Gone fishing.


Dear patient readers of my writing. I have moved away from Taiwan and will no longer be updating this with Taiwan relevant posts. I have started another travel blog for my travels outside Asia, visit it if you have any interest in Hawaii or Australia. Click here to see what I am up to next! https://crumblezabroad.wordpress.com/

If you find yourself in Kaohsiung and in need of an English-speaking doctor I recommend these offices which were all kind and attentive to me. The last is the tax office if you need information on tax returns for teaching English. Good luck and pleasant travels!


Leaving Taiwan


I will miss:

1. The people, foreigners and Taiwanese. The sweet tutoring students and their parents that gave me the benefit of the doubt.

2. Cheap produce, fresh tropical fruit and vegetables available at a reasonable price to everyone in every corner of the city.

3. So many transportation options:  bicycle, scooter, subway and motorcycle. Timely trains and cheap taxis all over the island.

4. Affordable rent.

5. Drinking alcohol in public with friends.

6. Having helpful policemen, instead of scary might-shoot-you policemen.

7. Finding a new job relatively easily and quickly.

8. Cheap healthcare for all.

9. Cheap shoes and handbags, easily bought and just as easily disposed of.

10. My expatriot traveler friends who support me in my adventures with suggestions and well wishes. I’ve never had such an incredible support system.

11. Having leisure time to pursue other interests and personal growth.

12. Cheap repairs and handymen.

13. Cellphone plans and mechanic services that won’t break the bank.

14. Clean and prolific public parks and campsites.

What I won’t miss:

1. The food; oily, over sweetened and usually brown and mushy. And funky salty drinks and desserts.

2. The racism, while not malicious, still a great show of willful ignorance of other cultures in the world.

3. The pollution: air and water.

4. Mandarin tones and never being able to adequately express myself and therefore treated like a helpless child.

5. The idea you should spend your whole childhood and young adult life in a classroom or at work.

6. Being stared at in the subway, supermarket, on the street and whispers or shouts of “outsider.”

7. Not having enough public interest in a variety of music in order to encourage outside touring groups to pass through.

8. Having to explain where I’m from, why I can’t speak Chinese and how much I love Taiwanese food out of polite obligation.

9. Terrible patched-up plumbing, trash pickup schedules and nosy neighbors.

10. Fire. Firecrackers set off at dawn on a Saturday. Ghost money burnt on the street choking the whole area with smoke.

11. Natural Disasters. Typhoons, flooding, earthquakes, rip tides and crippling humidity.

12. The constant smell of decay and war on cockroaches.

13. The lack of sidewalks and slippery marble tile shop entrances.

14. Riding a scooter in the rain.

15. How doctors act like you’re crazy for having a checkup and try to rush you out the door.

16. How difficult it is to build friendships of mutual reliance when everyone shows up late.

17. Trying and failing to date in a society that rewards quiet, weak and reserved women.

18. Being told I wear a large everything in clothes when I’m clearly a small on top and a medium on bottom.

19. Having 80% of your friends be foreigner men who turn into alcoholics because they can afford to, and the Taiwanese girlfriends that assure them their behavior is socially acceptable.

20. Only having two career options available to you: teaching English or making food.

21. Squat toilets and a lack of toilet paper and soap in the public bathrooms.

22. That nagging sense you will never belong so you ought to move on.

23. Having it assumed that I cannot order my own food, because I am a white female in a restaurant with a man and/or a Taiwanese person.

24. Everyone I know smoking cigarettes because it is cheap, and choking on smoke while dancing or out listening to music.

Sky is the Limit


“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


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.


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


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

Temple Business Time


A few weeks ago I was invited to a Taiwan temple fair for a banquet. This particular temple was honored for business purposes, for example burning incense and ghost money to certain gods that will help a business prosper and ultimately make more money.

Trisha, a friend I made through Couch Surfing meetups in Kaohsiung, is a member of the business that bought a table at the event to support the temple. As the representative she hosted and invited a few crazy foreigner friends to eat ten courses of food and watch the Chinese opera afterwards.

I have to admit even after almost two years in Taiwan passing by temple gatherings, it was surprising to be part of one. I was also exhausted and possibly hungover on this particular Sunday evening.

To create the venue the temples string together multiple rainbow striped tents like an outdoor wedding, then block off a whole street, like a block party. Then there is the makeshift stage that has a percussionist onstage to the side, and lots of cross-dressing mothers with long wigs holding microphones.

