Thursday, October 30, 2014

Second #100days

Kaohsiung City
I can't believe it's already been 100 days. On one hand, it feels like we just got here. On the other hand, it feels like it's been forever since we were in New York City. I can't even believe that was just earlier this year. Craziness!

We finally got up to Monkey Mountain this month, for a nice hike and to see our new city. Happily, the monkeys weren't as scary as last time but we weren't carrying anything to entice them this time either. Because we learn from past mistakes.

Of course, it did take Mike's school organizing a day out to entice us across town for an 8am start time, necessary to avoid the heat. We had to get up at 5am to catch an early bus. Fortunately, it was well worth it. Of course, we promptly took a 3 hour nap upon returning home that afternoon. Because that's how we roll.

Monkey Mountain namesake
We also finally got out to Fengshan Night Market, our closest one. It was really fun and super cheap. Among other amazing deals were eight oysters for $100NT and pancake sandwiches, filled with red bean or something similar to creamed corn (but I'm pretty sure wasn't), for $5NT each. Plus, being located on a lovely canal, it was very scenic.

Fengshan Night Market
We also finally made it out to Lotus Pond. It's even lovelier than we remembered and we're so happy that we happened to time our visit for sunset. The place is gorgeous at any time of day but sunset was particularly magical.

In other news, yoga here is really expensive. Actually, most things ex-pat are really expensive. So, I asked Mike to ask his Chinese co-teacher where she goes for yoga, since locals wouldn't pay these inflated ex-pat prices. Turns out her studio is right next to my house and is less than half what the whiteys are paying. Who cares if the entire class is given in Chinese? I usually have to follow the teacher anyway, since I'm not sure what Warrior 2, etc. is without a little visual assistance. Also, I'm learning a lot of new Chinese words and phrases. For instance, my teacher usually says 'fu bu' while signaling for me to use my stomach muscles. "Fu bu! Fu bu!" I think it means "suck in your belly!" I love yoga here!

Lotus Pond
As to my goals, my book is now over 26,000 words and I have just enrolled in National Novel Writing Month, a motivational competition to get you to write at least 1600 words per day, or 50,000 words total, in November. If I complete this challenge, my 75-100K word book will be complete and I can use the month of December for editing before submitting by the end of year deadline. Right now, that's my main goal for my second #100days. And to continue my 中文 studies.

I'm really enjoying learning a new language in this immersive environment. I'm disappointed with how long it's taking me to pick up on certain things but, hopefully, by the end of my second #100days, I'm able to order easily from McDonald's and understand what the person at the grocery store checkout says to me. Little wins.

Thursday, October 02, 2014

First #100Days Update

Our new favorite park, Aozidi Forest Park
I've been a Lady of Leisure now for 74 days. During this time I have written nearly 24,000 words, run nearly 42 miles, and learned over 100 Chinese characters. Though these first #100days have turned out to be more about finding a rhythm and routine than meeting any particular goals, I still think I'm making pretty good progress against what I had hoped to achieve.

My first #100days focus was supposed to be making running a habit, which has not yet been achieved. I've run only 21 days out of 73. That's not even 30% of the time. Not good. And def not a habit. I'm hoping it's because I've been forcing myself to run in the mornings (because I've always run in the mornings so I must be a morning runner, right?). But here, the mornings are too hot for running. Most people who run in the mornings are running around 6am. Ladies of Leisure don't know what 6am is. But we know what 5pm is. So, I'm switching to evenings.

I've got another month to meet my original #100days goal. If this switch doesn't help the habit then I'll be resigned to only running in the mornings once the weather turns (which should be happening sometime later this month or in November). Because I'm not waking up at 6am to go running. That's just crazy talk.

I'm doing pretty good regarding Goal #2: write something, from start to finish. I'm working on a novel which I hope to enter into a writing competition by the end of the year. I've identified the writing competition, which provides a theme. Although I've written the most I've ever written on one project, I'm still quite a ways off from the 75,000-100,000 word requirement. Luckily, I've still got three months to complete it and, if I continue at my current pace, I should be done well before the December 31 deadline.

Goal #1: speak, read, and write Mandarin is also coming along quite nicely. I use my new language skills every chance I get and, though usually a failure, I do occasionally find success. For example, I've successfully bartered twice, I made at least one person laugh, and I also made a couple of successful inquiries. I learned approximately 100 characters and phrases in the month of September and I hope to quadruple that in October, now that I have a rhythm. Fluency happens with approximately 2000 characters, so I still have quite a ways to go but am well on my way to meeting my goal.

