Monday, February 17, 2014

Chinese New Year 2014 - Let the Horse be with You!

SOOoooo I am well aware that it has been quite sometime since I have posted to the Tortuga. I apologize for that. My life kind of all exploded at once into many wonderful opportunities, and I have been very busy. 

More on that and my new website to come.

I went to Dulan again for Chinese New Year, because it's just my favorite place. My friends and I rode 190 Km in two days on our bicycles and found our way from the cold, bleak and rainy north to the sunshine and beaches of the south. 

Some of my favorite photos from the trip below...

I also have a move coming up in the next few months.... I shall be saying goodbye to Taiwan and hello to the good ole US of A. 

Not sure where my next destination will be to live, but thinking its finally time to snuggle into NYC. But Portland is looking good and so is Los Angeles....

And then there is my love for Latin America.. which has me thinking maybe Panama, Colombia or Chile.

Decisions, decisions. 

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Taiwan Expectations Revisited

Taiwan Beer and a mango ice in Kending.

Before coming to Taiwan, I made a list of how I expected things to turn out in my new home. I planned on revisiting it 6 months later, before returning to the states. 14 months later, I am still here, and finally revisiting my prior expectations. 

1) Most people will speak English, and it won't be too hard to get around speaking broken Chinese at first. 
Yes, many people speak English here, but the majority do not. Also, I didn't know ANY Chinese when I arrived and was extremely lost and confused. I am getting along much better with the rudimentary Chinese Mandarin I know now. 

2) I am going to be really skinny, because the food is healthy. Unlike when I got fat from drinking copious amounts of Malbec and feasting on steak, potatoes, and bread every night in Argentina. 
The food is definitely not healthy here. Most of it is very greasy and fried. I try and cook at home as much as possible so I know what I am eating. 

3) There are many beaches in Taiwan, so I will be at the beach almost every weekend.
It is very easy to access the beaches here, and I have been going often. The beaches in the north are nice in the summer, and the beaches in the south are ideal for the winter. However, I have not been going every weekend as there is too much to do in Taipei!

4) I will learn to surf and windsurf, and get really good at both, obviously. 
I have been learning to surf, many friends of mine have surfboards and they are available in all the beach towns. Windsurfing is more difficult to access. I finally got up and rode my first wave in Dulan two weeks ago!

5) The mountains will be beautiful and inspiring and I will hike them all of the time!
The mountains are most certainly beautiful. I try to hike them or drive through them on my scooter as much as possible. It is only a 30-minute drive to get out of the city and into the fresh mountain air.

6) I will spend a lot of time in the ceramics town south of Taipei. So much time, that people will know me and will love having me in their studio.
I went to the town of Yingge once. It was touristy, and sadly no prolific ceramics guru discovered me for my badass ceramics skillz.

7) It is going to be hot during the summer and I will wear lots of linen. 
It is HOT. Unfortunately, I have not procured any linen. I will try and tackle that in Thailand in a few weeks!

8) I will probably like teaching a little bit at first, and will grow to appreciate it and really like it in the end. 
My teaching situation at first was a complete nightmare and my school was the WORST. However, I teach kindergarten now and really enjoy teaching my class art, cooking, math and everything else! I still prefer traveling and writing at a cafe most. 

9) I probably won't find a gym to join, so I will try and find an apartment that is close to a park or running path. 
For my first year here, I lived right next to the riverside park, where I would frequently run and rollerblade. Now I live close to a public gym and work out there. At first I was afraid of going to a public gym, but it actually has everything you could ever want and it's clean. It's $50NT each time you go, which is the equivalent of $1.50 US. Also, all the men wear speedos at the pool and speedos are the funniest.

10) There will be lots of scooters there, and I fully plan on purchasing one and painting it turquoise. 
I have scooter that I drive everywhere, but never painted it turquoise. I opted for a turquoise helmet instead. 

11) There will be a lot of expats there, and I will become friends with both expats and locals. 
This is a large community of expats. Many of them are artists or are studying Chinese Mandarin. I have friends from all over the world and many from Taiwan.

