Well, That Was Unexpected

Real life is stranger than fiction...depending on which authors you read, of course.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Senorita Juliana

I have a recurring alarm on my cellphone. And this morning, since I had no intention of getting up anywhere near the time it started going off, it vibrated so many times that it vibrated itself off the table and onto the floor. I kept hearing this buzzing sound intermittently for about an hour and half and then suddenly: crash.

It's dragon boat day, and may I say that a grayer day hath never existed. England would be hard put to rival today. It's the last day of my membership at my imperialist country club. SO I had breakfast there with the usual suspects. Then I exercised my buns off, literally--a particularly unfortunate accepted invitation to join the Pilates class with rubber bands has resulted in a pulled muscle in my ass. Sometimes it's fun to take a class like that and realize that there are muscles in your body you've never been introduced to before.

So, I stole the March 2006 Esquire magazine from the fitness center because it has Viggo Mortensen on the cover. And as I've been reading through the magazine, I am struck by the high caliber of the writing. I noticed the same thing in GQ. It's not just one standout writer, like Will Blythe and his hysterical article called Hating Coach about Mike Krzyzewski of Duke, or George Saunders and his phenomenal article about Dubai in GQ. It's the whole thing, the writing in general. Women's magazines are just too often subpar. With the possible exception of Vanity Fair. These men's writers drop literary references like bombs and have passages that are almost too poetic to get away with, but are sandwiched between such gruff manliness that they are totally acceptable. argh. Of course, to read such excellence you have to wade through their artistic designers getting off on their position with a well-respected magazine by having Evangeline Lilly pose in a gingham bathing suit with pigtails in photos that are laid out with an article in which she says she is sick of the gratuitous nature of many of her scenes in Lost. Heinous. so Heinous. so you are left with the knowledge that the writing is good, but the men in charge don't respect women or, possibly, anyone. oh that silly evangeline. she probably didnt mean that thing about hating gratuitous exposure. she won't mind fulfilling my fantasty of her as a little girl in pigtails. oh the fallen world.

I want to express my sincere thanks and gratitude to those of you who have acknowledged the crappiness of my living situation. I did manage to get sonme concessions. I've got the whole weekend to pack up, not just until tomorrow and I managed to get away from the cats and am instead moving in with Andrea. This appears to be some kind of new theme. I'm assuming Jessie is next in line to be shuffled through Frau Andrea's magical pre-departure boarding house. Of course, no one could ask for a more pleasant housemate than Frau Andrea. Speaking of which, she's a superfine woman, far better than most men deserve and if you happen to know a high quality Christian man who just hasnt been able to find the right girl--hopefully because he's too busy being wildly successful at the job toward which he is passionate--teaching, engineering, national park guide, whatever--and hilarious, you can have him superficially see Andrea online and then he can comment if he wants to get in touch. For Andrea I am willing to put myself into the position of matchmaker despite my general loathing of said activity. She's one of the only people who allows me to be entirely myself and doesn't judge me. She has more faith in me than I deserve and has thusly won my unswerving devotion. And she has always wanted to be a California girl. Just in case her apparent love for Asia dissuades anyone.

I just had Custard-pudding flavored Haagen Dazs ice cream. Basically tastes like Flan. So good. Do they have this flavor in the U.S.A.? All this goes to show that I should have studied Spanish. I am a Mexican girl at heart. Once we had a guest speaker in one of Ann Huss's brilliant seminars--Wellesley College, YOU SUUUUUCCCCCKKKKK--and he asked me why I studied Chinese and I said "I have no idea; I should've studied Spanish" which clearly did not help him make whatever point he was making, but which I still hold to be true. I have echoes of abuela saying "Juliana, Juliana, un besito por favor" and getting scratched by her little granny moustache.

Monday, May 29, 2006

To Quote Daniel Powter

Bad day. It was my turn in the get-shat-upon list my boss is neverendingly going through. Yep, three weeks before I am supposed to leave my Taiwan home of two and a half years for good she wants me to pack up my whole life in 2 days and move to a different apartment...with pets. As far as I can tell this is all because some hollywood producer needs to be alone in an apartment. earth to company: buy a fucking hotel room like any other normal, extremely profitable company would do. And you all know how much I just love pets. Again, while I do not wish them cruelty, I want them to stay far the hell away from my person.

Apparently it is impossible for anyone to leave this company on rosy terms. I'm so pissed. And frankly, when someone shits on me, the last thing I want to hear is the bright side. Fuck the bright side, take it and burn it along with your damned cats. I hate it when people don't even allow me to feel any anger or frustration. I need to vent. It is critical for me to stay emotionally healthy. The other craptacular thing is that I totally predicted this. I have been slowly packing up and sorting through stuff just because this kind of last minute victimization by randomly shat out excrement is the norm, not the exception. You know how sometimes you wish you weren't so prescient because it means something bad about the world when you are.

I can't wait to get back to a country with laws. I think I'll take any job I can get just to experience what it is like for personal and work life not to be entangled. To be able to take two days off and not have anyone inquire about what I am doing and if it is worthwhile, or let people into my house to go through my stuff. I should have taken that rent allowance at the beginning of my tenure here. Oh my gosh, if I could give in to a 401k and have regimented hours and a supervisor and duties. you have no idea how tempting that humdrum regimented banality is for me at this moment.

this incident also just brought out how much i hate what i am doing. like, i really try to have a good attitude and focus on the positive, but the damn fact is that I hate judging these contests, i hate teaching, i hate putting on faces. i'm an *empath*. it drains me to have to relate to so many people. i can only successfully manage a few at a time. this is why i feel like i hate the person i am here so much, i feel like people here are really not getting the best of me and its sad to know I am going back home and leaving people with this idea of who i am. but i do it because i believe that in the end what we do is somehow beneficial to lots of people. but when they--the man!!-- treat my friends like shit and when they treat me like shit, i just want to run away and somehow screw them over. I want to get on a plane and disappear. i hate being controlled by people whose judgment i find questionable. the whole thing about submitting to authority is that authority is supposed to look after you and care for you. even in ancient chinese law that's how it was. grr.

well, a few hours have passed since I wrote this. I went and exercised vigorously--one of the first times I have truly craved an intense workout as a cure to my anger. nice. and my boss and i came to a compromise. so my flaming anger has dissipated. i think she has really good intentions...but with those good intentions she sits down and tries to control the world. it's partly chinese culture to put a leader in a position like that. i don't think she would have been this way if chinese culture didnt skew so heavily toward hierarchical thinking and obeisance and fear of decision making. but i still have to move out by thursday.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Egg tarts and Dragon Boats

Seriously, Lisa, who would have thought someone would pay me to dispense advice to the next generation of Taiwanese schoodlchildren? Although that which makes me famous on the Net is the least of my daily duties. Drama, singing, and speech contests are curious beasts. I believe they do them because it helps the kiddies practice spoken English in fun ways. Imagine Granite Hills High School having an annual Spanish play contest for each grade year including all Spanish classes on campus. Now, imagine the quality that might be produced in an American high school Spanish class project that accounts for 15% of your grade and you have about 1 month's notice for. That is what an English drama contest is like. But perhaps Americans are a little more skittish about flaunting mediocrity. If these kids knew what the average foreigner would think of these plays, they would rather die than let them out of the private classroom. And the reason I "get" to judge said contests is because I work for the English magazines they learn from, and because I am a foreign face. If I'm there it makes it seem more legitimate, as if to confirm they haven't actually been learning Swahili. It also shows them that our company is willing to bend over and wipe their asses to keep their business. In politer terms it might be something like a courtesy call from a sales department. Oh look, they do use our product to learn English. (poorly) Well, everything looks in order here, I'll be on my way.

