Sunday, March 22, 2009

This Week in Pictures

The photos uploaded in reverse order, so, sorry about that. I'm not going to rearrange them now. You can start at the bottom of the page, if you wish, and scroll up. :)

The photos of many of the cultural items (such as ghost money etc) is so that you can have a better understanding of the beliefs on the island. I do not support any of those practices, but do not necessarily see this as the place to discuss the bondages of much of this culture. Instead, I'm merely sharing the beliefs with you so you, too, can have a greater understanding.

Before the choir concert in Nantou yesterday. As you can imagine, I had plenty of opportunities to practice speaking Chinese. My fellow choir members love that I'm willing to make mistakes.

Kiptoo shared my bien dang (lunch box) with me before we went to get ready for the concert. Usually, you can pick between fish or pork or tofu. Starting up at Kiptoo's corner, going clockwise, this is tofu, pickled seaweed, breaded pork on rice, kale, and cabbage.

This was at the winery. But you see this yuanbao, or (fake) gold ingot in many stores as a wish for good business. (Paper versions are sometimes burned as offerings to ancestor spirits, especially during ghost month.) It's similar to having a maneki neko (lucky cat) or a money frog on the shelf.

Tea eggs are regular chicken eggs that are boiled in a tea mixture for hours. You can buy these as snacks at convenience stores (or, in this case, at the winery). I like them only when served cut up in wedges with thick, pickled seaweed.

Another popular Taiwanese snack: chicken feet. Hmmmm. (I don't particularly care for these.)

Taiwanese are incredible businesspeople, and people here come up with all kinds of interesting ways to make money. Like by having a vending machine near a fish pond where you could feed the koi fish. What's funny about this machine, though, is the sign. Look closely (below).

Lovely animal feedstuff vending machine. Aka Koi Food Vending Machine. But that'd mean you'd have to print a new sign for the Rabbit Food Vending Machine. And another for the Ostrich Food Vending Machine. Hence, the all-in-one "Lovely animal feedstuff vending machine." Brilliant.

I thought these carved stones were beautifully done!

This guy is famous in Nantou for carving beautiful chops. Chops are critical for any important documents. I still have my chop from before, and I've started to use it to sign my printed photos here.

At the bamboo crafts place in Nantou, this lady strips the bamboo of its outer skin. The perfect pieces of bamboo are then crafted into anything from beautiful bags to tea cups to shoes.

I believe this is the start of a bamboo bowl. It was amazing to watch the people make these!

You often see these huge "bouquets" out on the streets next to businesses. Colorful ones like these are sent by friends and business acquaintences to wish a new business all the best with a new venture. Sometimes, though, you'll find them in white, in which case they're for a funeral.

Ghost money, placed in the front of the bus window... According to Taoist belief, the money is burned for dead ancestors "to escape punishment, or for the ancestors to use themselves in spending on lavish items in the afterlife." I've often watched people burn this paper money as offerings to the spirits. I've never seen it placed in a window like this. Interestingly, one can now also find paper credit cards that can be burned as offerings for the spirits to use. I guess that means you won't have to burn stacks of money; just burn one credit card! I wonder if, when you buy those at the temple, they are supposed to have a limit, or if you end up having to burn several with different credit limits... When I was telling my friend Nan about this tradition, she made a funny observation regarding the saying "You can't take it [possessions] with you [when you're dead]." To which she added, "But others can send it to you."

This is at the Hakka restuarant in Miaoli. The dishes served included deep-fried fish fingerlings ...

... that just so happen to have fish eggs inside of them. I'm sure it tastes great, but I wasn't in the mood to try it yesterday.

Another of the dishes: Pork intestines. I have eaten offal since I was a kid, so it really doesn't faze me. I can honestly say, though, that I prefer the way Kenyans prepare goat intestines. It's far more tasty.

Trying the pork knuckles with Oskar, a fellow choir member who I recruited as my cultural informant for the day. We had some very interesting conversations!

