目前分類:My Ordinary Life in Canada (59)

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I invited a friend over for lunch the other day.  I told him about one incident I encountered in Bucharest. We ended up with a debate after lunch. The following is the incident I mentioned to him.

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One night when I went out for a walk in Bucharest, I saw a little girl no more than 6 years old out on the street after 9 o’clock at night. She was holding a picture of Jesus and sitting alone around the street corner by the hotel begging for money.

I was very sympathetic but I knew that if I gave her money, it would just encourage her parents to continue such a terrible ordeal for the little one. On my way back to the hotel, sure enough, the little girl had moved across the street sitting on the ground and falling asleep in a male’s arms behind a car. I assumed that he was the father. Further down the road, I saw a female with two other children begging for money again. This scene of panhandling is very common in Romania. 

I know the situation in Romania is dire, but we have people panhandling in all major metropolitans in North America, too. My friend insisted that he would definitely give money to those panhandlers because it is a profession that those people choose. Really?

Many panhandlers we have encountered here in Toronto are homeless drifters who chose to live that way. There is government social assistance available to some extent to help those people, but many of them have decided to opt out and panhandle on the street instead. So, for some of them, it is a life style decision by choice.

For the panhandlers in Romania, it is a complicated situation because the whole country is going through the growing pain of social and economic development ever since the fall of Communism. Some older Romanians are still romanticising with the social stability and the security that the Communist government used to bring to the old country. Right now, the social security is literally non-existent.

However, to give the littler girl money is somewhat indirectly encouraging her parents to put her on the street every night to beg for the sympathy from the passerby. I somehow struggle with the thought of “selling the kid for money”. Anyway, it was very difficult for me to walk by the kids without doing anything to help them. That was a restless night afterwards. 

Is panhandling really a profession? What do you think?

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Would you consider online tutoring as an effective way to help you learn English? What is your thought?


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I was shopping for a laser measuring device a few days ago. I called around and finally found one on Home Hardware's web site. I called the local store and got hold of a sales girl. I asked her to check if the item is available at the store. She was not sure if she could do it on the computer. She asked another woman next to her and the woman answered yes. I could hear the whole conversation when the other woman was trying to instruct her how she should work on the computer. But, then she told me on the phone that she could not do it, and it would be better for me to drive to the store to check it myself. What?! I told her it would be a long drive for me just to find out that they don't have any in stock. 

I used to be in sales. I don't understand how people such as this girl can keep her job. It would be so easy for her to check her computer for their inventory. Anyway, lazy birds get nothing. She was too lazy to do it on her computer. So, I drove to another hardware store that is closer to my house, and paid a fortune for the gadget. It might not have saved me money but it did save me the long drive and all the time and bother. Big loss for her company.


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The phone rang in the middle of one afternoon last week. I answered the phone, and a guy with a very strong accent on the other end of the line introduced himself as Michael Williams from the so-called “Window Service Centre”, claiming to be a contracted agency for Microsoft. He indicated that they had received messages from my computer, and they had a good reason to believe that my computer had encountered some issues with viruses (a problem which I happened to experience at the time).

I was skeptical but didn’t disbelieve him right away. I was somewhat curious about how he got hold of my personal information while he was trying to tell me that I had a computer virus and I needed to let him solve my problem. He wanted me to verify my name, address and phone number. Well. Well. Now, this is always a funny part when I get any telemarketing phone call from who-know-where. I immediately replied, “Wait, you should know my phone number and my name because you are the one who called me! I didn’t call you! So, why should I verify my information with you? I should ask you to prove yourself and how you got hold of my personal information."  (I could be very blunt, or pretend to be comical when I played this chatting game on the phone.)

