Friday Night in Taipei

I should be going to bed soon, but I wanted to write up first one of the most fun nights I’ve had in awhile.  I got to stay in Taipei at my friend’s apartment, and we had so much fun.  I rested all day because I hadn’t slept well in a long time, and I felt really off and tired since arriving in Taiwan.  I ended up skyping my friend for three hours in the noon, and it was a good talk.  Then I started getting ready, and met up with my friend for dinner at Miss Green.  I was pretty tired even just transferring at the MRTs… but I was reminded of how fun it was to ride the brown line where the MRT is built on top of the city as opposed to underground, and so the view was exciting.  Before Miss Green, I stopped by Sanzara Plara next to her apartment to grab dim sum, and then I ended up waiting at a cute cafe called The Bling House for her to arrive around 8pm.

Then the fun part began!!  We bar hopped, and ended up going to a total of four places.

  1.  Ounce – we walked to some cafe that looked closed or dead, but once inside, saw a couple people waiting.  We pressed a button on the wall, and the wall adjacent to it opened up and a waiter popped his head out – it was a Speakeasy bar, so cool!  Kind of hipstery, we probs waited around 15-20 min and the bartender made a drink of passionfruit rum for me and an old fashioned whiskey for Sharon.    It was a bit more of an intimate setting, quiet, good for a second date kind of vibe.
  2. RnD – my favorite place of the night!  Walked to the front of some deserted looking place, opened the door and it was LIT inside.  Glowing lights, dressy hip young people standing waiting around for tables or the bar.  Two women tried to convince me to get a tattoo in the bathroom, and Sharon and I enjoyed watching the bartenders make drinks and she got a coffee drink, mine was a whiskey mint chocolate drink (soo good).  This place was chill but fancy, I loved the ambiance and it was cheaper and a bigger space.
  3. Frank’s – open rooftop place, 500 NT per person.  Fun place, vibing music, but the drinks sucked…  2 drinks per person, I got a raspberry puree vodka and a red wine (both sucked).
  4. Barcode – a two minute walk away, I was definitely tipsy at this point and felt invincible.  Here, two Madrid brothers talked to us and bought us drinks.  They were nice and tried to convince us to go to some Halloween party.

We went to 7-Eleven and got some ramen around 3:30am.

Unfortunately, I paid for it all of today cause I’m completely wiped out and have no energy at all and feel like shit… but it was worth it.

Waste

You know, it’s interesting to me that we often discuss waste, but not much in the literal sense.  More in the abstract sense of “waste of time, waste of emotions, ugh Trump is such a waste of space” that kind of thought.  “That boy is not worth my time,” the usual kind of relationship material featured on mainstream music like Taylor Swift. Maybe it’s more romantic than talking about actual, straight up, physical waste.

I don’t remember where I read this from, so forgive me if the forgotten source detracts from the credibility of my blog post, but Americans do waste 40% of their groceries on average.  When I came across this figure, I paid attention to the amount of food I unearthed in the fridge that had gone bad because it was shoved way in the back, or we simply ran out of time before it started getting inedible, and ashamedly I admit it was probably close to that figure that particular week.  After that, I tried to stay on top of things and remember to use up food while it was fresh, but this new mindfulness conflicts with my natural hoarder mentality to tuck everything away and save it “for next time.”  Especially during college, when I had the occasional frame of mind to focus on making food with real ingredients and not instant ramen, I would open the fridge and stare aghast at the over-aged, sad-looking, withered bok choy and the molded cheese and fruit (It had only been a week!)

I grew up in a household where a few grains of rice left on my bowl prompted my mother to warn me that the amount of grains remaining equaled the amount of pimples on my future husband’s face.  Even though some unused ingredients manage to slip through here and there, my parents had known a harder life than I had, and know the value of food.  I’m not saying it was helpful or fun to hear a voice constantly guilting you of all the African and Asian children starving when you couldn’t finish your noodles or felt unmotivated to eat the rest of the fried rice- I was too young to understand anything from it anyway except that it made me feel bad.  Regardless, the general rule was that until the food placed on your plate was empty, your butt was not allowed to leave the chair.  This plus my eating problems resulted in many nights of sitting at the kitchen table for hours.

In contrast, my friend and I talked about the occasional dinner to a white friend’s house, and finding it absolutely blasphemous when they couldn’t finish their dinners, instead of putting it in the fridge as leftovers, the simple answer to most things was to throw it out.  And while I am certain this was not the scenario for every white family, or even my scenario for every Asian family, there seemed to be a common theme for some differences, particularly for how privileged the family or generation is at the time as well.

