Friday, July 27, 2012

Olympics: Funny or Die and Chinese Taipei

The Olympics begin today in London!  

In honor of these glorious games, I give to you a Funny or Die video produced by my dear friend Elliott Watson!  Starring Kurt Angle and Rob Van Dam.  


Who will you be rooting for in the games? 

 I am thinking Amuricah and "Chinese Taipei", which is how Taiwan is being represented in the games.  Some countries recognize Taiwan as an independent country, while others (including the Unites States) agree to say that it is the 23rd Province of China due to political pressures from the mainland.  

Although, the Olympics are just beginning, there has already been controversy brewing within the Taiwan Straight. 

This picture depicts Taiwan's flag flying high in the streets of London, before Beijing protested to have it removed.  

Pretty upsetting for Taiwan. 

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Salt Peanuts Cafe and Showroom

Taipower MRT
23 Lane 60 Taishun Street

After arriving in Taipei and eating street food for about three days straight, my body and soul needed something that resembled home a bit.  I took to my guidebook to seek out something comfortably western.  

A nice cold beer and a sandwich would do. 

 I found a few different places that looked good in the area.  Their names were: Bongos, Grandma Nitti's, and Salt Peanuts.  Such great names.  I flagged down a taxi and pointed to the street addresses.  I later realized that I was only a few blocks from all three restaurants and could have walked, but hey thats being a new girl in a foreign land for you..  

The only one that he could recognize was the address of Salt Peanuts.  So Salt Peanuts it was.

And for that, I could not have been more grateful.

I have been back since and found that not only do they have lovely home made baguettes for their flavorful sandwiches, but they also have a mighty fine cheese plate.  This girl needs to know where to find a cheese plate (smoked Gouda, Brie, and Manchego), and Salt Peanuts does not disappoint!  

Not only is the food incredible, but they have a good selection of Belgian beers, a good wine selection, and a gallery space in the back.  The atmosphere is great; surrounded by dark wooded walls and floors, and the local pop art gives it a unique and special feeling that I haven't felt anywhere else here. 

A good combination of great food, good booze, funky pop art, in a cozy atmosphere.

Menu and Table

Hello Mr. Cat-Man

Wall Paper

Duck, Arugula, and Apple Sandwich on a Warm Baguette!

Lindeman's Framboise, YUM.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Mama Scoot Scoot

If you are in Taipei, you have most likely become accustomed to the many scooters gracing the streets, roads, and sidewalks in this steamy concrete jungle. 

If you are not in Taipei, let me let you in on a little known non-secret here:  scooters rule the road.  I am sure it is similar in other places around the world, but for me, this is a whole new vehicular wonder.  

Back in Texas and all over the US of A, I drove Mama Toot Toot, my loyal '97 Chevy Tahoe, everywhere.  She is quite the beast and a force to be rivaled on the road: a tank with many battle scars, that left me safe and secure.  Mama Toot Toot and I always wound up in my intended destination; be it Vegas, New Orleans, Los Angels, Tucson, Austin, Houston, or Chicago - such a reliable automobile.  

When I first arrived to Taiwan, I had a few expectations and goals in mind.  One of which, was to be the proud owner of a scooter.  I wanted to brave the pavement along with the great crotch rocket riders of Taiwanese and Asia cultures, and this last Saturday was my inaugural day.  

I went for a ride with another Western girl and a friend to Wulai, a river town 45 minutes outside of Taipei.  We were two blondes and a bikini clad brunette scooting through Taipei - quite a sight to see.

Below is video I took to show the Taipei scooter to car ratio.  

And me... before my first romp on the streets of Taipei. 

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Song of Summer

Rodrigo & Gabriela - 'Tamacun'
My Song of Summer... Can't Stop Listening. 

Rodrigo y Gabriela are from Mexico, but got their start playing in pubs in Dublin, Ireland.  AND they are big supporters of animal rights.  Fantastic, goodhearted, happy entertainers all around.  

