Friday, December 07, 2007

Merry Christmas

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Merry Christmas Taipei Taiwan 2008

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Hello all...

Hello all. It has been a long time since I took the time to write but I fear you will lose interest (if you have not already) if I do not feed you some information. As I have said before we live in a perpetual state of over stimulation and sensory overload.

I turned 60 the other day. And as I think about that I have to give thanks first of all for Carol. I do not think a public space is appropriate for what I would like to say but those of you who know us know how multi-faceted and full of life she is. When she walks out of the apartment with a 4 ft. sword strapped to her back ready to learn how to eviscerate a foe or disable his kneecap, it makes me wonder what real retirement would have been like…..very very very dull!

Several of our friends and colleagues took me to a restaurant for the birthday celebration. The restaurant was appropriately named “Jurassic” and had dinosaur skeletons crawling up the building and all throughout the halls. Dino heads held the phones. Dinos also held the many small plates that are the starters for a traditional Chinese meal. There was the typical Taiwanese cross cultural confusion as north American Indians were riding images of the dinos for what reason I do not know. It made for great table conversation. And the bathrooms were statues from Pacific NW . One peed into part of the mouth of the beast…WEIRD! And we were seated in the belly of a large dino skeleton.

The meal was pretty traditional but definitely funky…crocodile, ostrich, DUCK TONGUES complete with attaching tendons, fried pork intestine, etc. and the hit of the evening…deep fried grasshoppers with a French fried potato stuck up its butt served with fried basil, shrimp crisp and salt and pepper dip. A plate cost around $11 USD so of course I had to eat them. They are really not bad at all and although I would probably not order them I would not turn them down if offered. I really liked the orchid garnish. And the beer for 16 was served in a wooden keg that was very old fashioned but functional. NO I did not over indulge but a friend did “ fake “ the picture of me catching the last drop out of the barrel.

One of the most touching moments was when Carol light 6 candles and said, in decade # 1 I discover music and food, decade #2 I discovered her, in #3 it was grad school, decade #4 was teaching, decade #5 was diving, and decade #6 was about heaven. This could not be more true. Life is very good here with variety, excitement, great quality of life, new friends and opportunity for growth in every aspect of our life.

As part of the birthday celebration, I was honored with a personal (?) letter from “W”. I am not sure I am ready to take his advice given his record but I was……well I was something to hear from the little guy.

I mentioned opportunity. Well…our new superintendent decided that TAS faculty was underpaid in terms of our regional international schools and that the only way to “recruit and retain” was to increase the pay package by 11.2%. Never in my professional life have I had an increase of this magnitude so it took very little thought for me to sign a contract for another year as a happy member of the TAS community.

A birthday message from "him"

The White House
4 December, 2007

Dear Mr. Hone, ahhh Ho-nee, Han-nay,…..Dear Billy,

How are you doing my fellow AMERICAN? This is the President of the United States of America…the most powerful Nation of….of all the nations, that there are, or ever going to be.

You don’t mind if I call you Billy do you? Huh, that last name of yours is kind of tricky…doesn’t really even sound American. Anyway Dicky Cheney told me it was your birthday…You may wonder how he happens to know it’s your birthday…well. Huh, in MY new American you probably don’t wonder how we know. I mean right in front of me I have your tax statements for the last 36 years, pictures of you at the computer,(we had Microsoft rig that up for us in ALL the computers ever sold…You got some interesting late night habits there Billy), and a satellite photo of you buying some food that can’t be American. You sure that’s wise Billy…I don’t know why you would want to live in
Tai-a-wana...seems like you could see enough Mexicans up on the roofs of door County nailing, ahh, shingles.

Bu hey it’s your birthday and you lived to be 60…pretty damn good considering how much you been badmouthing the US of A government. And yah, we have some tapes of you saying some pretty mean spirited shit about your PRESIDENT. You been listening to those Liberal Agitators of CNN and BBBBBC or maybe you’ve even been reading the news…I don’t recommend it. What’s wrong just watching the Jefferson’s? I am your President, of all the states…not just Texas, and I did, after all, go to Yale, which is a whole lot better than that gay school of extremism you went to. You know Billy, ahh, lot of people bash me ‘cause I didn’t even have to take the SAT to get into college…But hey, everybody know SAT just means “Stupid Ass Test” anyway.

