Sunday, August 28, 2005

The incident at the Lounge.

Karen and I had been driving around looking for a place to eat for over a half-hour. It was after eleven pm, so most of the usual places with English menus were closed. We would drive by an eatery that looked alright, but it would be completely empty, and I can’t eat in a place that has no customers. The other thing we would find is a corner market style place absolutely lousy with locals, but it would smell like manure and be filthier than the floor of a mens room in a Scottish Pub. We were getting frustrated by this point, and not to mention starving.
We had come to a stop at a red light, and Karen noticed a little pub on the second floor of the corner building. She tapped me on the shoulder, pointed up and said “How about that place?” I glanced up to see a comfortably lit, modern and clean lounge. I pulled the bike over and we made our way up the neon lit stairs to the second level.
We walked in to the bar and the first thing we noticed was the leopardskin covered seats on the booths. Definitely tacky, but other than that the place was great. There was something scratching at my consciousness, but it wouldn't come to the surface. Something wasn't right with the place. My eyes scanned the folks at the tables and they, of course, were staring at us. I just couldn't figure out what was bothering me about it. I was too hungry to worry about it for long, so we made our way to a booth (non-leopard) and awaited a waitress.
She arrived at our table quickly enough, and handed us a completely Chinese menu. Karen and I sighed inwardly at the seemingly hundredth time we found ourselves in this position. “ Do you speak English?” I asked the waitress.
“Oh….ah..litto beet” she answered, holding her thumb and index finger about a half inch apart, to display physically the small amount of English she knew.
“Ok.. What kind of food do you have?” Karen asked her. The waitress then went on to point at Chinese characters on the menu, like it was quite obvious what kind of food they sold if you just read the Chinese menu. “Yes, but what is it? We don’t understand this voodoo language.” I responded.
“ Oh…ah…umm….chicun.” She stated pointing at the first item.
“Oh, Chicken and rice?” Karen asked.
“Ahh…yes!” The waitress answered, nodding her head vigorously.
“ I’ll take that then”, I stated, deciding on the first item on the menu that was spoken aloud.
Karen on the other hand, wanted a few more of the items on the menu translated. What followed was a whole lot of teeth sucking, umm’s, ah’s, headscratching and frowning as the waitress struggled to come up with the English translation of whatever Karen was pointing at. It was chicken, beef, pork, shrimp and the final thing was Taiwanese Tacos.
“ Taiwanese Tacos!” Karen got excited about the prospect of tacos. “What kind of meat do you use for the tacos?” After repeating the question five or six times and having the waitress really strain herself to come up with “pork”. Karen decided she would indeed try the Taiwanese Tacos made with pork. We also ordered a Budweiser for myself and a Corona for Karen.
After the waitress left, it struck me again that there was something odd, that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. Then it occurred to me that there were woman at every table and they were all dressed the same. The same as our waitress. There was one woman and a group of men, at each table.
“Karen..I think this is a talking bar!” We had heard rumors about such places but had never been in one before.
“ No, I don’t think so.” Was all Karen had to say about that. We drank our beers and waited patiently for our food. The waitress brought over a basket with sliced maple covered sausage that was greasier than a fourteen year old fry-cook’s face.
“The hell’s this?” I asked Karen, as it would do no good to ask the waitress.
“It is probably just a free appetizer or something, you know they do that kinda stuff here".
Fair enough, they did do that kind of thing here. Then she came back with more food-six lone, greasy chicken wings in a tiny basket. That was, in fact, our meal.
The Taiwanese Tacos were just slices of maple sausage, and my fried chicken with rice was a basket of six wings. We had just paid the equivalent of twelve Canadian dollars on six wings and two sausages, and eight dollars each for the beers. We were heartbroken, but decided we would eat the food and try and enjoy it, then fly the hell out of this place.
We were half-way through our food when the waitress pulled up a stool to our table. There was no longer any question about whether or not this was a talking bar. Talking bars are an Asian phenomenon wherein lonely people go to these “talking bars” and each table comes with a girl to talk to. She is paid to keep your company and offer conversation. So that takes us back to our own personal “Talking girl” that was just now sitting herself down at our table.
I know the girl was just doing her job, she has to sit and talk to the customers. That is all well and good, but we don’t speak Chinese and she didn’t speak English. What followed her sitting at our table was five of the most awkward and uncomfortable minutes of my life. Not only could we not communicate with her, but even talking to each other felt rude as she was just staring at us and struggling to spit out the few English words she knew. Mercifully she left after an excruciatingly long five minutes, and we wolfed the rest of our food down and bailed out of there before she made another go at it.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Hi Ho Hi Ho, It's Off To Work We Go!