My other two goals, which are writing related, will have to wait until after I've completed my novel. I never intended to jump right into a novel but I'm happy that I have. Having never had the opportunity to focus on my writing like this, it's been very interesting learning what my process is. Who knew I'd be a sober writer?

In other news, both Mike & I have now received our ARCs (Alien Registration Certificate), which means we're both now legal Taiwan residents. Mike also received his national insurance card but I'm still waiting for mine (I'm about 2 weeks behind him in processing). Once that's received, we'll be 100%. As with all things regarding Relocation 2014, this process has almost been completely painless. Hopefully this means we're getting good at this and future relocations will run just as smoothly, though we're probably at least a couple years away from having to test that theory.

Friday, September 05, 2014

Lazy In Taiwan

Since leaving Seattle in 2010 we've kept a pretty active lifestyle. We wanted to make the most of our time in the UK so we were often hiking, rambling, and traveling. In New York it was the same story. But here, we're proving to be quite lethargic. Maybe it's this heat or maybe it's this feeling that we're going to be here for a while but, in any case, we haven't done much exploring since arriving here in July.

Regardless the cause, now that we've identified the situation we're hoping to begin remedying it shortly. This heat is proving quite a deterrent though.

While we wait for any exciting adventures or new explorations, please enjoy these lovely pictures of our flat, and the view from said flat, in the Fengshan District in Kaohsiung.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Soft Landing

National Theater, Taipei
When last I wrote, Mike & I were still in New York City, at the beginning of our last month as residents. Today I write from our new home in the Fengshan District of Kaohsiung in Taiwan. As of today I can happily report that this move has indeed been the best one yet. There have been a few hiccups along the way and we're still waiting on a few things before it's all over but, overall and as of now, it has gone rather smoothly and, in some instances, better than expected. Mike's cohort of teachers have all marveled at the 'soft landing' we've all had and I can't help but adopt that terminology because it is so apt. Soft landing. Indeed.

Chiang Kai-shek Memorial Hall, Taipei
As you may or may not know, with this move abroad I have begun a new career as a lady of leisure. And, while that sounds rather luxurious, please let me dispel those false ideas. While it's true my day begins when I leisurely wake up in the morning (rather than with an alarm clock) and consists mainly of busying myself with reading or writing or shopping, please note that I am indeed very busy. Yesterday, for instance, I had a very full day of exercise and laundry. See. Very busy.

Honestly though, I do hope to accomplish a few things during this year off of mine. I do have goals.
  1. I would like to speak, read, and write Mandarin (at least conversationally).
  2. I would like to write something, from start to finish (I'm leaning towards a short story).
  3. I would like to be published (probably just an article or op-ed).
  4. I would like to be paid (hopefully for something I've written but I'm keeping my options open).
Additionally, I've divided this year into #100days segments. During my first #100days I'm focusing on making running a habit. Since July 18 I have already amassed 22.29 miles and, surprisingly, I already look forward to running every day. Today, for example, is another lovely rain and thunderstorm (these are happening often) which is preventing me from my morning run and throwing my day off completely. I probably won't run today due to this weather which means I'll be very anxious to run tomorrow. Who knew that would be possible?

Ex. 1: evidence of heat and humidity
Speaking of weather, Taiwan is currently enjoying its typhoon season. While in Taipei last month we witnessed a 'typhoon day' which is equivalent in our experience to a 'snow day'; businesses were closed, people stayed home, streets were deserted. It was pretty cool, the novelty part (not the perceived danger part). Today, I believe, we are experiencing remnants of a passing tropical storm, which poses no danger but does provide lovely rain and thunder to ease the stifling heat and humidity. FYI, it is HOT here in Taiwan. If ever I have complained about heat in the past, please know that I have never experienced this level of heat before and all past experience which yielded said complaints pale in comparison. In other words, please transpose all former complaints of heat and humidity to my current situation and replace in former scenarios with adjectives such as lovely and enjoyable. Except for El Salvador. That experience would probably be on par with Taiwan. And Manila. Sweet Jesus it was hot there.

Teacher Mike
I'm also happy to report that Mike is enjoying his new job as English teacher. He officially started yesterday with his very own class of kindergarteners. He's going to start picking up a few other classes, with older students, throughout this month but he'll be teaching kindergarten every morning Monday through Friday. He was concerned, and is still a bit concerned about the other classes, but if you know Mike you know he will excel, as he does. Excel and thrive. Because he's awesome.