But first, the dinner. They started with some thin noodles served with a haunch of pork, then a brown viscous fish soup, a beautifully steamed whole fish, some boiled shrimp (most beloved by Taiwanese), some small individually wrapped sweet rice dumplings with pork filling, herbal soup made with black chicken, some broccoli covered in another syrupy sauce and something meaty and suspicious, and finally a fruit platter. That’s nine, so somewhere along the way I think they served duck as well.

I tried to talk to the host sitting next to me and my friend Amy on my right, however it was too difficult to communicate seated in front of the speakers blaring traditional squeaky music. Think of music you might consider Chinese, and then think of a polka and it will be close to  the 100 Best Taiwan Traditional Hits mix they put on at all they temples.

Luckily, my friend saw the anguish I was feeling over the music and continued to pour me Taiwan Beer into the small glass cups at the table. A group of temple elders walked around doing cheers and “ganbei” with all the tables that were drinking. Afterwards they had a trio of women in pink qipao walk around serenading each table in turn; the live Chinese violin and cello made the recorded music sound less offending and the result was not as loud.

With the dishes being cleared there was time to watch the opera that was happening at the opposite end of the tent. My Chinese comprehension isn’t good enough to translate the play, but what I could infer from the acting was a family drama. The insolent son, the abusive father, the ruined family business, the protective mother and obedient daughter; all the stereotypes were present and accounted for.

There was acting interspersed with long-sleeve gown dancing and music with an exceptionally loud wood block to punctuate certain movements.

Overall, it was enlightening and served as a reminder of the gap between feeling comfortable living abroad, and really understanding the cultural context that is behind so many traditions. I certainly have a long way to go before even partially understanding why some things are acceptable and others are not. For instance this temple gathering was conservative in nature, but some temple gathering have half-dressed women dancing. Of course, what god wouldn’t want to see more women? But in a culture where women are considered slutty for wearing bikinis at the beach, its a serious double standard.

All countries and cultures have their blind spots, and traditions that are inherently contradictory. That’s part of the reason being in the presence of others’ traditions can be so interesting, and sometimes frightening.

Slideshow of some of the photos I took, hopefully next time I try I will figure out how to add audio of my choice.

Creatively Yours


Taiwanese people on the surface are interested in logical and most importantly high-profit, low-risk solutions to life’s problems. Safety and income are prioritised as more important than happiness and relaxation, especially for young people who are expected to work 60 hour weeks to show their vigilance in supporting their family.


In my random sampling of friends and acquaintances I regularly make suggestions that I hope they will take time for themselves to relax and enjoy being young. Of course we all have different things that make us happy, but I have a diverse portfolio of interests that make me happy and I try to share some of these with them.


I am a patron of the arts, a poor patron, but a patron just the same. I like music events, films, biking, running, hiking, photography, reading, writing, baking, cooking, traveling and more recently painting. It’s easy to find a mutual interest, but it is a little difficult to find a way we can both enjoy that interest in execution. They usually want to be orderly and well-planned in advanced, and I want to do things on the fly.

Last Sunday, one of my Taiwanese friends organized an art in the park event. The premise is pretty simple, he went to the museum and was inspired to have a group painting in the park…with feet. He went and bought canvas, paint trays and some kind of latex-based paints. When my Taiwanese friends start a new hobby the start  by going shopping to buy all the “necessary” equipment.

They don’t do things halfway with a litmus test to see if they like it or not. No, instead they will find some online list of “MUST HAVES” and then buy all the things. On the other hand I would probably improvise a cheaper option or wait to buy it later. For example my friend organizing the painting event, I thought he would buy paint and thicker paper and then we could run around on some long streamers.


He chose to buy the canvas which it turns out was even better because damp feet would probably break through paper. But he was really stressing about having buckets for rinsing feet, and holding paint and I suggested we use some old shoe boxes. Improvisation, it isn’t always pretty or well-thought out or endorsed by websites.

Improvisation and creativity are not really encouraged or taught in Taiwan. My students at school are downright confused when I ask questions that aren’t in the book. But that doesn’t mean some Taiwanese don’t naturally gravitate towards the crazy foreigners that can show them a more laissez faire approach to enjoying art.


The creativity is there, just under all the controlled actions and procedure driven behavior. Once and a while I am lucky enough to watch a friend or student really exhibit their creativity, without shame or worrying about the time. That’s the good stuff. Witnessing creativity at work is almost as good as participating in it first-hand. It isn’t planned, it’s a little crazy and there is a chance of failure and also the chance to make something entirely new and wonderful.


