Posts Tagged ‘people’

The forest park

I’ve missed the park since the weather changed.  When I first started classes at the end of April, I only knew one route to school and it required me to walk across the biggest park in Taipei: Da’an Forest Park.  It’s a wonderful oblong close to the center of the city, and passing through it made my commute just that much better.  There were many paths to choose through the trees and fields, and people were always doing something.

Of course there were the standard stretchers and muscle-pounders and tai-chi-ers, but the most amusing was an old man in a wheelchair.  His carer must have stepped away for a moment because he was sitting alone facing a bench.  However, slightly atypically for a wheelchair-bound person, his feet were propped up on the bench, and atypically for anyone, his pants were down around his ankles.  He was wearing boxers, 謝天謝地, but his spindly old legs were just basking in the breeze for all and sundry to gawk at.

Most of the sights are much more refreshing and pastoral: birds and squirrels, shaded and root-riddled spaces under groves of slender but wide-spreading trees.  There is a man-made hill that really adds to the texture of the park and some spreading grass that’s lovely to see.  There’s also a pond up in the north corner, but I don’t usually get over there unless I have a lot of time.  It’s fenced, and that takes away from the magic.  Anyway, my own little Lanzhou Park has a great pond with the loudest frogs I have ever encountered.

In addition to the weather, I discovered a bus stop right in front of school that saves me walking in the sun and humidity, but I’ll give up the convenience as soon as fall comes again just for the pleasure of spending time in the park.

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Sending flowers

A bouquet (courtesy of the Taipei Flora Expo) for my mother on Mother’s Day.

Simple flowers to start.

Add in some peppers for surprise and spice.

Throw in some lily-lookin' things!

Top it all off with a charming bush, with the pinkest wax apples I've ever seen.

One more amaryllis or what-have-you for good measure...

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Full house

When I first looked at this place I’m living in now, there was only one person and I didn’t see her for at least a week.  Now, all four rooms are full and two out of the three other ladies speak English.  I’m so lucky!

On Saturday, I did the final bulk of my moving which consisted of calling a taxi and packing it full of all the big things and some bags on sticks like a hobo.  When I had hauled everything upstairs and begun re-arranging, my landlady came down from her apartment to see what was going on.  She seemed a little concerned with the liberties I was taking with her furniture and flooring (I pulled up the previous tenants’ awful foam puzzle floor), but that might just be her face…

Just a few minutes later, the new chatty girl came home and we started to talk.  She had brought two flats of strawberries and so we stood around and ate them in the hallway as they asked me questions and talked about housing matters.  The chatty girl is 42, I believe, so girl is not the right word even though she is quite girlish.  Because of her age and the age of the other tenant, they were quite amazed at the daring that brought such a child to their doorstep.  How did my mom feel?  She’s visited me; she’s okay with it.  Did I have a boyfriend?  At my answer, they immediately got a little fluttery as they brought up the landlady’s sons, neither of whom is married.

Long story short, yesterday Mrs. Lin gave me some bananas and grape juice, and this evening she brought me a plate of really awesome dumplings.  I think I’m betrothed, you guys.

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Easy people

Some people are just easy to talk to.  The lady down the street at the glasses shop is one of them, and even though we only talk about glasses, it’s such a pleasure!  I don’t feel pressured to switch to English even though I know she has some proficiency, and it seems like my Chinese flows all the easier for it.  I’m sure it helps that she remembered me from a few months ago when I helped my mom get glasses.  The experience of effortless communication and and friendly helpfulness has been the same every time I go in.  I hope I’m the same way when people practice English on me!

Mrs. Glasses, I salute you.

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Cold hash

I believe I first discovered the Hash House Harriers in college when I was looking up additional lyrics to band songs.  It seemed  like a fun, interesting, funny, and rude hobby, but I never actually got out into LA to do it.  Every hash seemed dead and I didn’t want to drive to find out the truth.  Then I moved to New Mexico and had a lot more time, but the closest option was El Paso which just felt so far because it was across the state line.

This Sunday, I finally kicked myself out of my computer chair and joined up with the China Hash for a run from Xinbeitou.  I was thrilled because it has been crazy cold recently (well, below 60ºF) and I planned to hit the hot springs afterward.  Even though I was late, the group hadn’t set off, so I met a few people and we got a taxi, following flour on the road and thoroughly confusing the driver.  Once we arrived, there was more chatting where I met a nice Dutch tourist who I mistakenly called German later (it’s okay, we bonded over how adorable Afrikaans is), followed by a brief orientation and then an immediate and abrupt start.

