Taiwan Picture Update 1

Some random/funny tidbits, mostly about my dad and his apartment.

Shower Faucet

One of the first things my dad showed us when we were looking around his apartment was how to use the shower faucet (an amusing coincidence since I had just read a chapter in The Design of Everyday Things that discussed the pitfalls and evolution of faucet designs). Anyways, my mom must have missed the demo because later that morning she tried to take a shower and I was in another bedroom doing some programming and all of a sudden I hear my mom yelling:

Baba! Zhe ge ze me yong ah??!! Wo neng si le!! (Baba! How do you use this thing??! I’m freezing to death!!)

Then my dad oh-so-lovingly responds:

Wo bu shi gang cai gen ni men jie shi zhe me yong ma?? (Didn’t I just show you guys how to use it?)

Mom again:

Ni kuai dian guo lai ah! Wo zai neng si lah!

Then my dad goes in to her rescue and I hear him proceed to explain everything to her, which knob controls what, etc. I know it’s kind of mean, but it was funny.

Garbage Cans

Or lack thereof. My dad’s apartment has several tiny trash bins around which are kind of frustrating because they basically get full every single time you throw something out. Granted, they only get full this fast because we’re living in his place now, but still. He needs to get a real garbage can so he doesn’t have to replace the bags every meal.

Random Anecdotes

  • While eating breakfast at a hotel, my brother asks my parents, “Why is hibachi in America so much more expensive than in Taiwan?” My parents, thinking he said “mochi” instead of “hibachi,” proceed to give him an explanation of how mochi is made and importing/exporting, etc. I try to help my brother out and say, “He said hibachi, not mochi.” Then my dad says, “Ohh…accupuncture?”
  • Last night when everyone had gone to bed and my mom was showering, I heard my dad come out of the master bedroom and close the door. Right after the click of the door I hear him say, “Oh!…gee….” Usually when he says this, it means he either hit his toe or he has witnessed some form of stupid behavior. I ask him, “What happened?” Then he says, “…I lock the door, and mama zai xi zhao.” Yup, you read that correctly; he locked himself out of the bedroom with nothing but his pajamas. Eventually he was able to find a key, but it was pretty funny.

And now, for some random photos.

Taiwan 2010-11, Monday – Thursday

This was my first time taking a direct flight from the states to Taipei and I gotta say, it’s nice not having that inconvenient break in the middle. Movie selection was kind of meh so I slept most of the time. For breakfast we had a choice of either “scramble egg” or “pork rice porridge.” I’m glad I opted for the western style (which included potatoes, scrambled eggs, and sausage) because the rice porridge looked like prison food. All in all, thank God for a smooth flight without obnoxious crying babies (there was a baby nearby, but it slept for the most part; such a guai hai zi).

We (my sister and I) arrived in Taiwan around 6am local time on Monday. We waited for my mom and brother to arrive an hour later before getting driven back to my dad’s new apartment. My dad’s new apartment is quite nice and modern, and he finally has a washing machine (he’s been handwashing for at least 5 years). I also browsed through his rather small CD collection and discovered he has a Bryan Adams album.

Later in the day we went to my grandma’s house to meet up with some more relatives for lunch. From there we went to Nan Liao, which is famous for a “17 km scenic coastline.” It was a nice walk, but not much else.

For dinner we ate at a restaurant inside a department store (Da Yuan Bai). It was called the Skylark Restaurant and supposedly served California cuisine. Not sure if any of the food was really uniquely Californian, but it was pretty good nonetheless, and unlike most Asian Americans, I actually savor the opportunities to eat western food in Taiwan because a lot of “good Taiwanese food” is not to my liking (e.g. seafood, meat with bones, chicken feet, etc). Call me whitewashed. I forget what we did after dinner, but I was pretty much conked out from jetlag.

On Tuesday we celebrated my grandma’s 91st birthday at my dad’s apartment! This was particularly special because all 7 aunts got to meet together, and at one point we had 8/9 aunts and uncles together. So that was pretty cool, moreso for my mom than the rest of us, but that’s okay. I took lots of pictures and tried practicing shooting with manual focus. We had lunch and dinner at fancy restaurants, which means I didn’t really like most of the food, but fortunately nobody really gave me any beef (ha-ha, no pun intended) about it, except my mom of course. I was pretty much half-asleep for dinner; still jetlagged.

Before relatives started coming I set up my dad’s new iMac, although it could hardly be called “setting up” because Apple has made the mac dead simple. While setting it up, I couldn’t help but admire the build quality and feel of this piece of machinery. Whether you love or hate Apple, you have to admit that its products are nice and pretty. And that’s enough for most people to want them.

On Wednesday morning we went and bought a wireless router and set it up, so now my dad’s apartment has wifi. His drastic computer upgrade is now almost complete; I just remembered we have yet to configure his wireless printer that came with the mac. In the early afternoon, my dad came back from work and we made our way to Shitou. We stopped by the 921 Earthquake Museum which was actually pretty interesting. The museum is built on a site that was severely affected by the major earthquake that took place on September 21, 1999. I’ll post pictures later.