12) There won't be many bars, but there will be a lot of night markets, and I will most likely spend my time and money in the city shopping and sightseeing. 
There are plenty of bars here. Old Taiwanese men love themselves a single malt scotch. I don't do much sightseeing or shopping in the city. I go outside of the city to explore. I spend most of my money on traveling, drinking and eating. 

13) I expect there to be beautiful world-class art and architecture around me, and plan to study it and be influenced by it.
HAHAHAHAHAHHA. I was sorely mistaken on this one. Everything human made here is pretty ugly, save a few memorial halls, temples and Taipei 101. I have been influenced and inspired by the natural settings and creative energy here more than anything else. 

14) I plan to take Tortuga the Turtle with me most places and to let him blog as much as he desires!
Tortuga wasn't so keen on traveling, so he hangs out in my garden now. 

****What happened that I was not expecting.****

1) I have started painting, sculpting and drawing again. Recently, I sold my first piece of art!

2) Have met some incredibly inspiring people.

3) After a year of struggling to figure things out, I am starting to get it. It is a completely different and beautiful planet. 

4) Chinese is really really REALLY hard. 

5) Things like the picture below have become normal, everyday occurrences to me. 

Family affair, scooting around. 

View of Taipei 101, from my rooftop, at sunrise. 

beach beach beach!


Selfie before scooting around the town.

Monday, July 29, 2013

Beach Daze

View of Turtle Island from Beach House Rooftop at Wa'io Beach

I have been finding myself saying: "This can't be real life." a lot lately. Why? Because my life has become 20 shades of amazing after finding myself in Taiwan for 14 months. 

This is what I did yesterday... on a Monday.

I woke up in an old beach house, walked down a pebbled road, past a temple, and through two great, gold dragons who guard it, down to the beach. I carried a mat, an umbrella, sunscreen and a good book. I swam in the ocean, looking back to see great, green mountains falling into the sea. I opened my book, sat under my umbrella and read to the sound of the waves washing up to the shore.

After my beach time, I went with a Kiwi friend to check out a beach house for rent. Four stories tall and perfect for holding numerous guests, completely with about a dozen surfboards and a ping-pong table. Outside is a grill and a hammock. Umm thanks! I'll take it!

Next, I must get back to Taipei for a few appointments. I take my scooter through the mountain trails, two hours, speeding around tight corners, surrounded by tea fields... sunshine, lush greenery and fresh air clinging to me on every turn. 

I take a break by the river for a mango ice. So refreshing sitting there, listening to the birds and watching the schools of fish sparkle by. 

... So this day is one of many perfect days I have had of late. I have also started writing for a magazine here, which is why I have been absent from the Tortuga! 

Wa'io Beach BBQ with view of Turtle Island
Scoot Scoot down the Road 

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Dragon Boat Race - Taipei City 2013

Morning Practice

Dragons Boats... I knew nothing of them before moving to Taiwan but, since early March, have learned so much.    

For the past few months, I have been rowing a 20-person canoe-like-boat with my teammates in preparation for the dragon boat race, a tradition that has been practiced in parts of Asia for decades; specifically in Taiwan, Malaysia and Singapore.  The Dragon Boat Festival, takes place on the fifth day of the fifth month of every year; AKA June 5th.

 In Taiwan, people celebrate by consuming rice dumplings, drinking wine, lighting a multitude of fireworks and racing dragon boats.

I happened upon joining my team, Team MAX, while out on the town.  I ran into a friend, who told me he was out with his dragon boat team. I then introduced myself to the team and let them know I would be at the next practice.  Everyone was very welcoming, but a bit skeptical that I would show up.  Practices are Tuesday, Wednesday, and Friday at 6:30 am, and Saturdays and Sundays at 8:45 am.  

