day 2 down, a hundred more to go

Today I did Chinese practice with Rinny for 5 hours, working on reading content from a contract dispute. I am now 80x better at reading contracts in Chinese. Did you know that “该” in a contract has nothing to do with 应该 but in fact is the formal way of saying 这? This crucial fact has been lacking from my knowledge base for YEARS and caused much confusion whenever a contract was dumped in front of me. [version for non-Chinese readers: “gai” is a character most habitually found as part of “yinggai”, which means “must”. But when written on its own in a more formal piece of writing, it means “this”. You can imagine how confused I was for a long time reading things that appeared to start with “MUST AGREEMENT IS BETWEEN PARTY AND PARTY B”.]

After some long-distance phone cajoling by James, I then changed and went for a “run”. “Recover-from-injury-physio-run-number-2” involved lots of charging up and down around trees. I really feel like an idiot in the park; I basically run like a dog would, with no apparent direction or purpose, and stop and start at what must appear completely arbitrary intervals.

Warm up: 5min
3x [90s walk, 45s run, 2min walk, 45s run]
Cool down: 10min
Spiky ball massage.

I might go again tomorrow, it was very pleasant… I got a little stitch at one point, which part of me was rather happy about, because that meant I am learning to breathe as I run again.

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the things i do for me

In the two+ months since I last updated (since Sydney) I:
– Interviewed and was selected for an amazing job
– Travelled to Hong Kong with said job
– Came back to Melbourne to cram for my next uni subject
– Travelled to the far-north-eastern-most point of Arnhem Land and spent a week in an Aboriginal arts centre
– Came back to Melbourne and did a course in conservation of plastics at Melbourne Museum
– Decorated my house in an attempt at procrastinating from uni assignments
– Thrashed out my assignments on Aboriginal art and finished uni for 2015 (much more to come in 2016 though)
– Started my new job in earnest.

But whilst all of the above would make fascinating blog posts, complete with interesting and/or beautiful photos and maybe even some meaningful reflections on art and culture…

…I’m posting now because I am needing to do the whole “today I did this for me” thing again to help me stay positive as I adapt to working very-much-full-time again and try not to lapse back into fatigue. Not very interesting for other people but very much a coping strategy for me!

SO this weekend:
– I got up early on Saturday and cleaned and tidied my house, ran down to Coles to pick up the groceries I pre-ordered online to avoid buying anything that wasn’t FODMAP-friendly (this strategy works wonders for me)
– Met with my new Chinese friend Rinny to smash out 6 (yes SIX) hours of Chinese conversation practice (the new job requires me to be able to talk about archaeology and Chinese history and UNESCO with fluency — isn’t that marvellous?)
– Watched 10 Things I Hate About You
– Read The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman (a wonderful hommage to The Jungle Book!)
– Failed to get to Bikram on Sunday morning, due to staying up late reading the above (I have lapsed in my Bikram practice and been maybe twice in three weeks, due to intermittent fatigue + working again being a bit much to combine, but I’m confident I’ll be back soon).
– Met my friend Kerry to see Trainwreck at the cinema (loved it)
– Came home and napped (I’ve been told to schedule naps in the day and not feel bad about it, and you know what, it’s so liberating!)
– Cooked low-FODMAPs coq au vin and ragu for the week’s lunches (plus a ton of white rice and hard-boiled eggs) (and can I just say that coq au vin is out of this world delicious for a low-FODMAPs recipe A+++).

Now it’s 9:30pm and time to wind things up for bed. Goals for the week:

– No panicking
– Practice Chinese every night (and not lazy writing or reading, proper speaking and listening!)
– Whether you think you can, or you think can’t, you’re right… so Rosie, know that you can.
– Maybe squeeze in a Bikram class.

songs

Since I finished work FOREVER on Tuesday I’ve been so busy, who would have thought unemployment would mean never being home. Of course this is because James is still here for a few more days before he leaves Afghanistan. James is infinitely more social and active than I am, so we have been catching up with friends a lot. Also, he got us tickets for Everclear on Wednesday, and Madama Butterfly on Thursday. We agreed that there was probably not a huge amount of overlap in the audiences between the two concerts.

Everclear was James’ favourite band when he was a teenager, whereas I had never heard of them. We did wonder before we got into the venue if we would be feeling particularly old and out of place, but of course everyone there was our age, except the singer who looked positively geriatric. I wore earplugs, did not know any of the songs, and was content to mostly watch James watch them:
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Although for one of the encores at the end they played the one song I knew (because it was on the Romeo + Juliet soundtrack) and I found myself quite excited.

