Thursday, 30 October 2008

Back from Singapore - HAPPY

On a trip that I originally thought there was no way I could make, I really got a lot out of it.

In my 24-hour trip to Singapore...

I saw Mama's best concert (of the ones I've seen so far). I enjoyed this one the most by far. She said I've never complimented her on her concert before this. Really? I didn't not like the other ones... Perhaps I should learn to lie sometimes...

For the first time in my life, someone asked me for a drawing. Oneesan asked if I can give her something that I've made so that she can frame and hang it up on the wall in her flat, next to one of Mama's prints. SO SO SO SO SO ENCOURAGING!!!!

Then backstage at the concert, the senior VP of Channel NewsAsia asked if I were interested in the Taipei correspondent position. I don't know how serious she was, but I take it as a sign at the very least. I've followed up with an email to her and a phone call to Young Ming, who tried to recruit me to CNA 3 years ago. I want out of local Taiwan media and perhaps this is one opportunity. In any case, it is a sign of more good chances to come.

I made new friends and reacquainted myself with people I met four years ago there as well. Outside of work, I'm not normally very talkative with strangers, but I really talked a lot and connected with quite a few people. Lim Sek, Auntie Kim, CK, Raymond... It's truly amazing how fruitful this short, short trip was.

The day after I got back, I had the most relaxing lunch with Claire and Mark atop Yangmingshan, and then Mom, Dad, Michael and I got together at Nonzero for dinner to celebrate Michael's birthday early. I got him a "money tree." It's a piggy bank where the more money you put in it, the taller the tree "grows." I wish I took a picture...

I'm very happy. Very, very happy. Also, I think I'm growing into another phase - emotionally and spiritually. November is going to be extremely busy for me, but I think in December, I will try to take some more time off to spend with Mom and Dad.

And now, some pictures from the concert. I'm so proud to be my godmother's goddaughter.

And pictures from Michael's birthday dinner. Happy birthday, old boy!

And pictures from the office - caught the MD riding a bicycle through the office in studio make-up and a skirt. HAHAHA

Saturday, 25 October 2008

1025 DPP rally

Tens of thousands of DPP supporters took to the streets today, opposing closer ties with China and condemning the import of toxic Chinese food.

My assignment was on foreigners and foreign media.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Wulai 烏來

Like Pingxi, Wulai's one of those places in un-Taipei-like places in Taipei, and a great area to visit when you want to get away from the hustle and bustle of busy city life.

You can't get there by train, so it's less convenient than Pingxi, but you can still take the bus.

We were there last Friday for another travel story.

In Wulai, you can hike, watch birds, look at the waterfall and search for a pot of gold at the end of the rainbow that often appears over the waterfall. There is also a gondola you can ride to get a good view of the valley and of the waterfall. Oh, there are hot springs there too. Wulai was named by the Atayal tribe people, who were the original locals there. "Wulai" means "hot water" or "hot spring." So because of its aborigine roots, there are also Atayal sing and dance shows to see if you're interested. I always like looking at their traditional outfits and seeing how they differ from tribe to tribe.

The water is supposed to be beautiful, but there's been too many typhoons recently, so when we went, it was really muddy and not quite attractive at all.

Go away, flu

The fever’s gone away, but the rest of the flu stayed. Weak and handling too many things, I fell down the stairs at the Taipei City Council today. I was walking down the main stairs from the second floor to the first, and with purse in one hand, camera equipment in the other, my assigner called. Doing too many things at once, feeling nauseous and weak, I pretty much spilled onto the city council lobby. Everything except my phone went flying everywhere. Aigh. Embarrassing AND painful it was.

I finally went to see the doctor at lunch and picked up medicine. By about 20h00, I was feeling much better. I should have gone earlier! Maybe I wouldn’t be losing my voice if I went yesterday.

Good thing that the DPP rally is tomorrow and I’m reporting instead of anchoring. Still, that means I’ll have to be running around, and by the looks of it, in the rain too.

I had hoped to get Sunday off because my assigner took Thursday and Saturday from me, but no such luck. Have to work Sunday after all. So I’m going to Singapore Monday morning for Mama’s concert in the evening and coming back Tuesday afternoon. At least I’ll have an afternoon to explore. Looking forward to hearing Mama sing jazz and standards. Looking forward to seeing Oneesan too. Very excited!

When am I getting my days back? It better be soon! I have more than two weeks worth of weekend days racked up, plus another seven vacation days, and if I don’t use some of it, they’ll convert part of it to cash, which I don’t want. I want rest, not money!

Speaking of rest, I need to take medicine and go to bed. Have to be well by Sunday.