Saturday, May 03, 2014

Birthday Month

my birthday balloons
Even though both Mike & I celebrate our birthdays in April, the entire month used to be just for me. Mike would get his day but I would have the whole month for my celebrations. In recent years, for some reason, I've become much more generous and have begun ceding more and more of my month to Mike for his celebrations. This year I gave him the whole latter half. You're welcome, Mike. And happy birthday.

Even with only half of the month dedicated to me, I still had a great time! Celebrity sightings, dinners out, a boozy brunch, the zoo, bowling, a cruise; it was a near constant celebration.

Cruising NYC
Mike's half was fairly celebratory as well, though we both got sick this week and have kind of sputtered to a rather unimpressive end. Still, I bet if you ask him he'll tell you he had a pretty great time.

Now that birthday month is over, and we're fully ensconced in May, we are officially less than a month away from our big move. We've given our landlord notice and I've given my employer notice, we've bought all our tickets, made arrangements with family and friends, and are now getting ready to start purging our possessions. Soon we'll be on our way and this whole experience will be in the past tense.

Happy at the zoo
Before we go, however, there are a few things we'd still like to do while based in New York. Because we've lived the last year with this mindset however, our list of items still unaccomplished is fairly short. Still, we've kept our May rather empty to allow for last minute additions and adventures. The list so far:
  1. Run around the reservoir in Central Park.
  2. Day trip to Montauk. (Where Revenge takes place and, also, just to see the Hamptons.)
  3. Ride the Cyclone at Coney Island.
If we're able to accomplish these before we leave then this will continue to be the best move experience we've had since we originally moved to Seattle in 1999. After recent move experiences, that's not a bad position to be in at all.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Brutal Cold, Old Friends, Travel, and Taiwan

Viejo San Juan, PR
We've been very busy over the last few weeks. Looking back, I can't believe everything we've done since my last post. But, even with this buzz of activity, this winter is just not progressing at all. Honestly, we had thought the brutal cold would be balanced out by the presence of the sun, since the darkness is what bothered us most about Seattle's winters, but we were wrong. Brutal cold is just as bad as darkness and New York's polar vortex is tied with Seattle's dark and dreary winters for most unbearable in our book.

Freedom Trail, Boston
Happily, we were able to escape from New York a couple of times over the last few weeks, to help take our minds off of our misery. Over Presidents' Day weekend we took the bus up to Boston, where it was indeed somewhat colder but, for some reason, so much more bearable. We now have a crush on Boston and continue to love all things Massachusetts.

More recently, however, we got to spend a whole, blissful week in Puerto Rico. Thanks to my friend at Valise Magazine, who clued me in to a glitch on the Delta site (which had a very short window), we were able to score two first-class tickets for only $85/pp.

Playa Azul, Luquillo, PR
This was our first proper holiday since Playa del Carmen in 2008 and it was sorely needed. Plus, not only was it a sun and sand vacation, which by itself would've been sufficient to lift our spirits, but we got to hang with old friends from Utah, which honestly made our holiday exponentially better. These old friends, family really, gave us excellent insights and were very generous with their time. We've been home now for just over a week and I'm still emitting a vacation bliss glow. (Though before looking at the calendar, I thought it'd been at least two weeks since we returned. God damn you, slow moving winter.)

Lunch with Kraig
Other activities which have helped take our mind off of this brutal winter included two visits from Seattle friends. We had one friend in town for the Super Bowl and one in town for business. Both are close friends who we've missed dearly and it was great to spend a couple hours with each of them.

Probably the biggest thing to happen over these last few weeks is that Mike scored himself a job teaching English for Hess in Taiwan. He's signed a one-year contract and we've already booked our tickets. We'll be leaving NYC on May 31, travelling to other parts of the US, El Salvador, and the Philippines, before arriving in Taipei in early July.

Drinks with Jason
This move to Taiwan is shaping up to be our best move yet. Not only do we have savings enough to allow for some much needed travel before Mike begins an intense year of teaching and to help get us on our feet upon arrival, but the fact that Mike will have an income immediately is immensely helpful and eliminates so much stress from the whole process. Additionally, Mike's new employer will also be helping a bit with the relocation details, including visas and apartment searches. Seriously, best move ever.