In the evening when we arrived at Shitou, we checked into our hotel, had dinner, and then attended a night tour, which was mostly pretty boring. The only interesting part was seeing the stars against the black of night, and catching glimpses of tree frogs inside bamboo poles with water inside. I was able to catch a photo of one of the frogs before it retreated deeper inside the darkness of the bamboo tube, but unfortunately my camera settings were completely whack because I was shooting in manual mode for night photos (most of which turned out to be garbage), and so shooting a flashlight illuminated frog resulted in massive washing out :(

Today (Thursday), we hiked around Shitou, which is mostly forests on a mountain. Took lots of photos and tried to become more accustomed with actually using settings on my camera instead of shooting in auto and program modes. We’ll see how those turned out…

Sorry this post is kind of boring, but hopefully in the next one I’ll compile some more “funny” things.

The Work Life Situation

It’s been about 16 months since I moved out to the bay area and started working, and about a year since I moved out of my sister + brother-in-law’s house into a rented room. And it’s been almost a year since I posted about my fledgling experiences with “real life.” You might be wondering, “Wow, what has changed in Hain-Lee’s life since 1 year ago? I can’t wait to find out!” But more than likely you’re thinking, “I’m remotely interested in this because there’s a picture; I guess I’ll skim through this really fast and then get back to work.” Regardless of your state of mind, I’m flattered that you actually keep up with this blog at all so I’ll try to make this as exciting as possible. No promises though.

Let’s start with the living situation. For comparison, here’s what my room looked like a year ago.

Here’s what my room looks like now.

Costco computer desk!

Smaller twin bed, Target shelf lamp.

As you can see, I have acquired a few more pieces of furniture, namely a computer desk from Costco and a 3-shelf floor lamp from Target. I would’ve gotten rid of the old desk, but as you can see I’ve already made use of the surface area and the new desk doesn’t have drawers. The small coffee table in front of the window is another donation from the sister + brother-in-law, and the white shelf on top of it was donated by a church member who was going to toss it (I think it’s supposed to be a shoe shelf, but for me, it’s more surface space). Oh, and that random pillow on the floor is my prayer mat :) Taped to the wall, from left to right, is the local church schedule, my half marathon bib, and my RETS mission statement. Not very decorative in any sense, but I’m a little hesitant to do any wall-related decoration because most of it involves making holes or using sticky residue that won’t come off, all of which are potentially damaging. In the second photo, I noted that I have a smaller bed than before, which is nice because it means more open space.

What you might have noticed is missing is a dresser. I don’t have one so all my clothes are in the closet, either hanging (shirts, jackets, hoodies), in a bag on the floor (socks), or folded and stacked on the top shelf (everything else, which includes pants, shorts, underwear, shirts you would use for gym class, and other random things). As you can imagine, it’s not all that organized, but it’s sufficient I guess. I could use some more hangers though…

Onto food. I’ve actually been eating less Trader Joes. Instead, I’ve gotten most of my food from Costco and Safeway. In one sense I’ve been cooking more, and by cooking I mean heating stuff up on the stove or in the oven. I haven’t gotten a rice cooker which means my meals are mostly american/western. Off the top of my head, I’ve been living on salmon or turkey burgers, simple salads, frozen pre-cut vegetables, frozen chicken breasts, pasta/spaghetti mixed with aforementioned frozen vegetables and chicken, cold cut deli sandwiches, cheese omelets, strawberry/fruit smoothies, yogurt, and cereal. Just recently I started trying to make noodle soup and stir-fry noodles using noodles from the asian supermarket, which turned out to be simpler than I thought (but it also turns out tasting plainer too, haha). Occasionally, if I get lots of leftover rice and other random stuff from church, I make fried rice. This week, I’ve been eating mostly spaghetti and meatballs because those are the ingredients I happen to have fully stocked right now, and I didn’t want to buy other ingredients because I’m going on vacation at the end of the week.

Today, though, I decided to stir fry the rest of the spaghetti because I didn’t have enough tomato sauce (and opening another can of tomato sauce would’ve been way too much). I was kind of worried about how this would turn out, because I was essentially going to stir-fry spaghetti with meatballs, a little bit of tomato sauce, sesame and olive oil, a mix of frozen “asian” vegetables, and soy sauce. It seemed like a quirky sort of fusion dish but fortunately, it tasted pretty good compared to everything else (which isn’t much) that I’ve cooked. After I ate half of it, I realized I should’ve added egg, so I stir-fried egg with the other half. Here’s what it looks like.

Costco meatballs, Safeway canned tomato sauce, and Safeway frozen "asian" vegetable mix.

If you have any sort of standard in cooking, this is probably the most ghetto stir-fry noodle dish you’ve ever seen, but hopefully it at least doesn’t look disgusting.

