Sunday, November 29, 2009

Advent, Mum's Impending Arrival, Copenhagen, Christmas, & Winter Break

"Look for me with the sun-bright sparrow
I will come on the breath of the wind"

The Decemberists - Yankee Bayonet (I Will Be Home Then)

December is nearly upon us & I celebrated the first day of Advent today. My Mum flies in on Thursday & Saturday starts the Copenhagen conference on climate change. One of my friends and I created a list of things I should take Mum to see & do while she is here. The list looks something like this: Taipei 101, the Taipei Zoo (who doesn't want to see a couple of gift pandas), Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall and Liberty Square, Maokong for the tea houses & tea farms, Shilin Night Market to experience the largest & most famous night market in Taipei, and Huashan Culture Park! I'm really quite excited about her arrival & really hope that we'll have good weather during the week she is here!

So I'm flying to Corpus on Dec. 30/31st. I arrive in Cali on the 30th and arrive in Corpus on the morning of the 31st. I'll be in Corpus for 72 hours and then I fly out to South America. Mum & I are leaving on Jan 3rd for Guayaquil, Ecuador & then flying the next day to Cuenca, Ecuador. I submitted an abstract of a paper (I'm in the process of writing it) to an international conference on environmental, cultural, economic, and social sustainability & was told on Monday that it was accepted! I'm presenting in Cuenca, Ecuador on poverty reduction & achieving the Millennium Development Goals in Asia Pacific through the use of microfinance! I've studied microfinancing since I was in high school, but the thought of presenting an idea I've had to a room full of scholars & writing a paper to submit to an international journal is rather daunting!

Nothing says "die hard" quite like immediately flying to the Andes (Cuenca is 2500m above sea level) after living for 4 months in Asia & not taking a few weeks to overcome the jet lag! Still...2010 is starting off rather legendary! I'll be in/around Corpus from Jan. 9th - Feb.'s going to awesome, I'm going to use a fork every day!

"So surround yourself with good people"

Lost in the Trees - Fireplaces

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Fun Times on a Friday Night

After our midterm debacle, we recovered by celebrating Sabrina's birthday and went to Grandma Nitti's for Western food in Shida! 5 Germans, a Russian, and an American spent Friday night eating Mexican, Italian, and just normal nonAsian food. Sebastian and Denis had quesadillas, I had chicken fajitas, and Sabrina had an enchilada! While not quite authentic, it was by no means was actually really good!

My chicken fajitas took on the interesting theme of Asian/Mexican fusion...they were served with a few tortillas (who knows where these tortillas came from), normal white rice but mixed with black beans, a side of salsa, sour cream, chips, and lettuce. The quesadillas and enchilada looked good and were served with the same sides and all parties were happy with their choices that night.

We followed our Mexican food with a chocolate and cherry cake purchased by one of the Fabians at Cafe 85. Since we had a lot of languages present, we decided to clap instead of sing Happy Birthday, and all clapped while Sabrina cut her cake. We then met up with a few other friends to shoot some pool, play a little foosball, and watch basketball, water polo, or a car race from 1994.

To get back to school Sebastian, Denis, Sabrina, Alex, and I had to convince a taxi to take the 5 of us back (even though it is against the law for a taxi to carry 5 people) and eventually found a taxi driver who was willing, but only if Sabrina would duck down. He drove really fast and practically dumped us at the gate of our school, but the policeman driving behind us didn't seem to realize/care that there were more than 4 foreigners in the tiny taxi.

Good times, good times!


So last week we had our midterms.

For the most part I just had to hand in drafts of my final term papers, but for one of my classes (Asia Pacific Regional Development) I actually had a multiple choice test.

After I turned in a 10 page essay on international political economy theory and a detailed outline of a development paper about the IMF/World Bank policies in Latin America, I finally got around to summarizing and analyzing 11 chapters of a book that wasn't really written for a multiple choice test. My classmates and I poured over the names of presidents and prime ministers in APEC or ASEAN countries, tried to remember which countries were part of ASEAN Plus Three or ASEAN Plus Six, traced the colonial origins of Asia Pacific back to the UK/Netherlands/US, and dreaded Friday morning.

