December 30, 2009

Xmas 2009

This was one of the chill-est Christmases ever.

We gave up on trying to feed 17 people using one oven this year. Stove has 4 burners. Spaghetti it was, and it was delicious.

We got a second large table for the dining room, and it was perfect. All elbows were welcome at the table.

The beach was warm and lovely until right about the time I took this photo.

We all stayed over and discussed family business. No knickers were twisted in the process. All children will write temporary wills within the next two weeks to make our mama happy.

And I have come to the conclusion that this cast iron tape dispenser is not the embodiment of my father. Yes, he owned it. But its serrations no longer cut, it doesn't have a spindle any longer (notice the festive Ikea peg substitute). It is entirely bogus and my mom has to get something else.

This however, is 100% dear. While looking through the freezer for alternatives to ice to keep beverages cold, Mom and Sis found all kinds of stock made by Pop in years past. 15 year old fish stock, anyone? All of the containers were labeled in his handwriting. I got to keep one. It's the simple things, like something that your loved one touched or wrote, that help keep them with you when they're gone.

Maybe Mom can keep the tape dispenser.

But I hope she doesn't :)

December 20, 2009

Taiwan Wrap Up

Friday was the day of my presentation: one hour plus a half hour Q & A.

There was no simultaneous translation. While the translator was translating, I kept myself interested by counting how many people were asleep or wearing face masks in the audience.
The presentation itself went smoothly, but toward the end of it the battery in the microphone went out and made weird noises. While waiting for a technician to help, I began to do a little dance to the rhythm of the dying microphone. Luckily, people laughed.

After the presentation, people rushed the stage with their flash drives extended, wanting to slurp my Keynote. I was wiped out and hungry.
That evening we ate one last time at the Restaurant 101. I didn't adequately describe the restaurant before, so I will now. It's directly on the street. The dining room is a paved area outside the kitchens. There is a roof, but there are no walls or windows. It's open to the street beside it, with plastic sheeting that can be rolled down as necessary. Diners sit on pink plastic stools at red enameled tables, waiting for yummy things to emerge from the kitchen. The ladies did their ordering magic and happiness began to appear at our table. First was an unripe papaya salad with goji berries. Completely delicious, with a dressing of rice vinegar, salt, and sweet & lo. Sugar just wouldn't have been the same.
This photo captures some of the other things we ate. We craved greens, and what we ordered looked like young laua'e fern. It was bitter, and served with garlic and some small pitted things. I thought they were olives (a stretch, I know) but on second thought they could be something like ginko. The fluffy concoction is something that I will call "Prawn Fantasy". Part of me doesn't want to know what was in it, but it seemed like battered prawn and banana served on a lettuce leaf with shredded wheat, apple and a chiffonade of nori. Wow. Not pictured: the salt-baked fish, which was yummy. We ordered an ungodly amount of food, but we ladies were able to tuck it away quite well.

I had one more trip to the silly bar with the boys and that's where I thought the trip would end.

The next day, however, I ended up working a few hours, going to an opening and then going to the airport.

So ends Taiwan

December 19, 2009

Taiwan, Day 5

Thursday I saw daylight during work hours. I took my box lunch and my host's mom's American cel phone outside and talked to mrguy for the first time that week. This was the view, and I had it to myself:

After work we had our adventure in Italian dining, Taiwan-style.

This meal came about because one of our tour group loves wine and cheese, will eat McDonalds and I believe that I've seen him eat a steak. He never eats the local cuisine. When he found an Italian restaurant, we went as a group.

What a night.

We bought wine at the 7-11 and then headed over. The restaurant seated us in their empty, weirdly decorated upstairs dining room. It was very cool. Chandeliers of many eras dotted the ceiling. A photo mural on one wall made all the pictures we took look as if we were eating among a crowd of people. The food took well over an hour to come out of the kitchen, but not all at the same time.

The wine was so bad we poured it down the drain.

It all sounds horrible, but we had a really great time.

After dinner we went to the night market. I bought a very tiny hat. Then we wandered around looking for a suitable bar in which to have a beverage. I got scowled at when I interrupted someone's karaoke, and then we finally found Mixer Cafe Day Bar. Decorated with thrift store finds, it was perfect.

If you're ever in Kaohsiung and want a cozy place to have a drink, I'd recommend it.

Taiwan, Day 4

This may have been the day that my factory-issued pedometer went missing. I was finally free. The amount of walking we were doing in the museum and after work made my numbers really high so it's a shame that I dropped out of the competition. However my Nintendo pedometer, which I was also carrying, continued to be very pleased with me.

