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As a brief announcement, I’ve decided to move back to Europe; thus, any further posts (which I fully intend to write) will be not about Taiwan. But that doesn’t matter anyway, right? Europe is cooler. I think so, at least. Can’t wait to start blogging all about my new life in Prague.

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. 

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.

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.

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I thought about writing my own thoughts about this, but I think this article relays my feelings pretty well. I’ll catch you up with my normal post later this week.

This Ruthless World

Vasily Vereshchagin, "The Apotheosis of War" (1871)I’ve been having real difficulty trying to write something about the Sandy Hook massacre. The circumstances of what happened are terrifying for anyone to contemplate, but when you have a small child, like I do, the horror hits home in a way that’s hard to describe. Mostly, I’ve found that I don’t know what to say, except to repeat that I am horrified, and that only leads me to the dark but inevitable conclusion that there is no way to completely prevent this kind of thing from happening, so we can live happily on autopilot. That said, I really don’t know how anyone can deny with a straight face that Adam Lanza would have had a much, much harder time killing all those people and all those kids if he didn’t have access to firearms designed for the maximum efficiency of killing.

My writer’s block broke when I saw this…

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This year marks the third year I’ll be spending the holidays abroad.

My first year, I got to spend it with my sister, her “other”, my other sister, and her family (I actually think of them as part of  “my” family too, but we’ll keep that as our little secret). That was a fun time until we all started getting on each other’s nerves. The -14 degree weather didn’t help. Still, although I wasn’t at home (home is where mom is after all) I felt like I was, and I think we all had a good time.

I had looked forward to spending Christmas on my own. 2012 would be the first time, ever, that I had nothing special to do. No family, no boyfriends, nothing. I was curious to see what it would be like. Not that I don’t enjoy spending time with my family. I do. I wish we could spend that family time at other times of the year too, with no tension, no fights, no expectations, no sense that we are more religious or happier than we actually are, and instead, spend it enjoying each other’s company, as we so often (don’t) have a chance to.

Christmas is my absolutely least favorite holiday of the year.

That’s right. I said it. I HATE it. Every year is marred by random family tension, fights about bullshit,  lack of money, pressure to buy expensive gifts (I’m a cheap bastard at heart, I hate Christmas shopping), and a general feeling that its built up so much every year that the only way to go is down. Christmas, for me, is a depressing time of year. I can’t remember the last time I truly looked forward to Christmas. I don’t know if it’s all the sappy commercialism in the States, the expectations of good times and good cheer, the overly idealized movies that play on TV, the random family members that try to ram their religion down my throat or what.

The happiest Christmas, as an adult, I remember having was in 2002. For the first time in years, my entire family was present.  We were all younger (a whole 10 years younger, in fact), I was still in college, I had a new boyfriend, and I was very much in love. Although that year had marked a couple of tragedies, to me the world was still bright, shiny, and new. We even had our cousins up for the week, which was the one and only time they ever came. It was awesome. I remember chicken wings at Bdubs, hanging out with everyone at the same time. Huge family dinners with more people than ever before, mom’s delicious Polish traditional cooking, hanging out after, and, if memory serves me right, that was also the year we actually had an unexpected visitor knocking at our door.  All kinds of memories.  It was so special that year.

So, yeah. In my own, vaguely melancholy, I’m missing-my-family kind of way, I had looked forward to spending 2012  on my own. In a sort of free from presents, from good cheer, and pretending we are all so much happier-than-we-actually-are sort of way.

Last year, I spent it with some ex-pat friends. We boozed it up at a house party and then hit the Taiwan Brewery to get drunk some more. It was fun, but for me there was an element of wistfulness. For one thing, two people puked (not me). I was surrounded by people I had known, at best, for three or four months, and somehow boozing it up just didn’t seem like the holidays. Let’s face it, I can booze it up anytime I want, and I sometimes do, so how could that be special? It was the coldest day of the year in Taiwan last Christmas Eve, and although it was in the forties, and people in the North were envious, let me just tell you…it was cold. Damn cold. I was wearing two pairs of socks and had to borrow some ski socks on top of it because I couldn’t get warm. We sat around, and I pretended to learn how to play mahjong while sucking down beer and shots.

I did not learn how to play mahjong that night.

This year…well. I don’t know.

Of course, the requisite parties will all have to be hit, beginning with tomorrow, and one or two more next weekend, but Christmas falls on a Tuesday this year, and I will be spending it at work. Because I live in Taiwan after all, and though I could probably ask for it off, there just doesn’t seem to be a good reason to.

I will say this about Christmas in Taiwan: if you’re not christian, this is definitely the place to be. This is only the second year I’ve ever lived somewhere where Christmas wasn’t a big deal.  I think I like it.

Trust me. I don’t miss the canned twenty-year-old Christmas songs that start playing on November first ever year (except for Feliz Navidad, how can you not love that song?)  And I don’t miss…oh damn. Wait. I just realized I like a few other Christmas songs too. Shit.

Ok well. That doesn’t matter.

…As I was saying, screw Christmas. That’s the message I’m trying to send here.

I’ll update you on the rest of the Christmas cheer next week.

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