Some Videos from Taiwan

A few video clips that I took in Taiwan with the Canon Rebel T1i. Please pardon my shaky hands, noob focusing, and american-accented chinese.

Youths from Sabah singing hymn 389 in Malay

All of the youths, save one, are related. I believe three are siblings (children of a Pastor Joshua) and the rest are cousins. A few of them play piano and are quite talented in embellishing/improvising, and it’s interesting how their style of improvisation is slightly different from what I usually hear in the states (at least, to me). They prepared at least several pieces with and without music to read from so that was pretty remarkable. I wasn’t able to record others because I had to conserve my camera battery, but they also presented songs in mandarin and English. The whole concept I think is really neat; they’re like a traveling TJC choir. Taiwan/Hualien is a great place to make this kind of trip because there are so many local churches to visit and a lot of amazing things to see. It would be fun to do something similar with some church friends.

Cute Hualien Saleskid

Here’s the saleskid I was describing in an earlier Taiwan post. I wish I had thought to start recording video earlier; it was so funny to hear him say, “Hen pien yi ah!!”

Taiwan: The Beginning of the End

We are now situated in the Farglory Hotel in Hua Lien, which is probably the most baller tourist hotel in the area. As my sister described it, it looks and feels like a Vegas hotel. It’s the last night for Whei and I; my mom and Hain-Sing (to his great dismay) are in Taiwan until the 8th. My mom said to my Whei and me, “Aiya, ni men ming tien jiu hui qu le…”

Then Hain-Sing asked, “Aww c’mon. Why can’t we leave earlier?”

We also bounced around ideas on what my mom should do in the near future concerning retirement and relocation and where Hain-Sing should go. We think it would be ideal if my mom moved in with dad in Taiwan, to which Hain-Sing immediately objects. Then Whei said, “Well you never know; now you think you couldn’t live in Taiwan but after staying for awhile it might be okay.” Then, to my mom, she says, “We should just make him adapt.”

Hain-Sing: “WHEI!!!”

Whei: “I said ‘adapt,’ not adopt!”

Hain-Sing: “WHEI!!!”

Earlier today we did some walking around in Taroko National Park (we spent all day there yesterday too) before leaving for other sites. It was rainy so we decided to go pao tang in hot water springs/a spa. Apparently it’s a place that is frequented by the pastor (who I finally caught on to be Pastor Yeh) with other members, so we were able to borrow towels free of charge, since we didn’t bring any. Even though it was rainy, it was still VERY relaxing. I was also happy that it was NOT one of those places that required you to be butt-naked, which was a slightly traumatizing experience in Japan. There were multiple pools of varying temperature, including a full-size swimming pool which was not temperature-regulated. I actually took a swim in it even though it was freezing cold. Pastor Yeh was already swimming laps in it and he watched me ease myself in. I only had my legs in and my whole body was experiencing large-amplitude shivers. Fortunately, after submerging myself and moving around, it wasn’t that bad and I could swim. Going from cold water to hot water was pure “Ahhhhh…..”

We also visited an AMEI bakery factory and sampled/bought lots of mochi-related goods.

One of the interesting things here is that church members are pretty prominent/well-integrated in the society, and as a result we end up meeting some in the places we are touring. Yesterday we went around Taroko National Park and stayed at a hotel in the Bulowan Recreational Area. There is an indigenous elderly church sister who works there creating fabric hand-weaved things like bags and garments. We watched her do the weaving and she insisted on giving each of us a free money bag, which was really nice of her obviously.

A church couple also works in the hotel we stayed in. Pastor Yeh introduced us and we were able to get discounts/freebies for dinner.

And then, this morning when we went hiking in one of the trails in Taroko, we bumped into another church sister who works there as maintenance (that’s what it looked like to me anyways). I had met this member the night before because there was a special evening service in one of the churches to introduce the youths from Sabah and our family.

After the service, Pastor Yeh invited us over to his house where his wife served us a second dinner with two kinds of wild chicken (one of which actually flies), ginger soup/tea, and tang yuan. Later the youths from Sabah also came by (they were chaffeaured by another pastor, Pastor He). And then, a third pastor came by (Pastor Chang). All three resident pastors live pretty close by (Pastor Chang and Pastor Yeh are literally neighbors). Pastor Chang was a funny guy partly because he has a very soft voice and gentle tone. One of the first things he said to me was, “Oh! You’re a handsome boy!” which made Whei crack up.

It’s just kind of neat that wherever we go, we are greeted with a “Hallelujah!”

And now, for more pictures. Need to sleep soon; the plan is to watch the sunrise tomorrow morning…

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.

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!

The Turtle That Surfed

For those of you who have been following me through my blog-hopping for at least the past 4 years, you’ve seen this already on xanga. But after seeing it again, I thought it was worthy of reposting. I should’ve been a children’s book author instead of an engineer. So without further ado, I present to you, The Turtle That Surfed:

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Now, wasn’t that great? Who needs animation when you can just use arrows?