As if it wasn’t obvious already, Costco has become an essential part of my life, and living literally next door to it is simply a blessing. People usually think of Costco as a place you go once in awhile to buy a few months of supplies and the occasional DVD set or electronic gadget. For me, I can go to pick random things up pretty much any time I want. One time I went in just to buy cookies and a bag of Ghiradelli chocolate squares. I mean, who does that? And living close to Costco isn’t just good because of the food – let’s not forget discounted gas! Also, the past month or so my low tire pressure indicator was on. Most people would probably find a gas station with an air pump or a shop or dealership. Being a complete noob, I didn’t know how to inflate my tires and I don’t have my own pressure gauge. The only thing I could do was find what the recommended pressure was for my tires in my car’s instruction manual (for the curious, its 30 psi cold temperature). So what did I do? *light bulb ding* I thought I’d go to Costco and ask if they could inflate my tires! I asked the dood at the gas station, he directed me to the tire center, and the guy at the tire center set the air pump to 31 psi and gave me the pump to do it myself. Then the guy watched me utterly fail at inflating my tires and ended up doing it for me. And it was free!

So in summary, thank God, I think I am learning how to take care and manage myself. I’ve had the opportunity to serve God more as well, and it’s helped me grow but has also exposed even more weaknesses in me. I’m starting to see that servitude is a completely different thing from cultivation, and a Christian needs to do both. The good thing about working is that after work I can focus more on other things like church responsibilities, without having to worry as much about “work.” I’m curious to see how I’ll be able to manage my time when I start going to school again (yup, I just finished submitting my applications!), but hopefully I’ll still be able to get my act together and be productive in church.

A lot has happened in the last year, especially in the latter portion. In some ways it’s gone by really quickly, but in others I wish time would go faster.

As I mentioned before, I’ll be going on vacation at the end of the week. I’ll be in Taiwan until January 5. This vacation is actually a bit of a “forced” vacation but I’m going to try to have a good time and hopefully blog about funny random things that I witness in the fob culture.  Until then, happy holidays!

Memorial

Here’s to the life of a boy who never grew old, but struck inspiration in those who knew him.

EY, may we strive as you did, so that we can meet again.

Getting Back on Track

I’ve slackened a lot in spiritual cultivation and self-discipline the past few weeks. If I were justified in casting blame on something for this, it would be Thanksgiving weekend sales and shopping promotions. I didn’t think anything of Thanksgiving weekend; I thought it would just pass like any other, aside from bigger dinners. I had no intentions or thoughts of purchasing anything. I didn’t plan on extensively researching deals.

What’s scary, though, is that social media changed my behavior. Peer pressure from my friends’ posts about excitement of upcoming discounts, and social advertising from online retailers had a much greater influence on me than I anticipated. I’m a little disappointed in myself actually, because ultimately, I’ve come out of the Thanksgiving “season” less thankful to God and more intent on secular entertainment. I feel deceived for going beyond the boundary I wanted to set.

The result has been hours of wasted time watching TV and browsing daily deals at amazon.com. Certainly some of those hours could have been devoted to Bible reading, coordinator activities/duties, RE lesson and sermon preparation, or anything that is remotely more constructive than simultaneously rotting my brain and destroying my eyesight.

Although I can point fingers at the environment and external pressure, this is all the more my fault. I let myself be swayed. I shifted my focus away from Jesus.

I need to get back on track. It feels so hard to become disciplined again after a period of laziness. It’s hard to motivate myself and work and pull my act together so I can become a spiritual leader.

If you have any advice that you think would be suitable for me, please let me know. I need it badly.

“Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit.”

Personal History Statement

I’m not really sure what to write for this. Some schools only require a “statement of purpose”, but others additionally require a “personal history statement.” The former discusses my academic/research/career interests and experiences, while the latter focuses more on my personal background and this term called “diversity.” Suggestions for this are talking about socio-economic or other difficulties and obstacles I’ve had to face.

The truth is, in terms of diversity, I don’t have much to say for myself. Yes, I’m oriental, but thanks to my parents’ hard work and support, I never experienced financial strain or impediments to receiving a good education. I didn’t need to work during college to support myself. I didn’t even need to save up to buy my car. I was never really involved with diversity organizations and groups or in specialized community service. In a sense, I’m just a plain person. On paper, I’m just boring (maybe in real life I am too, but you can be the judge of that).

Of course everyone’s life is unique in many ways, but I don’t know how to extract that uniqueness into a statement without sounding like I’m just using my experiences to convince a school to accept me. For example, not everyone grows up with an sibling who has a learning disability. I tried to discuss and write about it in a college application essay, but none of the schools that I submitted it to ended up accepting me. Ironically, the schools where I submitted what I felt were more generic and less sincere essays were the ones that accepted me. So now I’m starting to doubt the significance of these essays altogether.

Any pointers? I suppose I could also write about how my parents hindered me from pursuing areas that I was actually interested in, but seeing how this phenomenon is virtually universal in oriental families with immigrant parents, I don’t think it would contribute much to diversity.

Anyways, my goal is to submit all my apps before my semi-coerced vacation to Taiwan on Dec 26th.