Friday, November 16, 2007

On the Road- Part 2: Eat Eat, Make You Strong

Each day we are in a different city around Taiwan and pretty much in the theatre all day long, so lunch and dinner are brought to us. These lunch and dinner boxes (Bien Dang) come in little cardboard and balsa wood boxes, half with rice and half with other goodies. We usually get a piece of fried chicken or some soup on the side along with our box.

Yesterday, in Taichung, I open my dinnerbox and begin to quietly eat my dinner before I run back to the tech table to review cues (only moments before the house opens). Some yummy bok choy, some rice, and then suddenly, I look at the next bite on my chopsticks to realize there is the eye of a tiny guppy-like fish head looking up at me! (kind of like those shown in this picture I took in a market)

um.......Vegetarian Please??

In Taipei, we missed the night market that is known for having food stalls of snake items, such as snake soup. "Oh, good for you. Make you strong." Says Jack, our sound guy, who's relative owns one of these stands. He said to just drink the soup and not eat the meat, but you get to see his cousin cut the snakes open.....oh great!

There were certainly some fun and interesting food experiences as well and although I definitely need a break from chinese food, I still love it, especially now that I know about the traditional ways things are prepared.

After our performance in Kao-Shiung, we were all starving hungry and had a 4 hour drive to the next city and our hotel. It was voted to stop at a Taiwan McDonalds, or McCafe. Most things are the same, although they have more chicken options and less burger options than the American version and they had somehting called a Rice-Burger. This was basically a burger on a bun made out of rice patties rather than bread. I didn't try it as I was not up for risking a burger over chicken. I wouldn't even risk having a burger at a Micky D's in the US, for that matter! They were also really nice at the McDonald's and gave us all green tea iced tea to drink while we waited for our order to be completed. Jeff, finish the sentence....Quarter...... ;)

Our last night in Taiwan, after the very successful Taipei performance, our hosts took us out to Hong Kong style Cantonese dinner. What a delicious meal! I had Kiwi Juice for the first time, yummy! They also had some yummy vegetarian lettuce wraps, dumplings and spring rolls, soup, etc. Lots of joking around and laughing, a little magic at the table, it was definitely a fun and good time had by all and wonderful to sample some really delicious chinese food too!

The last lunchbox that I had, there was a completely delicious green vegetable that I had to ask what it was. You know, asking what something is can be a daring question, often answered with just "eat it, its good for you!". This, however, I was told were flower buds called Jin Zhen. Some research later told me that these were young green lily buds. The girls took us to the market on our last day in Taipei and there I got some dried Jin Zhen (which are yellow or orange). You can actually find these dried lily buds in your local asian markets and I have found out that they are often put into hot & sour soup or moo shu pork (muxiu pork). I can't wait to try out the recipe Nitta gave me for lily bud soup. Yummy! While at the market, we saw many shocking food stalls with all shape and form of animal parts - pig hoofs, whole ducks and chickens, LARGE fish heads, etc. The girls had us taste sugar cane juice, which was cool and refreshing (I have actually had this in Hawaii as well, with just a touch of lime juice add -- soo good!) I also picked up this powder that is made from dried plum, sugar and salt used to dip your fruit in. So yummy!

The girls also took us for a lunch of Wa-Guei, which I don't really know how to explain. This was basically a thick pudding pressed into a bowl with a delicious sauce on top. The pudding had bits of shrimp and meat in it and was so thick a fork would stand up straight in it. Made me think a little bit of bread pudding. The Wa-Geui was served with a yummy soup reminisceint in flavor of vietnamese pho soup with the cilantro and bean sprouts. In the soup were fish meat balls which were ok, but I only had a couple.

This entire trip has certainly re-inspired me to have my dim-sum party at the Chinese New Year that I have dreamed about for a number of years. Now that I have some taiwanese friends to ask for recipes and advice and I have tasted some delicious sticky rice, chicken soup dumplings, cha siu bao, siu mai, etc I have great ideas for the party!

I think eating these things makes you strong. Strong of will for how daring and adventuresome you can be! I certainly feel stronger for having tried some of these various dishes and more willing to 'risk it', to a certain degree, in the future. It was certainly worth every moment of the adventure!