Throughout our phone conversation, I kept pressing for how his company got hold of my personal information without my permission, and I would like to talk to his supervisor regarding the invasion of privacy. I was more annoyed with that than anything else. However, every time when I asked him questions, he would try to come back to my computer problem. It was like he was reading off a script, and he did not like to be steered away from his script. This went on for a long time. I finally had enough and told him that I knew very little about computer technical problems (a computer dummy), and I would have my family call him later. First, I asked him if his last name is Williams or William. He could not understand what I was trying to ask. That is strange, isn’t it? Haha…. Then, I asked for his phone number and address so I could call him back later. At first, he did not want to give me his phone number. He gave me a 6-digit phone number, which did not make sense at all, because our number has 7 digits. I told him that his phone number does not make sense and asked what his area code was. He had no idea what I meant about area code. I knew then this guy with an accent, very likely East Indian accent, had no idea about his area code. In fact, he didn’t know his own last name. Hahara…..

Anyway, after I hung up, I dial *69 to locate him and got hold of the source of a phone number. I then called that number back. A recording message from the federal government explained that the number I was trying to dial was a phishing scam. The government beat me to it and the big brother was watching them already! Splendid!

The fact is Microsoft would never call us for our personal computer problem. These scammers are just trying to gain access to our computer, so they could get our personal information. Shame on them!

This afternoon while I was almost snoozing on the couch (what a luxury for me), the phone rang. A voice introduced himself as Thomas William, a representative from Window Call Centre. He asked me if I had experienced problems with my computer. Here you go again! Why would they pick the same last name? Anyway, I was more annoyed that he interrupted my once-in-a-blue-moon “beauty sleep” in the afternoon. I went on the same routine phishing about how he got hold of my personal information and where he was located.  This went on for a while and going nowhere. At the end, I just screamed at him and told him that he (Thomas William), Michael Williams, or whatever Williams they want to call themselves should stop this scam. I have talked to the official and they are watching their move. Get lost, scammers! 

 


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He was in and out of the hospital since November. About a month ago, she was hoping to take him home from the hospital for the summer. She told me that she was looking forward to taking care of him and strengthening his body for two months. "The sun would be good for him in the backyard," she said. 

She was hired as a permanent teacher last October, a month before he failed ill to cancer. I have been her mentor as well as her grade level partner since last year when she was substituting for a contract position. For a long time after he got ill, she didn't want us to help her at all because she considered it as her family issue. After she used up all her sick-day allowance and then he got sicker, she had to juggle between home and school. The family problem had finally affected her professional work. For the final report cards, she finally broke down and accepted our offer to let us help her finish her class reports. When I saw her a few days ago, she choked to tears to tell me that it was only the matter of days for him. All she wanted was to take him home for the summer.

Her husband died of leukemia yesterday morning in the hospital and left his wife with two kids, aged 13 and 15. He was 57. I didn't get to know him, but I know he was loved.

R.I.P.


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My classroom was flooded on Friday because a water pipe in the ceiling next room burst during the night. The water crashed through the ceiling and flooded the room next door. It was like a lake flooding the whole room. The room next door was totally ruined. You should see my friend's face turning green after he saw his room. He apparently had a fight with his wife in the morning and then that! Throughout the day, he had to air dry his books, toys, charts and shelves. Somehow the water seeped through the dividing concrete-block wall to my room. Thank Goodness! Mine only had minor damage. Most of my books and resources are in the plastic Rubbermaid containers. Only three boxes of posters and books in banker's boxes were lost in the water. However, stress level went up when the kids came in after the bell. Can you imagine trying to teach a classroomful of kids while rescuing the books and furniture? By mid-morning, my fever blister and headache came back. I didn't get home till eight thirty Friday night. Yeah, I was TOTALLY exhausted.


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I didn’t mean to eavesdrop. However, the old energetic granny (Let’s call her Grammy H.)  who was sharing the hospital room with me had a severe hearing problem. People literally had to scream to her ears all the time to communicate with her. I was forced to watch the whole charade in the room. Grammy H could not remember her nurse’s name, either. In fact, she had repeatedly asked the same nurse about her name and where she lived whenever she came in to check on her. I finally had a chuckle and exchanged the look with the nurse. Oh, my my!