Question: Who is the "O le Ao o le Malo" of Samoa?
Answer: Tuiatua Tupua Tamasese Efi

Question: Who is the president of Indonesia?
Answer: Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono

Friday morning came and it was a massacre. We looked at our 20 question test and pretty much all let out a groan. Usually tests have definite answers, but this test was a multiple choice test with an emphasis on multiple. We had 5 possible answers and we could circle as many of the answers as we wanted or choose to circle none of the answers if we thought that was best. Each question could legitimately have multiple answers and each answer a person gave could be justified through class notes, the chapters of our readings, or presentations given.

I think my favorite part of the test was where I had to decide if by answering the question, I would be losing more points than just skipping it. Needless to say, no one was very happy after that.

Yay for no more midterms!

Friday, November 13, 2009

Haircuts Can Be Quite Hazardous to One's Hair

I never meant to end up looking the way I currently do, but due to a slight language barrier, I now have amazingly poofy hair that does its own thing.

Sabrina and I went to go get a haircut and while waiting for our turns, she flipped through a magazine and found a picture that she thought might work for her style of hair. She then explained to the girl cutting her hair that she would like it to be similar, but of course, work with the style she already had and don't do anything too drastic! Since Sabrina speaks Chinese, but not really that much haircutting Chinese, the process was a bit sketchy. I was sitting beside her trying not to laugh as the girl kept nodding and responding to her Chinese, but cutting off more and more of her hair! The finished product was Sabrina with rather poofy hair, looking like she had been the victim of a bad hair day!

Needless to say, I should have run for the door when the same girl who cut Sabrina's hair slid over to cut mine. Even though Sabrina said she told the girl to keep the same style I already had (and liked), the girl somehow decided that I would look good with a style similar to Sabrina's! Much to my horror, the girl started cutting off large amounts of my hair and she just kept cutting it off while trying to reassure me by saying "beautiful." Eventually, she left me with uneven bangs and more poofiness than my hair has ever had!

It's been rather rough since has not been possible for my hair to look consistently the same for a day, much less a few hours. In fact, it has been going through quite an evolutionary process as most of the time it looks rather wild or is in a state of total disarray! Check out the pictures and sympathize with me as my hair slowly grows out and possibly returns to normal!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Headlines & Excerpts of Life

  • It's been pretty busy here lately
  • I've been here for 9 weeks
  • The campus has dogs. Lots of them. And the dogs form gangs. And the gangs roam the streets/sidewalks looking for loner dogs or dogs of another gang to beat up. I was walking to class when the Brown Gang beat up on Rogue and there was a show down on the steps of the Administrative Building (yes, we have a lot of time on our hands and have been studying the dynamics/politics of the dog gangs)
  • I got stuck inside of a watermelon slice (made out of cardboard) on Saturday
  • I got told that I don't speak English following a 5-7 min presentation I gave in English in class on Friday
  • I keep making friends & will have quite a lot of buddies/stalkers if I'm not careful
  • I enjoy going to the gym to watch people attempt to jump rope
  • There was an earthquake on Thursday
  • My mum is coming to visit me in December
  • I'll be flying to Corpus in January
  • I have been experimenting with yogurt and discovered that I like "hard" yogurt
  • While experimenting with yogurt I discovered that I'm not a fan of botanical yogurt
  • I've been having a hard time with the wooden chopsticks lately...I keep getting splinters
  • I got to hear Ander sing Twinkle Twinkle Little Star to me via Skype
  • I scared Cole by telling him that in Taiwan people don't really celebrate took me a while to rebuild the myth of Santa. Never fear, Santa goes everywhere and the good little boys and girls of Taiwan will get toys!
  • I am getting a haircut on Monday and would like to come out with hair while still looking decently good
  • The kids attending the experimental kindergarten next to my dorm seems to be getting louder...I think they might need to tone down their testing
The end.

Oh, I found Millicent (or Mildred) while doing laundry this past weekend!

Thursday, October 29, 2009

The Unfortunate Demise of Millicent (or Mildred) & Halloween Prep in Taipei

Let us pause in a moment of silence for the unfortunate demise of Millicent (or Mildred)- one of my beloved black socks. 6 socks went into the washer, 6 socks went into the dryer, and only 5 socks came out of the dryer. It was a sad day.

