The happy bus driver

November 21, 2011 § Leave a comment

Not really once upon a time, there is a bus driver who drives the 285 bus that goes from the center of Taipei city to uptown Taipei. Perhaps he is a husband, perhaps a father, but he is most definitely the kindest, most upbeat bus driver I have ever met. He greets all the passengers that board the bus with a joyous “Hello”, and a sincere “Thank you, good bye,” regardless whether there is only one person, or twenty. He reminds everyone to be careful, especially those standing, as he slowly leaves the bus station each time.

He always announces the upcoming station, and the landmarks, malls, markets, schools, etc., that are nearby the stations, which is always helpful to tourists or passengers who are unfamiliar with that area of the city.

I’ve had the pleasure to ride on his bus 3 times, and each time he never failed to bring a smile to my face. Alot of bus drivers I encounter are bitter, but he is one of the few who brings a little joy into his job as a bus driver. Bitter drivers are never fun to ride with because you can feel their bitterness rubs off on you too. On the other hand, happy drivers not only make the passengers appreciative of them, the happy drivers also feel good inside to have made some people’s days. This particular bus driver has taught me a lesson, a lesson we should all learn from this him. No matter what situation you are in, how unhappy, mundane, irksome you are with it, you always have the choice to shine a positive beam of spirit at it to turn the situation around. Not only will you be a little happier yourself, that happiness sends vibratory waves to those around you.

Rethinking my future

January 12, 2011 § 11 Comments

Here I am, awake at 11:30pm, brain buzzing, heart racing, unable to fall asleep. This has been me for the past few days. As the days till the start of my second semester of senior year is getting cruciatingly close, I become a nervous wreck. The thoughts of schoolwork, research, and the high amount of stress are just overwhelming me right now. You are probably reading this and thinking, “Oh, yeah, that’s normal. That’s exactly like me when I have to go back to work after a long vacation.” But no, what I’ve realized is that what I am doing in college is not what I want to be.

I’ve grueled through one semester of intense neurobiology research, and yet another semester to come. I do not particularly hate it, neither do I particularly like it, but it brings immense stress on my part. All throughout high school, I thought I wanted to pursue a career in biology-related fields. That sort of continued through the first and second year of college. And then research came, and I was no longer that interested. I’ve grueled through two semesters and two summers of intense research, and yet another semester to come. I do not particularly hate it, neither do I particularly like it. It just brings immense stress on my part.This is not what I want my life to be. If I had disliked it so much just for a couple of semesters, I would most certainly destroy myself if I put myself through grad school or become a research assistant.

The end of college is a period when most people start to think seriously about their future–what they want to pursue as a career, whether to receive even higher levels of education, etc. I think I’ve stressed about this so much this past semester that I won’t be surprised if someone were to find white hair sprouting amongst my head of black.

Here it is, my internal struggle. I have come so far in the field of biology, attending a prestigious college known for its excellent liberal arts and science program, ideal students-to-teacher ratios, and the rare opportunities to work in research labs that more often than not require skills and knowledge of a grad school students. My parents have paid so much money to put me into this school, because I believed biology was for me. I guess in a way I’m your typical Asian kid–wanting to study hard in school, get good grades, have extracurricular activities, graduate with several degrees up my sleeves and with honors, get jobs as enginners, lawyers, doctors, scientists, blah blah blah. As I grew older, however, I’ve uncovered that I am not this person.After four years, I’ve come to realized my heart is not in biology, after all.

Where is my heart? Yoga.

Some people might smirk at the idea of this, thinking that a yoga teacher is somewhat like your PE teacher in high school. Perhaps, if your idea of a yoga teacher is someone from your local gym who guides you through some poses with a yoga video playing in the background. But a good yoga teacher is so much more than that. He (in order to simply things, I am just going to use he….after all, yoga did start out being practiced by men only in India) is wise, insightful, physically and mentally healthy. The thing about yoga is that there is no perfection. You can and are always striving to improve, whether in your poses, your pranayama (breathing techniques), or your way of living. Once committed, it’s a practice that sticks with you throughout your life every single day.

Summer and winter breaks are the only times during which I can really devote myself to yoga. Back in Taiwan with the good ol’ yoga studio in which I first fell in love with yoga, with the teachers that have walked this journey with me the past four and a half years, and with no school work to worry about. Each time I make this trip back home, my feelings towards yoga grow stronger and stronger. It’s a passion that’s never been dimmed or doused. It grows stronger with each practice, and with each accomplishment.

