amateur vagrant

i'm leaving and you should come with me

味家香 Wei Jia Xiang Crispy Skin Roast Duck Zhongli, Taiwan

This is one of the oldest duck restaurants in Zhongli, or so I’ve heard. It’s the only restaurant we go to when we are craving sweet and tangy roast duck.

For you Zhongli locals, it’s right by the park, diagonally across from the “Department of Motor Vehicles”, just around the corner from the River, and right next to the “Park Seafood” restaurant.

I think the name is Wei Jia Xiang Crispy Skin Roast Duck. I definitely just call it “the duck place” because for us, there is nowhere else.

Why? Just because it’s delicious. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

It’s like NT$550 for one whole roasted duck, to-go. That will get you a plate of the breast meat with the crispy skin and a big stir fry of all the other bits (with basil, garlic, and optional chilis). They’ll also give you some pancakes, sauce, and spring onions, but if you’re like us, you’ll want to pay a little extra for some extra pancake fixings.

I went one day and had the very good luck of being the only person there just before lunch time. I am usually too shy to take pictures when there’s an audience, but that day I had the perfect situation. I asked the guys if I could take a few photos and they said yes. I was also glad to finally get this video of one of the guys carving up a duck. Their knives are so sharp and they move so fast!

amateur vagrant wei jia xiang duck restaurant zhongli taiwan in the kitchen

amateaur vagrant wei jia xiang roast duck zhongli taiwan preparing the order

amateur vagrant wei jia xiang zhongli taiwan duck restaurant kitchen

amateur vagrant wei jia xiang roast duck zhongli taiwan making pancakes

amateur vagrant wei jia xiang roast duck zhongli taiwan giant wok of sauce

Bonus: if you go on a hot day when it’s busy, there are always a bunch of cute tattooed guys in tank tops cooking and carving ducks.

This guy is very good with his hands!

All the parts besides the breast, they chop up and stir fry with sauce and basil leaves. It’s so delicious.

And when we get home, this is what we get to eat:

amateur vagrant duck breast from wei jia xiang crispy skin roast duck in zhongli taiwan

amateur vagrant stir-fried duck meat from wei jia xiang crispy skin roast duck restaurant in zhongli taiwan

 

I should have taken a picture of the pancakes, too, but we started eating and everything else was forgotten. This is good stuff!

July 29, 2016 food, life in Taiwan, things to do in Zhongli

Boobs

I spend a lot of time thinking about my boobs–more time than I spend thinking about my eyebrows and less time than spend thinking about my thighs. I don’t think I’d be the woman I am today if I had a different pair of breasts.

I think it’s because I was a late developer and I got teased for being flat up through ninth grade.

[Interrupting myself to say that it is ridiculous for a 14-year-old girl to be teased by a bunch of feral 14-year-old boys, as though at 14 I was already socially obligated to start manifesting my sexual availability.

Gross.]

But as ridiculous as being teased for having tiny titties sounds to me twenty years later, being teased was traumatic. When I went from mosquito bites to a C-cup with a year, I felt invincible. Now other people noticed me. Boobs were my superpower, my anti-invisibility cloak.

Then I got teased for having big boobs (they went up to a DD in college). But at 17, 18, 19, 20, 21 years old, being teased for having large breasts felt a lot more like good-natured ribbing than harassment.

“At least they like me!”

When I was in high school, I read about women who wore minimizing bras or wanted breast reduction surgery. I really couldn’t understand it. My boobs were getting all enmeshed with my identity. They were all that compensated for my bad skin and frizzy hair. With a flat chest, I’d be ordinary.

I don’t think that there’s anything worse than being ordinary.*

My breasts were my armor for many years. Fat or thin, I had big boobs that got at least some attention most of the time. I couldn’t be overlooked.

It wasn’t always a great fit, though. Big boobs on a bookworm is like hanging out an XXX GIRLS sign on a library. I sometimes tried to be the girl my tits said I could be. I sometimes had to fight for people to take me seriously despite having big tits.

(But with or without big tits, who hasn’t had to fight to get other people to take them seriously?)

Fast forward to my mid-30s and I’m noticing the looks I’m getting. I’m starting to feel uncomfortable in my own body. Like some days I’d like to slip into another skin, another bag of meat with smaller breasts so that I could teach or buy groceries or walk into town without these headlights flashing signals that aren’t coming from me. I’m too old for this.

