Farmer Transport

Whilst driving to my apartment, I noticed the guy in front of me was not wearing a helmet, but a Taiwanese farmer's straw hat! That's something in itself, but let me take it a step further:

- By not wearing a helmet, but a farmer's hat, one may think he cares not of his safety.
- However, upon observation of his license plate, one will notice it says BAO-372.
- The first "bao" in Mandarin Chinese that comes to mind is 保, meaning "protection."
- Thus, his motorcycle provides the protection, not his helmet.

His motorcycle is a great protector! Awesome.


Taiwanese Lesson: 02

Last week, faithful to my word given to Rita, I practiced my wonderful Taiwanese weather phrases on unsuspecting, and often baffled, Taiwanese people. Eventually, though, after much trial and error, my ramblings about it raining a little, not being foggy, the weather being good today, and asking what would be tomorrow, I came to understand my phrases more clearly. Now, I am quite capable of telling people I am aware it is a typhoon day (oh, joy!).

Today, Rita asked me what it was that I needed to learn. Mainly, this includes the small talk that Taiwanese desperately try to use with me to much dismay. One of these things includes basic greetings, which takes up two whole pages of my book, constituting chapter 11.

We'll start with some simple phrases...remember, you don't actually pronounce the Rs at the end of a word, that is just where your mouth position ends (for example: for [ hòr ], you pronounce "hò" as [ hoe ] and then finish with your teeth in the position of the beginning of an R).

Hello (你好) - 你好 [ li hòr ]

Good morning (早安) -
早安 [ za an ]
賢早 [ ghāu zà ]

Good afternoon (牛安) - 牛安 [ ngo an ]¹

Good evening/night (晚安) - 暗安 [ àm an ]

Good-bye (再見) -
再見 [ zài gian ]
再會 [ zài hūe ]

Those are the pretty easy terms...basic, everyday greetings. Now, here are some phrases to get you along:

1. 明仔再再會。
    Mī a zai zài hūe.
    Tomorrow see. (See you tomorrow.)

2. 我欲告辭啊。²
    Ghua bheh gòr si a.
    I want say [self-] leave. (I would like to say good-bye [and take leave].)

3. 請你多多保重。
    Ciaⁿ li dōr dor bor diōng.
    Please you a lot take care. (Please, take care of yourself.)

4. 你好無?
    Li hòr bhŏr?
    You good? (How are you?)

5. 真好,多謝。
    Zīn hòr, dōr siā.
    Very good, many thanks. (Very good, thank you much.)

6. 真足歡喜閣看着你啊。
    Zīn ziok hūaⁿ hì gorh kùaⁿ diorh lì a.
    Very happy and see you. ([I am] very happy to see you, again.)

*Removal of red text would change the phrase to "[I am] very glad to meet you."

7. 我久無看着你啊。
    Ghua ziok gù bhor kùaⁿ diorh lì a.
    I very long no see you. (I haven't seen you in such a long time.)

*Where you see "ziok" there can be inserted multiple phrases, depending upon the "seriousness" with which you are using the phrase:
- 真 [ zīn ] - "very," but it's not really very, just the de facto intensifier
- 足 [ ziok ] - "very" in a true sense, like you mean it
- 真誠足 [ zīn ziaⁿ ziok ] - "very very," essentially "with great sincerity"

8. 請替我共您父母問安。
    Ciaⁿ tè ghua ga lin be bhù mng an.
    Please for my greetings your parents. (Please, give my regards to your parents.)

*Red text can be any person. In this example, "parents" is used as the person to whom one will deliver your regards, but it could be any number of people. 

Just some simple advice on pronunciation:
- To explain [ mng ]: the letter combination "ng" would be like saying [ ing ], but taking the "i" off and just making the more muted [ ng ] sound. As for the entire [ mng ], just act as if you want to say an "m," but the sound that comes out is [ ng ]...that's the best I can explain.
- [ ghua ] sounds more like [ wah ], with the "ghu" making a sort of "w" sound, but with a slight "g" before it.
- [ Ciaⁿ ] sounds more like [ chyah ], but the end sound needs to be a bit nasally, with the ⁿ representing the end "sound," so to speak. Actually, it shows that the word will have the top of your throat "closed" as if you were saying the letter "n."

