Thursday, October 26, 2006

New words, new adventures

Okay, so in addition to learning how to manuver in chinese and learn tones (mandarin has 4 tones, Taiwanese has 8), I have got to learn to understand Aussie and Kiwi, ala New Zealand language. So yesterday, Stephen came into the music office and announced that he just caught a boy and a girl "snogging" in the storage room. He shooed them out but did not really seem upset as all the music faculty agreed that the young man could benefit from some "snogging." Oh my!I do not think that snoggers get to home base because the reaction would not have been so mild.

Today TAS choir students are singing with the National Symphony Orchestra under the diretion of Erich Kunzel in a halloween concert. My collegue has been the primary worker with them on this but I do have my back stage pass for the National Concert hall. Here is some info on the hall. I have a picture posted with the christmas candy room.

Life is NEVER dull here.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall

The Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Park is opened in 1987, containing not only the memorial but also the National Concert Hall and the National Theater. The park covers a space of 24 hectares, with a wide open plaza. It is surrounded by a long white wall topped with small blue tiled roof forming a long hallway which wraps around the park. Outside the wall is a sidewalk.
The architecture of the memorial itself is modeled after the pyramid-like top of Tiantan in Peking. Its massive blue-tiled roof is capped with a golden peak on top, producing a majestic appearance. Inside the memorial, a ground-level library displays photos and mementos of the late president's life. The plaza in front of the memorial is often used for large scale shows, fairs, public activities and folk performances. International groups also frequently perform here.

National Concert Hall and National Theater: Introduction
The National Chiang Kai-shek Cultural Center consists of two buildings: The National Concert Hall and the National Theater. Their beautiful and awe-inspiring traditional Chinese architecture consists of a large white base, dark red columns, bright multicolored eves, and a furled bright yellow glass tiled roof. Both halls are important centers for the performing arts in Taiwan. Over 800 performances are held in them to audiences totaling 510,000 people annually. Whether in terms of lighting, sound or staging, the facilities of these two buildings meet the best of international standards.

The most important thing about these halls is their acoustics. In addition to controlling noise from outside by being able to keep it under 30 decibels, these halls are designed in such a way that everyone in the audience can hear what is happening on stage whether or not microphones and speakers are used.

National Concert Hall
The National Concert Hall covers 40,950 square feet of space. Behind the stage is a huge Flentrop organ custom made in Holland to accommodate the proportions of this auditorium and to produce the best sound possible. There is one large area for audiences to sit as well as two levels of box seats. A capacity crowd of 2,070 people can gather here.

The Recital Hall in the basement of the National Concert Hall is small, but its sound quality is the best in the whole complex due to the fact that hardly any noise from outside can reach it. A maximum of 363 people can be seated here.

National Theater
The stage of the National Theater has two pits in the foreground for orchestras of up to 30-40 musicians. It is extremely well suited for musical shows, opera, ballet and modern dance. The first floor consists of a large area for the audience to be seated, and there are box seats available on the first, second and third floors. Altogether a capacity crowd of 1,522 people can gather here to enjoy concerts.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Oct. 23, 2006 Carol

Taiwan update….Oct. 23, 2006

Sorry for the long delay between entries on the blog, but as anyone who knows us could suspect, life is exceptionally interesting these days, and time seems to be in overdrive.

Our trip to the Philippines for the 10/10 national holiday was so much fun. With only a total of four days off, we jammed an amazing amount of travel and relaxation into the hours! The trip was actually fun, even though we were on the road for two full days of the holiday. Flights were easy, the van rides long but comfortable, and full of things to watch out the windows—the crazy “jeepneys” that Bill put a photo on the site of, there are actually thousands of them in the streets of Manila and the other smaller towns we passed through, but like snowflakes, none quite the same! The outrigger canoe rides were very smooth and pleasant, no bad weather even though the latest typhoon had just missed the Philippines by a day or two. There was still quite a lot of damage from the one a couple of weeks earlier, so we were very lucky in our timing. The Atlantis resort itself was incredibly beautiful, actually more like what one would imagine a Greek island resort would look like. Pure white and Aegean blue with wooden twig roof patios, lovely pool with waterfall, tons of plantings and comfortable spaces both in and out of the rooms. The insides of the rooms were “sculpted” in concrete with curving walls, beds and showers and seats built right into or out of the walls. In the rooms called “Flintstones One and Two” the occupants, naturally, immediately became Fred, Wilma, Barney, Betty, Bam-Bam and Pebbles!! Bill and I were very lucky and got one of the “penthouse” suites, probably because we didn’t mind all the stairs, an acceptable trade-off for the spectacular views.