True, being a yoga teacher is not your regular stepway to success and wealth. But that is the spirit of yoga. It is not a religion, but like every religion, you are devoting yourself to it not because it will gain you wealth and success, but because you believe in that it will make you and the people around you better human beings. I have seen how yoga has changed me throughout the years, made my body stronger, my mind healthier, and my appreciation to nature and to people greater. I want to spread this enlightenment to more people, and through teaching, I know I can do that. Indeed, I am only beginning my journey and with many more such enlightenments to come as I deepen my study, but sages have not always been sages; it is through experiences and years that they are as knowledgeable as they are.

I don’t think I’ve ever been so sure about anything in my life. I believe I have the potential to be a great teacher, and I will let that notion be my guide and encouragement as I pursue yoga. Will I be including anything else in my life and career besides yoga? Only time can tell. When the right moment comes, my heart will tell me.

12:10 am. Now that I’ve spilled my thoughts out, perhaps I can finally fall asleep.

Hello, Goodbye

August 24, 2010 § 17 Comments

It seems like it was merely a week ago when I arrived in Taipei, Taiwan, ready for my summer to start, excited to be home.

Now, three and a half weeks later (was it really that long already?), I must depart my home country once again.

Hello. Goodbye.

Though I’ve returned and left this country five times before, the leaving is always as hard as the last. It just doesn’t get easier.

I have to leave my family…

…friends…

…the food (yes! the food!)…

…the tiny roads and congested traffic…

…the super-duper easy mass transportation…

MRT (mass rapid transit)

…night markets…

…abundance of fruits…

…and HOME.

So what did I do on my last (full) day in Taiwan? A good meal, a good (sweaty) walk, shopping, and karaoke.

A few of my friends, all of whom I knew since elementary of middle school, and I met up for lunch at a Middle Eastern restaurant called Sababa.

The place, tucked in a tiny alley at the corner of the street, was actually opened by one of the middle school teachers at our school. Ironically, this place has the best falafels I’ve had to date, here in Taiwan. I’ve never been to the Middle East, so I wouldn’t know how they compare to the real ones, but they are good!

While I usually get their falafel pita sandwich, I haven’t had hummus in awhile and all I wanted was to satiate my palate and stuff my belly with butt loads of hummus. So I got a hummus platter with a falafel and their homemade Arabian salsa. Perfect choice.

I got combo D which came with a choice of salad, a drink, and the meal of your choice.

Tomato-cucumber salad.

Cool & refreshing mint tea!

ANnnnnnndddd...the thing I've been waiting for! Served with WARM pita bread.

It doesn't look like much hummus from here, but believe me, there's a HUGE blob of hummus hidden beneath the falafel and the salsa.

My friends, concentrating hard on devouring the deliciousness of their pita sandwiches.

While we were eating, my friend S started talking about Trader Joe’s garlic naan and roasted red pepper hummus. She told me of a wonderful and blog-worthy combo? Toast a piece of garlic naan with a slice of munster cheese till melted, then dip or spread the naan with roasted red pepper hummus.

Meet S. She says "Hello! My name is NINJA."

Her face was in pure bliss when she was talking about it. Although I was already starting to feel full from my meal, I was salivating at the thought of that. Can’t. wait. to. try. that.

Afterwards, we drove over to Dansui to walk off our fully belly and browsed some shops.

Priceless expression.

You have no idea how much I wanted to bring this clock back to college with me! It’ll sure brighten up my stressful days. But alas, it was huge and heavy. Plus, the price kind of made me turn my head away. While we do have cheap stuff in Taiwan, handmade items are still expensive!

Here’s another cute clock:

There was a store that sold all kinds of candies and toys that used to be stars of our childhood.

Naturally, we got a bubble blower. Yes we’re 21, and yes we’re all living independently in college in the U.S. Yes we like bubbles.

The heat got the best of us. So S insisted that she wanted to get a baby-bottle iced milk tea.

Our big baby 🙂

S also couldn’t resist going into claw machine stores. That girl really has talent though!

She won a adorable little porcupine that was fuzzy and not spikey.

Tired, hot, and sweaty, we decided to stack ourselves into the car and make out way to the destination of our evening entertainment: karaoke.

In Taiwan, karaoke (more commonly referred to as KTV) is a popular activity that both old and young people enjoy. There are numerous places and branches of karaoke stores/companies across Taipei, most of them as big as motels.