Many other countries consider Americans lazy, pampered slobs. In many ways, they are right.  When other countries think of McDonalds and obesity first, that’s kind of upsetting.  Going to Taiwan and Japan, many parts of the culture revolves around the theme of moderation.  I find that every single napkin handed to me by the waiter in Japan is petite, and valued.  Place this image side by side to the food court at some American mall, where some dude walks by and grabs an unnecessarily large wad of napkins, all to jam into his face as he eats a burger and fries.  Sometimes, I get frustrated that I have to walk a couple blocks to the subway station in Taiwan just to find a trash can to throw a cup out, but you know what?  It works.  Furthermore, Denmark has transformed into waste-to-energy country, with a Zero Waste system in place.  I’m pretty happy to be an American, and I am proud to call myself one, but on the other hand, why is it that such a powerful, great nation is unable to achieve what many other smaller countries already have?

Another facet of waste that I see often that is a personal pet peeve of mine, is the waste of water.  Let me begin by saying that I definitely waste water- I am very guilty of taking long hot showers, especially when I’m having an off day.  It’s one of the best feelings in the world.  But what really gets me is when people take their time examining their face in the mirror and leave the faucet running for a minute or more.  I see this all the time in public bathrooms, and it BOTHERS ME.  Because well, at least the hot shower was contributing to someone’s happiness, but this is just well, plain waste for no reason at all except habit.

I love watching cooking shows.  But every time the judge takes one bite of food and then leaves the rest, I can’t help but assume that the remaining food is thrown away.  I cringe when I see Joe Bastianich throw the entire plate into the trash can just because it’s not up to his standards.  I mean, is that really necessary?  While I’m on cruises, I get excited when I know that I get to order as many things as I want, try and taste different plates, because well, the whole point of the cruise is to spoil yourself and get all glutinous, right?  A part of me says not to, but I still end up picking maybe two things and not finishing all of it.

I am a hypocrite, but as I’ve grown older, I’ve watched more documentaries (“Living On One Dollar A Day”, courtesy of Netflix, hop on it folks) on why and how people who count every drop and every bite of food, and I’ve had few moments when I was alone and had little access to buy a meal or go grocery shopping.  Of course, my spare moments are nothing to complain about, but I just mean that I had a very minor taste in what it could be like to be hungry and make every bit count.  I’ve walked by the streets and seen homeless people waiting to get enough for the next meal, or been asked to donate some money to organizations.  Listen, I know none of us are exactly able to dump out our pockets and just give it all away, because soon enough, one after the other there are more and more causes piling up, it’s endless.  The ongoing problems in our world rarely end, especially the common themes of war, hunger, poverty, politics, inequalities, etc..  But maybe I can honor the organizations and people a little bit by trying harder than I am now not to waste.  It doesn’t kill me to make that tiny choice of finishing the rest of the food for tomorrow, it doesn’t kill me to decide to research a few ways to use “waste,” such as using stale bread to make bread pudding, or overripe bananas into smoothies.  Even throwing waste into the garden patch is better than just throwing it into the can!  It doesn’t kill me to form the habit of remembering to turn off the faucet more frequently. I’m not saying, force yourself to eat the sad-looking, withered bok choy or the expired cheese.  Just being more mindful of little choices everyday is a great habit to have, despite our flaws and our desires to be less so.   We know there are better solutions out there, and it must be a goal to better our methods from the personal habits to society’s answer to waste and pollution.

 

 

Best Movie Soundtracks and Composers

When I was five, I began figuring out how to play “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” on the upright piano.  My mom then heard me play “Memory” from the musical “Cats,” and deemed me a musical genius from that point on.  She sent me to piano lessons, and I played the flute for a couple years in middle school.

Throughout my love-hate relationship with music and piano, it became both a source of peace and stress.  I practiced hours a day before competitions, and my mom and my piano teacher were both one of those strict tiger moms who disciplined me hardcore:  piano and I shared many moments of tears and breakdowns where I wanted to quit.

There is one aspect of music that never failed to cause me grief though, and that was listening to soundtracks.  There is something about the magical realm where my love for film meets music, and deciphering how the composer creates a memorable, distinctive theme that belonged to no other but the movie and its message.  When you hear it, within seconds you know right away it’s Jaws, or Star Wars.

That said, here is a list of the classics and some of my personal favorites.