But I’m getting, ahhh, sidetracked here. I just wanted to wish you a Happy Birthday Billy and to remind you that, ahhh, if you don’t start changing your ways, getting back into the country is going to be, ahh, ha, a whole lot harder that it was crossing the border. We got that whole line of fences from, ahh Seatle ta—Orlando—home of Mickey and that funny dog. We got that fence there now just to keep old fart undesirables like you out.

But hey, you have a good one, and God bless you, but mainly I hope he blesses the Americans who are actually IN American.

Your President,

Saturday, November 17, 2007

shots from the PIT Cam

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" Mom, I got an ORCHESTRA to play with!"

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jOnce Upon a Mattress Taipei American School

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Intro from, a week that was

This weekend was so full we both cried Uncle. Carol started out with her new class in Tai Chi swords. She has been officially fitted for her as yet unnamed sword and studies with about a dozen Chinese ladies who are VERY serious about their activity. Check out the pictures. This is a real sword so I am trying not to think Joey Butafuoco and Lorraina Bobbet when she comes home.

After swords we went to the Taipei Flower show to see more orchids than one could imagine. And Carol charges up to the head of the Bonsai association of the country and gets an invitation to her home which is near us in Tien Mu. The lady insisted she have her picture taken with us in front of one of her prizes. In typical local fashion, part of the show was wildly beautiful and stunning while a portion just could not resist going way over the top bordering on gaudy with an excess of everything.

From the flower show we went to CKS National Concert Hall to see a new opera entitled Firmiana Rain. Carol and I describe it as John Adams and Alban Berg do Wozzeck in China. Rich and elegant with all the elements beautifully presented But not really that musically memorable.

From there, we spent time in the CKS square to look at an arts fair and circus before leaving and finding ourselves in the very middle of a huge political rally. I was given a very special golden lighted torch with a fan to blow the cloth flame. I quickly stuffed it into my pants so the police could not see that I might be participation in a political rally.
After grocery shopping it was home to collapse. So we have had enough fun.

It is great to hear from all of you who are reading the blog. Please know we can not get your email address from the blog site unless you put it in the body of your response.

We will post more about the completed musical and our visit with Eric B. For now, I am tired, good night.

Noodle Soup judging info

Okay I am sitting in a tent in a small park just down the street from Taipei 101 getting ready to participate as a judge in the “Taipei Newrow Mian Contest’ which is beef noodle soup your way. I have no idea what we are going to eat, how we are going to judge, although ping pong balls are involved, or what is going on. There is an MC who seems to be giving away stuff by yelling “e, er, tsan” (1 2 30 and people raise their hands. I have my hand in the air but to no avail. No breakfast but have no fear, as one add states, ‘The top soup which is stewed with in the beef shop over 8 hours, is fresh and sweet. And the only T-bone beef chops noodles in Taiwan is the first choice of gluttons.” what can I say. We get 5 bowls of soup with various mysterious cuts of beef, noodles, dark spicy broth topped with green onions and then put our ping pong ball someplace to indicate our choice. There are categories….clear broth, dark broth, creative, and who knows what else. Many videographers and expensive cameras hovering over all of us and the smell of 5 spice and spice hangs in the air and we are eager, hungry adjudicators. BUT NO, we wait for an hour while the bowls of hot soup are brought to everyone, prizes are given (I won a mug) and dignitaries recognized. The do not give us the complimentary souvenir chopsticks and spoon set until they are ready for all to start and then at last, the moment is here. No criteria, no guidelines, just dig in.

There are three groups represented: spicy dark broth, clear broth, and creative. We vote by dropping the ping pong ball into a jar in front of the kitchen of the chosen soup. There follows an exchange of business cards and much bowing and Xie Xie’ing.

