Sky is the Limit

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“But it’s also sometimes said the people who work quietly behind the scenes are the most important people. They really do the work and not the noisy ones.”

A quote from a beautiful song called ‘Pushy’ by the musician Lemon Jelly sampling from Harold Williamson’s 1968 BBC series “Children Talking Part 1: Ambition.” It got me thinking about my friend Sky.

She reminds me of my mother a lot, in that she is amazingly productive in her workload, and she took on a great deal of responsibility at a young age. Now, she satisfies this problem-solving fix by acting as an unofficial champion for the Taiwan newcomers.

She isn’t a saint of course, she gets frustrated, as someone who gives far more than she gets back. But her work ethic and selflessness is legendary. In turn she has adopted and acted as a mother figure for more than one of my guy friends. To the point of possessing the title of Sky’s Guys.

She makes them food, bails them out of sticky jail situations and defends these friends with a fierce loyalty, almost blind to their shortcomings. I admire her greatly, but I haven’t been a direct benefactor of Sky’s rescue because it demands a submissive act of admitting ‘my life is falling apart.’

That and the fact I’m a girl, and she only has room in her heart for a few close girlfriends and I am not one of them. I lack the drinking stamina for one, and I cannot spend every hour of the day with people. I am an introvert at heart, and teaching leaves me with no time to myself or the privacy that I crave.

After years of experience in the kitchen she has a natural ease while entertaining and making food. But will occasionally lash out at those she considers outside her sphere, or those she feels are attacking her tribe. Her travel buddies and contacts are her most valuable resource.

It’s easy to pick apart someone else’s character instead of turning around the microscope to examine myself. But I write about Sky, out of a deep respect for someone who I believe possesses a striking ability to include and love many people at one time. Spreading the love around to a great variety of friends.

I, on the other hand, select a few people for my limited time slots and dedicate myself to giving abundantly to these few, and somewhat sparingly, almost stingily to the rest of the general public.

aboveIt’s a challenge to be an all-encompassing introvert. Drinking alcohol certainly helps introverts become more extrovert. I still feel after spending two hours around most groups I am ready to go somewhere new or find a cozy corner to talk to just a few people at a time.

So I salute Sky and her sandwich shop of friends, her aptitude for tempting old friends to visit her in a foreign country. Few people could do what she has done, and what she will do.

All Growed Up

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This past weekend I attended an engagement party one night, and dinner party birthday the next. These acted as reminders that, yes, although I often practice avoidance in all avenues of maturity and romance my contemporaries do not waste time finding their own complimentary significant others.

I can now say I know three awesome couples in Kaohsiung in which I enjoy both members individually and as a unit. It gives me something to look forward to, like a barbeque fire on the roof in a typhoon that stays lit despite all odds. At the same time these important moments emphasize the idea that compromise is essential, but only to a certain extent.

We want to find someone that understands how we work. Someone that knows when I say, “I will give you time to pack.” I really mean, “Hurry up and clean the living room or I will cut you.” Alternately when I say, “The dishes can wait until morning,” I really mean it. I hate doing dishes after the meal, and I like doing them when I wake up in the morning.

No one wants to give too much or too little. And it is wonderful to see couples together that have found that balance without bitterness. People that remain friends inspite of the lack of privacy that successful relationships require.

I feel honored to know them, and always that aftertaste, a nostalgic pang like the last taste of wine when you realize your time together as friends is fleeting.

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My friend groups here in Taiwan are exceptionally transient, both the foreigners and Taiwanese because those are the kind of people I like: adventurous, mildly unpredictable, accepting and entertaining. I love them because of these factors and I will miss them just the same when they leave to their ‘Next New Adventure.’

Unfortunately, I have little confidence in our abilities to stay in touch, even with emails and Facebook, Instagram and the rest. Travelers live in the present, and although they reminisce about the past the majority of their energy is spent making new memories.

So I will try to preserve these friendships in writing, adding a safeguard to my memories, some sort of false sense of preserving the non preservable.

