Tuesday, February 15, 2011

I'm so tired!

ETA: Apparently I have no idea how Flickr works and photos don't just stay in there forever, so now the photos for this post are unavailable. I wish I was a more photo-y person and properly maintained a functioning Flickr account, but I don't have time to add one more thing to my already too full plate, so this post is now photoless. Sorry!

Ugh! I'm so tired. I wish someone would ferry me about the city to interesting places and let me fall asleep comfortably on their back whenever I wanted!

Babies, heck, kids for that matter, do not know how good they have it. Every time I walk up the four grueling (maybe not that grueling but I'm being dramatic) flights of stairs to our apartment with a gurgling, raspberry blowing Jonathan on my back I think "Enjoy it while you can, kid!"

I'm too tired and lazy to write about everything we did over Chinese New Year, and it really wasn't that interesting anyway. We were blessed with incredibly beautiful weather just for the holiday, and we took advantage of Ian not having to work and went all over the place. Jonathan also enjoyed his first trip to the zoo!

Anyway, here are a few pictures to enjoy instead of me rambling on and on. Hopefully I'll have the energy to write an actual post of substancesometime soon!

Jonathan enjoying his first jiaozi. He's my little Taiwanese baby!

First time in the little kid seat of a cart. This is at Costco. What's next, driving? He's growing up so fast!

Guess which one my son is. This is at the Taipei zoo.

I thought this Orangutan was quite regal looking.

Father/son profile shot.

We ate some food dipped in here on our vacation. What, is that bad?

I think Jonathan had a lot of fun hangin' around us. Ha ha, bad joke!

That is all for now. Now I have to do some chores while the baby sleeps, then crawl into bed only to be woken five minutes later. Good thing the person doing the waking is really cute and cuddly!

Tuesday, February 01, 2011

Something is wrong with our wall, and a bit of landlord wisdom...

ETA: Apparently I have no idea how Flickr works and photos don't just stay in there forever, so now the photos for this post are unavailable. I wish I was a more photo-y person and properly maintained a functioning Flickr account, but I don't have time to add one more thing to my already too full plate, so this post is now photoless. Sorry!

I know it seems like I've been whining and complaining about various Taiwan-related things lately, so sorry to continue in that rather negative and annoying thread. But once again, I find myself wondering why the apartments are made of pure concrete, essentially making it a concrete block. Actually, I'm not really complaining, because maybe that's just the best way to build something in Taiwan's humid climate. Really, I don't know! Would wood or some other material get moldy? Anyway, not only do the very walls of your home soak up and retain the relentless summer heat, but they also hold on to the winter cold. And now, we're experiencing another problem with these annoying concrete walls - the inaccessibility of damaged pipes!

I'm not sure how it works in American homes because I never really lived life as a "grown-up" in America (Ian and I graduated from college, a month later got married, and a month after that moved to Taipei), so I never paid much attention to home maintenance. But here, the pipes that lead to the kitchen and bathroom(s) are encased in the concrete walls of your apartment. This has never been a problem in our previous residences, but here the pipes make a loud clanking sound when we take a hot shower (making it rather difficult to do when the baby is sleeping, which every mom knows is the only time you actually have to take a shower). Also, the parts of the wall that have a pipe behind it get warm. Is this normal?

In addition, and definitely worst of all, whole patches of the paint on many places of our walls (the problem is currently affecting four walls and part of the ceiling) are bubbling, peeling, and crumbling from moisture. This is what it looks like:

At first I was concerned that there was mold too, but thankfully, that darker color appears to just be a combination of the concrete showing through and something called efflorescence. Still, not only is this unsightly, it can lead to wall deterioration, mold could develop in the future since we obviously have a moisture problem, and I don't want my baby eating flecks of nasty toxic paint. However, getting things fixed in Taiwan is often not simple.

I'm not complaining about my landlord, because she's actually very nice and in fact, I've never had a bad landlord in Taiwan (more on that a bit later). I just get frustrated with the way things are done sometimes! It seems that whenever something needs fixing, it's the norm to call in someone who owes you a favor and have them do a half-ass job as a first resort. For every apartment I've ever lived in, the landlord has had some sort of general handyman that they somehow have a connection with through family or friends, and they'll always call that person in first and only call a real professional when things get really bad. I actually don't really care, who am I to complain as long as the job gets done? But in this situation, it started to get a little ridiculous.

