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Part 1: PUPPY AND PUZZLES (AtoZAprilChallenge)

a-zchallengeDuring this challenge, I’ve noticed that some letters are easier to deal with than others, and then some just offer so many possibilities, it’s hard to know where to begin. Today, I chose a group of four words and played around with their juxtaposition. But then I realized that things were getting too carried away and that I would just simply things into two posts–Part 1 and Part 2 (more “p” words). So here is Part 1.

PUPPY AND PUZZLES

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATo start with, I am speaking of a specific puppy–a dog actually. Puppy is a rescue dog, a Chihuahua that has had a pretty rough life. In the picture at the left, I am holding her at Vanilla Garden, the restaurant where she was staying after her rescue. She normally was outside on the porch during the day, and then carried upstairs to the floor above the restaurant where she slept at night.

When I first started visiting her there, I often would visit with a student who wanted to practice speaking English. One day, one of the students told me the dog’s name was xiāngcháng, which means sausage. I started interacting more and more with Sausage over the next few weeks and months. In the meantime, my husband had moved to Taiwan. (I had been here two years without him. Another story.)

And winter was approaching. Now it doesn’t get down to freezing in Taiwan, but it can be pretty cold outside on a porch during the day, or up in the second floor of a building with no central heat, so I started crocheting a little blanket for Sausage. You can see Sausage trying it out when she first got her afghan.

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As you can see in the picture above, one of her problems is that she has a broken leg that never healed properly.

One day in late November or early December of 2011, another student was approached by the owner of the restaurant while we were there for dinner. It turns out she wanted to know if I would be interested in adopting Sausage. I reluctantly declined, for several reasons.

  1. I wasn’t sure how long we were going to stay in Taiwan.
  2. We had a landlord who probably wouldn’t be too excited about us having a dog.
  3. I’m a cat person at heart.

But I still thought about it when we visited. And then I found out that the reason we had been approached is that Sausage didn’t come and sit on anyone else’s lap. And David started to suggest that maybe we should consider it, that the dog seemed to be good for me. And so I contacted the landlord, who wasn’t that hard to convince when we assured him that this was a small dog, who was several years old (at least 6 at the time) and that we would make sure that there were no messes.

So a funny part of the story is that when we actually went to the restaurant to see about taking Sausage for a couple days to see how she adjusted, they told the student who was with me that her name was xiāngcǎo, which means vanilla. VANILLA?! I had been calling her Sausage for weeks. So here’s a brief little bit of information about Chinese. Sometimes words are very close in sound, so that two students who both know the language here the dog’s name and one hears this:

xiāngcháng = sausage

and the other hears this:

xiāngcǎo = vanilla

Even if you can’t read Chinese, it’s clear that the first syllables in both cases are the same, and the second syllables are different but if someone is speaking quickly, you might get the two confused. Well, obviously, since it happened. In a way, it didn’t matter, since we weren’t calling her the name she had been hearing in Chinese. Now she’s bilingual.  haha

So I just started calling her Puppy.  She only eats dog food, even if she is sitting on my lap at dinner time. She might look at my food, sniff it a bit, but she will not attempt to eat it. She doesn’t play much either. We bought her a few little toys when we first got her, almost 2 1/2 years ago. But she’s never played with them. She will come and sit with me for my daily Sudoku puzzle. She’s quite good at helping with them. Even the challenging ones.

The owners of Vanilla Garden told us when we adopted her that when we go back to the US, they would take her back, but now that she’s been with us for over two years, there’s no way that’s going to happen. She’s part of our family, and Dave has looked into what we will need to do to bring her back with us. I mean, Look at that sweet face! How could we leave her behind?

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And last summer, she started walking around a little bit more. And even though she won’t play with toys, she has decided that sometimes playing with her dog food isn’t half bad. She will put a piece or two on the floor or in her bed and then go on this massive treasure hunt. It is so funny to watch.

 

The best part of all: she ACTS like a cat. WIN!

 

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2014 in AtoZ Challenge, Taiwan

 

OBSTACLES, OBLIGATIONS, AND OPPORTUNITIES: AtoZAprilChallenge

a-zchallengeI obviously got a little carried away with this one. I played with so many “o” words, and in the end, I finally stopped myself and proceeded to put down a few thoughts that will be offered in three sections: Overcoming Obstacles, Ongoing Obligations, and Observing Opportunities. They are somewhat cyclical, and not totally separate from one another. But part of the process of exploring these ideas is to begin to break the cycle and give me some breathing space to move from a life full of frantic activity to one that is more deliberate and focused.

