My Not-So-Daily Diary

May '03

Thursday, May 1, 2003

     Today is May Day.  It's the Labor Day holiday in Taiwan and our local office was closed.  I find it interesting that both Asia and Europe celebrate Labor Day today, and in America, we wait until September.  Anyway, I'm sorry that I'll miss the annual fun of 'The Night of the Witches' back in Oberwil and that I won't be able to see which of the young girls got a tree posted and which didn't. 

    I guess I'm compensated by the fact that there are interesting things to see here too.  Tomorrow, Herbert and I are going to the mountains with Carol and James.  We'll spend the weekend staying at a farm and hiking in the mountains.  I didn't realize that Taiwan had 'real' mountains, but the altitude where we're going is similar to Telluride in Colorado.  I guess I'm one of those clueless Americans who failed Geography and World Studies in school.

     Because we'll be gone on Saturday, May 3rd I need to say one thing today before I run out of time or energy...

 

 

 

Your Text Here

 

       

 

We Love You,
     Sue and Herbert

 

 

 

 

     Now to a totally new topic...

     For the past two years, I've been frustrated with my weight.  Even more so than I've been at any other point in my life.  I blamed it on the fact that I quit smoking (after 28 years of a very bad habit), quit working and moved to Switzerland  - all at the same time. 

     Then there was the food and the beer.  The culture in Switzerland is so different than in the States and my weight went up immediately after I moved there. 

     I knew all about dieting and almost two years ago, I decided to start there.  The plan was simple.  Cook and eat 'good' food.  I planned our meals for that first week and headed to the grocery store with a shopping list in my hand - a shopping list full of 'Americanized' products.  Geez!  I had thought I was frustrated with the lack of brown sugar and vanilla extract when I first tried to cook in Switzerland!  Trying to find low-fat or sugar-free products was close to impossible! (Other than natural foods, like fruits and vegetables.)  Herbert told me that the Swiss didn't believe in those things, that maybe they were manufactured, like plastics. 

     I did my best though.  I used foods that were available, counted calories and fat all day and cooked most of our dinners from the diet cookbooks I had shipped from the States.  Herbert and Yves (Herbert's son who lives with us) were wonderful about it.  They ate every meal and never complained about having to eat 'diet food' with me.  They even said it was good.

     But it didn't help.  Even though I tried this 'dieting' many times, I could never do it for long.    

     I started walking.  I walked and walked and walked.  I walked for hours each day.  And I walked fast.  I walked to neighboring villages, I walked in the forests by our house.  I walked alone, I walked with Herbert, I walked with a friend's dog and I walked with friends.  I built up the muscles in my legs, but that was about it for the long-term benefits.  Although I really learned to love to walk, I made the mistake of spending the 'calories burned' on my beers with Herbert at the Sternen.  (Our local bar that our friend Mdi owns.)

     It was about time to give up for me when Herbert told me about these three months in Taiwan.  He told me that the food here is very low cal and healthy - mostly vegetables. 

     I looked around when I first got here.  Everyone seemed to be a size zero.  I figured that they must know something that I don't know.  I tried to eat like them the first month we were here.  I ended up gaining weight. (Our hotel supplies us with a scale in our bathroom.)

     I was miserable!  I knew that I knew what I had to do.  I have computer programs that I use all the time to record everything I eat and every calorie I burn.  I have charts and graphs and more different kinds of files than you could imagine on my computer. 

      I focused so much on diets that all I ever wanted to do was eat.  Maybe what I needed was something to make it easy.  Something that would let me stop thinking about food and exercise and calories, at least a few minutes each day. 

     In the past, so many people had told me about Weight Watchers and how it was the only thing that was successful for them.  I thought that maybe the simplicity of counting points might be what I needed.

     Last week I decided to join the online version.  I wasn't thrilled about having to pay for so many things that I already knew, but I was missing a few details that I thought would be helpful.  I've learned a lot since I joined.  It's not easy to be starting Weight Watchers while here in Taiwan because the food is different than what they have on their lists.  But, I'm doing my best to keep it simple and simply count points the best I can.  It seems to be working, better than anything I've done in the past.

     I'll post more if I feel it's worthwhile information.

     Now, to move on and try and work on catching up with all of the stuff that I wanted to tell you about from the past month. 

     Things in Taiwan are inexpensive. Especially services. 