Oddly enough, Karen and I start work on the same day. We got jobs at two different schools that just happen to begin at the same time. The name of Karen's school is JOY and there are a number of them throughout Taiwan. I am working for a school called Sunflower. There are only three Sunflower schools but apparantly they all have a decent reputation. The weather here has been almost biblical in it's non-stop rain. It hasn't been forty days and forty nights, but it sure as hell feels like it. We venture out from time to time, facing booming thunder and startling lightning. We deck ourselves out in plastic and rubber to face the elements. Our scooter reluctantly starts on these rainy days, hoping to wait it out like everyone else. We force her to start and carry her heavy cargo from place to place in the torrential downpours. We have become accustomed to wet clothes and squinting through the rain at oncoming traffic. Sometimes the rain is so heavy that it feels like a sandstorm on our exposed skin. Ah, such is life here in our little slice of paradise known as Tainan. However, we are still looking forward to our first chill, as even with the constant rain, it still clocks in at around thirty degrees. No relief in sight, as it turns out September is the hottest month of the year in Tainan. We live in a steam room. BRING IT!!!
We brought in the morning in a park in the middle of the city, yesterday. The locals were singing Karaoke at dawn. They take thier 6am morning karaoke almost as seriously as they take thier 6am routine excercise. They do their Tai Chi and aerobics at that time every day, even sundays. I love watching the looks on their face as a group of westerners walk by drinking beer, still up from the previous evening, while they are starting thier day with a vigorous workout.
Ironically, for a town that starts thier day so early, you can not get a cup of coffee in it before noon. There is also nowhere to get breakfast. I don't think the Taiwanese eat breakfast, as there isn't an eatery in the city that we have found, open before noon. Maybe it's the heat.
We are not localized yet, but we are working on it. Although, it sure is hard when it is 29' degrees at 6 AM and rising throughout the day. God bless AC.
Until next time,
xie xie &
Dor syar
(thank you & goodbye)
Ed & Karen

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


I was held like a prisoner in the foyer of my building this morning. Karen and I were going to the 7-11 at around 4:30 am to get some breakfast, when this creature, straight from the depths of hell, crossed our path. Those of you who know me, know that I have never been a big fan of spiders. This monstrosity that entered my life this morning was even bigger than the one pictured in The Good, Bad and Ugly. He was HUGE. I froze solid at the sight of him. My heart was pounding like a jackhammer as I forced myself to edge nearer to him. Some of you may be asking… “ Why would you edge nearer to such a fearful specimen?” That is a fair question, and I have to admit, in hindsight, it was a mistake. But, you see, I felt it had to die. It was a crime against nature. An apparition, an abomination if you will. It was my duty, nay… my destiny to destroy it. It was like Jonah and the Whale, on a smaller scale of course, but epic just the same.
Karen had run up to the apartment to grab something, when I got the idea to crush the mighty spider with a DVD box left discarded in the hall. It took every fiber of courage and intestinal fortitude I could muster to approach the beast. He had climbed a cylindrical pillar and was about shoulder level with me. My face was about a foot and a half from his as I swung a roundhouse right in to the pillar. The DVD box crashed against the cement with a booming thud, but with my adrenaline pumping at full bore and the sheer might used to crush the demonic thing, my aim was off and I collided with the pillar just above him.
The spider leaped off of the pillar, right at me. My heart stopped as the thing hit my chest. Any poise and grace was long forgotten as I slapped girlishly at my chest with the DVD box and leapt backwards. There are a lot of folks out there that would have thought the speed at which I was moving, impossible for such a large fellow, but it probably would have been hard to spot with the naked eye. I put about two meters between the spider and myself.
We stared each other down as my heart clanged in my eardrums.
“ Oh, It’s going to be like that?” I heard myself echo through the deserted hallway. “What are you gonna do now?” I asked him. With that, and I swear this is true, the spider came at me. I scrambled backward up the stairs as the spider advanced upon me. I banged in to Karen who was coming back down the stairs and let out a less than manly squeal. The speed of the thing was terrifying. With two human foes to face, the spider grew less aggressive and backed off slightly. Karen had armed herself with a mop of some kind and proceeded to chase the thing from our path.
Is there a moral to this story? No, not at all. Were we able to rid the planet of this horrifying monster? Again, no. We failed at our mission, and if I had to pick a winner of the battle I would grudgingly go with the spider on this one. Well, he might have won this time, but from what I am told about Taiwan, there will be another. I promise the death of that one.
Till next time,

