The curious ‘bookstore’ around the corner

July 24, 2017 § Leave a comment

There’s a unusual storefront tucked in the alleys of Da’an district. At first glance, it looks like a bookstore, with the large floor-to-ceiling windows and piles of books. If you stop to take a good look, it more closely resembles a deserted storage room with endless mounds of books that extend deep into the space. I have never seen anyone enter or leave during the few times I’ve walked past it.

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Little succulent joys from work

October 17, 2016 § Leave a comment

I’ve always dreamed of telling people that I have a green thumb. That I have the capability of creating a stunning garden that is fit for a full-page spread in Better Homes and Gardens magazine one day.

The truth is I haven’t REALLY had much experience taking care of plants. Growing up, I would occasionally help my parents water the tiny flowerbed in the backyard of our Miami home. There was an abundance of sunshine and water, and the vegetation grew as if someone placed an Engorgement Charm on it. As an adult, I like having green plants around the house, but usually opting for durable houseplants, like aloe or philodendron heartleaf, that don’t die easily from negligent care. To be fair, my small Taipei apartment hardly gets any natural light. Even my mother, who is a self-claimed gardening guru, has difficultly keeping plants alive in the apartment. Since moving in, I’ve kept away from plants and gardening, wistfully thinking that I’ll get another shot of it in a not-too-distant-future, when I find a new apartment that has more space and sunlight.

I stumbled across a tiny succulent nursery near Dahu park (大湖公園) during a family outing back in April. My inner-hipster immediately fell in love with the succulents and all the wondrous colors and variety that they come in. The small ones cost about NT. 50-100 (USD $1.50 – $3), a fair price. I decided to get 4 – two for my mom, and one each for myself and my boyfriend.

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These succulents made me super happy

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The storefront – succulent paradise

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We brought these four home

Succulents are considered low-maintenance. Idiot proof even. The instructions I received were to water them once a week and make sure they receive a lot of sunlight. Easy right?

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Observing Snail Mail

May 28, 2013 § 9 Comments

I stumbled across an article yesterday titled “My Teenage Son Does Not Know How To Mail A Letter – I Blame Technology“. It was quite mind-boggling to realize that there’s a younger generation that has never sent or received a physical letter. That they may have no idea how to write out the address on an envelope. Time really slips by fast when you aren’t paying attention.

Growing up with a father that works in foreign services meant a lot of moving around. Every few years we would get the notice to pack our bags, hug our friends and say goodbye to the life that we have grown to love. Before the internet and email became readily available, sending letters was the only way to keep in touch (or K*I*T* according to my yearbook) with friends. International calls was an option that my parents vetoed from the start as each minute cost a small fortune.

Snail mail is by far one of the most intimate forms of communication between two people. From picking out stationary, drawing doodles and choosing the right words; every step is a process that involves precious time and effort. Each letter is personalized and unique to the addressee, making the experience even more exciting and special. None of this mass email update and send-to-all contacts nonsense that we’ve grown accustomed to.

I keep all the letters and postcards I receive!

I keep all the letters and postcards I receive!

We live in a time where we thrive on instant gratifications. Whether it is from a like, a retweet or a reblog, the satisfaction comes quickly and leaves even faster. That shot of dopamine makes us want to post more, tweet more  just to feel that momentary happiness again. Like drinking soda while dehydrated, you’re left wanting more. When you receive an actual letter in your mailbox, you’re left with happiness that lingers longer than a quick Facebook wall post. Thanks to the internet, the effort and speed of maintaining relationships have both been drastically reduced. Thus receiving a letter has become especially meaningful as the time and effort to write something on a piece of paper have almost become extinct.

One of my close friends has sent a series of these beautiful side-by-side comparisons of different places and things

One of my close friends has sent a series of these beautiful side-by-side comparisons of different places and things

 

Awesome postcard from my friend Sean

Awesome postcard from my friend Sean

Snail mail may be a lost art form to the younger generation, but it is one that I cling even harder now (you’re welcome postal service.) Instead of sending out long-winded letters of all my day-to-day life updated (that’s what Twitter is for), I have turned to sending postcards. Lots and lots of postcards. The limited space for writing is a welcomed challenge for my creative brain. Sentences are replaced with haikus (as they are the only form of poetry I can manage) and doodles substituted with the  picture on the back.

Picking out unique postcards has become a lovely pastime. I never hesitate to buy a stack if I stumble across a good design as it gives me more motivation to send them out. If they don’t end up in someone’s mailbox, they usually end up on my wall:

My bedroom wall

My bedroom wall

Do you still send/receive snail mail? When was the last time you received mail?

Ran the Run: A Love Story

May 2, 2012 § 2 Comments

When I stepped foot into my somewhat health-obsessed university in Virginia 5 years ago, I was genuinely shocked to learn that people ran as a hobby – even more bewildered that people actually enjoyed it!  None of my family or close friends ever just…ran. Running belonged in high school gym class and my worst nightmares. I automatically assumed that people who ran were athletes. It’s boring. And exhausting. No one in their right mind would want to run when they can sit around and eat cookies.

My Nike 6k goody bag

It’s safe to say that my stance on running has change drastically since then. I ran my first official 6k this past weekend at the 2012 Nike Be Amazing Run! It took a while, but I’m so thrilled to have made it through that god-awful journey to get where I am now.

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Just Some Notes: Observing Some Pianists

September 11, 2011 § 1 Comment

For my piano lessons in college, one of the only assignments I had to do each semester was write up 3 concert reports. Any concerts that had a pianist in their ensemble was acceptable, and it wasn’t limited to just Classical concerts. In fact, it was a simple 2 page observation on the music, the atmosphere and of course the way a pianist plays. When I first started writing these concert reports, I hated it because I felt that taking notes during a concert was NOT the way to enjoy live music. Usually I loved just sitting back with my eyes closed, surround myself with the music and let the notes do their thing.

