was elderly and very ill - not able to keep weight on, but don't worry she had a thick sweatshirt and wasn't using the jacket.
Our room was an ICEBERG so I slept (when I slept) with three blankets. My roomie was an absolute angel - and I am praying for her. She has dementia (a bit) and is an alcoholic.
She doesn't really remember how she got there (she did call 911). She told me she arrived without pants and that someone took her clogs. I don't think she was wearing them when she arrived, but I just listened to her. Poor lady was diabetic and incontinent.
She told me: "You have to tell me how you pull the toilet paper so evenly." So Sue, being a bit of a brat said, "Oh yeah - it's a real art!" OK that wasn't nice. I did in fact SHOW her my techinque though! Ok I know this is weird! Funny though.

I briefly saw the psychiatrist on Sunday. He said, "I read your note." WHAT NOTE???? (Later I figured out that the crisis counselor in Plymouth "fibbed" a bit to get insurance coverage because you have to be legitamately suicidal to get coverage! Which, when you think of it, makes sense). He told me, "ok, no more talk about THAT," since he probably realized that I hadn't written a note. He gave me the feeling that I would be dischargesd soon and that he would work on it "100%."

On Monday, my social worker told me that the plan was to discharge me on Wednesday.
I was told I would meet with the shrink (it's easier to spell that!) later that day. I was a BIT anxious to say the LEAST. I kept hounding the poor man and all the counselors that morning and afternoon. I was bugging out - even though friends told me to be cool and I would be released quicker. When the shrink finally saw me, he told me I was being irrational and that he would consider my case on a "day to day basis." !!!!!!!!!!!!
Oh man. I was just beside myself at that point. I didn't think God was listening to me, even though I prayed like a maniac.
BUT! Prayers were answered when my wonderful friends Prakash and Asha came to visit.
Prakash went to university with my husband in India. We haven't really been in touch for a long time though, but Sujoy had been in contact w/him when he learned I was in trouble.
Sujoy has the BEST friends (and they are mine now also, thank goodness). They are always there for us.
I was SO tired that night from not sleeping at all the night before, so I actually called Prakash and told him that I was going to sleep. So, I was in bed when a nurse told me that a beautiful Indian couple were there to visit - and asked if I wanted to see them. I jumped out of bed of course!
They were my only visitors during the whole stay (but I got a million phone calls).
I was ELATED and can't go into details, but I had been feeling EXTREMELY anxious/ guilt ridden for a "good" reason.
They stayed for an hour talking to me about Jesus. As a Catholic, I never really understood Jesus. They really enlightened me, and we prayed and I knew I would be forgiven. I finally had peace and faith that I WOULD get out of that place on Wednesday. Even though I told Prakash not to bother coming, he did, because "something" told him to come anyway. Yes, their visit really was an answer to my prayers.

After they left Sujoy (hubby) called and calmed me down. I went back to my room and wrote a 2 page "plan" which I showed to the shrink the next day. "Good," he said in his Russian accent, "I see you have a plan - I like that." He agreed to discharge me on Wednesday.

I was free to go on by 10:30 on Wednesday, but I had to wait until 8:00 pm for Prakash to pick me up on his way back from a business trip in Maine. That was the LONGEST day of my life!

I tried to play "matchmaker" while I was there. There was a severly depressed older man there who only talked to my sweet roommate. I always ate with my roommate but one day I asked if he would like to eat with her. (She was so weak that she couldn't carry her tray from the shelves where the food was delivered, so I always got her tray for her). He was so happy and smiled when I brought her tray over to his table. He told her that she was the only one who wasn't "role playing" which was probably true. I hope she's ok.

I learned so much from my stay - I am SOOOO grateful that I AM sane and my brain is now functioning fully. I pray for those poor patients every day. It was SO depressing seeing people in that state (I could relate to some of them though). I was anxious/irrational at my cousin's for a number of reasons- a huge one being coming off of presrcibed drugs such as steroids, painkillers and 12 hours worth of anesthesia. Imagine the toxins floating around my body. The OTHER reason is my own - I was so restless. I don't have lovely crafty hobbies - I don't have any hobbies really! I love to read, but was too depressed and anxious to read. I don't watch tv
(except for a few choice shows). I cannot be a couch potato because...I can't! I used to be a long time ago though! I could only walk so was hard being in the middle of nowhere with nothing to do...but I am DO appreciate that my cousin TRIED to take care of me. She did her best and she's a great cook, but I needed more emotional support. I really needed my husband, but he couldn't stay any longer (he wouldn't get paid!) and Anjoli needed to start school.

Hubby and Anjoli had to leave for Taiwan on my birthday, on August 17th. We said goodbye, I put on my brave face....then his flight to NY got cancelled and they couldn't leave until August 19th. Talk about torture - having to say goodbye twice!

Anyway, this is very long I know and probably boring. I had such a nice, peaceful stay with Prakash and Asha. I ate YUMMY (mostly vegetarian) Indian food. Asha is a total health freak so she coached me with lots of remedies for depression and fatigue. We prayed every night - even their 11 year old son prayed for me every night. I left feeling spiritually, physically and mentally refreshed and renewed.

I had three good visits with my old friends who live in the same area as Prakash and Asha. Ursula was a doll and took me to a Renaissance fair in Carver, Mass. Her husband Frank is an actor in it every year. I was so out of it though and had NO energy. It's a wonderful fair. The HUGE favor she did was help me collect all my stuff from my cousin's house which was nearby (and very far from where I was staying with my friends).
My friend Miriam met me in Boston and took me back to her house in Newton so I got to see her husband, Frank who is a hoot. He is a (jazz and blues) music critic/writer and always has fun stories to tell. He gave me a cd of a famous folk singer (her writing was on the cd even) which hasn't been released yet. I better not say who it is - I don't want to get Frank in trouble! I like this singer alot, even though I only have one of her cds. Now I have two! I also spent a day with my friends Ashwin and Sonia and had a blast playing with their adorable 5 year old daughter. I tried to play this game with her. She is so smart - it was too logical for me (recommended age was 7-adult). I just couldn't get it at all- so I told her that I just had brain surgery - and she said "Oh I know," and she quietly put the game away. Very sensitive and sweet of her. She drew me a beautiful flower and made a "Happy Snail" tracing her thumb and part of her hand. Kids are great therapy.

[EDIT: Oh man oh man how could I forget my dear, sweet wonderful friend Laura who gave up a day of her life, risking life and limb driving around the circle of death at LAX. She was there when I got off my Delta flight at 10:30 am, and stayed with me until I boarded my China Airlines flight at 3:30 pm. What a gal, quelle pal. We had a delish lunch, of course Laura had to one up me with her "cheeseburger" sans the burger! Cute, ay? I wish her luck in her job search- I know she will land a fab job in the film biz soon. She has a cool media (music and film) blog now, check it out: LMS].

So here I am in Taipei -very happy to be here. In New England I was having mixed feelings about leaving the US. But home is where the heart is, and my heart is with my wonderful little family.