The legendary John Williams (who often writes the music of Steven Spielberg and George Lucas)

  • Jaws 1975 –   ominous half step, two-note motif
  • Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark 1981 – heroic, cheeky trumpet, orchestra, brass, percussion
  • Star Wars 1997-2015 – opening theme – fanfare, welcoming, march
    • +Imperial March (Darth Vader’s theme) – dark, march of impending doom
    • +Across the Stars (Love theme between Anakin and Padme)-opening by oboe solo accompanied by orchestra: somber, romantic, minor key. Repeated by orchestra, harp
  •  Harry Potter (Hedwig’s theme) 2001-2011 – beginning mysterious triangle (?) theme in minor key, repeated by orchestra.
  • The Patriot 2000 – calm, higher range violin takes melody in counts of 3, legato, slight celtic sound with orchestral back up
  • Jurassic Park 1993 – 2015

Hans Zimmer – experimenting with unconventional ways of producing abstract, ambient sounds (Christopher Nolan)

  • Inception 2010 – brave, wandering, and dreamy, soft timpani with cautious orchestra. Complemented with higher guitar string two-note repeat.  Ebb and flow.
  • Interstellar 2014 – dream-like, piano-organ combination with experimental sounds with woodwind and choral elements.
  • Gladiator  2000 –
    • + “Honor Him” timpani, orchestra, minor key, noble.
    • +”Now We Are Free”

James Horner – (James Cameron) classic, hopeful, hopeless romantic, emotional.   R.I.P.

  • Titanic 1997 “My Heart Will Go On” sung by Celine Dion – originally orchestral, but became vocal; beginning flute trill
  • Avatar 2009 “I See You” sung by Leona Lewis
  • Troy 2004
  • A Beautiful Mind 2002

Ennio Morricone 

  • The Mission 1986 “Gabriel’s Oboe” – hopeful, beautiful, calm; oboe theme also in vocal, cello versions
  • Others:  The Hateful Eight, The Best Offer, other Italian movies

Nino Rota – 

  • The Godfather soundtrack series  1972-1990   – wistful, somber, threatening, sustained melody

Klaus Badelt – 

A. R. Rahman – (Danny Boyle) eccentric, vibrant amalgamation of Asian with European, electronic and acoustics

  • Slumdog Millionaire  2008 – “Jai Ho”- rhythmic, pulsating, blend of Indian Bollywood, Spanish, and other elements
  • 127 Hours  2011 – with Dido- “If I Rise- gentle, ethereal vocal accompanied with quiet rhythm and guitar strumming
    • +”Funeral” – Band of Horses

Mark Isham –

  • Life as a House  2001 No Reservations 2007   –“Building a Family” – homey, piano with oboe, strings

Cinematic Orchestra 

 

TV SHOW THEMES 

John Lunn – 

  • Downton Abbey 2010-2015 – “Did I Make the Most of Loving You”

Bear McCreary – 

  • Walking Dead 2010-current theme – anxiety-ridden, unsettling, orchestra rifts, distortion, apocalypse sounding
    • +”Mercy of the Living”

Ramin Djawadi –

 

And of course, I got to give a celebratory shout-out to the amazing Asian films, especially those that have blossomed in recent years, such as the Taiwanese movie industry!  It all began with the movie that revived it all, Cape No. 7. We also can’t forget the wonderful Joe Hisaishi, who has written so many for the Japanese films, particularly legendary Hayao Miyizaki animations in Studio Ghibli.

  1. Cape No. 7 2008 – “Love Letters”

Joe Hisaishi has his own category:

  1. Kikujiro 1999 – “Summer”
  2. Howl’s Moving Castle 2004 – charming, waltz-like, spiral-y strings with piano
  3. Other notables:  Princess Mononoke, Spirited Away,  Castle in the Sky Laputa

 

Happy listening!!!  Let me know which ones are your favorites and if I missed any 🙂

 

 

 

3 Happiest Moments

Every time I read a Harry Potter book, I would pause when Harry had to use the Patronum charm to scare away the dementors.  I would rack my brain, unsure of what I would use as my happiest memory in a pinch.  Thankfully, in the past two years I can think of three points in time where I felt absolutely nothing but 100% bliss.

1.  My last night in Taiwan, Summer of 2014.  The last night: with all the wonderful people in one place, it was definitely the most bittersweet highlight of my trip there.  I loved the friends I made who I openly shared my stories with, cried with, laughed with, and explored with; they were memories that I never thought would happen to me.  About 17 of us gathered to eat dinner together and celebrate my farewell and Sharon’s birthday. 10604046_10152605361478960_8542847123242569586_o

Maybe it was the fact that I knew this trip would only last two months that I was so free-spirited and appreciative.  It was that whole sentimentality of “We will never all be together, at this exact place, at this exact time, at this exact mo-” well, you get the picture.   We found a rooftop-ish bar near central Taipei 101, drinking a little, taking photos, and just soaking in the moment.  Sharon gave me a gigantic card with heartfelt messages from everyone, and my Swedish friend Chris also gave me some (rather questionable) Swedish candy and a letter.  If there is any direct key to my heart, it would be a long sappy letter.  Sharon, Nathalie, and I sneaked away from the group to walk up to the actual rooftop, and we lay there looking over the city and the sky.  15 minutes of unadulterated peace, where I genuinely could not ask for anything more.