Now I want to find a festival/concert where they play 90s rock. Blink 182 and Foo Fighters must still be touring, right? They played Everlong at the intermission and I got ever so nostalgic.

Last night we went to the Melbourne Arts Centre to see Madama Butterfly. I have been to a couple of comedic operas and plenty of Chinese opera, but by some incredible 32-year oversight, I had never been to a tragic opera. I am hopelessly, exaggeratedly moved by sad stories set to sad music, without any qualitative discernment between tacky commercials or great artistic works. At least crying my way through an opera is less embarrassing than crying my way through a Levi’s or Qantas ad.

I thought the costumes and the set were just so beautiful. The set designer Peter England has some photos here, including this one:

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Without having seen other performances of Madama Butterfly to compare it to, I did find Hiromi Omura’s Butterfly adorable, full of personality and quirks which made me feel her pain so much more. I wasn’t particularly stirred during the first act, but began tearing up during “One Fine Day” (although it is very moving music, who wouldn’t get a little catch in the throat?), but when she hears that Pinkerton is returning and orders for all the flowers in the garden to be brought into the house — Suzuki warning “But the trees will appear desolate as winter” — I broke down crying and the tears pretty much didn’t stop until the end.

I know it wasn’t the most perfect production ever, and James voiced several very valid criticisms after the show, but I feel that in order to really appreciate it, I’d like to read it in Italian (with an English or French translation side by side) and then go back and watch it again. Just as I mentioned here, I want to really feel and understand each word instead of one in twenty (sidenote: James and I were at our favourite restaurant Entrecôte on Tuesday and a group of Italians were sitting nearby. I have never claimed to be very good at listening to Italian, although I can read it moderately well. However on this occasion the only word I understood the entire time was cazzo… fail.). I shouldn’t really allow myself to get distracted from all the other things I need to do, but then again… I’m unemployed! Surely now is the best time to partially memorise an opera in Italian?

I was also quite dismayed (although with hindsight, not terribly surprised) to recognise throughout Puccini’s music… many strands that had been cribbed and stolen by the writers of Les Miserables! I’m sure if I was more familiar with opera and classical music I would have encountered other instances of this thievery before, but I was surprised nonetheless.

Kinmen

The first stop after Taipei was Kinmen, an island (two islands, in fact, and also known as Quemoy) barely a kilometre from Mainland China. I hadn’t realised it isn’t actually part of “Taiwan” itself; it is part of the Republic of China but the people living there are neither Taiwanese (although they speak Hokkien) nor Mainlanders; they are Kinmenese, really (jinmenren, 金門人), and have no wish to be absorbed into the PRC either. The layers of cultural identity in Taiwan never cease to intrigue me.

We stayed in an absolutely gorgeous traditional “two hall house” guesthouse that was recommended to me by my friend Matt. I can’t describe how beautiful and enchanting the building and surrounding village are; in fact, when I originally began writing this post it turned into the basis of a potential thesis subject for next year (more on this later). So I have shelved all my obsessive architecture/cultural identity observations so I can develop a more academic version of them, and come back to write more of a “This is what I did on holidays” post. However it is SUPER LONG with ALL THE PHOTOS. Consider yourselves warned.

Day one in Kinmen, we arrived at the airport and took a taxi to Zhushan where Guesthouse No.17 awaited our arrival. We were a little early so we wandered around the surrounding buildings, stunned by the scenery of Ming Dynasty homes and small gardens.

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Our host Ms Zhang was wonderful, and when I explained that I wanted to hire bikes but James wanted to hire a scooter, she diplomatically suggested we hire a scooter and then make the most of the free bike services dotted around the island to explore different locations. She drove us to the scooter hire place, where the lovely Jerry set us up with a scooter for a very reasonable NT$900 including two day’s hire, a tank full of petrol (no need to refill before we return), and a free ride to the airport on our last morning (which costs around NT$300 by taxi).