 

Grammy H had her whole family come in and out of the hospital room to visit her everyday. They all spoke so loud that I was forced to take in whatever they discussed in the room. Heck, I had no choice but to listen to her whole family drama during my four-day stay at the hospital. What can we say? When you share a room with a patient like Grammy H, you really have no choice but to live with it. So, I might as well write it down for my blog, and this is how it happened.

 

Grammy H came into the hospital because she had an earache and an accidental fall at home. Grammy H was almost 91 years old and living with one of her grandsons, Junior. Junior apparently was the main caretaker for her because he was living with her due to his job location in town. In fact, from all the conversations I’d heard, I believe he was the only one, of all people, who truly cared about Grammy H. I got to talk to him and his father when they came in to visit her. The way Junior talked to Grammy H was so genuine and appeared to have no condition attached, which was very different from the other family members of hers.

 

Grammy’s other family members came in to visit her as well, and they all wanted something from her. The daughter kept pressuring Grammy to sign a paper to state that she would not wish to move out of her home after her discharge from the hospital. She also brought her children in to pressure Grammy to sign the paper. Their reason was that they did not want Grammy to move out of the house. Apparently, Grammy lived in a big house with Junior, and she loved her house and garden. They told Grammy that if she did not sign the paper, they (the hospital doctors and her son) would put her in a nursing care or take her away to a farm.

 

Grammy wanted to stay in her house, but she also knew that her daughter had a different reason for wanting her to stay in the big house. Grammy told her brothers and other relatives that her daughter just wanted to have the access to her house and her property. From what I had heard, Grammy H just wanted to go home with Junior, her beloved grandson from her son’s side. She believed that Junior would take care of her because he was the only one who cared about her.

 

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  • Dec 28 Tue 2010 12:17
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無題

我最討厭放假前生病,因為我的整個假期就泡湯了!大部份的放假時間我都在養病。即使已經痊癒了,我還是得閉關自守,小心再次著涼。我已經不會傳染給別人了,但是身體還是很虛弱。這次的流行性感冒在學校傳染了好一陣子,好多人都受到感染。我算是最後的受害者之一。

今年的聖誕節我就獨自在家中過,連家庭聚餐我也沒去。因為我不想讓去年的歷史重演。去年家中九十二高齡的老姨媽剛搬到養老院裹,一整個院裹的老人流傳嚴重的流行性腸胃炎,上吐下瀉,而她也被感染。我們要她好好休養,但是她堅持要參加家庭聚餐。結果,除了我以外,全家都在餐後中標。所以今年我主動堅持要在家養病,不想當家庭罪人,但是整日實在是無聊之極。

 生病的日子是非常痛苦的!

 

Untitled

I hate being sick right before the holidays, because I spent most of my vacation time recuperating from the sickness. Even though I am feeling much better, I still have to take it easy and avoid catching the cold again. I am not contagious to other people, but my body is still very weak. This flu has been passed around at school for quite a while, many people were infected. I was one of the latest victims.

This Christmas I decided to stay home alone and did not go to the family dinner. I did not want to repeat what happened last year. Last year, our ninety-two year old aunt just moved to a retirement home. The Norwalk virus was spreading around at the retirement home before Christmas. The aunt was infected with severe gastroenteritis and diarrhea. We wanted her to take rest at home, but she insisted on attending the family dinner. The whole family got sick afterwards except me. So, this year I took the initiative and volunteered to stay home for recuperation. I did not want to be the guilty one, but the day alone at home was really boring.

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I am lying in the hospital bed alone, listening to the charades of people shuffling through the hallway, coming in and out of each room. It is the family visit hour. I am staying in the hospital for a short term, and hopefully, I may be able to get out of here on Monday. However, most of the people I have met on this floor would need some contingency plan in place before they can go back home. I am the youngest among the patients here. Most of them are seniors. I am in a semi private room. The lady who shares the room with me is going to be 90 this year. For the last few days, I have watched and listened to the conversations and movements on the floor. I have seen the ugliest family feud over family estate before my own eyes. I am sitting here alone without my family beside me. I can sense and relate the feelings of loneliness to many of these seniors who don’t get any family to visit them. This is the situation that I can foresee myself in the future, being old and alone. Everything happens for a reason. I start to wonder if it is a sign to show me that I should volunteer for lonely seniors who simply have nobody to come visit them in the hospital.