Team MAX is compromised of 60+ people and three boats. There is a women's team, a men's team, and a co-ed team. The women's team won first place for the Taipei race last year.  Team MAX has been together for five years, the coach is Japanese, and there are 6+ different languages spoken between all of us including: Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Spanish, Portuguese, German and English.

The race is typically 500 meters long, and there can be between 16-20 people rowing. Besides the people rowing, there is a drummer and a flag catcher in the front, and a steerer in the back.

 I was on the women's team and we won third place in Taipei City! 

Race! (I am the second on the left)

Team Max - Pretty Ladies!

Women's Boat after the race.

And... a video of our race!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

TAV Review on SparkJam

The Taipei Artist Village is always a good time. Last Thursday night Simmo Simpson put on a wonderful show featuring himself with three local artists. The dark wood, dim lighting and flickering candles created an inviting and cozy ambiance for the typical cool, damp winter night in Taipei.
I cozied up at a table in the back and watched the acts unfold over the three and a half hour show. First up was Ellery, a blonde, campishly-cute boy with his guitar. A passionate lyricist, his silky voice was the strong point of his performance. He did ramble, which was quite endearing. Aside from what seemed to be a little bit of inexperience, he was a lover of his music and his passion was bright.
Mark Darvill, a well-known musician around these parts, followed Ellery in what is said to be his last show in Taipei (for now). When Mark gets on stage it is easy to see that he is a seasoned, calculating musician. He and his shiny black guitar go together like a man and his mighty stead. Once a duo with partner Caleb, you can see that some of his songs were meant for two, but over time he has really learned to pull it off alone with confidence. As a musician he rubs you the wrong way at times only to double over and rub you the right way in his indie, country-esque tones. One can’t help but be hypnotized tapping their foot and bopping their head throughout his shows and falling deep into the music. His impressive tap tap taping on the guitar creating percussion while pulling off tuning at the same time highlights his obvious talent. Sitting down, he made me just want to get up and dance. Mark just makes you feel good; every time I see him on stage I fall a little bit in love
Next up was Trey Yip. He brought the crowd. While he was playing the cozy room was packed with attentive listeners. It is easy to see why people are drawn to him. He is a strong, clear lyricist with an unusually comfortable, feel-good style. At risk of sounding a bit cliché, I must say he just has that Bob Dylan dirty western vibe with his own unique twist; a great guitar player paired with command over the harmonica is usually a winning combination. I mean who doesn’t love a freshly showered dirty man in a polo? His voice and slam poetry styled narratives proved strong. I felt enveloped in an essence of something fucking awesome, arousing in me a healthy combination of satisfaction and wonder.
Read the rest and see Music Here

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Dog Fry Taiwan

With my sister Katherine and her friend Katherine visiting me in Taiwan, I have been blessed with the opportunity to see Taiwan with a fresh pair of eyes.  

When I first arrived here, everything was new and exciting, but now that I am accustomed to life here, the little things that were once filled with wonder have become mundane, everyday occurrences. 

The two Katherine's have been very curious, asking questions about EVERYTHING.  Many of the questions I can answer, but there are still quite a few mysteries to be solved.  

One such question was about this sign.

“Does it mean don’t eat your dog?” they asked.

At first glance I clearly assumed that it did not.  I scoffed a bit at the idea, but many people have that thought that people eat dog in all of Asia.  This is not the case for Taiwan, but it is so in Mainland China.  So, it is a valid question being that there is a pan on the pooches head.

I took matters into my own hands and sent the picture to my friend Ian, who is from here, asking him the meaning of the sign.   His response made everything make much more sense. 

There are a lot of stray dogs in Taiwan and the sign tells you not to abandon your pets.  Many people adopt a puppy only to release it on the streets when it proves to be more of a chore and responsibility than they cared to take on.  

Also, the symbolism of carrying someone’s black pan in Chinese culture means you are in a situation that you didn’t sign up for.  

This is Ian, a dashing pilot for Eva Air, and one of my favorites here. 

... and I leave you with another sign.  I recently saw this while riding my bike to work.

I'll let you try and decifer the meaning of this one.