January 2012

I was going to write a post about my visit to the Demilitarised Zone (DMZ) in North/South Korea last year, but then I didn’t have all the pictures I thought I did. However flicking through my January 2012 folder, there are a variety of photos and I thought it might be fun to revisit that month!

January 2nd: Not the funnest start to the year, but the first diagnosis of what turned out to be a major case of the Screwed-Up Knees (what James calls a “bung knee” but that expression is so stupid!)
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January 6. Here I am in Seoul! It’s cold, and bright, and cold!!
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There is a long winding riverpath which I ache to run along, and which Stefany informs me goes for miles. However, I wisely did not pack my running gear, as I am supposed to be resting my freshly injured knees.
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The supermarkets in So.Ko. sell EVERYTHING. Including fish. As in aquariums and their inhabitants.
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January 7. Our trip to the DMZ! Our guide is the most adorable, slightly camp Korean. I have forgotten his name but I have a feeling it was Kim (safe bet).
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There aren’t many photos as it is a restricted area (duh) and therefore we aren’t allowed to even point at things, let alone take photos. I remember that it was fascinating but I can’t remember enough to really write about it with any great skill. This is why I need photos.
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Apparently, we have now left the DMZ. This shop display was amazing, but then the shoplady came over and echoed the DMZ rules: No photos.
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Innocent Bystander! I have gotten blotto on this delightful pink moscato many a night out in Fitzroy’s Little Creatures brewery, where you used to be able to buy it on tap by the jug. It is also known as “Slut Cheowse”.
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Hello Kitty: Unsurprisingly, just as popular in Korea as in Japan, China, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
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January 15: Back in Taiwan, at Rebecca’s Election Day Party. I am eating homemade blueberry cheesecake next to a piano.
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MRT afterparty with Edu & Co:
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January 16. I was utterly bemused by my trip to see those nuns.
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January 18. Applying my powers of deduction to this picture of two Kingfisher Beers, I’m guessing that I’m at the Indian restaurant in Ximending, and that my companion is Catherine. I seem to remember us guffawing too loudly and a Taiwanese gentleman asking us politely to keep it down. Loud English Girls. Mortified.
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January 24. A cup of the most delicious tea in existence. I am really quite enjoying this process of revisiting old pictures! I had forgotten that Rebecca had given me a sachet of this beautiful Hot Cinnamon Spice tea. How clever of me to have taken a photo — I must track some down tomorrow and then DRINK IT FOREVER.
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January 26. This is the sleepy face of a very naughty girl, who has slept in her running clothes in order to wake up early and go for a run DESPITE THE FACT THAT HER KNEES ARE SO BAD. My Australian sports doctor tells me that actually I was right to keep running despite getting injured. However at the time, I was supposed to be resting…
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A glutton for punishment, this appears to have been my supper that evening. I identify red cabbage and omelette on a bed of lettuce.
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January 27. A bird in a cage attached to a scooter. Why? Because Taiwan.
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January 30. My conservator side laughs at this picture. Most people would struggle to see any value in it. I, however, and any fellow hashers out there, will recognise it as a splash of flour. Beautiful, glorious flour, from a run (ANOTHER FORBIDDEN RUN, so much for resting): the Taipei Zoo run, which I had missed the day before, and ran by myself on the Monday.
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The run ended at Taipei Zoo (the clue is in the name), which has some interesting artwork, including this one monument to animal poop.
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And so my month of January 2012 ended, happy and sweaty. Looking at this picture of me, I want to start running again! But I ran for the tram yesterday morning and OW OW OW. Not quite yet. Soon.
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jog.fm

I have a friend called Katie who used to say “inshock.com” to express her horror at some unexpected event, and the phrase always made me laugh. I have discovered this app called jog.fm — one of the few apps I have ever shelled out cold hard cash for (extra cold and hard considering $2.99 is more than I get paid per hour here). It has a few drawbacks — awkward silences between songs, for example — but it’s basically amazing.

The idea is it analyses your iTunes music to work out all the BPM (beats per minute) and what pace they are best fitted to. Then you tell the app how fast you want to run, and it plays music from your iTunes at that pace. If you’re running outdoors, it can also be set to track your pace and match it with songs that fit.

