Tuesday, March 28, 2006

For you foodies out there...

Against my better judgment, I've started another blog, Wonton Woman, all about cooking in Taiwan. The recipes will be mostly western-style, chosen primarily because they can be made with locally available ingredients. No promises on how often I'll post, but I hope at least once or twice a week.

I've started with a recipe for microwave polenta. Suggestions are welcome. Please take a look!

Monday, March 27, 2006

Catching you up

It's been a busy week since I last wrote. I was sick Friday (it had been creeping up on me all that week) and slept all day Saturday. Sunday morning we walked over to the school for the Bilingual Community Church service; the quarter-mile walk was pushing it, though. I was really wiped out.

Monday was a day for staying home, not because I was sick, but because the air was thick with Mongolian dust. We were warned to stay inside if possible – according to the local EPA report, we were well into the red zone of unhealthy air. Cole and his classmates spent their recess times playing board games in the lunchroom. Tuesday was not much better; the winds were supposed to shift to the east and southeast, but stayed put and kept blowing the particulate our way. The dust cloud from China was an anomaly, but poor air quality is the norm, especially here in the industrial south: factories, truck traffic to and from the port, and of course fires – burning fields, burning garbage, burning ghost money. It all adds up.

Wednesday morning I had my Chinese lesson. I learned how to say maybe, probably not, and definitely (each of those requires a different suffix added to whatever the verb is in the initial question). Very useful, but if I don't practice it I'm going to forget it.

Thursday I helped chaperone Cole's class trip to the Leopard King Safari Zoo. We had a great day for it, not too hot and not too overrun with Chinese students (who travel in packs of fifty and a hundred). Still, it was a bit depressing – an old-style zoo with not a lot of room to roam, and a demeaning monkey show to boot (I wasn't sure who was less pleased with being on stage, the monkeys or the handlers). The kids had a good time, though, watching the pig races, petting a penguin, mimicking the whooping calls of the gibbons. We also got to walk among the mountain deer, the only extant deer species in Taiwan. I've eaten it, but had never met one before. They're about the size of a dog, which surprised me – I don't know if I would have found them as tasty, knowing how small they are.

Friday was business as usual, lunch with Tim at school and then an afternoon of catching up on my housework. I took Cole out later to buy some in-line skates, and he's been busy learning the finer points of not falling down ever since. Yesterday was a girls' morning out as a handful of us from staff housing headed downtown to check out some new stores: Muji (Japanese housewares and clothing, much of which is overpriced – but still fun to look at), and Jason's grocery, also overpriced, but where you can buy things you can't find anywhere else (prosciutto, artichoke hearts, and Quaker Oatmeal Squares). No chutney, though. I don't know why I can't find it here. I guess I'll have to make it myself.

So that's a week in the life of. Not terribly exotic, perhaps, but different enough; it grows on you.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

This morning as Cole was getting dressed (green shorts, orange tee) he said his teacher, Mrs. Dunn, told the kids that they should wear green, but underwear didn't count. I said, "Well, sure, because nobody can see it." And Cole said, "They would if you didn't wear pants."

If you forget to wear some green, pinch yourself for me, will ya? (But if you forget to wear your pants, I don't want to know....)

Summer plans

I have our summer itinerary: the kids and I will be back in Washington from June 2 to July 10. (Looks like Tim will not be joining us after his studies in Beijing in June, but I'm sure he'll enjoy his downtime here at home.) We'll be on Whidbey for pretty much the whole time, except for one trip east of the Cascades. If you'd like to meet us on the island we'd love to see you!

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Remembering Burma

This Sunday, March 12th, is the Global Day of Prayer for Burma. Ethnic cleansing, forced labor, landmines placed to terrorize the internal refugees – all of this is ongoing, yet these atrocities receive little attention from the west. So today I ask you to keep the persecuted Burmese in your thoughts and prayers. Please also pray for those who are working, often putting their own lives in danger, to keep the Burmese alive.

More information is available at www.prayforburma.org. Or click here to see a short film which documents the situation. It will only take about 12 minutes, time well spent on understanding the seriousness of the troubles there. Despite the oppression and genocide, hope survives – people are hanging on. Please help lift them in prayer.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Where my heart is

I had a grumpy couple of days. No single reason to pin it on, just a lingering bad mood. Tuesday started off well – I had a nice long chat with a friend in Virginia, a Taiwan buddy from our time here before. She and her husband have moved back to the states, started a family and settled into a new job and community. I miss them, so that's maybe what kicked off my blues. And listening to her talk about how they miss Taiwan reminds me that I will forever have two homes, and will always long for the one that I'm not living in. I wouldn't give up either one, but it's tough knowing you can never be really happy in one place. Maybe we're not supposed to be, though. Complacency sets you up for trouble; I no longer want to root my happiness in stasis.

I updated my books, finally, on the sidebar. I've already finished Traveling Mercies but wanted to post it anyway. It's Anne Lamott's unflinching look at her path to faith. Not G-rated, perhaps, but real life rarely is. I enjoy her honesty, but do wonder how she prepares her friends and family for some of the things she writes. "By the way, Mom, I'm going to be publishing all our family secrets next month. Just thought you should know."

Father Brown is a kick. I've found several passages that speak to my life here, which is one sign of a really good book. Chesterton was not thinking of Taiwan when he wrote his stories, but here I am decades later feeling like he's talking just to me, right where I am. And Eugene Peterson is still a bed-side staple; I have one more to go after Answering God. Hopefully that will get me through the spring, until I can get home and scour the bookstores this summer. Hmm. There's that word again: home. I can picture, quite clearly, whole towns, neighborhoods and streets, gardens and driveways, all thousands of miles away. I know the sounds of a city, the weak winter light, the first signs of spring. I dream of building a little house on our property in Coupeville someday. But right now this is home, and not just because this is where our house is. This is where our life is.

Living in the present is harder than it sounds.

Friday, March 03, 2006

Winter's chill redux

It's cold! Just when I'd put my sweaters away (set aside for when we return to a nippy Northwest summer), winter came back for an encore. Well, sixty-one degrees may not seem so cold to you, especially if you're under a blanket of snow somewhere right now, but when you don't have a heated home you really feel the chill. I can't complain – I'd rather have A/C than heat, and we do have some space heaters for times like this – but after a couple days in the 90s last week, we're all a bit suprised.

Much more interesting than the weather, though, is the fact that I got my hair washed last night. (No, really, it is.) For about US$4.00, I got a twenty-minute scalp massage that goes by the deceptively gentle-sounding name "shampoo," followed by a hot-water rinse and conditioning, and then finally a shoulder massage. (I was hoping for a longer massage – this was only about five minutes – but I'll take what I can get.) My hair is unbelievably clean today, and my follicles are still whimpering. During the whole two years we were back in the States I only got three haircuts – it's so disappointing after getting used to the treatment (and the price) here.

Last night's outing was with my friend Kristin, who is moving back to Colorado this year. As we sat side by side in our salon chairs, each enduring ten strong fingers vigorously raking through our hair, I said, "You're going to miss this, you know." She knew.

I wanted to write more today, but after an MSG-seasoned lunch all I want to do now is sleep. More later, perhaps.