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.

Saturday, December 31, 2005

Last minute

That pretty much sums it all up. I didn't make any plans for New Year's Eve because I was torn between opting for a night out on the town or a smaller gathering with a few close friends. I was trying not to let the stress and pressure of leaving everything to the last minute get to me, but I've been feeling rather frantic lately because I also don't have any travel plans for the upcoming winter break. Well, I suppose that these things have a way of creeping up on you.

Last week C was supposed to come down to Kaohsiung to spend Christmas weekend with me but had to cancel at the last minute.

This weekend J was going to come down this morning to spend New Year's Eve here. Her plans were all so very last minute due to work schedule issues. Phone calls have been flying back and forth since last night and this morning- trying to figure out how she's going to get down here from Taipei. After a series of unsucessful tries- there were no seats left on one of the major bus companies and the train only had standing tickets- J was ready to give up on all hope of getting down here... but then I figured out- perhaps a little too late- that there were seats available on other bus companies. By the time I tried to call J and texted her about this, she had already switched back her work schedule to work today! Bummer.

Meanwhile I didn't know what I'd be doing for New Year's Eve either, so in the midst of all this, text messages started bouncing back and forth last night, about what to do and where to go and now I've spent the better half of the day on the phone- coordinating with J and deciding what to do for New Year's Eve. Where did the day go?

A bunch of us have finally settled on going to the tallest building in Kaohsiung- the 85 Floor- Tuntex Sky Tower for drinks and live music in the lounge. It'll be a simple, elegant, intimate evening with friends. I decided that I didn't want to attend another loud, crowded New Year's Eve bash this year. Been there done that- did that last year nor do I want to replay any such scenarios.

All 85 floors of Kaohsiung's Tuntex Sky Tower

Don't know what my travel plans for this winter break will be yet either- Bangalore, Bali, Guam or some other warm weather destination... It's all up in the air since I'm waiting on scheduling issues with potential travel partners.

I've got to stop stressing and obsessing over it all. I suppose that at this time of year there's always a feeling that time is closing in, that I haven't done enough, that there's so much more to do...

Looking back on my past few New Year's Eves and winter break travel plans, I realize that they were all made very last minute, so why should this year be any different from others? I also realize that it's nice to feel like I finally have a core of friends here- the kind who are on the same page, and that I can count on for get-togethers however last minute.

Soon a new year will be upon us. It's a chance for a fresh start and resolutions. I sometimes wonder how much things have changed from year to year when I see certain patterns emerging.

Perhaps the key is simply acceptance. Acceptance of one's situation, the limitations you must work with, and things that are just beyond our control. Gratitude, hope and dogged determination wouldn't hurt either I suppose... nor would a tall glass of champagne.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Take time to look up every now and then...

Back in from my stroll, I happened to look up as I was waiting for the elevator and saw this little guy stuck up on the ceiling:

Christmas Day in Kaohsiung

Strolling around Kaohsiung on Christmas Day I came across a mass wedding along the banks of the Love River. I suspect that it must have been one of those deals where the mayor or some prominent local politican officiates a wedding or rather a group wedding. The Taiwanese love their designer brands (LV, Gucci, Fendi, Dior... ). With this love of status symbols, what could be better than having your wedding officiated by someone famous? Slots for such "special" nuptials are extremely popular and space is limited. These weddings have been briefly televised on the evening news and it's always looked like hundreds of couples- all lined up to be simultaneously wed on one single day in one single place by the mayor. Surely, I exaggerate but all that white and tulle certainly does magnify the effect. Somehow with all these brides and grooms- lined up as if fit to be put on a wedding cake- the day doesn't seem so special after all.

What could be more perfect than love by the Love River? A mass wedding on Christmas Day by the Love River

Saturday, December 24, 2005

In the spirit of the holidays

This holiday dinner had just the right mix of warmth and intimacy

Last night I got together a few good friends- some old, some new- for a cozy little dinner and gift exchange. When talk turned to Christmas traditions- the New Zealanders talked about Christmases spent on the beach... and those of us from the North hemisphere wondered in our "northcentric" way what parents told their kids about Santa Claus, going down the chimney, the reindeer, and the whole sh-bang. Cartoon images of Santa in a bathing suit and sunglasses, riding waves on a surfboard crossed my mind. All this talk made me nostalgic for all that reminds me of this holiday season:

The excitement felt over the season's first snow
Glimpsing at a single, delicate snowflake
Freshly fallen
Moments before
It melts away
Into my sleeve
The look of
Pristine, freshly fallen snow
Snow-covered evergreens
The warmth and glow felt
By the fireplace at home

Oh and just what is up with eggnog that odd "northcentric" tradition? A mixture of milk, eggs and alcohol you say? And in this age of the bird flu several of us wondered if the eggs in eggnog were pasturized along with the milk. My friend L spotted eggnog on the drink menu and ordered it, so out of curiosity, I also decided to order an "eggnog", which turned out to be some milky looking, watered down, unidentifiable alcoholic beverage served in a shallow champagn glass. Ah yes, Christmas in this here, southern Taiwan is just not the same!