I just want to announce that anyone who wants to buy me an egg tart, whether from a bakery, 7-11, or especially KFC, will receive a plaque in the snack room at Julie Inc. Today I had this amazing craving for egg tarts that led me not only to buy some from KFC but then to buy the egg flavored pudding from Family Mart: The new Uni-President Sweet Corner stuff that tastes like creme brulee filling, or really yummy creamy flan. I'm telling you, they sell this is 7-11!! It's phenomenal. I also love the much cheaper 10 NT ghetto egg flavored pudding that is colored yellow with a brown bottom. basically egg flavored jello. i know it sounds weird, and it tastes like custard, not egg per se...whatever. All I can say is that I had to exercise a lot more today to burn those calories off and I don't regret it at all.

It's memorial day weekend in the U.S. and this Wednesday we in Taiwan will be having our own festival It's called Dragon Boat Festival and we all get Wednesday off, except for the bus drivers and 7-11 workers, per usual. It commemorates some famous poet who drowned himself and the villagers who tried to save him but didn't, and when they didn't they threw down this special food to keep the fish from eating him. So they make these very dense rice triangles packed with weird shit like meat and egg yolk and indecipherable sweet nuttish things and they steam them and sell them EVERYWHERE. And you can tell how good I think they are. So, much like fruitcake, I intend on passing the ones I received to other people and pretending I got them for them because I care about them. Anyway, in the river behind my house they also have these Dragon Boat races and teams from many nations and Taiwanese institutions come and race--the teams can have up to 20 members and involve a drummer to keep the beat and a small person to hang off the front to grab a flag--the pros are the Thai racers. It's the one place in my whole world where you can see hundreds of truly buff and bronzed Asian men.

When we went to the orphanage we realized that the bottom floor is now populated with some of our favorite boys. I decided to nickname it The Handsome Boy Modeling Club because of the affinity I have for the band of the same name. Our boys are way cuter, though. The sweetpea with the cleft palette and the one without an ear are in there along with supercutie YH and the grandfather of the orphanage, WH, who is like a year and a half old. We got to meet two Dutch dudes who were escorting some of the babies to their parents. It was adorable.

Friday, May 26, 2006

An Attractive Day

My friend Jon sent me something in which I had to list songs and numbers and peoples names in a supposedly random order but then they were actually supposed to relate to each other. One of the songs supposedly describes your mental state. And the song I had entered was "Hips Don't Lie" by Shakira. I'm all about shaking it, baby!

In other news--I had an afternoon full of attractive men. Mark from Sales picked me up to take me to a singing contest held at one of his client schools. He was dressed in a tastefully hip-hop manner. He has the face of someone who would be arrogant and full of his own hotness, but actually he's shy and sweet. Of course, the fact that my sad Chinese was better than his sad English might have accounted for that. Apparently his favorite thing to do is play pickup basketball. And I taught him that term.

So I get to the singing contest and one of our competitor's has also brought a representative. Yes, this is what I do: smile when thrown as a pawn into PR warfare. Anyway, per usual, today's combatant was a guy who didn't even remember the company he was there representing. So we got along famously and I showed him the ropes of the crazy world of judging high school students as a PR rep. You know, pretending you know what you are talking about, spreading out the scores so that not just one team cleans up, the stock of comments you have to make to the auditorium afterward. etc. Anyway, this guy was a very typically good looking Nordic god, Brad-Pitt-in-his-youth lookalike. So the girls shrieked when he came in, shrieked when he moved, shrieked when looked back. And he's only been in Taiwan for 2 months so he had no clue. He could have babbled in Esperanto and it wouldn't have mattered. All the girls were taking pictures of him behind his back with their cell phones. He rivals Charity for weird, crappy jobs. He once had to count buttons and then, when he got promoted at that factory, he shined policemen's and firemen's badges. that was a nonsequitur. So I basically stuck my tongue out at the little pubescent girls being like, Oh yeah, I'm with *him*...here we are talking, here we are walking in, here we are conferring. eat your hearts out girlies. and I think he might have been gay. or stoned. or both, of course. that kind of guy. hot, gay, stoned. or just a pretty boy surfer. basically, not my type at all.

People, this singing contest was a riot! It was made better by the fact that most of the classes were united in their purpose of performing, so it was like 40 kids enthusiastically dancing and belting out songs. Only a few stragglers on the sides who would have rather been cleaning the bathrooms by hand than stand up there and perform.

First group: the girls were dressed scandalously--for taiwan-- in short green skirts and midriff baring white shirts and all their boobs were way inflated...because they were hiding green bottles in there! why? because their last song was apparently one that Heineken has been using, so they all pretended to drink heineken as they danced to the last song and one of their classmates was actually dressed up as a can of Heineken. See, at bars in Taiwan they have these scantily clad women who skank at bars representing beer companies, and they always have awesome outfits that are coordinated with the colors of their product. i.e. green for Heineken, yellow and blue for Corona, etc. And these little high school girls had rented out beer girl outfits. The boys smartly--you know in that pandering-to-the-fallen-world way-- hid in back and let their scantily clad women do most of the performing. Funny thing is that many of the women didnt embrace their inner Madonna, so they looked like girls who were boredly awkwardly dancing around: not scandalous. The class whore probably thought the theme up and the other girls didn't have the cajones to challenge it. Speaking of whores, new favorite funny Bible verse, Ezekiel 16:35. "Therefore, Oh Whore, hear the word of the Lord!" It's actually in a very solemn and tragic passage, but that verse in itself is hysterical. A solemnly lovely portion though is Ezekiel 16:62-63.

Other highlights: the two groups who danced their pigus off to Roxette's How Do You Do? Clearly chosen because of the subversive lyric "I love the way you undress now, baby begin" which gave them the chance to rip off their outer outfits. Taiwanese students love ripping off their outer garments. Every group had layers of outfits so they could rip them off periodically.

Pronunciation fun from Wednesday: One play title was "Jack and the magic Eggs" well, let's just say Taiwanese students have trouble pronouncing the word "eggs." SO it sounded like Jack and his Magic Ass. All through the play "Jack, how did you invent such special ass? Can I buy one of your magical ass?" Speaking of eggs, something you might not know is how much Taiwanese people love eggs. They do really funky things: drop them in vegetable soup, crack them raw over sizzling food, scramble them with scallions, boil them in tea. Eggs are everywhere and are for all times of day. Now, I even find myself craving them in some form or another.

In honor of my mother, I would like to end with cheese: Have an eggscellent day!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

just another morning in Taiwan

This morning Andrea scooted me to work and I held my cup of coffee the whole time. I'm so poshly rebellious.