More and more, I’d like to be ignored when I’m out in public. Particularly if I’m just trying to get a little exercise or I’m teaching a class.

In the Taiwan heat and humidity, the space between my boobs gets sweaty and itchy. If I don’t wear a sports bra, then they seem to shake, even flap, independent of each other. It’s like I’m walking down the street and two tiny hippos are twerking under my t-shirt.

I don’t like to wear low-cut shirts around my friends anymore. If my male friends look at my breasts, I feel self-conscious. If they don’t look, I’m still afraid my female friends think I am showing off.

A man I’ve known for more than a decade drunkenly molested me a couple of months ago. Grabbed my right breast. I shoved him away. He laughed. Later, he apologized to my husband via a Facebook message. My husband wasn’t even there when it happened. The molester told me I shouldn’t be angry. It was just a drunken mistake.

Tits are public property.

I tried wearing tank tops last summer when I was running with a running club up in Taipei, but I got singled out for some good old-fashioned slut-shaming. A drunk woman in her late 40s wanted to put me in my place. “You think you’re so hot with your big tits hanging out? Nobody cares about your tits here,” she said, her eyes wild, her hand gripping my wrist.

I had thought that I’d be safe among foreigners who made a show of being comfortable with other people’s bodies, but apparently only women with a C-cup or less can be buddies. Her man looked at my boobs, so I was a troublemaker.

An attention whore.

Boobs are divisive.

At work, at school, I try to hide my breasts under loose shirts. I catch my sixth-graders making weird gestures, hands splayed six inches in front of their chests. They snicker, then burst into embarrassed laughter, faces red, eyes down. I feel self-conscious. I’m the teacher, the adult in the room, and yet I feel ashamed, like I brought porn into the room.

What can I do? Where can I put them? Now I wear a minimizing bra. In class, I avoid stretching, dancing, jumping, making big gestures, and erasing the board too vigorously. I wear oversized men’s t-shirts when I run, and sunglasses so I can stare back at uncivilized men who gawk like I’m a zoo monkey with a dick for a nose. I can’t hide my breasts anywhere else. I can’t stop them from indiscriminately beaming invitations in public, like some kind of charismatic lighthouse.

I should count my blessings. (One. Two.) So far, my boobs are healthy. What if they make me sick one day? My gramma had a mastectomy late in life. “I told him to cut the whole damn thing off. What do I need it for?” she grumbles. She’s lucky: she could sacrifice a breast to save her life.

Tits are time-bombs. No telling if or when they’ll go off, if they’ll take me with them. If I lose them, will I miss them? Will I be able to embrace being ignored by the people I now distract?

How much longer can I expect to be a distraction, anyway? I’m already 35. I should count my blessings. (One. Two.) Is having my breast squeezed by a drunk man a blessing? Is being called out as a threat to other women a blessing? My boobs are always bigger than my stomach. I wear a bikini every summer, even if hide my body below my bust in the water for as long as possible.

I hope when I’m old or when my breasts are removed to stop cancer from spreading that I will be able to appreciate what I couldn’t understand at 13, before I started to fill out. I hope I will be able to appreciate having a body that is ignored by others and therefore mine alone. To do with as I please. To not have to worry that I’ve done something wrong when anyone else–men and boys, women and girls–feels like they’ve been invited to comment on my tits, like they are any more my “fault” than my long toes or my thick eyebrows.

As though I choose them each morning before I leave the house like I choose a t-shirt or shoes.

I hope I will enjoy it when I’m on the other side of getting attention.

I’ll stop here, not because I am finished, but because I can’t finish. Every interaction of my body with the world contributes to an infinite feedback loop that changes how I feel about both my body and the world.

I like myself. I like my body. It’s the way other people react and interact with my body that’s giving me something to think about. Something to worry about. What would it be like if breasts were only as erotic as a stomach? Then mine would be unhealthy, oversized. I’d find them inconvenient, as I do know, and I wouldn’t feel that they were sexy, as I do now.

This is the question: what would it be like in a different body? Who would I be?

July 28, 2016 reflections

Don’t be an asshole in Cambodia

It’s hard not to be an asshole.