     Last month I was having problems with my back and neck (recurring problem for me) and it was making it difficult for me to sleep.  Jerry, one of the engineers from our local office, suggested that I get my hair washed.  And no...  It's not that he recommended it because my hair is so greasy that it's weighting down my head and causing me pain. 

     It's a relaxation thing here.  Women and men sometimes get their hair washed at the salon because it includes a head massage.  This sounded good to me.  When Jerry called one night and asked if I wanted to go, I decided to try it.

     He took me in, talked to the young man that would be washing my hair and left me  there alone with a note to use in the future.  There were two things on the note and he wrote them both in English - for me - and in Chinese - for whoever would be giving me services.  He wrote 'hair cut' and 'wash and dry'.  I'm very particular and nervous when it comes to haircuts, so I knew I'd never need the 'hair cut' one. 

    Jerry left and the guy started to work.  He draped a towel around my shoulders, put shampoo on my head and added a little water.  Because they wash your hair while you sit upright in a chair, they use very little water, just lots of suds.  He started to massage my head using little circular motions with his fingertips.  Oh my God was it wonderful!  I looked in the mirror, at the reflection of him standing behind me, and I smiled at him.  He didn't speak any English, but I was sure he understood that I was happy. In the past, I have paid my son, and more recently, I have paid my nieces and nephews to brush my hair.  But brushing doesn't even come close to the feeling of someone rubbing soap suds into your scalp. 

     The young man washed my hair and massaged my head for over thirty minutes without stopping for a second.  Most of the time, I thought about heaven.  The rest of the time, I thought about Herbert and how he was back at the hotel room, spending an evening at work on email.  I wanted him to experience this.  In case he never got a chance to go to a salon, I paid attention to how to do it so that I could wash his hair for him.

     When my hair was about as clean as it was going to get, I was directed to the back of the salon where I laid down at a 'normal' salon-style washing station where he rinsed my hair, put conditioner on and massaged some more before rinsing it all out.  I was disappointed that it was all over, but relaxed and satisfied.

     Back at the chair across from the mirror, the young man who was becoming my new best friend took the towel off my hair.  I waited for the blow-dryer, but was extremely and pleasantly surprised by a fifteen minute shoulder massage.  At this point, I started considering the 'more-permanent' move to Asia that Herbert had mentioned in the past.

     The massage was finished and he turned to the man who seemed to be in charge of the salon.  I wondered if he needed permission to dry my hair or if someone else would be stepping in. 

     The 'in-charge guy' came over and picked up the paper that Jerry had left with all the translations.  He pulled a cart over with many things including scissors and other 'cutting' tools.  I came out of my daze and started to pay attention.  I pointed to 'hair cut' on the paper and moved my hand back and forth, parallel to the ground to signify no, a simple word that I realized I didn't know how to say.  He used his fingers to 'clip' my hair, indicating how much he would cut off. Again, I moved my hand back and forth to say 'no', only a bit more forcefully.  He moved his fingers up my hair a centimeter or so and I realized that maybe the back and forth motion of my 'no' was being misunderstood for 'cut' and then a more forceful 'cut more!'  Now what?  I should have brought the cell phone to call for translations.  I picked up the paper, folded it in half with the words 'hair cut' forced to the back, out of sight, and pointed to 'wash and dry'.  He took the paper from me, turned it over and pointed to 'hair cut'.  I took the paper back, folded it, put it in my pocket and pointed to the blow-dryer in the cart and made a face in the mirror that I hoped showed how serious I was. 

     He walked away, seemingly disgusted with me and started working on someone else.  My young guy came back and started to dry my hair.  The stress in my neck was returning, but I pretended I was happy again and smiled into the mirror. 

     My hair is incredibly thin and needs mousse and lots of fluffing while it's drying in order to give it some body and life.  My young friend blew my hair dry as straight as he could and gave a part to my bangs that has never been there!  I noticed, but didn't care any more.  I have a natural wave and it was showing through and giving it some body.  He finished and turned back to the 'man in charge' and they discussed something about my hair.  I was relieved when he pulled over some kind of curling iron and not a pair of scissors.

