Saturday, May 10, 2003

I've decided to post all of my law school rantings on a separate blog, though it means that I will have to occasionally post here just to make sure that blogspot doesn't kick me out!! Check out my new blog at The Barrister's Dream. Please visit me!

Thursday, May 08, 2003

I'm back, and I'm really really cranky. It's been a weird year and it's only gonna get weirder.

So I left Taipei, in case some of you DON'T already know. And it seems like I left just in the nick of time since this means that I won't get quarantined for SARS. Which is really just terrifying. Last week, Berkeley announced that it was not allowing students from SARS affected countries from attending summer school. So draconian!!

I'm trying to stay positive. I tell everyone I know that I think the whole SARS thing is over blown and that people are now panicking for the sheer love of panic. I was going to go back to Taiwan over the summer, but now I'm thinking that's not such a good idea.....

Anyways, I'm going to Law School. There. I've said it. I'll be ONE L come September.

Life just gets more and more interesting, doesn't it?

Thursday, February 13, 2003


Sunday, June 16, 2002

What the heck? Go away for a bit, and they take your page down. Sheesh.

Saturday, April 06, 2002


Monday, April 01, 2002

So there was this stupendous earthquake that hit Taiwan two days ago (Sunday). Magnitude of 6.8 on the Richter scale, and apparently worse for Taipei than 921 three years ago. I wasn’t in Taiwan when 921 occurred (on vacation in the States – had a heck of a time trying to get back to Taiwan), so it was by far the worst earthquake that I have ever been through.

I was lying on my bed, not quite asleep but in that pleasant zone of being semi-conscious when I heard a cracking sound that seemed to reverberate through the city like a stealthy wave. Then the mosquito netting that hangs above my bed started to shake. Having been through several earthquakes in my time in Taiwan, I was basically nonplussed, and stayed in bed, ready to pit my will against Gaia’s. But the motion swiftly changed from a gentle swelling up and down to a more violent side to side, and that’s when I started hearing crashing, creaking and groaning. I dove off my bed and crouched next to the bed, far away from my desk, with its teetering piles of junk, having been taught once that the best place to be during an earthquake was in the “negative” space near solid, non-topplable furniture. Probably an urban myth, but I was luckily nowhere near the large, very heavy ceramic based lamp that with one final gasping tug at its cord, toppled off my desk and shattered on the floor. My room was literally haunted by poltergeist for the next minute: jars and bottles careened off the desk, drawers opened and closed like the orifices of some crazed monster, the large mirror hanging above my bureau swung in a ludicrous arc, mimicking that king of the jungle on his more versatile vine. Through the duration of the earthquake, my eyes were mostly riveted on that mirror, and I was trying to decide which would be more foolhardy: to stay in my position on the floor and risk being pierced by shards of broken glass should the mirror fall to the floor or rush to stabilize the mirror, risking injury due to falling debris. Newton’s first law got the best of me. I remained on the floor and, luckily, the mirror did not fall.

When the motion subsided, I stayed on the floor for a few more agonizing moments, expecting a recurrence. That’s when Mandy rushed into my room, her face covered in some sort of greyish charcoal mask. My mind still dizzy from the unnatural motion of being throttled, my first thought was, “oh my god, something collapsed on Mandy.” Then I realized that she was just wearing one of her many beauty masks.

“Are you ok?”
“Yeah, you?”
Mandy shook her head, “Do you know where Julia is?”
I shrug as I start to stand up with some trepidation.
“The living room is a mess.”

I peered out into our living room, and it was a mess – a large framed painting we had hung above the couch was now on the couch, and most of the books on our bookshelf were scattered in a cult-like half circle around the shelf. Lamps and lights were toppled over or leaning, anxiously, against the wall. The makeshift curtain that separates the living room from the kitchen was crumpled on the floor.

A ring of water was spreading on the floor where a vase had fallen off a table and shattered.

The worst damage was definitely in the kitchen, where a lot of our glassware had been thrown off their storage place atop the refrigerator and left a surprisingly beautiful mosaic of colored shards on the usually bland concrete floor. Some of our plates were broken and chipped as well.