Most of us actively avoid it, even though there’s some research to suggest that being an asshole is gratifying.

Yet at some point or another, most of us end up inadvertently being assholes because of ignorance.

This is a picture of me about to be an asshole.

-Preah Khan candle angkor wat amateur vagrant

I didn’t know it yet. At the moment this picture was taken, a man dressed in an official-looking uniform was taking pictures of me. I wasn’t sure what he was doing, except that he was having me pose very precisely and he was squatting down trying to get it just right. He took six pictures of me total. When he stood up, he handed me my phone and turned to the white people standing behind him and offered to take their pictures, too.

I was anxious to get my phone back as soon as possible. I did not think he would steal it. I was afraid there would be a mixup or it would get dropped. I wanted to see the pictures. I wanted to get out of the way.

“Not together?” he asked.

“Oh, no, we’re not together,” I laughed. The other white people laughed, too.

I took my phone and trotted away. I was so amazed by the pictures! I had no idea what he was doing, but the effect was so cool!

Another white tourist accosted me. “Did you give him any money?”

“No,” I said. “He didn’t ask me for any.” I should have given him money! Shoot!

“He took our picture, then he asked us for some money.”

“Oh, there was some confusion. He thought I was with the people behind me, but I said no and I just took my phone, I guess he didn’t get to ask me.”

“You know, his uniform doesn’t even look like the other guards’ uniforms.”

“Oh, no?” I didn’t know what else to say. I literally did not have a dollar on me. I had opted to move through the temples without a purse. I didn’t even have any pockets in my cool harem pants. J was carrying all the money, and as usual, he had wandered off by himself with the camera.

When I found him and joined up with the rest of our group, we were heading out the back of the temple to meet the tuktuk drivers.

I didn’t go back. I should have, but sometimes I am so passive. I didn’t demand a dollar from J. I didn’t demand that everyone wait for me while I ran back to give this guy a dollar. I was agreeable.

I was indifferent.

When I was looking up the name of this temple, I found another blog that described the same experience: a “guard” who offered to take this picture and then asked for money. The blogger was upset that “they do not do things out of the kindness of their heart”.

How fucking entitled.

You are not Kanye, Kim, or Taylor. Local Cambodian people are not the altruistic papparazzi, hanging out in the dark recesses of ancient temples waiting to make themselves useful to you.

My take on the situation is this: I don’t think that man was actually one of the guards/rangers that observe and assist the visitors at Angkor Wat. I think this is his hustle, taking this really neat cool picture for all the tourists that come through, and then asking for a dollar.

Imagine if he’d taken the time to patiently explain or even demonstrate to each tourist what he wanted to do. Imagine if he asked for a dollar to do it. And then recognize how many tourists would turn to someone else in their group or another stranger and ask that person to do it for free.

Only you might not have even known about that cool shot if it hadn’t been for the guard. He just dropped some local insight on you, the kind you’d pay $4.99 for if your favorite blogger wrote about it in an e-book. He provided a service for you. I would say that if this guy has been taking this same shot every day for a couple of years, he provided his expertise.

Who has time or money to do that shit “out of the kindness of their heart”? That man would lose the shirt off his back if he had to keep waiting for white people to weigh the pros and cons of “hiring” him as a photographer for a dollar or two. Instead, he gets in there, gives you a product/service that is guaranteed to be downright enchanting, and then asks you what you think it’s worth.

If you’re an asshole, you say, “Nothing.” You get annoyed that somebody “tricked you”. It’s the principle. He should have explained it to you first, given you his trade secret for free, and then let you decide if he deserved any money.

He didn’t beg for money. He certainly did not steal. He provided a very unique service and you, the customer, only complained about being asked to pay for it. This was my second time in Siem Reap, and not a single person asked me for money in the four days I was there. Kids chased me back to the van or the tuktuk trying to sell me magnets. An old lady gave me a stick of incense and some strings for my wrist in exchange for a dollar. Drivers and guides accosted us, trying so hard to sell themselves and so hard not to push our spoiled white selves to the point of indifference. People were trying their damndest to provide a product or service I would pay for. If you can’t respect the hustle, stay at home.