¹If [ ng ] isn't the most difficult sound I've ever tried to pronounce, I don't know what is. Each time is like a running start into the sound, as my vocal chords obviously did not form in such a way that would allow this to be said with any ease. [ ngo ] is pronounce almost like "go," but with your throat in the start position of an "n." Thus, you say sort of an n/g letter combo.
²Just as in English, this phrase is super polite in Taiwanese. Thus, people will say it to professors or their grandparents...or if you just feel like being extra polite.


Wow, I didn't know people truly liked to read this blog! I've received a few texts, E-mails, etc., asking, "Corey, why haven't you been posting anything?"
Drawn by Heidi, daughter of my coworker, Annie

Short answer: I've not been doing anything.

I don't want to bore you to tears with words that mean nothing. It's been raining in Tamsui for about eight or nine days, with it finally relenting, today. That isn't to say that I did anything, nay, because I worked and that's about it.

My main event is that I began watching Stargate: Atlantis, which is freakin' sweet! It's sad that 1) I already know it was canceled after five seasons and 2) I'm already halfway through season two...

Anything else? Well, we've started a new campaign at work to promote "unity" and "workmanship" amongst colleagues; thus, a few new policies are in place to get the ball rolling:
- Two observations per month of a fellow teacher's class
- One meeting per month on topics ranging from classroom ideas to management issues
- Introductions of class ideas, which are discussed with everyone

It's good to see this sort of thing happening. Truthfully, I've never had a job where everyone felt close, one where there was a rapport that seemed...[I don't know]...friend-like. David's, more and more, is beginning to feel like a type of family environment, one where we all get along and know each other. This is good, because then I'll have people who have the same interests as me, or at least the same problems and amazing instances as I do.

Sometimes, in Taiwan, you just see trucks sitting around with easily accessible pole-arms...

Tomorrow, I'll be having my second Taiwanese lesson with Rita. Yay! I'll maybe be learning more weather terms, or possibly something to do with phrases like "I am tired" and "I have work, today." All I know is, it helps and my Taiwanese has started to improve just by the one hour class I had last week...I spent this week walking around complaining about rain, a lot, because I had to practice my "rain vocabulary phrases."

Yes, I drew them in class, and you're jealous.


USA no longer Int'l

I won't make an assumption as to the nationality of the first three commentators. Apparently, the man from Europe and his two like-minded neanderthals found it within their abilities to make trite remarks about American football being on the international CNN page.

Many apologies, people of Europe and abroad, but as far as I'm aware, the United States is still considered part of international. Though, with the excessively long histories of these other countries, I can only fathom that they've retained their ill-conceived notions of superiority to one another and continue to look down upon those who are of different nationality, race, &c.

The USA is a country, get over it. I suppose the three of you could be from the UK and are continuing to suffer from that bitter defeat suffered during the American Revolution; however, they've always seen themselves as "more than European" or not so at all...maybe Europeandude isn't British. Ne'er did I care about the political failing of the UK, but they remain part of the news in America. Likewise, the French "pension crisis," Swedish shootings because of racism, and other internal worries in Europe are not my concern, but I still read these items to be versed in international events.

Point being: If you don't like something, don't read it, jag-off.


Taiwanese Lesson: 01

From 11am-12pm, I was in the English Corner, a room within TKU's Foreign Languages Building, being taught Taiwanese (Taiwanese Hokkien) by none other than my great friend, Rita!

It was eventually established that the main reason for Taiwanese being more interesting than Mandarin, and far better sounding, is because of its utilization of eight/nine tones to Mandarin's four/five (including the neutral tone). In respects to tones, which vary in amount/intensity depending upon what part of Taiwan you live in, I was under the impression there were eight, which is the general consensus. My book gives an additional ninth, a separated seventh tone. With the neutral tone, there are a total of ten different ways each "sound" can be said.
How terribly boring, right?