The drama contest suffered from a serious lack of coffee and a serious overabundance of Brokeback Mountain spinoffs and references, but other than that was generally tolerable. What Ang Lee may not have known when made his incredibly successful movie--which, as the brainchild of their most famous native son, is required watching in Taiwan--was how well it would play into the sense of humor and love of crossdressing held by Taiwanese high school students. Certainly not in the tactful and tasteful way you would have to do it in the U.S. in order to avoid lawsuits. Rather, it gave the audience lots of chances to scream as the straight boys on stage vigorously pretended to make out with each other whilst wearing constumes that made RuPaul look like a preppy mama's boy. I'm sure it would have been funnier if I knew the boys, whichh the audience of 500 shrieking high schoolers certainly did. But after the first two or three it gets really yawnworthy. What was not yanworthy however was one play in which the group managed to recreate a hiking expedition on Mt. Ranier, it was highly reminiscent of Vertical Limit or something and was unbelievable. I felt like I was watching an action movie. And that made the shoddily staged crossdressing ESL version of A Midsummer Night's Dream a major snooze.
The highlight, though, was that at the end of the contest when I gave out my praises and criticisms, I mentioned that they need to be careful not to throw around profanity and that girls shouldn't whine when they speak english because we think it's annoying. Afterward, one of the teacher's asked me which phrases they had used in the play that shouldn't be used frequently, and only after I quickly and matter-of-factly listed off "shitty, damn it, bullshit, what the hell, goddammit" did I realize that two of my coworkers were standing right next to us waiting to take me home. bwahahahaha. It took me back to my days as a college radio DJ when we had to rattle off the 7 deadly words every semester--the 7 words that we could potentially be heavily fined for playing on the air. And they are far more offensive than the ones I just took the liberty of recounting.

So, in the intermissions the kids basically played Linkin Park and Korn. It made me think that if my company thinks it can continue to be relevant to the their audiences of junior high and high schoolers and put out that Lite FM crap, they are sadly mistaken and are very soon going to look like has-beens in a world that is passing them by. But I guess in the end it doesn't even matter.

speaking of which, I have to go now and do some work. We've been having far too much fun here on the 3rd floor. I feel a certain amount of pride that I have memorized so many demotivational posters that I can now pull them out in a matter of seconds and apply them appropriately to any situation. *sigh* If only that were a profession.

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

101 Pics

I had some very serious good feelings toward Google's Sherlock Holmes logo today.

Okay, so here are the pics of me, Dr. Hartle, scaling Taipei 101. I'm such a crap photographer, cry for me, Argentina. There's a picture of the 50th floor--the stairwell wasn't as dark as it appears, it was just beige. There's a very unflattering picture of me next to a sign that says "I did it" which could have been taken in my apartment or any other nondescript white room for all the indication it gives of my whereabouts, and the next pic is of our whole Eagle Beaver team at the top. By the way, new estimate is closer to US $50,000 raised for the Garden of Hope!

This bottom pic is one of my going away presents from the Art Department. It was done in tribute to my love for Arab music and belly dancing. Hysterical.

I don't want to sound totally Amish or anything, but modern technology never ceases to amaze me. I managed to get my pictures developed and put onto cd within two hours, then I picked them up and posted them. Within 4 hours from being on my old school manual film camera to being on my blog.

Dude, today I bought like the entire Jay Chou catalog in search of this one cool song where he has a woman singing chinese opera style behind his rapping. And the lady at the music store lied to me and said it was on November's Chopin. Which it totally isn't. I think I am just going to take it from one of my university students.

Our lesson on prejudice and discrimination was a success. I gave each student an identity and they worked in pairs discussing the stereotypes of their identity, discrimination they might face, civil rights, and how they could improve their and their partner's situation. One of the most promising pairs was the National Taiwan University student (the Harvard of Taiwan) with the Vietnamese woman. When we got to the question asking how the Vietnamese woman could improve her situation they said she could win the lottery and the NTU student could help her by rigging the lottery. Nice. Since I clearly had a liberal point to make about how college students could fight for the rights of people like the Vietnamese workers who are trafficked here and have no recourse, I made them stand up there until they and the class came up with it. And then I made the most amazing analogy ever. I was trying to encourage them that college students could be very influential in Chinese society and so I brought up... the Tiananmen Square incident. Nice. I managed to bring up the incident where the government shot the college students to bits, ran over them with tanks and their efforts changed just about nothing. whoops. Remind me to pursue that career in inspirational speaking.

Monday, May 22, 2006

Tuesday morning

Oh the sadness. I just tried to post pictures of the 101 Climb and a few other choice memories, but the page wouldn't load. I'll have to post pictures when I get home. The server is down. Or it's possible that I just don't understand the Chinese and have to use my home computer which is in English. It's kind of annoying to have studied a language for so long and still not be able to navigate a simple blog page with it. I feel happy that I can do it in Spanish, or maybe that's even more depressing, that I'm nearly as capable in a language I studied like 1/4 as long as I studied Chinese.

Oh but this is not a day for sadness! I have a deluxe Fuji apple slathered with peanut butter because today I splurged and instead of buying two cheap apples I bought one enormous one! That's right, because my Hips Don't Lie and I'm starting to feel it's right. Shakira is always good for the mood. I'd like to announce that when I get to heaven, I am definitely heading to the South American section to party. Speaking of which, last night I was reading El Bible and it turns out that God is down with the nose rings. Who knew? In chapter 16 God is describing how he took Israel from being a bloody baby on the side of the road and made her grow in to a beautiful woman, and he describes how he lovingly clothed her: bracelets on the arms, necklace, nose ring, earrings, leather sandals, embroidered cloth (Let's not address the part afterward where she trusts in her own beauty and whores herself out instead of trusting in God and then he gets pissed.) So, she sounds Indian to me. I mean, clearly she was Middle Eastern--he gives her honey and olive oil for food, but in modern times I think it sounds more like Indian women. The vast majority of Indian women might be poor as shit, but almost all of them sport impressive amounts of jewelry--fake yellow gold for the poor, real yellow gold for the rich, and nose rings abound. This confirms something I have always suspected about God: he has excellent taste in fashionand a soft spot for outrageous displays. This is why Carson Kressley is really a little slice of a facet of God.

Oh, back to work, I guess.

sing sing sing

Yesterday's feeling of conquest--our team raised over US $1000! and the whole climbathon raised over 30,000-- was replaced by an increasingly downward-angled frown as I looked at my schedule this week. I fear that much prayer and a flask of (very) hard liquor will be required to get me sanely to the end of the week.

The sense of dread that came with realizing I am leaving at 6:50 AM on Wednesday to judge a daylong drama contest gave way to a sense of punch-drunk hilarity when I realized that, after that torture, on Friday evening I will be judging a singing contest whose selections include Quando Quando Quando and My Heart Will Go On. FYI: Engelbert Humperdink is coming to Taipei soon. And now Taiwanese children will be performing his songs en masse, with actions no doubt. And I get to witness and pass judgment on these children. I'll be like "all of you who sang enthusiastically have been deselected by the process of natural selection and will be sterilized as you leave the building. My condolences." And tomorrow I shall be singlehandedly teaching my university students about prejudice and discrimination. I think it will be a handy time to discuss how crappily they treat Vietnamese and Filipino workers. Maybe I'll make them pretend to sleep on the bathroom floor or not give them their customary break, or possibly order them to go buy me coffee and then take it out of their wages when I find something wrong with it. I could set up a brothel on one side of the room and make them sell me their younger siblings. No more La La land. Jessie once had a student say that Taiwan had no racism because they have no black people. I think it's about time people were disabused of that notion. In general, people are FAR more racist here than in the U.S. Which makes sense, because they aren't even striving for equality. Hierarchy is a given. Much as hierarchies tend to form in some manner even in the best of situations, at least in the U.S. we have the pretense of striving for equality, Taiwanese people haven't even set it up as a goal.