I could go on and on but suffice it to say that this was one bit of Taiwanese local culture that continues to endear this place to us.

Pictures are below.

Saturday, October 06, 2007

Friday, October 05, 2007

the winners!

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Art class

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"Snow" day...

Hi everyone (or anyone, it’s been so long!),
I can’t believe we’ve already been in school over two months. Therein lies the tardiness of this blog….we started “Once Upon a Mattress”, the Upper School Musical, the week we returned and today is our first 2-day weekend since! However, it’s not because we’re through, but the Taiwan version of the “musical snowstorm curse”! We are currently in the midst of super-typhoon Kronsa, missing the full Act 1 and 2 put-together, which we really need. There’s no help for it, around here, when the government says “Typhoon State” NOTHING goes on! It is really quite amazing. You cannot go on a beach, drive, are told where to move your vehicles onto bridges and other high-ground locations prior to the onslaught, and generally shut the place down. We are talking 40-foot waves already. We are battened in, Bill is glued to Weather Underground, and I’m doing what I always do – bake, until the power goes out. Having friends in our building is very nice, though, as we’ll all get together tonight without having to brave the elements. Some single teachers go to friends before it gets really going, just for company. It’s our third one this year already, and is quite late in the season. It seems like the weather is weird everywhere, my mom and sister have been having 90 degree temps in Connecticut this week, while they’re getting ready for the church Apple Festival!

Any way, the show is coming along, there is only a week and a half left before we open, as the National 10/10 holiday is next weekend and everyone leaves for the 4-day break. We are rehearsing one of the days, but will get a little break before the final opening. A young woman who just moved in this fall is actually doing the costumes with the help of a professional seamstress and a couple of moms, and she is doing a wonderful job. What a stroke of luck, she really knows what she is doing, and the show should look like a box of Godiva chocolates when she is through. Perfect for Mattress!

Our return to Taipei and Taiwan has been happy, I really had missed my Tai Chi and Chinese classes. Two of my friends and I have moved on to the Taipei Language Institute for our classes as we felt we wanted a more rigorous and individual course. One day a week I work with a young couple from Tai Chi who coach me in pronunciation and vocabulary with help from their 4 and 7 year old sons’ books! In return, I try to help them with English, which is to say, I get the better part of the bargain since they are already quite accomplished. Like most young couples, they have purchased a house (condo) but live with his parents, and will for probably many more years. They say, “That is just the culture!” When they move, his parents will move in with them, and they will care for them. In the meantime, there is constant child care, stability, and shared responsibility for the home. In the best of circumstances, it is not an unreasonable arrangement. Somehow I can’t imagine Rudi and Miche spooning Kitty Munchies to us in our old age! We really miss them, but they are legend in Taipei, since we whip out the pix at any opportunity and brag. Our Hu, the porch boy, has become an affection junkie and demands full-body massage in the morning before he will deign to eat his breakfast…what a con. Like any cool young guy, when we encounter him in the park, he pretends not to know us in front of his buds.

Speaking of tai chi, I am really excited to be starting sword forms. Yes, they are real, although we will start with a practice sword the same weight, just not as expensive. It is stunningly beautiful, and naturally, Ivy was the National Sword Champion. To watch her do it is pure poetry, I expect we’ll look more like Ogden Nash for a while! She was talking about a group of 85-90 year old men whom she does a class for every morning at 5:30 AM. She says they complain vociferously if she is one minute late (she is doing this as a volunteer!) but she loves it as what she learns from them is much greater, she says, than what she can give them. This from an internationally recognized Master! I can honestly say, though, that I have never been so free from pain in my entire life, and watching the other elderly folks in my own classes is an inspiration. Everytime I get to thinking how calming it is, she says something like, “Keep the edge of your hand parallel with your elbow and your fingertip no higher than your eyes, you’re blocking a blow to break your nose!”