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Betel Nut

19th Century Drawing of Areca catechu
Betel nut (sounds like beetle nut) is something that I had never heard of before coming to Taiwan.  I first heard about it when walking the streets of downtown Taipei with a friend.  A religious procession/parade was going down the streets and many of the people in it were chewing on something and spitting out red stuff all over the pavement.  I asked what it was and to my astonishment was told that it was some sort of a nut wrapped in a leaf, that is commonly chewed here.  Although, it looked questionable, I immediately wanted to try it...  

 Betel nut, also known as bin lang by the locals, is somewhat similar to chewing tobacco in Western Culture.  

The nut comes from Areca catechu, more commonly referred to as the Betel Palm, where it gets its name.  The Areca nuts are harvested and wrapped around with a fresh Betel Palm leaf. Usually, you see people working at the betel nut shops wrapping them with the fresh leaves, before placing them in the window.  The tree that produces the nut can be found in the tropical Pacific, Asia, and parts of east Africa.   

 How does one find betel nut?  Betel nut stands are all very similar and easy to spot.  Typically the stands are green with a half circle of flashing lights to entice the addicted betel nut chewers.   These lights can be seen down many streets flashing in the night.  Rumor on the street, is in some places, the people who sell the said betel nuts are promiscuous girls.  These girls are sometimes referred to as betel nut beauties.  Cigarettes are usually sold in these stands as well... Stands of pure sin!

To chew betel nut, you first bite off the pit on the end, put it in your mouth and begin to chew.  You chew and chew and chew.  Do not spit or swallow.  There is a similar effect much like tobacco.  You get a buzz that lasts for a few minutes.  Unlike chewing tobacco, your mouth will become red, instead of brown.  AND it is bitter, bitter, bitter.  

Much like tobacco, Betel nut is addictive.  The clientele for betel nut are usually city workers, prostitutes, taxi drivers, and vaguely the working class. 

People could say that betel nut is not something to be chewed by a lady, much like chewing tobacco.  Being a Texas girl, and having chewed tobacco at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo, I could try and argue with that, but lets face it:  this is not a face any lady should make. 

Mouth Full of Betel Nut, Y'all. 

Betel Nut Wrapped in Betel Palm Leaf

Betel Nut, Beer, Cigarette, and Firework Vendor

Typical Betel Nut Bag

Bite off the end of the Nut - Thanks to my model and Professor of Betel Nut, Pete.

Biting off the end and looking like a fool.
Images via:, wikipedia, and

Friday, July 6, 2012

Culture Shock!

I have refrained from starting this post, because I am right in the middle of the various stages of culture shock.  I have been through it before in Argentina, and I am sure that my experience in Asia will be exponentially different, as it already has been.  I plan on revisiting this post at the end of the year to compare and contrast my culture shock in South America, with how I felt in East Asia. 

According to multiple sources and my experiences: there are 5 main stages in culture shock.  I have written them here in my own words.

#1 - The Honeymoon stage
This is the stage that is with you at the beginning of any journey, short or long.  For short trips, usually the honeymoon stage is all you experience.  Usually, you are just simply so excited for a change.  You are in a new place away from the stresses of work or life in your native country.  You have successfully escaped to a land with new and interesting food, people and culture.  You are learning a whole new language, your senses peaking as you simply walk through the streets or order something that smells like nothing you have ever imagined.

In Argentina, I loved they way the Spanish language was spoken with the beautiful castillano accent.  It all sounded very Italian and romantic.  The wine and meat were incredible.

# 2 - The Adjustment Stage
After you have fallen in love with your new home over and over again, the snags start to add up, and it hits you: you are very far away from home.  Far away from your amazing friends and your loving family.  The language is so different, and the more you learn, like anything, the more you realize you don’t know.  It becomes daunting.  Depression sets in.  You become tired, disconnected, and the people start to annoy you.  

*Actually, this usually happens to me for the first few weeks, then honeymoon, then this again for a bit.  My friend Jade pointed that out to me.  It  happens to her as well. 

This stage hit me the first few weeks in and again a few months later.  The reason it is so soon was because I had been living in sunny Arizona for four years, and arrived to Buenos Aires in the middle of winter.  The weather, along with my difficulty to understand the accent took their toll on me later on.