The Beat Drops


If ever in doubt of passion in the world, talk to a DJ about music. In Kaohsiung City, Taiwan the diversity of music available might be limited, but the personalities of the DJs  and club owners are widely varied in their music tastes and motivations.

Theo, a British DJ known as Chamber, has a theory about music acquisition, “The way people, scientifically, psychologically, get into music is you hear a different sound and it might not sound good, but the more you hear it the more you understand it, and it sounds better.”

Chamber hopes to motivate a shift in listening habits and introduce some new music to Taiwan in the process. He spins Underground Sounds, a weekly alternative music radio show on ICRT, the most popular English-speaking station in Taiwan. Also he participates in a friend’s monthly music and art exposition in the park that celebrates rap, graffiti, breakdancing and hip hop culture.

Listening to music is a social act. Someone singing on stage two feet away or in a recording studio 20,000 miles away is communicating a feeling. Music encourages people to feel new emotions, and even empathize with different cultures.

Paula, DJ P-LaLa is one of the few female DJs in southern Taiwan. Not to be confused with the Supermodel-style female DJs groomed for fame and followers, she is motivated to DJ for the music and has been spinning at Brickyard for the past four years. In that time she became an ambassador for Latin music. Her fluency in Spanish, and time spent abroad gives her an advantage mixing Latin and dance music. As a Kaohsiung local she is more approachable for questions about Latin music than other DJs that cannot speak Chinese.

“A lot of my friends did not like Latin music so much, a lot of them didn’t know what Latin music was,” Paula admitted.  “It took me about a year to get a lot of people to show up for Latin music. The  first time I heard people tell me ‘I love Reggeton!’ I was like, ‘Really?’ I got so happy because that’s a slower beat music about 95-100. A lot of Taiwanese people just like the boom boom boom so when it slows down they don’t know what to do.”

New music can be grounds to form new friendships and a sense of community, as Chamber communicated, “Music is very important, because you probably find this as well, you make a lot of friends through bonding over music. You meet people, and you like the same music, and you get talking.”

The business side of the music industry requires that the venues turn a profit. Profit is generated by people walking in the door, dancing and drinking. No profit, no DJ.

DinDin, also a local Kaohsiung DJ, won the Taiwan Red Bull Thre3Style DJ competition last year. He said his former club boss at LAMP told him he could only play popular Electronic Dance Music (EDM), and no Taiwanese music. DinDin and Chamber agreed the Kaohsiung dance clubs often have formulaic policies when it comes to playing music.

Graham Dart and Ryan Fernandez are co-owners of Brickyard, a  bar-club hybrid. In the last five years the music played and purpose of the venue has shifted to balance what Taiwanese and foreigners want to hear, according to Graham.

“We absolutely don’t tell DJs what to play.” Graham clarified that he would give feedback to the DJ later if people were walking out because of the music.

DJs are in the unique position of being familiar with a wide range of music, but only being able to share the part the audience is willing to hear. After all listening is optional, a conversation and not a lecture.

Audiences can be persuaded to like a new sound. Old popular songs played before something new can get people excited. These excited dancing people are more likely to enjoy the new song that follows. The “educational” beats can only be played if they are tolerated by club management. Even if the audience responds enthusiastically there is no guarantee a DJ will be asked to play again, there is an emphasis on giving people what they want to hear and only the most easily digested music.

Alex, DJ Apeshit to friends, is both Taiwanese and British. An electronic DJ specializing in hip hop, trap and drum and bass (DnB), he started DJing in Shanghai before moving to Kaohsiung five years ago. For him, playing music Taiwanese are familiar with is sometimes necessary.

“Taiwanese culture, once they like a song they’ll play it ten thousand times,” Alex said. “It has to be something that’s familiar to them otherwise they will be like, ‘How do we dance to this? This is awkward.’”

Alex compared DJing a new sound to “walking on ice, you can get past it if you don’t stand on the ice too long…because if you do it for too long they’ll be scared.”

He arrived at the height of the Lady Gaga and “Party Rock Anthem” pop music craze but the trend has shifted. According to Alex now there is a lot more electronic house, progressive house and some trap being played.

The Mansion, a new club in Kaohsiung, opened in January this year. The club spokesperson and promoter, Tanya Rose said the club will play electronic, house, techno and hip hop.

“The DJs are chosen based on different credentials. Mostly experience and type of music they play.  The Mansion focuses on electronic and hip hop. Commercial music is also important because it is familiar to most, and helps people feel comfortable. I believe when we feel comfortable, we can begin the process of relaxing, releasing, and reaching a state of happiness.”