On a brighter note, the sun came back out and I got to wear my sunglasses while gallivanting around Taipei. That's right, I gallivant and I'm not afraid to admit it! In fact, I've been told I look pretty good gallivanting :p So oddly, the weather has turned hot again and it went from being rainy, to sunny and pleasant, straight to hot! Don't worry though, another typhoon is on its way and we'll be getting more rain soon. The only reason I know this is because I have become so fascinated with the weather that I created an account with Weather Underground to keep me informed!

Tomorrow is Friday and after my wonderful (required) Asia Pacific Regional Development class, I am supposed to go check out the Pixar Exhibit at the Fine Arts Museum with my neighbor/classmate. It's a conglomeration of 20 years of animation with all sorts of neat Pixar stuff to see and read about! After some Pixar fun, we're adventuring to the Shilin Night Market to find the remaining parts of Sabrina's Halloween costume and anything else that might jump out at us!

*I can't wait...Halloween is Saturday and a group of us are going out to celebrate at a rooftop party in downtown Taipei! It should be interesting since Sabrina is still assembling parts of her costume, I have a costume that when assembled looks something like an odd mix between a pirate, matador, and a rejected character from the Phantom of the Opera, Jose is supposedly an elegant vampire (?), and Clark is still looking for a costume! Get ready Taipei, these Westerners are about to take you by storm...odd costumes and all!

*For those of you who might be a little skeptical of my love for Halloween, don't worry, debauchery and "of the devil" behavior will not occur...perhaps it would be easier for some if they thought about it framed in the following terms:

I can't wait...research is occurring on Saturday and a group of social scientists with very diverse backgrounds in economic development, international relations, cultural studies, and international business are going out to collect data on social behaviors in a foreign country in the city's urban center. It should be interesting since the team is still assembling parts of their school uniform. Get ready Taipei, these enthusiastic researchers are about to learn a lot!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Ovaltine, Banana Bread, & Insults

This weekend marked the first time in about 3 weeks that the sun was seen! Knowing that it was likely to start raining again at any minute, most of my classmates and I spent the weekend soaking up the much needed vitamin d. As predicted, there is now another typhoon heading towards the Philippines, which means we will be getting more rain by the middle of this week. The funniest part about the lack of sunshine was watching the locals bundle up in their coats just because the sun was was a lovely 22°/23°!

Things that might need to be mentioned (and addressed later when I return to the States)...

1. I seem to have a fondness for pie. I never really ate pie while living in the US, but now, I love Tuesdays or Thursdays when the nice Asian man sells Mom's Pies out front of the supermarket with a logo of a lady who strangely resembles an Amish woman. I like to alternate between the chocolate marbled cheesecake, pumpkin pie, and cheesecake with blueberry topping.

2. I was introduced by my Chilean classmate to the wonderful world of Ovaltine! I never knew that I liked Ovaltine until last Wednesday. Now I find myself wandering into the 7-11's around my school looking for the bright orange carton and being slightly disappointed if the 7-11 I happen to wander into doesn't have any. I once made one of my other friends go with me to several different 7-11's in my quest for Ovaltine! I think an Ovaltine intervention might be needed!!!

3. The same Chilean classmate who introduced me to Ovaltine, also shared the wonderful fact that the bakery near school sells banana bread! Needless to say, I've been a frequent customer at the bakery and I'm afraid that like the Fruit Stand Man, the bakery employees will very soon get to know me as the English speaking kid who comes in and gets banana bread (lots of banana bread).

Halloween is approaching and I need to start looking for a Halloween costume...I'm kind of afraid that I'll end up being Hello Kitty for this Halloween. It could be a really odd Halloween. Some friends from the States and I have thought about seeing who could collect the most free candy in Taipei, however, since trick-or-treating is not really a concept the locals are familiar could be quite the experience! Adding to this experience is the fact that we don't really speak Chinese...this definitely adds a new dimension to trick-or-treating!

In other news, my Chinese tutor taught me how to say "pig head," however, she taught me how to say it the polite way and her children corrected her with the less formal way to insult people! I think because I had learned the formal way of saying "pig head" that it was causing my Chinese speaking classmates to politely ask me what it was I was attempting to say- instead of feeling the sting of my newly acquired insult! I'll have to work on it! Perhaps by the time I return to the States for Winter Break I'll be able to count to 10 and insult people without them asking me what it is I'm wanting to say!