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Lasting Manila Impression

This is quick post but I must share.

Of all the things that happened in the Philippeans, and for a four day weekend there were tons, perhaps the one most shocking moment went as follows.

As soon as we got there, my friends told me to make sure I always locked the cab doors and not make eye contact with people outside when I road around. 

Naturally, I had to ask. 

Just trust me, she says. People will try to sell you anything from brooms to flowers to shoes. Make sure your door is locked. And don’t make eye contact!!!

So of course the first thing I forgot to do was not make eye contact. And sure enough. Some people approached the cab and tried to sell us stuff. Pretty much anytime we went anywhere.

The worst incident though happened when I wasn’t making eye contact at all.

I heard a banging outside my door and glanced out the window. 

Didn’t see anything for a moment. Then I looked down.

And there was a little boy, not more than two and half or three years old banging away on the door begging for money. He didn’t even look up, just kept banging and banging the entire time we were stopped in traffic.

It bought to mind an old Dave Chappelle stand up story that he used to tell about getting taken to the ghetto by surprise at three in the morning and seeing a baby on the corner selling crack. And the story is funny of course and naturally an exaggeration. How could it not be?

But, I guess some things aren’t such an exaggeration after all. 

Recently I received a stern lecture on the poor quality of my blog posts and my inertia toward a hobby I’ve claimed I want a future career in. I needed to hear it because my blog posts have been either non-existent or full of suck, and I my urge to write is at an all time low.

I met with a couple of friends for dinner (in keeping with the theme of this post, I’ll call them Ms. Thang and Ms. Bomb Diggity), and one of the points Ms. Bomb Diggity brought up was how I should write about my passions, my impressions, and my experiences, and why they are memorable.

She suggested I write about all the  highlights of my trip to  Hong Kong. I can’t, I told her. I don’t want to spew all my personal anecdotes and feelings to the world.

She reminded me that for readers to identify with a writer, an author must be open about their innermost reactions. This is what draws people in. She’s right. No one cares about how I climbed the escalator in Hong Kong, or how I couldn’t exchange my coins back to Taiwanese dollars, or even how the ten-dollar bills in Macau are made from plastic (it’s true!). An engaging story worth reading must include my personal introspections, cogitations, and reflections on why a situation is significant.

When I think about some of the books I’ve read, I confess that David Sedaris is one of my favorite authors because he spills his guts about the most humiliating, touching, grossly touchy-feely, ugly, and unattractive parts of himself, his life, and his adventures. These are the stories that resonate. These are the ones I remember.

He jokes in one of his books how his family begs him to not write certain stories or quote things they’ve said. He always promises that he won’t, and then writes about it anyway.

How can I do that? I asked Ms. Bomb Diggity. I have friends and family that read my blog. My mom reads my blog for Christ’s sake. Do you think she wants to read about the nitty-gritty details of my life or my sexual exploits (mom, I’m still a virgin. I swear), my worst moments of sheer meanness, cattiness, and lack of humanity? How can I put that on display to  my friends and my family? Conversely, how can I tell a story that involved the people I know intimately without revealing their less than sterling qualities and snarcastic remarks?

This is a problem that every writer must face, Ms. Bomb Diggity pointed out. Would the novel, Eat, Pray, Love have been so successful if Elizabeth Gilbert didn’t take that ultimate leap and write about the shittiest parts of herself and her divorce? Probably not. I just finished her follow-up book, Committed. Although I enjoyed it, the parts that I enjoyed the most were the shitty fights she had with her man, which she avoided mentioning until nearly the end, and only mentioned after repeatedly providing reasons why people shouldn’t think the worst.

No doubt, she felt her rationalizations were necessary, but reading them was annoying.

I decided to explore my feelings on this topic by hitting up my old pal, Google. Numerous articles have been written on the legalities of writing about people we know. In less than a minute, I found this article, this article, and this one, which offers advice on how to avoid problems.

And these articles mostly pertain to fiction! This article is helpful for bloggers, but it begs the question. If I have to worry this much about what I write or where I write it, then why the hell write at all, let alone blog?

