Hello world! This is Lenny, reporting from Taiwan :)
2013 had been a slow blogging year for me. I opened two personal blogs, one Chinese and one English (this one), but failed to update both as much as I would like to. At the same time, I followed a lot of blogs intensively, mostly beauty blogs, and some travel and personal blogs too. Although the main reason for me doing so was to procrastinate from whatever I'm supposed to be doing instead (at this moment the to do is studying for finals, yikes!), but I was also studying the blogs I love, and thinking about how I can work my blog so it's more appealing. I have some ideas for future posts, and I really hope you'll like them! Since I'm supposed to be studying my eyes blind now and into 2014, I decided not to be over ambitious with my New Year Resolution, and set my goal at one blog post per week. This way you will have something to read every week, and I won't be so anxious about posting daily that I give up altogether and hide in a hole. Some encouragement will certainly help too, so please don't be shy to comment!
Taipei is notorious for its lack of city planning, that is not to say the streets are all messed up or anything, but there are always sections under construction, whether it be pipe lines, wires or whatever. Usually it's really annoying to have a construction site near your place, because it's horribly noisy, and the roads might be blocked off, which will cause a lot of people to grunt and growl. I don't love construction sites either, but when I saw the scene above, I thought it was just adorable how these grown men huddled together by the roadside.
This last weekend wasn't the best weekend for me, I woke up afternoon feeling intense abdominal pain, at first I thought it is just a cramp from my period, but I was sweating bullets and vomiting, so I went to the Emergency room just in case. The ER wasn't crowded like I expected, it must have been a stay-healthy day for the rest of the humankind. I was attended to pretty quickly, the doctor asking all sorts of questions. Apparently my symptoms did not fit any particular illness, so they hooked me on a IV drip and made me lay there to wait and see if there is any change. After a couple hours, two X-rays and some random test later, the doctor still didn't know what's wrong with me, so he wanted me admitted, but I was feeling much better and tired of lying there doing nothing, so I decided to be a bad patient and went home against his instructions. Basically, I went to the ER to lie down and take in some sugar liquid , which is what happens most in ERs, believe it or not. This little trip cost me a mere NTD 380, about USD12. I am eligible for such affordable health care because in Taiwan there is mandatory National Health Insurace policy for everyone. This policy is much like the Obamacare people in te states are debating about, and we have had it here for decades. There are downsides to enforcing such policy on the citizens, of course, but I'm all for it, because even though I am a relatively healthy young person (compared to the old and obese anyway) I would like to have access to reasonably priced health care when I need it. For instance, if a visit to the ER will cost me USD 120, I am not sure I'll make the same decision last weekend, and I just might miss the prime time for treating some serious condition.
Right now, I am just grateful that I only have a needle mark on my hand to show for my ER visit and no other symptoms, and I will be utilizing my health care resources by paying the hospital another visit.
Recently I have been browsing CNN daily, both to practice my English and to get a hold on what's happening around the world, since the Taiwanese media is notorious for not covering international news that don't directly relate to Taiwan.
I don't know if it's always been this way, but the globe is certainly not at peace now. There is spying and Obamacare issues within US, and lots of turmoil in countries like Syria, Libya,Israel..... Just on Monday, another event happened very close to Taiwan- a jeep crashed into people at Tienanmen Square, the motive still not specified.
Domestically, Taiwan has its own sets of problems too. Nuclear power plants, free trade agreement between Taiwan and China, abuse of power by the military against soldiers, same-sex marriage Act, and so on. Some of these problems only affect a small group of people, some affect the whole nation, and some might affect other nations too. Even though those are serious problems that affect each and one of us deeply, Sometimes making the future seem real bleak, I feel fortunate that we are not affected by even more devastating things like famine, war, mutany or a deadly virus, where there might not even be tomorrow.
It's not the best trait to take comfort in other people's disaster, but it's only human, and it's always nice to appreciate what we have in our life instead of complaining. I do hope the many problems in the world will be resolved soon without too much casualties, though there must be more problems to come, I can only hope that the big issues can be replaced with smaller, less violent ones, and everyone around the world can live the safe and comfortable life I am blessed to have now.
It is now well into Autumn and the days are chilly,while it's not common for the health freak nation to have iced or cold food in such weather, there are always occasions when one feels rebellious.