     But it wasn't a curling iron.  It was a 'straightening' iron.  Apparently they wanted to get rid of those few small waves that remained.  I leaned back into the chair, stifled the laugh that was starting to grow as I looked at myself in the mirror, ignored the fact that the 'iron' was warming up on the floor and not in a sterile holder, and waited for it all to be over.  He finished and I was happy.  But, as if it wasn't straight enough already, he took out lotion and rubbed it over my hair to make sure it stayed down. 

    I paid him, an unbelievably low 100 NT, which is about $3 US.  (And no tipping here in Taiwan.)  $3 for a 30 minute head massage and 15 minute neck massage.  Absolute heaven! 

    I did, however, make a mental not to get a new translated note - one that says 'Wash only.  I'll dry my own hair. Thanks!'

    I walked back to the hotel and through the lobby where the doorman who always greets me with the inaccurate, but very friendly greeting, "Hello Mrs. Kly", seemed to be trying to look away from this new hairstyle-gone-awry.  I wanted to explain the evening, but just smiled nervously and pushed the elevator button.

    When I walked in to the hotel suite and Herbert came into the living room and looked at me, I keeled over with the laughter that I had held in for the last 15 minutes or so.  Herbert laughed too, told me I looked like a Swiss farmer's wife and grabbed his camera.  The photo he took is below if you want to see how lovely I looked.

   All in all, I'd do it again.  I just haven't had the time.  And in hind-sight, since my hair was dried so straight, Herbert and I noticed that the last cut I got in Switzerland was far from straight.  Very uneven from one side to the other.  Either that or it grew out unevenly.  Either way, maybe that's what all the commotion was about.  Maybe they were just trying to tell me that it needed to be cut.

    Good-night for now and once again. HAPPY BIRTHDAY MOM!!!

 

 

 

Saturday, May 10, 2003

     We're back from our trip to the mountains... It was wonderful! We have some great pictures from the hikes we went on and I'm working on the photo page.  I'll save the details of the trip for that page and let you know when it's finished and posted.

     Herbert and I got our hair cut today.  Our friend Rosa who runs the 'Good Morning Viet Nam' bar took us to a place where one of the women spoke a little bit of English.  She gave a few instructions and then had to leave because her children were in the car outside. 

     I was scared.  After my hair washing experience, I wasn't sure what kind of communication problems we were going to run into.  I was also in a mood to go shorter with my hair than it's ever been since I was a little girl.  I flipped through the hairstyle magazine that was full of photos of Chinese faces with nice thick hair that looked like it would hold it's style.  All the photos of the short styles looked to be basically the same.  I pointed to one, smiled at the lady and told myself that it was only hair.  Even if I hated it, it'd grow out. 

     She did a great job!  I love it.  Now I  have the problem of finding a way to make sure that Herbert can translate an explanation to Manuela, our hairstylist back in Oberwil.  I think we'll manage.

     I'll post a photo of the new hairstyle later.  I forgot to have Hebert take one earlier and now I'm in my pajamas. 

     On Monday we're going to Korea.  The 60 day maximum stay that our visa allows will be over on Tuesday.  We have to leave every 60 days and then we can come back in.  If it was Germany, we could drive over the border to France and turn the car around.  But Taiwan is an island and therefore we have to fly.  We decided on Korea because we can visit customers there and because there haven't been any problems in Korea with SARS.

     I haven't been in Korea since I was in the Marine Corps.  That was a while ago.  I do remember that I liked the architecture of the old buildings.  We'll be there until Friday and I hope we have some time to see things.

     Tomorrow is Mother's Day.  Thanks to the internet, Herbert and I were able to select and send flowers to our mothers.  I hope they look something like the photos in the ads.  Of course I won't be able to be with my son Nick tomorrow, but I know if I could, he'd probably give me flowers too.  He's thoughtful in that kind of way. 

     Tomorrow we're going back to the Aboriginal mountains that we went to the first week or so.  We're going to hike and then shop in the street markets where we bought all of our flowers and herbs.  I'm running out of rose buds for the 'Pretty Girl' tea I make most afternoons.  At $1.50 a bag, I think I'll stock up for when we go back.

     I need to stop writing now so that I'll have a little time to work on the photo page from last weekend.  I don't think I'll ever feel like I'm actually caught up with everything I want to post here.  But I do try.

 

Tuesday, May 20, 2003

     We are back in Taiwan - got 'home' Sunday evening. We had originally planned to come back on Friday, but one of our customers asked us to stay an extra night so that he could take us for a special Korean dinner. We enjoyed his company and our trip was going so well that we agreed and added Saturday night as well to the extension.