#3 - Acclimation
WAKE UP.  Get up and know that you are here for a reason.  Where you are is a gift and is something to live fully.  This is the stage where you start becoming familiar with your surroundings.  It begins to feel a bit like home.  You are a part of this new world now.  Ordering food is easier, and you can get around the city pretty well. 

At this stage, I had begun to establish a great group of girl friends.  We took a lot of trips.  I began to learn more and more about the city and the Argentine culture.  At this stage, I was a pro at ordering chori pan (sausage sandwich), lomito (steak sandwich), and vino tino (red wine). 

#4 - Acceptance
This is the stage where you sit back and accept that this is where you will be for a while.  You have already put in a lot of time and effort to this place and begin to remember how and why you felt the way you did during the honeymoon stage. 

This is when I started to walk the city streets like I was a part of them.  I was living and breathing amongst the people, I recognized my neighbors and they recognized me.   I could do almost anything on my own.

#5 - Domination Stage
At this stage your command of the language is key, and the part that I think really pulls you up to dominating your new home.  You can speak enough to communicate and carry small conversations.  Not fluent by any means, because that takes much more time, but you can easily get around.  At this stage you can communicate with the people and really begin to absorb and learn everything that you started out in pursuit of. 

I was often mistaken for being Argentine after about six months.  I could get around easily and had my favorite places to eat and shop.  My life in Argentina had become a reality and I loved it.  Pretty doubtful I will be mistaken for a local here in Asia though…

* Tips on how to deal
Accept what is happening and know that it is normal.  These feelings of self-doubt and defeat happen to the best of us.  Stick it out, and you will eventually dominate.  Obviously.

Work out!  Find something that you like to do as far as exercise that you can do anywhere that you move, for me that is running.  This will help keep your energy level up, keep you healthy, help you to see the city, and make friends.

Try and brush up on the language before moving over.  Any little bit will help, and it shows the people that you are trying and you care.  Earning respect from the people you are living with is important. 

Read up on your history.  This will help you to understand the culture and where the people of the country are coming from and what they have endured in the past.  This can really help you during the adjustment stage. 

…. And that’s all I have to say about that.

Ceramics in Yingge, Taiwan

Yingge is a city in Southwestern Taipei County dedicated to ceramics.   When moving to Taipei, this town was on the top of my list of places to visit.  I secretly hoped that a ceramics master would spot me and my naturally badass ceramics moves at one of the Do-it-Yourself ceramics places.  He would then obviously ask me to apprentice under him and teach me all of the magical, oriental ceramics secrets.

This didn’t happen, but I did thoroughly enjoy my trip to Yingge. 

To get to Yingge from Taipei, you can get a TRA train from Taipei main station.  It is a short trip, a little over half an hour, depending on the train that you take and only $30 NT (Less than $1 US).   *Tip: its pronounced Inga, which is helpful to know when buying your ticket. 

I went with a few friends.  We threw pots, had good food, and drank beer through very European-like, palm tree lined streets. 

Yingge used to be a bustling ceramics town, with factories and exported ceramics to all parts of the world before the 1990’s.  Since most of the factories have left Taiwan and moved to China, it is more of a tourist spot, with some beautiful, expensive hand-made ceramic galleries and fun Do-It-Yourself type places mixed along the clean, cobble stone streets.   

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Happy Birthday Dad... and America too!

Miss you!  

I am celebrating with you in spirit... drinking spirits! 

Foto of the Week

Sorry I have been slacking on posting!  I have a lot started, but having trouble finishing them.  Typical.  I am going to start a more regimented posting plan, with different themes touched upon every week.  Por ejemplo: food, culture, nature, and picture of the week.   

BEHOLD!  The Hello Kitty Water!

I went walking in a different direction around my neighborhood today.  Got really lost and went into a fabulously sketch corner store for some water, and thats where I found Hello Kitty!   

Hello Kitty is big here as you can imagine, and I am a big fan.  The water tasted like water.