Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Food poisoning (again)

Just a quick update on our situation. We both asked for a day off work on Friday so that we could travel to Taipei and go to the Korean embassy to apply for a police clearance for Andrea. That was okay but the rest of our time in Taipei was a bit of an anticlimax. We decided to return to Tainan earlier than we had planned to, on Saturday morning. It's funny then, that deciding we just wanted to go home precipitated being in Taipei longer than we wanted. We got a coffee and some fruit and a newspaper and took it all to a nice park not far from the central train station. It was a nice day to sit in the park with a newspaper and have time to talk. Talk took over and we argued about the merits of computer-based entertainment versus more traditional forms of leisure activity (among other things) for quite a while. Meanwhile a girl wearing a long-sleeved, button-up, collared shirt but no pants shaped herself into various poses around the small lake/pond, a small army of male photographers giving her all their attention. We guessed that it was a lingerie shoot although we still aren't quite sure. [I said no pants; I didn't say no underwear]

The day was late enough to warrant lunch and we both happened to have a lunch warrant so we chose what looked like a promising Korean restaurant across the road from the park and enjoyed a feast of really good Korean food.

About two-thirds of the way through the bus ride home from Taipei we both started to feel a little unsettled somewhere in the deep recesses inside us. This feeling developed into nausea and vomiting. For Andrea the vomiting began on the bus (in the bathroom). For me it began two minutes after we walked into our apartment and about 10 seconds after drinking a cup of water. The next day was spent recovering. Andrea's still sore although I think I have almost been restored to glory barring a preference for eating smaller portions than I would have a few days ago.

Friday, March 13, 2009

This house was my home

My mum ("mother" didn't sound right) sold her house recently. When I say that she sold "her" house I mean that it had become hers when my parents agreed to go their separate ways (dad had his own place). And when I say that she sold her house "recently" I measure time by the number of years that we lived there. I was born in Collie and lived in this house from as far back as I can remember until I moved to Perth just before I was 18. I grew up from here and I kept coming back, of course. This place was always as at home as I could be. In Perth, over the winding, wending way through twelve years of my life, I lived at about twelve different, consecutive addresses. But a part of me always lived on in Collie, through my parents who were both there, through the remnants of a childhood's worth of consumerism, and through me, even though I was elsewhere. I wonder if any other place I could live in will ever be as homely as this place was; I don't mean to say that it was possessed of great lineage or architecture, or that I had a wonderful childhood there, or that it glows with some sort of mysterious, emotional inner-glow. I mean that, due to the reality that I lived there for the first 18 years of my life, this place will always be where I have come from.

This entry is dedicated to the house. The photos are in no way a specially selected set that somehow best present the house or frame my memories of it. They just happened to be all that I have access to right now in Taiwan. But they're good enough to show you around.

Welcome to my old house.
I took this photo one foggy winter morning. I love this photo. The harsh, all-revealing Australian sun is absent, allowing for a bit of obscurity and uncertainty. Perhaps this is what my memory of the house is like.

Off the street and down into the front driveway: this is where my friend Alex and I set off on our trip around the South-West of Western Australia.

Up the driveway and in through the front door: you can see directly through to the lounge-room and the tropical sunset wallpaper that covers the far wall.

Here's that wallpaper again in the lounge-room and here's Andrea posing for a tropical-island getaway to destinations sublime.

The backyard, looking towards the house. There's the lemon tree that had grown in our backyard for as long as I can remember. I suffered many thorns in my feet over the years, but it was a worthwhile trade-off for all the lemons and lemon-juice we enjoyed.

Another shot in the backyard, looking up at the house from a different angle. The lemon tree is now in the far left of the shot and not obscuring the house. That room up top had big windows which looked out over the Collie River Valley, giving me a view of my home town going about its business, day in, day out. I think that moving into that room after it was built had an important impact on my psychology: the town of Collie which had once seemed limitless and always seemed big suddenly looked very small and its extent was visible. A whole microcosm of Australia was revealed at once, a whole community enacted itself without caring that I knew. My world seemed smaller and the real world seemed closer.

