Writer's Block

The USA is the place I was born. Canada is the place I was raised. Taiwan is the place in my heart.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Strolling along the streets of downtown Manhattan, I delighted in the visual diversity of people and neighborhoods. I found myself resisting sentimentality. I missed this life, a life I once had. The sky seemed bluer, the architecture more striking and the moments more precious. I savored it all, saving them for later.

Midtown Manhattan

Looking out a window of the newly renovated MOMA

Looking down on the second floor of the MOMA and at Monet's lilies

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

My second day back in New York and there are signs that I've gone "soft" already.

Today I got on the subway down to Chinatown for the now annual haircut that I get from my hairdresser of over TEN years- Harry. Of course this doesn't mean I only get my hair cut once a year, but that Harry only cuts it once a year during my summer visits to New York. On the way down, I transfered at the wrong stop and as a result I had to backtrack by going uptown to go downtown. I really should know better! I know this part of Chinatown like the back of my hand. I fear I'm starting to forget the local and express stops, and the points of transfer between subway lines. How dare I call myself a New Yorker.

I used to love what Harry did to my hair, but I'm in shock over what he did to it- now that I've finally found a hairdresser that I love and trust in Kaohsiung.

Dare I say that that's the end of this relationship (with Harry)?

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

Off to a running start

A few hours after arriving at my friend's upper eastside apartment from La Guardia airport, I found myself sprinting like a true New Yorker from the upscale Equinox gym along Madison Avenue to Central Park.

10-15 diehard gym goers ran along the sidewalks of Manhattan, past doorman buildings and upscale boutiques closing up for the day. Our intense cardiovascular training took us through The Park's tunnels and up its hills, around the Bethesda fountain, past horse-drawn carriages and gawking onlookers. One annoying, eccentric bystander actually mocked us by making clucking noises as we did tricep dips off the base of Bethesda fountain. Oh how very "New York" it is to encounter such randomly outspoken, uncouth individuals and for all of us to just ignore him.

In true urban form we finished off by doing dips and pushups off of the park benches and the truly hardcore attempted pullups off of the arm of pedestrian traffic light boxes- all under the watchful eye of our "boot camp sergeant" Eric.

After a sprint back to the gym we'd be back to the mundane.

Monday, July 11, 2005

Ottawa- the nation's capital viewed from afar

Canadian flag flying half-mast to mourn the July 7 London Attacks

Parliament buildings at dusk

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Byward Market

Sights from a leisurely Sunday afternoon stroll through the Market in Bytown:

They look an awful lot like grapes, but they're gooseberries!

Thursday, July 07, 2005

A stop in the U.S. en route to Canada

It's a pretty sad thing when I realize that I've started chronologizing major life events and travels in the context of terrorism and tragic events of recent years, but I couldn't help it when...

Not long after landing in Newark Airport for a layover en route to Ottawa, on the night of July 7, 2005 I heard about the London attacks. Unsurpisingly, this roused memories of September 11, 2001. At the time I heard about 9-11, I had just relocated to Kaohsiung after spending 2 dizzying months in Taipei. When I heard the news, I was alone in a new city without any friends, family or support to to speak of.

Click here for my retrospective comments on 9-11 (posted December 16, 2003).

In October 2002, I was in British Columbia attending my sister's wedding when I heard about the Bali bombings.

During the aftermath of the tsunami disaster, in December 2004, I was up in Taipei to celebrate the coming of the new year.

When I heard about the March 11, 2004 Madrid bombings, I wasn't out of town or doing anything especially notable ...

Monday, July 04, 2005

In Search of Motivation

By empowering others, you empower yourself

Motivation that seemed lost returns with renewed force

Sunday, July 03, 2005


Some may have noticed that this:

Tell me when this blog is updated

appeared in my sidebar. It really is quite out of character that such a thing be so prominently displayed on my blog. I've never really been into promoting my blog and prefer to think that I've been blogging in relative obscurity. Doing so (being obscure that is) has been a personal choice for many reasons.

I heard about this from someone involved in blogarithm.com. So I list it here for avid blog readers; it's a great tool for you to keep up on some of your favorite blogs.