Bill had fantastic diving and the reports of the incredible bio-diversity and great visibility possible were not exaggerated at all! The place was absolutely first class in its service to and for divers and marine lovers. Fortunately, there were 5 of us who snorkel exclusively, both days we hired a boat ourselves and took off morning and afternoon for extended snorkel adventures. Every site was so different, like Bonaire, with a huge variety of fish, huge or small corals, nudibranchs, which I had never seen before, and our top pick-----the Giant Clam of the Philippines, which is so rare that it is actually classified as extinct. The National University is in the middle of a current project to reseed the species in the areas where they had been found and protect them until they can rebuild their populations. They were fished(?) out for the Japanese exotic food market, until they could no longer sustain their existence. We found about 15 in one of the sites, and created a fabulous adventure of the TAS Senior Varsity Snorkel Team! (Ask me about it someday when we are all having wine together somewhere! Astoundingly, we relaxed instantly upon our arrival, so even though the time was short, the rest aspect was salutary. The folks at TAS do work AND play hard (in the best sense!), as reported in all literature about the school. We are having a trip reunion this weekend, a progressive dinner in our apartment building as there are 5 of the participants here already, to review the photos, watch the videos and generally squeeze a little more joy out of the experience!

We continue to explore our environs as much as we possibly can. City life is fun after so many years in the country, although I know we will really enjoy getting back to open spaces easily accessible as well! We have seen some great performances in dance and music and are loving the big performance venues that can attract major companies, and performers. We have explored the Weekend Flower and Jade Market, found a couple of characteristic Taiwanese bamboo bedroom tables, enjoyed hot tubbing in a rooftop garden of friends after a lovely Thai meal, so we are certainly not suffering in the urban jungles!

On a school note, I helped out with the make-up for the school fall play, which was a Italian commedia del arte version of Turandot with dance and music by a local composer last weekend, and am in the thick of the last 2 ½ weeks of prep for the Dance Dept. Romeo and Juliet, the first thing I’ve ever done where the posters are in two versions, English and Chinese! I’ll be getting more fabric sometime this week at the DiHua fabric markets so nothing has changed!! Still in costuming, too!

Bill is ecstatic, we harvested his oranges from his tree and we ritually sacrificed them in a homemade orange meringue pie! It is gooooood……..

Well, time for rehearsal, Chinese continues to be very challenging, but someday I will hopefully stop embarrassing myself. Four of us from the first level are continuing on with shaking boots and and memories of high school trials rearing their heads. We miss you all and think of Door County falls.


OUR Oranges!

These are some off our porch orange tree. An orange meringue pie resulted. I am Happy! Posted by Picasa

Bill as of 10/23/2006

Hello from Bill

You know…sometimes it just gets better! We are so grateful for SKYPE because we can talk to you for so little. It is a great link to home whenever we need it. AND CHEAP! Just hearing the voices of those we care for makes life half way around the world as normal as living in Door County minus and plus a few points on both sides. I urge you to get SKYPE, a free download and application if you have high speed internet connections. It is the way most folks at TAS talk to their kids and friends. Just be careful about being phished. I am embarrassed to say I fell prey and only lost less than $250. Always go to the original site rather than use the link provided.

There have been so many Taipei moments since I last wrote.
There was the youngish mom riding the scooter with her 3-4 year old dinky sized daughter. The kid was not tall enough to reach the handlebars so the solution was to stand the kid on a box in front of the mom on the scooter so she could reach the bars while standing. My God where is OSHA?

The political demonstrations and recriminations continue daily. I urge you to familiarize yourselves with the current politics of Taiwan. It really is hugely important to the west and the USA even if there is little noise in the press. Mainland china is just waiting for this democracy to stumble and fail so it can say, See we told you it would not work. The constitutional issues are as much or more critical than those of the US. And the ramifications of an overthrow of the current government will be felt immediately and harshly. Remember folks, it was martial law up until 1989 and this last election was the first democratic election in the history of this county. This place is doing baby steps in a nasty world. And what is US doing???????? And now the President of Taiwan is beating the drums for complete independence from China with the surety of reprisals and real potential for invasion. US is not in support of independence. It is interesting times here. One learns to just live today and enjoy.

I am enjoying the California Fitness experience. As I may have mentioned my “personal trainer” Daniel is helping me by counting in Mandarin so at least I will learn to count up to 15 with the days of the week and months thrown in. We are now working on counting by hundreds and thousands and it is paying off. I can now understand the girls at the cash register if they speak slowly. Again my attitude towards Multilanguage signage and instructions in the US has really changed. For all you northern folks, especially da uppers and da finns, I have a very hot (85C) sauna every day. It is tough but someone has to do it.