Taken from the same spot, looking in roughly the other direction (the lemon tree is now in the far-right of shot). You can see that large green shed in which my dad (again, "father" just doesn't feel right) spent so much time and creativity fixing things, building things, and breaking things. How many plots and schemes were concocted in there? I loved to walk in there and marvel at the possibilities offered by all the tools and materials scattered along shelves and walls, hiding in boxes and cabinets, or simply laying about on the floor. I wish I had spent more time learning how to make more of it useful.

From outside the big green shed, looking up the garden path towards the house. There on the left is our vegetable garden which supplied us with a wealth of vegetables all the years we lived here. Beautiful blue sky. Bag of manure.

Down by one of the two sets of gates that opened up onto the back-laneway. Once upon a time these laneways were used by the nightmen whose job it was to collect the human sewage. These days they are good for lugging useful things to the rear of the house, things like scrap metal and firewood. This is where Andrea and I started off on our 5000km road-trip into Western Australia and where we finished that same trip weeks later.

Of course a house itself is not a home. But this house and this street, these streets, this town, will forever, I believe, be home to me, for better or worse. For better or worse, I suppose I wouldn't be me if this wasn't my home.

Monday, March 9, 2009

More fancy words

Nifty, nice, noggin, philanderer, sesquipedalian, behooves, clandestine, multifarious, sanguine, botulism, triumvirate, splash-tacular, hoopla, bedevils, Zygmunt, Cassowary, Chaldean, epicurean, jalopy, convincing, tarmigant, specious, caress, heiress, superlative, chicken, Maximus, pontificate, spacious, wanton destruction, wontons, wonton destruction, magnanimosity, boisterous, prodigious, foes fire flood, hobbits, genesis, seeming contradiction, marvellous showmanship, Abigail, Nostromo, careless caress, supine, superfine, challenge, dogmatic, skullduggery, cactoblastis, fundament, intransigent, gratuity, indefatigable, generational change, marketable assets, quiescence, senescence, senesce, pastoralism, drover, myxomatosis, heliobacter pylori, What is a Huggles?

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Alias the Jester: An encore performance by yours truly

By popular demand (I'm not a big star so one person's request meets my criteria for being demanded by the populace) here is a wonderful video of me singing the theme song from an animated children's series that aired on Australian television back in the 80s. This movie was made in the corrugated iron shed on top of Mister's house in the small aboriginal village somewhere near the north-east coast of Taiwan in Hualien county back in 2008. You might consider yourselves privileged to have access to the work of such a prodigious performer (I refer here to myself). Without further ado, I give you my rendition of the theme song from "Alias the Jester"...

Alias the Jester background briefing
(sourced from Wikipedia @ http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alias_the_Jester)

I have just confirmed something that I suspected for a long time: Alias the Jester was produced by the same company that gave us Danger Mouse. I knew it!

Alias the Jester was an animated series created by Cosgrove Hall Films, airing in 13 episodes on ITV starting on November 13th 1985. The show also aired during the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) after school timeslot and is considered one of the Classic ABC shows.


The show followed the adventures of a time traveller by the name of Alias and his dog-like companion Boswell. After their malfunctioning ship got stuck in the Earth's magnetic pole, they crash-landed in a Middle Age kingdom called Houghton Bottoms, ruled by the diminutive King Arthur and his Queen Edith. Taking up a secret identity of sorts as Alias the Jester, he gains employment at the court and befriends the bumbling court wizard Meredith. When the situation called for it, Alias could instantly change back into his red uniform, which enabled him to fly, and presumably a degree of super strength, which he could use to face the various villains of the show. Each episode would inevitably end with Arthur firing Alias and Meredith.


