Thursday, January 31, 2008

Back In Two Weeks

Sorry about the really light posting in the last couple of months. I won't be posting anything in the next two weeks either - we're headed to Sumatra for a break over Chinese New Year. I'll post lots of pictures upon our return!

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Things About Taiwan

I'm trying to think of aspects of life in Taiwan that are unique to this country. Taiwan is of course similar in many ways to other countries in East Asia, but I think every nation has its unique points.

1. On days that are sufficiently auspicious, I'll walk down the street and pass tables set up in front of businesses, with various bits of food laid out as offerings to the gods. Sticks of incense are usually burned as well. There will be a metal container with a fire going; this is for the burning of spirit money and other important bits of paper (I've never been able to ascertain what, exactly). This is part of Chinese culture that the PRC has put an end to in mainland China. (I think much of the same things are done in other substantial Chinese communities around the world, but traditions probably continue the strongest in Taiwan.)

2. Lottery numbers are printed on receipts here; apparently there are several drawings each day, with prizes of various amounts awarded. On the one hand this means cashiers always expect you to want a receipt, no matter how small the purchase; this can be a bit annoying as you collect lots of small slips of paper. On the other hand, many businesses have collection boxes where you can donate receipts. I've never actually checked to see if I won anything.

3. Taiwan's the first country I've lived in to have its own calendar. Years are counted from the fall of the Qing Dynasty and the formation of the Republic of China in 1911. (It is not unlike Japan officially counting the years from the beginning of the current emperor's reign.) The year 97 just began - the years change at the same time as in the Western calendar. Most official documents in Taiwan use the ROC Calendar, although I also see Western years widely used.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Cute Pet Photos

The Taipei Pets Expo was this weekend, around Shin Kong Mitsukoshi in Xinyi.It was a place for people to bring their pets - mostly dogs.Though there were a few cats making the rounds too.And some utterly miscellaneous pets, such as this flying squirrel.These two huskies, identical except for the color of their leashes, were engaged in an epic play-battle.Jenna and I volunteered for Animals Taiwan, a no-kill shelter which works to find homes for stray animals. This is Mitsubishi, who is very small, meowed nervously for the first few hours she was in her cage, and got adopted before the day was over.Look at that donation box on Judy's chassis. I seriously think she made several times as much per hour as I do at my job.This is Precious (left) and Bingo (right). One or the other was usually on a leash in front of our booth, greeting passers-by and other dogs.

More pictures:

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Happy New Year

The Taipei New Year's fireworks display is set off from Taipei 101.These pictures were taken at five minutes to midnight at the intersection of Jilong and Xinyi Roads, Taipei.

And the fireworks go off:

Tianmu Old Trail

On New Year's Eve, Jenna and I hiked Tianmu Old Trail. We never left Taipei city limits, but in the hilly north of the city we climbed to where we could get a beautiful vantage point of downtown Taipei.The views are good, but an even better draw for me was the wildlife.This spider is the size of my palm and getting the camera to focus on it took a few minutes of effort. There was also a large brown bird that I never got a really decent picture of.For me, the biggest attraction was the monkeys. Seeing monkeys on this trail is by no means a sure thing - they're most active around dawn and dusk, and although they're not terrified of humans they are a bit cautious - but we got lucky this time.These macaques can grow pretty large, and can defend themselves with teeth and claws. So it's a good idea not to make them feel threatened. We were cautioned not to make eye contact with the macaques - they see it as a challenge. We did our best to observe them, though - there seemed to be whole families that were active, and we watched them feeding, fighting (not too seriously, it looked like) and just moving around up in the trees.This one just sat himself down by the path for several minutes. A couple of locals walked past him, each one obviously looking straight ahead, ignoring him. Presumably there have been enough cases of monkey attack on this path before that the locals know how to stay safe.Apart from the monkeys, it was a very nice hike.This huge pig was tied up outside a closed restaurant that will presumably open for the peak hiking season. There were a couple of chickens wandering around loose as well.The macaque-less parts of the trail are very nice and peaceful.