The chua-bing may not look like much in the photo, but let me tell you, it is just HEAVENLY GOODNESS. The shaved ice itself is produced by placing a block of ice over an ice-shaving machine, which uses razors and high speed spinning action to shave the ice into light feathery pieces. Then comes the topping. There is a variety of choices, but I chose a simple combo- 粉圓fen-yuan ( same as the bubble in bubble tea ) and 煉乳lien-roo( condensed milk) . The brown gooey stuff all over is the shop's signature, a traditional kind of syrup made by brewing brown sugar and sticky rice. The syrup takes a lot of patience and effort to make, and it is healthier than refined sugar, with lots of dimension to the taste. I think that's why people are willing (at least I am!) to buy it, even if its price is equivalent to a cheap lunchbox. After all, one has to splurge occasionally, and why not splurge on something healthy?
If you ever come to Taiwan,be sure to scout these chua bing out!
Linsanity 林書豪旋瘋 I don't know basketball and I don't know religion, but I do know a good inspirational story when I see one! I am not a sports person, and the only time I watch sports is when the television is hogged by my dad or my brother. So naturally, I didn't really understand the hype around Jeremy Lin. I knew he's a good player, he's one of the few Asians playing in NBA, and his parents are from Taiwan, but besides from that, I'm not interested. I am of the rare species though, as everyone else in Taiwan seems to LOVE Jeremy Lin. When <Linsanity> the documentary/movie came out, it made its way into all of the major theaters here in Taiwan, probably bringing in lots of revenue too. One of the people I know loved Lin so much, not only did she watch the movie, she also offered to give out two free tickets, just to promote the film. So, even though I wasn't as devoted a fan and rarely goes to movie theaters anyway, I ended up watching the movie. To my surprise, I quite like the movie. The editing and transition was fluent, together with the help of the music, even people who don't understand the sport can be fully immersed in the game, knowing when is a good shot, and when the player is off. Against the backdrop of basketball, there are two main themes: Faith, and racial discrimination- discrimination was one of the biggest obstacles he had to overcome, and he did so by having faith in God. Jeremy is a American-grown Christian boy who has a strong passion for basketball and a NBA dream, I don't think you can be any more "American" than him. Yet because of his race and appearance, he had been turned down and humiliated multiple times in his basketball career, all the way from high school, university, to the professional leagues. It is rare to see a not-as-tall Asian in the NBA, but I thought his great skills and performance in the court would have been enough to compensate for that. Well, it certainly did not in the beginning, when he was struggling to get signed by teams, even though he played great in high school and university. Discrimination is everywhere, perhaps more so in sports, since there are a lot of traditions teams and fans honor, I remember seeing similar situations in the movie Money Ball. What really saddened me is when Lin received racist comments from the audience during his game at Harvard. I believe discrimination arises from ignorance, and I thought Ivy League students would be more informed than to be racist against Asian people, or at least be smart enough not to voice it loud. Clearly that is not the case, and it makes me think whoever said America is a great melting pot or a salad bowl probably didn't have Asians as one of the ingredients in mind. To deal with the discrimination, Lin turned to God for support. The discriminating comments were harsh, but one can still try to tune it out. But being turned down by teams after teams, that was something that would make one feel helpless, and he may not have been able to pull through if not for his strong unwavering belief in God and its plans. I am not Christian, but I do believe in the greater order, and it was touching to see how his faith got him through all the difficulties. Linsanity the movie isn't one of those blockbusters, but it is a decent documentary that gives some in-depth descriptions about Jeremy Lin and his rise to fame. No matter where his career takes him in the future, his story will be one that is inspirational to all.
Taiwan is an island with all four seasons: hot and humid summers, nice windy autumns, cold winters, and warm and flourishing springs. Having all four seasons is wonderful to girls like me, because it means we have occasions to bring out all kinds of clothing, from the teeny tiny bikini to the luxurious faux-fur coat.
But as the transition between seasons is not clear cut, it can bring headaches, literally. For example, it's October now and should be fall, but we are having 25 degree Celsious chilly days and 30something degree hot days following. The sudden change in temperature can make one unwell and have heat strokes, with symptoms such as headache, lost of appetite, and sick stomach.
To combat heat strokes, traditionally the Taiwanese drink 青草茶, which literally means green grass tea in Mandarin. usually 青草茶 refers to local "herbs" that may or may not be recognized as an Chinese medicine herb, but is believed to have healing qualities.