In any case, the Lark News has a hysterical article about outsourcing call-in prayer lines to India. That one and the Billy Graham article on the front are choice.

Yesterday I bought Jay Chou's live concert performance--the concert I attended--and it makes me smile every time I look at the picture of him in his velour aboriginal outfit. I'm so thrilled that I have this image for posterity.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

I climbed Taipei 101

The 101 and its 1900 steps have successfully been scaled by Julie Inc. and the rest of our American/Canadian team, the Eagle Beavers. Yaaaayyy! (Did you know that the canadian mascot is the beaver? Someone needs to travel back in time to reconsider that decision, friends.) In any case, I made it up in a little less than an hour, which was right on target. I have to say that at around the 40th floor I was in pain--the stairwell was windowless and beige and my musical slection just wasnt doing it for me and there had been spome serious farting going on ahead of me. I didn't know how it was going to turn out--would I have the mental fortitudeto make it? But then around the 60th floor, I suddenly got this major jolt of energy and felt super relaxed and got some groovin music on and hipswayed my way up to the top. My face was super red, I'm sure people were scared--it was like the time when I was 10 years old and I kept climbing 4 flights of stairs the top of the waterslide at our hotel over and over and over because it was so much fun, but my family made me stop because my face was so red that it looked like I was going to pass out. I am a very unattractive exerciser--my face changes color and my hair sticks to my forehead and I sweat like a waterfall. I usually try to exercise on my own for this very reason. But it's so worth it for charity. We got some great team pics, though, and Jessie, Andrea and I took a picture with a guy dressed up as an Elvis impersonator--which must have been phenomenally uncomfortable to climb in--but Elvis was actually an incarnation of a super built yoga instructor so it probably didnt take long for him to wend his way up. We felt his presence was yet another sign confirming our decision to go to Graceland after Amy's wedding. Elvis was on a team with Andrew and Konraad, and Andrew was dressed up as a 70s tennis star avec blonde mullet, totally bjorn borg. hysterical! major flashbacks to Luke Wilson in The Royal Tennenbaums.

I will be sending a little something to everyone who donated--mom, beth big kisses. I'm so excited because it seems like they must have raised a really significant amount, and I know the Garden of Hope will use it well. Especially after Jim was telling us yesterday that the laws on prostitution in Taiwan are still a bit vague. I know GOH pioneered the legislation against child prostitution, but I don't know about the rest. Jim was telling us heartbreaking stories about Vietnamese women who are trafficked over here and are used and abused. So there's our next cause!

I took pictures of the Death Star mall aka the Core Pacific/Living Mall at floors 35, 59 and 84--to show perspective. The lower level is nice because you can't see the air pollution with the frightening clarity you can at the top. They gave us white t-shirts after our climb. T-shirts that won't stay white for long if the grey Taipei air has anything to say about it.

It's kind of weird--my 10 year high school reunion was going on at the exact same time that I was scaling the 101. I don't think I ever would have imagined that I would be living in Taipei 10 years after high school. I was such a scared and unadventurous child. I took my first trip abroad 8 years ago. It's just interesting to think back to all the decisions that resulted in getting me here. It was funny because the last song I listened to as I climbed to the top of the staircase, and this is a) cheesy and b) totally revealing my pop culture whoredom, was Breakway by Kelly Clarkson and at one point she says "buildings with 100 floors, swinging round revolving doors, I don't know where they'll take me..." indeed, Kelly, indeed.

Well, just wanted to let you know we made it! Weehee!

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mr. Watermelon

I don't think I related the story of Melissa taking me to her favorite earring haunts so that we could stock up on silver goods. She has gotten in good with this one vendor who sells really nice stuff out of a suitcase near Dunhua and calls himself Mr. Watermelon--he even has holographic name cards with his cell phone numbers and the name "Mr. Watermelon" in Chinese--clearly not a trustworthy individual. When Mel called him once she actually had to ask for Mr. Watermelon and when she asked what she should call him from then on, he said "Mr. Watermelon. I would say he was mafia, but what kind of mafia man sits for 10 hours illicitly selling the latest in trendy silver jewelry? Not mafia, definitely illegal...But should we take that out on the jewelry he sells? no, of course not. Anyway, the police were coming down the street at one point and we were in the midst of some serious shopping and negotiation...so we followed him into a building where we fled to a smokey hallway on the 10th floor to complete our transaction. Clearly I should not move to San Diego because the true home of my heart is in South Central Los Angeles, in the GHE-TTO. The fact that Melissa and I followed him without a second thought either indicates something about how stupid we are or about the lengths we are willing to go to for hot jewelry. And I don't know which one would be more pathetic. At this point Jon Nishikawa is groaning to himself and thinking that despite all my highmindedness I'm just like those superficial suburban housewives who end up bitching about their husbands whilst happily using their hard-earned cash to buy frivolous things. oh, I do hope i'm not like that.

Although, on a slightly related tangent, Julia was telling me how much having a wife and children is good for a man doing business, how it adds credibility and stability and normalcy and an implication of morality to them. So really, maybe those wives should be getting paid, not just because of the hardship of raising kids, but because having a family actually does legitimize a business man. why are you doing what you do? why, to support my family, of course. For a man, a family can be a strategic move. That means that they actually use them--they are a prop: throw in some mentions of the wife and kids and you have automatic credibility and common ground. Of course that is not always the case, and hopefully is less the case than more. But still, a case none the less. In that case, those poor prop women really do deserve their share of pay for upkeep.

Today on my way to work I saw my first A-Mei clone. A-Mei is a Taiwanese pop star who recently came out with a new album and she has this very interesting perm/dreadlocks/messy hairstyle. But it works, and today I saw a college student with the exact same hairstyle. seems like it would be hard to replicate, but if Taiwanese people are good at anything, honey, it's imitation!

I have to get to bed because tomorrow I'm going to Linda's grandma's funeral and then to the orphanage and then to dinner to prepare for our 101 climb. Busy day. need rest. love you. i definitely need to blog about getting kidnapped to the Makong tea garden though with my mom. I'll ponder it tomorrow and try to make it a kick ass rendering, although, even dryly relating the facts would be highly amusing in its own right. That's Taiwan.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

The rummage sale

Today Jessie and I successfully held one of the most ghetto rummage sales in history, all in the name of helping abused women and children and orphans, and were triumphant! When I say ghetto rummage sale, I am talking about me going through drawers and binding together a clump of loose crayons and selling them for 30 cents! I am talking about selling old clothes, free gifts-with-purchase, and dusting things off on the fly; selling half used bottles of mosquito repellant and hairspray and lotion. Anyway, again, all in the name of charity--and of course, Melissa and Jessie's clothes actually were nice enough to be sold legitimately. We raised like 150 dollars in an hour. It was awesome. Our coworkers definitely came through like champs as did some of the local student population. I felt that the ladies who actually pretended to be happy about buying the hair dye that I was selling...the hair dye we got for free b/c our company has a contract with Revlon...were very kindhearted. All this happened and I, Julie Anne Hartle, was dressed in a pink outfit, painfully reminiscent of pepto bismol and the 1980s, both things I try to avoid at all costs. I needed some pants for all the lifting and running around we were doing...and the only ones i had were my pink workout pants, which woefully matched the pink stripes in my shirt. So it even looked, God forbid, INTENTIONAL. Oh Lord above. Thank goodness I am in Taiwan, where couples dress alike and women get mullets because they actually think they look good.