We scootered to the National Park in Guningtou first, which has a number of military sites, with the idea of trying to find a bike hire station. At Lake Ci, we came across a military fort, complete with tanks:

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View out to China

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James looking like a Japanese soldier inside the fort:

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The view from inside the machine-gunner’s room:

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The more time we spent on the scooter, the more it became apparent that cycling was the real way to go when visiting Kinmen. There is a huge network of bike trails clearly signposted all over the island, and even though many of them were on shared roads which we could follow on the scooter, they were much more enjoyable on a slower, biking scale. We sat down in Jincheng and stared at the map, whilst I tried (with much frustration) to work out the location of the dozen or so bike hire stations. I googled exhaustively (note to self: create a page with the information in English and a google map!) and eventually we gave up and decided to just ride over to Shamei and hope we would find one there. And we did! By this point it was 3pm and the station closed at 5pm — you get to use a bike in exchange for your passport, so I was pretty keen for us to get back in time. I was a little worried we wouldn’t have time to do much in 2 hours, especially with the clunky hire bikes which are the type I associate more with city bike schemes than “cycling”. But in the end we had a lot of fun!

Trying to hide my disappointment at these silly bicycles (I was in the middle of taking directions from the hire lady here, and struggling to remember which of zuo and you is right and left, which is of little help to me since I don’t know them in English either):

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I cheered up once we hit the road, the sun and the blue sky and the ocean breeze all made me happy!

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Speed wasn’t really something worth thinking about…

Love the timer function on my iphone, although between me setting the phone up on the beach, running back to strike a pose, running to get my phone and running back to James, the tide had come right in past our bikes!

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We covered a respectable 12.5km and then returned back to the station well before 5, quite worn out (those bikes are hard to work compared to Bon Scott).

Then we scootered home again to the guesthouse, before James coaxed me back out to catch the sunset. We drove to a lookout point but the sun was not quite in the right direction. Still, we had a very pretty view out to China.

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James breaking all the rules as usual:

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As the sun was hidden behind a hill, we watched it set on the iphone instead:

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We then headed over to Jincheng for dinner. Jincheng is a very pretty city, with some very fetching traditional buildings and brick archways.

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We were planning to eat at a place called Jessica’s Communist Cafe, however we couldn’t find it and ended up getting hotpot. Then we scootered home again in the dark, pausing to grab some Taiwan Beer and wasabi snacks at the 7-Eleven.

The next morning, Ms Zhang had prepared a wonderful traditional breakfast for us:

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Most of the food was heavy on the fructans, which I have to stay away from in the daytime if I’m going to have an active and enjoyable day, but I couldn’t help binging on the youtiao (oil sticks — giant fresh churros) and the fresh mulberries. James had to take them away from me, and I tried to console myself with the meatball porridge and a banana but it was not the same.

I was really, really sore from the cycling and the scootering the day before so we chose to explore close to home within walking distance.

Inspecting the map:

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First we meandered through the village and the eponymous “Zhushan” (meaning Pearl Mountain, but really just a hillock).

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A ceremony was being held at the local temple, with music, singing and dancing, whilst onlookers threw ghost money over the performers.

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I particularly liked seeing the singer/drummer follow along the words with one finger — he was very dextrous at turning the pages single-handedly.

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We then walked to Oucuo, which was settled by the Ouyang family during the Ming Dynasty in the late 17th Century. Oucuo was a wonderful place to visit because of the abundance of houses still in their original layout, carefully maintained and modernised. I get very excited about “living heritage” — buildings that have carried traditions and meanings over the centuries and that are not kept as museums of how they once were, but as a continuation of their first and foremost purpose: homes to the living.

Kitty cat on a doorway:

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Nesting doorways:

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Loved this one in particular with the bright flowers, scooters, paste-ups and laundry all artfully building a mosaic of pinks and reds around the red brick frontage… sigh!

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Not all houses were inhabited or in a good state. We came across one abandoned rundown building, which we were able to access as the doorways were clear and easy to get into. It was full of abandoned broken furniture and was incredibly moving.

From behind:

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Check out this ancient TV! (and the rude hentai comics… obviously still a popular destination for locals… living heritage?)

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A group of cyclists came through the empty streets, a little incongruous in their lycra kit, but obviously quite a habitual scene for Kinmen.

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We headed in the same direction, and finally reached the beach. I always love being by the ocean (who doesn’t?) and got quite excited about the seashells.

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I packed up James’ and my shoes in my bag — a bag I made myself, with my own fair hands, a few years ago — and we progressed, barefoot in the sand. The water was very cold so we just splashed a little.

Showing off my bag:

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Cold-feet selfie, the last picture before….:

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Then we began walking along the shore, and James picked up a seashell for me (I was looking for the perfect one). It was all sandy so I dashed to the water to rinse it off… bent over… and *ploof!* my iPhone landed in the water (hitting me on the head and the shoulder on its way out of my bag). I quickly picked it up, mopped it off, and James and I put it out to dry as I pouted about having ruined my only recently paid-off smartphone. I’ve previously dropped James’ iPhone in a Taiwanese waterfall, but there’s no way the chlorides in the seawater aren’t going to cause corrosion (I’ve studied enough metal chemistry to know!).