I continue to sample the local fare as I roam around the streets. I have decided just to try stuff and ask questions later. My spit reflex works but I have not had to use it yet. Tonight I tried some great looking dough balls filled with stuff cooked in an apple skiver type pan although the cook was using chop sticks to turn the little balls. They were served HOT with a light squeeze of mayo and wasabi, chili powder and what I take to be bonito flakes. After I tried one, I realized I had seen them on Anthony Bourdain’s food show and that they were filled with chopped squid or octopus. . Ok, I really LIKE squid and calamari so it was great. I went to a ????????shop for lunch today and just pointed to something that came back as a huge soup bowl filled with a really spicy hot broth with pork, a half tea egg, seaweed, noodles, bonito flakes, enoiki mushrooms and other stuff in a really good combination. It was really spicy though. So the point is I can try lots of things. I draw the line at pig intestines, and pig esophagus. They do not let the squeal go uncooked. It is really not Kansa!

I am in love with the 6th grade students. I do not know how I could be so rekindled in teaching MS. Part of it is that I know I can not ever get HS back to what I had at SBHS so there is little motivation to push. Academics have replaced the ubiquitous and omnipresent sports as the major block to continuation in music. BUT was are going to take the concert choir down to CKS national concert hall to sing with Erich Kunel and the orchestra in a Halloween spectacular. The hall is one of the best I have ever seen and we love being there . One of the MS kid told her friend I was crazy so I must be doing something right. Keep the buggers off guard at all times.

The Shidong fresh market is just down the street from us. One charming aspect of this place is that each booth is unique and has its own procedures for selling. I stopped at one and fumbled to ask What the hell is this thing? Only to be answered in approximate English that is was ?????? I still did not know what it was because they told me the Chinese name only in English. When I finally put my shitake mushrooms, baby corn and scallions in the plastic both, I was surprised to see in the final bay that there was a bunch of Thai basil and a knob of what I tasted to be fresh ginger since it seemed like I might be doing a soup with beef and veggies and ginger. Just free because. Every time I go to this one stall, they give something free, so guess what? I go back every time. Good business.

And then there is our butcher…a swarthy man to say the least with one tooth missing, an overpowering physical presence but with an open smile, firm handshake and huge embracing greeting that is winning and effective. He tries to teach me something about his business, pricing secrets, and how to say a few things in mandarin. When I introduced him to Carol he noted that she really liked the ground chicken so when we stepped out of the shop to carry on, he came roaring out with a log of the stuff just as a gift for us and oh remember that every we buy is 20% off because we are teachers. “YES SUR YES SUR” is his greeting and if he cuts more thin ham than I asked for, he serves the extra slice to me as a gift.

Another Taipei moment…I am in the daily sauna with a very very very fit Korean man with one leg tattooed from toe to p-----, I AM intimidated. The man is sitting ramrod straight doing some sort of meditation when all of a sudden he takes a big swig of water from his bottle and goes to the thermostat and spits all the cold water on it so the heat will go up. It was already 85C (185F). Talk about tough!

Yet another..the young woman riding her scooter with the miniature silky terrier running around on the floor board without restraints. And when she was driving, he just stuck his head around the front frame to see what was going on and all this about 4 inches off the pavement at 30kph.

We had a personal development day Friday and like most of them it was contentious. But at 3:30 we went up to the 4th floor library deck where the admin team was opening and pouring wine from 5+cases along with service world cheeses and veggies while we chatted and looked at the mountains. Yea like that happened in the USA.

The new library is beyond full description but magnificient. They designed it so that each school level has its own unique space complete with performance area for book reports or author discussions, age sized furniture, complete and immediate access to computers (they can completely lift the floor and reconfigure all the computer hook ups and locations\) along with color schemes and high end light fixture. The MS library has a computer “Bar” with swivel seats just like they might sit at an ice cream stand. And the Upper School library looks like a first class airline departure lounge and an organization like a Borders Bookstore complete with lounge deck and snack bar for coffee and smoothies and juices and snacks. Then there is the faculty workroom resource room… a Michigan Ave law office conference room/ library with big comfortable couches, overstuffed chairs, many computers and floor lamps, art work and plants. I hope to get some pictures to post because this new addition is truly state of the art. Did I mention that each section of the library has an atrium with full sized trees and HUGE skylight access/? Oh well.