No way! It's a lot of fun, if not a tedious amount of work. It seems that my book came up with a number of ways to describe Taiwanese, and uses a modified form of Pe̍h-ōe-jī ([Taiwanese] vernacular writing). One difference is that the book doesn't use ˆ or ' to denote any tones, instead using ` ´ and ¯ and adding _  ̆  and ˚. With that in mind, the book uses the same standard romanized alphabet as Pe̍h-ōe-jī:

a b ch chh e g h i j k kh l m n ⁿ ng o o͘ p ph s t th u

If you don't know how to pronounce those letters, no worries, you don't need to! I'll explain these things eventually (maybe not today)!

I want to spend the rest of the time talking about what I learned today, rather than babbling on about the language (which I can explain in more detail as I make more of these particular posts).

(The word "local" here refers to older Taiwanese usage, which older generations would utilize. "Common" is used to denote a more recent word into modern vocabulary stores. The former would be understood by all, whereas the latter may create some difficulty for more traditional/seasoned users of the language.)

Day (天) - 天 [ Tiⁿ ]
Today (今天) - 今仔日 [ Gīn a lit ]

Rain (雨) - 雨 [ Hō ]
Raining (下雨) - 落雨 [ Lorh ho ]

Thunder (打雷) - 陳摃雷¹ [ Dan lŭi gòng ]

Typhoon (颱風) - 風颱 [ Hōng tāi ]

Fog (起霧) -
起霧 [ Ki bhū ] - common
罩茫 [ Dà bhŏng ] - local

So, those are the words I learned today. With them I created sentences, well, my book provided sentences and I recited them. With Rita's help, I am now able to have a conversation about weather (I'll be it brief). I will provide that for you, here, and space out the Taiwanese/Chinese sentences to correspond with an English translation).
(Taiwanese writing - Taiwanese pronunciation - Chinese translation - English translation)

1. 今仔日 天氣 按怎?
    Gīn a lit tīⁿ ki àn zùaⁿ?
    (今天 天氣 怎麼樣?)
    Today weather how? (How is the weather, today?)

2. 今仔日 天氣  真好。
    Gīn a lit tīⁿ ki zīn hòr.
    (今天 天氣 很好。)
     Today weather [very] good. (Today, the weather is good.)

3. 你想 敢會 落雨?
    Li siūⁿ gam e lorh hō?
    (你想 會 下雨 嗎?)
    You think can rain? (Do you think it will rain, today?)

4. 看起來 簡若欲 落雨 [啊的款]²
    Kuan ki˚ lai˚ gan na bheh lorh hō [ā e kùan].
    (看樣子 好像要 下雨 了。)
    Evidently seems to rain. (It seems that it will rain.)

Just some simple advice on pronunciation:
- [ lorh ]  is pronounced almost like [ low ], but with  a mid-tone (lower than when you normally say "low")
- Things with [ ⁿ ], such as "tīⁿ" are not pronounced like [ tin ]. The "tī" sound almost like "tea," which ends with you wanting to make an "n" sound, but not moving your mouth to do so and not saying an "n" (sorry, I have no better way to describe that).
- [ bh ] is pronounced like a combination v/b that starts off with an m. Awesome, right? So, start with the m, tooth the v, and make a b...hopefully, it'll end up sounding like [ bh ].

¹摃雷, or Lui Gong, is the god of thunder
²啊的款 essentially stands for 了, but is not necessary to complete the Taiwanese sentence. The two of them indicate that the capability of the action taking place.


Traversing the Datun/Yangming Area

Don't worry, today, I tested out whether you should do what this signs says or not. Verdict: totally do what the sign says. A few points, as I'm too tired to write anything of terrific substance:

- I made it to somewhere in the middle of the mountains by going up Datun Creek (大屯溪) and a strongman path set by the Taipei County Mountaineering Council (台北縣登山會).
- A muddy, 75° hill, which had only a muddy rope for climbing, hindered climbing completion
- My trekking rod was abandoned because I couldn't get to it, again :(
- I slid down said muddy slope for a good two minutes, which was both fun and dirty
- I set out at 1:30pm (way too late)
- I finished at 6:40pm (way too late, also), when it was pitch black out
- Taiwan has fireflies (a.k.a. lightning bugs)
- Forests produce very strange sounds at night
- The more tired you get, the less you care about your pants/shoes getting wet
- There are a lot of muscles in your body that are capable of feeling pain

Maybe I'll put that and more into paragraph form sometime soon...maybe...But, now, I want to...not be awake, right now. Ciao.

