Thursday, July 31, 2008

What's Up With M'Boys

You might not believe it.

I came home from Taiwan to find that Son the Younger (hereafter referred to as StY because it takes too long to type Son the Younger and I'm not telling you his name) had colored his hair back to its natural state.

Crazy, I know. But wait, there's more!

He had also decided that it was time for a haircut. After trying a couple of times to get it into his schedule (or into the schedule of his hairdresser), he decided I should do it.

Oh noes!

Now, I haven't cut the boy's hair since, well, since a really long time ago. I'm pretty sure it was a single digit age (he's 15 now). He's a lot more particular about his hair now than he was the last time I cut it, so I was a little nervous about getting it done to his liking.

After I got one side done, his brother (a.k.a. Son the Older) told him he should go with the half and half look, just to be nutty, just for a day. Naturally, StY thought that sounded like a great idea. Here it is in the halfway, still wet form.

Once he got it dried, he decided he liked it, and I was a little afraid he was going to just leave it half short and half long. It's his hair, and it's something I don't fight with him about -- it's just not worth it -- but he's been through so many hair colors that I thought it would be healthier to cut it off and start over.

Fortunately for his hair, after he thought about it, he agreed.

I cut it short but left it a tiny bit longer along the midline for faux-hawk fun. Doesn't he look fierce?

This was my first faux-hawk; I actually did better the second time around, but I didn't take pictures then, so this is the only evidence.

In other Son news, I've also reached that point in life that every mother both dreads and looks forward to: in about two weeks, Son the Older leaves for college. Several people have asked how I feel about that. I think I'm probably in denial. I know he'll have a great time and come into his own in a lot of ways, and I look forward to that for him. But I will certainly miss him.

I do have to reply to something my sister said on her blog. She posted a very cute pic of my nephew with the comment, "Another adorable picture of my boy. I mean, should I just be enrolling him in college, or what? He looks so old in this picture!"

No, hon. This is the face of someone you should be enrolling in college.

Ouch, huh?

When I showed him your blog, his comment was, "Yes, yes, enroll me in college. Send me out into the REAL world. See how THAT works!"

He insists he intended it as a commentary on his unshaven appearance, but it's a great photo caption.

I love you, son. Take the world by storm.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Excellent Birthaversary Weekend

So, this week has been "interesting"...

My left foot and ankle were swollen and painful the entire time I was in Taiwan, so I headed to the doc as soon as I was back home. She wasn't sure of the cause but put me on anti-inflammatories twice a day. Even though I've taken them on a full stomach every time, they have not been gentle to me, to the point that a very nice dinner out was pretty well ruined last night. So I'll be calling my doctor back to see what can be done tomorrow.

But on a more pleasant note, the reason I was out for such a nice dinner, at one of my favorite places, was to celebrate my birthday and anniversary, which happen to fall on the same day. In years when either is significant, hubby doesn't get away with just a nice dinner, but this year isn't a big deal.

We went with friends who brought me a lovely birthday gift. Or hilarious, at least. He/she/it is handmade. What should I name him?

Today we went to Pei Wei for dinner. My tummy is feeling much better since I got all rebellious and decided to take Aleve rather than the prescribed stuff. After dinner we decided it was high time to check out the alleged best bubble tea in Austin!

I didn't have my camera with me at the time, so this is the best I could do once I got home. Sorry the glass is only half full. *blush*

I'd give this milk tea with bubbles about an 8.5/10 on the scale where a 10 was the bubble tea place by my hotel. Pretty good, but the flavor isn't quite as good, and I prefer the smaller bubbles. I may have to break down and make my own, since I was given my own supply of small bubbles before I left.

What about you? What's your favorite beverage? Where do you buy it?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Farewell to Taiwan

Yes, I know, I've been home since late Friday night (or early Saturday morning, depending on how you like to call it). But I still have a few more pictures, so this will be my last Taiwan post.