At the museum we had lunch with the director and got to see pictures of our colleagues from the press conference on the front page of the paper.

This was also the day I was introduced to soup dumplings. After work the ladies went to the dim sum restaurant in the hotel. I'm not a big dim sum fan because pork isn't my favorite. That said, the consistency and execution of the idea of soup dumplings I liked tremendously. A little about soup dumplings here.

As you can see, we laid waste to their offerings:

Surprisingly, the restaurant also knew its way around a dessert. They made a white chocolate and black sesame pudding that was really tasty, and an herb jelly that I just had to try.

It was refreshing?

Taiwan, Day 3

By day three jet lag had fully set in. I woke up at 5am and watched a vintage kung fu movie.

The breakfast buffet continued to provide novelty with delicious pancakes that were served with rose flavored honey.

Happy work continued at the museum.

Our colleagues did a press conference in the morning. They did us proud and some of us felt a little teary-eyed watching.

After work we went to Cijin Island, which I've learned is actually a peninsula. The cab ride to the ferry took us through some cool looking scruffy areas on the way to the waterfront. It was one of those experiences in which you wished your eyes were cameras.

The ferries are amazing. Most of the traffic going to the island was on scooters. Few pedestrians rode. No smoking is allowed on the Spirit of Kaohsiung, or any of the other ferries. Not a problem.

However if you want to partake of betelnut, just look for these multicolored signs.

The city's oldest temple is there. Hundreds of paper lanterns illuminate its courtyard and the effect was mesmerizing. The rest of our group took photos, and I sat on a bench and blissed out.

More amazing feats of food ordering took place when we found a seafood restaurant open. My colleagues selected our dinner from the friends on ice out in the cases on the sidewalk. We had lobsters and scallops and fried rice and bitter leafy greens and Taiwan Beer. We did not have the two items on the menu that made me laugh out loud while reading it: Areola Babylon, which sounded completely made up but is actually a type of whelk, and Halitosis somethingorother. You know by the sound of it that *that* can't be good.

I was inspired by my love of Anthony Bourdain to sample the eyeball of the whole fish we ordered. I was probably emboldened by the previous night's pig intestines, also. I ate it in segments: first the vitreous humor, then the colored bits, then the weird white thing which had the consistency of laundry detergent clumps. I ended up spitting that out. It was o.k. Not life-changing. Just texturally challenging, and definitely easier to get down than pig intestines.

After dinner we walked on the beach and saw a home-grown fireworks display, and then made our way back to the ferry.

Taiwan, Day 2

Monday began our work with the forklift museum. It was fabulous, but I’m not going to describe it other than to say that I would like to come back to Kaohsiung and work with the forklift conservator again. We were well matched.

Instead I’ll describe breakfast. Although the advance press on the breakfast buffet was that it wasn't that tasty, I liked it a lot. Each day was an adventure. On Monday I had plum drink with osmanthus, which tasted like lightly smoked prunes. For the rest of the meal I concentrated on Japanese treats: candied tofu, emperor’s vegetable, inari and burdock.

The little pink bottled friend is Yakult probiotic yogurt. No English on the bottle but I happened to recognize it. They sponsor a baseball team in Japan. Maybe I'll follow them this year (inasmuch as this is possible). I drank the yogurt every day of our stay.

After work the boys and I ate at the bar on the corner: spicy edamame, caramel corn and deep fried pork intestines. The pork intestines were something worth trying once, but never again. The outsides were crispy and tough, but once my molars broke through the crispy shell, the texture of the pliable insides made me scramble not to blow my cool. Thank god it was Monday (Carlsberg night) and the Carlsberg girl, in green apron, came to hawk her wares and give me something to wash this all down with.


So ends Day 2.

Taiwan Day, 1: Dinner

The reason we managed to do so many things on the first day was that we arrived incredibly early and that we had boundless energy from being cooped up in an airplane for half a day.

In my previous post I didn't even mention visiting Green Workshop the amazing critter store that had all manner of Hercules beetles and hedgehogs and some snakes and fluffy chicks that are to be *someone's* dinner. I see that it is Taiwan's first live insect store. Congratulations.

Our first dinner in Kaohsiung was amazing. The lot of us (10?) went to the restaurant next door to the hotel. If you're ever hungry in Kaohsiung, visit 100 street restaurant, next door to Lee's Hotel on Wu Fu 2nd Rd. The forklift tour ladies did an amazing job of ordering what was around us, and it just kept coming. I forgot to take pictures until it looked like this.

This was right about the time that a French expat had settled in for a stay at our table and professed to hate Englishmen, which was a bit of a problem for some of us.