OVERCOMING OBSTACLES

When I decided that it was absolutely time to find a way to exercise, Curves seemed the way to go. The other Options I had explored–walking and swimming–had inherent issues that made it difficult to maintain them, or–in the case of swimming–to een find a pool within reasonable traveling distance. As mentioned in my post for F: Farther to Go!, this is the first time in my life that I’ve been at an exercise program that I have maintained for this length of time. I can’t believe I’m in my sixth month. I’m not perfect, but I’m better than I’ve ever been, and I have every intention of getting better.

But it wasn’t easy. From the very first day I was scheduled to check things out at Curves, there were major obstacles. Bus schedules, times when there were no seats on the bus, trying to get to the bus in the rain, the schedule at Curves itself–Chinese New Year for example, with it’s five days off, and then the two day deep cleaning break, which I didn’t know about (because I can’t read Chinese on the text message). Then there was the unexpected dip in income, which made me question whether or not I should continue, given the obstacles. If you’re interested in knowing more about the ups and downs of this endeavor, type CURVES in the search bar at the right of the blog.

But in the end, I am doing it. My progress is not as quick as I would like, but I am still at it, and my intention is to get back to three times a week in May. Hopefully, without too many more obstacles.

The next obstacle: dealing with the clutter in my life.

ONGOING OBLIGATIONS

I have to admit that even though the ongoing obligations can get me a little down sometimes, I am moving along more smoothly through them lately. There are still some little glitches along the way, but because of the above experience with working through obstacles with one major focus, it has become easier to apply that to other things. Although I can be good about planning, I sometimes set goals and then expect I can just figure out the steps to take me there by magic. So when it comes to the textbook project, this particular volume is going much better. It’s not without its frustrations and I’d still rather not be doing it, but I’ve got a process in place that makes it easier to keep going, day by day. It will also be made easier when I tackle the clutter obstacle mentioned above.

The problem with the ongoing obligations is that they are often the result of glittery ideas that captured my attention, and I grabbed on without thinking. As much as I’d like to “move on” in my mind, these things still have to be taken care of. So I’ve had to make a plan that really gets me moving, so I can look to the next phase of my life and really focus on what’s important, and what I really want. This is the current aspect of Farther to Go! that I’m working on–figuring out What I Really Want. Once I KNOW and am not just speculating, the path will be clear. (I pay attention in class.) Which takes us to the third category.

OBSERVING OPPORTUNITIES

To me this is where the real challenge lies. To observe the opportunities that come my way without automatically grabbing. To ask how they fit in with what I want. If they don’t bring me closer to what I want my life to be, just walk away. I have discovered there are things that I want to be doing, and that in order to do them, I have to keep overcoming obstacles, move past the ongoing obligations, and make sure that I observe the opportunities and be very selective about which ones I take.

Obviously, there are more opportunities out there than I can possibly find time for. And it’s not about seeing how much I can cram into my life, but about defining what I want that life to be and observing that not all opportunities fit that vision. It’s freeing to realize that opportunities taken on without thought are just one more form of clutter. Life is too short to life it buried under obstacles and obligations of one’s own making. Time to observe and focus on eliminating rather than collecting.

 
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Posted by on April 17, 2014 in Uncategorized

 

NEIGHBORHOODS: AtoZAprilChallenge

a-zchallengeI’ve lived in a number of neighborhoods in my life, and I’ve loved almost all of them. But today, I want to share what my neighborhood in Taiwan is like. This is the second apartment I’ve had since I’ve lived here. The first one less than a mile from where I am now. The first one was fine for when I was here by myself (the first two years of my time here). But a year and a half in, I had my knee replacement surgery and was anticipating my husband coming to join me six months later. The apartment wasn’t all that conducive to my recovery (as my bed was in a loft with a narrow stairway), so the time was ripe for a change. Since that time, I’ve been in the current apartment. In another post, I’ll share pictures of the apartment itself. But for today, I’m going to show you a few pictures of the neighborhood.