Pathetic, I know. Stuck for a topic in my drab daily life? Why, yes!

The lovely ladies in sales took me out for lunch on Thursday, my last full day in Taiwan. In keeping with my usual policy of respecting the privacy of my co-workers, there will not be a picture of the beautiful ladies, probably much to the chagrin of any male readers I might have.

I didn't take individual pictures of all the dishes, but it was quite the smorgasbord for just the four of us: dumplings, soup, veggies, hand-cut pasta, and a roll with beef and green onions. Seriously, you never leave a table hungry in this country.

I did take a separate picture of the dumplings, since they simply didn't fit in the previous picture. The entire lunch was delicious, but as usual, there was far more food than could be eaten by the people present. In this case, there were three tiny Asian women and me. The food won.

When I got back to my hotel Thursday evening, I noticed these little guys sitting on a sideboard. Somehow I'd missed them for the last week and a half. You couldn't look at them without smiling, so I thought I'd bring back a picture of them.

I also brought back something else to the hotel to make me smile. Yep, that's right -- this is the best bubble tea in Taiwan, at least as far as I discovered. Yum! Now I have to try all the places in Austin to see if anything comes remotely close to this. They even gave me a purple straw.

On Friday, there was some fairly serious rain near the hotel. It turns out it's pretty hard to get a decent picture of rain if you're not willing to get your camera out in it, which I wasn't. I took several pictures, and this was the best of the bunch. The rain was heavy enough that the resulting water was up over the curbs and almost into the shops near the hotel... but when I got to work, it wasn't raining at all, nor did I see rain the rest of the day, including in Taipei for my flight out. Go figure. 'Round these parts we'd call that a "locally heavy storm."

We got a tiny little shower today thanks to Dolly, but nothing like that picture. I would have been happy with more, as dry as this summer has been, but I'm grateful for what we got today.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

The Big Dinner Out

OK y'all, this is another monster long post with lots of pictures. There are a few more loose ends I need to tie up, but this will be the last big bunch of stuff.

Before I get into the big bunch o' food pictures, I have to post the picture that I was trying to get almost the entire time I was there. There were two types of traffic timers that I saw while I was in Taiwan. One showed the number of seconds until the red light turned greed. The other showed the number of seconds until the walk signal turned to don't walk. The walk signal came complete with a little animated green walking guy (who starts moving faster as time counts down). I finally manged to get both timers in one picture -- woohoo!

On my next to last evening in Taiwan, the group organized a large dinner out. Lots of people were invited -- my entire work group, my manager and his manager, the key managers from other areas, and a lot of the people I'll be working closely with. There were fourteen people there in all, and we were given a large private room with two large round tables.

Then the food -- Shanghai style -- started arriving. By this time I'd been to enough meals to know that I should just sample a bite or two of each item -- otherwise I'd be stuffed long before the last items were brought out. I followed that rule, and still I was stuffed by the end!

They told me the items on the first platter were "drunk chicken" and "meat with jelly." Both were tasty, although I preferred the chicken.

Next up were some spicy vegetables (on the left) and jellyfish (on the right). The vegetables were quite spicy but the perfect crunchiness. The jellyfish was the texture you'd expect jellyfish to be -- not my usual fare, but not bad.

The next course delivered was soup. It had a fair amount of cilantro (my least favorite herb) in it, but as long as I ate around the cilantro, it was delicious. It was delivered in one of the biggest bowls I've ever seen, and we did a pretty good job of eating it.

Next was shrimp, tofu and veggies -- yum! (No, I didn't eat much of the tofu...)

The dish below is duck in sauce with vegetables. If I've ever eaten duck before, it's only been once or twice. Like almost everything I ate in Taiwan, it was delicious.

This platter is lamb. It was a challenge to eat with chopsticks (as were a few things I ate), but it was really yummy. But wow, I was getting really full by this time, even eating just one or two bites of each item!

These are dim sum dumplings. I didn't try one since I was so full. I know I love dumplings, so I'm sure they were amazing.