Okay, I have to go wash out my hair dye. a report on that in a few short minutes. I have returned. Well, it's definitely red. dark red. I'm a little nervous that I let the roots grow too long because they have a sort of technicolor red about them that the ends do not have because I have been in the sun a bit more lately and I think they have lightened, but that is fairly typical. The dye felt like it was burning my scalp when I put it on and the ammonia smell was choking me such that I thought I might pass out. A normal person who cared more about their own comfort and well-being would have washed it out immediately. I realized that as I was trying to take my mind of the burning sensation on my head. But I am stubborn. I would not forfeit the potential of my red hair just because of some pain! oh no. When I finally washed it out it was eerily the color of blood. It used to always be a little more purpley, but this was like a japanese horror movie bathroom scene. in any case, we'll see how it turns out in the full light of day. Feria only totally caused tragedy once and it was because I bought a different shade of red than usual because they were selling a free mascara along with the dye. I had to run to the store and get some brown. That's a good tip if you dye your own hair and it goes terribly awry. A good, solid shade of brown can usually smooth things out.

Elliot was voted off American Idol which means that a truly annoying thing may come to pass. Katherin McPhee might coast on the wings of her beauty for the win. She has no discernible style and is totally unconfident. She always looks scared when the judges say anything negative about her. How frustrating, to be an unbeautiful woman in an era when beauty has so much power to control people. Really, think of all the good a beautiful woman can do when she uses her powers for good, i.e. the fomerly incestual and creepy Angelina Jolie who has gotten people to actually give a shit about impoverished children and adoption. My suggestion: Katherine McPheever needs to go and use her powers to help cure some other type of fever, like typhoid. One of my university students, let's call her Heinous, said last week that if she won the lottery she would buy 10 Gucci bags and 10 LV bags and a nice car. I was supremely disappointed. Another of my students, let's call her Greasy, said she would give half to charity and then travel around the world with her family. Now, if I were in charge of natural selection, Heinous would definitely get the boot, even though Greasy has big glasses and never washes her hair. If those two were on American Idol, America would surely choose Heinous, and congratulate themselves for it. Little and cute and hygienic and selfish.

The movie Sahara was vastly underrated. It even includes a dragon fruit in the buffet scene...and Steve Zahn: one of the funniest people alive.

my Bible reading today was gorgeous: Isaiah 57-58. Some highlights: 57:17 Peace, peace, to the far and near, says the Lord; and I will heal them. 58:6 Is this not the fast that I choose: to loose the bonds of injustice, to undo the things of the yoke, to let the oppressed go free, and to break every yoke? 7. Is it not to share your bread with the hungry, and bring the homeless poor into your house; when you see the naked to cover them, and not to hide yourself from your own kin? Then your light shall break forth like the dawn, and your healing shall spring up quickly. ; your vindication shall go before you...9 If you remove the yoke from among you, the pointing of the finger, the speaking of evil, if you offer food to the hungry and satisfy the needs of the afflicted, then your light shall rise in the darkness and your gloom be like the noonday. the Lord will guide you continually and satisfy your needs in parched places, and make your bones strong.

Btw, Isaiah 54 is absolutely one of the most beautiful chapters for single women.

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

There's no I in Alone

I find it sort of bizarre that the ad that was just on my blog is about starting a blog with another site. Oh well, whatever floats their boat. I was really impressed for a while when it was about hair removal and dolphins. Those dolphin getaways seem awesome. When I was in Costa Rica there were gorgeous spotted dolphins all over the place. It really reminded me of a tangible version of the islands in Peter Pan. Costa Rica was phenomenal. It's so worth going. Go to Playa Tamarindo. And Playa Concha--a beach where the shore is made of seashells.

I just got done with a harrowing night of Gilmore Girls in which Lorelai and Luke finally kiss, but then Rory has one of the most awful virginity losses ever. Crushing, really. They were not letting anyone get off easily from season 4, let me tell you. and may I also say that I am disturbed that when I was pressuring my friends for details about future seasons, I was very personally hopeful that Lane and her crazy mother reconciled for her nuptials, and that Lorelai's parents reconciled and Richard didnt screw Jason over. Oh my gosh. I have gotten way more emotional since I've moved to Taipei. When I get those feelings of empathetic horror, if I am with people I know well, I have to grab onto them--like liferafts. Which doesn't go over well with anyone but Jessie, Andrea, and Linda. I have to learn to control myself more. Luckily soon I will be going back to the US where such displays will be unnecessary, a place that doesnt play with my emotions and cause me to be such an internal wreck. Where my blood pressure can go back to the sweet molasses pace of yore. Oh sweet day, come soon!

Speaking of that sweet day, there's nothing to make you feel wanted like people trying to throw you a going away party 6 weeks early. Okay, I get the hint. I mean, for my own sanity I have to live with the delusion that all has been well and people mean it when they say they will miss me. But I know about the snickering. You never know when people are secretly jockeying for the office they think you had no business getting and bidding on your leftover stuff. By the time I get around to leaving I envision people saying "havent you left yet?" while they decorate my office with pastels and stuffed animals. What has definitely been pounded into my head, though, is that I am expected to get married as soon as humanly possible. They've been placing fucking bets. Holy crap. Half of people who get married get divorced, people! Besides, Paul gives singlehood the a-okay, totally normal, even honorable, thumbs up... in the Bible no less. It makes me not want to date out of sheer spite. Or pretend I'm a lesbian. "Oh, I'm sorry, actually, I won't be beating anyone's record for marriage after leaving ORTV because the kind of marriage I want isn't legal in most states. HAH! That's right, I'm a missionary lesbian. Guess you all missed that boat. Gaydar way off, my friends. Did you hear me say I went to Well-es-ley?" or i could be really dramatic, "..actually, what i havent told you guys is that..i've been struggling with... i can't even say it...please, just let me be while I pray and wrestle during this time." except i think God might actually let me be smited for making light of people's issues. Anyway, I guess this probably isnt the time to congratulate my friend Bret on his impending marriage. I think that the point of predicting our marriages is supposed to be some kind of Christian porno, people wishing the best for you--and that best is lots of condoned intercourse, lots and lots whenever you want. But you know, I had a friend who once said she rejected a guy because her ovaries just couldn't accept him. And I feel that. I could have been legally married to Mohammed at the Route 9 Texaco or to the guy who makes Indian wraps at the night market. Could already be having lots of legally and morally approved sex. But I'm aiming higher. Yeah, I've probably been ruined by skewed portrayals of love in movies, but hey. I'm actually happy alone. I guess that's mind boggling. I didn't think it was until so many freaking people started bugging me about getting married. People think I'm going back to the U.S. to get married. I'm sorry, I would never do that. How could you ever assume that you will go somewhere and get married--just bump into your soulmate. Like, meet someone you would want to live with forever. FOREVER. I've acually made some plans for my life that have no man in them thus far. And I bet there are women, in certain countries that shall remain nameless, who would cut off their boobs to be able to stay single. I mean, I work with a bunch of missionaries, I'm kind of hoping someone will surprise me and tell me that when I go home they hope I will witness miracles or be able to heal people with touch or become fluent in three languages and bring peace to a hemisphere or become a decent reliable person who can actually get somewhere on time and work for something I am really passionate about or shit, even learn how to cook or use my love of writing to tell the stories of the voiceless. But no, it's all marriage. marriage marriage marriage. Right now I like being single. I am happy being single. I'm going to sit back and let that blow your mind for a while......................This is probably also not the time to tell you that Rachel and I are totally masterminding a setup between Peggy and Raymond. What can I say? I'm 32 flavors and then some. I'm not at all against marriage, I'm just against bad marriage.