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Thar she Blows!!!!!!!!!!

Click me! Click me!

Finally... the net has come back to Tainan

It is over! The long wait for our internet service has ended and a new era of online hijinks ensue. A very special thanks to our new Taiwanese friend Angela, for her diligent work in procuring our service. I had made several attempts, throughout this last week, at finding someone within Hinet that could speak English, and had thus far come up empty. Angela had us sorted out in fifteen minutes.
Much has happened in this past week that we went unconnected to the outside world. We have moved in to our new apartment, set up our new Media Centre computer and purchased a 19 inch LCD Flatscreen monitor. I will now be embarking on a download spree unlike any previously seen in the free world. I am going to have to download all of my favorite programs and movies as the television offered here leaves much to be desired.
Karen and I are both hitting the pavement hard this week as we need to get jobs right away to avoid the expense of a visa run. Our visitor visa is only good for 60 days and it takes about a month for the paper work to be sorted out for an ARC ( Alien Resident Card) and if you run out of time you must leave the country and then re-enter Taiwan to extend our visitor visa. You don't need to leave for any set amount of time as it is the re-entry through customs that extends your visa. You can go to Okinawa Japan, which is a popular spot due to it's closeness and relative inexpense to travel there.
This Thursday marks our one month anniversary in Taiwan and we have taken care of everything but the job issue. We don't anticipate any problems on that end as there seems to be lots of opportunity here. We haven’t been able to keep up with the news from back home much, but we did learn of the unfortunate loss of Chris Pawluk, owner and operator of Incredible Edibles. He was a great guy and we spent many an evening in his company, treated to great food, drink and conversation. It has been said already, but I must repeat that downtown Dartmouth will not be the same without him.
To those of you who haven’t lost interest in us yet, we will be updating much more frequently now that we are online.

Monday, August 01, 2005

The Food

Where do I begin with the Taiwanese food. I think the food here can be categorized much the same way as our other site. It is good, bad and ugly. There are restaurants here that make your mouth water, just walking by. I have had some of the best food I have ever eaten here. I have also experienced some pretty rough meals I could barely get through. I have yet to, and probably never will eat from anything with wheels on it. The smells that come floating out of these carts are truly god-awful. There is something here called stinky tofu, and it smells like cow manure. The locals love it, but myself, I will never know the pleasure of stinky tofu, as it will never touch my lips. There is also lots of mystery "beef" at these wheeled carts, usually offered forth on a stick of some kind. You can eat anything that walks, hops, flies or swims in Taiwan, and most people do. I have been sticking to cow, chicken and pig for most of my meals, maybe I will get more courageous as time goes on. It is truly unfortunate that I never did develop a taste for seafood, as they probably have the best in the world here, and it is very cheap. I am sure the will be more updates in this vein as my palate adapts and explores more exotic offerings. Bon appetite!