Next: more soup! This was chicken soup -- as in, whole pieces of chicken. Quite tasty!

The next item to be brought out was fried lotus, apparently. Again, I skipped it since I was so full. They were quite large, about the size of a fist, and it just seemed like a lot of food at that pont.

Dessert was delivered next, and I was told that this would be the last item. Dessert soups are quite common in Taiwan. This one, like most, was served cool and was slightly sweet. You can see the pasta-like stuff in it, as well as the olive-sized things which may be fruits of some kind. All good stuff.

My neighbor was mistaken, of course -- there were multiple desserts. The second dessert was purple rice pie. I told him that my family made poppyseed cake that looked just like this. He seemed surprised. I didn't try one, since I was quite full.

The VERY LAST platter was watermelon and guava. I did have one slice of guava. I love me some tropical fruit!

And that's the end of my big night out. I have a few pictures left to share of my last lunch out and of the rain (some people called it a typhoon, but I think that may be an exaggeration from where I was), and that will conclude my Taiwan monologue. Of course, if I left any questions unanswered, please leave me a comment and I'll be happy to address it.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pictorial Randomness

I have some cleaning up to do, and some rambling to do about some pictures. Unfortunately, I have more than one day's worth of pictures to ramble about. I'll keep them in separate posts for sanity's sake.

I'm sad to say that these pictures are now a week old. Bad blogger! No donut!

The first three pictures are of a snack we had one afternoon. Everyone was treated to a snack of ice and fruit (at least, I think it was fruit of some sort). We were all given our cup of ice and fruit, plus one of the small creamer things like you get with a cup of coffee. Here's what it looked like pre-cream. I think one of the guys said that the orange things are a relative of sweet potatoes, but they didn't taste similar to me. I liked the orange things and the off-white things, but the black jelly-like stuff was less to my liking.

Here it is after pouring the cream in. You pour it in and stir it up. Although it doesn't look that appetizing, it's pretty good.

Here it is all stirred up and ready to eat. It's all kind of a gray mush thanks to the black jelly stuff. Still tastes good though.

Also, I thought since I had some litchi (which is apparently the correct spelling), I would show it to y'all. And make Janet, my Taiwanese friend, hungry. So here it is on the branch.

You peel off the rind before you eat it. That's a lot easier to do when it's room temp; the rind gets a lot more brittle after refrigeration. Oh well. It tastes yummy refrigerated.

More peeling, more of the litchi exposed. Trying to let y'all in on the process!

Here is our litchi all ready to eat. Yum!

After you pop your yummy snack in your mouth, this is what you have left -- the pit.

Yep, it's kind of a labor intensive fruit, but certainly no worse than, say, an orange. And quite tasty!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Little Bumpy on Re-Entry

I know, I owe you guys some pictures and some posts. I've been very bad since I got back to Texas.

I slept a record 15 hours on Saturday, was up just long enough for some Tex-Mex with friends Saturday night, then crashed again. After church on Sunday, I was pooped again and took a far longer nap than I should have. I was up later than I should have been last night, so my sleep schedule is still messed up.

I'm going to try to get to sleep at a reasonable hour tonight so I can get myself straightened out. My sister told me (having heard it from several of her colleagues who travel extensively in Asia) that jet lag coming back to the States is much tougher than jet lag going there. I'm feeling it.

So yes, I still have more stories and pictures to share with you, and I will try to do that tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day, after all.

Friday, July 18, 2008

The Airport, It Is My Life

Or at least it feels that way right now.

I made it back to the U.S., which was a relief considering the weather in Taiwan -- actually, the typhoon weakened and stayed south, so it wasn't an issue at all.

Unfortunately, once I retrieved my bags to go through customs (managing to spill the entire contents of my purse all over the baggage claim area in the process, because I'm graceful like that), I discovered that my flight to Austin is delayed. That 25 minutes may not sound like much, but tacked onto an 18-hour odyssey, it feels like forever.

