Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Just not meant to be

This vacation was just not meant to be.

I had set aside seven days this month to go to Tokyo, but those plans fell through.

(sushi Oneesan brought for New Year's dinner some years ago)

So instead, I planned to go to Bali with Gina, but those plans went into the soup (as they say in Mandarin).

(photo by Uncle Tsu, this was Palau, but you get the idea)

Then I thought, it wouldn’t be so bad to stay in Taipei, until work kept calling.

(hazy view of Taipei 101 from FTV's rooftop)

Vacation day 1: had to go in to the office for about five hours to finish the Qianggu (搶孤) story. Qianggu is a traditional festival held at midnight of the last day of the 7th month (also known as “Ghost month,” the equivalent of Halloween, perhaps) of the lunar calendar, where men race up poles greased with 200 gallons of cow lard and then climb up bamboo racks to cut down the flag atop with a sickle. Personally, reporting on it once was enough for me. First because we didn’t get back to Taipei (the festival was in Yilan) until 2 AM (we even left before the whole thing ended). Second because the smells of cow lard, burning ghost money, squid being grilled in the nearby night market and smelly men chewing betel nuts all together at the same time was a bit too much to bear. And third because it was dangerous - the total height of the greased poles plus bamboos was more than 13 stories high with almost nothing to catch competitors if they should fall. So vacation day 1, I went back into the office to finish the story in English, Mandarin and Minnan for the Tour Taiwan travel series. After finishing the stories, I dragged myself to a dinner held in Michael’s honor, for he was just accepted into the business school at Johns Hopkins. I arrived at the dreadful karaoke restaurant in Danshui around 22h00. Dad was so drunk we hardly recognized each other, and same with practically all his friends. After two bites of food that Mom had left for me, I went outside to save my head from exploding. In my mind, Drunk People + Karaoke = Potential Eardrum Rupture and Subdural Hematoma]. After stopping by the Danshui house and picking up fruit from Mom had “shared” with the gods and ghosts earlier, I caught the pumpkin train back into Taipei and got home around 1h00. Long day.

(one of Ada's magical salads)

Vacation day 2: office calls at 5h24 as the sun was just getting out of bed. The 6h00 show producer says, “Michella, we need you to come in. The 6h00 anchor isn’t going to make it.” Without washing my face nor brushing my teeth and not knowing what I was wearing, I sped into FTV, grabbing the scripts on while flying into hair and make-up. Thank god the show started on time. Was going to have brunch at Nonzero with Ann, but ended up having bagels and yogurt at home instead, which wasn’t bad at all. As I was watching “PS, I Love You” again on cable and really starting to get into the vacationing mood, this time my boss calls, “Michella, we need you to come in tomorrow. We’re short one reporter because Gloria’s still working on the Hatta Yoichi (八田與一) documentary and can’t report.”

(picture by Terence, some time ago at the Zhongxiao Fuxing MRT station)

Vacation day 3: did a political story in the morning about former legislator and Taipei city councilwoman Diane Lee, who was charged with dual citizenship (US and Taiwan, dual citizenship is illegal in Taiwan), and is to return the salary she was paid during her time as public servant, which amounts to TWD120mn (USD3.7mn). The story was that opposition councilmen were accusing the Ministry of the Interior for attempting to interfere with the council’s decisions in order to aid Lee in not having to return the money. In the afternoon, I did a story on H1N1, with CDC officials urging pregnant women to take medication as instructed by a doctor if they catch the flu. A 23 year old pregnant woman in Taidong refused to take Tamiflu (partially because it hasn’t been deemed 100% safe for pregnant women), and she and her baby both died, unfortunately.

Today is vacation day 4. I cycled 23 by the river this morning at 5h00, watching the sun come up over Taipei, and it felt great. Despite my 1-speed, tiny wheeled, slow-poke Strida, it was a good ride. Then I bought a runbing (潤餅, Taiwanese spring roll stuffed full of warm veggies in a whole wheat wrap – one of my favorite foods) on the way home and just finished eating. Heaven. Going to water the plants, nap and then go to William’s press conference for the Metabolic Balance book launch this afternoon. Not exactly all fun, but better than going in to work again.

I need to rest up and get healthy the next few days, for more busy days are coming and my intern has the Type A flu (90% chance of which is H1N1). Sunday and Monday, we’re going to Sun Moon Lake (日月潭) in central Taiwan to do a story on their bike trail that wraps around the lake. Thursday and Friday, we’re going to Dapeng Bay (大鵬灣) in the south to do another cycling story. What good timing it is to buy a new bike! Then it’s straight to night shift for seven days. Later in the month, we’re traveling again to Zhiben (知本) to do a story on the hot spring industry there recovering after Typhoon Morakot. Then we’re going to Yilan (宜蘭) to report on the beautiful landscape changing from green to red as autumn comes. October is going to be a busy month.

September was a busy month. I’ve somehow become the go-to person for all tasks bothersome, difficult, tricky and risky. I was almost sent on an undercover assignment to a country where people are beaten to death on the street and disappear to never be found again. The assignment was to secretly interview a monk, while all the way having to lie to get to the interview. Very happy it didn’t pan out. Recently, I’ve also been helping Gloria with her Hatta Yoichi documentary after work, because almost all the interviews were in Japanese. I enjoy helping her because she is grateful for the help. Can’t say as much for a lot of other people who come running for help… In November, FTV’s having me host a 1-hour program talking about the developments of Taiwan’s various marketplaces/downtown areas. The tricky part is, experts from Taiwan, the US and Japan will also be on the show, and most of them don’t speak Chinese, so I’ll have to switch a language with each expert. My brain is going to fry, even if I remember how to speak Japanese again.

Instead of counting my eggs before they hatch, I think I’m getting a feel for my fatigue before it actually sets in. I better stop. Instead, I will rest, exercise, meditate, read, and dump the contents of my brain (perhaps into the air or onto the blog). Yes, that’s what I’ll do. Been going through lots of emotional and physical stress lately. I need repairs both inside and out.

Speaking of which, my Strida needs the rear brake cable tightened. What a great excuse to go look at that cute little bike that I want again.

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