Thursday, November 15, 2007

On The Road - Part 1: Taipei

Here I am, writing while on tour for a few days with Jeff McBride's show in Taiwan. I have many more pictures, but this is a good smattering along with what I did and saw.

After a loooong 14-hour flight from LA, we arrived to great excitement and large welcome by our hosts here and brought to our hotel in downtown Taipei.

And fast asleep I was........zzzzzzz.

Day one in Taiwan and we have a free day in Taipei. We met with Georgia Lee, a local artist and magician that Jeff has a connection with. She took us first to the National Palace Museum. Basically, when the communists took over China, the chinese government fled to Taiwan and took with them all the most precious treasures. The artifacts were hidden in the mountain and are now on display at the museum. From what I understand, this collection is so large and comprehensive that it would take them 40 years to display it all if they switched out the displays every day. It is very reminiscent to the MET. It takes days to see it all. We had an extremely entertaining guide who told us all about the jade, bronzes, and carvings we saw. Jordan and I also wandered around a little bit more after the tour. Unfortunately you can't take photos inside, however the outdoors are beautiful as well, as you can see.

We learned how to identify the images of animals. There are two large eyes, a line in the middle for a nose. Anything at the line above are horns, eyebrows, tails or ears and anything at the line below are mouths and "craws" (claws). This particular face was on the bell outside. Bells were one of the first instruments in China.

So, after we finished at the museum, with a light dim sum lunch, Jordan and I headed to the "Riverfront". This place was like a cross between the Jersey Shore boardwalks and Chinatown. What a strange combination of amusemnts, tourist shops, foods, and fishermen. Once thing we noticed was the mixtures and kinds of smells in Taiwan as you pass different food stalls. There is a strange curiosity about the smells, not always enticing, but they make you wonder. You can't see it in the photo, but the mountain across the river here is called QuanYin Mountain, named after the goddess of compassion.
Along the way, there were a few beautiful temples with gold and colorful carvings, incense burning and this one had some explanation about it in English!

We also came across a little puppet show, as shown on this video.

Back to the hotel for a quick rest. Jordan and I had a Cantonese style Chinese dinner in the hotel with some dumplings, beef with rice noodles, spring rolls and sweet corn egg-drop soup. They had some of the traditional dishes such abalone dishes, shark fin dishes and even birds nest soup, but we were not feeling quite that adventurous! Either way, it was quite yummy! We especially liked the dumplings that have chicken soup right inside the dumpling - mmmmmm! I found it interesting to have the egg drop soup, it is very different from how we have it in the US and very delicious!

Finally, to finish off our evening, we decided to head to one of the night markets. Multiple people suggested Shihlin night market over the market at Longshun Temple, so off we went. This was like a jam packed GIANT flee market with food vendors and clothing, shoes, jewelry, belts, bags, etc. We each picked up a few gifts for some of you and ourselves and enjoyed walking through and taking in the sight. The smells and foods here were certainly.....interesting.

So here I am exhausted and filled with my first taste of Taiwanese culture and city-life. I would imagine that I might like the country better. Taipei feels like a big city. Its busy, dirty and traffic-y like one. Tomorrow is a big day, up early and on the bus to head to our first show location. Who knows what will await us there between the new place and tech-ing in the show. I had better get some rest!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Self Improvement - where is the line?

So, here is something I think about often in the quest of self
improvement and betterment:

Where is the line between wanting to be 'better' or different and
acceptance of exactly who you are right now?

How do YOU dance that line?

As we head towards the new year, there is often time taken to review
the past year and the future one. We consider what we might want to
change or improve, what did and didn't work. Often resolutions like
"lose weight", "quit smoking", "excercise more" are at the top of the

I just wonder, how do I keep healthy and grow while being accepting of
who I am right now? Do I get stagnant and stuck if I love who I am now?