Trying to Grow Up

One of the reasons why I wanted to start working, as opposed to continuing onto graduate school, was because I wanted to force myself to learn how to be independent. I probably haven’t made too much progress, but hopefully it’ll be steady. I just moved out of my sister + brother-in-law’s house to a new house that is an overwhelming 2 minute walk away. In any case, it’s still much of a step up towards trying to survive on my own. While I was shopping for regular furnishings and necessities, I realized there was so much I took for granted.

Soap, tissues, hand towels, hangers, kitchenware, sheets and other bedding, shower curtain, the list goes on. The other day when I was shopping for kitchenware, I first started with, “Okay, I need a pot and a pan so I can start learning how to cook my own food…that means I probably need a ladle and spatula….oh yeah then I need bowls and plates to put the food on…oh yeah then I need forks and spoons….fine, chopsticks too I guess….OH! Knives!…also cutting board…measuring cup cause I like to make jello…oh yeah then tupperware so I can hold the jello…” (you get the idea). So after about 20-30 minutes, I had a decent amount of stuff in my cart. Then my mom called, and when I told her I was shopping for kitchen stuff, she said, “Aiya! Don’t buy any kitchenware! Just bring whatever you want back with you from home!” I’m thinking, that’s a good idea and a good way to save money. But there goes 20-30 minutes for nothing.

My landlady is kind enough to provide a mattress and a small old desk, and my sister + brother-in-law gave me this higher-surface table with two racks. Combined with my $20 shelf from Target, I have a semi-ghetto home office corner that has no style but some function. Here’s a picture (taken with my new DSLR!):

As you can see, at the time this picture was taken, there were no curtains yet so I had to use whatever resources that were available at my disposal. Thank God I bought a 23.6 inch monitor.

When my landlady went out shopping to buy curtains, she called me and asked me what color I liked. Needless to say, I felt really childish. Anyways, I said blue, so lo and behold, I now have blue curtains haha.

So after I was “done” with basic setting up and arranging and procuring stuff, I realized I had no meal food (although apparently gummy bears and potato chips were somehow considered as basic necessities in my mind). Before I went home for the holidays, I had nothing to eat in the house except for holiday cookies from my cousin and my younger older sister. I think the lack of proper nourishment, coupled with the lack of heat at night/early morning (my landlady programmed the temperature to like 55 degrees!) and lack of proper sleep, resulted in triggering some headaches and toothaches and half-facial swellings that lasted the duration of my Christmas weekend at home. Thank God though, the pain was not as bad as when I had severe toothaches during the semester at Cornell, when I had a couple sleepless nights and emergency visits to the nearest walkable dentist (fortunately there are quite a number of home dentist offices in the surrounding area of campus). I attribute malnutrition because it did gradually become better as I ate more wholesome cooking from my mom and some vitamin B complexes. And gummy multi-vitamins. T’was a shame that I had slight loss of appetite because of the dull but constant pain above the upper corner of the inside of my mouth. It was kind of amusing, however, to wake up and look in the mirror and see that my right cheek was noticeably bigger and rounder than the other side of my face. I could even tell the difference tactile-ly (pretty sure that’s not a word), as in when I moved my hand to touch my face, I was like, “Wow, I did not expect to make contact with my face that fast.”

Anyways, going back to food, today I did some shopping for the “essentials” which included frozen chicken breasts, salt, pepper, olive oil, and eggs. Oh yeah, and cereal. Thank God for cereal. All that’s required to eat it conveniently is a spoon and some container. It doesn’t even have to be a bowl; I’ve been eating cereal out of tupperware at work this week (the cafeteria is closed all this week, which is unfortunate for me if you couldn’t deduce that for yourself already). At my sister’s request, I also cooked something for dinner today too! Oven chicken fingers with cranberry-orange dipping sauce! Recipe is here. I think they turned out pretty well, although I couldn’t find frozen cranberries so I used raspberries instead. And instead of buying grated parmesan cheese I bought shredded. And they are not really unhealthy because they’re OVEN roasted and not deep fried! They were not crunchy though; will have to try to broil for a portion of the time next time.

One of the other issues I’ve been trying to workout is money management. This is a disaster because I don’t know anything about finance, stocks, 401k, mutual funds, IRA, whatever….but it’s really important that I do know. It’s on my todo list…as of now my employee stock purchase plan has randomly selected stocks and my 401k investment plan is also littered with random selections. Anyone have any recommendations of a book or website for someone like me to quickly get up to speed with money management and investment?

Oh, and it’s just SCARY at how quickly money is spent. Scary. I need to be a bit more frugal and calculative with what I spend on. Let the asian instinct to go for the cheaper stuff dominate when the quality really does not matter to me.

Okay, that’s enough blabbing for now. Still working with django and brainstorming ideas for my next website and photoblog. This is when I wish I could become as creative as I was when I was a little kid.