I love this particular Billy Collins poem. “This is the beginning of sadness…”


On Turning Ten

The whole idea of it makes me feel

 like I’m coming down with something,

something worse than any stomach ache

or the headaches I get from reading in bad light–

a kind of measles of the spirit,

a mumps of the psyche,

a disfiguring chicken pox of the soul.

You tell me it is too early to be looking back,

but that is because you have forgotten

the perfect simplicity of being one

and the beautiful complexity introduced by two.

But I can lie on my bed and remember every digit.

At four I was an Arabian wizard.

I could make myself invisible

by drinking a glass of milk a certain way.

At seven I was a soldier, at nine a prince.

But now I am mostly at the window

watching the late afternoon light.

Back then it never fell so solemnly

against the side of my tree house,

 and my bicycle never leaned against the garage

as it does today,

all the dark blue speed drained out of it.

This is the beginning of sadness, I say to myself,

as I walk through the universe in my sneakers.

It is time to say good-bye to my imaginary friends,

time to turn the first big number.

It seems only yesterday I used to believe

there was nothing under my skin but light.

If you cut me I could shine.

But now when I fall upon the sidewalks of life,

I skin my knees. I bleed.

Billy Collins


My Horse Essay

by Kaylen Isabella Hou

    I am Kaylen Isabella Hou. I love horses. That is what I want to talk about. Days and days the horses are hungry and no fresh water for the colts. Horses are pushed way up to the top of the mountain. Pretty soon no horses will be left. I think we shouldn’t just think about us we should think about the living creatures on the earth. The land that you are on is their land. It was and it is their land now.  


This is a photo of Icelandic ponies in Iceland. I got it off Flickr.




Last weekend we and our neighbors on 8th floor had a table at the Orphanage Flea Market at TAS. We  love shopping at this flea market together and always get a little crazy. It is always a fun day: Kaylen and Eevie always find treasures, there is pizza for sale and chocolate cookies, throngs of intent shoppers, and Hsiuchi is a champion bargain finder. We have always talked about having a table there some day. Well, this year we did it. We started talking about it back in January and both families had piles and piles of stuff when the day came. We had mostly kids clothes, books and toys. The Lin family had  a similar collection of stuff along with some bigger items like computer equipment, an espresso maker and a small refrigerator.

The idea was to let Kaylen and Eevie be in charge and learn about making money, and have the satisfaction of selling some their unwanted items. And, in fact, they had a great time. We got together the night before and started going through things and sorting a bit, and discussed our pricing strategy and our merchandizing strategy. We started pricing late that night.

Saturday morning, we got to TAS at 8:30 am to start setting up. We had barely started unpacking and I made our first sale to a TAS staff – a pair of shoes and a pair of shorts. Garbage bags and boxes of stuff that had been in storage for six months were unpacked and set out. There was a cascade of items from behind our table and flowing onto the floor in front.


The sale didn’t start until 10 am but at 9 am there was already plenty of activity from TYPA families and fellow flea marketers browsing the other stands. At 10 am the crowds really hit. We were frantically making sales, making change, explaining features and demonstrating products. It was tense: were the Bionicles overpriced? Dacheng had insisted at marking them at NT$150 each and we decided that if they hadn’t sold by 11:00 am we would mark them down. Were the English Early Readers priced too high? No one seemed to be interested in them.

Almost all the sales we made that day were within the first hour. The Bionicles sold – one for Nt$150 and two at NT$100 a piece. The Early Readers did eventually go at the prices marked (NT$20-NT$80 a piece).

At 11:00 when things slowed down Kaylen and Eevie took NT$100 each and went shopping. Kaylen is the worst bargain hunter in the world and is more likely to pay more than the offering price than less, but she has a very good eye for special treasures.  

Kaylen and Eevie would return every few minutes to help out. It was sad to part with some of Kaylen’s old things, but it was sadder not to see some things going to new homes. I happily packed up several workbooks, readers and toys for one grandma who was stocking up on things for her grandchildren, and one mom was very happy to get a collection of Kaylen’s wooden toys that she had when she was 2-3 years old. It was sad to see four sets of Kaylen’s long underwear in great condition just sit there. Those are the kinds of things I love to stock up on at flea markets – kids long underwear sets. Oh well, those went into our neighborhood recycling bin.