Some of the other girls at my lunch table. In the forefront, you can see the pork knuckle dish (at 3:00), then a chicken dish, then at the center, mantou (bland bread) that's used to fold around some beef, sort-of as a Chinese hamburger, and finally, in the left front corner (at 7:00), is the strangest of the Hakka dishes I had. It's super-duper-sticky glutinous rice dumplings, stuffed with pickled radish. They come wrapped in plastic, else you won't be able to pick them up from the plate. Which gives you an idea of how hard it is to get the stuff off your teeth and your palate after taking a bite... I only had one bit. That was enough.

The pork knuckles were really tasty, though.

Close to Miaoli, there's a factory on the side of the freeway where you can buy really big idols...

This is why the drive down-island took us several more hours than the late-night journey home. This is also why I prefer taking the high-speed train when I visit friends on other parts of the island.

On the long bus trip, Kiptoo decided it was a good opportunity to look over the music.

I love Taipei's subway system. When I arrived here in 1995, there was no such thing. It only opened in 2001, if I remember correctly. But building an underground system in a modern city means that existing roads get dug up, and tunnels get dug deep under huge skyscrapers. It truly is an amazing feat of engineering. The city seems to be working on expanding the current system, adding some new lines.

Welcome to the world of an illiterate person. All I understand from this sign on the side of the Taipei Softball Stadium is that something is happening from April 9-14. The upside of this is that I get inundated with about 8,000 fewer visual messages a day than my Chinese friends do. OK, maybe not that many. But you get the picture.

On Friday, I hopped on the MRT (mass rapid transportation system) to Tanshui (on the northern tip of the island to have lunch with Josh and Charis. They were both in youth group when I helped lead it from 1998-2002. When I left, Josh was 13 and Charis 11. What fun to see them as young adults!

The signs in Taiwan will always fascinate me. I'm not sure who "the others" are that you're not supposed to flush down the toilet. And yes, you read it correctly. You're also not supposed to dispose of TP in the toilet. The sewage system here simply doesn't handle paper well. So you dispose of it in garbage bins. Nuff said.

The street on which I live. Quite a change from this, isn't it?

Another street in my neighborhood. The funny thing about this photo is the Taiwan School for the Blind at the end of the road: They have their sign in Braille, too. It always makes me wonder if some giant (and blind, and Chinese, on top of it) might wander past and read the sign in Braille. I know, I know, it's just for the idea, but I still find it funny!

One of the streets close to home. The markets in Taiwan remind me a lot of the markets in Kenya, except that vendors use incandescent light bulbs rather than oil lanterns...

One of many doggie parlors in my neighborhood. Their sign is the great commandment (to love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, and all your might, and to love your neighbor as yoursel), revised: Love your pets as you love your own children.

I took a really quick photo of this sign as I got on the bus the other day: No birds.
I'll keep that in mind. I bet it's because of bird flu. I'm just not entirely sure how many people try to board a bus with a duck under their arm, or with a fork-trailed drongo in a cage. But then again, I myself had pet birds here before, which means I had to get them from the bird market downtown to my home. I don't think I took a bus, though. In fact, I know I didn't. Back then, I had a car.

... and though I miss having a car here, it's super easy to get around the city by using the MRT and busses, or hopping in a taxi when time is of the essence.

So, that's it. For this week, at least.


  1. Fantastic pics, Adellie! They do so make me wish I could drop by and hang out with you! :) (Though I'll pass on a few of those treats ...)

    Wow Josh and Charis sure have grown up! ;) What are they up to these days?

  2. What? You don't wake up at night with an insatiable craving for chicken feet?

    Josh and Charis both did DTS (YWAM) and Josh is now part of a YWAM group they're simply calling "The Teaching Team." They travel throughout Asia and do teaching where needed. Imagine that!

    Charis recently did her YWAM outreach in India, and is now starting the 9-month SBS (School of Biblical Studies).

    Both of them are based in Tanshui.

    Cool, eh?

  3. I really enjoyed this post and all of the pictures. I just don't think I could try all of that wonderful cuisine. I hope all is well. Think of you often.
    Love all the signs keep them coming...