      I realized on Monday when we first arrived in Seoul that I didn't really have many memories of Korea from the old Marine days, at least not any accurate ones.  The only thing I could remember were some foggy details about the food.  I remembered that it had been so scary and repulsive looking to me that I had lived off the food on the Army base we were staying at and on donuts from the local 'Dunkin' Donuts'. 

     This time, older and wiser,  I tried everything that was put in front of me and I enjoyed it all. I even found that kimchee is great!  That was the scariest thing for me from twenty years back.  Say 'Korea' to someone and I'm sure they'll mention kimchee.  It was always described to me as cabbage that had been pickled and left to rot for many years.  Yum! 

     I found that I would describe it more as a spicy, pickled cabbage.  If you like vegetables, I bet you'd like it.  Seriously, Herbert encouraged me to try it and I found that I love it.  I'm already looking for recipes on the internet to make our own at home. Here's a photo we took of kimchee:

 

 

     I hope to put up a page of more Korean foods on the photo pages.  I know, I know. Maybe you're saying you don't believe me because I've mentioned other things I need to put up that I haven't gotten around to. 

     That's a good place for me to bring up the topic of updates and I'd like to say that I really do want to do all of these things. But this 'working thing' and this 'traveling thing' is really getting in the way of the other things I want to accomplish, including adding all the pages to this web site that I want to add.

     I'd like to at least feel like I'm caught up on my journal.  There are so many things I've been carrying forward in my brain from entry to entry and I never get them all written.  Maybe you've noticed that I tend to write as many details as I can about each topic - probably too many. This obsession I have to tell the WHOLE story doesn't leave me with enough time to tell all of the stories. 

     And so here is my idea for tonight's entry... I'm going to try to write a little something about everything that's been waiting to be talked about.  I'll do my best to get it down quick and easy.  It won't be easy for me to get used to getting to getting to the point, but I'll try.  Who knows, maybe I'll find I like that way of writing my journal and use it as a method in the future.  Maybe I'll even find time to finish all the photo and cultural notes and recipe pages.

 

     Let me start with the item that's been hanging around the longest, from over five weeks ago.  But first, I need to mention a little history. 
     I hate the dentist, always have.  That, and the fact that I don't have any kind of insurance have led me to do what ever I can to stay away from the dentist's chair and I've managed that for a few years.  This tendency towards avoidance and my advancing age have put me into a situation where I am in need of a lot of dental work. 

     I had to have a tooth pulled when I was visiting in Denver last Thanksgiving and the dentist warned me at the time that I had another one that would need to be pulled in six months or so if I didn't get it crowned.  It seemed as if the dentist knew what he was talking about and I started to have problems even before we left Switzerland. Dental work is even more expensive there than in the US.  I decided to pray and hope it held out until next August or so when I could get back to Denver. It didn't.  The annoying pain I felt on the upper left side of mouth was getting worse with every meal.  The time had come to have it pulled and it was going to have to be in Taiwan. 

 

    (I'm not doing a very good job of getting to the point and so, in order to save 'journal writing time', I'm going to use a section out of an email I had written to my brother and sister on April 15th.)

    

     ... Barb, I thought of you yesterday.  You would have died if you had been me.  You know how I've mentioned about the difference in standards here for food and how it's so different than in the states or in Europe?  Well, yesterday I got to experience the Taiwanese version of a dental office.  I had a cracked molar and it had been getting worse each day.  On Sunday, I was in so much pain that Herbert didn't know what to do to help me.  Aspirin had become useless and the only thing that took the edge off was if he pressed an acupuncture point on my shoulder.  (Not so easy when you have to go to the bathroom.)
    
Our friends James and Carol have a dentist that they said was very good, but the office didn't open until Monday afternoon at 2:30 and there weren't any appointments available.  We were waiting outside the door at 2:00 on Monday, hoping he'd fit me in.
    