I understand a person's reluctance to tear apart an entire wall (actually, several walls) in order to get to a leaky pipe, but really, you might as well get it over with. It was very obvious to me that this would have to be done, but I think our landlord was in denial at first. So Mr. Handyman comes over with some old lady, they sand the affected areas and repaint them. Done. Of course the problem came right back, so they came back and did the same thing. This cycle repeated itself three times.

Our landlord now realizes that some real professionals need to be called in, and apparently she's coming by with some wall/pipe people sometime next week. I'm not sure what will happen. She will have to put us in a hotel or something, right? I have a baby who takes two naps a day and goes to bed at 7, and two of the walls are in the room he sleeps in! I can't have a bunch of construction and big gaping holes around him. I guess this has had to be fixed before and it's still under warranty, so the same people that didn't really fix it before are coming back. If it's under warranty, why didn't she just have these people come back at the first sign of a problem? I can't really figure that one out.

This is all rather irritating, but it could be a lot worse if I had a horrible landlord who refused to take care of the problem. Yes, this all could have been handled much more efficiently in my opinion, but trust me, it could be worse. I've always had pretty good landlords, and this one is the best of all for many reasons (this one situation isn't really representative of our entire relationship with her). Now here's the part where I impart my landlord wisdom on to you -- make sure you meet all potential landlords in person, and then trust your gut.

When Ian and I went apartment hunting in the past, there were times when an apartment was shown to us by a real estate agent that the owner had hired. We always passed these places up, because meeting the owner is so important. Whenever we met a potential landlord, I could always tell within a few minutes of conversation if they were an all-around good person. Of course it's important to ask them questions about the apartment and the contract, but also just have a good chat with them - about their work, family, life, whatever. Then listen to your gut. It hasn't failed me yet!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Our trip to No. 4 park without Mr. Sun.

ETA: Apparently I have no idea how Flickr works and photos don't just stay in there forever, so now the photos for this post are unavailable. I wish I was a more photo-y person and properly maintained a functioning Flickr account, but I don't have time to add one more thing to my already too full plate, so this post is now photoless. Sorry!

I wouldn't mind the cold weather so much if the sun could at least make an appearance. It's often hazy in Taipei even in the summer, and the sun has never seemed quite as bright to me here as it does in Southern California. Still, the weeks and weeks, and really months without any sun in Taipei starts to make me feel a bit depressed. For one thing, it's so hard to get motivated to do anything! I know I need to try and get Jonathan out once in awhile though, so when a window of time without any rain pops up, we try to take advantage. Today we walked from Little Burma in Zhongehe over to No. 4 Park (I'm not sure if it's in Yonghe or Zhonghe).

Do you see the lady sitting behind Jonathan? She was reading or studying, glancing up from the pages every now and then and relaxed as can be. Her kids were running around the dried up rock/fountain/display thing, keeping each other entertained and just calling out a word or two over their shoulder at their mom once in awhile. I thought to myself, "Wow, so the constant vigilance ends one day?" The constant listeninwatchingworryingdiapercheckingpullingthingsoutofhismouth vigilance will come to an end, and I'll be able to read a book at the park. Will I be able to tear my eyes away, give him the space he needs? Will I miss it?

I'm quite pleased with my hair color in this picture, not that that's what you were looking at.

Not to sound all obsessed with my hair, but please ignore how incredibly short my bangs are right now. It kind of sucks that I can't see what my hair stylist is doing when I take my glasses off.

Enjoying the view from Daddy's shoulders in the lobby of the library at the park. He was babbling quite loudly because the echoing sound of his voice amused him.

It was good to get out, and Jonathan appreciated the change of scenery. We're at a bit of an awkward age for the park because he wants to get out and explore his surroundings, but he can't run and jump on the playground yet. In the summer I'll put a big blanket with some toys on the grass (at least that's what my friend and I did last summer, now he might make a break for it and crawl right off the blanket), but everything is damp and muddy now. Ahhhh, summer can't get here fast enough!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

If you listen to me complain about the weather you get to see a cute video of my kid.