But there were no broken gas lines, no busted water pipes, and the building, decorated with glaring gashes and cracks, seemed structurally sound. But Mandy was having none of my calm appraisal of the situation. She rushed into the bathroom (where nothing looked out of place, except for a bottle of shampoo knocked into the tub) and washed her face of its grey mask, before dragging me out into the streets.

“It’s safer if we get outside and away from tall buildings,” she said, “in case there are any aftershocks.”

The first thing I noticed as we walked to the nearest park was the hair salon just down the street. Women were sitting in front of the mirrors, their hair full of suds, ensconced in alien conical heating machines, or tin foiled, while the beauticians scurrying about snipping, clipping, braiding, curling. People seated in a hotpot restaurant, fishing with their chopsticks in their pots for a piece of meat or a fishball. Life goes on.

I grabbed a Diet Coke from the 7-11 (opened and someone already cleaning up whatever had spilled from their shelves). It is my absolute maxim that in case of emergencies, it is pivotal to have a Diet Coke handy.

We weren’t the only ones hanging out in the park. Mandy chatted with some of the locals congregating around a portable radio and found out that the earthquake had been in the 6’s and had originated in Hua Lian. We also found out that something had happened at the new skyscraper being built near the World Trade Center. (We later found out that a crane falling off the 56th floor of that building had caused the only 5 casualties in this earthquake.) Then Mandy and I sat in the park, enjoying the fairly mild Easter weather, trying to use our (basically useless) cell phones to reach friends and family. (All safe, Julia was with her man in a first floor coffee shop. He was slightly scalded by his coffee.)

“What do you think it would feel like if you were having sex in the middle of that earthquake?” I asked at one point.
“I don’t know, what a weird question.”
“Well, I was thinking that when the earthquake was happening.”
“You must be really desperate if that’s what you were thinking during that earthquake.”
“Well, I was thinking that you’d probably realize that an earthquake was happening and stop, and try to get somewhere safe, all the while naked and slightly, well, you know, sweaty and gooey. Which is already quite funny. But what I was really wondering was whether you could be so into the sex at the point that you wouldn’t even realize that there was an earthquake going on, and maybe you’d like have the very best sex of your entire life!”
“You need help, girl.”
“No, I’m serious. It could become a… compulsion, or obsession, or something like that. You could spend the rest of your life trying to be ready to have sex when an earthquake was happening so that you could experience that kind of orgasm again. Or maybe you’d move to an earthquake prone part of the world, or something.”

We spent most of the evening cleaning up our apartment. When all the broken glass and detritus was swept up and thrown out, we did a quick inventory. We found that all of our drinking wares were destroyed but for three standard glasses, three wine glasses, three mugs, and three small whiskey tumblers.

Thursday, March 28, 2002

I went to the Oriented kick off Happy Hour yesterday, which looked to me to be an astounding success. Of course, I was partly drawn there to secretly track down my detractors on, but I ended up skulking about quite incognito, spending most of the happy hour sequestered in a dark corner talking to a guy I met within minutes of stepping into Trader Vic’s.

I don’t even remember how I was introduced to Larry H., but it was quickly established that he went to RISD and I went to Parson’s and we did the name game thing. It turned out that we had several friends in common, a once rare occurrence for me grown so common that it’s almost become comical. One of my best friends from Parsons used to date one of his roommates at RISD.

Pleasantries past, and it turns out that Larry was starting his own design company in Taipei. Of course my eyes lit up at that. He had been working in the San Francisco area doing web-design and this and that until he got disillusioned with the entire dot com thing and came out to Taipei almost two years ago. He says he left just before the mass lay-offs, which really pissed him off because it meant that he wasn’t privy to any of the very sweet dismissal packages that came with the mass lay-offs. But it also meant that he could hold his head up high and say that he did not come to Asia as just one more recently downsized soul joining in the mass pilgrimage of lost souls.

