Sunday, January 17, 2010

Taiwan Revisited, Part V: Of fishing casinos and things...

This weekend I had several people crashing at my stylish abode for Taebaek's World Famous (not really) Snow Festival! It was quite fun and I took bunches of photos so those should be up soon-ish. Now, back to Taiwan....

1/6/10

Dear Terry,

I got your note. It sounds like your pretty busy, poor angel. Barely enough time to hose off the meat particle spray before it's time to wake up and do it all over again. Just make sure you get lots of sleep baby. Those meat slicers are not for the unwary.

Things here have continued to be interesting. Yesterday morning I was left to my own devices while Simon was at work and so I took my time showering and breakfasting only to find that when I tried to open the front door that I couldn't turn the key! I was locked inside. I used skype to call Simon's cellphone after about 1/2 hour of trying (culminating in ineffective kicking, shouting, and tears) and then he informed be that the key had to be EXTENDED before it would work in the lock. Who knew.

After that debacle I made my way over to the art museum, which involved some backtracking and guessage. It was worth it though, the museum was excellent. I saw an interesting exhibit on indigenous-people inspired art (ie, the art was made by people descended from indigenous tribes but was not in itself indigenous). There was a series of photographs of Maori warriors showcasing their facial tattoos, which was cool. There was also a giant bull made out of tin cans, for some reason. It was anatomically correct... if you know what I mean.

The other exhibit I really enjoyed was a collection of sculpture and photographs focusing on hands and communication. I thought it would be about sign language but that turned out to be only a small aspect of the show. Actually it was a bit of a hodge-podge with several pieces and photographs I recognize from artists who I know weren't specifically focused on hands in their work... but it was still interesting. My favorite piece was a large statue of a hand making the Buddha benediction sign covered in blue sequined fabric and titled "The Glove of Buddha". I got some sketching done and it was nice to do some non-Darwin work. I always find it reinvigorates my love of drawing to sketch at a museum... I don't know why I don't go more.

Also at the museum was an exhibit on Pixar. That was awesome. There were a ton of movement studies, character design sketches, clay sculptures, environment color schemes and other stuff you wouldn't even THINK of. It's amazing how much work Pixar puts into each of their projects and seeing it all it's no wonder their movies come out as well as they do. I especially liked seeing the process of character design, and the sketch artists playing around with facial expressions and movement. Really impressive. My favorite pieces though were a series of x-rays of Toy Story characters (very clever) and this AMAZING zoetropic sculptural piece.

Let me explain.

A bunch of figurines of various ToyStory characters were arranged in concentric circles on a rotating platform. For example, one concentric circle was Woody bouncing up and down on a horse, with each figurine slightly different then the former and one whole rotation making up the motion. There was also Buzz Lightyear bouncing on a ball, the cute alien squeezy toys diving into a puddle and the army guys parachuting off a platform in the center. As I watched the whole thing started rotating fast until it was a blur and THEN then hit it with the strobe light and OMG--it was like watching animation. It was inconveivably cool, like having actual toys come to life before your eyes. And even more amazing, it was a sculpture, so that by moving your line of sight up and down you could actually see various angles on the figures which kind of blew my mind. I don't know if I can adequately convey how awesome it was. I couldn't take any pictures, sadly, but maybe there's a video of it somewhere.... here we go:



The video quality is terrible but maybe you can get some idea of what I'm talking about. Here's another higher resolution video, but it doesn't show the still sculpture first so only look at it after you see the other one:


Sign outside the Pixar exhibit:
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I finally made my way back to Simon's at about six. My back has been pretty sore and painful since snowboarding and I think I might have to visit a doctor when I get back if I'm not fully recovered by then, so I was moving kind of slow. Simon met me with a very shiny red helmet and a rented scooter and I got my first-ever scooter ride--it was completely terrifying. I thought biking in NYC felt unsafe but it has nothing on scootering in Kaosiung. The city is completely congested with motor traffic and there are so many scooters that they even have separate scooter lanes on the major roads.

Posing on the (unmoving) Scooter:
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I spent the first 40 minutes of my scooter experience totally terrified. We took the scooter over to Simon's friend Dan's place, where he climbed on (three to a scooter is, let me tell you, very cozy) and then went to a rock climbing wall where we met up with Simon's current paramour--or at least the girl he's been seeing for the past two weeks. It actually wasn't very awkward, as I had been fearing. I didn't do much climbing, having a) a back problem and b) being grievously out of shape but I did play around with my camera some and got some scooter lessons in the parking lot from Dan. The climbing area itself was kind of neat. Apparently it had been constructed for the "World Games" (no clue) and now it's basically free to all comers except that you have to put in some change to get the lights up and running. It's huge and somewhat abandoned.

Some climbing shots:
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After that I actually drove the scooter, with Dan on the back giving helpful directions and tips, over to our dinner location, which Simon had been keeping the details of from me for a surprise. It turned out to be, no shitting, a fishing casino. Basically a large dingy room with a dank pool in the center surrounded by chairs and balding men gripping cheap fishing poles and ringed by bingo machines and arcade games. The pool was, reputably, filled with shrimp but I can't confirm that since the water was so brown as to be impossible to see though and we never caught one. Luckily other food was sold so we didn't have to wait on the shrimp to eat. A really nice Taiwanese gent gave us his basket of seven shrimp though so we did get a taste. The shrimp were huge, about six inches long, and you cook them by dumping the (live) shrimp into a bucket of salt, shaking that up, and then placing the (live, twitching) shrimp onto a wire mesh sheet and sticking that over hot flames. They were pretty delicious. I also got to see a police raid, if you can call ten cops (one with a submachine gun) coming in and checking everyone's ID a raid. I would say the whole experience falls under the "pretty fucking foreign" category.

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Today I'm visiting Simon's school. Dude, this place is TRICKED OUT. There is an actual restaurant room with tables and plastic food, a sports shop with clothes and a register, a frickin' AIRPLANE with actual airplane seats and a SECURITY STATION--all just for playacting English-speaking scenarios. It seems that this is some kind of special school where classes from schools all over the area come in twice a year. It's pretty bizarre, really. I sat in on one of Simon's classes and while he's an excellent teacher, very funny and animated, I have to say Taiwanese children are not nearly as well-behaved as Korean children. They were all over the place. I gave some suggestions to him that he seemed to find helpful, although he's taught so much longer then I have I felt it almost wasn't my place. It was good to see another English teacher in action though. I wish we'd gotten more of that in our initial training.

Simon's School:
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OMG baby, this e-mail is a million miles long so I'm going to finish up. I hope it wasn't too dull. I miss you.

Toodles,
S

In a final note on Simon's school, it would be remiss of me not to highlight their most glorious aspect: the instructional English signage. In order to increase students' English abilities, schools around the globe (mine included) post signs with useful English expressions. Here are some of the highlights of Simon's school:

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And my personal favorite:

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Until next time!




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