Of course, it wasn’t before long that I started to enjoy observing the different play styles and techniques of different pianists (cause I’m nerdy like that). For classical pianists, I developed a spectrum. On one end, you have Lang Lang, who is known for grandiose gestures and flourishes. On the other end, you have Horowitz, who is stoic and a minimalist in terms of movements. Most pianists fall somewhere in between on that spectrum.

Movie Poster for "The Pianist", the ultimate piano movie for Chopin lovers

The point of this written assignment for this class was for the student to be exposed to a wide range of pianists and examine the different techniques they applied. Some students that may have less movement (like myself) might find it beneficial to add more gestures to express the notes more, like raising your hand higher and let gravity help create a fortissimo sound (it helps a lot). 21 concert reports later, you kind of realize all the great pianists have more or less tailored a unique style of playing. There’s no “correct” or “incorrect” way of playing, there are just different ways that suit different people.

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Inspiring Interview With Michael Wolff

April 4, 2011 § Leave a comment

If you have a few minutes to spare, this interview with Michael Wolff is definitely worth your time. As one of the founders of design firm Wolff Olins, Michael Wolff shares his insight on how he views the world around him and how he keeps his passions alive by his observations.

I love the shots of the ordinary things around us, like the pots, umbrellas,  and supermarkets. Most people may take them for granted but Wolff guides his passions with his curiosity and appreciation for everything. This idea is the central theme I had when I created this blog and the last few posts, and it’s great to see an interview that is aligned with my thoughts right now.

Taipei: The Stimulating City

March 20, 2011 § 3 Comments

It’s been about a month since I’ve moved back to Taipei. Although Taipei is technically my home city, the amount of time I have lived abroad far outweighs the time I’ve spent living here. The culture shock is always there when I come back; the small apartment-style houses, the sheer amount of people and the fact that people immediately pinpoint me as a whitewashed Asian foreigner. When I came back from the States about 10 years ago, I thought it was dirty and cramped. If you didn’t watch your step, you might unexpectedly set foot on a fresh pile of dog poop. The humidity was unbearable during the summer and caused buildings and things to erode at light-speed. As a result, the buildings always looked dirty and old.

The first few weeks back, I spent a lot of time just walking around the city and paying my due to various bookstores and Starbucks. It was a nice change to not have to drive anywhere and walk a few steps to get to a 7-11. After the first few days, I started getting adventurous and took long walks to nearby neighborhoods.

Coming back now, I got the feeling that the city is hungry for an aesthetic makeover. Everyone is on the market to find the hottest new apartment buildings. Bookstores are stocked with architect and interior design magazines. All around the city, new fancy buildings sprout up from nothing. This change didn’t occur overnight but these thoughts seemed to have spread like a virus in the past decade.

The biggest change however, is probably my mental attitude. Instead of constantly comparing Taipei to other metropolitan cities and focusing on its faults and blemishes, I started focusing my attention on the differences and characteristics that sets Taipei apart from the other cities. Looking at everything with a fresh set of lens and taking pictures along the way. Not taking for granted each details and structure but in fact, thinking about why they’re there and how these things are reflective of the culture here. Like people watching, I put together the pieces of my observation and created short stories of what Taipei is about.

Here are just a few of the pictures I have taken:

I’m rather impressed with the street art I’m seeing around the city. 10 years ago, you might see the occasional tags that weren’t very exciting. Now I find hidden gems in the narrow alleys around the city:

my slightly failed attempt to create a panoramic photo of the alley graffiti i found

Temples in Taiwan are rarely treated as a sacred holy site. When I was younger, I didn’t understand why the temples weren’t more beautiful and isolated but now when I think about it, I prefer them the way they are now. Visually, it’s quite bizarre to see them next to a KFC but when you think about it, the temples are really integrated into the people’s daily lives. People don’t have to travel far to connect with their gods. Isn’t that kind of what religion is about? Having God with you at all times? A place of comfort within a few steps away? You see temples and shrines of all sizes everywhere in the city.

a KFC next to a temple. of course

 

 I never understood why people willingly put metal bars on their windows and doors. It looked like everyone in Taiwan lived in a bird-cage. However, I learned that people have those metal bars not just to keep thieves out but to buy themselves a peace of mind. In the past, theft was a real problem and people didn’t feel safe in their homes. The metal bars aren’t a cage per say but a protective barrier.

the cage

 The newer buildings don’t have cages anymore so slowly, these will probably disappear from the city.

 When I went to Beijing 2 years ago, I saw a lot of these ‘forbidden signs’ everywhere. It seemed quite unnecessary for me since it never occurred to me to litter or spit in public. I realized quickly that I was probably the rare few that didn’t need the reminder. People spit like crazy over there! Trash was also everywhere on the streets. 

I see less ‘forbidding’ signs in Taiwan but when I do come across one, I find them hilarious. They get really creative with how they represent different prohibited actions, that’s for sure! Guess it never hurts to remind people that they need to clean up after their dog…dog poop was always a big problem. Though, I think it’s not because owners don’t pick up after their dogs but because there use to be a huge stray dog problem in the past. That’s another story though.

these types signs are everywhere...when nature calls...hehe

 

During one of my walks, this building stuck out among all the other apartment buildings. I loved the colors and just snapped the shot on the spot.

unexpected building, stuck between a cluster of apartment buildings

 

I tried to come up with a word or a phrase to sum up Taipei but I haven’t been able to a suitable one yet. So right now, I just dubbed it “The Stimulating City” because it’s such an oddball place of sights, smells and sounds. It’s not uniformed nor can you easily categorize it as one thing or another.

But for right now, it’s home and it’s good to be back.

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