We got a little room to ourselves, complete with soft leather couches, a touchscreen to browse and select songs, two microphones, a flat screen TV, 3 hours of singing, coupons for complementary buffet and all-you-can-eat salad bar and drinks. All this for about 10 bucks. I love Taiwan.

Time to brush up our dusty Mandarin!

We shamelessly sang Chinese mainstream songs that was popular 3-6, maybe even 10 years ago. It’s hard for us to catch up on the latest Chinese songs when we’re all halfway across the world most of the time! I bet people who were passing by our rooms thought we must be a bunch of moms and grandmas. :mrgreen:

By 11pm last night, it was time to say goodbye. I pretty much grew up with these ladies (and some others who did not come home to Taiwan this summer). Our bond is like water. Flexible, because we went our separate ways to college and met new friends. But Strong, because we can slip over and conquer any boulders or rocks that stand as obstacles in our ways. In the end, we always manage to stay together and goof around as if we were still in school together.

Today will be filled with packing, last minute shopping, and eating :D. Until December, Taiwan!

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+ Do you/did you/will you attend college far away from home?

Sunday

August 22, 2010 § 24 Comments



15, 7, 15

August 21, 2010 § 26 Comments

Fifteen pictures to show what I’ve been up to:

I’ve been drinking this new-to-me Coffee Milk I got from 7-Eleven.

It tasted like latte (surprise!)

I’ve been spending some money on cheap things that I can find in Taiwan only. From stationary to food items to clothes and shoes (thanks to night markets!).

Clockwise from top: pretty colored/patterned papers, 3 notebooks, 2 bottles of 5 grain tea, 2 packs of pocky sticks, an eraser, rubber bands, and some sticker labels. All this for about an equivalent of 10 U.S. Dollars

Yes yes, I could have easily gotten the erasers, the rubber bands, the notebooks, and the sticker labels in the U.S., but believe me, they are wayyy cheaper in Taiwan. I think the rubber bands found in Taiwan are more elastic and stronger too. And who doesn’t love notebooks with lovely patterns, but only a little more than $1 a piece?

Shoes ~$10

This dress and top combined was about $8.

Two tops ~15.

I'm obsessed with anything Stitch, so I knew I just HAD to get these stickers when I saw they were only about $1.50. Look at the size of them!

I’ve been spending some time in the bookstores and hauled 4 Mandarin books back. I like to read books in Mandarin from time to time to brush up my Mandarin.

Does anyone recognize the book on the bottom left? 😀   I haven’t seen the movie yet, but I bet the book is far better than the movie (like always).

The book included some pictures from the movie.

I’ve been having some baking mishaps. I mistakenly added lemon extract instead of vanilla extract into the brownie batter. Cut me some slack, ’cause these two bottles look exactly the same, and when you’re zoned out like I was, you wouldn’t have noticed either!

The brownies still turned out okay though!

I didn’t tell my friends about my little oopsies, so when one of my friends bit into one, she was like…”hmmm…there’s an interesting taste to this brownie…” 😛

I’ve been playing with my cat, despite her not wanting to pay any attention to me.