The dentist told us he was booked, but after he looked at me, he told Carol he'd take me after his first patient.  After I looked at his dental facilities, I wanted to run back to our hotel room and wait to die. I'll spare you the details. Let's just say I cried through the whole thing.  Carol held onto my shoulder and Herbert had to hold my hand most of the time.
     I didn't cry from pain.  Novocain pretty much took care of that.  I cried because I was scared and I was confused by the differences in procedures, frustrated because I couldn't understand what he was saying to Carol, and embarrassed by the fact that there's no privacy and everyone waiting for the dentist or anyone walking down the busy city street could see me laying there crying while my tooth was being ripped out.  The tooth had to be broken into four pieces and the dentist worked so hard to get it out that after 45 minutes, when he was done, his entire face was full of sweat.
     The tooth is out now and I have pills.  I take a series of four different unknown pills every four hours and they seem to be helping me feel better.  All they could tell me was that they're for pain and for infection.  I wanted to know exactly what they were because I didn't know what the interaction would be with the Vioxx I take for my back.  I tried to find out by going to a web site where you can input the appearance of a pill and find out what it is.  All four pills came up as 'unknown'.  I haven't taken any Vioxx in three days and my back is killing me.  I don't understand why the pain killer he gave me takes care of the pain in my mouth but not in my back or with the headache I've had all day.  I'm just chocking it up to one more unknown.
     If you read my web site journal pages later, I may give more details.  It depends on much I feel I can relive.  ;-)  I have to go back at 5pm today so that the dentist can look at the hole.  He wants to make sure it's healing and so do I.  If I'm feeling gutsy, I'll take the camera and ask if I can photograph the office...

 

     To finish the story, when I went back to get the hole in my mouth checked, there was a different dentist.  His English was a bit better and he told me he was worried.  The hole didn't seem to be healing.  He tried to explain a dry socket to me and told me that I might experience very, very bad pain in the next few days.  When we had first gotten to the office that day, I had asked to be shown, in English, what pills I had been given before and I had found out that the pain medicine they had given me was basic Tylenol.  After considering the effectiveness of Tylenol for extreme pain, I no longer cared that I was almost out.  The dentist wanted me to be prepared.  He gave me more Tylenol. 

     The next day, my fear of pain grew.  I dragged our friend James back to the dental office and had him explain to the dentist that I needed some serious pain pills in case this dry socket kicked in.  Didn't they have prescription drugs?  He listened to James and he listened to me explain my 'American experience' the previous November.  I knew he should understand.  He had studied in the States.  He said he did understand and had the 'counter girl' give me ten pills that were different and 'very strong stuff'.  I smiled and thanked him, "Shay shay nee!"

     I was very proud of myself for taking a  step to feel like I was in control.  I remembered that I wanted to know about drug interactions with Vioxx and I asked them to write down the name of this new pill.  They started to write it and after the I - B - U - P - R, the tears started to well up in my eyes.  I could hardly see to read the final word they had written, Ibuprofen.  I clenched my jaw, fought the tears and turned and walked outside. 
     When we got back to the hotel, I wrote an email to Herbert's daughter Natacha and asked her to send me the Vicodin I had from last year's tooth-pulling.  It was still in the medicine cabinet in Oberwil.  She sent all of them and it was as if she had sent me my most loved and worn-in security blanket from my childhood crib.  I never needed them, but I was definitely grateful. I don't think I'll ever travel to a foreign country again without them.

     That's it on the tooth.  I realize I'm not doing well with this 'shortened version' thing.  I'll keep trying though. 

     Here goes...

 

     I got an email today from a friend back in Switzerland.  It was in German and I did what I always do, I tried to read it first myself and then I had Herbert translate it in case I misunderstood something.  This is my version, my translation:  She looks at my web site regularly, likes my hair and thinks that it looks like I've lost weight. 

     According to Herbert I was kind of right.  He said, "She looks at your web site, enjoys it and thinks it looks like you lost weight, at least one kilo with your new haircut and that the new haircut is very sweet."  I thought for a second.  I hadn't yet posted a photo of my haircut. Shit!  I never thought about the fact that my Swiss-German-speaking friends might look at the photos and not completely understand the text - or how the post-head-massage-hairstyle photo from my last journal entry was hilarious to me. Not cute, not a new hairstyle I wanted to show, but a funny photo that I simply wanted to share.  I decided I had to get busy and write today and post the 'real' new haircut photo.  Here it is:

    

 

 

     Speaking of massages, one night last month, Herbert and I decided to take advantage of one of the inexpensive foot massage salons near our hotel.  First they soaked our feet and then had us sit on comfy 'Pepto-Bismol' pink recliners.  I had always wanted to learn foot 'reflexology' and was excited to have my feet 'reflexed' and maybe relaxed.  Let me just say that it can involve a lot of pain, especially if there are 'things' going on in your body. Based on the pain I experienced, there are a LOT of things going on in my body.  Ever since that foot massage, when Herbert asks if I want to go get another one, I find something else to keep us busy.