Onward and upward, today I managed to get 2100 NT from my FBI class for my Taipei 101 Climbathon! woohoo! I may well have totally guilted them into giving, but whatever. They are giving money they would have used on karaoke to relieve stress and they are giving it to women and children who are being destroyed. Its a better eternal return on one's investment.

Monday, May 15, 2006


Every week my university students are supposed to submit 20 minute long conversation tapes. It's really mostly for them to practice outside of class, but I listen with half an ear to give them suggestions if I hear anything flagrantly wrong. But today Williams and Evan gave me a *real treat* by discussing their sex lives and deep personal secrets on tape. I now know why Williams was fired from his job, what he would like to do to his boss, and why his girlfriend broke up with him--because he wouldnt go to class on time and he smokes! hilarious! anyway, very bizarre. I wonder if they think I totally don't listen or if they just think that maybe since Westerners are so loose--movies prove it!-- that I would think it was totally per usual. Have I told you that almost all my students say they deal with stress by singing songs? Yes, cultural differences are fascinating.

An unpleasant discovery was made when I went to do a little cursory research on comic book novels that our students check out 10 at a time and voraciously devour. I've been thinking it would be cool if we could make a comic serial part of one of our magazines. What is the appeal? Why are the comic stores packed with people sitting around reading???Yeah, basically porn. Porn and violence. There's a reason the comic novel store is in with the DVDs. Same general idea. Sometimes it scares me how my students know exactly the right things to say. They know what they should say in public, they know what they should be. But clearly in private their thoughts, if not their actions, are often completely different. Not that everyone in the world doesnt have their secrets and doesn't try to put themselves together in public. But it seems more drastic here. Sometimes it makes me feel like I can't trust anything coming out of anyone's mouth.

My favorite professor from Wellesley, Ann Huss, just got a PEN translation grant. That would be the professor who just got fired. Her name is on the same page as Philip Roth. The Wellesley administration is just vastly disappointing. They have left the Chinese department in complete shambles. Only crazy mercenary Ruby, the only person to major in Mongolian at Harvard, and two teaching assistants are left. Pathetic. In better news, it seems that the Asian Studies advisor at SDSU is a very involved, kindly man. he just wrote to all of us announcing a class in nations and nationalism that we can use toward our degree. If it has anything to do with the Chinese diaspora I may well have to bloody some people trying to get into it. But if China has taught me anything, it's how to be cruel and amoral whilst being cute and smiley. Awww.

Tickle tells me that the color that symbolizes Julie Inc. is orange. How Seventies. Speaking of which, have I mentioned that we are taking a trip to Graceland this summer? After Amy is on her way to her honeymoon, we are going to rent a car and go to Graceland. I believe the plan is to eat barbeque and Southern food and listen to Elvis songs on the way and definitely buy some really cheesy Elvis t-shirts. Andrea is in love with Elvis in a way that I have never been with anyone. I'm partly going just as a tribute to her passion.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

DeKlerkily deliscious

F.W. De Klerk is visiting Taiwan! And one of my students is the head of security for his wife. She's a woman with incredible style and womanliness who turns into a gun-toting badass when VIPs arrive. So cool. She's met Chen Shuibian so many times that she finds it yawnworthy. I also love that ex heads of state can come here and extend a long overdue middle finger to the mainland now that they no longer represent official state business. So the Nobel Peace Prize winners can come here for a lil chat. a lil tete a tete. and Chen can say scandalous things about how Taiwan's constitution could follow the South African model...implying that Taiwan has a constitution that it is responsible for and is able to change. heh.

New love found in Brian McLaren. Just read his Sojourners interview about DaVinci Code. Luscious, really.

I just shaved my legs for the first time in...I'll just let you guess. Anyway, it's a religious experience now, the few times I indulge. It's so funny how shaving our legs is a cultural thing. Like, I wonder if many of the girls here have any idea that women in the west shave their legs every few days. It's definitely a part of our lives, we must have razors when we go places--we sometimes have shaving cream and certain lotion we use that doesnt sting after shaving. We have to think about how much salt water hurts after a fresh shave. Girls here don't shave their legs. Can you imagine a whole life without leg shaving?I remember my mom thinking I wanted to shave to early when my blonde leg hairs were poking out of my 1990s opaque navy blue tights. And now, she's mortified that I have become a bohemian hairball. Blame it on Taiwan. I saw my students wearing skirts without shaving their legs. So I followed suit. Except that when I wear shortish skirts I do get some heart palpitations, like I am doing something very countercultural and revolutionary, and I don't know whether to be excited or ashamed. Whenever I think of shaving my legs I think of this quote from Jack Black from the movie Enemy of the State and it makes me laugh. Fiedler: *Please* let me follow the nanny. She doesn't shave her legs. Women like that are so... HOT.

Nana nee Taco, my hairdressing stalker, is turning 19 in a few days. She informed me that people don't usually celebrate birthdays ending in 9. so she is going to have a party in which no one is allowed to wish her happy birthday. hilarious.

Whenever I see stray eyelashes or eyebrows that have fallen on to my desk I can't help but think of Gattaca and Jude Law saying "keep your eyelashes on your face where they belong."

on a plane, up a mountain

I just showered with Sonic Death Monkey from Lush, and I smell delicious. From the bottle I was a little skeptical about the smell, but upon rinsing have found it to be a sweet, light chocolate delight. I pair it with my mint conditioner and basically I smell like a dessert that I would like to eat. My mother hilariously sprung for the Sonic Death Monkey after her first tour of Lush, probably out of deep pity at my wide-eyed wonder and proclamations of love to the surreal wonderland that is Lush; making her smell every single type of bath soap they make and naming my favorites and ones I have yet been able to afford. Kind of pathetic. But I smell fabulous. And that is not pathetic.

