Moving is a pain

Insightful, right? I know everyone reading this has moved at least once, and I know I don’t even have a house full of stuff, but this really feels like a never-ending process of picking up and moving across the world, taking the scenic route while I go.

Everyone knows that moving bites, so that’s all I’m going to say on the matter.

In other news, rain has once again foiled our biking plans. We decided to not bike the two or three days from Taidong to Hualien and instead just rent bikes in the ending point and bike into Taroko Gorge, the most scenic place in Taiwan.

Tomorrow morning we leave for a few days of camping and hiking and bits of cycling, hopefully not in a bunch of rain. “We” includes Colin, Megan, and me. Jared will join us for some hiking this weekend.

With all of the moving I’m not talking about, it’s been easy to forget that we’re doing this at all. But here we go, tomorrow morning.

Last night we played mahjong at Angie’s house—much fun. I want to get a board, but I knew it would be too heavy to go in my box that was already 300 grams over the limit when we shipped it (along with three others) today.

But I’m not talking about moving. In fact, I’m cleaning the kitchen.

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Putting on airs

Colin and I noticed something funny the other day. Constructions, which is—geez—a constant nuisance no matter where you live, is going on along the path we take to school. It’s also going on outside our apartment, and the jackhammers start at 7 a.m., but that’s not part of this story; it’s just obnoxious.

The guys sweeping the asphalt around were dressed as you would expect road workers to dress: boots, dirty jeans, sweaty T-shirts under bright orange safety vests, and hard hats. The guy driving the steamroller, however, had on khakis, a polo, and loafers like I bought Dad for Christmas several years back. It looked as though the construction team had plucked this guy off the street like a lucky winner and given him a hard hat and the keys.

After a hardy chuckle about it, Colin guessed it might have to do with the notion of displaying wealth or status. In our steamroller driver’s case, it would have to do with making sure everyone knew he was not a regular construction worker; he was qualified to drive the machinery. He was a step above and would wear clothing ill-suited for the job to show it.

It might also explain the middle-aged runners we see in the park inexplicably wearing slacks and polos. It’s as if they’re saying, “I’m running around this park because I’m told it’s good for me. My regular interests are not nearly so common as running.”

“I could drive around this park if I wanted,” I joked.

“I’m actually running to my car right now. It’s a Porsche—or didn’t you see my hat?” Colin continued.

Again, these were the musings of a couple of outsiders, and we clearly haven’t actually asked any of these runners why they opted to leave the track suit at home. I don’t know that anyone who reads this could weigh in on the matter, but it certainly would help clear up this rather baffling observation.

Trivial but exciting developments in my life

I went last night for another haircut. This time I had an appointment at the salon Pascal, Andy, and Colin had all gone to before, so it seemed like a safe bet. The gal cutting my hair actually asked if I wanted it thinned before we started, so I knew I was in good hands.

The scalp massage alone was worth the $15 I paid for the cut. Marvelous.

As for the haircut itself, it’s not exactly how I’d like my hair to look right now, but I think it’s a lot better than it was. I have faith that in four month’s time, it’ll look spectacular. I’ll have pictures after tomorrow night, when I’ll be all dolled up for a night out with the gals.

Another fashion-related note: What is the deal with these pants that are narrow in the ankle and suddenly bulge out at the hips? Is that the look we’re going for these days? I thought maybe it was just some unfortunate style plaguing Taipei (like bowls cuts), but I guess it all started on the runways.

I didn’t get any pictures of the salsa dancing, but here’s the video!

Typical Friday

Though our salsa exhibition this morning was not entirely smooth, it went better than I feared it would. My classmates were smiling, the audience was cheering, and my shoes were sparkling. That all chalks up to a success in my book. Unfortunately, I was caught off-guard when they called us up and my camera sat in the bottom of my schoolbag. Luckily, there were about a dozen other cameras pointed at us, and our laoshi promised she would have pictures and videos of the performance for us on Monday.

We’re spending most of the coming weekend camping with Megan and Jared in Yangmingshan. I learned about a fabulous-looking hotspring from Lali, and there’s a campsite conveniently nearby. We’re BBQ-ing, but I also made a kahlua cake. It’s Megan’s first time camping! How do you go 23 years without camping? Hopefully it won’t rain on us, but it looks like it might try… Back Sunday morning!

Ginger & Fred

I’m going to keep the performing arts theme going at least one more entry. Friday morning my Chinese class will be performing an introduction to salsa dancing in front of some unknown number of people that school administrators have threatened will reach 50. This will be for a cultural day that we were forced into participating in, and for which I only pushed this dance lesson idea when school administrators were suggesting in a manner too intense to be encouraging that we make sushi, staring pointedly at our Japanese classmate.

Colin’s entry about last term’s experience with this culture day captures why he and I were determined to not be in charge again. I noticed Colin’s hands clenched to his seat while our teacher bore down on us assertive, independent Westerners to come up with a plan. “What do you want to sell? What do you want to make? You can make lots of money.” Baloney.

But anyway, I am in charge, and now there are two dance instructors in the family. Colin does the explaining when I don’t know the Chinese (all the time), so really I’m just the head counter.

We’ve practiced twice now as a class, and everyone seems to have the idea of the four steps Colin and I showed them: the basic step, the under-arm turn, the cross-body lead, and the cross-body lead turn. The two other girls in the class, from Japan and Vietnam, shoot me pained sort of looks as they line up just out of reach of the flamboyant Korean guy and the boisterous other American. Sorry, gals.

I bought legit ballroom shoes a couple weeks ago and I’ve been itching to try them out. They sparkle. I didn’t expect my school to be where I’d get the chance to break them in, but at least I’ll be on stage while I’m doing it.