Good night!

Sandimen, Pingtung

Mustering a toothy smile despite having lost all the blood in my face and ready to hurl at any moment. Air sick.

Sunday, I went to Sandimen, Pingtung, which is in southern Taiwan. The original locals there were aborigines from the Paiwan tribe, but there doesn't appear to be much aborigine culture left, except the shows that are put on for tourists to see.

But first, we went paragliding, for fear it would start raining in the afternoon. There, I ran into Jacu, a South African living in southern Taiwan, whom I interviewed at the Birdman Contest in Taipei about three years ago. Small country!

According to our guide from the Sandimen Cultural Center, the Paiwan tribe is a gender equal society, as can be seen in sculptures and artwork where both male and female figures are present always at the same time. The oldest child, irrelevant of sex is the heir to the family's assets.

A Paiwan dance performance at the cultural center.

The Paiwan's are known for their traditional, handmade glass beads that were recently made very popular in the Taiwanese movie "Cape No. 7." I visited the work/gift shop where they're made. I wanted to make my own, but it was too crowded that day... It turns out that the glass beads cell phone straps I got for Uncle Tad and his family a while ago in Taipei are from this workshop!

One of the better-known Paiwan delicacies is the stone BBQ'd boar, sausages and other meats. I passed. Instead, I had a nice Taiwan Rail lunch box for dinner on the bullet train ride back to Taipei. If you get a chance, you should try these lunch boxes. They're only available at some Taiwan Rail stations. I had to walk from the High Speed Rail station to the Taiwan Rail station just to buy it. They're quite good. I this one, there was a pork chop, stewed egg, sausage, broccoli, shishamo (smelt fish) and yummy pickled veggies that was just perfect with the rice. I rarely finish any lunch box, but I cleaned this one up real good. I was probably very hungry too.

It was a rather hazy day, but like the silver lining in these clouds, it was still a nice one.

Here are a few pictures. You can find the rest here.

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

3-day break cut short

At lunch with Mom at Marco Polo, the Italian restaurant on the 38th floor of the Taipei Shangri-La, my boss called and asked if I was free to work tomorrow. What was I to say? “No, sorry, I’m in Singapore.” I don’t like to lie, so instead, I said, “yes, I’m free, and I’ll come in, just for you.” Maybe I’m going to use that Singapore excuse next week if he calls again. I won’t be lying. ;) More details on that when it’s finalized.

So tomorrow, I will be going in early, at 8h00 to head over to the Legislature, where there is a health committee meeting and the Minister of Health will be questioned by legislators. In other words, I’ll be there to watch some drama kings and queens who taxpayers elected, overpay and call “lawmakers” shred Mr Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) to bits. Did I ever mention that Legislature reporters call the Legislature “the Loonieslature?” Instead of “立法院,” they call it “瘋人院.” I’m cutting my break 1/3 short to go to the looney bin. Yay.

After a late lunch and accompanying Mom shopping, I came home, dropped off and picked up dry-cleaning, did 3 loads of laundry I originally “saved” for tomorrow and began to run a fever. I originally wanted to post pictures from the Pingtung trip I made on Sunday for a travel feature, but didn’t have time. I went paragliding! After two jumps, I was 100% air sick, but I’m already looking forward to doing it again. So no time to do laundry, no time to blog, no time even to have a fever. My throat is killing me, my head about to burst and I’m perspiring like crazy, but I bet you, the symptoms will be gone by the time I reach the office tomorrow, and it’ll come back again the night before my next day off. It’ll be waiting. Does this mean the way to not get sick is to keep working? Oh no!

I’m still tired and sick, but apparently in good spirits after sleeping for a day and a half.

Mom and I, over a hazy but still nice view of downtown Taipei, shared a lunch course of bread with olive oil and balsamico and minced olive paste; spinach salad; handmade, fresh fettuccine with smoked salmon on cream sauce, a fried combination of calamari, shrimp, broccoli, red & yellow bell peppers; and a dessert of dried figs, vanilla ice cream and chocolate sauce, towered on a cookie. Delicious, but no pictures. Mom says Dad gets jealous of these mother-and-daughter lunches. So just a picture of her café, my tea and her hand-woven handbag from Bali. It was a good lunch and I ate a healthy portion. Good thing for that because I had started feeling ill and lost my appetite in the evening.

This afternoon, we also stopped by local jeweler Wang Pei-hao’s boutique in the shopping mall next door. Before I arrived though, Mom told him about a bad experience I had with one of his staff the last time I was there, and he felt so sorry that he prepared a bouquet of beautiful red roses for me, and gave Mom a big discount for things for herself and for “me at my wedding.” Of course, she’ll be safekeeping it and wearing it for me until that day. My wedding? Who’s the groom?