The course began by a small park with a creek on the edges of Beitou, and proceeded immediately into the brush of Yangmingshan.  It would be hard to describe the enjoyment I took in running through mud beside tiny vegetable fields, worming through bamboo groves, and slipping down a cliff, so I won’t.  The rain only made it better, even though I couldn’t see well.  By the end, I was muddy and wet, but at least I wasn’t cold!  I hadn’t brought enough clothes to change into, because, even though I knew it was in Yangmingshan, I had gotten to used to the Taiwanese idea that hiking requires pavement.  The upshot of all this is I was really looking forward to the Beitou hot springs by the end of the Down Down, but I was sorely disappointed.  I really need to tattoo their hours on my arm or something, because I never seem to get it right.

It was a lot of fun, and next week will be some place I’ve never been, and my roommate is interested, so I’m looking forward to it!  The week after, my birthday, is in Yingge, so that will be both convenient and a nice occasion.  On on!

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It’s now 2011 and I had a good time ringing it in.  I don’t think I did anything remarkable for 2010, but I know that from my freshman year of college to my senior year, I had decidedly limited New Year’s Eves due to the Rose Parade.  Since 2011 marks the 100th year of the Republic of China, I set my mind to seeing a spectacle, and in spite of all the warnings, I went into the city with my roommates.

They had an idea to take the bus to a key MRT intersection and find a club or bar, but I was going to see the fireworks at 101, no question about it.  They decided that it wasn’t a bad idea, and we rode the bus, going slower and slower as we approached the road closures around Taipei 101 and the city hall.

While on the bus, we noticed the masses of people streaming past us, often faster than the traffic, so we knew that it would be as crowded as people said, but once off the bus, the feeling of an oppressive and too-dense crowd never really kicked in.  Not until the fireworks were over was it even crowded in a bad way, and even then it was still pretty orderly.

Favorite moments:

  • seeing the night sky as starry dark blue with sparse clouds instead of as an orange haze as it’s recently seemed in Xinzhuang
  • using a squat porta-john (most pleasantly fragrant portable toilet I’ve ever encountered)
  • walking right down the middle of Zhongxiao E. Road, a main thoroughfare
  • cramped and undoubtedly freezing belly dancers on the smallest stage in the world
  • crowd control in a 7-11 and my resulting grapey-vodka drink (I forgot how much I liked grape juice!)
  • waiting around and seeing the various ways people were occupying themselves
  • counting down the New Year in Chinese, which was disappointingly difficult and made me sympathize with the kindergarten kids I have made do this in the past
  • the excellent fireworks all around the 101 area and up and down the building itself
  • guarding my alley-peeing roommates and almost slipping off the curb playing with a sparkle-stick I had found on the way to said alley
  • witnessing an engagement or even extremely casual wedding go down on the median
  • walking 5 MRT stops but getting good seats and then taking an affordable and comfortable taxi home,  frequently recognizing what I thought would be an unfamiliar area

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The good things

My sister is here, and that’s good. I had an excellent Spanish work-out on top of the pleasure of a close friend’s company, and I’ve begun planning our big trip.

Also, Wednesday is a one-class day and it was a good one!

Two students in my junior high class came to ask me questions about an assignment before class, and it developed into a larger discussion of their reading habits and school in general.  At the end of the last level, these two girls bought books from me with their earnings throughout the class (muchísimas gracias, Sra Hagar), and they talked to me about the books, how hard it was because the words were so small, and how, for one of them at least, it was her first attempt at an English book of this size.  I encouraged them and told them that it was absolutely okay to take it slow and even put them aside for a while and come back.  These kids are under a lot of pressure, and the main focus of the level I’m teaching is to keep them talking and work on writing.

I’m fortunate to have a small class that is rather outgoing for middle-schoolers, and some days they really crack me up.  We played a somewhat complex game today and it entailed asking some surprisingly hard questions about water.  The quick team was giving each other blatant hints with a little help from me, and I flagrantly cheated to help a girl on the laid-back team.  They all asked for help with problem words, which is always preferable to slowly struggling or slurring past words as students so often do.  I definitely laughed out loud more than once, and silent skinny Frank smiled at least one time.

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