 

     I am very, very picky about my pillows.  I simply can't sleep if it's not right.  Call me Goldilocks, but I just can't.  No worries though.  I can take care of myself - usually. 

     I brought my pillow from Oberwil to Taiwan, the same one I bought in Denver last summer.  I carried it on the plane and was not the least bit concerned with the space it took up in my limited luggage.

     The first night in Taiwan, I found that I had brought the wrong pillow.  I had changed the sheets on our bed the day I left Switzerland and had somehow gotten my soft, yet substantially firm, fiber-filled pillow mixed up with Herbert's feather pillow.  I decided that I'd have to make it work.  I wadded it up and wadded it up like I was wadding up an XXL T-shirt and stuffed it under my head.  An hour later, I woke up with only a sleeve's worth under my head.  This continued all night.  The next morning, I was freaked out with fear that I'd never get any sleep in Taiwan. I stared at the the two hotel pillows that were laying on the floor next to the bed. They were as thick as two sofa cushions put together and about as soft. They were worthless.

     After a few sleepless nights, I found an old worn out pillow in the back of the top shelf in the closet in the bedroom of our suite.  It was perfect.  I slept well on it and continued in pillow bliss.  Until one day, when a new 'pillow problem' popped up.  I had came back from working out in the fitness room and realized that the lady who had cleaned our room that day, a new maid to the hotel - one unfamiliar with the strange household that Herbert and I had set up in this little hotel suite - had taken my American, very expensive, 2000-some-count cotton pillow case off of where it had always been on Herbert's feather pillow, the pillow I had brought from Switzerland, and replaced it with a white, starched, scratchy cotton, hotel case.

     I still had the comfy hotel pillow that was allowing me to sleep well, but now one of the few remaining comforts that I had chosen to keep from my home in Minnesota was gone.  I was sure they had just thought it needed to be washed and took it for a cleaning.  I asked the front desk of the hotel to check on it.  (The cleaning staff doesn't speak any English.) 

     A few days later, we didn't have any news.  I mentioned it to Carol.  She called the hotel.  The manager showed up the next day with a brand new pillow case they had gone out and bought at a department store.  She explained how horrible they all felt. I felt like crying.  I missed my pillow case and now it was lost forever.  But I was touched by the thoughtfulness they had shown.  I decided I needed to work on letting things go. I washed and dried the the new pillow case in the hotel laundry room and put it on my comfy hotel pillow.

We got to be such good friends, me and the pillow and the new case, that when Herbert and I went for a weekend in the mountains with James and Carol a few weeks ago, I took them with us, the pillow and the new case.  James and Carol laughed a bit at me and I accepted that.  I had my pillow to comfort me.

    When we got home from our trip and unpacked, I noticed that one of the two large plastic shopping bags we had used to pack our things in was missing. Of course it was the one I had packed my pillow in.  I had set all our bags outside of the front door of the little hotel and James and Herbert had carried everything to the trunk of the car.  Somewhere in the commotion of getting ready to go, that bag had been missed.  I told Herbert that I now had to accept that I probably had very bad 'pillow karma'.  We called James and asked him to contact the hotel.

     The owners of the hotel are only there on weekends and when James called the following week to ask about my pillow, my pillow karma got worse.  Both my substitute comfy pillow which happened to be owned by the hotel, which I had removed from the premises, along with the newly acquired pillow case, had been destroyed.  They had been afraid that someone with SARS had left it.  They didn't want to take any chances.  They had burned it immediately after finding it.

    

     Okay, I'm still not doing so well at shortening my stories, but I did catch up a bit.  At least I think so. 

     Tomorrow evening we're going to a BBQ at the local office of our company.  I won't even pretend to myself that I'll try to write when we get back to the room.  But I will promise to try on Thursday.  I'm feeling so caught up! 

     The next time the topics will include more about SARS, our trip to Korea and our upcoming plans for Thailand and going home.  For now, I won't even mention all the photo pages and cultural descriptions I'm dying to share.