To begin, once you leave our complex, he head to the left and come to a roadway with a lovely gazebo.

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As we come out of our apartment complex, there is a park to the right (maybe you’ll see that on Friday — P is for Park. Around the other side of the gazebo is the walkway to Jessica’s coffee shop.

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And here is Jessica’s coffee shop. (J is for Joyful Jessica.)

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If you turn to the left at the gazebo instead of heading to Jessica’s or the park, you will find the beginning of the business district leading to Guishan Ho Jie (Back Street) which makes this street look like a sleepy village.

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In a future post, I’ll lead you down this street to Ho Jie’s business district, then on to the morning traditional market.

If you have any specific questions about my neighborhood, feel free to post them in the comment section below. I’ll see what I can do to answer them and maybe even provide some photos.

 
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Posted by on April 16, 2014 in AtoZ Challenge, Coffee, Taiwan

 

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Miscellaneous M’s: AtoZAprilChallenge

a-zchallengeAs I was considering all the possibilities for M, there wasn’t anything that jumped out at me. So here is a miscellaneous list of the m’s that passed through, some more often than others. Some are from my happy place, some are just basic ‘m’ words that showed up, and one is a major annoyance. Let’s start with that. Our first ‘m’ is:

MOTORCYCLES: I love Taiwan, but I don’t love all the scooters and motorcycles that try to fly through the streets and (sometimes) walkways. They park and block sidewalks. They sometimes ride on the wrong side of the street if they’re just going a short distance, so that pedestrians are still surprised by them, even if one is trying to be cautious. But most of all, I hate the noise. There are a couple motorcycles owned by people in our apartment complex that are so loud, it’s enough to drive me insane. OK, I suppose that’s not a major threat. But you get the idea.

 

photo credit: Wikipedia

Dabajian Mountain (photo credit: Wikipedia)

MOUNTAINS: Taiwan’s mountains are beautiful. They’re kind of like layers of mountains, sometimes four abreast.  When I lived in Seattle, Washington, I could see the Cascade Mountains from the kitchen window. While the area where I was born and raised in Michigan is very, very flat, but it is so beautiful in many other ways, particularly with the Great Lakes and the varied coast line.

MY MOTHER: I almost did a whole post with this as the title, but that’s not really the kind of thing she would appreciate. And today, our ‘m’ day in the AtoZAprilChallenge, is her birthday. So I’m going to be nice and just say, “Happy Birthday, Mom!”

MASKS: I just like them, and it came to mind when I was thinking about ‘m’ words, but not strongly enough to build an entire post around them. I especially like the idea of making masks–the craft aspect of it. Not the hiding behind kind.

 

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of fotographic1980 / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

MUSIC: I like listening to music, but I also like making music. The piano is my instrument of choice. Even though it’s been a while since I’ve played, I did have a chance to do a little practicing last summer. (My brother and his family are providing a good home to my piano at the moment.)

MUSHROOMS: OK. I probably shouldn’t advertise this, but I really love button mushrooms. Especially if they’re fresh and sliced. I will load them up on my salad. YUM!

MORNINGS: While I have never loved mornings, I’m finding I’ve gotten a bit more optimistic about them in the last few months. Getting up in the morning gives me a running start to my day. I feel like if I get up and get going on things, that I can always take a break later if I need or want one. But it’s nice to get something done first rather than getting a late start and feeling like the day totally got away from me.

MISCELLANEOUS MONDAYS: Early this year, my daughter, Kate, started a new feature on her blog, Sincerely Kate. You can check out that feature as well as many of her other compulsive ideas brought to life.

MUSCLE: I have no idea. It’s an ‘m’ word. It qualifies. Unless it’s something subconscious about the muscle I’m starting to build from my regular trips to the gym. I’ll take that. 

MAGAZINES: I’ve read all kinds of magazines over the years, but I have to admit the only ones that really grab me anymore are craft magazines–most often quilting. Maybe that will shift once I’m back in the U.S. again, but for now, bring on the quilting possibilities.

There you have it. Ten miscellaneous ‘M’ words for your aMusement.

What miscellaneous ‘m’ words come to your mind if you brainstorm for a minute?