However it does seem to be fine for now — who knows how long it will last for.

Anyway we continued along the beach, coming to a tank which James had apparently spied from a long way off but I stumbled upon with complete surprise (more metal corrosion!).

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James did what he has done for the last 32 years and climbed onto it.

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I scolded him because one does not climb on History!

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Then we walked towards a military fort, which looked exciting and foreboding.

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It turned out of course that it was impregnable by foot (well obviously, otherwise it would be a rubbish fort) and James led us through a charming landfill instead. It was a shock to see so much rubbish everywhere — the beaches had been pristine up to this point, and it makes you realise how much effort goes into keeping Kinmen beautiful.

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There but for the grace of god go I — my brand new Mizunos realise that they too, one day, could be an abandoned thong.

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We found the entrance to the fort, however it was locked.

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We headed onwards towards Zhushan, stopping at the Zhaishan tunnel to appreciate the three years it took to blast a passageway into gneiss granite.

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We were extremely fortunate to time our visit between two coach loads of tourists, as the tunnels were dreadfully echoey when filled with chattering Taiwanese. It was interesting to imagine how it must have been full of soldiers and ships.

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We had an ice-cream and discussed a potential venture for creating tours for older grumpy people, who like me don’t want to talk to other people and don’t want any noise or chatter, but would like to get out and about and see a few new places. I think this is a great potential business venture!

Then another couple of kilometres and we were back at our guesthouse. I wanted to nap, but James only allowed me to rest my weary feet a little before we went off for afternoon adventures!

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We decided to go hike up Wuhu Mountain (pronounced woo-hoo!) which is apparently the second-highest peak in Kinmen (this means very little, however). I got us lost a few times on the scooter, as I have to navigate from the back seat, one hand around James’ waist and the other clutching my precious iPhone as I indicate left or right — sometimes I overestimate how long it will take to reach the next turn and we have to reset the route. Also… I don’t know left and right, which can be challenging when giving directions. A few zig-zags around the island and we got there in the end!

We debated whether to bring water with us, as there was no indication of distance or elevation, or of how long the climb would take. The answer was: not very far, not very high, not very long!

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We were extremely impressed with the view once at the top however so it was definitely worth it.

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At the top I also finally captured a picture of one of the giant butterflies I had seen everywhere:

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We then descended to the other side of Wuhu to the village of Shanhou.

Ducks holding sentry at the entrance to the village.

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James professed this to be “his favourite duck”:

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Shanhou was built by a rich merchant family, the Wangs, late in the 19th and early in the 20th century. It was very different from Zhushan and Oucuo, as they are laid out in a highly regimented and orderly fashion, according to the rules of fengshui.

Model of the village:

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We weren’t terribly enamoured of this rigid style, and did not stay long, although we were both quite hungry so we enjoyed an icy cold Taiwan beer and a cong you bing, fried spring onion pancake, mine with an egg and some veggies and James’ with sausage as well. I love bing!

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Here is a pile of turtles, trying to clamber on top of each other and up to possibly eat me. Poor things, they are trapped in a small kind of well, no wonder they wanted to escape.

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On the way back James disappeared to explore a tunnel, whilst I powered on up the hill as I was feeling quite tired and wanted to get it all over! He found a cave with some sort of abandoned military function.

We then rode back to Jincheng, pausing at a night market where we saw the seashells from earlier that day, now ready to be consumed:

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We were determined to find Jessica’s Café. I quizzed locals until it was revealed that we had eaten there the night before — Jessica’s Cafe is no more, and has been converted to the hotpot restaurant.

Jincheng by night is so pretty though:

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We wandered around Jincheng some more, and eventually landed in a quite crappy Taiwanese restaurant whose sole merit was that they kindly provided us with a hand-translated menu. Chinese menus are my nemesis, as even if I could read every character, the names of dishes are generally pretty obscure.

Bellies full, if not delighted, we clambered back on the scooter for what I swore would be the last time — my back and bottom were both aching and sore from sitting on it.

However the next morning we had a couple of hours to kill, so James coerced me back onto the stupid scooter and we lazily roamed the nearby countryside, almost getting attacked by dogs a couple of times, and taking photographs of old and modern houses for my new obsession with Taiwanese architecture.

