Taipei


The other day, Kaylen and I were sitting outside sipping iced milk teas, gazing at the flow of Lujou life passing before us. I think it was in the middle of the week-long flooding rains Taiwan was experiencing in the second week of June.  Watching the rain from the dry comfort of our al fresco table, we were inspired to write some poetry. We talked about the haiku form. I like the haiku form: it is easy to introduce, short in length, simple in structure (5-7-5 syllables in three lines), and typically written of light-hearted subjects. 

My haiku:

Black streets wet with rain

Smokers under the awnings

June day in Taipei.

Kaylen, thinking back to our day at the beach a few days before, wrote this one:

Big blue waves crash down

Hot sand under the big sky

I surf between them.

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.  

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

 

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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.

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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!

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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:

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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:

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The high barometric pressure of the past two days has me feeling in good spirits. It is sunny but there is a cool breeze blowing through the house. Great days to do laundry as everything on the line dries in a couple hours. Breezes are blowing all the pollution away. These days are rare in Taipei.

Tonight we are going to see a show put on by the If Theatre Group called 1234567.  They do good musical shows for kids – interesting stories, high quality production and not too cutesy. There is nothing worse than a bunch of stuffed animals on the stage screaming “Da jia hao!” We have seen three shows put on by If in the past and they were all very different and all good.

It feels good to have an event planned for Friday night. We have nearly stopped making Friday night plans because there is always a class or we are too tired. But I have cleared the schedule and we are going to a performance tonight! Well, Kaylen and I are going, that is. Daddy has to work his usual 15 hour day. Kaylen and I will take showers and get ready, then head into Taipei early and have dinner somewhere. Then our friends Hsiuchi and Eevie are meeting us there, and maybe we will go out for cake after 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.

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 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):

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Friday playgroup this week found us at a new (for us) indoor recreational spot in Taipei – the exclusive Beitou Resort.

 Located at the Fuxinggang MRT stop on the Red Line, this resort was originally created for MRT staffers to use. It is one of those weird government projects that you encounter occasionally inTaiwan. A big cavernous, lonely, wind-blown place for which a lot of money was spent to build, but which was never planned to be used, a slush-fund project. It takes me back to communist China and all the cavernous, lonely, pointless, wind-blown structures there…

 The first surprise we had is that we must enter the Resort from the MRT station. Then we walked across a bridge over the train yard to get to it. Since it is cleverly disguised as a either a train depot or a prison, we weren’t at all sure we were in the right place. We found the expansive steps leading up to the main door, but the main door was locked. There was not a soul around. The only sound was that of the weed whippers at work mowing the grass between the tracks in the train yard. We found a stairway leading downstairs and headed that way. Luckily, there was someone filling an ATM and he was able to give us general directions to the main desk. We pressed on down wide hallways, past huge banquet and meeting rooms. Finally we found someone at a desk in the exercise room.

Seeing all the benefits of this place we quickly bought ourselves a NT$200 membership in the club. One mom took the wiser approach of getting a guest pass to check it out before committing.

 Membership lets you use the facilities for a small extra charge: NT$60 for the kids’ playroom, NT$90 for the pool. The pool looked nice – a lap pool, a kiddie pool and a diving pool.

The kids had a great time in the playroom, and we definitely plan to go swimming there at some point. It is a nice place to add to our (short) list of good indoor places to go for playgroup.

So, if you want to go, just get off at the Fuxinggang exit and ask for directions. You will need two ID photos and some picture ID to get a membership card made. Children also need cards so bring photos and all for them as well. Children need socks in the playroom!

Places in Taiwan are funny: they are either super crowded or super dead.

Beitou Resort is the blue and grey building off to left, next to the depot:

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Inmates, er, “members” this way:

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Landscaping crew at the Resort:

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