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I guess the thought of “Back to School” finally pushed me over the edge and pumped my blood pressure over the limit to the record high 227over 102.

 

I felt my heart was palpitating faster than usual over the last three days, but then, I thought that was because I had been busy running around like a headless chicken with errands. Plus, I started my swimming lessons a week ago. The muscle fatigue might have triggered my problem. Needless to say, I was merely guessing and playing doctor. Finally on Thursday night, I measured my blood pressure and it registered 166 over 99. After contacting the TeleHealth, an Ontario health care online support agency, I was told to immediately check in to the emergency room at the local hospital.

 

Thank Goodness, it was not too busy at the Emergency Room. I stayed in the ER over night, and a few hours later after seeing the ER doctor, I was finally admitted to the hospital. I really respect what these professionals do day in and day out. I know I am in good hands. The hospital staffs are still doing all kinds of tests on me. I have never seen so many sophisticated pieces of equipment in my entire life. Hopefully, nothing’s wrong with my heart or there is no cardio-related problem.

 

The only thing I know is I am feeling much better now with the new medication. However, I was bored to tears sitting in the hospital room until I finally got my laptop. So, this is a vacation break for me to be away from home.

 

Julia1492

Writing and posting from the hospital room.

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A few months ago, I received an email from a complete stranger, Henry. Apparently, Henry has been reading my blog stories about immigration for a while. In his email, he introduced himself and explained to me that he and his family were soon to immigrate to Canada. He was excited but also very anxious about the unknown future settlement in Ontario. He asked me many questions in his email which I gladly replied with the best of my knowledge.

 

Although Henry was not the first stranger to contact me for information about immigration, I was still a bit taken back when I read his first email. How on earth did I get an email from a passerby? Years ago, I would probably delete it right away and change my email account all together. After years of blogging and hundreds of emails and messages from strangers later, I’ve learned to be “brave” yet still careful whenever I receive an email like that. I am a very private person. As much as I carry a different persona online, I am still a very serious person in real life.

 

During our course of communication, I was quite let down by another annoying experience I had encountered at another social site. I was very disappointed how people, total strangers, could judge and criticize one another blatantly online. Honestly, I had a second thought about how much I should get involved to help others.

 

Anyway, Henry and his family turned out to be wonderful in every way and very grateful with all the information I had given them through our email exchange and Skype communication. They arrived two weeks after we started chatting online via Skype and later comfortably settled in a rental condo in a city not far from me.

 

The total strangers have become friends all because of the amazing Internet. On the other hand, total strangers could also rip each other apart from different ends of the world in the comfort of their own home. It was crazy!

 

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We flew out of Buffalo, New York to New York City because our travel agent made a mistake and overbooked the airline that we originally wanted. We had never been to the Buffalo Airport and we were not comfortable to drive around Buffalo at 3 o’clock in the morning to look for the airport. The travel agency agreed to pay for the round trip shuttle buses to and from the Buffalo airport as compensation. I was not happy about the idea of crossing the border early in the morning, either. Any delay at the border could create another unnecessary anxiety for me. This was supposed to be my relaxing vacation, but at that point, after the hassle with the hotel booking and the overbooked flight, I was not ready to deal with another problem.

 We had never flown out of Buffalo, so it was a new experience. The shuttle bus picked us up at 4:45 in the morning, later than I thought. The US-Canada border was already busy at that time. Thank Goodness that we did not have to wait too long at the border to deal with the immigration/custom officer. Our time was very tight. Due to the airport security, we had to be there early for the security checkpoint. It was easy to cross the border, but the nightmare started at the airport. The airport was full of Americans and Canadians who were flying out for their March Break. The lines at JetBlue were long, too long. The flight to New York City was absolutely jam packed. We were quite surprised that people would start their March Break vacation so late like we did. We just did not realize there was another reason why people were travelling to those major destinations such as New York City.

