Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Today is Sunny and Scorching!

Summer has come to Taiwan again, much as I remember it. Except it's hotter.

Just look at that blue sky...and sun!
After coming through the most confusing winter of my life - humid, freezing, unheated, funky, dirty, cloudy - it's a relief to finally see the sun. It's easy to ask my students, "How is the weather today?" and they say without question, "Today is sunny and HOT!" I like it, when I'm inside. And then I put on my outside shoes (Have I mentioned that huge market Taiwan has for shoes, considering you need shoes for home, shoes for work, shoes for scooters, shoes for "partying", and shoes for the bathroom? Just kidding. Your bathroom shoes are called bare feet.)

I went outside and it was scorching.

Go to the beach when it's hot and find...part of a wall?
The dogs know it. All of the dogs that hang around the wet market were panting in the shade, one of them chewing on a stolen arm of young ginger. The cabbage slicers, with their special crescent knives made specially for chunking off rotten bits of cabbage, had large streams of sweat running down their faces. Up the street, the builders and road makers were sitting on the backs of their blue trucks, catching a bit of a cigarette smoke in the shade before having to return to the hot heat of midday.

I come home and turn on the fan. After all, there's not much more benefit you get from an A/C, besides killing Mother Nature, that you can't get from a fan. Or can you?

Remembering being in Cuba...with the air conditioning blasting at a comfy 22C while we took our afternoon siesta. There is something so wrong and so right about snuggling into a comforter when it's sweltering outside. Maybe we should play voodoo with Mama Earth and get some comfort - and soon.

Oh yeah, fry everything in the ocean!
Sunday was hot, too!

Saturday, it rained all day, so Sunday we went for a drive to the fish market by the Taiwan Strait. It's an awesome drive, with hardly anyone on the road (you can really open up the scooter, all 55K that she can do with 2 people on the back!) One hour to the town of Yongan, and about 5 minutes to decide that the best thing to eat would be deep fried mini-crabs, fish filled with eggs, prawns and sweet potatoes.

I can't BELIEVE I stopped eating fried food last year! Ladies, if you want to have fun, and you want to have an appropriately sized bosom, you have to eat some fried food. Just do it!

Can't buy a fish without Neopolitan soft-serve cones!
I love fish markets. Some are open in the morning and some are open in the evening. There's nothing like it at home - the beautiful colors and the clear eyes and everyone asking you "Yao shen me?" - Do you want something? In true indecisive fashion, I mutter "Xien zai bu zhi dao..." - I don't know right now.

Many of the fish are still moving. Most of the clams are still spitting water. And of course there are stranger things - urchins, giant snails, giant lobsters (not as common), small snails (very common), dried fish, fish floss...I love it all...except the floss.

I'm gonna love you, and then I'm gonna steam you.

Bought a fish, which was only slightly descaled unfortunately, and took it home and cooked it to deliciousness. I ate fish three times on Sunday. I guess it is the Lord's day. ;D My goodness, it's hot.

Oh dear - the heat has gone to my head. I'm all over the place. It could also be the 22 students in my 2-3 year old class now. Tell me it's crazy, and I'll tell you I'm about the turn on the A/C!

Sunday, May 22, 2011

The Dentist and the Swimming Pool

Sometimes living in Taiwan feels like living on the bottom of the ocean, sometimes it feels like living in a circus, and sometimes, it's just like living at home.

Take for example, the swimming pool.

James and I got a hankering for a swim two weeks ago and found several locations on the internet to check out. It turned out that our first choice was, TADA!, a vacant lot that used to be a swimming pool (the internet isn't as up to date as we think sometimes.) But another location, the SPA as the sign calls it, was open and awesome. I mean, really cool. $3 a visit gets unlimited swim time, sauna time, play time, shower time, hot pool time, and general people watching time, if you really want. You can even bring your white water kayak to practice flipping over in the pool, as we saw a man, in the pool, in a silver helmet, doing. I say, let's do it!

Lap swimming at a pool in Taiwan is a fashion parade. Wow-wow-wee-woo-woo: floral tankinis and swim caps are a must! It makes me feel just a bit more waiguoren when all I brought to Taiwan is a mismatched bikini (but had to buy the swim cap), but people don't seem to mind seeing my over-pale belly parading around.

Especially not the kiddies. We happened to finish a post-work stress relief dip right as an enormous group of school children pulled up. They couldn't believe there were white people at the pool. They couldn't believe it so much that they made a mouth gaping semi-circle around me in the changing room, clearly not aware that I understand much more Chinese than my face lets on. I love the swimming pool.

And the dentist?

I know when I hear field trip, I think "Please, let's go to the dentist." I bet it's what my 3 year olds were thinking, too. The poor things never saw it coming. All they knew was that we were taking the bus somewhere, and they love the bus.

I had heard stories about the dentist. Another English teacher went to get a check-up and a cleaning and ended up getting a "teeth scraping" - something that sounds on par with getting my arm hairs individually tweezed. I knew that something simple like toothpaste was a bit sketchy. A parent of a student gave me two tubes of toothpaste as a gift, which was great, except it was menthol toothpaste. Ah, just like brushing your teeth with bug spray and eucalyptus.

Plus, I just can't figure this out: Why is dental care so cheap and abundant, and yet children have the most disgusting, rotten teeth I have ever seen? Plus, it's standard to brush at least 3 times a day. The hypothesis is lack of flouride in the water, but really, maybe parents are just giving kids durian fruit candy or something to suck on while they sleep.

Some of my kids have teeth that make your toe hair curl. Beautiful, angelic faces, but blackened, holey, disfigured little gnashers. I love to make them laugh, I love to see them smile, but sometimes I can't help but think, if only you could talk, smile and laugh with your mouth closed! Seriously, very gnarly.

Back to the dentist: All the young students piled into the office to wait their turn. My job was to life the terrified toddlers into the dentist chair, where they were quickly poked and it was decided how many and where there were cavities (so the kiddies could come back with Mommy and Daddy another day to get them filled..or refilled...as it might be necessary.)

Some of my students were so brave and happy to play "big boy" or "big girl" for 30 seconds while getting orally violated. But some were not. Five of them did not want anything do with it. One look at the bright light and the scary hook about to go into their mouths and they screamed. I don't blame them. I hate the dentist. And to be honest, I may have giggled a little, because they were so cute, so helpless, and so right: dentists are masochists and we should be scared.

Sometimes, Taiwan is like home. Babies hate the dentist and pre-teens are fascinated with nearly naked adults.