Pre-breakfast thoughts on life in Chiayi City.

We finally signed our lease last Friday, and we will be moving into our new apartment this week. I’m looking forward to it partly because the sunrise is really early here, and the curtains in our current room block out maybe 5% of the light that comes in through the sliding glass door. I woke up around 6, and we don’t start work until 12:30. (Before you get jealous, I should tell you that we don’t get off work until 9 to 9:30 pm, and we often don’t get home until ten or so.)

We live in Chiayi City, pronounced ji (rhymes with “guy”) ye (as in “Hear ye, hear ye). We have heard from some other teachers that there is an expat community here, but we’ve seen like 5 other foreigners since we’ve gotten here. There are some signs in English, but they serve as entertainment as often as they tell us useful information. Never Too Old Steak restaurant comes to mind, for example. We intend to start learning some Chinese pretty soon. The city is really compact–more people than Knoxville, but much smaller in area. There are lots of trees and parks, and the area we are in town in mostly pedestrian friendly.

We can’t cook for ourselves yet–another reason having our own place will be a nice change–so, as in Thailand, we go to 7-Eleven pretty much every day. Breakfast is usually orange juice and some kind of bread or a banana from the 7-Eleven near the house we’re staying in, and lunch is often a microwaved bowl of dumplings from the 7-Eleven near the English school. I don’t know what American 7-Elevens are like, but I suspect the ones here have more tea. Black tea, black tea with lemon, black tea with apple juice, tea with milk, tea with chocolate milk, tea with strawberry milk, tea lattes, green tea, green tea with lemon, green tea with apple juice…None of these are made-up. This is not even the whole list.

Food is mostly inexpensive and really good. It deserves its own post, actually. I’m surprised by how much I like the food here and simultaneously surprised by how much I miss American food. Grilled cheese sandwiches, baked potatoes, homemade spaghetti sauce, broccoli and cheese soup, apples, guacamole, milk and cereal in the morning–I’m hoping all of these will be within reach once we have a kitchen and nearby grocery store. I don’t miss vegetables. Actually, the cabbage here is really good, which is a nice surprise, and I’ve had some green beans that taste just like my grandmother’s.

Okay, so, I intended to tell you about the city, and I’ve mostly talked about food. I think it’s time for breakfast.

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Quick Update: Taiwan + My birthday!

Hi everyone, just a quick post to say hi before Michael gives up on us ever going to the mountains today. This one won’t be meticulously analyzed and obsessively edited like most (well, all) of my writing has been since grad school. We’re living in Taiwan now, and we’ve been teaching for two weeks. This was our first week teaching classes on our own. I’m psyched because this year my birthday lasts 1 1/2 days! 24 hours in my time zone and another 12 in my home time zone.

Now, if you know me well, you know that I get super excited about birthdays, both mine and other people’s. I’ve never been able to, but I have always wanted to throw people huge, elaborate birthday parties and buy them ridiculously expensive presents. At home I celebrate my birthday all month. Seriously: I have a party or family dinner pretty much every weekend.

Michael and I celebrated Rose’s Birthday Eve by playing rummy and drinking whiskey in our room. Exciting times.

Taiwan is really great so far. I promise I’ll tell you more about it soon. –Rose

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The weekend: Bangkok Betty and the National Art Gallery

Hello everyone, sorry it’s been awhile since the last post, but as many of you know, I have problems with my wrists. I actually sprained one wrist about three weeks ago (healed now). It feels like we have been in Bangkok for a long time, so I’m glad we will be moving to Taiwan soon. (Everybody knows about that, right? from Facebook?) This past weekend we went to a party at an expat bar, Bangkok Betty (1st section below), and saw a bunch of art at the National Art Gallery (2nd section below).

Bangkok Betty

Last Saturday a friend of ours from the TEFL course, who is teaching here now, invited us to a party organized by a local expat group. Bangkok Betty is a bar that foreigners apparently like to frequent. It has a WWII theme, including little bomb-looking decoration things on the bar, hanging from the ceiling, on the tables, etc. While this is interesting,  what’s far more impressive is that they make pizza correctly. It does not taste like it has ketchup instead of tomato sauce, unlike some recent spaghetti I tried to eat. (Side note: The food and drinks here taste much sweeter than in the US. Americans eat a lot of sugar, but I bet Thailand beats the US in per capita sugar intake.)

Anyway…We spent a long time trying to find the place because Bangkok seems to have millions of tiny side streets in addition to the thousands of main roads. We probably never would have found it if it weren’t inside a Holiday Inn, but the evening we had was definitely worth the effort. There were people there from all over. We met a web designer from Ukraine who LOVES America and was supposed to fly to the US on September 11, 2001, and a racist English guy. (He was not my favorite.) After our friends arrived, we had a lovely evening, sharing drinks and speaking English. *And* when we decided it was time to go home, our bus magically appeared, as if on cue!

The National Art Gallery

Last Saturday Michael and I visited the National Art Gallery here in Bangkok. This is one of my favorite things that we have done here. Partly because of the air conditioning, but mostly because of the art. All the art is by Thai artists and spans a wide length of time, from about 1400 to things made just last year.

It was really interesting to see how Thai art has changed over the centuries. During the late 1800s, there was a strong western influence, which meant that people made paintings and sculptures in the Realist style. (I am no expert on art, so I apologize if I’m getting a bunch of things wrong.) Art before and after this period is more stylized and less like a photograph. In Thailand people love and revere the king–any guidebook will tell you NOT to criticize the king or the government. (And actually, some prominent Thai people just got sentenced to jail because of whatever they said.) So one collection was actually paintings *by* the king, which I thought were pretty good. Much better than I could do, for sure. Another exhibit was paintings of past kings and royal family members.

I found the contemporary art much more interesting, though. I actually can’t pick a favorite exhibit because I liked all of them, but certainly the most exciting part was meeting one of the artists. Trirat Sriburin was the artist, and the centerpiece of his show was a series of woodblock prints of apartment porches. They were arranged in rectangles, so they actually looked like apartment buildings that had been stuck to the wall. He also had prints of scenes from small towns, where many of the people have moved away, and the city, which is where they have resettled. He even gave us a copy of the book he had for sale, which is why I can spell his name correctly. Such a nice guy, and we loved his work, too!

,,,That’s about it for now. Hope you are all doing well.