I will close this for now because there is a lot of material but know that we are well, having the time of our lives and give thanks for many blessings. We miss you all. Please email us when you can and respond with your name to the blog when you visit us there.
Peace (please!)

Bonsai and wall art, Lin Family gardens

The art of bonsai is everywhere here...but especially in the gardens. We went to the under-highway flower market and there were dozens of bonsai craftsmen working to create works of tree art. How can we bring it all back to USA? I do not think we can. Posted by Picasa

The beauty of a water flower in Lin family garden

The Lin family is one of the oldest and weathiest families on Taiwan. They donated a huge complex of traditional buildings and gardens in the center of the city. It is a great place to see how it was, as it were. Posted by Picasa
It's a tough life but someone must enjoy it. Obviously the sleeping area. Posted by Picasa
Our room is on the left. The balcony was ours and included an outdoor wet bar. Posted by Picasa

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The TienHe park group back home Posted by Picasa
Carol and our dear friend, upstairs neighbor and fellow music teacher Gary with our taxi in the backgroung Posted by Picasa
Sad to leave but happy. Posted by Picasa
Tide was out so we had to walk to the motor boat center left to get ferried out to the big outrigger Posted by Picasa
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Local ladies cook our lunch on Verde Island dive camp. Fresh tuna, BBQ chicken and pork, fried noodles, fruit etc. What a surface interval. Posted by Picasa
Rumbuton..a lycee like fruit. Also calamanse and mango shakes, and guyabana and pineapple and coconut and tamarind and some other fruit I do not know....WOW Posted by Picasa
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The outriggers were get photo subjects and completely functional. Posted by Picasa
I am here in front on Sabang beach. Posted by Picasa

Sunday, October 15, 2006

After a 2 hour flight and a 2+ hour van ride our chariot awaits for an hour + boat ride to the next island south of the island Manila is on. Cool outriggers. Posted by Picasa

Jeepney Travel

Jeepney....a bus made out of a standard extended jeep body with pieces and parts of every known vehicle from BMWs to Vws pasted together with wild paint and wild drivers. All the rage on the islands. Posted by Picasa

Off on out first vacation

EVA airlines...wonderful airlines. We went to Puerta Gallera on the island of Mindoro in the Philipenes over the 10/10 national holiday. We went with a group of about 16 other folks from TAS to a wonderful all inclusive resort. It is really wierd to " hop a 747" to get about anywhere. On the way back, we got upgraded to deluxe economy class in the nose of the plan. Lots of room. If you come here, try this definitely instead of Northwest etc. Posted by Picasa

Taiwan Commute

This is Carol's first large painting from Taipei. It reflects our movement during a weekend storm that dropped 8 " of rain in one day. The white egret is a park resident in front of our apt. Hopefully Carol will be able to do more soon. she is busy with school productions, chinese lessons, Tai chi class, an adult tap class, hiking up the mountain and baby tossing. Sound familiar? Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Not eating high on the hog!

Okay so I am walking home from school and this package of goodies was outside a local restaurant. NO I am NOT going to try this!!!!!! but a couple of questions come to mind. 1. Why the term boneless? 2. What is the virtue of inversion? 3. Does the USA really hate Taiwan that much that this would be an import?

So this is a real Taipei moment, something that is so out of the ordinary or bizarre that it must be remembered with laughter and joy.

More later this weekend. Posted by Picasa

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Info about our current holiday Moon Festival

Here is the info about out current festival! We are off to Puerta gallera in near Manila. Lots of diving and snorkeling and mango shakes! more later but we going to sit on the porch and watch the moon (no I am not mooning)

Enjoying the Wind and Moon Together -- Mid-Autumn Festival
The clear and radiant moon has been a subject of Chinese poetry and song since ancient times. And the moonlight of Mid-Autumn Festival brings particular warmth and ease to the hearts of the people of China. This festival is said to have originated from the ancient ceremony of Sacrificing to the Moon Goddess. When that ceremony was later combined with the
Legend of Eating Mooncakes, Mid-Autumn Festival grew in the popular consciousness to become the major occasion that it is today.
"When the moon is full, mankind is one" -- In China, the full moon has always represented the gatherings of friends and family. Thus, Mid-Autumn Festival is a time for family reunions. On this night, families will go together to scenic spots and parks for moon appreciation parties, eating mooncakes and
pomeloes in the cool night air and praying for a safe year. This festival has been made even more lively by the three legends of Chang-O Flees to the Moon, Wu Kang Chops Down the Cassia Tree, and the Jade Rabbit Grinds Medicine.
Since Mid-Autumn Festival coincides with the fall harvest, the occasion is also celebrated in Taiwan by making offerings to the
Earth God (Tu-ti Gong) in hope that he will make the next year's harvest even more bountiful.

