Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Taiwan Blog Review: Shu Flies

The header of Catherine Shu's Shu Flies

There are many “expat blogs” in Taiwan.  These are blogs written by people from other countries, usually in the language of their home nation.  This blog is one of them.  They come in a variety of flavors, if you will.  Some are about individual lives in Taiwan; someone who’s left home and wants to update loved ones about their lives here.  Others have different purposes, like political commentary, or cool places to visit, or food.  Occasionally, I will highlight one my favorites.  This is as much about Taiwan as it is about the perspective of the "expat experience."

I have certain interests that I am interested in.  So there you go a classic banduccism.  If I’m interested in something that must be my interest, right?  English is supposed to be my first language but sometimes, I’m not sure that it is.  Maybe one day I’ll take the time to learn how to write.  Those of you that are asking me to proofread and edit your dissertations be forewarned.  I always thought of myself as a good writer, until I read blogs by people who really are good writers then I’m forced to acknowledge the sad truth that without Microsoft Word’s grammar check, I’d be in deep trouble, even with it I'm in pretty deep trouble.

"Hey Madge, get a shot of this temple, eh? ...Perfect"
The same with photography:  I never thought I’d be intimidated by a teenager’s photo skills, but once again I’m forced to face facts.  Adrienne from Vagabond in Taiwan is a much better photographer than I am.  My photo’s usually look like some tourist snapshot.  They look like, “Hey Madge, I’ll stand in front of the LaLa Shan sign so everyone can see how beautiful this place is,” when all you can really see is my white pasty skin, Bermuda shorts, and the pink zinc sun protection on my nose and one sorry little tree protruding from behind my ponderous bulk.  It’s sort of like looking at Jabba the Hut in a hipster fedora.  Once again I’ve wandered off the subject and into the deep recesses of my psyche, which is probably not a good place to go, so let’s get back to the subject at hand.  I wanted to review some expat blogs that I enjoy.  I probably won't do this every week, but occasionally.  

The first is Shu Flies, by Catherine Shu.  I check this blog every couple of days looking for something new, which is interesting because it’s not a manly blog; there’s no mention of guns or kung fu, or fast cars or anything like that, but it’s very interesting.  Catherine, is an American-born Taiwanese woman who is experiencing life in the place of her heritage.  She is inspirational for me because she’s straight-forward about overcoming her battle with depression and her fears of living here, and she writes honestly about those things.

She is the one who really inspired me to begin to write about living in Taiwan and how I deal with my own disabilities here.  The important thing here is that she doesn’t come from the point of view of the victim, she always speaks in the terms of this is what I face, and I can overcome it.  I really admire and look up to her, even though she’s young she has a powerful personal testimony. 

I don’t want you to get the idea that she’s just sitting around and contemplating these things, though.  She’s learned Mandarin well enough to be a staff writer for the Taipei Times, a large, English language newspaper.  It’s written in English, but you have to speak mandarin to interview folks.  Because of her job she gets to go to a lot of different, sometimes quirky, but cool businesses.  She sees parts of Taipei that people like me never get to.  I wouldn’t even know those places existed without her blog. 

I think Brenda and Catherine would become fast friends if they ever met, because they both seem drawn to the same things: Crafty, artsy things that are just cool.  (I'd add some photos from the blog but I don't want to infringe on her copyrights, you'll have to go to her blog to see them.) If you have a few minutes and want to see parts of Taipei that are off the beaten path, and just plain interesting take some time to check out this blog.  Meet Catherine, her husband Ron and her vegetarian, houseplant-eating cat Taroko George, (did I mention that she’s occasionally a clever punster?).   

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Typhoon Saola: How's That Ark Coming Along?

Typhoon Saola hovering over Taiwan

All things considered, Taoyuan City is a good place to weather a typhoon.  We seem to be fairly well protected from the wind.  The infrastructure is pretty good.  We don’t see a lot of flooding in the streets.  The place stays in pretty good shape through it all.  As a result we have been a bit cocky when it comes to typhoons, we laugh and joke and say things like, “Typhoons are boring!” 

Emily and I even took the car and went looking for one, one time.  We went with great bravado.  We acted as if we were fearless and intrepid adventurers; defying death to peer into the belly of the dragon…well you get the idea.   There wasn’t much to see that time, though. 

But that was then, this is now.  Things are a little different this time.  Typhoon Saola is cranking through, even as I write this post.  Once again, the natural protection around Taoyuan City has protected us from the wind.  It gusts up a little bit but not the 38m/s (85 mph) that the Central Weather Bureau (CWB) told us to expect.  But my, oh my look at it rain.

Taoyuan City Rainfall:  140mm (5.5 in)  Then it really started to rain!
Near Yilan, where the typhoon started toward the coast, rainfall accumulated over the last three days has been 1348 mm (53.07 inches).  That’s a whole lotta rainfall, baby.  Southern California doesn’t see that much rain in 4 years unless El Nino is really rolling.

The average monthly rainfall for July is 269 mm (10.6 in), for August it’s 266 mm (10.5 in).  Three-day rainfall from Typhoon Saola 1348 mm (53.07 in) that’s more than twice as much rainfall as the average for July and August combined. 

Generally, I don’t really worry about the rain, especially if I don’t have to go out in it.  After all, this is the rainy season.  We are nearing the end of the Plum Rains (summer monsoons), so it is expected that there’d be a bit of rain.  This time, though, things got personal. Water came in through the roof and flowed down the stairs and flooded the first floor, destroying a bunch of furniture and stuff on the way down.  No peaked roofs in Taiwan, so you’ve got to keep drains and things flowing clear, otherwise you’re in trouble in a typhoon like this.

Typhoon Saola just before sweeping across the Northern tip of Taiwan!
We have survived so far, because our landlord came riding in like an avenging army and fought back the floods.  Typhoons just seem to call for hyperbole…In the storm drenched city of Taoyuan a lone man stood like a fortress against the marauding forces of wind and rain…or something like that. 

We wanted to see what a real typhoon felt like.  I guess we found out.  It ain’t over ‘til it’s over, still a day or two of rain to go!  Whee!

This storm is from a typhoon in 2011.  Multiply this rainfall by a factor of 10 for Saola.

Other Posts you May be interested in:

Here it Comes:  Typhoon Conson
Taiwanese Weather:  Monsoons and Typhoons

All weather information, charts and tracking:  Taiwan Central Weather Bureau