2.  My co-counselor’s surprise birthday celebration at camp, Summer of 2015. When you spend months holed up, a huge part of you enters hibernation mode and lays dormant, just hanging in there.  This is a unique circumstance applicable to just me, but what it does is wake me up when summer comes, and when I am in my happy place, I become aggressively friendly to make up for the rest of the times I am not.  Even complaining about stupid, trivial things like some seven-year old kid feeling up my boob, or people I worked with, brought me its own kind of happiness, because they were ordinary, fleeting problems.  Because when you’re depressed, all you see are the times you take from others, but when you’re happy, you give. It was nearing the end of Chinese-Immersion school, another bittersweet end, and I felt so grateful for the experience of learning, especially about children.  Let me tell you, kids be crazy.  But they’re also mean.  And sweet, hilarious, inappropriate, and cute.  Somehow I must’ve stalked my way into learning that my co-counselor’s birthday was in a few days, and with the other co-counselors, we devised a plan and riled up the students to put in a real team effort to surprise him.  True to Jasmine-style with sappy ass cards, we compiled a giant birthday card; his brother bought him a fancy cake, and our boss even bought him a batman t-shirt.  She sent him to the back of the building to do monotonous work in organizing reading books, and we herded all the kids into the kitchen to wait with baited breath. 11907853_10153558106773960_9058393633543729590_oAndddd it was a SUCCESS!  His reaction was so pure and so amazing that it caught me off guard and made my emotions soar off the charts.  11878987_10153558107218960_488502593364788403_oMaybe it reminded me of how overwhelming positive moments can be when they do come along.

3.  Gondola ride in Venice, Summer of 2015.  Getting anywhere is a fucking challenge.  You’re battling your anxiety, your fears, your limitations, physically and mentally.  But let me tell you, the journey to Venice is probably what seeing your baby after being pregnant for 9 months might feel like.  I imagine anyway.  As my parents and I roamed around the city and I stood in St. Mark’s Square, images of me being proposed to here flooded my mind.  And then I went and stuffed my face with gelato, shielding it with trepid glances at the many doves fluttering above my head.  Yes, birds have pooped on me before, so no, I wasn’t being too paranoid.  But, I digress.  We communicated as best we could with a handsome, older Venetian man and before we knew it, were ushered into a gondola.  I had never stood anywhere before where any given direction I stared took my breath away. 12045804_10153669170038960_6049158632185807722_o A city built on water, Venice was surreal.  A figment of my imagination, where men looked good sporting man buns. 

What are your happiest moments?

What I Learned in Taiwan

That year had been particularly rough on me, and I remember being on a bus in a desperate attempt to swig away my sorrows at TCNJ Senior Night, texting on a whim confirmation to my parents to sign me up for school in Taipei.  I was and am always hesitant and doubtful of new and scary experiences, but my grief momentarily blinded me from worrying, and it ended up being one of the best. decisions. ever.  Not knowing what to expect, my mom and I hopped on a plane in late May, and our first days of exploring the campus of National Taiwan Normal University excited me endlessly.  My mom finally coped enough to leave me to my independence after two or three weeks, and that week and a half was the funnest ever.  Sure, there were moments where I was so exhausted I was just barely able to move to buy myself dinner, and sure, the dorm’s strict curfew of 11:30pm was annoying, but for the most part, I was content to be able to manage my life without feeling so restricted.  Among the highlights of my trip were:

    1. Visiting my moms’ old friend’s village, which felt like a town in a Miyazaki film.  Her sweet and kindhearted family can COOK.
    2. Meeting up with my TCNJ friend Lauren at Danshui and having the MOST MAGICAL BUBBLE TEA at a cute cafe
    3. Going to Beitou Hot Springs and trying to compete against stolid old people by sitting in boiling water on a 90+ degree summer day- guess whose fingers were prunier?? Yeah, we didn’t win.
    4. Typhoon night where I huddled in my dorm with two yams from 7-Eleven
    5. Attending a 12 Cellos concert, courtesy of my aunt (phenomenal performance) in Kaohsiung
    6. Meeting new people, eating and bonding on mini-trips

During these mini travels, after months of therapy was I able to muster the courage to communicate my needs to new friends.  I tried to mask my shaky confidence as I explained what I needed: their understanding in walking slowly with me because it was hard for me.  I still remember the fear I felt bringing it up to my friend Nio as I walked with him and another guy through the streets, realizing if I didn’t say something soon I wouldn’t be able to keep up, and I was tired.  Surprisingly, without blinking or giving me any side look of pity, Nio said “Sure,” slowed down and casually asked me what my condition was.  A heavy weight lifted from my shoulders, and I felt acceptance.  What I learned was that as inconvenient as conditions like mine were and as rare as awesome people are to find, they exist. And sometimes you have to forgive yourself and distinguish yourself from your chronic conditions, and take a leap of faith in opening up.  Recognize that sometimes, you are not the problem.