Based on the Internet’s expert advice, here’s what I’ve decided to do: I’m going to give everyone the one-fingered salute and write what I want anyway. But until I hit the jackpot, and I’m making millions of dollars telling stories about how somebody I used to know had the sickest most disgusting toenails of all time, it looks like these stories will to have to go up on my ultra-secret, super sneaky, deeply undercover, hidden-better-than-the-X-Files blog that will be published from an anonymous and untraceable IP address that only aliens will be able to hack.

Sorry guys, but you’re not invited.

Obviously I’ve been horribly remiss in writing last month. If I have to be honest, these last few months I’ve been increasingly tapering off. I haven’t given up on it yet, though.

Just to give everyone a brief update, I’ve been settling in and spending more time on my new job because it’s something I’m developing a strong affinity for and a skill I wish to develop to the best of my abilities. It has been taking up a growing amount of my time.

Second, I went on vacation for a weekend, so I spent a few a weeks obsessing over that. It was awesome by the way. I’ve already written a post or two about it, but neither of them are at a stage that are worth publishing and are in desperate need of editing.

Third, I had  back surgery  last week.  I had high hopes of being back in the blogger wagon as of last week, but I didn’t consider the profound amount of sleep I’d be doing, or my sheer lack of concentration.

Although I continue to exist in a foggy haze, I’ve a few topics I’d like to share with you, beginning with my experiences in Hong Kong and Macau, to dog sitting, to spending four nights in a Taiwanese hospital. I’m hoping you’re waiting with bated breath to read about them too.

Rather than reading about grammar and writing style, and writing extensively, which is how I imagined I’d be spending my recovery, I have instead been reading trash novels and watching copious amounts of Youtube videos (something I rarely do). In addition, I’ve managed to catch up on a few old movies.

I can’t believe I’ve been avoiding watching Ted for so long! My God, that movie is hilarious.

My time hasn’t all been wasted though. I’ve learned about TED talks and the TED organization as a whole, and discovered a v-blogger called illdoctrine, whom I highly recommend. In the course of a day or two I watched numerous videos by him and other bloggers, activists, and various hip hop interviews. I recommend these as worth watching: Machine Guns and Stupid Choiceswhich eventually led me to watching Ted talks by way of this video.

I’ve watched a bunch of crap about hip hop, and got somewhat caught up on the latest hip hop and dance music from the States.  I’m vaguely shocked by how much I’ve missed reading about popular culture in the States, and more shocked with how little I generally know about current events in the world. For the first time in months, I’ve read articles from my home page (the BBC) instead of immediately switching to FB as is my norm.

In the end, I am forced to admit that the only real thing I learned was that I’m lazier than I ever thought it was possible to be, and that I’m not done with writing yet. I’m just taking a little break.

But in the meantime, please enjoy some of the links I posted. And I promise I will do by best to post something up again next week.

I really hope this conversation didn't happen in my operating room....

I really hope this conversation didn’t happen in my operating room….

 

Scintillatebrightly:

I didn’t get a chance to take any pictures of this on my recent trip to Hong Kong, but I noticed this kiosk at the airport myself. Check it out. Hello Kitty is slowly taking over everything that we think of as normal.

Originally posted on The Daily Bubble Tea:

 

Hello Kitty Self Check-In Kiosks

The Cult of Sanrio

Tired of monotonous self check-in kiosks at international airports? Taoyuan County resisted calls to become the only Hello Kitty-free zone in East Asia and allowed Eva Airlines to install Hello Kitty-themed self check-in kiosks at Taoyuan International Airport. Now you too can surround yourself in Hello Kitty before getting on an Eva Airlines Hello Kitty-themed airplane.

View original

Yes. Jackass. They do. Seriously, this isn’t the BFE for crying outloud.

Finding books in English can be tough when you live abroad.

In Poland, I had to scrounge for books. I read all sorts of crap that I wouldn’t normally read because I was so desperate to get my read on. I spent excessive amounts of time online because I was running out of options. Although some bookstores in Poland sell English books (Empik had an ok selection), I was watching my pennies, and those books didn’t come cheap. Most of their English selection was either from the U.K. or old.

Before I left Poland, I resolved that my next big purchase would be a Kindle. Might as well. I live abroad and hauling books from country to country isn’t feasible. What’s the point of buying a bunch of crap I neither need nor can take? I’m glad I live in a time in which regardless of where I live, with the right technology, I can have all the comforts of home.