I started my run with jog.fm set to a 6:15min/km pace + a warm-up song. The warm-up song warmed me up a bit too much and soon I was speeding up my pace to 5min/km — and holding it for entire songs. This was too much for an entire 5km but the run really flew by and I finally squeezed my 5kms in under 30 minutes: 29 minutes and 55 seconds, to be precise.

The great thing about my other app, Runkeeper, is that I can look back at runs I did over the last year and make estimates of how long it takes me to get back to a proper speed. This time last year I was also barely scraping 30-minute 5ks, but within a month and a half I was squeezing 6km into 30 minutes. Of course the difference is I was running the China Hash twice a week, not sweating on a treadmill, so I guess the next step is to find the Colombo Hash…

Ma-ma-madrid

So exciting to think that in a week I will be on my way to France, and in two weeks, I will be in Madrid! Yes, I know, you didn’t see that one coming, and you may well be considering adding it to the list of destinations I’m going to and then change my mind about (see: Melbourne; Hong Kong; Thailand). But I have actually coughed up the cash and bought a ticket, so it will definitely (well 85% sure, based on previous experiences) happen. And do you know why? Because I am going to see my favourite family in the world: Ally, Juan and Nalia!

This is my last week more or less in Taiwan and I am well caught up on work, despite procrastination issues which may or may not have led to me being renamed “Facebook Diarrhea” on the China Hash this weekend. I have some small regrets about throwing myself into all that mud on Sunday, as the run was really more of a “Tough Mudder”-type obstacle course for me. I ran for probably the first half and then just gave up and tried to crawl/slide up and down muddy banks without aggravating my grumbling shin further. But I survived, thanks to Voltaren and plenty of rest, and I plan on having a couple more runs before I leave regardless — including a Super Secret Sunday run with with a minor celebrity. Stay tuned!

Looking optimistic at the start!
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There was a LOT of mud shifted around on trail
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and the running girl runs

Oh how I have missed running! Up to about a year ago this blog used to be 90% documenting my runs. I guess it’s been good that I took a break and made more of an effort to write about other things… Over the course of the last few weeks I’ve been pretty active, hiking and river-trekking and for the most part doing ok. This Sunday I’m doing my last China Hash run — it’s being aggressively promoted on Facebook and to be honest sounds amazing (although isn’t that the whole point of promotion…) — and I want to run it, not walk it. I know that I can’t expect to run terribly well, especially as it always involves LOTS of hills and steps, but I thought I’d check in with my running this morning and see where I stood.

As you can see, I stood a little shocked and very red in the face, even 20 minutes after I got home…
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My housemate Dan advised me to try Nangang Park for a mostly flat route. It’s bordered by the tempting hills of Houshanpi, but whilst I stopped to examine them, the trails were pretty much just stairs x1,000,000 (or 100,0000 if you’re Chinese). I walked there (well actually I couldn’t resist and ran most of it) and then ran around the park a couple of times. I’d just returned to my starting point at the park when I hit 3km on the run, and was thinking of walking home, when Die Antwoord came on and Ninja said something incredibly deep like “Jou ma se poes in en fishpaste jar” which shamed me into at least TRYING to run home. So I unpaused Runkeeper and ran all the way home, with a detour in the park to bump the running part of my route up to 5km.

So yah, I ran about 6km this morning. I’m at a hilariously barely-faster-than-walking pace of 7min/km… but you know I’m just so glad to be running again. I stretched and iced when I got home, and I will make sure I do the same on Sunday after the Hash. I know from experience that the first run after a long break is always fairly decent, and that it’s the second, third, fourth…. all the other runs after that in fact, for about a month, or maybe 6 weeks, that really suck. I also know from experience that it’s the first 5km of a run that suck the hardest. So my expectations for Sunday are pretty low… just finish without aggravating my knees. My tibia/shin-bone seems (touch wood) to be healed.

behind the scenes

I’ve settled into my work and am really enjoying coming into our office at the World Trade Centre (which probably sounds more impressive than it looks, especially as it is dwarfed by the shadow of Taipei 101) every day. I have also had a few conversations with David which inspire me a lot for future directions.

Anyway, my favourite thing about working in the WTC is that you get to look out over the Exhibition Hall as you go up in the lift. It’s fascinating watching the builders assemble and dissemble the exhibition stalls over the course of the week, so everything will be ready for the next Expo.