I had a little girl (about age six or seven) sitting behind me on the flight playing games on the touch screen for the entire flight from Taipei to LA. It's 4am body time and she's punching away at the back of my head, essentially. I got up once and asked her to take it easy. That lasted about two, maybe three minutes, then she was back at it. I don't sleep on planes under the best of conditions, even with Ambien, but I think I actually dozed for a half hour or so. Right now it's 9am body time and my brain is pretty well fried. I keep typing words I don't intend to type.

Anyway, I'm very much looking forward to seeing Austin at the other end of this flight. Specifically, seeing my hubby, my boys, and the insides of my eyelids as I fall into my own bed. I owe y'all some pictures -- and hopefully some of the ones I took of the "typhoon" (or rain, really) came out too. But I doubt you'll hear from me again until sometime late tomorrow at the earliest.

I had a fabulous first trip to Asia, and even if the re-entry is a little rough, I will jump at the chance to go again. What a great bunch of peeps!

More later, when I can type coherently again. Or more coherently, at least.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Broken Record

If you're not old enough to know what a record is, go read someone else's blog, please.

No, just kidding, you can stay. Just don't tell me you don't know what a record is. I don't want to hear it. I remember them because I'm old.

So, I already mentioned that there's a large-ish storm headed for this island where I've been for a couple of weeks. Well, now it's a lot bigger and badder. If you needed evidence, here you go.

Yes, it was originally forcast to be a Category 1 typhoon (that's hurricane for you western hemisphere folks), but it's currently a 2 and is supposed to be a 3 now by the time it hits Taiwan tomorrow. Oh, the joy. Why yes, I am supposed to fly out tomorrow; thank you for asking!

And here is the satellite picture of the joy. You can see that the eastern edge of Taiwan is already suffering.

So, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to put in my earplugs and sleep while I can, which I suspect won't last long. Then I will get up, shower, pack, and blog more if I have time before it's time to go to work, assuming that's in the plan for tomorrow (which is the current assumption).

Nothing like a little adventure.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Typhoon, Hurricane... Why Split Hairs?

A storm is a storm is a storm, right?

Except I'd like to go home on schedule, please. I miss my hubby and my surly teenage boys and my own bed. These two weeks have been wonderful, fabulous, couldn't have been better, but as Dorothy said, there's no place like home, and I'm ready to go back in two days.

However, according to the weather people, there's a big ol' bunch of stuff headed this direction. The map looks more favorable now than it did this morning, but there's still a possibility that it turns and hits Taiwan and I get delayed.

I know this is my second short post in a row, and I went to dinner tonight and took about three dozen pictures of the food alone, because my goodness, they just kept bringing it out to us, but now I'm way too tired to tell you about it. I think my co-workers have more stamina than I do.

So I will tell you about my fabulous dinner tomorrow, and you will keep your fingers crossed for me that the typhoon misses Taiwan. Deal?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Why Was I Not Told Sooner?

Apparently the best bubble tea in the city is three doors down from my hotel.

Why was I not told until last night?

And why, oh why for the love of all that is holy, do they not open until 10am? I need me some bubble tea, y'all!

For that matter, why does Mr. Donut not open until 10am? That's insanity for donuts! Everyone knows donuts are for breakfast! Well, OK, maybe that's a U.S. thing, but not opening until 10? Does that strike anyone else as a little strange? Speak, people!

Sundaes are for Eating

[Note: Long post ahead! You have been warned.]

But Sundays in Taiwan are for sightseeing, and this past Sunday had been carefully planned for me by my work family. My co-worker Shawn had printed out the HSR (high speed rail) schedule for me, and we had arranged to meet in Taipei at Din Tai Fung for lunch at noon. Since I would need to take a cab from the train station to the restaurant, he carefully printed out the name of the restaurant and its location over a picture of it so there could be no mistake.