On a less combative note, or maybe not, I am including some photos from the Camp Taiwan with the sixth graders 3 weeks ago. It was beautiful in Kenting, but chasing after 200 11 year-olds for a week is not for the faint of heart (or slow of foot!). The art project came off well, though, and as you can see from the results, some of the kids really enjoyed it. I am actually trying to purchase a couple of woodblock prints from the freshman art class exhibit, there are some very talented visual art kids here.

Well, before the power goes off completely, I’ll close with love and best wishes to all, we think so much of the sweetness of a Midwestern fall and dream of crisp apples, beautiful leaves, cool nights and woodsmoke…enjoy it for us!

Words words words

I love provides so much humor.

In upper school concert choir we are learning a selection entitled, Musicks' Empire with poetry by Thomas Campion. Part of the text about a chant like section is "Consecrate, Consecrate." Because English vocabulary is always an issue, I asked if anyone knew what consecrate meant. Blank stares....until one very vivacious and alert (I might add innocent) young freshman girl finally responded with, "I think it has something to do with having sex." OK now what. After a moment, I suggested...."Do you mean consumate?" "Yeah, that." she replied.

Super Typhoon Kronsa

Our first two days in a row without working since we got back from USA are courtesy of Super Typhoon (Class 5) Kronsa. And what a storm it is. It is 11 am on Saturday here so 11 pm back in most of the states and the storm still has yet to make landfall around 5-6 tonight. The wind is supposed to be sustained around 150 mph with gusts to 185 mph AND (this is the really unreal part) 50" of rain or as they say 1300mm. We have got the bathtubs filled with water, food and gin laid in and the steel doors shut and locked over the windows. When the wind blows, we have to pop our ears for the change in pressure and the sound of the howling is impressive. Waves at the coast are supposed to be around 39'. Luckily we are on the 2nd level so unless the back wall and steel fence give way we should be ok. We look forward to an interesting and relaxing adventure. I will not be going out as decapitation from sheet metal has been mentioned.

In the picture, note how BIG the storm is and how little Taiwan to the left is.

Ah well a snow by anyother name is a sweet.

Monday, September 17, 2007

Just some local information

Here are some internet URLs that you might like to investigate and a little real Taiwan humor. Please let me know if these connections work and if they are of interest to those of you who are reading this

Information for Visitors and those who want to know more
about where we live. click ENGLISH A huge site that has lots of forums on it. Take a look at TAIWANEASE a local expat magazine

Just a little local humor?????

Area Man Made to Wait 45 Minutes for Beating by Gang of Friday's
Lai Yuan-qing, 27, was forced to take an extra 45 minutes out of his busy schedule so that a gang of rogue waiters working for the international restaurant chain T.G.I. Friday's could finally get around to beating him within an inch of his life. "I could tell they were Friday's waiters, not just because of all of those buttons and crap that they have pinned to their red-and-white striped shirts, but because they just sat around and chatted for, like, half and hour before deciding it was time to beat me into a pulp," said Lai.

"I was just walking though an alleyway just off Zhonggang Road when I was surrounded by about seven or eight of them, all wearing stupid caps no self-respecting gangster would be caught dead in," he continued. "It was then I first suspected that these were just Friday's waiters gone bad."

According to Lai, the group pinned him to a dumpster within a reasonable amount of time, but then took forever to get on with the actual beating. "The robbery took forever. I mean, I should have been on my way in 15 minutes, tops. This is so typical." The Taichung Police department said that it "would not be shown up by a bunch of waiter punks" and declared that Lai "would see some real procrastination now." stuff

This is for those of you who have a little time to load YouTube. It is free and safe to use.
Click on the address and it should take you to Youtube. If not, Just cut and paste the URL address listed below and wait a bit. ENJOY!

Taipei 101 building Fireworks on New Years Eve this is long but WOW

This guy is on a scooter going up Zhong Shan Rd which is our main road past the school Basically this is our neighborhood This is a little long and he is not the sharpest knife but ???

Shuttered up and layed down in the Typhoon

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The dancers across from the protesters

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Our park..breeding ground for protesters

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