Anyway, Ma Hartle’s trip was a complete success. Uber fun as well as productive. First trip abroad and study abroad—a crash course in the life of the Julie over the past two and a half years. I am surprised, upon reflection, how like my mom I am. Being away for so long and then spending 6 full days together 24 hours a day, I got to see her with new eyes. I have a lot of her in every way, gifts—spontaneity, amiability, kindness, generosity--and faults—laziness, indulgence that goes against our high ideals--and idiosyncracies.

Julia pointed out that both she and my mom are people who normally are very competent and independent people—let’s call a spade a spade, what she means is that they are both people who are usually far more competent and productive than the Julie, people I generally defer to, even if I am pissed off about having to submit—who were completely at my mercy and dependent on me. Role Reversal. And it truly was interesting. Sometimes I think it is hard to see parents as whole people. I think I’ve always expected them to know what they are doing and be more in tune with themselves than I am. And I am always the kid who is still learning and less able. But they have their faults and are as complex as I am, and aren’t Jesus. Not that I hadn’t had that realization before, but it was very interesting to be with my mom--the absolute glue and engine of our little family machine—because she basically helped me whip my little house into shape, but was nervous and wide-eyed and excited and sort of helpless as far as international travel, which is a language I speak fluently. So, in my apartment and as far as my sad personal habits she was like a general, but out on the street I was colonel Julie: no, the cars won’t hit you, stop asking about sari shirts!, do not buy the purple geodes, these people are trying to rip you off. It was fun to see her have the same feelings I had on my first trip abroad. Sensory overload. And a proclivity for buying lots of gifts, often unnecessary and bizarre gifts that you regret even while buying them, not to mention afterward, just to show our love…throwing caution about luggage weight and thriftiness out the window. But really this trip was about laughter. Every part of my life seemed to step up to the plate to show mom its true essence. Played cards with the girls until 2am; spontaneously played games with my boss and got a lecture on evangelism vs. serving the poor when I had to use her dryer whilst she shoved us full of sherbet frozen in real fruit halves; were kidnapped to a tea village by my FBI students; had her ear talked off by strangers at Bible study; was subject to thousands of pictures; ate at Ding Tai Feng—the most famous restaurant in Taipei--and even tried Beijing Duck, loved rice burritos and muaji balls; saw racism in action ala the curious treatment of Speedo-clad foreigners at Ocean Park and Filipino maids; had two hairwashes—one of which eventfully saw mom get a horrific hair style and involved my hairdresser grabbing my butt; experienced Thursday chapel; and saw the site of what I believe is my only prophetic dream to date. There is much more to tell, but I am sleepy. But let me tell you of my mothers unexpected and obsessive love of purple amethyst geodes. Holy heaven, people. We left the pottery village and I was like “say goodbye to the geodes, mom, let them go.” Who knew Taiwan was the purple geode capital of the world. What do people do with all these purple geodes, anyway?

This Saturday I am climbing the 101, which will help numb the sadness of Melissa’s departure with torturous physical pain. Mom made a generous donation! Yay! I’m only like 400 NT away from 2500. I need to hit up the money bags people at the NPA (FBI) where I teach English. If Jenny can buy a 10,000 US karaoke machine, she sure as hell can kick down for abused women and kids. Today I hiked up the hellish mountain with the badminton village to practice (by the way, very much rampant card and mah jong gambling abounds in badminton village! Scandal! News at 11!). Ran into Jessie. Not gambling, but at the top of the mountain. There is something sort of cool about running into someone unexpectedly on a mountain when you know you have both exerted a goodly amount of physical effort to get there. Something conqueror-like.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Sea World--ghetto oompa loompa style

Today we went to the Ocean World in Yeliu and it was one of the best experiences of my entire life. Managed to inadvertently let my mom in on yet another quintessential Taiwan moment. At first I admit I was skeptical, I mean, I come from a place famous for Sea World and The San Diego Zoo. So, I knew this would be pretty crap comparatively. But Naomi suggested we go since the weather was sucky. And hey, the aquarium—uh, they called it an “underwater tunnel”, a bit of a misnomer as it was actually an underground cavelike tunnel full of sea life in tanks full of seawater…i.e. an aquarium, but no matter—sounded cool, so why not. I wasn’t going to be this San Diegan snob who denied others the chance to marvel at sea life just because I come from the city that won the genetic lottery as far as spectacular displays of animals in captivity go. But little did I expect the Taiwanese treasures therein. I would not even be able to imagine the scenarios we beheld—it was like the best dark comedy ever. First we were rushed into the shabby stadium—do not pass go, do not collect 200!--because the last show was at 3:30 and it was 3:15 when we arrived! Oh My! There were only 12 of us in a stadium that seats 3500. Yes, they needed every warm body they could get, that’s for sure. They herded the dolphins over from their sad 12x12 tank to get them to do some tricks. One of them was apparently too ashamed to perform as he stayed off to the side and wouldn’t let the handlers manipulate him into balancing a ball or jumping through hoops. Then, at the end of the dolphin portion…the handlers broke into a dance coordinated with the dolphins to what we believe was a Japanese disco song. I’m pretty sure they all committed suicide afterward (am I referring to the dolphins or the handlers? My mom made the crack “I bet this is a cushy job” at one point). But they had no reason to be depressed as the next act was far more pathetic. The seals came out with their handler. the girl did all the tricks, the male stood there and made noises and did nothing and got fed (typical). Anyway, the seal handler basically made out with the girl seal while the male seal stood and yawned and sort of barked occasionally. At each portion of the show an audience member got to go down and meet/pet/feed/whatever the animals. During the seal portion the guy sitting with his wife and two sons in the row next to us decided to volunteer, so he ran down, leaving his 2 and 5 year old in the stands while his wife rushed to the front to take pictures. Mind you, we were all in row 20 or higher, under cover b/c it was raining, so these two toddlers are sitting in the row next to us while the father goes to have his turn with the female seal and his wife eagerly takes pictures of them in flagrante delecto 20 rows below. Not like anyone wouldn’t know where the toddlers were since each of us was occupying our own acre of seating. Moving 0n, at the end of the seal portion we were pretty sure the show was over…but why would we ever think that? Actually, the best part was yet to come.

So…3 men in pink leopard skin Speedos come out and start performing for the 12 of us. They all look like former Olympic divers gone to seed. They were all wearing some type of makeup..for reasons that will become clear later when they are revealed to be part of a diving clown troupe. Did I mention the pink leopard skin speedos? Because they were like performers unto themselves as they rode up and around and perilously down. Anyway, back to the weird circus divers. They dove from towering heights! They dove into the same water that the seals and dolphins had been performing in. The danced and made effeminate arm movements. They did a balletic arabesque as they ran off the stage…waving goodbye to 12 very shocked people. The sad, small rusty stage in the middle of God-knows-where Taiwan where you see just what can happen when athletes don’t go to college…or decide to join gay performance troupes and search for a place they can go and not be outcasts. That place would have to be one full of men who don’t bat an eyelash at wearing pink, dancing around on command, and crossdressing. That place would be Taiwan. When the divers were done, 2 clowns came out. They were dressed up as women and had enormous fake balloon breasts. They had the amazing task of riling up the 12 of us. In the end they resorted to fart jokes and popping their breasts. That’s because, in Taiwan, nothing is funnier than crossdressing and farting. It was pure comedic genius. Then suddenly…they stripped, because, ta-da, they too were divers wearing pink leopard Speedos! Yay! They pranced, they danced, they dove from 50 foot platforms, they did the same tricks as the seals. My only amazement was that the handlers didn’t have little fish treats for them after every dive. They were named dima, dinka, glinka, chad and Anderson and I knew they must have been eastern Europeans because I couldn’t think of any other white races who would have such excellent athletic training and yet be willing to sell themselves into such utter shame. Turns out they are Belarusian. We met one afterward, and while we were indeed laughing at him and not with him as far as the performance…and the whole situation—shitball stadium in Taiwan, very uncomfortable objectification of other humans: watch what the foreigners will do if we pay them! -- we did genuinely applaud their ability. When we said “you guys were really amazing” he said, “come back this summer! We are redoing the whole show! We are adding synchronized swimmers!” and it was adorable. And I do hope people will flock to see them. And I do hope that someone skims that tank they are jumping into because…damn! At the end of their performance there was one very young taiwanese boy who was clearly enraptured by their death-defying feats and wanted to take pictures. and years from now when his parents want him to be an engineer but he prances around in pink bikini bottoms at the local pool, they will curse the day they went to Ocean World.

