Monday, November 26, 2007

Twin Peaks

Chris & Lara Pawluk
Well this weekend was great for mountain fun. On Sat. I was expecting to just relax around town because my family was going with a group to Shitou on Sun. so I didn't plan any big activities. Later on Sat. I returned a call to my friend(he had called the night before when I was kind of half-sleeping). He asked me if I'd like to go to his cabin with him. This was the 3rd time he asked me since a group of us went the first time. I mistakenly answered in Taiwanese "Gwa boying" meaning I'm not free, instead of saying "Gwa ooying." So I quickly switched to my stronger Mandarin skills to rectify my error. Shortly we were off. This time we got a much earlier start, so the beautiful fall lighting on this clear day could really be enjoyed. After arriving in the town Juolan (below thew mountain his cabin is on) we did a little shopping in some small grocery store. The old lady running it was very friendly and my friend Mr. Shao went about getting his noodles, veggies, and some meat for our impending cookout.

I loved the quaintness and warmth of this little mountain town. It caused me to reflect back on my youth in the Catskill Mountains of lower NY State. I love Taichung but it is so nice to get away from the city and noise and polluted air.

We got to the cabin and were greeted by his brood of chickens and lone cat. The weather was perfect, the air was sweet and you could hear the stream from the valley below. He got about getting the cabin opened and the ingredients for lunch organized. I sensed he wasn't that proficient of a cook so I stepped in doing my best Keith Floyd impersonation and got busy with the knife and cutting board. It was a blast cooking outdoors in this relaxed and natural environment. After lunch we spent the rest of the afternoon kicking back and drinking tea.

I look forward to more outings like this. Maybe even with our sons who are friendly too.

Monday, November 19, 2007

Double-chicken epiphany

kian esquire
Recently I was fortunate to enjoy two different chicken meals that were both delicious and great value. One expected and one a surprise. The expected on was the Chicken Roll sandwich at Costco which is kind of like a burrito or roti but with the addition of cheese ands some sauce on the inside. This lovely treat is only NT$69 which is a hair over $2. My son enjoyed the hot dog and coke but managed to get a sample of mine. He said he'll go for the beef roll next time which Costco calls bulgogi-the Korean name for barbecued meat.

The surprise meal came from a Roti stand that opened at the SungJu night market here in Beitun. My wife snagged 3 for only NT$100($3) or NT$40 for one. Man I'm so happy about the roti. I love Indian food and there is some decent stuff around just kind of pricey and a ways from my house. So big props to my wife Anne(for this and a million other things :) ). Gonna track down those Indian guys myself and find out where else they sell.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Tales of Costco,Q-Tips and muffins...

OK finally Costco opened its doors here in Taichung after being on island for over 10 years at those uncivilized northern and southern locales(yes a joke, but I do have special love for central Taiwan). It was utter madness when Kevin(my son) and I visited a long with 4 friends from Australia last Sat. Taichung's Finest were out in force helping direct traffic. I know Taichung Mayor Jason Hu has been trying to get Costco to open here for some time. I thought it quite interesting that the subterranean parking ramps were lacking escalators. What you say?

There was an elevator but the long sloping ramps(2 per level) were just concrete. The store must have saved major bucks by eliminating the large escalators needed to cover the B1-3 levels. They'll also save enormously on electricity which is fine because that makes them slightly more environmentally friendly and we get more opportunity to burn up the extra calories we pick up when indulging in some of Costco's goodies. Floors 1(Optical dept. and Snack Bar) and 2 (main store level) both have escalators.

Can't tell you how happy I am again now that we have proper Q-Tip brand cotton swabs again. Silly I know, but after torturing myself with inferior Japanese imports or domestic varieties I can proclaim with authority big difference in comfort, safety and utility with the Q-Tips. So even though I had to dip into son's college fund to buy the 4 pack...

My buying habits have changed some what since I first came to Taiwan and also since Costco first opened here. Many things I would have bought without question previously, ground beef, frozen lasagna, ravioli,etc. I refrain from buying now. Some because I prefer to make it fresh myself in more manageable portion sizes and many of the items available at other Taiwan stores are adequate and can be purchased as needed without carrying Costco's inventory for them while they carry your cash.

That being said, Kevin and I did buy some of the things that we consider must haves like the bagels, muffins and big blocks of cheese. The staff is really friendly and service oriented. My card expired and needed to be reprocessed after I had already selected my goods and gone through the line. Some young lady named Amy was very helpful in English with whole process although she admonished me for "making her" speak English when she found out my Chinese is quite adequate. I smiled and told her, "Hey Costco is an American chain and this was excellent practice for her. I also pointed out how she shined in this case."

Look forward to being able to shoot by there when ever and pick up needed items and grazing at the reasonably priced snack bar. Kevin and I did major damage to 18" NT$300 pizza we took to nearby park.

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Things I love about Taiwan...

Well first and foremost Oolong Tea(high mountain of course). In this case enjoying some given to me by new business friend Mr. Wang. He purchased from trip to SongBoLin in the lovely NanTou county. First time drinking this variety and I must say I'm enjoying it in ways I have the AliShan variety which had been my standard. last weekend was great for getting out and about and doing some video while I was. Visited the in-laws in Yunlin and some friends in LuoDong. Gotta say I love the mountains.