 
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Posted by on April 15, 2014 in AtoZ Challenge

 

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Location! Location! Location! AtoZ April Challenge

a-zchallengeI could have titled this post: I LOVE THIS PLACE! But it only had one L and I didn’t want to be subtle about which letter was being featured today. And this wasn’t the post I originally had planned for today. But Luscious Lavender will have to wait until another day. I changed my plan because I noticed an interesting phenomenon in the last few days. Several people I know have been on vacation and school breaks (not where I am), but I’ve heard of the concept.  ;-)

What I’ve seen in Facebook comments and blog posts is that people would love to go back to the place where they vacationed. They fell in love, they want to move, they see some greener pastures. After I came to the third reference of this type, I realized I wanted to write about it.

Of course, I’m all for finding a place where you belong and can be happy. I have a friend who went on a vacation about 12 years ago, fell in love with the area, and put a plan into motion to relocate to that area. And while no place is perfect 100% of the time, she has discovered that the place is perfect for her, and she wouldn’t go anywhere else.

But in general, I wonder if the places we visit on vacation are appealing simply because they have what we don’t have at home. A sense of space, of options, a change in the routine. It intrigues me because it seems to take us away from the present moment to dreaming about some future location we will never really be able to achieve. Or perhaps never should achieve. For some, it could be running from one unresolved situation to another. I’ve moved enough in my life to know that no matter how beautiful the spot, it can seem dreary at times. On the other hand, places that most people would consider less than ideal can hold the perfect home and situation for a person to flourish.

Wishing to be someplace other than where we are can sap our energy and reserve. I know because now that I’ve made the decision to move back home to the US in the summer of 2015, I sometimes long for it. And I have to stop and remind myself that I don’t want to wish away the present moment. I have another 15-16 months in Taiwan, and I want to make the most of them. Taiwan is lovely, and there is much to see and do. And while I look forward to my return to the US, this is my home now.

I love my apartment. I love the people. I love teaching. So while there are things that frustrate me, I’m focusing on the things I love. And when I get to the US, I don’t want to be reaching back to the past, wishing I had done more here. Or wondering where I’m going to go next. I want to live in the moment, and that includes appreciating the place that I call home at that moment.

What about you? Are you happy where you are? Do you have plans to move? Have you found a place that truly feels like home?

 

 
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Posted by on April 14, 2014 in AtoZ Challenge, Introspection

 

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Kaohsiung, Taiwan: AtoZ April Challenge

a-zchallengeDuring the semester break (mid-January to mid-February), Dave and I had a chance to travel  with one of my students to Kaohsiung, a city in southern Taiwan. I shared some of our adventures a couple months ago when we went even further south, culminating with Coffee in Paradise. You can look here for additional information about that part of the trip.

Now we go back in time by a day to the things we did before our trip to paradise. We traveled by train approximately 4 hours to get to Kaohsiung, where we met one of my students–Green Tea. She and her father took us to a lovely Hong Kong style barbeque restaurant, where we were treated to an amazing array of entrees. Servers pushed carts with various kinds of dishes past the tables of guests, and the items selected were marked on a tally sheet. I was glad I didn’t have to make any decisions. Our host made selections and had us try many things. It was a great experience.

Afterwards, we returned to the car and headed to the water front. This is the Love River. We were told that if we followed it, we would end up very close to their house. But when I jokingly suggested taking that route, I was told it might take a while. The river winds approximately 7.5 miles through the city. Take a look at the great view from the Pier 2 area.

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We walked along a short distance and enjoyed the sunshine and warm weather. The weather in southern Taiwan is quite nice this time of year.

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Then we headed over to the Pier-2 Art District to see the Kaohsiung International Container Arts Festival. On the way to the actual pier where the container exhibit was set up, we got to enjoy quite an array of colorful and whimsical art installations.

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The actual container exhibit was fascinating. It was held from mid-December – to mid-February. The weather was beautiful the day we were there. Since I didn’t get as many pictures as I would have liked, here is a short video from Idea Books that shows some of the containers from the exhibit. The video doesn’t give you a good look at things, but you can begin to get an idea of the scope of it.

http://www.ideabooks.nl/9789866204739-2013-kaohsiung-international-container-arts-festival-inhabitables

The information below explains the Container Arts Festival and is taken from the curator’s statement on the Kaohsuing City government website.

http://container.khcc.gov.tw/English/home01.aspx?ID=1

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Kaohsiung International Container Arts Festival is a biennial event that has been held for six times since 2001. Various artists around the world participating in the past container arts festivals presented diverse but complex conceptions of shipping containers developed throughout human civilization. Using containers as vehicles, these artworks were shown to the audience. Some of them might let the audience put themselves inside the containers to further experience the artists’ concepts through senses other than sight, yet these containers were presented as work of art instead of functional spaces for human daily activities.

