Tuesday, November 8, 2016

Election Day

This is my third election overseas.

The first was eight years ago while living in New Zealand.  What I distinctly remember about that time was how interested everyone was in who I was voting for.  It was the first time I really understood how important the leadership in our government is to the rest of the world.  Here was this tiny little island on the other side of the world who was intently keen on our election because the exportation of their lamb and dairy was dependent on the policy of our government.

Four years ago we were in Colombia.  I honestly don't remember a thing about that day.

Today I am working at the American Institute (yes, same as an embassy) here in Taiwan.  This is a first for me to actually be at an embassy as the final votes are coming in.  I am not dead tired, waiting during the wee hours of night to find out the results.  It's the middle of tomorrow for me.  Just as many other embassies and consulates around the world are, AIT is hosting an election party for American passport holders.  All the red, white and blue around in decorations and clothing is quite festive.  Actually, the thought never crossed my mind.  I could have come up with a great outfit, but I have black on today.

What I will remember about this year is the reality of being a diplomat for the American Government.   Regardless of the outcome, the mission here has a job to do.  I am just a drop in the bucket when it comes to the greater picture, but I still represent America to those who are watching around the world.

Another reality of being a diplomat is that you are more vulnerable.  While I was typing away at my desk this morning the duck and cover alarm went off followed by the clear warning that this was not a drill.  I had glanced through the news earlier and saw that two polls in America were on lock-down and there had been a shooting that killed a person.  I don't know if this alarm was in any way related to the elections going on far across the sea, but I realized that all it takes is one crazy to wreak havoc.  I made my co-worker come sit on the floor with me where we were sheltered from potential harm.  It was a 10 or 15 minute break with alarms going off.  Once again it reminded me how deeply our leaders effect the world.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Lin Family Mansion and Garden

Lin Yin-Yin came to Taiwan from the Fujian province of China in 1778.  His son, Ping-Hou,  came with him and prospered as a rice & salt merchant and trader.  During the reign of Emperor Tao-Kuang there were clashes amongst various Chinese groups in Taiwan so Hou built a mansion with walls around it.  Hou's sons continued to prosper in the business and added more halls to the structure.  Eventually the property expanded to  a sprawling house with 5 courtyards.    The Lin family was the wealthiest family in Taiwan during the Qing dynasty.  

I loved this mansion.  It was built to house a family, not for hundreds of visitors to pass through.  The gardens have a sense of intimacy with small rooms scattered around for the women to enjoy needlework or the men to enjoy reading.  The layout of the rooms give an airy feeling despite the fact that the heat index was 120F on the day we visited.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Snapshots from a Street Market

I stumbled across this street market on my way to meet a few friends.  Sadly, I didn't have time to stop and poke around.  I always find the best places when I least expect them!

Threading on the street - Threading is a way to clean the skin of all hairs with a piece of thread.  

Traditional swallowtail architecture.  

Street barber shop

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Peking Duck

Peking Duck is considered a delicacy here in Taiwan.  The dish was developed during the Imperial era in Beijing.  Maddie and I joined our office for a special lunch to welcome a new officer.  The ladies were so excited!  It was a lot of fun to share this experience with them - and a Peking Duck meal is certainly an experience.

The duck has been raised for 65 days on a farm to fatten them up.  The meal must be ordered before hand to give plenty of time for preparation and to be slow cooked by hanging in an oven.  Ours was truly an authentic meal with the thin, crisp skin being the point of the dish and little meat served with it.
Duck with crispy skin on side
The meat is laid in a pancake (tortilla like) with cucumber and spring onion and a sweet bean sauce poured on top.  Roll it up and and it makes a tidy little sandwich.
Wrappers with cucumber & spring onion to wrap with duck
Duck soup
Although only a small amount of meat is served as the main meal, all the meat from the duck is used in a different dish.

Duck Salad
In addition to all the dishes with duck, platter after platter of other foods were brought to our table.   Honestly, this feast beat an American Thanksgiving!   

Seafood soup
Green beans
Tofu and hot peppers
papaya with passion fruit sauce
Bamboo shoot salad
Beef salad
Finely diced shrimp

Packing up left-overs in plastic bags  
An interesting cultural note is that food leftovers or takeaway from food stands are packed in clear plastic bags.  Fried rice, soup, sauces, anything at all are poured in and a knot is tied on top.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Treasure Hill

I went on a tour of the Treasure Hill area of Taipei with a group from AIT.  I love when I have the opportunity to explore the city with a group of people.  I have to admit, I thought Treasure Hill was rather lame.  It has a great concept behind it, it's just sort of limping along instead of thriving.

Treasure Hill was an illegal settlement, founded by military veterans in the 1940s.  Today Treasure Hill is a worldwide community of artists.  You can apply to live here for a period of time to explore your art.  I expected the area to be vibrant and full of creative minds with little shops and cafes.  It's not.  It has great potential so I hope it takes off.

Treasure Hill Temple

Inside the temple

The streets of Temple Hill

Fixing hair for a selfie

Tea time

Bread Oven