Chang O Flees to the Moon
According to a famous Chinese legend, the sky was originally lit by ten suns, whose combined heat scorched the earth and crops so that the people had nothing to eat. To save the world from imminent starvation China's most famous archer, Hou Yi, shot down nine of the suns with his bow and then rid the land of poisonous snakes and beasts so people could live in peace and happiness.
Unfortunately for Hou Yi, these ten suns turned out to be the sons of the Jade Emperor, who was so angered by the loss of his sons, that he banished the archer together with his wife, Chang O, and children from the face of the earth. When the Western Goddess discovered what had happened, she took pity on Hou Yi, giving him an elixir of immortality. But Chang O greedily swallowed the potion by herself and as the concoction worked through her body she became lighter and lighter and floated up into the sky. Fearing that the deities in heaven would laugh at her, she took refuge on the moon, building there a palace known as the "Cold Palace," where she lives to this very day as the Lady of the Moon. Since it is believed that Chang O floated to the moon on the fifteenth day of the eighth moon, people offer annual prayer and sacrifices to the moon on that day to commemorate the event.
It is said that Chang O transforms herself into brilliant moonlight and descends to earth to offer good fortune. Thus, couples to swear their mutual love under the full moon and separated lovers to pray to the for reunion under the full moon.

Wu Kang Chops Down the Cassia Tree

In Chinese mythology, Wu Kang is portrayed as a woodcutter fascinated with the magic of immortality. Angered by his hubris, the gods banished Wu Kang to the Moon Palace telling him that he must cut down a huge cassia tree before he could return to earth. Though he chopped day and night, the magical tree restored itself with each blow, and thus he continues to eternally chop the cassia on the barren moon.

The Jade Rabbit Grinds Medicine
In this legend, three sages transformed themselves into pitiful old men and begged for something to eat from a fox, a monkey and a rabbit. The fox and the monkey both had food to give to the old men, but the rabbit, empty-handed, offered his own flesh instead, jumping into a blazing fire to cook himself. The fairies were so touched by the rabbit's sacrifice that they let him live in the Moon Palace where he became the "Jade Rabbit."

The Legend of Eating Mooncakes
Mooncakes symbolize the gathering of friends and family and are an indispensable part of the offerings made to the Earth God, Tu Ti Kung. According to popular belief, the custom of eating mooncakes began in the late Yuan dynasty. As the story goes, the Han people of that time resented the Mongol rule of the Yuan Dynasty and revolutionaries, led by Chu Yuan-chang, plotted to usurp the throne. Chu needed to find a way of uniting the people to revolt on the same day without letting the Mongol rulers learn of the plan. Chu's close advisor, Liu Po-wen, finally came up with a brilliant idea. A rumor was spread that a plague was ravaging the land and that only by eating a special mooncake distributed by the revolutionaries could the disaster be prevented. The mooncakes were then distributed only to the Han people, who found, upon cutting the cakes open, the message "Revolt on the fifteenth of the eighth moon." Thus informed, the people rose together on the designated day to overthrow the Yuan, and since that time mooncakes have become an integral part of the Mid-Autumn Festival.
There are four types of mooncakes : ping, su, kuang, and tai. Ping style mooncakes originated in Peking and resemble sesame cakes, with a crisp and savory outer crust. The su style of mooncakes are sweet with a thin, delicate layered crust which is judged according to its tenderness and whiteness. The kuang style are wrapped in a pastry-like crust and are famous for their meticulously prepared fillings. The tai style of mooncake is traditionally eaten in Taiwan and is also known as "Moonlight Cakes." These cakes use sweet potatoes for filling and are sweet, tender, and tasty without being oily.

Pomelo Fruit

In Chinese the word for pomelo is homophonous with that for "blessing," and thus the fruit is considered auspicious. Since pomelo season coincides with Mid-Autumn Festival, this sweet fruit has naturally become a part of the festivities.
The most famous type of pomelo grown in Formosa is Matou wen-tan, which is cultivated in the rich soil and pure mountain air of Matou. This prized fruit, distinguished by its pointed top, round bottom, and thin skin, has a honey-sweet taste that has made it famous both in Taiwan and abroad. Over the past few years, other parts of Taiwan have been developing pomelo hybrids, continually improving their taste and quality, and insuring that the pomelo fruit will continue to grow in popularity.
For more information go to: