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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afternoon happenings

Today I finished the first of the three workbooks I am researching and setting up on InDesign. It’s taken a month to get this far, but I’m hoping that the other two books will go a lot faster, now that I have all my templates flowing nicely and that David and I have worked out a system. It will have to go a lot faster, as we only have a month left to finish them, anyway!

I skipped down to the print shop to get a proof copy printed and ring-bound. I was pretty pleased with the results — until I realised I had neglected to [insert long and tedious explanation of rookie printing error which no1curr about]. Nonetheless, I’m happy with what I’ve achieved.

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I had half an hour between dropping the files off and picking up the final product, which I spent drinking a delicious cappuccino and reading these two articles in the newspaper, about the suicide rates in the Taiwanese army.

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Coffee and the paper — normally a simple indulgence, but coffee is actually a nutritional supplement for me, as the whole milk in it gives me precious grams of fat and protein which I struggle to get on a daily basis. And the paper being in Chinese, is a much needed opportunity to stimulate the much-neglected Mandarin-speaking and -reading parts of my brain! I was pleased and surprised at how easily I could read this article actually — probably 75% character recognition rate?

Walking back to the office I was amused by the juxtaposition of the World Trade Centre (in pink), Taipei 101, and a garden shack made of rubbish. Sometimes I forget that Taiwan is still a developing country. I stand corrected, Taiwan is officially classified DEVELOPED. Well done Taiwan!

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But there are upsides to developing countries! Like stumbling across a field of doglets taking a nap. Well I’m sure the presence of stray dogs everywhere isn’t exactly a great thing, but they are very cute.

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Do you know what? It’s Friday, and I am pleased to say this week I managed to do yoga on 4 of the 5 mornings before work, as well as keep my overall costs — groceries, travel, necessities — under 600NT (that’s 20 dollars, in case you were wondering). Score and score. I’ve found that the best way to do my yoga is to drag my mat out to the living-room and practice whilst looking out onto the greenery outside, and to kick off my practice with some chanting. The chanting in Sanskrit probably makes me sound like a lunatic to my housemates but it does really work at settling my mind so I am fully concentrated on what I’m doing.

This is the opening chant I always use, but I think my version of it sounds much nicer and more soothing. Maybe I’ll record my own version…

over and over

Today marks exactly a year since I left Australia, only weeks after being graced with Permanent Residency. Crazy to think that I spent most of that last year in Taiwan, when my plans involved so many OTHER places — not that I am complaining, as I have had a good time here, and still squeezed in visits to more than 10 countries anyway. Now it’s almost the end of April, and trust me, I am very eager to start May. April has been a crappy month, which is why there haven’t been many updates.

Fortunately it hasn’t been a completely BAD month, there have been highlights, and I am glad to see how much I have developed as a person over these 4 weeks of ridiculousness. But I have struggled to find anything worth blogging about, as I don’t seem to have been doing many THINGS for me recently. I miss exercise (the backlash from last Sunday’s gym session was no fun) and I am hopelessly poor at the moment so I am avoiding socialising or even leaving the house/office if I can avoid it. Apart from watching series upon series of TV shows (Weeds, Breaking Bad, Community, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace, It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia) I have done very little outside of work.

So, I am trying to make a plan and stick to it. I have about 6 weeks before I head off to France for the summer (instead of Hong Kong — change of plan) and in that time I need to achieve more than just watching TV shows and working. So far all I’ve come up with is yoga and finishing my cross-stitch project, but if anyone can suggest FREE and LOW IMPACT activities that will not aggravate my shin/knee injuries, and will not involve screen-time, I’m all ears…

Random picture of my little brother from last summer, to cheer us all up.
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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

tardy

Oops it’s been a while since I updated, again. I have been busy moving into my new place, which I love. I know my move to Xinyi has coincided with the apparent end of winter, as well as the end of school and a general new phase of my life, but this house makes me very happy, my bedroom is flooded with daylight from dawn till dusk and as someone who needs sunshine — it’s such a blessing. My new place in fuzzy pictures — I never got round to posting pics of my room in Muzha, but you weren’t missing much:

Gorgeous blanket design, n’est-ce pas?


Happy face!

One of the kitties that lives with us — this is Wupo (witch), I have a weakness for Wazi (socks) but she ran away from the camera

The sun disappeared when I tried to take a view of our rooftop garden and Elephant Mountain in the background… but you get the idea

I am now settled and trying to get into the “freelance” spirit, as sleeping till midday is ok for a week or so but really, I need to be productive in the mornings in order to feel good. My schedule mostly involves getting to the gym and sewing buttons back onto clothes for the time being, but Project Number 2 is underway as of this morning (1:35am, to be precise). I am working with David, the founder of Engaging Minds, helping him compile and edit some coursework materials. It’s really interesting and I feel like it’s a good way to ease back into working. New housemate Dan has kindly lent me a spare PowerBook so I now have an “office space” of sorts — it’s definitely helpful to keep the iPad for distractions and the laptop for working. I am also working my way through the filming schedule, researching for the travel/road trip movie which starts next Friday!


On the injury front, there is no real improvement, no doubt linked to my continuing incapacity to perform the exercises the Doctor gave me to do, but I have finally got access to an elliptical machine at the local sports centre so I am hoping that those workouts will allow me to compensate slightly for my lack of running. It kills me though as the weather is beautiful and I am missing the Hash ever more every day…