 It was interesting to go through US custom security checkpoint. We had to take off our shoes, bracelets, jackets and heavy winter parkas. (We did not have to do that when we flew back to Taiwan last summer.) When I walked through the gate, the alarm SUDDENLY went off. It was my metal-studded belt! After I took off my belt, the coins, and then my watch, the alarm went off again and again! What now? I was not ready to go to the little room to strip for the search. Finally, one officer told me that it could be my hairclip. My clip was made of plastic! Well, the culprit WAS my hairclip all right! The little metal clamp part of my hairclip triggered the alarm. That was just too ridiculous!

 Don’t get me wrong. I was happy that they were so thorough about the airport security, so I didn’t have to deal with any crazy nuts like “the shoe bomber”. Anyway, the returned trip was pretty much the same with the security. It took me a couple of times to walk through that sensitive gate. The culprit was always the little hairclip. Next time, only elastic bands will be used for my pony tail. NO more hairclips for me when flying!

 We finally got to New York City at 9:30 in the morning. The weather couldn’t be more gorgeous! I had a good sleep in the airplane and was ready to ramble. The JFK airport was not as busy as I had expected at that time in the morning, but it was definitely full of people wearing GREEN. Well, that would be another story.


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My March Break started last Monday, but we did not have any vacation plan until late last week. Why? It was because Da Pong’s vacation was not confirmed until the last minute. Last weekend, we decided to pay a visit to the travel agency and booked the flights and hotel to New York City. Now, this trip is a bit against my regular travel pattern because I usually plan the whole vacation on my own before I book for flights and hotels. It is an old habit of mine because I used to work as an international conference planner and a tour escort teacher, so travel planning is something that I quite enjoy doing. However, this time it was a bit different. I just let the travel agent do everything for me and what a big mistake that was!

 

First, the agent booked a hotel that is very old and famous, one of the largest hotels in New York City. Without doing any research on the hotel, we just looked at the picture of the attractive building and immediately signed our names on the dotted line. (We are suckers for beautiful old architecture design.) A lesson learned: Never judge a hotel by its appearance!

 

Later that day after we got home, I went online to read about that cool looking hotel. My heart just sank lower and lower like a rock while I was reading the hotel reviews one after another. Apparently, the hotel has so many complaints against it, particularly, the complaints about BED BUGS!

 

Now, if I paid only the price for a motel, I probably would just bite my teeth and expect a motel or hostel grade service. Unfortunately, we paid a fortune for the hotel and we might be at risk of staying in a bug-infested hotel. I couldn’t sleep that night. Just the thought of it drove me nuts.

 

The next morning, I got a phone call from the travel agent to inform us about the change of flights. Originally, we were supposed to fly out of Toronto. Somehow, the flights we booked were no longer available (no reason given), and we had to fly out of Buffalo instead. Now Buffalo is further away from us. Plus, we did not want to drive around Buffalo at 3 o’clock in the morning.

 

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My March Break started last Monday, but we did not have any vacation plan until late last week. Why? It was because Da Pong’s vacation was not confirmed until the last minute. Last weekend, we decided to pay a visit to the travel agency and booked the flights and hotel to New York City. Now, this trip is a bit against my regular travel pattern because I usually plan the whole vacation on my own before I book for flights and hotels. It is an old habit of mine because I used to work as an international conference planner and a tour escort teacher, so travel planning is something that I quite enjoy doing. However, this time it was a bit different. I just let the travel agent do everything for me and what a big mistake that was!

 

First, the agent booked a hotel that is very old and famous, one of the largest hotels in New York City. Without doing any research on the hotel, we just looked at the picture of the attractive building and immediately signed our names on the dotted line. (We are suckers for beautiful old architecture design.) A lesson learned: Never judge a hotel by its appearance!