After looking in Taipei for work in a market that has been just as bleak as the one in San Francisco, he decided that what he really wanted to do was to work for himself. Not because he didn’t work for some great people in the past: but because he just thought it was time. “Time for what?” I asked. “Time to put a stake in something that says, ‘yes, this is me, this is what I believe in.”

He does industrial design. Very similar to the stuff that my company does, which I think is why he was so willing to be sequestered for such a long time with little ol’ me when there were some rather tasty and eligible looking goodies sashaying about the bar. We started talking about our design philosophies, and although I didn’t completely agree with his point of view, I found it interesting… stimulating, even.

Which is why I’m finally writing in my blog again.

I find that I just can’t write about anything when my life ceases to stimulate me, which is a generous way to describe the way I’ve been feeling for the last few months. Work is busy, but dull, dull, dull. Even as a manager I feel as if I’ve nowhere to develop in this company. If I had kept my blog going for the last few months, I have the sneaky suspicion that the entries would have looked like this:

February 16 -- Boredom.

February 20 – Excruciating boredom.

March 1 – Mind numbing, excruciating boredom.

If all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy, then dull work and no play makes Jody a very very annoying and repetitive girl.

The very worst thing is that various contingents from the states (esp. the maternal unit) have been making loud, suggestive noises about me returning to the US. I wish that parents came with some sort of translation device so that the things that they say can be automatically translated into what they mean.

For example:

They say, “It’s very nice that you learn Chinese. But your Chinese so good now? Why you need to stay in Taiwan any longer?”

What they mean, “We let you go to Taiwan so you could meet a nice Chinese boy and get married. But you’ve been there for five years now and not even one real prospect! We’d better get you back here so that we can monitor your comings and goings so we can figure out how to marry you off before you become an old maid and nobody wants you.”

They say, “Old Lo’s son went to China, just like you, and now he’s a big banker with Goldman Sachs. He bought his parents a brand new Mercedes Benz when he came to visit them for Christmas, then they threw him a huge party when he come home in February. (sigh) We haven’t had a party for very long time, not since when your sister finished medical school.”

What they mean, “You haven’t succeeded in any way that let us make a big fuss over you and show you off to all of our friends. And why don’t you come home to visit more often?”

But in truth, there is some ironic twist of fairness going on here, considering the idiotic behaviour my parents had to endure when I was going through my precocious teenage years. Those years when there was nothing more embarrassing than having parents who were not like all the other parents on the block.

And I’m sure I’m reading more meaning into my mother’s constant reminders than she is putting into them. As a woman, when you reach a certain age (as I have), you start to wonder if everything you do isn’t just some warped reaction to prove someone else wrong.

There are those of us who work like bulldogs at our careers (*ahem* this would not be me) so that we can succeed financially and gain the kind of independence (from men) that our parents and various subversive elements of society have told us we could never achieve. Are we doing it to be the epitome of kick-ass, don’t rescue me, grrrl, or is it just so we can prove someone wrong?

And then there are those of us who talk a good game about being kick-ass, independent women, only to lose it at the pivotal age of 30 and go frothy (literally rabid) at the mouth at the first sight of a marriage-material guy. Do we really become maternal and marriage-crazy at the age of 30, or are we just trying to prove to the world that a woman isn’t more likely to be killed by terrorists than to get married after the age of 30?

So what I’m saying is that… those of us (women) who only talk how desperate we are to find a good man and get married are full of shit, and those of us who only talk about how we absolutely do not need a man to have full and fulfilling lives are full of shit. How deep is my philosophical trough today!

Thursday, January 31, 2002

Miserable, miserable weather. Constant rain and a searing cold that drives you to distraction. This is the Taiwan winter that I remember (and hate). It came late this year, but it’s already been a brutal few days. Every morning, my feet lodge their protest and refuse to yield. I have to use all my faculties just to drag them from their safe haven deep within the caves of my comforter. I’ve been having trouble getting to the office on time but try explaining to my boss that the reason I’m late is because my feet were up in arms (hehe…. up in arms… that’s funny).