If you have enough money to travel all the way from the U.S. to Southeast Asia, if you have the the kind of job that gives you weeks off OR if you can afford to quit your job and assume you’ll find another soon enough when you get back, if you can be away from other obligations (i.e. family members with health problems), if you can afford to buy a bunch of harem pants and headscarves when you get there, if you can spring $8 for a bucket at Angkor What, you can give a dollar to the guy who took what was surely your new Facebook profile picture.

If you don’t, you’re an asshole.

I’m an asshole.

 

July 27, 2016 reflections

Angkor Wat

Dudes. I don’t even know where to begin to write a post about Angkor Wat. My intention is to be brief and to share a couple of photos. I’d also like to give a shout out to the folks whose services we used while we were there, because people in Cambodia are on the grind and they need all the help and support they can get.

(For example, I just read that book of Cambodian short stories, and the two young women authors featured there were aspiring to be part-time writers in the future. None of this “give up everything to pursue your passion” bullshit. They are trying to work and make money and have time to write because there is nothing romantic about starving.)

We stayed at the Okay 1 Villa in Siem Reap. It was a short ride from the Pub Street/Night Market area. The drivers out front will take you there for $2 in a tuktuk/remorque, but you could walk. (But why not share your $2 with somebody who is trying to work for it?)

The first day we went to visit Angkor Wat, we went with a guide, Mr. Sokkung of Cambodia Trail. He was our driver when we arranged for a taxi from the airport to the hotel, so we sorted things out with him just the day before. For five of us in a van, we paid US$60. I thought that was fair: it was $12 a person and Mr. Sokkung knew EVERYTHING about the temples.

That first day, we only went to Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat. Then it started raining buckets for like ninety minutes. Mr. Sokkung took us to a restaurant just near Angkor Wat. Soaked through, we had a very nice lunch, but then we all just wanted to go home and get into some dry clothes.

The next day, we just arranged to have the hotel drivers take us to the temples in tuktuks. I really would have preferred to continue with Mr. Sokkung because the man is a living encyclopedia of knowledge about the temples, but the rest of the group preferred a budget arrangement and running around taking pictures like they had a deadline with National Geographic.

I’m not bitter, but the tuktuk drivers weren’t guides.

Driver: This temple is very old. Old than Ta Prohm.
Me: Is it the oldest temple?
Driver: Yes, oldest than Ta Prohm.

I missed you that day, Mr. Sokkung.

Anyway, the drivers were very lovely and we had a nice day. And one tuktuk only cost US$18 a day, but for J and I that still turned out to be US$9 a day, so for $3 extra, we could have had an expert to answer questions…

Just think about it, that’s all.

(Also we tipped the drivers and gave them cold Fantas. I am pointing that because we didn’t all agree about the importance of tipping. I think that if you got it, give it away. Also karma is a bitch with a long memory who won’t forget when you were stingy with people in service and hospitality.)

We went the last week of June, which is the off-season. As I mentioned, we ran into a rain shower that first day, but it was after lunch and we’d already been up for a few hours and explored Ta Prohm and Angkor Wat pretty thoroughly before it started to rain. The other days, it didn’t rain.

Also, the second day, we opted for a tour of some the less-famous temples, and we had these magical moments, individually or as a group, where there were no other people in sight and it was actually silent. I imagine that with a place as special and famous as Angkor Wat, it must be very difficult to have that kind of experience where you can be totally focused on the awesome scale and beauty of these ancient places without having to watch other people take selfies.

The third day, J went to see the sunrise over Angkor Wat without me because I got a nasty, nasty sickness. I guess it was probably bad food or something dirty I ate: I was over it in about 24 hours. But I haven’t been so violently ill in a good long time. Bummer to lose time over the holidays. Silver lining: tonic water made me stop feeling nauseous like immediately, so I’ll know that for next time.

Here are some photos, but nothing that does it justice, I’m afraid. I really liked the apsaras. (Mr. Sokkung said they were like angels.)

angor wat apsara amateur vagrant

angkor wat block apsara amateur vagrant june 2016

amateur vagrant angkor wat apsara wall

angkor wat beautiful apsara

angkor wat buddha heads bridge amateur vagrant

angkor wat monkey

There were not loads of monkeys like you might imagine, but on the way to Ta Prohm the first day, we did see a woman selling sugar cane to give to the monkey family that was hanging out around her.