Because this herbal tea has the "cold" quality in traditional medicine , it is believed that it can help chase out the "hot" quality in your body that causes heat strokes. Unlike most Chinese medicine that are bitter to the taste, this tea is brewed from mostly green plants, so it has a grassy flavour with some minty accents, making it a good summer drink even if you don't suffer from any illness. But don't drink too much, or you might accumulate too much "cold" and fall sick!
This is Lenny, reporting from Taiwan!
What do you do when you have a heat stroke? Is there a family secret or a cultural tradition?
柚子yo-tzi, Pomelo, or Citrus Maxima if you want to be fancy, is a sweet citrus fruit native to South Asia. It has very thick skin wrapping juicy bits inside, and somewhat resembles a grapefruit, but with a much approachable flavour ( I despite grapefruit!) In Taiwan, its season coincides with the Chinese Moon Festival, so it's a tradition to eat pomelos on the day of the festival. The festival was a few days ago, but it's still great time to enjoy the fruit! If you happen to find pomelos in your local market and don't know how to process it, this is the post for you!
1. Find a pomelo you like. I don't know how to pick them, because you dont have to pick them in Taiwan, they are ALL sweet and yummy, but I think a good one would be green skinned with no obvious bruises. (Is it possible to bruise a pomelo?) to see if it's ripe, I just gently squeeze y to see if it's soft. The size can vary greatly but does not affect the taste. If anything I find the smaller ones to be sweeter! If you try one and love it, you can stock up, because of its thick skin, it has a long shelf life. My family buy in boxes and they are always gone in three days~
2. Slice he top off with a knife. It's okay to cut into the meat, but don't go too far down and cut too much.
3. Working from top, cut down vertically and divide pomelo into 4 or 6 sections. DO NOT CUT ALL THE WAY THROUGH, leave the bottom connected.
4. Stick your thumb in between the meat and the white spongey skin, work your way down and remove the meat chunk carefully.
5. It should look like this when you finish.
6. Remove meat from skin. You should have a claw-like skin and some beautiful meat pieces.
7. Time for the labour! Because your cut in step 3 could not be perfect, there should be meat exposed. Claw them out with your teeth, or remove them from the white membranes meticulously if you want to save them for later. The meat is actually clusters of tiny pieces, so they can fall apart if you are not careful.
8. When you finish a section of meat, you
Will run into a thin membrane,this membrane is very bitter and we usually don't eat it, making it a pain in the neck because there's a lot of peeling to do.
9. Stick your finger into the openings, it would be easier to peel.
10. Ta da!
11. Plate and save for later, or present to loved ones to show appreciation!
Remember to wash your hands, this citrus fruit can bite your skin and is sun-sensitive.
Remember how I said not to throw away the skin? We'll, this is how you can use it:
Make it a cap! It will look adorable on children, dogs, cats or any small and cuddly creatures. Take cute photos of them as a autumn memory collection! (Again, remember to wash their face and head if they come in contact with the citrus oil)
Pomelos have all the benefits a good cruise has: lots of fiber, vitamin c, and whatnot, and it's taste is pretty accessible too, but please note that because of a certain chemical it contains, PEOPLE WHO ARE ON MEDICATION SHOULD NOT EAT POMELO. Also, pomelo can help cure constipation, which means too much consumption can lead to diarrhea. Moderate amounts, everyone!
When I first heard that Singaporeans have laksa for breakfast, I was shocked. How can one have such a spicy and heavy food for the first meal of the day ?!
The Taiwanese breakfast choices is much lighter, at least for the busy city people. From my experience of living in Taipei, because mornings are always hectic with little time to buy and consume food (students have to be at school by 7:30am) , most people will opt for something that they can grab and go. Common choices are 吐司too-shi (toast) , 蛋餅Dan-bing (egg omelette?) or 三明治San-Ming-gi (sandwich) . Because the traditional staple food of Taiwan is rice, these are considered "western food", but it surely has evolved from when it first came to Taiwan. One can make these at home themselves, but why do that when you have 早餐店 just round the corner? Because these breakfast shops are very affordable and convenient, offering a huge range of choices, some people will go there for lunch or snacks too, kind of like the " all day brunch " idea .