(Also, hiking/mountaineering is the worst hobby ever! haha)

Flat-headed Lion

Taiwan is the natural habitat of the rare flat-headed lion.
True story.


To give you an idea...

I've not made another post talking about Sanbanciao (三板橋), but I will, soon. Yesterday, I went "river tracing," where you start in a creek, run, river, stream, etc., and continue up the body of water until you reach its source. As I generally engage in the events in a rather impromptu way, I left with little time available and in a hurry. So, two hours into my photography frenzy and walking/falling-style traversing of the wooded area, I climbed my way up the side of the valley I was in, ended up in a farm, and went back to my scooter.

More about my trip will follow, but for now, I just wanted to give you an idea of where this Sanbanciao place is:
Purple marker: 淡水 - Tamsui
Yellow square: 三板橋/大屯Area - Sanbanciao/Datun Area

A: 三板橋 Entrance - Sanbanciao gate
B: 三板橋 - Sanbanciao (where I part my scooter)
C: 三板二橋 - Sanban Erciao (a bridge)
D: 大屯溪 - Datun Creek (also where I stopped, yesterday)
E: 大屯溪 Source Area - The area in which the Datun Creek source is located


The Sharon Beach Complex

Besides being an awesome name for any future band I may be in, the Sharon Beach Complex (沙崙海水浴場內部) is a now defunct complex of buildings and structures designed to maximize the beach-going experience. Sharon Beach is the one located very near my apartment (about an eight minute drive) that I've probably shown all of you pictures of at some point. Every time I went there, I noticed a building that looked rather...decrepit. However, I never took and/or had the opportunity to go there.

Today, after I woke up from an impromptu nap, I immediately realized something needed to be done, and I had just the place to do something: that abandoned building I once saw. As such, I put on my boots, packed my day-pack, and headed out.

First, I encountered an entourage of dogs following a "master" brown dog. I filmed a fight sequence between two of them, which can be viewed below:

After my free entertainment, it was time for something more taxing. I began my walk through the complex, making certain to stay clear of and avoid doing anything to raise the suspicions and/or ire of this shady man (later on, I would find my efforts were unnecessary):
Upon entering, I noticed sandbags, a large amount of them, blocking the leftmost area, so I went right! Below me, I heard, in a bamboo shoot, many, many tiny creatures...as to what they were, I remain blissfully unaware. Continuing on was just a hallway that led to an old, broken refrigerator and some bathrooms. As I exited the hallway, a man passed me. I said, "Hello," and he just looked at me and continued on. Weird. As I reached the entrance to the level, another man appeared with much fierceness. He glared at me, I waved, and he gruffed before moving on. Strange.
It was around this time that I noticed a larger amount of people in the area. Before, it had just been Mr. Shady and a pair of guys walking around (who had flashlights like me!) and some other guy. Now, there were about nine people in various places (I would find out, though, at the moment we are in, I know of only six).

Not one to overlook details, I knew something was up. More on that as we progress...
My next move was to circle the building, because the staircase to the next level was obviously not on the ground floor. After only about thirty seconds, I came upon a ramp leading up to the second floor. Damn it! The car entrance was blocked off! Not to worry, there was a hole in the bottom-right of the boarding...which I was totally skinny enough to enter (yay!).
 Inside, I found four dragon boats! As strange as it may seem, it looked like a storage area for dragon boats and some other items used in races (though, I'm not sure if it is a forgotten area or people actually come back once a year).

Anyway, I noticed a man sitting on a window ledge smoking...he waved back! Nice guy. I went off to the left and found myself in a kitchen. Through that room was another hallway; the left-most door had a tatami mat, a few bottles, a pair of shoes, a pair of slippers, and no person. I guess someone lives up there. Another room in the hallway was a fairly disgusting bathroom. Moving on...