July 26, 2016 travel

Modern Literature of Cambodia

modern literature of cambodia cover

None of the links in this post are affiliate links. At the time of writing this, I do not have any affiliates or any other means of making money from this blog. If that changes, I’ll update this post to reflect that. At the moment, links are provided for your convenience only. 

I sought out a book of contemporary Cambodian short stories because I was visiting Cambodia and we were “only” going to visit Angkor Wat. But I don’t think it’s fair or good to just eat Cambodian food and visit Cambodian temples without making an effort to learn more about the people and the culture.

I didn’t find a ton of books by Cambodia authors in English. I have First They Killed My Father, which I haven’t read, and In the Shadow of the Banyan, which I have read.

There are many, many other accounts of the terrors of the years under the Khmer Rouge. I think it’s important to read at least one to just catch a glimpse of what any Cambodian in Cambodia over 40 lived through.

Other than that, there are also many books that were written by writers with Western names, but many seemed like nonfiction, travel guides, or books about girls and geckos, temples and tuktuks.

Modern Literature of Cambodia provides an array of short stories published within the past few years. It also features a handful of poems, an essay, the lyrics of a rap song by Cambodian-American rapper Prach Ly, and the transcript of a spoken word poem by Cambodian-American poet Kelley Pheng, and the script of a play by a group of Cambodian Americans. Some of these additions are maybe more fully appreciated in a visual format so I’ve included some YouTube videos below where I could find them.

The writers included in this selection are mostly young, though not all introductions included the year they were born. At least two of then ten short-story writers are women.

These aren’t stories about the existential funk you experience when you’re wealthy enough to be bored. Even the most spoiled of the protagonists, the rich girl in Seng Chanmonirath’s A Suicide Plan, gets a reality check from a legless old beggar and a starving little girl that forces her to realize that her grades and her parents’ arguments aren’t impediments to life. At the end of her journey, which for me brought to mind the story of Prince Siddhartha’s first journey outside the walls of his home, it is her worried-sick parents who find her and embrace her–she really doesn’t have it that bad.

The short stories are all very realistic, firmly rooted in this realm. When a narrator dreams,  it is a nightmare because it is realistic and awful–and waking does not bring salvation. In fact, the most “magical” scene in all the stories is what the three poor, hungry, barely-dressed children witness in Than Chan Tepi’s The Girl in A Pink Dress (1):

The people look even more exotic close up. Men in clean, light shirts and dark trousers with their hair properly combed, slightly bounce to the tempo of the music as they spread their arms out to dance behind beautiful women dressed in flamboyant, shimmering dresses and high heels, their shiny hair bundled up in buns or side curls that perfectly compliment their full faces with blushed cheeks and rich red lips. She sees a group of children dancing playfully on one side of the dance floor. Among them she spots a girl about her age in a pink fluffy dress, dancing with a cheerful smile that spreads from ear to ear across her satisfied tiny face–the smile of a promising future.

To the young narrator, the scene in front of her is not just a different world, but a complete anomaly: how did it come to be? How did the dirty, stinking, disorganized path she walked on lead her to this place? And no further–they are chased out when her little brother crosses the threshold.

What makes these stories hard to read is the self-awareness of the first-person narrators. Most concede that a kind of karma or a scale of justice exists exactly because they don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong to deserve to be so overlooked or mistreated by the universe. It is hard to read a child prostitute asking an older man why she can’t be called a “precious girl” like she hears men on the radio describe valuable women, when she hadn’t ever wanted to be sold into sex work. Shouldn’t the men and women who are making the decisions for her, who are deceiving her, shouldn’t they be criticized and ridiculed?

The whole collection suffers a bit from a kind of stilted translation that is accurate, but not beautiful. (Though of course, I have no ideas how the stories would sound in their original Khmer.) I only venture to make that criticism because the two versions of Girl in a Pink Dress that were written in English, and Starlight, which had a unique translator, are much easier on the “ears”.

The remainder of this collection was important and enjoyable as well, though I found the metaphors in the poetry to be quite heavy and blunt sometimes. I was glad for the introduction to young Khmer American writers, born to parents who have always struggled with their experiences as survivors of the Khmer Rouge’s nightmarish reign. That’s the kind of horror that can alter a person all the way down to their DNA.