The others of us turned in soon after.

December 18, 2009

South Pole

I interrupt the Taiwan trip to discuss a fashion issue I have just discovered:

Apparently middle-aged white ladies do not wear South Pole.

The story starts, as things sometimes do, with the free pile at work. It was on the free pile that I found what looked like an enormous letterman sweater. Score!

I soon learned that it said South Pole, and that that was a brand of clothing. It is no surprise that brand names are unfamiliar to me. Anyway, the response to the sweater based (I assumed) on its enormity, what I pair it with and how hard I rock it, has been enthusiastic and mirthful. People love me in this sweater.

This morning I learned something additional: I am not the demographic for this brand. At the coffee station at work a guy looked at me quizzically and said "Are you even allowed to wear that?" This hipped me to the fact that there was something unusual about the pairing of me and my garment.

I looked it up, and it is true that none of the models look like me.

Now I like my sweater even better.

A South Pole History

December 12, 2009

Taiwan, Day 1

We got there early in the morning and hit the ground running. Off to the hotel, where we were the only customers ordering off the menu at the buffet. Five club sandwiches took close to an hour.

We had a lot of time to look at this:

We walked around for a while, went to the museum, went to the hotel where I watched the last hour of the November sumo basho, we walked around some more, and then met for dinner.

Taiwan, the flight

The forklift exhibition is in Kaohsiung, its second venue in Taiwan. I went for the install.

I'm just like a little kid. The airplane ride is one of my favorite parts. You can do your own thing for hours, and someone feeds you every once in a while. If you fall asleep, it's no big deal.

For this reason, the blankie sets the tone. This was going to be a good flight:

The food, too. EVA's cuisine does not hold a candle to ANA, but it was nice and they cut their butternut squash into flowers:

Breakfast included little fried tofu boats with shrimp paste. The main star was congee, which I'd never had before. It was a lovely porridge of various grains, with condiments to mix into it. I preferred to eat most of them separately. This was also my introduction to pork floss. It has the texture of cheap red doll's hair. It tastes like slightly sweetened jerky. It is an ingredient in much of the food in Taiwan, including sushi.

As we got to Kaohsiung, one more plane flight later, I could not stop taking photos:

If you enlarge this photo you will see the thing that is really intriguing: a mix of light industrial and a temple right in the middle of it. I could not get enough of the juxtaposition of it.

Let the day begin.

Rocking the 'slag

Last night marked the reunion of most of the ladies of Three Letters. We've taken a sabbatical for the past few months while The Canadian, the mitochondria of the band, was in Paris. And last night, when holiday rock shows sprouted up all over the factory we got together, appreciated and rocked.

First was Hammerslag Jazz Workshop, a cross-departmental band. A bandmate's husband played drums, and that was awesome.

Then some of us went off to see the technicians' band, featuring our bass player on vocals. They rocked hard. We came to represent. Women stood up front and rocked, and behind them rows of men stood there expressionless. They're technicians. Underneath the complete lack of emotion I'm sure they were having a very very good time.

We moved over to another building to catch the set by the idea guys. They were rocking the songs of the 70's and sounded amazing but their crowd was DULL. No offense, people, but it's o.k. to dance. So we did, and were joined by my wubbie. And shee jimmy and cobbu-san and we brought the party.

What's funny about all of us is that as a group we're far more impressed by the common man doing uncommon things than by the uncommon man doing uncommon things. A famous rock guitarist came and sat in with the band and played on some of his hits. People cheered more and were more excited by regular members of the bands' solos because they were less expected.

Finally the tool and die group played and brought down the house with a horn section and awesome vocals. One member of the band said that when they have gigs and the ladies of Three Letters are not there they aren't as good. So sweet.

Somewhere during the technicans' band I made my step count. The daily total was sixteen thousand, which would have been about thirty two thousand had I still had my 'slag pedometer. But I lost it in Taiwan.


December 7, 2009

Pink and Black

I looked down on my suitcase as I was packing and decided that I must really like pink and black.


Thanksgiving was lovely and small. Cold and flu season took its toll on attendance and it was an intimate group of four. Dinner was very tasty and there went off without more than a hiccup. Sadly, I took no pictures. I present you instead with a photo of the Thanksgiving platter.

It came from the Saint Vincent de Paul in the Old Place. It simply called out to me one day and I bought it to put on the wall. Brought it home to show MiddleGuySis and she said "I thought you'd like it, so I left it there for you". A sign of true sibling love is when one sister leaves something in a thrift store for the other sister to find.

It was a sisterless Thanksgiving, but one filled with love and a turkey platter.

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