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?