The front desk at the hotel called a cab for me. It’s stunning how fast a cab arrives there; it usually takes les than five minutes. The cab ride took me through some of the newest part of the city. In a place as humid as Taiwan, any building that’s a few years old starts growing things, so a building has to be truly new (or recently sandblasted) to look clean. I couldn’t take a lot of pictures from the speeding cab, but here is one unfinished building:

The train station itself looks like sculpture. I took a picture of it before I realized what it was.

Once inside the station, I was trying to buy a ticket from one of the automated machines but was confused by having to have a PIN for a credit card. One of the terminal employees gently guided me to the line that was staffed by employees so I could buy my ticket there. I had my ticket about fifteen minutes before my train arrived, so I had plenty of time to make it upstairs to the platform. I have to give them props: three minutes before the stated time, it pulled in.

Incidentally, before I tell you about my train ride, have I told you about the main mode of transportation in Taiwan? Let me show you the parking lot outside the train station. Note the ratio of cars to motorcycles (scooters):

Now I can feel free to tell you a story about how dumb I am. Remember how I had so much time before the train came? Now go back up and look at the picture of where I’m standing when the train pulls in. I’m standing by car 9, according to the picture. Now, if I had an ounce of sense, I would have checked my ticket BEFORE the train pulled in so I could see that I had a reserved seat in car 3. A very nice window seat – seat 13A, in fact. But no, I was standing by car 9 when the train pulled in for its very brief stop in Hsinchu; there was no time to run up to car 3. So I sat in car 9 in an aisle seat (no window seats were available. So smart. Not.

When I got to Taipei, the train station was so chaotic that it took me a few minutes to figure out which way was the exit to the outside world. The HSR connects to the regular train network in Taipei, so most people were going straight from one train to another. I couldn’t just follow people, which is what I usually do when I’m lost: follow the herd!

I finally made my way outside and found the line of taxis waiting for riders. I handed the driver the sheet that my co-worker had carefully prepared. He grunted, “Oh, Din Tai Fung” and sped off. It brought back such memories of riding in a cab in Manhattan! Lane stripes were merely a suggestion, and at one point I seriously thought he was going to run over a motorcyclist (scooter to you U.S. folks). He veered just enough left to miss it by a handbreadth, but I could have shook hands with the rider easily.

So what’s next to Din Tai Fung? Go ahead, guess. You’ll never guess!

Din Tai Fung is a very popular restaurant, so we did a little people watching while we waited for our table. Shawn asked if I could tell the difference between Japanese tourists and Taiwanese natives, and of course I could not. He said the tourists tend to dress more neatly. I’m not sure that helped me pick out one group from the other, but it was interesting.

The restaurant gave a whole new meaning to organized chaos. Workers hurried in every direction during our entire visit. It was an amazing scene. As soon as we were seated, a waiter brought me a sling, almost the size and shape of a high chair in the U.S., except with a cloth sling instead of a wooden seat. This was for my purse and camera case. Once I had deposited my things, she covered the sling with a cloth napkin and slid it under the table. Very nice, and it kept my things off the floor.

Shawn ordered several different kinds of steamed dumplings for us: pork, pork with vegetables, and shrimp. We also had fried rice, veggies with tofu, and steamed red bean dumplings for dessert. All the dumplings look more or less alike so I won’t bore you with all the pictures, but here is what we ate.

Pork and veggie dumplings:

Veggies and tofu:

Pork dumplings:

Before we left the restaurant, I excused myself to the ladies’ room. First, I would have thought that a restaurant of that size and popularity would have more than three stalls. Secondly, I had never experienced a Japanese style bidet before. And that’s all I have to say about that!

We walked several blocks to Shawn’s car, during which time I saw about fourteen 7-11s and six Starbuck’s. Not really, but I did see at least three 7-11s – they really are everywhere. I also saw a lot of great clothes shopping and joked about doing some shopping. Shawn, being the gallant guy he is, offered to let me do so, but I assured him I was kidding. Those who know me well could tell him how much I’m really not a shopper! Although I’d love to find something uniquely Asian to bring home for myself; I haven’t really done that yet. I’ve found things for my family but not really for myself. Figures, huh?

