Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Last month on 10/10, I got out of bed early, hopped on the MRT, and made my way into downtown Taipei. After all, October 10th is the National Celebration Day of Taiwan. (You can think of it like Taiwan's birthday, similar to our 4th of July.) I was just happy to get the day off work. The plan? Photograph the annual Double Ten Day parade. 

And boy did I take some awesome pictures. The great thing about having a huge professional camera is look like a professional photographer. I was able to make my way into the restricted area without any credentials. In fact, security didn't even question me! I had complete access to the staging area of the parade and I was able to freely walk among the floats. It was awesome.

Let's see the results:

Here are some people dressed up in native Taiwanese clothing. (And by native Taiwanese, I mean the indigenous peoples of Taiwan.) I was trying to take a candid but people just love to pose:

Next, I came across a group of children acrobat performers. This kid was trying to balance that ball as he spun the parasol. (I should have used a slower shutter speed for the motion blur :/ ):

Sounds easy? Well try doing it while walking on stilts!

Since I was being mistaken as a professional photographer, I tried to play the part. I spotted a group of children and asked them to pose. Then make a little small talk, show them the picture, you get the idea:

For this next one, I actually tried to go incognito with the telephoto lens. Even though it didn't work out, I still like it. (Oh and she's wearing some sort of lion/dragon costume that can be pulled over her head):

And finally came the mounted police. If you couldn't tell, a lot of these pictures were taken with my new ultrawide angle lens. This event was the first time I really got to play around with it. For this picture, I got really close to the head horse. I was scared it was going to lunge foward and break my lens/camera. That's how close I was:

In the end, security eventually figured out I wasn't supposed to be there. I supposed it's my own fault that I got caught. After the parade started moving, I didn't know where to go, so I started walking along side the floats. I must have walked out too far because a guard asked me what I was doing. It would have been pretty cool if I was allowed to march in the parade!

Anyway, by that point, I didn't really care about getting kicked off. I had already gotten my shots. :)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Okay, so yesterday I lied about staying in the entire weekend. I actually went out to downtown Shenzhen on Sunday. Given my recent illness, it probably wasn't the smartest idea. In fact, it's probably made my flu become drastically worse. 

But nothing was going to stop me from going out this weekend. I had plans to go out and I couldn't stomach the idea of spending a third weekend in a row bumming around my apartment. It was time to seize the day!

The day started off with a nice lunch at Parkhaus. It's a lovely Western-style restaurant/coffee shop/wine bar. I immediately spotted two foreigners (i.e. non-Chinese) chatting away in English at the table across from me. That's how you know it's a good place for Western food! This is in the interior of the restaurant:

It was a nice change of pace because I was getting tired of eating Chinese food damnit. Yay for REAL Western food. This was an orange citrus and smoked ham salad:

That was followed up with some pan-fried pork steaks with fried potato wedges and seasoned vegetables:

After lunch, I headed off to the Shenzhen Book City. It's apparently the world's largest bookstore in terms of area (at 43,900 square meters). You can think of it as a huge three-floored "book shopping mall." But there's more than just books; they have a restaurants, antique shops, convenience stores, art galleries, etc. They books though are obviously the main attraction. There's an imported bookstore, 24-hour bookstore, and a huge main bookstore that also sells music and videos. This is a picture of the central bookstore:   

My favorite though was the antique bookstore bar. We're talking about a real bar where you can sip on wine/coffee/tea/etc. and just read. And all the pieces of furniture were hand selected by the owners. You can curl up with a good book in an antique bed from the Song Dynasty!

Anyway, I ended up buying some Chinese books to help me study Chinese characters. You know, time to work on that reading comprehension. I found a great series of books for native-English speakers like myself. The stories are written entirely in Chinese with footnotes at the bottom of every page explaining new vocabulary.

Oh and the stories are just classic. With titles like Can I dance with you? and Two children seeking the Joy Bridge, how can you lose?  Just check out the description on the back cover of I really want to find her....:

"She is really beautiful. Just one look at her photo and three guys, Dai-wei, Jie-fu, and Qiu-tian, are all determined to find her! The photo was given to them by their professor before he died. And nobody knows where in China the girl is. How can the guys find her? And what happens when they finally see her?"

We're talking about Pulitzer Prize winning stuff here. I just had to buy the whole collection:  

Right now I'm working my way though Whom do you like more?, a gripping love story. (I'm actually just suprised that I can understand this many Chinese characters.)

Monday, November 17, 2008

Geez, it's been a rough couple of days. I haven't really had a chance to update because I've been dealing with the trifecta of pain:

1) Twisted ankle: First off, I twisted my damn ankle. (At least I think it's a twisted ankle; I've never actually had one before.) It got really bad last Friday after work. I gave a tour of the factory and so I had to stand all day. That's probably what made the pain go from bad to worse. It got to the point where I just went out an bought a freakin' ankle brace. I spent most of Saturday in bed trying to keep my weight off it.

2) 拉肚子 (AKA diarrhea): Then there's the restless bowels that I've been dealing with. It's funny because in English, diarrhea is a bit of an embarrassing topic. It's not the type of thing people talk about openly. And there aren't really any good euphemisms for it either. "Upset stomach" just doesn't do it for me.

But in Chinese, we have 拉肚子 (Pronounced: "la du zi.") Literally, it means "pull stomach." It carries the same meaning as diarrhea without the stigma. And people are relatively more open about discussing it. They have no problem with asking if you have it or mentioned that they've got it. My coworker and I have been trying to figure out what the hell we ate this week.

I'm starting to get over it now, but last week was rough. I was on the Pepto Bismol, Imodium, and some Chinese medicine. (I guess that's what I get for going out and trying "local food." Let's just say they don't have the same health/sanitation standards as in the US.)

3)Flu: But the worst so far has been the flu I caught this weekend. It started Saturday. By Sunday, I developed a fever, headache, and a runny nose. Now it's full blown and it's moving down into my throat. It got so bad that I asked my boss if I could take a half day today.  I got home and just napped a good four hours or so.

This is the first time I actually got sick in China and it sucks. Damn, these Chinese super-colds. My weakened American immune system just can handle it. I guess I should just be thankful I didn't catch SARS or the Avian Flu.  ~knock on wood~