When you have kids and they’re small, you buy them cute little outfits, make your children wear them to please yourself, but too bad you can’t share and wear. When they’re older like me, you think once, you think twice, you think three times, then grimace, pull out piles of cash and buy your grown-up kids expensive jewelry. But the good thing is, you CAN share. Maybe I would like to have kids one day after all. Haha. Still may need to find that groom first, though.

Sunday, 19 October 2008

On the way home

Having warm, tasty train dinner on the way home. Favorite drink these days is H2O, room temperature, of course. Ah, exhausted!

Bullet-speeding down length of Taiwan

Back in regular people time zone. Well, maybe even earlier than that. Had such a hard time waking up at six to catch seven o'clock bullet train this morning. My excuses are jet lag, anchoring late, doing nails and...The Da Vinci Code being shown on AXN, even though I ended up falling asleep before it finished. Ended up putting on make-up in the taxi and later in the train. Sometimes I wish I can just wear big sunglasses all day instead of fussing with all that skin paint, colored powders, eyelash gunk and hair goop, especially on a day like this. Now en route to Kaohsiung & Pingtung via bullet train then car. Filming aborigine villages and parasailiing. Tired, but feeling happy and lucky to be away from Taipei, not having to chase after the newest discovered batch of toxic Chinese food products, or criticizing the health department for lousy contingency management. Happy happy happy! (Moblog)

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Mom day

I’m scheduled to anchor at 23h00 tonight, so I had nearly the entire day free, minus sleeping until noon. I still have jetlag from working on the night shift.

Mom picked me up around 13h30 and I wanted to show her the really nice job John and Fudy have done on the décor and ambience at L’Idiot, so we went there for brunch.

We had a crab cakes benedict, salade Nicoise and passion fruit soufflé. I agree with Donna, the crab cakes benedict is quite tasty. So far, the dishes I enjoyed at L’Idiot most are the crab cakes benedict, tofu ice cream and brownie cake.

After brunch, I went into FTV for make-up and hair. The hair/make ladies didn’t want to wait until 22h00 to work on me, so I went in for them at 14h30 instead and they got to leave early. I first thought, “how ridiculous of them to get me to come in 10 hours before going on air,” but I later realized that it was a good chance to make friends. They were SO polite to me and kept complimenting me on everything, from my haircut to my personality to my reports. Well. Thank you.

After make-up & hair, I jumped back into Mom’s car, and we continued our day. She wanted to see a movie, so we went to Breeze Centre and saw “Body of Lies,” which was pretty good. Afterwards, we did some window shopping and Mom brought me home with groceries so I can rest a little before going into the TV station and she can go home before Dad does.

Shopping with my two mothers are really different experiences, I’ve finally noticed today. Well, they are similar in that when we go grocery shopping, I often get to car sit because we’re either double parked or are parked in the tow-zone, so that they can “quickly” go in and pick up the things we need. Different in that with one mom, I get mobbed by her emotional aggravations, and with the other mom, we get mobbed by her fans. Not always pleasant, but I do love my moms, very much.

Off to the TV station. See you on air in a couple of hours!

Friday, 17 October 2008

Tired and brain dead

I'm out of RAM. Need to be turned off, rested and rebooted. The last day off I had was nine days ago, and the next day off I will have is another four days from now. For the next four days, I think I will just aim for "passing." This week of working at night has been unusually busy and draining. Sigh. I'm so fatigued and getting cranky and negative. Need rest. Need rest! Four more days!

Thursday, 16 October 2008

A call from the cracker company

The distributor of the crackers from last night called me and asked me to remove their company's name from the money culture post. Apparently, if you typed in the name of the cracker company and melamine, Google will bring you to my blog. And to make a bad situation worse for them, it looked like they were selling toxic crackers and tried to pay off the media. Now, they did try to give money, which I didn't take, and I feel I have done nothing wrong. But I decided to remove the name anyway, since they apologized for the "misunderstanding," and my blog post was about money culture in Taiwan in general. They said a veteran reporter advised them to give money to reporters that came to take a statement or make an interview, and they followed the advice, for lack of experience in dealing with media. Whatever the truth is, I'm not going to think about it further. I'll just give them the benefit of the doubt, both in the case of the money and in the case of selling cookies tested by the Taipei Health Bureau to be tainted with melamine to Taiwanese consumers.