Kaohsiung International Container Arts Festival 2013 attempts to re-examine the characteristics of containers and possible trends of human society, suggesting another development direction for container arts—“Inhabitable” container spaces.
“The Inhabitables” project, practicing the concept of “lifestyle design‧container architecture,” invites several domestic and international architects and spatial designers to design inhabitable container spaces and to further produce prototypes of their design. These containers exhibited at Pier-2 Art District during the container arts festival link up the interfaces of creative design and living space.

The pictures below show amazing living spaces. Pictures were not allowed inside the container, but if you can handle the stairways to the various levels, you can have access to a variety of different spaces for all different purposes. It was a delight to imagine the purposes for each of the rooms. The space was light and surprisingly open. I did not feel crowded as I toured it, even though there were several other people in it at the same time. There was occasional congestion at the stairways, but that’s only because more people were touring than there would be actually moving around if it were actually someone’s living space.

There were several containers that had been converted into different spaces. In the multi-story living structure, photos were not allowed inside, but the space was well organized and very bright. Lots of sun. Here are some of the pictures from the outside. If you look carefully, you will see me though the window.  :-)

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In the picture on the right you see me in the doorway. Directly above that doorway is a window. You can see me in that window in the next photo. And next to that, I’ll be in window next to that on my way up to a lovely sleeping area.

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There was another container that was made into a museum with many types of miniature robots and other human like creatures all made of metal. This unit, was based on a horizontal layout rather than vertical, and featured a porch and an entry area with tables for brochures and decorative items. A very inviting space.

We didn’t tour everything, as our time was somewhat limited, and there were lines at one of the other exhibits. One of the special features of the exhibit was a type of walkway which was a series of containers end to end that led you around the perimeter of the container exhibit. But much of the actual “sides” were removed, so it was a series of archways. At night, the archways are all lit up. It was fun to walk along.

We continued around the rest of the pier to look at the other installations and to head to the rendezvous spot, where Green Tea’s father was to pick us up. On the way we saw this.

Transformers anyone?

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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is another part of the permanent installation at the Pier 2 Art Area. As you can see, the scale is pretty large. In the picture on the left, I am posing in front of its leg! The picture on the right taken from further back shows how this Transformer dwarfs the building behind it.

 

 

Afterwards, we went back to their home where her father prepared tea. It is one of his hobbies, and he takes it very seriously. It was a lovely afternoon. We rested for a bit before he took Dave, me, and Green Tea to the train station where we would head to Pingtung and meet up with Olivia and her family. The following day would be the coffee in paradise day.

We certainly need to make sure we return to southern Taiwan again when we have more time to spend there. So much to see and do. So many people to spend time with. In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed this brief exploration of the Pier 2 area of Kaohsuing.

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http://www.a-to-zchallenge.com/

 

 
2 Comments

Posted by on April 13, 2014 in AtoZ Challenge, Taiwan

 

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This I Know: SofCS

This week, the prompt is “I know this in my heart.” Write about something you just know – not necessarily a fact, but more a feeling.

Somehow I’m going to get through this rough spot. It’s normal to feel stressed and run down and unable to move in any direction when all kinds of things are happening around me. I know that I’ll feel better soon. I know I’ll find a path through the madness and get back on track, even though it doesn’t feel like it right now. I know that I can just give myself a break and tomorrow things will look a whole lot better. And if they don’t, there’s another new day after that. I don’t know how many new days it will take until I find myself in the space that feels right, but it will come. I even had a momentary glimpse of it yesterday. In my heart, I have to trust my own process and know that I will that magic again.

This post if part of SoCS (http://lindaghill.wordpress.com/2014/04/11/the-friday-reminder-and-prompt-for-socs-april-1214/)

 
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Posted by on April 12, 2014 in 600 days to 60

 

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