 

Later that day after we got home, I went online to read about that cool looking hotel. My heart just sank lower and lower like a rock while I was reading the hotel reviews one after another. Apparently, the hotel has so many complaints against it, particularly, the complaints about BED BUGS!

 

Now, if I paid only the price for a motel, I probably would just bite my teeth and expect a motel or hostel grade service. Unfortunately, we paid a fortune for the hotel and we might be at risk of staying in a bug-infested hotel. I couldn’t sleep that night. Just the thought of it drove me nuts.

 

The next morning, I got a phone call from the travel agent to inform us about the change of flights. Originally, we were supposed to fly out of Toronto. Somehow, the flights we booked were no longer available (no reason given), and we had to fly out of Buffalo instead. Now Buffalo is further away from us. Plus, we did not want to drive around Buffalo at 3 o’clock in the morning.

 

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We went over to IKEA yesterday to get more filing boxes for my new bookshelves, a long over due Christmas present that I desperately need. This was the second time that we made a big purchase at IKEA, and surprisingly, we have been very happy with the quality of their products and service. After the shopping, Da Pong and I had an interesting discussion about a little conversation that we overheard at the checkout line.

 

At the line-up by the cashier checkpoint, an IKEA cashier loudly bragged to a couple of customers that he finally finished his education a week before Christmas while working full time at IKEA. Da Pong chuckled and muttered to himself that why the young man would consider that as a big deal- a newly graduate with a college degree but still working at IKEA as a cashier. I elbowed him hard (trust me, I have very strong right arm ) to signal him how inappropriate his comment was even though I was the only one who had heard his mumbling voice.

 

I know Da Pong’s jokes may be truthful but very inappropriate for the time and place. When we came out of the store, I gave him my after-fact complaint (the typical Julia1492’s fume) and told him that it was not very kind to mumble comments like that even though he did not mean to insult the young man. The fact is we do not know the circumstances the young man is in. The young man might be very proud of his achievement because he had worked at IKEA to pay for his schooling. Now, he would have a better opportunity to aim for a better career choice. For all we know, he could be in transition right now for his career.

 

For some people, it is a REALLY big deal for them to be able to support themselves throughout university with very little means from their family. The only way to reach their goal in life is to work part time or full time to pay for their own education. I know how difficult it could be to go to school while working full time because I did it myself and so did all my siblings. I am pretty sure that many readers here probably had the similar experiences. A college or university degree did not come easily to those who couldn't afford it.

 

We all came from different backgrounds and circumstances. Although we like to believe that we were all born equal, but the truth is we were not; some might be born with a silver spoon in life but others with destitute. It might not be easy for us to change our family circumstances but it IS feasible to reach a better life through hard work. I often said that I wouldn’t be able to make it this far without my education which is my ticket to a successful career.

 

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After four days of walking around Taipei City, Da Pong and I finally got a day off. We decided to accompany my mother to visit one of the Tzu Chi Hospitals. My mother somehow travels far to this hospital every month for her monthly checkup. It is quite a distance for her to travel by bus from Sin Zhuan to Sin Dian! I wanted to tag along to see her health report. Plus, I really wanted to see this hospital and, furthermore, my donation dollars at work, I guess.

 

I don’t mind disclosing a little fact that I do donate to many charities regularly and Tzu Chi is one of them. A close friend of mine is an active member in the town I live, and I donate the money through her to Tzu Chi every month. I have heard many stories about how they helped build the hospital, but this would be my first time to visit one. Honestly, I was quite impressed with the size of the hospital and how orderly the process was wherever we went.

 

I never like hospitals because it always reminds me of the time when my dad was in and out of three hospitals. You would get to hate it as well if you had to visit the hospital everyday. Anyway, I was very impressed with what I saw at the Tzu Chi Hospital. I don’t know how the quality of the service is like for that size of a hospital though. The large number of patents and the number lights made the place look just like conveyer lines to me. Can a doctor really get to know a patient well at a big hospital? I don’t have the answer but, at least, I know they’ve got a happy patient- my mother. My mother obviously is happy enough to visit there on a monthly basis.