What do you all think?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

To curl, or not to curl....that is the question

It has been quite a process over the years of my short life to come to a place where I embrace and love my curly hair rather than fight it. I can remember the feeling of dread when my mom would take me to the hairdresser for yet another embarrassing cut. I don't blame her at all, my hair was completely unmanageable. We would often pop the electrical breakers trying to blow-dry it, i used to complain when she would pull it tight into ponytails and brush out the numerous knots. I also had many years of taming the wild curls into a neat and orderly bun for ballet class with hairpins dug into my scalp and lots of dippity-doo gel to hold the strays down!

My childhood school pictures are quite entertaining, there is the 'pyramid-head' look, the short 'clown-hair', the 'poodle-bangs', and others I can't think of right now. I have the pictures of that somewhere.......

The clown hair was particularly memorable. I think my mom got fed up with dealing with my hair and determined to cut it short....real short. That night, I ran up to the bathroom and put a showercap on and wrapped a towel on top of that. I wouldn't take it off all night, for my parents or the babysitters later on!

I remember being teased in junior high for the poodle bangs. You know, what happens with curly hair when you cut it short, it poofs up. Well, I wanted bangs and bangs I had. Just like a poodle. When I would wear a ponytail with the bangs, one kid in school would call me 'the pump', like the popular sneakers at the time where you pump them full of air. He would grab the bangs and pretend to pump them to pump up my ponytail (which was also puffy and curly).

All things being said, having grown up with the last name of "Wiener", these little teases and mortifications were no big deal.

A few years ago, my mom brought me a copy of a book called "Curly Girl". This book has changed my life. I learned how to care for my curls. What makes them curly and stay curly, rather than a frizzball mess (or, if I recall my mom's phrase - a rat's nest). Once I got into the book, the next step was to go to the salon, Devachan Salon, in SoHo. What an amazing place! Filled with curly hair'd people cutting, styling and receiving. I got lessons on every step of my shower and hair care process and since then, I love my curls. I LOVE MY CURLS! and I love them in all climates, weathers, and states.

This brings me to my adventure in the mall the other day. Which, by the way, not to go off topic, I CAN'T BELIEVE THEY HAVE CHRISTMAS DECORATIONS UP ALREADY!!!!!! WHAT IS THIS WORLD COMING TO????

Okay, better now.

Where was I? Oh yes, you know how they have those stands in the middle of the mall with really annoying people trying to sell you things, lotions, makeup, dead sea moisturizer, etc? Well before the blink of an eye, these guys had me sitting in a chair in front a mirror while they talk to me about my curly hair. I guess I am sucker to learn about any new product that I can use that follows my strict curly girl guidelines. Next thing you know, they have picked out a section of my hair, clipped the rest aside and had their 'new' ionizing/steaming flat iron straightening my hair!!!! I had fun being really difficult with them *evil grin* The guy kept asking me questions assuming that I tried everything i could to straighten my hair, etc without success.

I finally turned to him and said "Look, I love my curly hair. I am happy with who I am. It took me many years to learn how to love my hair the way it naturally is."

And he just stopped, looked at me, and said "Well, I guess I don' t need to show you any more. I am glad you are happy with who you are." And let me go.

Now I have a damned straight streak in my hair!

PS: it stayed straight overnight and returned to its natural state after a good shower and conditioning. If it didn't curl back up, I was tempted to go back and tell them to make the rest straight so I don't look stupid.

Maybe straight hair could be a look for me? What do you think?

Monday, November 5, 2007

Shaking Shekre - Mother Earth Sings

There we were, in our second shekere class, shaking it up and having a good time. Suddenly, it was more than just my hands and the gourd shaking. The ground was shaking, the instruments hanging from the ceiling were swinging. Wow! We didn't realize we were making such a ruckus! We stopped....

......the shaking didn't! It's an earthquake!

That beautiful Mama Earth heard us singing, shaking, dancing and awoke! She wanted to feel alive like we felt! I actually loved feeling the sweet vibrations of Mother Earth's voice, feeling the her dance beneath my feet. I felt more connected to her in that moment than I have in a long time.

I know many people have fear about the earthquakes, understandably so. I, however, felt completely in the flow and at one with her vibration. I came away from my first earthquake more at peace than before....

.....and we continued to shake it up! Dancing, playing and Shekere-ing.