We posed with a Wind Spirit, iconic lions who dot the countryside of Kinmen (squinting attractively as it was so bright without sunglasses!):

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We also found ourselves at the foot of a random tower/hill, so we decided to climb that whilst we were there. It was just a 10-minute walk up, and really nothing special, but it was nice to have done one more Kinmen “thing” before we headed home for the airport pick-up!

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One last thing that made me laugh was when Jerry picked us up another driver was navigating their way past our car as we loaded in our luggage. They wound down their window, presumably to check there was enough space, and Jerry called out “Plenty of room!” The driver revealed herself to be a woman, and laughed, calling out “I know, I know, I just wanted to get a better look at such a handsome man, in such a fancy car!” Jokes that are funny AND that I understand in Chinese will always make me laugh twice as hard.

return to Taipei!

I have been planning to move back to Taiwan for a few months next year, and my current holiday here is sealing the deal. I love being back in Taiwan (for the fourth time, albeit my shortest visit yet). I love it so much that I want to keep telling James over and over, although I’ve learned to suppress it a little as apparently it was getting old.

We landed very late at night/early in the morning and waited ages for a taxi. However when the taxi did eventually show up, the driver was lovely and we talked all the way to Fuxing Beilu, making me feel like maybe my rusty Chinese was still useable. When I was living in Sri Lanka, the Mainland Chinese I met through work often struggled to understand me (even though my Chinese was so much better then than it is now). Same when I visited Xinjiang and Beijing on work trips. Here, everyone seems much more willing to meet me halfway.

Despite only getting a handful of hours of sleep, the next morning I headed out to Hatha Yoga for a Bikram class.

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Which was wonderful, even though the room didn’t have carpet but instead was lined with plastic-covered mats and we just practiced on towels. This wouldn’t matter except I was the only person sweating like a pig (I positioned myself under the heat as the room was much cooler than I am used to), and a puddle grew around me (especially in triangle pose), creeping towards my poor neighbours. Water poured off me but to be honest I liked it! Also I loved hearing the dialogue in Chinese. I wish I could have a recording of it in Chinese so I can practice both my Chinese and my Bikram at home. I am hoping I’ll get to come back to the studio on the Sunday morning we are back in Taipei.

Then I met up with James and we went for lunch. It turns out the studio was very close to Yongkangjie, behind Shida University, where I used to study back in 2005 and 2006. We sat in Yongkangjie Park and watched cute kids play and I reminisced and rejoiced in how much I love being in Taipei.

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In the afternoon we walked a billion kilometres trying to find somewhere that would either have the flip-flops James wanted, or alcoholic beverages. This allowed us to visit Gongguan and Shida which was fun again for me as these are places I used to frequent a lot as a student, but frustrating as every bar I could think of was closed until the evening — I guess students don’t drink in the daytime!

Sneak peek of Chiang Kai Shek Memorial Hall as seen from the metro station:

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Then I caught up with several of my friends which was lovely. and we finished the night at Taipei’s most famous 牛肉麵 establishment, where I had beef noodles and James had the “half beef, half tendon” noodles. The funny thing is, I came here many years ago (10 years ago, in fact) when the Taiwanese couple who were hosting me took me out for dinner with some of their friends. I turned my nose up at it all as it did not appeal at all to my sensibilities. This time of course I was thrilled. I guess I have improved with age.

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That was my “one day in Taipei” as we flew out the next morning to Kinmen: at least one, if not multiple posts to come (I had to get this one out of the way first!).

never on sunday

I woke up early today and lay in bed enjoying not having to get up, not having to work, and listening to the rain outside. Through various meandering trains of thought, I started thinking about non-latin alphabets, and remembered a weekend spent deciphering the Greek lyrics to Never on Sunday by Pink Martini. Nowadays of course it would be so easy. I would google the lyrics, google “Greek alphabet”, find a wealth of resources and quickly learn to read the lyrics out loud.

But this was in 2001. I was 18 and living by myself for the first time, after seven years of boarding school (the last two of which I had mostly spent living with my boyfriend Christophe). I had a small but perfect studio, Rue des Trois Baudus, in the beautiful town of Cahors in South-West France. I had no computer or internet of course. I spent a lot of time reading, writing in my journal, or listening to the half-dozen CDs I owned on my portable CD player over and over, making it virtually impossible for me to listen to them ever again voluntarily. These included Selmasongs by Björk, Big Calm by Morcheeba, The Joshua Tree by U2, Faut qu’ils s’activent by Tryo, Gran Turismo by The Cardigans, and Louise Attaque.