Feet humour. You’ve got to love it.

After Alex dropped his little bomb about moving to Shanghai, we had a little bit of a talk about temptation. Then I read this today in a book by Michael Fishwick:

I used to be better at temptation. I just gave in to it immediately, without recognizing it for what it was. Much simpler. Now, I have a great battle, and argue with myself, and remonstrate, and will myself to be lofty and to take the rockier, narrower, steeper path.

And then I give in just the same. But temptation gets more banal as you grow older, because you have given in to more things and become used to them, and I think these outbreaks of higher moral tone compensate for that, and make the failure more terrifying, more interesting.


Monday, January 28, 2002

An eerie fog of calm and resignation has descended onto Taipei. I suppose if I were to honestly reflect on the state of Taiwan society, I would have to say that the original tentacles of discontent appeared well over a year ago, but being notoriously self-absorbed, it has taken me some time to register the mood shift.

Within the past week, I have had no fewer than ten people tell me that they see themselves in Mainland China within the next two to three years. And I don’t know anyone. I’m sure my more famous fellow bloggers, Ms. Christine and Ms. Ginny, can point to many, many more who have already made more than tentative plans to cart off their stakes. Me, I was just sitting at Starbuck’s, having a leisurely cup of latte with one of my oldest friends in Taipei, Alex, who proceeded to tell me that he and his wife had already placed a bid on a place in Shanghai, and that he would probably be relocating by the middle of this year.

“What?!? Are you shittin’ me?” This was the point where rogue waves of latte started lapping over the edge of my mug and creating a moat of brown waters on the table. “You can’t leave. You’re like my lighthouse, my pillar of strength. The only reason I make it, year to year, in Taiwan is because I can think about you and know that you’ve been here even longer than I have.”
Alex chuckled. “I’ll still be in Asia. It’s not like I’m moving to the states, like all the other people who have passed through Taiwan.”
“But…” I wailed, “You can’t just leave. Who am I going to talk to?? Who’s going to commiserate with me about all the insanities of Taipei??”
“You could move to Shanghai too.”
“That’s so not a helpful suggestion.”
“Why not? It’s not like there’s anything holding you down here. And you’re always complaining about Taipei, your job, the *ahem* lack of available men here. Don’t you think that all of this is just a manifestation of an subconscious need to move on?”
“No. You know me. I complain about everything. Besides, there’s no guarantee that the man situation in Shanghai is any better than it is here.”
“Oh come on. Half a billion men in China…. with those numbers, even someone as neurotic as you is bound to get lucky.”
I would have smacked him at this point, except that I was too busy choking on my coffee.
“You mean you haven’t even thought about it?” Alex continued.
“Sure, I’ve thought about it. It’s hard not to with so many people obsessed about it.” I throw Alex my best evil eye. “I don’t know what I would do there though. At least when I first got to Taiwan, there was always the safety net of family and studying Chinese. At this point in my life, I can’t really justify going to China to study Chinese. And I don’t have any family anywhere on the mainland. Speaking of which, what exactly are you going to be doing in China?”
“Honestly, I don’t know.” Alex confessed. “But Li-fang’s [Alex’s wife –ed.] parents have already moved their manufacturing over the mainland, just a couple of hours outside of Shanghai, so they have really been pushing for us to move over to China. They want her to start getting involved in the family business.”
“How about you? Do they want you to start getting involved in the family business as well?” I teased him, knowing that he has been avoiding that particular trap ever since getting married.
“Sure,” he replied, guiltily, “I’m sure that they think that once we’re in China, I’ll no longer be able to resist their offers to become the CFO of the company.”
“As they say, resistance is futile.”
“Yeah, the Chinese… we’re like the Borg of the real world.”
I choked on my latte again. Rivulets of milky coffee in my nostrils. Yuck.

Honestly, though the man situation in Taipei is dire, I don’t actually think that I would fare any better in Shanghai. Every time another one of my male friends makes a return pilgrimage to Taipei from Shanghai (yeah, the pilgrimage to taunt the “poor suckers” who are not in China yet), they bring with them cheap China made knick-knacks and increasingly fantastic stories of their sexual exploits in China.