Kaylen rescued some of her stuffed animals and toys that I had sorted to sell. There was a ball yoyo that she decided she didn’t want to sell.  This toy that she had ignored for months was suddenly her favorite toy. She was playing with it and a little boy saw it. He begged her to sell it to him and he finally bargained her up to NT$100. Oh, the bitter taste of regret as she watched him happily walk away with that ball! Earlier in the day she bought a lovely stuffed bear from another table for NT$100. At the end of the day when we were packing up another little girl wanted to buy it from her. Kaylen told her very definitively that it was not for sale!


We took in about NT$4,000 that day, so cleared NT$3,400 after accounting for the cost of renting the table. 

I think the main lessons learned that day were that 1) it is fun to do almost anything when you plan it with your good friends, 2) that it is more fun to get things set up and then leave the underlings (the parents, in this case) in charge of the store while you go off and shop, and 3) that some things are not for sale at any price.

The Lujou Culture Appreciation Group (current members comprise Kaylen, Eevie, Julie and Hsiuchi) went to see the If Group performance of 1234567, as promised. The four of us have been to many art events and music, dance and theatrical performances.  1234567 did not disappoint. They did some surprising and amazing things on the stage – towering structures, people swinging from ropes, layers and layers of gauze screens giving a depth to the scenery. However, there were not as many catchy show tunes as in Freeze! or Who is Santa Claus? and in it sometimes devolved into bad Taiwanese (experimental?) theatre. There was one section that used a blue sceen and real time video taping to clever and humrous effect. It was a long show, and nearing 10 pm, when most of the audience was wont to be nodding off, the cast took to the audience with an interactive composition of a melody and lyrics.

Kaylen having a chocolate egg at intermission, Eevie looking at her mom down in the lobby buying souvenirs and registering for free drawings:


The beloved Shuiguo Nainai made her appearance at the beginning and end of the show, and was around after the show for exactly 15 pictures. We were not quick enough to get in on that.

We had great seats in the second level, front row. But, all the audience interaction took place on the first level. Maybe we will try to sit there next time. 

Kaylen with ChiChi, the lead character in the show:


A nice place to window shop and snack is Zhong Zheng Road near the Shihlin MRT stop.  A favorite outing of ours is to go to the yarn store on the corner and then have lunch at Ikari. The yarn store is located at Zhong Zheng Rd and Zhong Shan N. Rd intersection across from McDonald’s on the 2F.


 Just around the corner from here one can stock up on everything Kitty at the Eastern Cherry Boutique (notice the 7-11s in both pictures, the two stores are within 100 yards of each other):


 Totoro puzzle

Kaylen has graduated to the small piece puzzles and recently completed a 300 piece puzzle of Totoro. She had some help from me as well as her friend Eevie and her cousin Yirong. On Saturday night Kaylen and I stayed up until midnight working on the puzzle. We couldn’t stop ourselves! On Sunday Kaylen and Yirong finished it and on Monday Kaylen wanted to rush out and buy another Studio Ghibli puzzle. Luckily, we found some at the Hands Tailung Craft Store at the Breeze Center in Taipei.  She started working on it last night. This one is a picture of Mei.

Kaylen learned some great ‘puzzling’ strategies like sorting all the dark blue pieces by the numer of heads on each piece. It really exercises your brain to distinguish fine differences in hue and shape. Everyone should have a nice, big puzzle going that the whole family can pour over when they have time.

Meet Ermendarde, the newest addition to our cloth doll family. Kaylen did most of the sewing on Ermengarde:


Here are the dolls we have made so far – Hannah, Ermengarde, Yoko and Fiffy:


We got our pattern for these dolls from a Martha Stewart Kids magazine that my sister Erica had. Hannah and Fiffy we made in America with Erica, and Yoko and Ermengarde we made after we got back to Taiwan.

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