So then we went to observe the Goldfish Festival being touted on every free wall space. And it turns out that the Goldfish fest was basically like a collection of fish in home tanks from Morty’s fish emporium. It was so ghetto. I think one of my relatives who incessantly wears grey sweatpants, drinks whiskey and listens to police scanners could have whipped up something more impressive. But whatever, I mean, a bunch of the fish looked mentally retarded, and they were super cute, so that was nice.

The Sea Tunnel was pretty decent—totally awesome fish including one huge tank packed with piranhas, half of which had very serious flesh wounds. Fun fact: piranhas can devour animals and humans within minutes of them entering the water with an open wound. Yum. But my favorites were the enormous sea turtles-- the big dude kept biting the girl turtle’s ass!-- and the black and white polka dotted mini manta ray. Holy crap, Audrey Hepburn had nothing on that girl. If you ever need evidence of a creator, go to the ocean park. Not only will you find yourself laughing at their very disturbing show, but you will see some of the most amazing sea life. You realize Finding Nemo is a dull black and white compared to reality. They were stunning. So stunning, in fact, that we didn’t notice that the park was closing(we were the only ones there so it wasn’t like we could tell by the crowd of people running for the door) and we ended up getting chased out of the tunnel by the janitor who wanted to go home. I had had a major cultural faux pas when I misunderstood the girl who came down to say the park was closing. When she told us to take our time and not to worry about the fact that the doors would be locked when we got out what she really meant was “get the hell OUT of here!!!” whoops. Heh heh.

When I am not so tired I will blog about the other quintessentially Taiwanese experience we had yesterday when we got hijacked and taken to a tea village for 5 hours, but I must sleep! More adventure assuredly awaits tomorrow. I must be lucid. One never knows when foreign divers will appear in bikini briefs and make fart jokes.

Sunday, May 07, 2006

Ma Hartle approaches

I am bleary eyed, having just scrubbed down my entire apartment with the incredible help of Andrea and her German heritage. well, i mean, it's as clean as it will be until the day i move out. andrea was the main impetus for this amazing overhaul, and i do feel a measure of shame for not having cleaned it better for previous visitors. i don't even want to mention what came off the various surfaces of the bathroom. okay, look, just lots of dirt and soap and beauty products okay? those things...congealed together.

I look forward to an excellent time with the cocreator of Julie. My Yitaitai and I had such a fabulous time that I cannot but hope it will be equalled on my mother's first trip abroad, which she surprised me with for easter. she is now within a few hours of taipei, and i am just praying that she isn't too uncomfy--even has an empty seat beside her?--and that she has been taking full advantage of the 200 movies and tv shows available on Singapore Airlines and their phenomenal entertainment system. am also hoping her specially request indian vegetarian meal isnt giving her nasty gas. my healthy meal tonight gave me horrendous gas, not only frequency, but smell. I know you are thrilled to know this, but actually, I've been thinking about the cold, hard truth that when we get married we will be privy to such things as the food that give our loved one gas, or how garlic lingers on their breath for days even after brushing. My parents have always been wonderful examples, frankly. They laugh their heads off. I highly recommend it for future brides, ahem, Amy, I'm talking to you.

One thing I love about Taipei is that it continues to surprise me. I've found infinitely more new stores in the nightmarket--bought some very comfortable, and extremely cheap Indian style sandals at one. The stores in our neighborhood change every week, and I can never count o0n the food stall I loved at any mall to be there when I go again next month. The Miramar food court completely changed and lost the traditional chinese place that sold xiaolongbao, so instead julia had to go to another stall where she bought the carnivore's delight which was sausage and ham topped off by an enormous portion of fatty duck.

Speaking of fatty duck, i had the wonderful idea to wash my down comforter before my mom comes. 3 hours later constantly in the dryer and it STILL isnt dry. I attribute this to the feathers of the duck inside the Ikea cover. it seems odd to me because i thought duckies were supposed to repel water, not retain it for dear life. do you ever wonder if maybe they comforter was stuffed with the feathers of a few whole ducks, and maybe they are reorganizing right now, slowly transforming into their duck selves of yore and are going to cluck me to death when i open the dryer? i hear the music from psycho even as i type this.

There were infinite wonderful moments with yitaitai, but i can't type them all out now as she had hoped. i can tell you that i now know i can buy her packs of artificially peach flavored Hi Chews as well as cold green tea if i ever want her unswerving devotion. And she also confirmed that my pancake flavored Pretz sticks, are indeed one of the best snacks ever to grace the earth. The Japanese comapny that makes them simply marketed them to the entirely wrong people group. Too sweet for Asians, but perfect for the pancake-craving, but low-cal loving Western palate. when i told julia that i believed something, dr. pepper perhaps?, was too sweet, she was shocked and said that my palate has been fundamentally altered by Asia. and she may be correct, i keep thinkjing of how to make gingery broths for soup when i go back home, and lamenting about the almost certain lack of decent dumplings and xiaolongbao.

this might sound random, and against my general Quaker tendencies, but I actually think that Taiwan should buy some more powerful weapons to deter an invasion by China. I am basically echoing an editorial by the outgoing editor of my beloved Economist, who said that perceived American weakness because of failures in Iraq could cause other bullies in the world to test their boundaries. he gave the specific example of china over my beloved taiwan. To retain the status quo they really do need to make it too costly for the chinese. i mean, there are other fun ways, like a small percentage of the population engaging in guerrilla warfare. but that sucks, and so many civilians get caught in the crossfire. stockpiling a bunch of weapons that no one really wants to use sounds like a good way to go. i mean, since it seems like the day china puts their face aside and peacefully lets Taiwan be its own nation is less likely than a cold day in hell.

today we went to the orphanage and Gu En, my favorite little girl, barfed on me. It must be a right of passage from Onion. In any case, she will become the cutest Australian *ever* when she arrives there in 8 days. I've been speaking to her mostly in English to prepare her. Not in fake Aussie accented English, mind you, because even my inner self would judge me for that. She really cries a lot more than the other babies. I told her she can be a singer for hillsong, and she can write some good contemporary stuff. jessie and I see edge in her eyes.