Is this justice?

Here’s my account of a true story recently reported on in the newspapers and television in Taiwan:

On a day like any other day, in rather unextraordinary circumstances, a first grade student went to school without having done her homework. As is customary in Taiwan, the teacher was upset and disciplined the young girl by making her squat down and jump up, in "frog hop style" one hundred times.

At home the girl made no mention of what had happened at school that day. But it was plainly obvious that something was wrong when her parents saw that she was so sore that she couldn't sit.

The outraged parents first demanded that the teacher apologize but then they went further; they wanted retribution for the physical harm done to their daughter. Things escalated; the principal got involved as a witness and negotiator. The teacher apologized, but the parents wanted compensation. In return for the physical pain and suffering of their daughter, the parents asked that the teacher do one hundred frog hops, but that was out of the question because the teacher herself was pregnant. An agreement was finally reached in order to avoid a full-blown lawsuit, with the principal as witness. The teacher's daughter, a kindergarten student, would pay back the "wrong" by doing one hundred frog hops on a particular date, at a specified time in a public place.

Now I'm sure we can all think of more than one parable or phrase to sum up the absurdity of this tale.

What does it say, that these three parties consented to such an agreement, and to involving a blameless child in the process?

Though it was a lost opportunity for a genuine dialogue on disciplinary practices at school, I hope those who heard about this, find a lesson to be learned in there somewhere.

Putting Kaohsiung on the map

How could I be a blogger in Kaohsiung and not even blog about this?!

For months I've been hearing about this quirky toilet-themed restaurant. Now, much to my chagrin, it apparently has put Kaohsiung on the map! It's been written up, put in print, circulated on the web and blogged about several times over.

So I give up, here it is officially documented on my blog. I've often heard of Kaohsiung referred to as a "cultural desert." Now you can interpret that dubious label for yourselves.

Double duty seating, err, I hope not...

Yes, people do dine here

Food designed to look like the "real thing" served up in your choice of:

a traditional squat toilet

or in a western style "throne" toilet

Just in case you'd like to extend the "toilet dining experience" to your home- there are toilet shaped serving dishes on display throughout the restaurant, which just might be available for sale...

Kind of gives a new meaning to the phrase "open door policy" doesn't it?

All I can say is that I still don't quite understand the Taiwanese sense of humor, but the success and appeal of this restaurant among the Taiwanese is not surprising. Over the past year or so I've noticed people in the night markets around here eating scoops of ice cream out of miniature plastic squat toilets. I didn't understand the appeal or novelty then, nor do I now.

The 26-year-old owner of the restaurant, Eric Wang was inspired by a popular Japanese comic featuring a robot doll fond of eating excrement in ice cream cones. He test marketed his idea by first selling ice cream served in miniature plastic squat toilets- in the night markets. A-ha! Now I see the connection.

I think that the Taiwanese have a thing for "bathroom humor"- literally. During one my conversation classes, we talked about the first day of school, the unfamiliarity of new situations and the discussion turned to funny, embarassing situations and stories, so I asked my students to come up with some funny stories of their own. Out came the stories of elementary school kids who wet themselves or worse yet accidentally defecated due to anxiety on their first day of school- what one student started, others followed with even more outlandish and disgusting tales. Soon my class was in stitches. My funny bone was decidedly disappointed, but I managed a chuckle. What's up with that?! I thought.

This tells me that I'm not immersed enough in the local pop culture here. Why? Is it language gap, cultural difference... or age?! So much of pop culture seems to be linked to cartoons and animation, which I don't really watch much of. In Taiwan there's the language gap, but even when I was in the States, I never really got into the Simpsons or South Park. And now there's Adult Swim, which is a part of the Cartoon Network. Still don't know what Adult Swim is? Click here!

Sometimes I feel behind on American pop culture! And then I wonder if it is about age, or simply being out of touch now that I live in Taiwan.

It's something to think about (Taiwanese pop culture that is) and to work on as I work on my language skills here... but this time I don't think that I missed out much. This is one dining experience that I think I'll be able to hold off on.