Though this winter has been moving at a snail's pace, we can definitely see the light at the end of the tunnel and know that spring will be here faster than we think and, shortly thereafter, our new adventure will commence. New York has been a bitch but she's soon to be in our rearview mirror and the way our next relocation is currently shaping up makes me think we might be doing something right this time.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Winter Blows

The last sunset of 2013, Coney Island
We ended 2013 at our favorite beach in NYC, watching the last sunset of the year at Coney Island. We had hoped to make it a whole event, with Irish coffees and noise makers, but it was freaking cold. Like, I'm surprised we didn't die of exposure kind of cold. And, not one restaurant was open to help us with the Irish coffees. Come on!

We still watched the sunset and walked the boardwalk from Coney Island to Brighton Beach but then we jumped on the subway tout suite and celebrated the new year from the warmth of our East Harlem flat.

The last sunset of 2013, Coney Island
After greeting the new year from the steps of Sacre Coeur in Paris and the Spanish Steps in Rome, perhaps you're wondering why we didn't make an effort this year and watch the ball drop in Times Square? Perhaps you're also unaware of the freaking clusterfuck it is down there? First of all, you have to be situated by 3pm. Secondly, the police barricades keep you rooted until after midnight, meaning you can't move from the spot you chose before 3pm for a full 9 hours. And, unless you're in a certain spot, you also can't see the ball drop. Finally, the coup de grâce, there are no public restrooms. Seriously.

In all our travels we've never encountered anything as ridiculous as Times Square on New Year's Eve for crowd control. Times Square is a freaking mess during the best of times, man. I can't imagine what fools actually brave all that bullshit to stand in the cold for nine solid hours. I'd rather be warm and drink copiously with easy access to bladder emptying facilities. God we're getting old. And smart.

President Clinton and Mayor de Blasio
New Year's Day saw us at the Mayor's inauguration celebration. I scored a couple of tickets to the event, which also got us a couple of blankets, some souvenir mugs, and a free lunch, plus the closest I've ever come to a past or present US President. (I may have been closer to a future President Barack Obama in 2008 but he was on the other side of a structure at the Seattle Center so I didn't really get to see him. I heard him though. Magical.) The following weekend, we also got to tour Gracie Mansion, the Mayor's residence, and we both had our picture taken with him. His staff hasn't emailed those out yet but I'm sure they're coming. (Shakes fist in air.)

Atlantic City, NJ
Our first mini-break of the year was to Atlantic City, NJ. We got a killer deal so were able to stay right on the famous Boardwalk, in the Bally's on Park Place. I'm not sure what I expected but reports of the city's death and degradation have been greatly exaggerated. Atlantic City is gorgeous! The casino scene might be a bit like downtown Las Vegas, a bit down and out, but the beach is ahhh-mazing and the boardwalk itself is in great condition! Though we didn't escape the boardwalk area during our short stay, I wouldn't mind going back to explore the rest of the city. Seriously, Atlantic City, where have you been all my life?

East River, NYC Cruise
We wrapped up our January with a lovely 3-hour nighttime cruise around Manhattan. It was a great way to see the city and a lovely experience all around.

Friday, January 24, 2014

New York State of Mind

As Mike begins applying for jobs abroad and we begin planning our escape from New York I can't help but reminisce about our move to New York and the plans we had for this place. We've been here over a year now and, in our current state of disenchantment, it's hard to recall our excitement at the prospect of calling this city home but, even with the sadness we had about leaving London, we were genuinely excited about moving to New York City.

I remember being so excited about our move here that I would force my officemates to listen to optimistic New York tunes on our shared Spotify playlist ad nauseam. After one too many Alicia Keys' "Empire State of Mind" plays my buddy introduced me to LCD Soundsystem's "New York, I Love You But You're Bringing Me Down" to balance out the vibe. Perhaps I should have adopted his perspective then because, while I still enjoy the occasional "New York, New York," I'm finding my current empire state of mind is more LCD Soundsystem than Alicia Keys; more Ray LaMontagne's "New York City's Killing Me" than Frank Sinatra.

We had grand plans for this move, believing New York was going to be our permanent home. We were going to be so happy here. We were going to put down roots, become members at a few of the museums, volunteer at a few others, make amazing friends. Mike was going to be an artist. I was going to work at the Clinton Foundation or United Nations. After a few years, maybe Mike would open up his own gallery.

Perhaps, amidst all our hopes and dreams, we briefly considered that New York City might not work out but we never fathomed that our perception of New York City could be so wrong. I guess, "if you can make it here, you can make it anywhere" is actually less optimistic than we had perceived. Damn you and your catchy tunes, Frank Sinatra. Damn you.

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