Lastly, but definitely most importantly, I’ve been goofing off with my friends.

~~~

This morning when I woke up, I got an email from the adorable Michal at Earth Muffin that I got a blogger award from her! This is my very first blogger award so you can probably imagine my excitement ;).

So, I’m supposed to share 7 things about myself. Hmmm….

Seven things about me:

  1. I used to love steak and beef when I was little. But gradually, my taste bud for meat had subsided over the years, making the 2-year vegetarian that I am today :D.
  2. The thing I miss most being a vegetarian is fish. That’s my weakness whenever I walk into a Japanese restaurant here, because they have the best grilled fish ever!
  3. My dream house would consist of a large kitchen with lots of pantry space, a room made into my yoga sanctuary, and a little garden where I can grow my own herbs. And of course, there will be a dog and maybe even a cat.
  4. I grew up with friends that I knew way back in either elementary of middle school, making us an inseparable bunch. Taipei American School goes from K-12, so once you’ve found your friends, you’re most likely to stick with them till you graduate.
  5. I played varsity volleyball and varsity badminton in high school. Now don’t go smirking at the thought of “varsity” badminton! The average distance ran during a professional game is 4 miles, whereas tennis covers only 2 miles. The official smash record is 206 mph, set by a pair of Chinese doubles player (Tennis: 153 mph, set by Andy Roddick).
  6. I used to hate milk as a kid, but I gradually took on the taste of low-fat milk or skim milk. I could never down a glass of full-fat milk, even today!
  7. I can roll my tongue into lotus-flower shape.

Fifteen wonderful blogs that I pass this award to:

(in alphabetical order, because that’s only fair :))

Hope you guys enjoyed that little tidbit about me :D.

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+ What’s one thing about you that people can’t tell by looking at you?

+ Have you ever had a baking mishap but still turned out okay?

Dansui is for…

August 18, 2010 § 22 Comments

Dansui is the name of a small town located in the northern part of Taipei city. Being near a port. it has always been a populated area with commerce and shipping since the 19th century. Dansui literally translates into “mild waters” as it is located near the outlet of Dansui River into the Taiwan Strait, resulting in a combination of fresh and salty waters. Today Dansui has become a large tourist site, both amongst local Taiwanese and foreigners alike, for the shopping, food, entertainment, and watching beautiful sunsets.

It’s been years since I last visited Dansui (passing by it on a bike ride doesn’t count!), and although it’s only literally a 30 min MRT ride (mass rapid transit) away from where I live, I haven’t ventured there for too long. This summer I made sure to pay that historical site a visit.

Taipei MRT.

A temple on the streets of Dansui.

Okay, some historical sites, but mostly food and shopping :D.

Dansui is for people-watching and entertainment…

Crowded.

Still crowded.

Family time!

Some workers from a Japanese restaurant trying to attract customers by setting up a beer pong table outside. Hmm..more like "sake pong."


Dansui is for shoppers…

Okay, how cute is THAT?

Keychains and cellphone accessories. I'm telling you, that bread roll over there REALLY feels like a doughy bun.

Various Japanese cartoon/video game characters 🙂

Dansui is for eaters

Tomatoes or strawberries on a skewer coated in syrup.

Mine is on the left. My friend got one with dried plums (on the right).

Helloooo "skyscraper" soft serve cones!

Smoothie and juice stands are everywhere and sooooo cheap! 30 oz of drink costs about 2 dollars.

A ginormous coffee grinder in a coffee shop.

Shrimp biscuits.

We stopped by a renowned little family-owned store that serves “A-Gei,” a purely Taipei eat. Traditionally, it’s tofu skin stuffed with some fish meat and some glass noodles (made from the starch from mung beans; Mandarin: fen si), then served in a sweet & savory & spicy sauce. However, due to the growing numbers of vegetarians these past few years, I was happy to know that they had a vegetarian version of A-gei! It simply is just served without the fish. It made me one happy gal :).

"A-Gei" is about the size of your fist.

It's filled with glass noodles (cellophane noodles, green bean noodles, bean thread noodles).

I love the sauce! :mrgreen:

Dansui is for fishermen…

Pardon the construction messes in the background.

Dansui is for watching sunsets and for lovers

(Speaking of lovers, there is a Lovers’ Bridge up further at the Fisherman’s Wharf, but we didn’t venture quite that far that day.)

Sun is going down, down.

Romantic, no?

Allllllmost gone.

You better believe I took about 100 or so pictures just trying to get the perfect lighting and capture the undescribable colors of sunsets. Even these pictures shown here don’t do it justice. We were also very lucky that day to be able to see this beautiful sunset, as Dansui tends to be foggy or cloudy. Does anyone else find it difficult to 100% capture the fleeting moments of sunsets/sunrises?

I’m very behind on recapping my recent adventures + eats in Taiwan, but I really want to get them up to this blog. It doesn’t help that my right wrist is starting to get sore from all these repetitive movements! Time for some wrist streeeettttttchhhhhessss! 🙂

From one of my past yoga teachers (she always said this at the end of the class): “I will see you when I see you!”;)

Moonwalking Taipei with Jenny

August 14, 2010 § 20 Comments

In the last post, I left you all hanging who I was meeting up today. Well, none other than the adorable Jenny! She’s here in Taiwan for the Fulbright program to teach English here. However, she is stationed in Yilan while I’m in Taipei. Thanks to the great mass transportation here, she was able to get to Taipei within an hour’s time via a bus that costed her about $3.00.