 

Other than the visit to the hospital with my mother, we actually had another plan for the day. We planned to have the first ET encounter. I am not talking about the alien ET but the blog friends on English Taiwan site(ET2). After the hospital visit, I called up my blog friend Carlito again to confirm the time of our date at lunch, which happened to be the day after his birthday. I had been looking forward to this day. For this trip to Taiwan, I did not really plan to meet up with anybody at first because my time was limited and the schedule was tight. However, the messages I had received from so many blog friends from ET2 and the other two blog sites (Wretch and Pixnet) were quite overwhelming. I was humbled by all the kindness and friendly gesture I had received. I am very sorry if I did not get to see all of you due to my time constraint.

 

Da Pong and I were quite excited and nervous about meeting up with the first blog friend on ET2! Well, it turned out to be blog “friends”. On the phone, Carlito mentioned that he would bring along another friend, Summerplayer. Excellent! It was even better to meet up with two at the same time. Da Pong felt a bit awkward at first because he knew nothing about my blog friends. All the information he heard about Carlito was all second hand information through me, so he was hesitant about going along to meet them. Well, if I was the tour organizer for Da Pong, he didn’t really have a choice, did he?

 

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Ever Since the report of Typhoon Morakot hit the news, I have glued myself to read news after news on the computer everyday. I don’t really have the mood to write anything, not even my trip reports. All the past memories for the places I had visited suddenly became heartaches. It was only about a week before August 8, I visited A-li-shan for a few days and toured around Kaohsiung City and the County with my family. When I read about the places I visited may no longer be there, I just couldn’t bring myself to write about the trips.

 

Today, I read about the damage of the highest elementary school at A-li-shan, Siang Shan Elementary School. I remember the day when Da Pong and I were standing outside a temple by the beautiful school, reading the banner on the wall and discussing about the possibility of going back to reside in Taiwan. We were jokingly hoping that we might be able to teach or volunteer at Siang Shan Elementary School or any aboriginal school one day. Now looking back and thinking of those children we met at A-li-shan who may not be able to return to their school in two weeks, it is just heart wrenching.


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We talked to a taxi driver at one time to enquire about the sword-makers around Taipei area. The driver told us there might be a sword shop close to a particular intersection by Chong Ch’ing Nan Road, and we should be able to spot it quickly if we were at the intersection. According to his instruction, this particular store should not be too far from the CKS’s Memorial Hall. So, I thought we might as well walk there since we were already at CKS Memorial Hall. Duh! Wrong! What was I thinking?
 
The two roads he gave us were not intersected at all, and they were very far apart.
With the map in hands, we kept walking and walking to look for this shop that turned out to be non-existent at all.
People might ask, “Why didn’t you take a taxi?” Well. If I had an address, I would! However, we did not really know where the shop was located! We could only walk and search the area.  
 
Did I mention that it was the hottest day since our arrival? We were so cooked!
We finally stopped at Nan Yang Street, near the train station. By then, Da Pong got blisters on his feet. We had to take “cooling” shelter at the MacDonald’s in order for me to go look for Band-Aids and socks! Yes, socks! We had to ditch the sandals for shoes.  
 
On this hot day, we walked upstairs to the second floor of a MacDonald’s in search of a seat. All we saw was students with books on the table. One person often took up a table alone or sometimes with a drink on the table.
Anyway, thank Goodness, we found a table with two seats on the second floor at this crowded MacDonald’s by Nan Yang Street! What a miracle! I almost kneeled down to kiss the floor!
 
 
Here is my complaint about all the fast food restaurants in Taiwan.
Well, the complaint is not really about the restaurants per se, but about the “invaders”. Almost all the fast food restaurants we went to were “invaded” by people, mostly students, who just sat there and used the tables as their study room or lounge for a nap! Do you know how hard it is to find a table at a fast food restaurant in downtown Taipei? It was extremely difficult for us and this happened so many times during our visit to Taiwan, to the point that one of us had to be a scout to look for a table first before we ordered any food. If there was no table, we left!  
 