K and J I wish you all the best wine in Spain. S and R I will miss our music classes and art talks. S and P I hope you enjoy your trip back to France, your spice collection fills me with great appreciation. If I ever get around to growing up, I want to be just like you.

Ballin in Bali

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A few weeks ago I found myself chasing a monkey in the Ubud, Bali monkey forest. I definitely wasn’t supposed to be chasing monkeys, or carrying plastics bags or taunting monkeys with delicious metal elephant sculptures they misconstrued as food. But it turns out monkeys aren’t that bright, in fact they are quite savage in their search for more bananas.

Kuta man

Kuta man

It is probably obvious that I don’t like monkeys. I might go so far as to say they are on my list of least favorite animals because they are intelligent, but disinterested in following human contracts and they carry a number of communicable diseases for humans.

View of the rice paddy from the ecotourism garden and kopi luwak coffee tasting.

View of the rice paddy from the ecotourism garden and kopi luwak coffee tasting.

So why was I hanging with a bunch of monkeys in Bali? It was a holiday, for my friend’s birthday vacation and a reunion with my elder brother. I had never visited Indonesia before and it was a pleasant surprise. I appreciated the artistry present in the everyday sculptures and Hindu household offerings: canang sari. And I definitely didn’t appreciate the Muslim call to prayer that was amplified over one town five times a day. It just didn’t sound good.

Kuta morning market dragonfruit on top, mangosteen on the left and local snakefruit on the right.

Kuta morning market dragonfruit on top, mangosteen on the left and local snakefruit on the right.

Balinese people surprised me with their good humor and their hustle. Everyone has an angle and a friend with a taxi, but sometimes they really do just want to help you. Sometimes they feel entitled to your money just for giving you advice whether you asked for it or not. Kuta morning market looking at balloons. The island is covered in thick, nearly impassable jungle interspersed with rice fields and beaches along the coasts. The flowers and fruit are beautiful. The sarongs are cheap and the festivals plentiful.

Mountains near Padang Bai harbor, Bloo Lagoon view point.

Mountains near Padang Bai harbor, Bloo Lagoon view point.

The food varies greatly from one region to another. Luckily for me there was an abundance of curries, which I love. There was also a lot of fish and bananas and thick, almost muddy sweet coffee. I really loved the strong flavor of the coffee each morning and the fried fruit pancakes, almost chewy on the inside, and crispy on the outside.

Balinese Hindu daily offerings

Balinese Hindu daily offerings

I flew into Kuta at the Denpasar Airport and appreciated some good and reasonable priced Indian food. The next day we headed to a festival in the mountainous region of Candi Dasa. Then we spent a few days chilling in a port town Padang Bai, the leaping off point for the party island Gili Trawangan, known fondly as Gili T.

Chandi Dasa fighting festival with sharp leaves and woven shields. Sacrificing shed blood to the gods for prosperity.

Chandi Dasa fighting festival with sharp leaves and woven shields. Sacrificing shed blood to the gods for prosperity.

bloodback Gili T, while possessing many water sport opportunities and a colorful range of accommodations from flophouse to fancy resort, and recreational drugs, was the low point in the trip for me because it was all foreigners and people intent on trying to take their money.

Chandi Dasa princess at the temple the women gather in beautiful clothes to bring fruit offerings.

Chandi Dasa princess at the temple the women gather in beautiful clothes to bring fruit offerings.

After ferrying back from Gili T, we taxied over to Ubud the yoga and art cultural capital of Bali. We went to see a more traditional Balinese dance at the palace on Sunday which ended with characters flying away on a Geruda, a winged-beaked flying monster. We also found the best food the night before we left that offered food from different islands in Indonesia.

Invited to sit, drink coffee, palm wine and sing with these Chandi Dasa locals back for a visit.

Invited to sit, drink coffee, palm wine and sing with these Chandi Dasa locals back for a visit.

I would definitely recommend going back, with more plans to explore Ubud and maybe take a boat along the coastline. IMG_3981