Did I mention the pair of guys with a flashlight? Oh, well, after I left the ground level, they entered. Then, when I went into the kitchen, they, apparently, came in through the hole in the boards covering the entrance/exit to the ramp. They passed me as I was exploring the second level, and I didn't see them again until I did the same. To get to the third level, one had to enter another hole in another boarded off passageway.
Up those stairs was the roof, where I again found the pair and another man, who was staring at some moss on the ground. Odd. I took some photographs and left the three guys on the roof to...whatever they were all happily doing.

When I got back to the second floor, the guy who had been smoking was nowhere to be seen. With nothing else to explore, I went down the ramp and explored the outside a bit more. I found some interesting structures: a "lookout tower," a water tower, a skating rink, a storage room for who-knows-what, and lots of awesome looking trees. Near the skating rink is one side of a very long avenue, one that leads from the main gate (大門) to the beach. I explored a bit and found a map of the complex!
大門 - Gate
沙崙海水浴場內部略圖 - Sharon Beach Complex Outline
1. 售票處 - Ticket Office
2. 兒童遊樂場 - Children's Playground
3. 辦公大樓 - Office Building
4. 辦公大樓 - Office Building
5. 飲食用品攤位 - Beverage and Food Stalls
6. 沖洗室 、廁所 - Washroom, Toilets
7. 烤肉區 - Barbecue Area
8. 溜冰場 - Skating Rink

I know...awesome.
It was after photographing this map that I noticed an open door, one that led into a portion of the main gate to the complex. I couldn't see inside, so I again affixed my headlamp and, behold!, there were multiple pairs of galoshes, a firefighter's uniform, a reflective police outfit, and a few raincoats! Taking pictures of the room was a nightmare, that is, until I turned on the light! After fiddling with the light switches, it turned out that electricity did, indeed, flow to the room (which is what made the above photograph possible).  Also, that meant that, maybe, officers of the law frequented the particular room, so I snapped a quick photo and left. (I believe the room to be just a collection of items found or pilfered, though.)

Leaving the room with quickness, I decided it was about time to head back out to the beach, get some shots of a pipe-built structure, and head on home. As I was walking along the cobblestones, I saw another building, one that I earlier noticed houses two rather rusty jeeps...a good building to get a picture of! Whilst standing there, a young lad of 21 years came up to me and said, "Hello!" I greeted him in kind and bid him adieu.
Reaching the piped structure, I began taking pictures. A man was passing on my right and he gave me a look of weariness, as in, he was not pleased to have photos being taken near him. Whatever. I turned to the beach and started on a couple sitting underneath a shanty. Then, the "young lad" came up to me again! After initial name exchanges and standard questions like, "How long have you been in Taiwan," he said, "So, do you know what this place is?" I retorted, "Well, it's a beach complex, but I have the idea it's used for other...'activities.'"

Finally, he inquired, "Are you gay?" Hah! I knew it! That had been my hunch all along, that this abandoned beach complex had turned into a meet-n-greet spot for gay men. Certainly, it explains all the strange looks and side-glances, extremely coy smiles, and guarded behaviors.

That aside, I ended my picture taking, as it was getting dark, said good-bye to the guy, and left the beach. Ah...interesting hour and a half. Oh, and the guy noticed that I had used a headlamp and hand-held flashlight alongside my picture taking...quote: "You're a professional adventurer."

Damn right.

Hermit-type Crab!

This is a hermit crab that I saw (luckily, because otherwise I would've stepped on it!) near Fulian Village when I went on my trip to I-lan [Part I and II].


Three Bridges, like I said

Oh yeah, I went there, today. On Wednesday, I said I'd go back to Sanbanciao (Three Bridges/三板橋) for some hiking. True to my word, I braved the rain and hiked up the run.

My new gear performed excellently, and I now have an idea of what I need to do, what I need to work on, and what else I need to acquire.

As far as acquisitions go, I need to get some gaiters to attach to my pants and boots, which will help in the bit of water I had to walk through. Generally, they're used to avoid getting brush, snow, etc., from getting in the top of your shoes/boots. In my case, I believe they'd help with the very brief steps I took into the run. Also, some waterproof material, maybe two small sacks, cut open with strings attached would be nice for the hipbelt pockets of my Osprey Kestrel 38 pack, though they seemed to keep everything relatively dry (I'm sure that'd change in heavy rain). Finally, I think I should find some breathable, flexible, more rainproof clothing, as my clothes were soaked by the end of my trip.