Video killed the radio star

I always approach modeling gigs with new artists with a high level of suspicion. I’m not paranoid, but that “Sister, Sister” episode left a lasting impression at a very young age. But if potential employers can screen people on Facebook, I can too. This artist had a Facebook fan page, so that makes him legit, right?

When he joined me at the makeup artist’s house, his first words to me were “You look very different.” Great.

It wasn’t a photo shoot this time, but a shoot for an American-born Taiwanese DJ’s music video to be released in Europe. Got all that? We stepped into the windswept streets of downtown Taipei to shoot, much to the interest of passersby.

The guy seemed pleased at the end and said he wanted to work with me (and any of my foreign friends) again. Without further ado, “Nadia.” It takes awhile to load, so be patient.

Predator and Prey

Blood on the pillowcase suggests foul play: there’s been a death here. Red splotches on the sheet and the wall against the bed make it look as if there was a struggle. The corpses that continue to cling to the netting, and there are many, confirm all suspicions.

No fewer than four mosquitoes infiltrated our safe zone last night, and upon flicking on the light to find and eliminate our unwanted guests, I discovered another four resting on the net along the length of my body. They must have been lethargic after a big meal; crushing them into the wall left smears of blood on both the white net and the green paint, the crumpled body of the bugs in the middle like a bull’s eye.

It’s enough to give a person nightmares.

I’m afraid that a mother mosquito managed to hatch a brood somewhere inside our apartment. About two weeks ago there was a wave small, slow, and dumb mosquitoes—up to at least twenty over the course of one evening. Now my even greater fear is that we didn’t manage to catch and kill all of that batch and that the cycle will repeat itself. How does one solve a problem such as this? Move out.

Relishing that used-book smell

It rained on Tuesday, but I hopped off the bus two stops early because I’d decided that morning that I wanted to drop by the used book store on the way home.

From the small English nook in the basement Mollie’s Used Books shop, I picked up Alice in Wonderland and House of Sand and Fog. I reasoned it would be worth expanding my knowledge of Carroll’s work beyond what Disney did to it, and I’d remembered hearing about House of Sand and Fog. Oprah’s Book Club seal was on it, and when has Oprah ever led anyone astray.

The last book from her club that I read was acquired in a similar fashion: on a whim inside a thrift shop in Santa Barbara. A Million Little Pieces had been the center of some scandal that I hadn’t followed, but I figured it must been a good book to garner the attention.

It came to Taiwan and I finished it during the trip to Beijing. I found it engaging, but all the while was less moved because I knew parts had been exaggerated. Doing a bit of research last night, it seems like everything that would be verifiable by documents couldn’t be proven—the author had expunged old criminal records and wouldn’t release documents from the clinic he’d gone to. It would have been an awful journey if it was true. I guess that’s a hollow sort of happy ending.

I swapped with Megan and am now reading her copy of The Elegance of the Hedgehog. It’s by Muriel Barbery, French, but of course translated. Pascal asked if they’ve been discussing the same idea over and over—I’m three-quarters of the way through it and they have been. The language and the ideas are beautiful though, and it’s quite an enjoyable read.

In the meantime, on MRT and bus rides, I’ve been listening to the Harry Potter books on my iPod. Unfortunately, Colin only has book one through six as audiobooks, so I’ll have to manage to find the seventh another way.

Anyone interested in a flat by the river?

Sadder than having to give up a place you consider a home is when no one else wants to take it.

And we’re not just leaving the apartment: because we’re leaving most of our stuff, we’re leaving a whole life. I want to take everything we can that makes sense, partly because I’m an overly sentimental pack-rat, but also because we’ll just need to buy another set of life material once we get to Italy. It just doesn’t make sense to bring most of it. Some of the kitchen appliances are helping me cope: the temperature dial of the toaster oven melted off about a month ago, leaving it utterly useless, and the blender is cracked in multiple places, allowing it to leak the liquids it is supposed to be blending.

The goal is to find a new tenant who arrived here in the same state we did, with only a suitcase, who doesn’t mind our taste in tableware and sheets. We’re responsible for finding the new person because our lease goes through August, but if we find someone new it doesn’t matter.

Last week I spent an evening crafting our ad, highlighting our “bright” walls, our view of the river, and that we at least have a kitchen. We spent the weekend scrubbing several months of grime from surfaces in the kitchen and bathroom so the apartment would be impressive should someone come by to see it. There were a few nibbles, but no real interest yet. Soon I’ll add photos to the ads and a phone number, and hopefully that will really get people motivated to come see.

Get Funky

A few weeks ago we were invited to go out for our friend Jared’s birthday: a quick dinner at a Chinese restaurant, a round (or three) of drinks at his boyfriend, Lijie’s, apartment, then out to their favorite ridiculous gay bar, Funky.

At least one of the major bars in downtown Santa Barbara does a gay night, but in my limited trips downtown, I somehow missed ever going to a gay bar—until now.

Megan and I dressed fabulously, but the boys in our group were disappointedly decked out in jeans and T-shirts. Typical.

We pushed through too-young boys bespectacled in the thick black rims that are so popular here to get to our table. Lady Gaga’s “Telephone” video was projected on the big screen, and everyone stood, riveted by the fierce costuming on the screen.

The song changed and people fell out of the Gaga trance and started dancing. We joined them on the floor, and it was wonderfully freeing to not have to worry about being “asked” to dance.

The too-young boys would momentarily join our circle, dancing with the birthday boy and telling us girls that we’re beautiful. The guys in our group went back to the table comparing how many times their rear ends had been grabbed.

We danced and talked until the smoky haze was simply too much to bear, and then caught a cab, Megan and Jared inviting everyone to a hung-over bagel brunch the following afternoon.