And to top off this wonderful Alias the Jester sortie, here's a link to the genuine title track in mp3 format. I think you will find that it is rather similar to my version:

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Fancy words

Comestible, authentic, superstitious, callous, warranted, bipedal, extrovert, Schwartz, comedienne, aubergine, rapscallion, undertones, tremendous, litigious, highly dangerous, cantankerous, devil-may-care, hoopla, bionic, supine, withered, sere, haughty, curmudgeon, salivate, Crimea, Domesday, Wichita, Salubrious, hunkered down, infidelity, cosmopolitan, indefatigable, sciency, pish posh, Gandhi, whatchamacallit, Witherspoon, take my fancy, dubious, debilitating, terminal, aspiring musician, Humperdink, collateral, namesake, keepsake, forbearance, tolerance, terminal velocity, graduate, incarcerate, plebeian, Scottsdale, armature, kinetic, wizened, Hyperion, eccentricity, aversion, interpretation, argumentative, suggestive, whiplash, sidearms, Mercator, Gerhardus, sphincter, triumphalism, gratitudinal, arranged marriage, pompous, mercurial, sutures, authenticated.

Monday, March 2, 2009

China, Macau, and Hong Kong Pt4

After spending a while in the Museum of Coastal Defence, we walked down to sea level and breathed our fill of the salt-laden air at the small dock we found there.
We just really liked these pictures, especially the one below; there's something very Hong Kong about it.

A more traditional-style fisherman's boat putt-putts by on its way home, wending a way through the assemblage of larger, more modern boats and ships in Hong Kong Harbour.

Besides the walking tour that took us through various market areas, we also took ourselves on a temple walking tour. I've never been quite sure about the protocols for temple behaviour but it is okay to just wander in and look around as long as you're nice about it. This collection of incense sticks was scenting the air outside one of the smaller temples on the tour.

Of course Hong Kong is famous for shopping and we indulged a bit. But we aren't the marathon shoppers that others are and we have to take frequent breaks when it all gets to be a bit too much for us. Here we are having a coffee in the huge central courtyard of a shopping mall that was close to the hotel we were staying in. This particular coffee was awful.

So, final thoughts on Hong Kong? We liked it a lot and we would go back. In fact, this was my second trip: I was here back in 2003. I think I was in better company this time and enjoyed it more. Hong Kong certainly is an interesting place and it is big enough to stay interesting for longer than other potential tourism destinations. We'll be back.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

China, Macau, and Hong Kong Pt3

We had originally planned to stay three nights in Macau but we were ready to go after two. Next stop: Hong Kong. While Macau felt like China with a Portugese past, Hong Kong felt more international, still Chinese but actively multicultural.

We met up with Andrea's friends, Ben and Kathryn, who stopped in Hong Kong on their way to Guangzhou where they will be teaching English. Interestingly, the school they were going to be working at teaches the Canadian curiculum. It was great to be able to hang out with someone else for a while but our mini-muster was a short stampede before they had to head back to Hong Kong airport to catch their onward flight.

Hong Kong is pretty hilly and it made me wonder how many people are injured each year in failing to negotiate steep streets. This alleyway continued up the hill behind us and stretched down the hill in front of us becoming lost in a blurry indistinctness.

We went on one of the walks suggested in the free walking tours brochure we picked up from the tourist centre. This one took us to several areas where concentrations of businesses selling the same thing created small districts specialising in particular goods. We passed through the flower district, the bird district, and the fish district. The fish in these fish shops were already bagged up and hung outside the shops on display, creating quite a cool effect. I suppose that their water gets changed every now and then so that they don't die of asphyxiation.

These photos are similar but significantly different. Both of these photos show the view across the Tathong Channel from the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence at Shau Kei Wan. It was a great museum and a beautiful day to be outdoors. The photo above just shows the busy harbour area. The photo below describes the contrast between the traditional fishing village and the more recent development just around the corner. I couldn't help but wonder what the locals in the fishing village thought of their high-rise neighbours.