First I want to complain about the weather. Geez, it is so cold this year! I don't remember it being nearly this cold last year. It's hard for me to really compare though, because last winter I was pregnant and always hot. I had my own little mini space heater attached to my stomach. If only I had that now! Wait a minute, what am I saying???

A lot of people have been wondering how I can sit over here on my little subtropical/tropical (depending on what part of Taiwan you live in) island and complain about the cold (I'm looking at you, Aunt Colleen!). Well, allow me to explain.

For starters, I just found out that Taipei gets more rain than the Amazon Basin. The freakin' Amazon Basin! It's also extremely humid all year round, so we're dealing with a VERY DAMP cold. Wet cold always feels colder than dry cold.

True that at it's coldest, Taipei may get into the 40s F (8-10 C maybe), but not only is it very damp, THERE IS NO ESCAPING THE COLD! The apartments here are concrete blocks with tile floors and poor insulation. There is no central heat, so you end up wearing a bunch of layers indoors and dragging a piddly little space heater with you from room to room. The space heater only heats up the area a few feet around it, and all in all, it's only a degree or two (celsius) warmer inside. And the sun doesn't come out for weeks and weeks at a time! Nobody listens to me because I'm from Southern California, but even my Canadian friends think it gets really cold here. So there!

So I've been dreaming about summer. Shaved ice, the sound of the cicadas in the trees, icy night market lemonade with cranberries, and all that good stuff. I would try and make the most out of this warm weather and go to a hot spring, but I'm not sure how to make that work with a curious 10-month-old. I don't think it would be quite the relaxing experience it was for us pre-baby! For now, Jonathan and I have been spending a lot of time inside, and it's getting boring for both of us.

Now, as promised, here's a video showing one of Jonathan's really cute new favorite games:

Monday, January 24, 2011

Dihua Street 2011

ETA: Apparently I have no idea how Flickr works and photos don't just stay in there forever, so now the photos for this post are unavailable. I wish I was a more photo-y person and properly maintained a functioning Flickr account, but I don't have time to add one more thing to my already too full plate, so this post is now photoless. Sorry!

It's a little tradition of ours to go to Dihua Street every year around Chinese New Year. Dihua Street is a very old street with cool historical-looking buildings on either side. Each year the place is absolutely packed with vendors hawking new year's goods. They mostly sell traditional snacks, candy, dried fruit, dried fish, etc. It's an absolute madhouse, but so much fun! It sort of helps us get into the spirit of Chinese New Year. This was Jonathan's first time visiting the historical street (second if you count his time in utero last year).

The theme of this winter seems to be COLD and DREARY! I'm actually quite sick of it and find myself strangely looking forward to the sauna-like environment of summer in Taipei.

These are samosas, except of course not really samosas. They were really tasty in a Chinese food masquerading as Indian food way though!

Aboriginal style BBQ mountain boar. Sometimes you find the odd coarse boar's hair still poking through the layer of fat. This stuff is really good, but the meat is a bit too fatty for my liking. Taiwanese people like a bit of fat on their meat, which really grosses me out. I still like ordering this stuff for the flavor, but I pick all the fat off, which is tedious (and sometimes doesn't leave me with very much meat).

A close-up of the BBQ mountain boar.

Was this guy using Taiwan beer as a spice?

Tasty sweet Taiwanese sausage. Again, I totally like the flavor of these things, but I don't eat sausage in general because the little fat globules in sausage gross me out. Why am I so picky about meat? I'm also the annoying American that only eats the breast of a chicken. Ewwww, dark meat is yucky!

About to go head-on into the crowd. Believe it or not, we actually always go during the least crowded time, which is a weekday morning or afternoon. So this is nothing!

Jonathan actually fell asleep shortly after this picture was taken, in the middle of all the chaos. I truly have a Taiwanese baby!

At the MRT station, ready to go home.

All in all we had a lot of fun, but I always forget how annoying some of the college students working there can be until I'm back the following year and once again hear them showing off in front of each other by yelling English phrases at us and then giggling (not all of them, just some). One guy randomly yelled, "Peace, love!" at us, and then looked quite pleased with himself. Little did he know it totally sounded like he said "piss love," so I guess the joke's on him. Annoying college guy aside, we had a great time!