July 25, 2016 books

Elephant Jungle Sanctuary in Chiang Mai, Thailand

A few weeks before we left for our vacation to Thailand and Cambodia, we heard about an elderly Cambodian elephant that died after giving tourists rides all day in the 40°C heat. That sad story just reaffirmed our decision to not ride elephants on holiday.

(Which has got to be one of the privileged sentences in the world: “We should opt not to elephants while on vacation in Thailand.”)

Instead, we found a whole list of “sanctuaries” in Chiang Mai where the elephants are mostly allowed to rest and play and humans can just interact with them as they go about their day.

If you ask me, this is still kind of a shitty deal for the elephants! I would not want truckloads of strangers showing up at my house every morning to shower me and taunt me with my breakfast bite by bite.

But I anthropomorphize…

We settled on the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary for no particular reason. It had good ratings on Trip Advisor and it fit our schedule. We opted for the morning half-day session only. If it were up to me, I would have done a shorter cooking class and a longer day with the elephants, but it was not up to me.

We got picked up in a truck and drove for at least an hour to get to the sanctuary.

thailand chiang mai elephant jungle sanctuary group initiation

First they had everyone change into some woven shirts styled like traditional Karen clothing. Then after a brief talk about the sanctuary’s work and an outline of what to expect, a bunch of elephants came running down the little hill.

One of them came straight at me.

I froze. I was scared, but my brain was also telling me, “C’mon, these elephants interact with people every day. I’m sure it’s fine.” Which is how people get eaten by lions and shit. I feel like “MOVE” would have been better advice.

Thankfully, the elephants have seen this all before. She saw that I had no bananas and trotted from me just as quick as she’d come. She wanted bananas, not me.

Elephants are surprisingly light and quick on their feet.

thailand chiang mai elephant jungle sanctuary feeding elephants

Then we were given bunches of small bananas and handfuls of cucumbers. Then the elephants paid attention to us. Kind of.

It was kind of like some dogs I’ve met who aren’t unfriendly, just disinterested in humans who aren’t their humans. The elephants were like, “My self-esteem is not so low that I need to follow around a 30-something white woman and establish an emotional bond to get through my morning.”

So if you had bananas, you had an elephant’s attention. But they realized immediately when you were out of bananas, and then they would walk away from you to chew the giant mouthful of bananas you’d just fed them one by one.

They were very tolerant of us all milling about, wandering around and rubbing them and scratching them and feeling their hides. But if they started walking, we moved out of the way and that was that.

There was a little baby elephant, about three months old. She ran around scratching her butt on everything, which was pretty great.

thailand chiang mai elephant jungle sanctuary petting the baby elephant

 

She wasn’t trying to wait for anybody to have an epiphany about the oneness of life, either. She had places to go.

We handed out produce for half an hour or so, and then we all changed into swimsuits or clothes we were willing to get very, very dirty and walked down to the mud hole. The elephants were obviously very enthusiastic about getting into the mud. They ran down the hill, one of them trumpeting the whole time, and just fell onto their sides in the mud with their faces half-buried. The sanctuary employees’ warned us  not to get close to their legs, because they flail all of a sudden, roll onto their stomachs, and stand up. It was so cool.

thailand chiang mai elephant jungle sanctuary rubbing mud on elephants

I am the one dressed in black shorts and a black tanktop. I’m not sure I would have really wanted to be in a bikini for this, anyway.

thailand chiang mai elephant jungle sanctuary mud hole group photo

We rubbed mud on the elephants and each other for a while, then we all walked down to the clear stream to rinse off and have a little water fight.

thailand chiang mai elephant jungle sanctuary in the stream

thailand chiang mai elephant jungle sanctuary washing off

The guide told us that elephants could stay under water for twenty minutes. Another woman and I asked, “But how do they breathe?” And we totally earned the patronizing look we got in response.

(With their trunks, of course.)

With the elephants laying on their sides, this kind of reminds of those terrible photos of big-game hunters next to the animals they just killed. THIS IS SO MUCH BETTER.

After we got out of the water, we rinsed off and had a nice lunch of fried noodles. Then the trucks took us back to the hotel.