I, for one, would never have noodles, rice or soup for breakfast, because I'm fixated on the idea of havin something "light", but the 鐵板麵tieh-ban-mien (grilled noodles) from breakfast shops are my only exception. They usually come in black pepper or mushroom sauce flavour, both of which I love, and they don't have any other topping, which works great for me, since I eat in small portions. They are the only thing that I am willing to eat for both breakfast or lunch.
Below is a photo of my lunch today, it's a 鐵板麵set, with the basic noodle and extra egg and pork meat, also a complimentary soy drink. This set is NTD70,which is about USD2, and makes a decent meal for me.
So, please tell me if you think this looks good! If it doesn't then it's probably because of the bad photo , since I write my blog on my phone :p I would also like to know what you typically eat for breakfast!
補習is a word that every student in Taiwan needs to know. As you may have guessed from my word-breakdown, the term means something similar to after school tuition classes, but 補習 usually refers to large or medium scale classes instead of one-on-one lessons. 補習 can be a noun or a verb, and the place we go to 補習 is called 補習班bu-shee-ban. Because this is a large part of our education culture, someone cunningly translated the term into English as "cram school". (I suspect we only have this translation because we need it for our English journals) "Cram" refers to how these schools' main purpose is to cram "knowledge" into the students' heads to prepare them for tests. It might sound inhumane or ridiculous, but it is a by-product of our test-driven educational system. I always assumed cram schools is a very Chinese thing, since Chinese people are known to value grades and school performance over everything, but talking to friends from Other countries, I realized that none of them have any idea what a cram school is, maybe it has different forms and names in different places? I would love to know if you have cram schools in your country!
I could write a whole essay on cram schools, but I'll just leave it at that for now, let me know if there is any particular aspect you are interested in.
I have been in cram school several times myself, for high school entrance exam, high school math and high school social studies ( I just can't memorize the dates and names in history!) currently I am in cram school for a very important exam I'll take next August, and it's one of the contributing factors of my not-so-active blog life, as it consumes much of my time. I understand that daily updates is life to a good blog, and it's all just a matter of time management, so hopefully I'll do a better job at that and update more frequently! I already have a lot of blog ideas lined up :)
Taiwan is a small island off the coast of China, and we have been caught up in a sovereignty dispute with China since forever. I love Taiwan, it is my country and home, but it can be discouraging sometimes when I introduce my loved land. When I talk about Taiwan, there are several kinds of reactions:
2. Oh I know Thailand! I love Thai food!
3. It's a country? I thought it's part of China.
4. So you are from Taiwan, what is your stance on the issue of indenpence of the Taiwanese people?
5. I love Taiwan! I heard they have great night markets and all the people are very friendly!
Reactions 1 through 4 are not very encouraging to me,
first, even when we are living a global village in this time, there are still a lot of people who've never heard of Taiwan; second, as much as I love Thai food and even considering long staying in Thailand, Thailand is not to be confused with Taiwan, as both are countries beautiful in their distinct way; third, for those who have heard of Taiwan, they assume it's part of China(PRC) because that's what China has been telling the world, but it's not true, we have our own government and president, and the PRC government does not have actual sovereignty over the island ; fourth, while I am glad that some are paying close attention to our situation in the international playground, and I do think that politics matter, can't we just leave that aside for a second and talk about the wonderful food and people of Taiwan?
As a born and proud Taiwanese girl, I hope to educate more people about my land in a fun and relaxed manner. In this blog, I hope to introduce to the non-Taiwanese audience the many wonders and attractions of Taiwan. I have grown up in a typical Taiwanese family with a typical Taiwanese educational background, but I have also been exposed to an western culture and education setting before, so I feel I can have a more critical and unbiased view on Taiwan. However, all my posts will be personal observations, not scientific surveys and experiments, so I cannot say they will be absolute and precise. Also, my English skills might not be up to par with the internet world, so please correct me if I made any major grammatical or content mistakes and let the minor ones slip ;p (I am very new to the internet lingo, I didn't even know what swatches are before I started this blog!)
This is not a travel blog, so feel free to ask me anything about Taiwan, or provide me with blog ideas, and I might make a post some day!
This is Lenny, reporting from Taiwan.
(I don't like image-free blog posts because they just don't feel complete. That and also to put a face to this blog, I attached a photo of myself "acting cute", which is so Taiwanese haha.)