24 September 2012

ouidah, benin, west africa

Back Cameraparadise, you think to yourself.

Back Camerayes, yes it is.

Back Camerabut not because there’s an ocean.

Back Cameraor because there are lagoons.

Back Cameraits paradise because it’s west africa.

the coup pushed you out of mali but art has brought you to benin.

for the next twelve months, this is your old/new home.

12 September 2012

taiwan instax

ttaiwanbayenillegal hot springs.

ttaiwansewingthirty year old sewing machine.





some moments where the dslr was put away: soaking in hot springs, climbing a sea wall, sewing pajama pants, visiting hsinchu, driving down from the mountains at night, and hanging out with grandma.

and that wraps up taiwan. it might be small, but there really is something for everyone here.

10 September 2012

taipei botanical garden / 台北植物園 / tái bĕi zhí wù yuán

tbotanic02today is your last day in taipei.

tbotanic03this morning you squeezed in some last minute birding at the taipei botanical gardens (台北植物園 / tái bĕi zhí wù yuán).

[nycticorax nycticorax / black-crowned night heron / 夜鹭 yè lù / bihoreau gris]

tbotanic01as you get older – as your grandma gets older – it becomes increasingly more and more difficult to leave taipei emotionally.

perhaps it was seeing the malian family unit with their grandmothers and grandfathers playing and living with their children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren every day.

perhaps it was mark not being there when you came back to texas.

perhaps its just seeing how just being there and doing absolutely nothing but just that can make someone, especially someone old, so happy.

[egretta garzetta / little egret / 小白鹭 xiăo bái lù / aigrette garzette]

tbotanic04in any case, in twelve hours you’re on a plane. and depending on your energy level back in texas, you’ll connect the scanner and wrap up this taipei trip with some instax moments.

technically this trip back to texas is nothing more than a pit stop.

because soon you’ll be speaking french. just not in france.

09 September 2012

gold face mountain / 金面山 / jīn miàn shān

tjinmianshan01yesterday you tried again. the first attempt didn’t work out, but the sky more than cleared up 24 hours later.

you had no problem with the weather for this ten kilometer hike from the shilin to neihu districts in taipei.

tjinmianshan16which, if you’re ever in taipei, can be found on page 103 in taipei escapes 2 by richard saunders. the perfect non-city guide for those terrible at reading chinese.

tjinmianshan03now what will you see on this hike?

tjinmianshan04multiple paths– paved, stepped, dirt, or unpaved – every imaginable kind. wear good shoes. flat and sleep – stretch well beforehand.

tjinmianshan17dense forests – insect repellent is a must.

tjinmianshan02some other stuff you’ll spot: sign posts to help you out, mushrooms, tree trunks, and bird nests.

tjinmianshan05bibiscus rosa-sinensis flowers are in bloom and line one of the paths.

tjinmianshan10butterflies. with such intense colors, you can’t miss them as flashes of blues and oranges and reds dot the area surrounding you. if you’re lucky they might stop right in front of you.

tjinmianshan09of course, each time a butterfly closes its wings you can’t help but think about mali.

and how guilty you feel about how less and less painful it is each time you think about the country with its wings cut off.

tjinmianshan06moving on – you’ll see views of taipei. of skyscrapers and mountains.

tjinmianshan07with an intense blue sky. because of the rain the day before, the sky is clear. on a normal day it would be hazy thanks to taipei’s industrial side. but those drops cleans out all the pollutants and you have a view that turns mountains into layers.

tjinmianshan08make sure to keep your eyes lowered every now and then. if you spend too much time looking at views, butterflies, skies, flowers, and trees, you might come close to stepping on this slithering friend. a friend because he is harmless. just don’t confuse him with this one – he might actually hurt you.

your strategy is to jump backwards and stomp your feet to scare him back into the woods.

this is also why one should wear good protective shoes. just in case.

[warning – those links link to photos of snakes.]

tjinmianshan12last but most definitely not least, your favorite thing on this hike: the boulders.

tjinmianshan11some climbing is necessary if you choose this path full of rocks.

tjinmianshan13it adds an unexpected amount of fun into this hike as you have missed those days of rock climbing in france so much.

up, down, left, right – have fun figuring this one out!

tjinmianshan14once you’re past the rocks, you’ve got a steep descent until you stumble upon some houses.

tjinmianshan15then those mountain houses turn into city houses.

just like that, you’re back in taipei. oh wait, you actually never left it because this entire hike, from start to finish, was in taipei.

it only felt like it was somewhere far away. sometimes one forgets that taipei is not all city.

07 September 2012

the attempt

tattempt01today you had it all. backpack, good shoes, hiking guide, camera, water, umbrella, and cell phone.

you heard the thunder, you saw the cloudy skies, but you thought none of that would affect you and your afternoon hike.

tattempt02but once you arrived at your stop and saw the rain, you realized… nope, a walk on a steep slippery hill won’t do.

so you did what any normal person would do.

tattempt03eat a big bowl of  豆花 (dòu huā), a sweet taiwanese dessert centered around tofu pudding. with crushed ice, tapioca pearls, and a ginger syrup covering it all.

a mountain of dessert is an okay replacement for a real mountain in your book.

tattempt04the other thing you do to escape the rain is to go fabric shopping.

such are the alternatives to an afternoon hike.

06 September 2012

junjian rock trail / 軍艦岩親山步道 / jun1 jian4 yan2 qin1 shan1 bu4 dao4

trock01oooh, it’s been a long time since you’ve typed in chinese.

also a long time since you have written a post on time.

and a long time since you’ve been on a rock.

trock02no need to leave the city – taipei has some afternoon hikes you are just now learning about.

expat blogs are the best sources for discovering sides of taiwan that guidebooks don’t cover. it helps, you admit, that they write in english and not chinese.

trock03you’ve not a lot of motivation for day trips for this year’s visit to taiwan because, in no particular order, 1) exploring taiwan with the londoner and the french boys last year was just too much fun 2) you like to hang out with your grandma 3) you’ve found your mother’s 30 year old sewing machine and 4) once you leave taiwan you will be back on another flight before you recover from your jetlag.

so you give yourself lots of mandatory down time.

trock04but afternoon hikes are perfect.

trock05you can have lunch with your family, spend a few hours escaping the crowded and busy city, and be back at home for another family dinner.

trock06would you really believe this place is accessibly by metro? taipei really does have something for everyone – no car necessary.

trock07as you near the top of this quick hike, you spot the tip of the rock.

trock08and there you are. all this time you thought taipei 101 was the place to go for a view – how wrong you were. you make a mental note to bring future friends up here as well.

trock09time to head down.

trock10there are actually various paths to choose from for the descent… you picked the first one you saw. with sandbags? also many breathless joggers running up this one.

trock11in the end it ends here. and then into a residential neighborhood. far from a metro station.  you are lost. but in taipei, it doesn’t matter – the taiwanese are always so friendly and helpful at getting you to where you want to go.

the chinese formula is:

請問,    (place)     在哪裏?

qing3 wen4,    (place)   zai4 na3 li3?

may I ask, where is     (place)     ?

with this, you’ll always find what you’re looking for!

trock12on your way back you pass by a hospital. with birds having an early dinner and a cat hoping (and on the hunt) for some early dinner as well.

lao ren cha
the daily bubble tea

01 September 2012


taipei01hello september. hello taipei. hello grandma’s house.

taipei02hello instax. hello dashui river. hello humidity.

taipei03the goodbyes are going coming to come sooner than you realize.

but for now, you are enjoying saying hello to all your favorite things and people in one of your favorite cities.