Naturally, I’ve gone off track. When we got near the car, I noticed this unnaturally tall building. Of course it was Taipei 101. And of course I got a picture.

Closer to the car was another beautiful building, which Shawn said was a memorial building (I should have taken notes on the details of that one – I don’t remember more than that now – my bad!).

Once in the car, we found out just what a challenge it is to find a parking place near the National Palace Museum on a Sunday afternoon. We ended up waiting in a line for a paid parking lot that was fairly close to the museum. Each car had to wait for someone to leave because the lot was completely full. We had fun making jokes and cheering on the people leaving the museum to come move their cars out of “our” parking lot so we could park and go in. It turned out to be a 20 or 30 minute wait for four or five cars!

Walking up to the museum, Shawn took a picture of me with the building in the background:

And this is one of a pair of lions “guarding” the VERY long stairway up to the museum.

In the museum, it’s apparently not OK to take pictures, which I found out right after I took this one. Perhaps I would have found something more interesting to waste my one picture on if I’d known! Or knowing me, I would have just kept my camera in its case like a good girl. In any case, this is the one picture I took inside:

I heard from more than one person that the mountain behind the museum is used for storage of all the items that the museum could possibly display. There are supposedly so many that even if the museum changed every display once a month, it would take something like twelve years to go through everything they have. It’s a big museum – that’s a lot of stuff!

Toward the museum’s closing hour, Shawn and I made our way to the gift shop, where I picked out some souvenirs for people back home. We then met up with a crowd (see if you can keep up): my manager, his wife and daughter, her sister and son, and her mother. Shawn also called his girlfriend, and we all met at a Thai restaurant for dinner.

I wish I could show you pictures of the stunning array of food that was served, but to be honest, I didn’t want to be a dork and pull out my camera at this nice restaurant with my boss’s entire family in attendance, so I didn’t. I should have written everything down so I’d remember, but of course I’ve slept since then. I know there were shrimp cakes with a sweet sauce, fried and steamed rice, mini fried chicken skewers with sauce, some sort of lettuce cooked in sauce, a bunch of grilled stuff that came out on a fajita-type skillet, and mango juice to drink. That’s all I’m remembering right now, but I know there were at least four or five other dishes that I’m not remembering. For dessert we all had ice with fresh fruit and tapioca (a version of the same thing I had at the street market). I’m told that Thai food here isn’t as spicy as in the U.S., and I really only got one spicy mouthful. It was all delicious, and everyone there was so lovely to me, as everyone in Taiwan has been. Even the children were sweetly well-behaved. My manager’s daughter is so cute; I’m not sure she had ever seen a redhead. Her eyes were large when she met me, and she kept giving me shy little waves. What a sweetheart! Of course, since I have boys (and teenagers at that), I tend to have a bit of a soft spot for little girls.

After dinner, Shawn and his girlfriend and I headed to the train station. They were trying as hard as they could to get me there in time for the 8:30 train back to Hsinchu, since the next one wasn’t until 9:30. Unfortunately, we couldn’t bend time and space, and I missed the 8:30 by about five minutes. Shawn showed me to the platform, and they went on their way.

At that point, a wandering train station employee found me and decided I shouldn’t be on the platform that early. After a strained conversation in very broken English, he decided to send me back to the lobby on the elevator; there was apparently no other way to get me there. Unfortunately, when I stepped off the elevator, the employee waiting at the other end couldn’t understand why I was there and kept trying to put me back on the elevator. I got pretty frustrated trying to communicate with her, especially as she was dealing with people coming off the elevator while she was trying to talk to me, so at one point I just walked off in search of a restroom (which I’d told her at least four times I wanted). When she discovered a few seconds later that I’d walked off I thought she might tackle me. She put me back on the elevator quite firmly, and I sighed and wondered what the man back on the platform would say. Unbeknownst to me, there were THREE floors, not just two, and she was sending me to the one where I hadn’t been yet. And there was a restroom – yay!