The first half of today's trek was up a run under the Sanbanciao Bridge. At one point, I had to climb over a fallen tree and across some rocks to get to the main fork in the stream. Rather, it's where two streams meet to make the main run. I went up the left side, scuttled across a prism-shaped rock, and made my way over the water. At first, I thought this side would be more fun, because it was bigger, seemed to be more scenic, and was accessible...I was wrong. The latter two points are still correct, but it was only fun for half the time I was there. Well, it wasn't not fun, just...I got stuck on a slippery rock (actually, all of them were slippery), and had to go back. It's a good thing I bought that hiking rod, which served as a support for when I needed to leap across a rushing portion of the run/small waterfall. You see, when I originally got to the rock where I got stuck, I used my hand for support to kind of toss myself over; going back, there was no rock, so it's lucky I had the rod, otherwise I would've had to wade through two-foot deep water.

Next, I went up the left side, which proved much easier. I encountered a Nephila maculat, quite abruptly, and spent some time clearing away her web in a manner that left most of it intact but let me continue underneath. Spying a clearing above, I guessed, I scrambled up the rocks on the right side of the stream and found I was in a field of, I guess, pomelos. That area was beautiful. I wish I had my camera, but there were two things that would've prevented pictures, anyway:
1. the rain
2. its CCD is currently being cleaned, which I have to pick up, shortly

Through the rain, I walked the muddy paths and rocky ways until I came to a road. The first one I took led me to an outlook that let me see my destination, but didn't afford me the opportunity. However, I saw an old lady farming on the hillside a ways away, and decided the middle road, that I passed, would take me back to Sanbanciao.

It did.

I took apart my hiking rod, placed it in my scooter, put on my rain coat, and headed back to Tamsui. I'll have to hike there, again, once there is no rain. Though, it was exhilarating and I would do it again.


Nephila maculat

To give you an idea of just how large these spiders get, yesterday, Pigu put his hand mere inches away from a huge Nephila maculat, a species of golden-orb web spider.
Friggin' huge...
Bottom of the spider

Also, the spider I previously mentioned encountering in my building's stairwell, I just discovered, was a Heteropoda venatoria, a.k.a. a laya spider.

Quite interesting, that arachnology, eh?


Trio to Sanjhih

Pigu and I had talked about having lunch today, and last it was confirmed: we would have stinky tofu in Tamsui. So, at 12:05, I received a call saying that he was waiting at the gate to TKU. We waited for his friend A-hou, and then it was off to have some food! At first, I was going to take them to a place near the MRT, but then I remembered there was a great place in Sanjhih that I once went to with Yaling. So, I led them to 菜店/炒山野菜 (Vegetable Store/Fried Field Vegetables).

Actually, their name is quite the apt as they grow their own vegetables, pick them fresh, and chop them up for your meal! In addition, they have the normal meats and fish products to go along with the vegetables. Personally, I enjoy the stinky tofu, which we had for our meal, alongside some fired chicken, some kind of leafy vegetable, fried rice, and barley tea.

The owner of the restaurant is this really talkative, nice, excited lady that struck up a conversation with me as I asked for...whatever it was I was asking for. Pigu and she wouldn't shut up, and their conversations turned out rather interesting. In fact, the owner's new-found kinship with our crew resulted in her wanting to share with us the following:
No, it's not a snake...it's a MELON!

See! A snake melon!

It's actually pretty good...I couldn't place the flavor, really, but it was something like a sour cucumber...that's all I could possibly tell you to describe it.

After listening to some older adults croon to Taiwanese karaoke, and hours later from Pigu's truly lengthy discussion with the owner (that A-hou and I had to suffer boredom through), we were off. I said I would take them to 三板橋 (The Three Bridges), which only has two bridges, but first we took a little detour. Why? I thought they may find 同一陶業, that abandoned factory I explored, intriguing.