 

Thursday, May 22, 2003

    Ever since Herbert and I have been in Taiwan, we've gotten together for dinner with everyone who works in the local office, including all six engineers, about once every two weeks. We were past due for another dinner, but no one seemed to be in any hurry to arrange something. I found out why last night. Everyone is afraid to go out to eat - to go to a public place - because of their fears of SARS.  Instead, they set up a BBQ in the backyard of the office.  I knew that they do this from time to time and so at first, I didn't connect BBQ with 'fear of SARS'.  It wasn't until I mentioned that we would be leaving soon and asked where our last 'get-together' dinner would be.  After a few nervous smiles and glances back and forth at each other, someone said, "Here." 

     "Another BBQ?" I asked.

     It took me a minute to think until I asked, "Because of SARS?"

     Of course!  They didn't want to take any unnecessary chances by being in a public place that they didn't necessarily need to be in.

     Herbert and I were talking about that this morning.  I stated my observation that we don't have a choice.  We have to eat out, at least once a day.

     "We do have a choice," he said. "We can leave."

     This was something I've been waiting to hear for a while.  We'd been dealing with SARS since we first arrived - two and a half months ago - and we had done a pretty good job of convincing ourselves that it wasn't a major threat to us.  But, lately that seems to be changing. 

     Just yesterday, the WHO (World Health Organization) declared Taiwan as a

hot spot, with "the most rapidly increasing cases of SARS."  That's the kind of stuff I pay attention to.  Up until yesterday, there had been 383 cases with 52 deaths.  Yesterday alone, there were 35 new cases.  That's an increase of 9% - in one day.  In Taiwan, they call all of the cases 'suspected' cases.  Sounds to me like someone took 'innocent until proven guilty' a little too seriously.  And what about the poor people who have died?  Are those cases still 'suspect'?

     Sorry, almost got up on a little soap box there. 

     Anyway, it's everywhere now.  We had a nice break from SARS while we were in Korea.  There were no masks, no washing our hands every five minutes, and we didn't have to have our temperature checked whenever we entered buildings such as restaurants, department stores and our own hotel.  Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about all of these preventative measures.  I actually ask to have my temperature checked every chance I get.  If I get sick, I want to know immediately.  I'm just saying that it was nice to have a breather from the awareness and the fear.  (As far as we know, Korea has only had one case of SARS and many people aren't very aware of the details of the crisis.)

     We have had such a difficult time trying to visit customer's factories, that we've just about given up.  It makes it very hard to do our job.

     And it's not just affecting us here in Taiwan.  We canceled our plans to go to China and to Hong Kong and have given serious thought to skipping Thailand. 

     Skipping Thailand wouldn't be out of fear.  At least not our fear that we could get SARS while there.  It's because other's would fear that they can get it from us.  It's currently recommended that all visitors from 'infected' countries (including Taiwan) should wear a mask for the first two weeks in Thailand.  Bangkok had a high today of 94f (34c). If you've ever had a mask on, you know that the prospect of wearing a face mask all day in 94f weather for two weeks doesn't sound like 'a vacation'.  Luckily for us, it's still only 'recommended' and leaves the choice up to us. 

     Herbert is sitting next to me at the moment, doing his own work.  He just told me that I got a response to an email I had sent this morning to our agent in Thailand.  I had told him that we were planning to visit Thailand and asked if it was still true that we would not be able to get in to customer's factories.  Here is his reply: 

 

Dear  Sue

Very worry
The situation is not any improved  , both of you can visit to BKK
but still can allow to entarce into  KCE or KCEI factory  as Health Security control per  any person from risk countries  as  Taiwan , China , Hong Kong
and also Singapore

Any I am welcome for meeting with us

Please help to advise.

Best regards,


 

(And,  what I believe to be a relatively accurate translation,

in case you need it.)

 

Dear Sue,

I'm very worried.

The situation has not improved at all.  You can both visit Bangkok, but you still won't be allowed to enter into KCE or the KCEI factory because the health controls at the security gates prevents the entry of any person from 'high risk' countries such as Taiwan, China, Hong Kong and also Singapore.

Anyway, I would welcome meeting with you.

Please keep me advised.

Best Regards,

 

     Okay.  Enough about that.  I didn't intend to be so long-winded about SARS, but I've basically avoided the topic for quite a while and I guess it was over-due.