One of those albums was Sympathique by Pink Martini. I haven’t really listened to Pink Martini in the last 10 years, but at the time, I thought their eclecticism and melting pot of languages was just wonderful. All of France adored the song Sympathique (which I will still sing to myself these days, after all who can resist a song with the lyrics “je ne veux pas travailler“), but the entire album was full of different languages and styles — French, English, Spanish, Japanese, Greek. I was captivated by the beauty of the Greek song Never on Sunday/The Children of Piraeus (Ta Paidiá tou Peiraiá) in particular, and the liner notes conveniently presented both Greek lyrics and an English translation. But reading the English was nothing like understanding the song, as I wanted to really feel the full effect whenever I listened, and to be able to sing along, with emotion.

So I sat down next to my CD player, and pressing pause every 3 seconds, I listened to the pronunciation of each word over and over, compared it to what I was seeing on the page, looked at the English lyrics to work out what the meaning of each word was. I did this over and over until the Greek letters no longer looked abstract symbols, and I could sing along, first reading from my phonetic notes, then directly from the Greek, and finally understanding each word and not just the gist of the song. This took me through the entire afternoon, evening, and late into the night, but as an 18-year-old who only worked 20 hours a week at the local Carrefour, I had plenty of time.

For the rest of that year, I could sing Never on Sunday tunelessly, even without the CD playing. And today, after suddenly remembering this, I used my magical iPhone to pull up the song and play it for the first time in many years. I started to sing along — badly, most of the words forgotten — and then my voice broke and I started to cry. It was so evocative, a full 14 years later, also living by myself, on a warm but rainy weekend, suddenly remembering my 18-year-old self, staring out of the window at the soft grey sky, on the other side of the world. Memories of living Rue des Trois Baudus, funny things like the fried nems you could only get once a week, at the Wednesday market in front of the cathedral. The twin lens reflex camera my grandfather sent me and the black and white photos I took of the streets around my home.

I am very grateful to my mother for making that year possible. For indulging me, by paying rent that I naively assumed was her duty, as my mother, to pay, even though she had very little money of her own. For taking me to the supermarket every few weeks, which was always such a fun shopping trip together, and which meant parking down in the place and then carrying everything down the tiny dark passageway of the Rue des Trois Baudus, and up the stairs to my flat. For not resenting my keeping my meagre Carrefour salary for “fun things” like clothes and books and travel, rather than contributing to rent or food.

For allowing me to be alone, be independent, free of responsibilities. I didn’t truly understand what a luxury that was, but I did appreciate it, almost as much as I do now — my biggest luxury of all is having a place of my own where I can shut the rest of the world out, sing along to songs — badly, always — and enjoy a Saturday morning with nothing and nobody to shatter my peace. I hope the same things for you, mummy, now that you finally have your own little maisonette, alone with your dog, your study, your coffee and your red toaster.

love and cheese

I stumbled across a rather strange quote whereby Colette apparently said “Un homme qui n’aime pas le fromage ne peut être bien au lit” (“A man who does not like cheese cannot be good in bed”). Few things pique my attention the way unlikely attributions do, and whilst I can see the rest of the world loving the idea of the glorious Colette dropping bon mots about men and cheese, to a French reader, the simplistic sentence structure and the quip itself seemed inelegant and unworthy of her writing. And “bien au lit”? that doesn’t really translate as “good in bed” — more like “comfortable in bed”, really.

A bit of googling detective work suggests to me that this attribution originated with that tacky book “French Women Don’t Get Fat”… which made me roll my eyes even harder, because it’s such a ridiculous concept. Even more suspiciously, there were no French results for this quote!

So I harnessed the power of the internet to search Colette’s canon for mentions of fromage. Nothing linking cheese and sex showed up in her most famous books, however a slightly more obscure book Paysages et Portraits contained this:

Si j’avais un fils à marier, je lui dirais :
“Méfie-toi de la jeune fille qui n’aime ni le vin, ni la truffe,
ni le fromage, ni la musique.”

If I had a son to marry off, I would tell him:
“Beware the young woman who does not like wine, truffles,
Cheese or music.”

I find it fascinating how her original words seem to have been twisted from celebrating the value of a young woman who loves rich and delicious food when choosing a life partner, to being misquoted (and downgraded, in my opinion) to a blasé statement about men who don’t like cheese being bad in bed.

That said, if anyone can find the original Colette reference, I will take it all back. Maybe Colette had inelegant moments after all!

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