About Me

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Yilan, Taiwan
I'm a Social Studies teacher and single mom from Colorado and have lived here for 9 years. Taiwan is an excellent base for us explore Asia, while living in relative (gun free) safety, while benefiting from a cheap and efficient national health care system. The people are amazing too. I have friendships that are 14 years old and I'm always making new ones.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

April in Taipei: Demos, Tung Blossoms and a Light House

Tung mountain flower festival, Sanzhi 三芝.

At the end of April it was that time of year to start looking at job prospects, especially since now I have my coveted, long awaited APRC (Alien Permanent Resident Card) . So I took a Friday off work, got my daughter out of school and jumped on an early High-speed train to Taipei. I met Kite from Take your Time guesthouse (see post, "Catching Up on East Coast"), they were in Taipei and she took Z swimming with her boys while I had my demo/interview.

I was late of course.

The school is a private bilingual elementary school, with borders, in Sanxia 三峽區. It didn't matter I was late, they had no idea until I told them. They were busy interviewing my competitor, an Irishman married to a local. They gave the job to him. It was weird,strange doing a demo for 3 adults, pretending they were a classroom of 12 year olds; my icebreaker, a game of "Snowballs" throwing crumpled paper balls at each other, fell flat. Two of them were Taiwanese, the other was the head teacher, an American, with wife, kids, very sympathetic, he made me feel at ease. We "shot the shit" about raising kids here. I don't think I knocked their socks off with my demo, but I wasn't bummed.  I looked at it as a learning experience, I really haven't done many demos. All these little baby steps to step out, are stepping stones to somewhere, destination unknown. On the taxi ride back to the MRT, I kept on reading signs, "Enjoy your trip", "Relax", and I felt like High Powers wanted me to just enjoy my weekend in Taipei above all else, which I did.

At Da-an Park, MRT

I picked up Z from Kite and met another friend I recently met in Taitung, at Da-an Park, where she and I caught up and watched Z get dirty in the sandbox. Then I met one of my oldest friends Alisse for a hotpot dinner and went back to her house for the night. She and I go back to my Tamsui days when I worked in ChuWei, she dated my then housemate. That was 14 years ago. She came to see me 9 years ago in York, when I was in grad school in England, pregnant and breaking up with my daughter's father. (Which is to say perfect timing for a true friend).

Familiar View, Chu Wei, Tamsui

I imagined how life in Sanxia would be. It was more developed than I had imagined. The mountains were beautiful, but I couldnt really see them with the all the eye sore apartment building blocking my views.  In the morning we said goodbyes and met my friend Sherry at Chu Wei MRT who picked us up with one of her older students and drove us all to north of Tamsui to Sanzhi 三芝 for the mountain flower festival.

Tung flower 油桐 Festival

I could totally live here! I could live in this mountain village so close to the sea and just a bus and MRT away from the city! Sanzhi 三芝was what I thought Sanxia 三峽 would be (minus the sea). I was kind of relieved that Sanxia didn't work out even more now. I felt like it was a positive confirmation that Sanxia wasn't right anyway, but something good was around the corner, if I waited.

It was that the end of April that time of year for the Tung flower 油桐  to bloom. (Hsinchu is better known for them, Z and I got to see them when we went there a few years ago for another job interview that didn't work out, I turned it down). After a sweaty hike up the river along unkempt fields,  small plots and gardens, shrines and a dead dog drowned in the river, finally we reached the wooded and shaded "mountain" where the white flowers blossoms littered the grounds. There were centipedes and butterflies galore.

As far as Tung Flowers go, Hsinchu's are vast, rolling hills of it and in cooler weather, its bloom there being a month earlier. Sanzhi's little plot is small and I regretted not bringing a hat, the sun was brutal even at the end of April. But it was good to walk, enjoy the coming of summer in good company.

Rear View from 25 Seconds, Sanzhi
By lunch, we had worked up a healthy appetite from our morning excursion and met former coworkers (that I forgot, shame, shame) at 25 Second, a pasta and pizza place on the coast with gorgeous views from its rear seaside promenade. Z and I shared a pizza, which was more than enough. I didnt like the crust, it was too thick and starchy and tasted like it came from a Buttermilk Biscuit already made, add the water dough from a box. The topping was also a white sauce obviously not handmade, covered in layers of processed cheese, with carrots and peas (from a frozen bag) under the goo.The plates were overpriced.

Rear View from 25 Seconds, Sanzhi

The dessert redeemed the place. Had I known, I would of just had my dessert for lunch. My cappuccino was perfect and the cheesecake was the best Ive had in Taiwan. Most cheesecakes all taste the same here, even Starbuck's which I always hoped would taste better. We were stuffed and passed some time outside playing in the shade of tall trees overlooking a boardwalk. Then we continued north to Dongmen.

Dongmen was more sublime and picturesque than Sanzhi, as if my day couldn't get any better, it did. We went to visit Sherry's brother Michael, also an old friend. He's a realtor who just has this side business at the Dongmen Fish Market beside the harbor. Its all frontside seafood restaurants and cooks from Taipei who come here for the freshest catch. The roof of the fish market is surreal, even Gaudi like. It looks like someone sawed off the tops of two dozen gigantic wine bottles and stuck them on this roof.

Dongmen Fish Market
We said our hellos and continued to walk up the road, on the most magnificent little coastal path along the Fugui Cape 富貴角. It was still sunny but the fresh sea breeze licked our sweat off immediately. In our view was this bleached white, octogonal Lighthouse set on a verdant hill jeweled with wild lilies and large, bizarre shaped rocks that were spit out of ancient volcanos,  while waves crashed below.  I spotted a few places I could practice yoga and we followed the path around and overlooked a green algae beach that extended for some time, with a blue mountain in the background. Small orange, ground level flowers were everywhere. It was a lovely walk.

Wild lilies on the field, Fugui Cape

I really didnt' want to leave. But it was getting late and we had to get back to Tainan. Sherry dropped us off at Tamsui MRT around 6 and we went to Taipei Main station waited in line forever for High-speed ticket back to Tainan, running into my friend Monica (also a former coworker from Chu Wei, we both worked under Sherry, she and her husband Roger and son also lived in Tainan a few years ago). Monica and Roger were protesting around the corner against president Ma's nuclear power policy, during the political fast by 72 year old Lin I-hsiung (林義雄) (read, "When the Wind Blows"). They were bummed we were leaving, they wanted to take us out to dinner. I was bummed too, oh the world for an extra few hours. I regretted not getting home a little later and dining together anyways, but I was so tired.

Fugui Cape overlooking the green algae beach

The entire time we walked on the cape, I kept on hearing the same tune in my head, "Lilies" by Bat for Lashes from the album The Haunted Man (2013).

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