     For those of you who sent email and asked what our plans are.  I'll do my best to say... 

 

     Our current plan is to try to finish as much as we can so that we can leave.  There are a few things we wanted to accomplish that just won't get done this trip.  They require visits to factories that are not allowing any visitors.  We are hoping to leave Taiwan by the end of next week - a week from today or tomorrow. From there we'd like to go to Thailand, mostly for a vacation, and plan to stay from one and half to two weeks.  This puts us home in Switzerland around the middle of June, about a week earlier than the original plan.

 

      I wanted to say more about the BBQ yesterday evening.

      We had a good time and the the food was great.  Usually, Herbert and I spend so much time in our 27th floor hotel room without any fresh air that it was really nice to get outside.  Just hanging out and talking with everyone was very relaxing for us. 

     And, there were children!  One of the other things we miss - seeing children.  I especially miss my nieces and nephews back in the states and the longer I'm away, the more I notice children and want to play with them.

     These two cuties belong to two of the engineers. (one child per engineer)  Sorry, I don't know their names in either Chinese or English.

 

 

      At first, both children were a bit afraid of Herbert and I. They just stood in there tracks and stared.  The little girl finally told one of the engineers that we were the first foreigners she'd ever seen - and she's four.  It made me think about American kids.  American children don't seem to pay much attention to people who look different than they do.  I think it's because there are so many 'different looking' people in the States.

      Differences or not, the little boy reminded me so much of my nephew Evan.  He didn't like his shoes and wanted his parents to buy him a new pair.  In order to ensure that he would get new ones, he took his shoes off and threw them in the canal-style river next to the yard/parking lot where we were having our BBQ.  They were lost for good and everyone but his parents laughed and marveled at his cleverness. 

     Unfortunately, they didn't speak any English and I don't speak Mandarin.  At least not enough to say more than hello and thank-you.  I wanted to play with them, but I think it was too hard for them to understand why I didn't understand them. 

     Someday, they will speak English.  The Taiwanese government has stressed the knowledge of English as being critical for business and success.  They've gone to a great deal of trouble to bring in English teachers from native-English speaking countries and all teachers must be proficient at 'American' English.  They're still looking for hundreds of teachers.  All of the school children, in cities and rural areas, are now learning English. 

      Herbert just did an internet search with "Taiwan AND English AND teacher" as the key words and got 150,000 hits. If you're interested here's a good link (according to Herbert.):    www.taiwan-teachers.com  (states a salary "minimum of $30 per hour)

     ... and one more that Herbert says "Hasn't been updated since February of 2000, but looks like fun.":

                        http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Delphi/1979/

 

      I'm so jealous of children who have the opportunity to learn a foreign language while they're still children and it's still relatively easy for them.  At 42 years old, I find learning to communicate in Swiss German to be do-able, but difficult. 

     Before I get ready to go back and try to remember all the Swiss German, I'd like to enjoy a little bit more of the 'funny English' I find here in Taiwan.  You find it everywhere, from signs to T-shirts to whatever.  This English is especially fun for me because I grew up in a house where a statement like, "I did really good!" was always responded to with the statements, "You did really well. You can't modify a verb with an adjective."  This was really hard to grasp when I was five or six, but I did catch on as time went by and now I think I do very well, thank you.

 

     Let me share a few with you that I've enjoyed...

 

(There are NO typos!  Not in spelling or grammar or punctuation.  At least not on my part.  I've double checked and I'm giving it to you exactly as I find it, line-breaks and all.)

 

     There's the writing on the side of the glass teapot we use every day.  It says,

 

                -  Bring a refreshing style for your living plus

 

     And the sayings on the covers of the notebooks I had to buy (because they made me smile so much.)

 

             -  Happiness marries happiness, you'll feel high and higher.

 

             -  It is love that makes the

                 world go ground.   

                    (This is on the cover of the '16K hor  izontal type note book')

 

             -  But by far the greatest comfort

                is the knowledge that when need

                a friend... I never to

                be alone. It's only

                for you.

 

Okay, that's enough for one night.  Before I go, there's a new photo page.  It's from our weekend in the mountains with James and Carol a few weeks ago. 

 

New Photo Page!

 

Next time, much more about Korea.

 

Good Night.

 

 

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