Tag Archives: Taipei

From the Ministry of Silly Chinglish Shirts

I dearly wanted to ask this kid whether his choice of t-shirt was intentional or not; and also, whether his parents understood it!

Well, now that I’m finally back in good old New York and my last silly t-shirt gift has been posted to its recipient, it’s time to collate my best photos– of the best silly t-shirts with broken English (or, Chinglish) spotted in Taiwan.

Given to a friend and former roommate, we puzzled about what the intended meaning might have been. Perhaps, "Every setback is a hidden opportunity?" What do you think??

So although these shirts are not brought to you BY the Ministry of Silly Walks, they were photographed in the same gently-poking fun spirit. Other amazingly silly captions spotted over the year (but lacking in pics) are listed below, in order of remembered hilarity: Continue reading

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Being Back is Weird

Everything looks familiar, but I feel like an alien. Like I’ve been turned inside out, so my lungs and nerves and liver and intestines are on the outside, and my skin on the inside is rendered a useless organ–sheltering nothing and sweating and goosebumping all over itself.

I sit in a cafe in the health food store in my hometown, that I have been frequenting with my mother since I was three years old. Before I could read, I used to walk around and smell the whole grains and fresh produce and no-sugar-added juices and spritzers. My favorite treats of all time with carob-covered rice cakes, because I didn’t even know chocolate existed. Then came honey sticks– little straw-like tubes full of flavored honey, and black and red “Panda” brand licorice. Later when I discovered chocolate, there were Tiger’s Milk Bars: a light chocolate coating over a nutritious, protein-filled peanut butter interior.

Now I sit at a booth, a recent addition to the cafe of 5 to 10 years ago, with a cup of coffee and a carob-covered rice cake. I used to have Proustian flashbacks of nostalgic childhood memories when I bit into these; today, it tastes slightly stale and waxy. The coffee is lukewarm.

Why does nothing measure up to my memory of it? The menu is in English, not Chinese, Japanese, Malay, or Vietnamese, but I don’t comprehend it. How is a small cup of soup $8.25 USD??

On the left side of the wall, even the First Aid for Choking sign has been re-vamped, refurbished. Now the people choking and saving one another are rendered in full color, and the instructions for how to save lives are more detailed. But it is illegible from more than 10 feet away, whereas the old CPR signs that were required in restaurants in the 1990s were full of huge line drawings of the intricacies of the Heimlich maneuver. I used to study them as a child, preparing myself for the inevitable moment when I would be called upon to save a life. As a 10-year-old. Of course this was perfectly logical to me back then.

Being back in America, from a year living in Asia, is weird. But being back in my small and beautiful but cloyingly intimate seaside resort hometown is unimaginably stifling. I had no idea it would be like this. I feel smothered by the 25 years of memories tucked into every crevice of this place, by the heartache and resentment and despair and fear and desperation I used to feel here as a teenager. My mantra from ages 13-18 was “Get Me Out of Here.” So to be back, with only sketchy plans to go to NYC, only flimsy job leads, little to no savings to speak of and no immediate employment prospects (in the middle of a recession) is TERRIFYING.

But then I think: it was all worth it for the amazing year I’ve just had. Continue reading

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Adventures with Ideal Day: A Social Action Group in Taipei

Yesterday morning, I returned to a familiar spot to witness environmental awareness in action: Fuyang Eco Park, for a Scavenger Hunt organized by Ideal Day. It was 11 am, and the heat was just beginning to rise, but it was moist and shady until the umbrella of trees enveloping the entrance to the park. Participants in the scavenger hunt gathered in loose groups– the teams that they brought or formed on the spot– and Taiwanese and foreigners, students and professionals and families, all mingled together happily. Excited anticipation hung in the air.

“I’m so afraid to speak Chinese, afraid that people will laugh at me,” said an American student to a Taiwanese girl. “Don’t worry, we feel that way about speaking English!” her new friend replied. “We won’t laugh,” they all agreed. “Let’s practice both languages today.”

My new friend Dan is part of Ideal Day, a group for social action, philosophical discussions, and the promotion of social change through raising money and awareness about various causes. In May, they had their first event to raise money for a few different charities– and this weekend, the cause was the environment. Continue reading

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Pippi Longstocking in Taipei

Friends + Cast after the show. Pippi is the one with the orange braids, of course!

Do you remember Pippi Longstocking, the beloved Swedish books (and movies) from your youth? Well, apparently Pippi has gone from the “south seas” all the way to Taipei, and our friend Bryan told us about a wonderful Swedish director’s version at a Taipei theater on Guling Street.

So we trooped down, for a live show in Chinese with Pippi, wiping the floors with towels strapped to her feet, dancing and singing with her friends, the white horse and the monkey Mr. Nilsson…. as well as a few human children too.

And it was surprisingly good! Great, even. Continue reading

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What I’ve Been Eating Lately

Sushi Express, you complete me.

So I’ve been packing and shipping boxes home the last week or two, as I enter my last month in Taiwan. Which leaves me very little extra energy to write every day, work on the book, make coffee, sleep, say good bye to  friends, follow up on research— let alone blog. (Also maybe I was being haunted in the fantasy treehouse–possibly).

But I still had time to eat!

So this is an unabashed excuses-making post, documenting some recent photos of food in Taipei. Aka: what I’ve been eating lately.

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13 Ways of Looking at a Coffeepot: An Expat Fable

Brilliant photo that captures my inner state by Lotzman Katzman, courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons license.

Let’s face it: everyone has an opinion on the best way to make coffee. Some are downright elitist about the obvious supremacy of their method, others are looking to trade up in the world of home brewed caffeine. Others, like myself, shoot for an optimal blend, if you will, of their priorities: for me, it’s convenience, consistency, and flavor. So when I found my perfect French press coffee maker about 2.5 years ago, it stuck. And as this summer has been all about daily routines– writing routines; research at libraries, archives and doing interviews; waking up before 11am–the coffee routine has settled into a flow of shared French-pressing with my coffee-drinking roommate.

Until the day. The Coffee. Stopped. Continue reading

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Pop Goes My Heart: Taiwanese Songs for Every Occasion

Click here to check out more of Crowd Lu (盧廣仲, Lu Guang-Zhong)'s songs!

So everyone I know is, has, is about to, or is starting to think about leaving Taiwan. WHY is expat life sometimes like living in a freaking train station?!?!  Okay, rant over. It’s just I’ve been doing a lot of saying goodbye to lovely people who I adore, for say, the last few weeks (and also, 2-6 months), and sometimes, words are just not enough.

Sometimes, you need a good pop song.* Continue reading

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