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Reporter, Level II

I think I can stop calling myself a rookie. I’ve been reporting for 2,5 years, and I’m beginning to feel a second level of growth. Maybe it’s Solon, my new assignment editor. Maybe it’s time.

This night shift has been a nightmare. Since Saturday when this shift started, it’s been busy busy busy every single afternoon, evening and night. Assignments just coming and things just keep happening! Every single night, I’ve been starving until I can finally get dinner at 21h00 or even later. And when I’m eating at that hour, I’m having junk because there aren’t any restaurants open anymore. The only things left are hawker stands, which may be tasty for some, but a bit too dirty for me. In any case, it’s been busy, but in the past couple of nights I’ve noticed that my scripts are getting a little more interesting and my voiceovers getting a little better. The scripts and voice overs are sounding more lively, more like Solon’s, and I like the change. I think after I get this part down, I’d like to put my own scent and spirit into the stories. I’m not sure how I’m going to do it yet, but I think I’m getting closer. Before, when I tried to bring an international perspective to the story, it would always get taken out. My editors don’t like it. Maybe because FTV’s audience doesn’t like it. Maybe I’m just not doing it right. I don’t know. We’ll see.

Cha-ching! The culture of money.

When I asked for the news release from the distributor of the cracker company, whose butter crackers tested levels of 2.57ppm of melamine, the spokesman pulled out a big manila envelope, and then a smaller envelope that looked unusually bulky. With a shaking hand, he put the smaller envelope into the big envelope and handed it to me. I suspected there was cash in it, and I was right. There must have been at least TWD10.000 packed in there. In front of him and Gu Caiyan, my TVBS colleague that arrived later than I did and was waiting to interview him, I put down the envelope containing the money on the table and left.

This isn’t the first time I’ve run into an interviewer who tried to give me cash. It doesn’t happen often, but in the last 2,5 years, I’ve been passed anywhere between TWD2.000 and TWD35.000 at a time. Of course, I returned all of it and also informed my supervisors of what had happened. After talking to the night shift assignment editor, I learned that it used to be common practice to give money to reporters, and it still happens often in southern Taiwan. I used to feel deeply insulted when offered money by an interviewer, but not so much anymore. I just return it, or have Paul, the deputy managing director to return it for me if I realize after the fact that there’s money in the press kit.

Money as a gift (紅包 “red envelopes” they’re called because they’re put in red envelopes) in Taiwan is an interesting thing, I’m learning. Parents give their children money on their birthday and at Chinese New Year. People give money to newlyweds at their wedding, and to the family of the deceased at funerals (in this case, money is put into white envelopes 白包). In these situations, money gifts seem appropriate, right? I think so. Money to celebrate, money to pay for wedding, money to pay for funeral. Then two years ago, during a political conflict outside of what used to be the Chiang Kai-shek Memorial, one of our cameramen was nearly run over by a truck driven by a crazed protestor. The cameraman was hurt and after returning to the station from the hospital, the general manager of our TV station came and gave him a red envelope with money inside. I didn’t know what to think. It was a culture shock to me. Apparently, it was to help him forget the bad memories of what happened our there, and the auspicious color of red was to suppress the inauspicious event that just occurred. Interesting. If it were me, I think I’d much rather receive a fruit basket, attached by an official order that says to stay home and rest for a week.

Update: I removed the name of the cracker company from this post, at their request.

More melamine tainted food found

The Taipei Health Bureau tested 2.57ppm of melamine in Julie’s Butter Crackers Tuesday. Julie’s Crackers products are sold mostly at Carrefour and RT Mart in Taiwan, and have already been removed from store shelves. Here is one report on it.

When I was talking to one of the employees of the distributor of Julie’s Crackers, he said the company is probably finished, since the butter crackers were their best-selling product and is what they practically rely on to survive. They sell about TWD20 million worth of this product imported from Malaysia every year he told me.

A few weeks ago, another Malaysian product, a cheese cracker, was also found to contain nearly 30ppm of melamine. That story is here. The Julie’s Cracker man told me that that product was actually not Malaysian, but rather CHINESE. He said that Chinese authorities put pressure on the importers to not reveal the true origin of the product. Unfortunately, there is no proof of that, so there’s no story to chase.

These days, I’m beginning to feel more comfortable with products made in Japan, US, EU or Australia when it comes to imported foods. Sigh.

(image via Yahoo news)

Monday, 13 October 2008

Cheese sponge

When it's new, it's a slice of cheddar cheese. When it "ages," it then becomes a slice of gorgonzola cheese. I like it. :)

For 7 euro, you can buy it here.

(via wooow...yk.celine)

New link - The Sartorialist

Inspiring, everyday fashion. I love this blog.