Today I came in at the incredibly early hour of 12:30, just in time to catch the workers playing dead. How many corpses do you count? I see seven bodies and an extra pair of legs…

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On Sunday I attended the China Hash in the loosest sense of the word. The race left from a temple currently under construction, and I thought I would share the delicate artisan work that goes into building one of these feats of architecture…

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That’s right. It’s all breeze-blocks underneath the gaudy traditional exterior.

There was a bizarre procession going on just as the Hash upped and left after the run. An older lady, with a sword and a hoop of some description, danced around, sniffed incense which was proffered to her by a subordinate, sucked on a dummy (aka pacifier), then nodded, upon which signal streams of people set off up to the temple carrying incense, offerings, and small statues of gods. I’m sorry I don’t have more illustrations, but it’s probably just as entertaining in your head.

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good to be me

Yesterday I received a quick’n’rough edit of our Taiwan film which we are sending to the client in advance of the final cut, and I spend the morning writing the subtitles in Chinese and English for all my live chattering, which was surprisingly rewarding, as I had only made one mistake!
It isn’t ALL me making silly faces, promise

Just MOSTLY me making silly faces…

Then once I had sent my translation spreadsheet off to Alberto, I started on my work for David. There were a few issues with synching the progress we had done, so in the end we decided to meet face to face at the office. 40 minutes later, we were off to Apple to purchase the promised MacBook Air (on which I am currently writing this — it is a DREAM MACHINE). We had to spend several hours waiting for the people at Apple to set up the laptop, and talked so much about — well, everything, philosophy and psychology and productivity, which are all key aspects of this project. I am really lucky to be getting paid to do this.

Additionally, I may have a free place to stay in Koh Samui when I go to Thailand this June. How awesome is that? Told you I am lucky. I just cannot bring myself to worry about anything anymore, because everything comes together so much better than I could ever plan…

Today the China Hash is in Neihu, which I think won’t be too strenuous, but I am not sure I can walk the Hash today as I have so much to do before I leave for Hong Kong tomorrow. Will have to get on with things instead of blabbing on my blog now…

up to date

I have not been updating very assiduously, have I… Quick run-down of the past week:

On Sunday I walked the China Hash, which wasn’t much of a walk and more of a “push your way through jungle scrub up and down mountains” experience. It was fun but my knees did not like it. I did remember to ice them straight afterwards though, so the fall-out was not too bad.

Maria behind me looks shocked and horrified — when Relax appeared on the horizon to snap this picture, she thought he was some kind of investigator/agent. She’s lived on the Mainland too long!

On Monday Maria and Alberto left, and I bought my tickets to Hong Kong. Cici and I have been planning our Supermates break with enthusiasm! It’s been 7 months since we last saw each other, and despite talking online every single god-given day, nothing beats sitting together not talking at all.

Tuesday as planned I blasted my room and re-organized my office space. David (aka my new “boss”) is getting a MacBook Air for me to work on, which I have to say I’m pretty excited about. In the interim, I have been trying to restrain the French part of me that is obsessed with stationary and desk organisation…

Wednesday meant lunch with my beloved Catherine, and somehow after lunch, shoe shopping happened. Shoe shopping used to be an addiction of mine; I owned at least 60 pairs when I decided to sell everything a year ago. Since then I have purchased just one pair of Adidas sneakers in London and one pair of leather boots in Florence, which demonstrates the incredible restraint I have developed. However it was time for a pair of summer shoes that were suitable for the heat here and which would provide decent support for my poor knees.

I have been doing a little yoga every morning in order to stretch my hamstrings, which seem to tighten more and more every day. Other than that I am not really exercising though… still, I’m feeling happy overall. Spring in Taipei is like the perfect continental summer in Europe — plenty of sunshine and birdsong, warm breezes, gentle mornings and fun evenings. Once the summer gets here it will be like a furnace, if a furnace is ever damp and sweaty, so I am relishing these perfect days. There’s something about the air, the light, the smell of Taipei at this time of year that I absolutely love (as long as you aren’t anywhere near a stinky tofu stand or the drains of course…).

I leave you with a couple of pictures from the Taiwan tour last week. The quality of my pictures should be drastically improving now, as I asked Alberto to check my camera and turns out I had it stuck on a weird setting:

5:20 sunrise in Chiayi

Lions in Taroko Gorge