I’ve already told the story about the trip back on the train, so I won’t go into that again. Once I got back to Hsinchu, I walked around the station a little until I found the exit where the cabs wait. Shawn had written the name of my hotel in Chinese script so that I could be sure to make it home OK (so thoughtful!). I found a cabbie and handed it to her, and we were off. I was so glad to be almost “home”; I was so tired. I didn’t even pay attention when the driver went about a block too far, until she pulled over. Then I motioned behind us to show her where the hotel was. Apparently smacking yourself on the forehead is universal – that’s exactly what she did. Then she turned around, delivered me back to my hotel, and dropped the extra charges (probably more than she should have). Even more than I was glad not to have to walk the block back, I was laughing when she dropped me off. It was a fun end to a fantastic, once-in-a-lifetime day.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Saturday's Excursion -- The Rest of the Story

After we left the street fair and Buddhist temple on Saturday, my gracious hosts took me for a scenic drive in the mountains, stopping at this popular spot -- a cold spring. You can't really tell from the picture, but there were hundreds of people wading in the spring, splashing with their children, playing fetch with dogs, generally just enjoying the cool water on a hot day. My co-worker explained that there are many hot springs in Taiwan, but only two cold springs. No wonder this place is so popular! I told her about the cold springs in Austin, which are 55F (13C). I think the ones here are a more pleasant temperature.

We didn't get to wade for very long before it started raining. That turned out to be for the best. We got back in the car and drove to the coast to watch the sunset. We had thought there would be too many clouds, but it was beautiful, and we got there just in time for a fantastic sunset.

While we were at the park watching the sunset, we ran into another co-worker, who agreed to come to dinner with us. The four of us went to a seafood restaurant for dinner. It turns out that at this particular restaurant, you pick your fish before your dinner. Many of them are still swimming in tanks. It reminded me very much of the Douglas Adams book The Restaurant at the End of the Universe, in which the cow comes to your table to inquire which of her cuts you'd like to have for dinner. Surreal.

In any case, these were some of the non-swimming fish that we perused. (It's had to take flash pictures of fish in tanks.) I was told that I would be eating fish heads while in Taiwan. My co-workers have been gracious enough to inquire about my tastes in food (no fish heads, no tofu) and act accordingly, and I do appreciate it.

Dinner was served in courses, and there was a huge amount of it! Here are plates of mussels (or something similar) and sliced papaya. Yum.

This is a platter of fish with vegetables. I have no idea what kind of fish it was, but it was very tasty.

I told my hosts that my favorite fish was shrimp. As it turns out, shrimp is served a little differently in Taiwan than it is in the U.S. Fortunately, I wasn't expected to shell them with my chopsticks! They were coated in salt, which explains the white in the picture.

I had made a policy of not posting pictures of co-workers to respect their privacy, but SC gave his permission to use this photo. I think he's the poster boy for Taiwan beer!

Here is another platter of fish with vegetables. Note that the head of the fish is removed! I protested that it's OK for them to leave the head if they want to eat it; I just don't want to partake myself. My co-worker's husband is the son of a fisherman and enjoys eating fish heads, but she said she does not. I was happy to hear that I wasn't the only one!

The last item to be brought to the table was fish soup. Truly, I was starting to wonder if the food would ever stop arriving! With only four of us, we didn't finish the soup, although the two men tried their best. We finished up everything else I think -- a valiant dinner effort.

OK folks, it's 1:30am here. I had a three hour nap since I was exhausted after work, but I think it's bedtime now. I still have all of Sunday to tell you about, although there are many fewer pictures from Sunday (none were allowed in the National Palace Museum).

Good night all... more posting tomorrow!