So long as the elephants weren’t stressed out by our attention, I’d say it was a great way to spend the day.

My mom is crazy about elephants: maybe one day I could take her there and do the overnight trip.

July 24, 2016 travel

Shrub

This was supposed to go up on July 1, what happened?! I don’t know. I was on vacation…

The shrub (shrubs?) is (are?) my new favorite summer drink, and it doesn’t even need to have any alcohol.

amateur vagrant shrub

Of course, you can always add alcohol.

I thought I invented a drink with soda water and apple cider vinegar, but there is nothing new under the sun. Shrubs are made by muddling berries, mint leaves and sugar, then mixing them with soda water and apple cider vinegar to taste.

Here is an anti-recipe for shrubs that is more complicated than what I did, if you’re into that sort of thing. Really, I just muddled blueberries and sugar and I loved my drink, so I don’t know about making syrup and whatnot…

It is very easy, very pretty, and very refreshing. My best friend is having a baby shower soon and I think I will make a few pitchers of shrubs to go around.

July 23, 2016 drinks

Eat That Frog

I ate some bugs and a frog in Thailand.

We bought them from this vendor in Chiang Mai:

amateur_vagrant_chiang_mai_market_edible_bugs

amateur vagrant bug vendor chiang mai thailand

 

amateur vagrant medley of fried bugs

J ate some mealworms, a grub, a grasshopper, and a cricket with me, but he would not eat that frog.

I think it’s a good time to point out that some people in Thailand eat bugs, not all Thai people.

Just like in Taiwan, some people are down with snake soup, but not anyone I know. I have students who won’t even eat century eggs, even though I personally like them in my congee. 

So just keep in mind when you see people eating “weird foods” in other countries, not even all the people in that country are down. Not all Americans eat runny eggs or rare steak.

When I was eating this frog, the Thai women in the back, young and old, were cracking jokes and laughing, but they wouldn’t even try it with us! They were yelling, “It tastes like chicken!”

It did not.

I really believe that we are all going to end up eating more bugs if not needing to rely on bugs for protein in the future. Factory farms produce so much carbon emissions and we’re already screwed because of global warming… I feel like I might as well get used to crunchy mealworms and creamy grubs.

amateur vagrant eating a grasshopper

July 22, 2016 food, travel

Health check at Landseed Hospital in Zhongli

Because some of you might have to get your health check done without any help, I thought I’d do this post to sort you out.

I went to the Landseed Hospital in Zhongli.

My healthy check cost NT$1400 (July 13, 2016).

I believe it’s NT$200 cheaper to do the health check in Taoyuan, but I prefer to do it at Landseed. Landseed is closer to my house and nicer.

Also Landseed doesn’t do a pregnancy test which requires peeing into a cup and waiting around for twenty minutes, all of which sucks.

They rely on the honor system:
X-ray technician: You have baby?
Me: No.
X-ray technician: Okay.

Bring money, 2 passport-sized photos, your ARC or your passport, and your health card, if you have it. 

I forgot to bring my photos, but they told me I could just bring them when I go pick up my health check in a week. How convenient!

You can get your health check from 8 a.m. -11a.m. or 1p.m.-4p.m. on weekdays. They also have Saturday hours. Ask at the information desk. I usually budget a couple of hours (like a free morning or afternoon) because when it’s crowded, it can take a while to cycle through all the stations you need to hit to get your tests done.

I usually go in the mornings, but this time I went on a Wednesday afternoon. I was basically the only person there and I was done in about 15 minutes. I don’t know that it’s always like that in the afternoon, but that’s a situation I’d like to recreate in the years to come.

(FYI: When I went back to pick up my documents on a Wednesday morning, it was super crowded! I had to wait 30 minutes just to sign for an envelope!)

If you can’t speak much Chinese, just be polite and patient. The staff doesn’t speak much English and they have to administer the same tests over and over again to clueless foreigners from all different countries who don’t understand any Chinese. Sometimes they seem a bit frustrated. Don’t take it personally! I try to speak Chinese and be smiley.

Okay, here’s the drill.

Here’s the entrance to Landseed Hospital.

The entrance to Landseed Hospital in Zhongli.

The entrance to Landseed Hospital in Zhongli.