They did, especially since I mainly took them to the basement level, where we found, still housed, the bats I came upon the last time!
In a group of three, we crept closer and closer, and eventually figured out that noise didn't bother them. That means, before, I didn't need to be so slow and methodical in my movement. Likewise, it means the fifteen minutes the three of us remained quite silent was...stupid.

When walking back to our scooters, we met an old man who had the following conversation with me...in English (except one question I asked in Mandarin):

Man: "Hello! How are you?"
Me: "Hey! I'm good, you?"
Man: "Fine...thank you...Are you looking for something?"
Me: "Oh, we're just taking pictures."
Man: "Oh, ah."
Me: "請問一下,你知道當人們離開這座大樓嗎?" (Excuse me, do you know when the people left this building?"
Man: "Oh...我覺得二十年. They moved to Mainland China."

There was more, but that's the part worth revealing. Indeed, this factory is the result of the cheap labor available in the PRC and the willingness of Taiwanese companies to move for a few extra dollars. Anyway, the building has been abandoned since 1990...so, I guess it's not in that bad of shape for twenty years.

We abandoned the building and went to the Three Bridges Nature Trail, a place that consists of many back-roads, strangely placed buildings, and beautiful scenery. (Friday, actually, I plan on hiking up the run for which reason the bridges were built.) There's not much to report here, other than I tried out my new Salomon Elios 2 Mid GTX shoes and they performed flawlessly...no water in my shoe, and all the water on my shoe immediately dispersed after taking my foot out of the water.

Looking downstream
 Looking upstream
A-hou and Pigu, respectively

After our brief trip around the run, we stopped at 華觀琉璃有限公司 (Hua Kuan Rock Crystal), a small, oddly placed glass art store and retailer. Everything in the store was beautiful, just take a look at the link for some examples. As expected, the stuff is expensive, since it's all made by hand. What was unexpected was that this work has also been outsourced to China because the labor is cheaper.

Finishing up at the store, we headed back to the highway, I to Tamsui and Pigu and A-hou to Jiantan. All-in-all, it was a really enjoyable afternoon!

I heart Sth

OK...I love something, and I'm not going to say what it is...bombs with pointy teeth.


Puppet Intersection

I stopped briefly at David's, today, in order to get some materials for class. (Yes, I do prepare for my classes, contrary to popular belief.) This happened after I went to get gas for my scooter...which didn't go well. Actually, it went well, until I realized I forgot my wallet; I had changed from formal work-wear to my local-gear (basically, shorts, muscle shirt, and sandals) and left my wallet in the former. Thankfully, I had my camera, an item of value, that I could use as collateral whilst I took my scooter back to my apartment to retrieve my wallet. All ended well, I assure you.

After I went to David's and was informed of one of my classes being postponed for an indefinite period, I started driving home. Then, I heard it: the sound of traditional instruments and springy spoken Taiwanese. Yes! A Taiwanese puppet show opera! I bought a green scallion pancake (蔥油餅), got a baggy (yes, a baggy) of red tea, and settled next to a line of three other scooters...older people who also parked to watch the show. There were probably twelve or thirteen people there, including three children. Yeah, puppet shows are popular amongst the seasoned, here.

A cast of four puppets at once!

Young and old alike enjoy watching puppet shows...
Watching were elderly people (as pictured), with and without grandchildren!

It's also a good place to advertise for politicians. Granted, this guy is all over the place in Tamsui, and this particular area is an intersection that leads to, amongst other places, Tamsui's Second Public Operations Sector, but it's a decently chosen position. Especially so since the people this is going to draw are locals, as puppet shows are conducted in Taiwanese, and the Tamsui audience for such shows is, more than likely, not the younger constituency. [I'm] not sayin' this is the reason the poster and show are side-by-side, I'm just sayin'.

If you care, the guy is Tsai Jinsian (蔡錦賢), who is running in the New North City elections for city councilor in the first section (第一選區), which consists of Tamsui (淡水), Bali (八里), Sanjhih (三芝), and Shihmen (石門). I don't know how particularly strong his following will be, but I know he's a local to Tamsui, so he could be quite popular, here. He keeps building things with his picture on them, so...we'll see, as elections are quite soon!