Thursday, December 22, 2005

Who put the "love in" the Love River

This evening a few friends and I pondered this question as we strolled along Kaohsiung's Love River. The conventional explanation seems to be that the Love River was so named because it lured lovers- enamored and scorned alike. Here began many a courtship or ended tragic stories of unrequited love.

Today, love by the Love River endures with lovers under the moonlight, in the secrecy of shadows and obscurity of night.

Love River at night

My friend J offered a more scandalous explanation: That the "lovin" the Love River might have been a racy reference to "ladies of the night" who frequented the riverbanks. A few years ago, such a sorted explanation wouldn't have seemed so far fetched. In those days, the Love River was a deserted place left in neglect, infamously foul smelling and sewage infested.

Whether or not J's theory holds any truth, the Love River has certainly come a long way from the infamy and neglect of its unsavory, filthy days... it is now of the most vibrant districts in Kaohsiung having received a facelift with brightly lit bridges and riverside cafes- some of which offer live entertainment nightly; it is also now one of the busiest tourist sites in Kaohsiung with steady bus loads of visitors arriving daily.

One of many riverside cafes

Photos in this post courtesy of this website.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Finding hope in the mundane

Usually my weekends in Taipei are filled with a flurry of activity and this weekend was no different. On Sunday I suddenly found my afternoon freed up since Su Beng's lecture on Taiwan- Past, Present and Future, was unexpectedly cancelled due to a power outage in the Eslite bookstore. I didn't get the whole story, but it seems that there was a power overload which resulted in a blackout in the building. Now why they don't have backup power generators for the building- which not only houses the 24 hour bookstore, but several shops and offices- is beyond me. Unbelievable!

So C and I decided to go for a movie. Afterwards we wandered around the Xin Yi district shopping area afterwards. And just where did we ended up? ...but at the newest Eslite bookstore location over there!

As we merged into the bustling crowd exiting and entering the ground level, I remembered why I don't go shopping on the weekends. The overwhelming masses numbed my senses.

As C was checking out the building directory, I was trying to escape the madness and I took refuge in a small floral design shop in the ground floor. I was calmed by this oasis of sorts, amidst the overwhelming clatter of consumerism. I admired the various floating arrangements of flora and fauna in glass. Flowers floated in vases shaped like over-sized, super long-stemmed wine glasses, in glass bowls, and large stemmed plants seemed bolder, magnified in the water of oversized glass vases.

The combinations were decidedly festive with plenty of bold green leafy plants and accents of red, like deep red cala lilies, and other touches of bright red. As I took it all in, I was reminded of how much I love flowers- working with flowers, arranging flowers, receiving them, giving them, having them in the home, the sight of them, the smell of them, the art of them... I'd once fancied the idea of being some sort of floral designer.

This simple reminder set off a whole train of thoughts about more than a few of the hopes, dreams, and aspirations that I've entertained in the past. I thought of the simple things in life that make me smile, and all of the creativity I have within that's been waiting, as if dormant... to be channeled into several possibilities.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

The power of the positive

It's so important to exercise the power of hope and possibility
To imagine the impossible
If just for a moment
To surround yourself with positive people
Resilient and strong
Make the impossible possible

Friday, December 09, 2005

I've decided to play, to let myself play, to allow myself to play.
The mind needs to play in order to work.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Faking it

I'm throwing myself back into it, even though I may not feel any inspiration or motivation yet.

Monday, December 05, 2005

This weekend I was reminded- through the eyes of others- the importance of what I'm doing. This reminded me where all of the hope and impossible optimism that I had came from. It also reminded of all that I have, and what I have to be thankful for.

Friday, December 02, 2005


What was I thinking? That I could just keep going like a steamroller? That once my Mandarin Chinese classes ended and my schedule was freed up, that I'd be able to just switch gears and focus on all the other things I've been putting off?

I knew full well what had to be sacrified to be a full-time student (of Mandarin Chinese) while teaching full-time, but now that Mandarin Chinese classes have ended, I've been feeling the GUILT. The cripping, self-sabotaging, overwhelming guilt- spiralling out of control.

My optimism and momentum seem to have vanished into thin air.

Wonder if I'm coming down with a minor case of seasonal affective disorder. The sunny days of Kaohsiung have been snatched away, and now it's all dull, dark and grey.

One thing's for sure I'd better start doing something! Anything!

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Sleepy, somber days drift
Dusk fades
Enveloped in darkness
Shifting weight
Night over day