“All the women in Shanghai are tall and gorgeous.”
“I used to think that Taiwan had the most beautiful women in the world until I went to Shanghai.”
“Yeah, it’s no problem to get a threesome started in Shanghai. And I even know someone who participated in a foursome. Lucky bastard.”
“I can go home with a different woman every night! And I’m not talking skanky ho’s.”
“It’s eye candy everywhere you go. Unbelievable.”
“Shanghai is a total paradise for men.”
“The women there are so aggressive. You don’t even have to do anything. They come to you. It’s like I’m blowing on an invisible dog whistle.”

To all the men who have thought and said these things…. you pigs!! But let’s evaluate the situation…. with so much competition, what’s the chance for a short (though sweet) little Taiwanese chicky like me to snag a guy? Not likely!

The China phenomenon. One has to wonder if it’s going to end up in the same kind of disappointment that we’re all experiencing now with the burst of the internet bubble. But just like that bubble, it is so hard not to get caught up in the excitement, the enthusiasm. We need, crave that excitement to keep us sane. It’s like being in love, shopping, or having a really good conversation. Sensations to lift us out of the mundane. We can’t really live to clean the house, to write the same old press releases, to analyze the same old boring sales figures day after day after day. Thinking about China is like savouring a first kiss. You bring it to bed with you hours after it’s happened and it’s still there, curled up in your stomach. You lay in bed, half asleep, half awake, the blush still on your cheeks from thinking about it. You wake up hours before you’ve set the alarm and wonder if you’ve slept at all. Your blood is a little thicker. Your body is a little lighter. The world is different.

Sunday, January 27, 2002

Went out shopping yesterday. Not because I needed anything but because the weather was absolutely abysmal and I had nothing better to do. Mandy and Julia were both out somewhere, gallivanting with their boyfriends, I’m sure. They’re still in that first flush of love where nothing is impossible and everything is a lover’s secret. In other words, they don’t tell me anything except how wonderful their men are and the bare basics of their love lives.

I woke up near noon, and laid in bed for half an hour thinking about the wretched state the economy, wondered if I had won the jackpot in the new Taiwan Lottery (I hadn’t – my mother would tell me that I shouldn’t have wasted that NT$100!!), and decided that I needed to participate in stimulating the economy. So I went to the new mall on Fu Hsing.

Many of the stores were having their final clearance sales. Since most of the good merchandise had already been cleared out, there was also a lot of new spring merchandise. Digging through final clearance merchandise is like advertising in the newspapers for a date. It’s depressing as hell and unlikely to turn up anything worthwhile. Nevertheless, I had to give it a try, since my pocketbook is a bit too thin for full price spring goodies.

I had been through a significant portion of the mall when I finally meandered into the shoe section. Now any woman knows that a shoe sale has passed its nadir is when the size racks come out. Rather than organizing shoes by designer, color, style: in other words, rather than caring about presentation, the store heaves out a few industrial sized metal racks, and throw on them the left shoe of every remaining pair of sale shoes they have in stock. If you find the perfect shoe on the size 40 rack but you’re size 38? Tough cookies, baby.

In some ways it’s a phenomenal way of selling shoes. It’s better than the strip tease of seeing a perfect pair of shoe and waiting with agonizing expectation only to have the salesperson return empty handed.

The “36” rack was a multi-colored piñata. Most of the shoes were the fun, cutesy adorned pumps and flats that are favoured by the Taiwanese working woman. But in the midst of all that practicality, my eyes were immediately drawn to a pair of black strappy stilettos. Now even the occasional visitor to my site understands that to open my shoe closet (yes, I have a shoe closet) is to allow an avalanche of strappy sandal type shoes. But these were more than just another pair of black strappy stilettos. These were Jimmy Choo stilettos. These shoes were sex. Black satin. Pointy covered toe. Four inch heels. Delicate straps across and back. Beautiful.