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It is not easy to be a tour operator, especially one who does not get paid!   While I was planning for the day trip each day, I would collect information from taxi drivers and bus drivers. I talked to family, relatives, blog friends, friends and neighbours just to organize a route that would cover every stop that we would like to visit. Every night, I would search online on the special places or interesting destinations to visit. Since Da Pong suddenly had this special mission for Chinese and Japanese swords, I had been researching on the sword-makers in Taiwan.  
 
I must be out of my mind to pick the hottest day to visit Chiang Kai Shek’s Memorial Hall. (See, I forgot to research on the weather!) The day to CKS Memorial Hall was a bit uneventful because we had been there many times. Plus, it was the hottest day ever since our arrival. The heat obviously started to get to us and our pace had been slowed down substantially.  
 
We changed from a bus to subway at Si Men Ding. Since I had lived in Si Men Ding for many years, we decided to swing by the old streets and the temple to pay a visit. We were so hot that we ended up going into the temple to cool down for a bit. The following trip to the CKS Memorial Hall was like snail pace. We dragged our feet for every step we took. (Who decided to build a hall with so many steps anyway?) 
 
At CKS Memorial Hall, we wanted to see the changing of guards. While we were hanging around downstairs, cooling and waiting, we forgot the time and spent too much time going through the display of CKS’s life history. There was also a special Tibet exhibit which was very interesting. I always have a great respect for Tibetans and certainly did not want to miss the display.  
 
Spending too much time at the lower-levelled exhibition halls, we missed the changing of guards! Interestingly enough, while we were looking around at the gift shop, the guards came down and actually passed by us at the lower hall. It was fantastic for us! Da Pong got to snap a few photos of them, which was better than nothing. 
 

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After three days in Taipei, we were beginning to get used to the persistent heat. When I said “get used to”, I basically meant that we simply accepted the facts that; One, there was no use to keep our shirts dry because it was not going to happen; Two, there was no point wiping our sweat because they would keep dripping down like going through a car wash. Three showers a day would not be enough for us. We were simply perspiring profusively, literally like pigs throughout the day.

 

After the day trip to Taipei 101 and Dr. Sun Y.S.’s Memorial Hall, we decided to visit the Guang Hua Shopping Centre to get a few memory cards for the cameras. In my old memories, I still had this impression of a dark old shopping area with many used book stores in the dingy basement under the bridge. On the contrary, I was surprised to find this new building of this electronics shopping centre quite nice, bright and airy.

 

We got to the shopping centre too early, one hour before the opening time. It was not fun to hang around an empty place. We were like two hungry kids outside a closed candy shop; we could only look in but couldn’t touch. No fun at all! Finally we found a shop that opened early and they did sell memory cards for the camera. Da Pong went for a card with 16 Mg., but little did we know that our camera would not read a card that big; anyway, that would be another story for another time.

 

Since only a handful of stores were open early, we hung around for a short while and left for the museum. While we were at the Centre, I made a quick phone call to Carlito to wish him a Happy Birthday. The phone call was short and I guessed I just caught him off guard. Anyway, it was good to talk to a real blog friend on the phone and we set a time to meet in person. Man, his Chinese is good!

 

We like to walk a lot, but it is a completely different story when walking in the sun, in the heat and looking for street names and bus stops. Two overweight people strolled on the street in Taipei with hats, shorts, running shoes, backpacks, hand towels and bottles of liquid in our hands. We somehow just didn’t fit into the 9 to 5 office crowds on the street. Yeah, we sure looked like two odd tourists with the word “tourist” stenciled all over our foreheads. Wherever we went, we had to ask people for directions to get to the subway or bus stops. I thought I was pretty good with reading maps, but I guessed we were direction-challenged in Taipei. Anyway, we walked all the way to the closest subway station from Guang Hua Shopping Centre and then on our way to the National Palace Museum.

 

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