Before I headed out this morning, I had a new type of soymilk–matcha soymilk!!!

Although it’s only slightly sweetened, it was still a little bit too sweet for me. It was tasty nonetheless :mrgreen:

What kind of food blogger would I be if I didn’t bring some goodies? Aka food??? Of course I did!

These are blueberry jam roll-up cookies that I baked up this morning. My mom has these really nice packagings that I can put my cookies in to make them look store-bought. Not bad huh? 😉  Perhaps I should drop school and just start my own bakery. I kid.

The minute I met Jenny today, I was immediately charmed by her bubbly self. I knew this blogger meetup would come ever since I found her blog back in May. We hit it up right away because, well, I’m Taiwanese and she’s all curious about the country where she’ll be staying for 10 months.

Her bus dropped her off at Taipei City Hall, which is just way too convenient because it is right next to Taipei 101, one of the top tourist attractions.

Taipei 101--taken 2 summers ago.

Believe it or not, I have never gone to the top although it’s been completed since 2004. It lived a short life of being the tallest building in the world till the recent completion of Burj Khalifa in Dubai in January 2010. Finally, today, I got to see Taipei city through bird’s eye view.


It was a shame that the air quality today wasn’t at its greatest. Slightly smoggy, slightly foggy. I was trying to find where I live, but my poor geography intuition prevented me from spotting my home.

Despite the 360 view of Taipei City, I must say my favorite part was riding the elevator! We went from the 5th floor to the 89th floor (okay, so we’re not completely at the top) in a matter of 35 seconds. They claimed it to be the fastest elevator in the world.

Holy smokes! 1010 meters (~3313 ft)  per minute? It was surprisingly quiet and smooth as well–so fast that my ears popped a couple of times while going up and down.

Here’s a model of the elevator:

Once in the elevator, the lights dimmed and “stars” of all colors appeared on the ceiling of the elevator. For some reason, I felt so calm in there as I became captured and mesmerized by the colorful stars spreading across the ceiling. 35 seconds in the elevator was not enough time!

Because the structure was so tall and Taiwan is actually earthquake prone, the mechanics and engineers were smart enough to install a damper inside the building.

More specifically, this is a tuned-mass damper, which helps to reduce vibrations caused by intense motions, such as earthquakes (yuck, I know, why am I talking about physics again?). Anyways, this was pretty much a gigantic ball hanging from the top of the building.

We were really hungry by the time our feet landed back on ground level again, as it was a little after 1 pm. We took an MRT (mass rapid transit system), sort of like your average metro or subway, to Cha for Tea, a restaurant/tea house with tea, light meals, and desserts. If you remember from this post, there are actually a few Cha for Tea’s scattered in California. But of course, the original branches in Taiwan are much much better!

I love the inside decor!

When we got there, it was close to 2 o’clock, and yet we were the 7th in waiting. That shows how popular this place is! I told Jenny that I have a selection of restaurants that I must go to everytime I come back to Taiwan, and this is one of them. We spent our waiting time efficiently by perusing their extensive menu first and decided what each of us wanted to get. It wasn’t till a little after 2:30pm that we got seated, but we already knew what we wanted! It also helped that the food came lightning fast! Always good for two voracious explorers :mrgreen:.

First up, a small and light salad:

Then came a very mild-tasting soup with a variety of mushrooms and bean sprouts in there. Loved it!

Not soon after that, the rest of our food came. We weren’t even done with our salads! I had braised Jasmine tofu as my side dish, and Rice with savory mushrooms and green tea for my main dish.

tofu

Jenny got the Braise Mushrooms with Sweet Osmanthus. I have no idea what osmanthus are, but you can check out her blog for pictures of her food!

We both got different desserts. I got green tea jello while Jenny got the green tea mango mousse. She’s on the mango craze lately, which is absolutely understandable because Taiwan has some of the best mangoes!!! Okay, maybe Malaysia or Phillipines or Indonesia have even yummier ones, but I’ve never had them before so Taiwan mangoes are the best I’ve had by far.

Green tea jello

Green tea mango mousse

It was 4 pm by the time we finished lunch (dinner?), and yet, there were still people filing into the restaurant!

Unfortunately, our day together had to end early. She had to head back home to finish some business for her Fulbright teaching program (Good luck Jenny!). Although it was a short get-together, I felt like we connected on multiple levels. I’m really excited as she begins exploring more and more of Taiwan and I know she’ll love this beautiful Formosa.

Next weekend will be my last weekend in Taiwan (!!!!!!!!). We may or may not be meeting up again next weekend, but I’ll definitely be back during the winter again! I feel like I just got here and just started my summer vacay, and here I am, almost closing in to my last days here. Ah well, I’ll just have to have more fun each and every day!!! You bet tomorrow will be another fun-filled day :D.

P.S. Jenny can do the moonwalk! I didn’t get to see her do it today, but she said she can actually teach me one day!

Have a great weekend!

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