I had to have them. I had to spend a huge chunk of my monthly salary to own them. And thank god for the two months bonus about to come my way for CNY (Chinese New Year).

But first, I had to try them on.

The saleswoman brought me the shoe’s mate. I slipped them on and they fit in only the way that stilettos can. They were the right size but were painful as hell. I pranced in front of the shoe mirrors and admired the way they looked – the way they elongated my leg, slimmed and lifted my calves.

That’s when I noticed this really hot guy sitting on a nearby seat in seeming mutual admiration of my shoes. Of course, my left foot took that moment to stumble (contrary to public opinion, I have not mastered the art of walking in four inch heels). I realized how utterly pathetic I must have looked. I was wearing a pair of oversized olive khakis the legs of which I had folded up above my knee in order to model the shoes. My hair was disheveled from the rain and shopping. But when he caught me looking at him, he smiled at me broadly and gave me two thumbs up.

Ok… I would kill for a man with a smile like that.

Just then, I heard a shrill shriek and out of the corner of my eye I caught a blur of beige and orange stampeding towards me.

“Oh my god! Joooooodyyyyyy!!”
Oh lovely, I thought, as the blur enthusiastically swooped upon me and threw her arms around me. Helena.

Helena is one of the most sinisterly annoying people I know. I have no idea when or where we met, but she has apparently committed my name and face to memory so I can never feign disavowal upon our few chance encounters. Inanely cheerful, she is one of those people who uses excessive playful demonstrativeness as substitution for a personality. For all her gushy, girlish chatter, I have yet to have a conversation with Helena where I actually leave with a sense of who she is. However, it seems to me that I would become an instant pariah if I were to actually overtly dislike her. Her childish glee protects her from my sour malevolence.

“Helena, how are you?”
“It’s been soooooo long.” Her eyelashes flutter down at me (no, really, she actually does flutter her eyelashes) “What are you up to?”
“Just shopping, you know, the usual.”
“Me too!! What a coincidence! And I never go shopping but my boyfriend insisted on taking me here and buying me a gift for our one month anniversary.” She giggles.
“Your boyfriend?” I asked, my curiosity immediately piqued.
“Yes, haven’t you met Billy? Billllyyyy.” She turns around and gestures towards the adorable guy who had been checking out my shoes.
That guy? I thought to myself: uh uh, no way. No way could she be going out with a guy that hot. Of course, Helena is perfectly adorable. She’s slightly taller than me, unusually curvaceous for an Asian woman, with round, apple-y cheeks and large round eyes framed with long, fluttery eyelashes (have I mentioned that she actually flutters her eyelashes). But the hot guy was getting up off his seat and approaching us with a long, bowlegged gait. My worst fears realized. There isn’t a God.
“Billy. This is Jody. You remember Mandy from that party we went to last week [Last week? Hello? Where the f- was I? –ed.]? Jody’s her roommate.”
He reached a well-toned, beautifully tanned arm out and grasped my limp right hand in his. I could only offer a weak half-smile.
“Hey. Billy.”
“Jody,” I countered.
“Are you buying those shoes…. *gasp* oh my god!! They’re so amazing. You’re so lucky. I looked at all the shoes in size 34 and there was nothing I liked at all. Aren’t they amazing, Billy?” Helena squealed.
“Yeah,” I said, carefully stepping out of my new treasures, “They’re great, but I’m going to have to get used to wearing them.”
“Oh, it’s easy. You just have to pop a painkiller before you go out in them. No problem.”
Billy piped in, grinning, “She should know, she has a whole boatload of those kinds of shoes.”
Helena used her shoulder to give him a playful nudge and then leaned into his broad chest. I could feel envy coursing all the way to the ends of my hair.
“So….” I stalled, straining for conversation, “what did you end up getting for your anniversary?”
Helena held up a well-manicured hand. Around the wrist was strapped a delicate Chopard happy diamond watch. “Isn’t it beautiful?” she gushed, “Billy totally spoils me.”
I was a Kermid wannabe.

Some girls have all the luck. [next entry]