Occasionally, I’ll hit the bookstore and spend a ridiculous amount of money on books I’ll probably only read once.

I know of two major bookstores in Taipei that sell English fiction: Page One (in Taipei 101) and Eslite (located all over town). Take my word for it: don’t waste your time on Eslite. It fucking sucks. All their English books are shelved with the Chinese books and it’s impossible to find anything without the maximal amount of irritation. I cannot fathom the logic that inspired this brilliant marketing strategy. Thanks, Eslite, you stupid douche bags. So much for your awesome 24-hour bookstore.

Page One is cool. They have a fair amount of English fiction and are up to date on the most popular authors. If Taipei 101 wasn’t such a drag to get to, I’d go there more.

Consequently, I’ve resorted to the old time-honored method of scavenging through my friends’ collections.

Luckily, last February, I made a couple of friends who loved reading and happened to house their own mini-library. Thanks to them, I’ve been introduced to both great new books and old classics I would never otherwise have read. Still, I feel guilty when I hold ten of their books hostage for months at a time.

A few months ago, I was informed that certain libraries in Taipei have English book sections. I couldn’t believe it! My dreams come true. I realized then that the main library didn’t have a metro nearby so I never got around to visiting it. Months passed. Dongmen Station eventually opened near Da’an Park, not too far from the main library. By that time, I had forgotten about the library. I had a borrowed stack of books taking up space at home, and a new stack from Page One that I was ready to dive into. Who remembers the library anymore anyway? Although I spent countless joyful hours at the library in my youth, by my late twenties it had become more convenient to buy books at the bookstore. The temptation to buy the specific books I wanted was greater than browsing through shelves full of authors I didn’t know, and I forgot about the library.

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago. I was talking to a couple of friends at dinner, and they suggested the library. I knew I should go. They asked if I wanted to get together and make a trip out of it later that weekend. Well, fuck yeah, I did.

So we all met on Sunday to embark on our dazzling library adventure. By the time we met on Sunday our little group had grown from three to six. I had no idea I had so many nerdy friends. After a Dim Sum lunch we booked it across the park to find the damn thing.

I wasn’t sure what to expect. Do Taiwanese people read? Would there be strange Asian art on the walls? Little Japanese-style tables and cushions? Would they hassle me for not having two forms of ID and refuse to give me a library card? My stomach was a bundle of nerves as I waited with breathless anticipation.

As soon as we walked in, I could smell the scent of old ink and paper. It looked like a library. It smelled like a library. A bunch of irritating kids was running around to my annoyance. Yep. I was home.

We made our way up to the fourth floor where the English book section was housed. The place was packed. Well, that’s strange…I thought.

The floor has a large area in the center filled with chairs and tables, and damned if every single seat wasn’t taken. Tons of people were studying. It reminded me of hanging out in the university library when I was in college. During Finals week. Right before my exam.

We ventured into the English book section. I’m happy to report they have several aisles of pure fiction. I was impressed.

I knew finding the latest and greatest probably wasn’t going to happen, but I found a few new books published just last year. In short order I had a stack of eight books. My friends all looked at me like I had grown another head. “Are you really going to get ALL of those?” they asked. “Well…yeah. What the fuck? A girl can’t read or what?”

As a kid, every time I went to the library I would borrow seven or eight books, often more. I can easily finish a book in a day if I’m inclined to. And right now, I’m inclined to. It’s winter. The weather is crappy. It’s been cold and rainy out. Why tramp around in the rain when I could be reading nice and dry at home?

We hung around for a couple of hours and I started reading my first prize: Sh*t My Dad Says by Justin Halpern. I had it finished by the next day.

For those that actually live in Taipei, here are the facts: Only an ARC is required to get a library card. You can borrow books for five weeks, you can extend the due date on line as long as no one has put in a request for it and best of all…regardless of where you borrow the book, you can return it any location. That’s something the libraries at home should look into.

This, my friends, is the beginning of a new era. If you’ve been wondering what I’ve been doing for the month of January, you have your answer. My head’s been stuck in a book all month. I’m only surfacing now because I need to make a return trip already.

 

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