The Outpatient building entrance is toward the left, behind this column.

amateur vagrant landseed hospital health check for foreigners teachers arc entrance

When you enter the building, go to the right, down the stairs to the Health Check Center on B2.

(To the left, there is an information desk, but I’ve never met anyone there who spoke any English at all.)

amateur vagrant landseed hospital health check center B2 sign

So from here, obviously, you go the left. Then you’ll see signs indicating that the health check center is on the right (past the bathrooms on the right).

amateur vagrant landseed hospital healthy check zhongli taiwan sign for health checkup center

In here, there are some nurses behind a table to the right. They will handle your paperwork. You’ll give them your ID and your insurance card, if you have it. Usually they can speak just a little English.

They will register you and send you back down the hall to pay before you get started. You exit this room and walk to the left past the bathrooms and the stairwell all the way to the end of the hall where it curves and leads right into the “Registration and Payment” office.

amateur vagrant landseed hospital health check zhongli taiwan registration and cashier desk sign

If there’s no one here, just walk to the desk and hand the person there your paperwork so they know what to charge you. If there are people already waiting, you might have to take a number.

The person there will stamp your paperwork and give you a receipt. Now walk yourself back down to the Health Check Center.

Now you are like a dog at the groomer’s. Nurses will take your blood, check your blood pressure, test your vision, and weigh and measure you, all without saying much to you. This has been my experience at every hospital for every check for all the years I’ve been here. They’re just being efficient, which means getting you out of there as quickly as possible.

The nurses also instructed me as to when I should take a number to see the doctor, who I saw right away in a private exam room. He listened to my heart and asked me a few questions about my medical history, medications, etc. If you don’t have any health concerns, this shouldn’t be a big deal.

Then the nurses sent me down the hall for a chest x-ray.

amateur vagrant landseed hospital health check zhongli taiwan sign for the x-ray room

Just hand your paperwork to the person behind the desk, then go into a dressing room and put on a blue robe. No shirt, no bra, no jewelry, and put all your hair up if you have long hair.

The x-ray technician told me, “no underwear” but she definitely only meant “no bra.” Just FYI.

 

amateur vagrant landseed hospital health check zhongli taiwan how to put on your robe for the xray

How to put on the lovely hospital gown for your x-ray.

 

So flattering.

So flattering.

After you do the x-ray, change back into your clothes. Put the blue robe in the big bin in the changing room. Gather all your paperwork and take it back to the Health Check Center and give it to the nurses at the “reception” desk there. They will confirm that you’re good to go. You’ll have to come back in a week to pick up your paperwork so you submit it when you apply for your work permit/ARC. (They gave me two copies.)

That is all! If you have any other questions, you can ask me.

July 21, 2016 life in Taiwan, pro tips

FAQs

  1. How are you?
  2. How old are you?
  3. Are you married?
  4. Is your husband Taiwanese?
  5. Do you have any kids?
  6. Why not?
  7. Are you pregnant?
  8. Why are you so fat?
  9. Why you here is so big?
  10. What did you eat for dinner?
  11. Who cooked it for you?
  12. You can cook?
  13. Do you have a sticky ball?
  14. Can we have some gum?
  15. Can we have stickers?
  16. Why do you live in Taiwan?
  17. What do you like, Taiwan or America?
  18. Do you know Stephen Curry?
  19. What is “fuckboy” mean?
  20. May I go to the bathroom?
  21. May I take out my trash?
  22. May I borrow a tissue?
  23. May I get some water?
  24. May I get some trash?
  25. May I wash you hand?
  26. You eat is what?
  27. May I have one?
  28. What you drink?
  29. Do you know Taylor Swift?
  30. Do you want some chocolate?
  31. You phone all is English. Can you read?
  32. All?
  33. You husband is handsome or ugly?
  34. Where is you mom?
  35. You every day go back America?
  36. May I borrow a pencil?
  37. May I borrow an eraser?
  38. You shoes is how many money?
  39. You have FB?
  40. What is your FB name?
  41. Do you have Line?
  42. How do you know Chinese?
  43. Do you know what is “turtle head”?
  44. Do you know what is “make love”?
  45. Do you think Taiwan children is so cute?

July 19, 2016 random note