Sunday, November 25, 2007

Rainy Taipei mandarin fever

I started learning Chinese a few weeks ago from a family friend who is living in Taipei, and is Taiwanese. She's a friend of my great Aunts who was in China on a hiking tour and broke her leg there and decided to stay in Taiwan until she can walk again because most of her family is in Taiwan although she hasnt lived here for 30 years. So at my aunts request I visited her, and we hit it off, shes very intelegent and also a vegetarian, and she offered to teach me Chinese. I have been learning the phonetic alphabet (in chinese there is no real alphabet since every character is a word), but in order for westerners to learn it there have been several ways of making a phonetic alphabet, a few through romanization (using roman letters) and another through unique symbols called BoPoMoFo, named for the first few sounds that are symbolized. My teacher prefers to teach me these symbols to get out of the habit of trying to correspond the sounds of mandarin with the letters of english. In addition, for every symbol (there are 37 of them), there are 4 tones, like saying the sound in a high pitched voice and going lower, for example. So I have just been learning to recognize and pronounce the phonetics of Mandarin, and also learning to spell simple sentances with the bopomofo alphabet and the tones. It has been an uphill struggle, but I think I am starting to familiarize myself with it a little. I also have plenty of oppurtinities to practice.
This weekend I went to an arts festival in Taipei city, and the centerpeice was a experimental electronic music DJs accomponied by visual artists on a big screen. The first performer I saw was an ambient DJ. Ambient music sounds like background noise, but if you just let yourself absorb it patiently, you start to notice patterns which are very subtle and can be mood and even conscious altering. It was very interesting. The second DJ was a more progressive techno DJ but played really spacey sounds becuase the ambient performer set the mood. It was a really great show I thought.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

this weekendo

Saturday afternoon I went to meet my friend Paul who was at an english teacher conference, where I was to have a consultaiton with his Chinese Doctor, Leo. Leo is Paul's chinese doctor who Paul claims cured him of serious back problems resulting from a herniated disc that western medicine was unsuccessful at alleviating. He gave me a physical checkup based on chinese medicine, and made some reccomendations on my diet and also some facial massage excercises intended to clear up the cold like symptoms and fatigue symptoms resulting from my lyme disease, which is inactive but still have some spillover symptoms. This doctor was quite a picture, becuase he had long hair and a long goatee and was dressed in the manner of a kung fu master in a traditional chinese shirt he seemed like he knew what he was doing, so I am doing my best to follow his directions. Saturday evening, I had dinner with my friend Grace who was an exchange student at UMD for a year where I met her but is now back at National taiwan University in Taipei, and we went to some awesome bookstores where I copped WH Auden's book of Light Verse, The Book of the Subgenius, the post-modern satire religion that David Byrne is a follower of, very funny worth checking out and an awesome find, Ivan Turgenev-father and sons, and also an encyclopedia of world literature. Then i went to my co-worker Oliver's place, where we hung out with his wife who grew up in the States but is Taiwanese, and her wifes taiwanese freind; and enjoyed interesting conversations.
On Sunday I drove my bike into yanmingshan national park which the road that I live on takes me deep into the heart of. It was a beautiful fall day in the mountians, with a slight breeze wafting the hearty scents of the craggy woods in the fall. I was going to bring my camera, but when I got it I realized I hadnt recharged the batteries. I hiked one trail which led deep into the woods and eventually there was a green copse over looking the vast valley where someone had set up what looks like a hermatige, with a 7 feet bodhissatva Avolokitishvera in a blooming lotus pond blessing the wood dryads and nymph spirits. As was required in any serene spot such as this overlooking such a gallant scene, I sat down to fully absorb the pure mountain air and nourishing crisp atmosphere of such a voluptious deserted natural scene. After a soothing session of contemplation and absorption in the essence of forest spirit, I made my way back down the path to where I parked my moped. I then continued down the same road whcih began on my doorstep into the mountain range which is designated as a national park so it really feels like the country, cruising down roads that werent much different than those I experienced in Yellowstone a few years ago. There was magnificent vistas and landscapes of the craggy southeastern asian mountains, with banana plants, betelnut palms, and other exotic palm trees dotting the decidioous fauna. Although most permanent buildings are absent, on the side of the road clustered around scenic overlooks are mobile tea houses offering delicious chinese and herbal tea, as well as coffee, and, uh, popcorn. I guess people would enjoy eating popcorn and enjoying the view, as one enjoys a movie.