One difficulty playing non commercial music is the language barrier. “I think it’s the language barrier that stops people from checking online for the new music,” said Paula. A few years ago she translated “dubstep” into Chinese for readers on Wikipedia, but she said few people read the page. Without Chinese translations acquiring new music knowledge can be difficult for Taiwanese that don’t already speak English.

DinDin described one music request he had while DJing, a person asked for hip hop and then protested when he played it. “This isn’t hip hop it goes (bzhhhhh.) That’s called trap! They didn’t know what it was called.”

Lack of diversity in dance music can affect the live music scene as well. With only three live music venues The Mercury up north, and ROCKS and Black Dog in the south it is unlikely people in Kaohsiung will try listening to new music if they don’t have a vocabulary to tell friends about it.

Paula thinks most Taiwanese people get new music from popular culture, celebrities and movies, and pick the music they go to see by its perceived popularity and not its sound. She recalled going to a Delinquent Habits concert with under twenty people attending.  Maybe it was a promotion issue, and maybe the lack of popularity for hip hop in Taiwan at the time.

“If you introduce people to music they have never heard before and they love it, it can change their lives. It’s a lot more than just making money at a bar. It’s worthwhile, but that’s missing from here,” said Chamber.

If audiences hear the same music, they will request the same music and expect the same music. Hong Kong has a healthy variety of music, Taipei has begun to appreciate more genres, and Kaohsiung can too. It starts with a request.

This Weiya is way better


I have been working on a pet project for the past few weeks in a an uncharacteristic burst of writing energy. But in the meantime the Chinese New Year looms closer which means we have entered Weiya ( 尾牙season. A Wei ya is an end of the year party held by companies, much like a Christmas party in the west.

My experience is limited to the party I attended last year in which all the foreign teachers were placed in the table furthest away from the stage and the bulk of the ceremony was conducted in Chinese. It was a bit disheartening.

This year was different, the venue was less cavernous and the foreigners were invited to eat with the colleagues of the schools they work in. Much more logical right? I was also included/required to perform in a strange song and dance number with my coworkers. We were rewarded for our efforts with gifts of lucky money envelopes and gifts at the end.

Here are a few photos of the banquet, while I took photos of the dance performances for blackmail purposes I had already drunk too much wine to take any photos of the games we were encouraged strongly to play. There are a few photos people shared of me, so I included those as well.


February 1, 2015 – The view of the Kaohsiung Central Park and the Wufu and Chonghua traffic circle from the eighth floor of the Talee building banquet hall.


February 1, 2015 – My JOY cram school colleague Nick singing Hsiao Princess (蕭敬騰 王妃) with backup from his friend on the guitar.


February 1, 2015 – Bianca one of the teachers at my school mimics the pop singer a MEI ( 張惠妹).


February 1, 2015 – Maggie, my school manager, holds another teacher’s baby for a photo.


February 1, 2015 – The ChungHwa school dances to an ABBA song.


February 1, 2015 – One of the photo submissions for a game called Copy Cat where you imitate a photo.


February 1, 2015 – The group photo to finish a three-hour banquet for three JOY school locations in Kaohsiung.


February 1, 2015 – This guy just got half naked to imitate a photo of Wolverine from X-men, much to the satisfaction of all the women in the room.


February 1, 2015 – Posing with some balloons and my friend Michelle.


February 1, 2015 – My boss, Christina, sticks out her tongue as her husband hugs a retired teacher.

Productive New Year Buffet


This is the season of resolution, false promises and gym memberships. Much to the chagrin of T.S. Eliot, I ended 2014 not with a whimper, but a bang! The morning of 2015 in a flurry of productivity I arranged to tutor during the four day weekend.

In the afternoon I met a group of Couch Surfing friends for a buffet. I don’t generally like buffets. I am smallish person, and I already eat enough without the temptation of overeating persistently nudging my elbow like a begging dog.

The gluttony of buffets somehow devalues the food and the quality isn’t there. Even if the quality was the same, the volume somehow makes it seem poorly prepared. Those familiar with TED talks will remember more options don’t make us happier.

Still, I had never been to a Taiwanese buffet and I was curious so I arrived…thirty minutes late, but who is counting? There is a strategy to Taiwan buffets that makes the experience cost efficient. 


First, attack the shellfish preferably a mound of shrimp! After eating as much sushi as humanly possible, retire with a large bowl of icecream. Of course I observed, but as a contrarian browsed to fulfill my own needs and ignoring the “make the money count” method.

I’m not a big fan of shrimp so I went and got a salad to start and some pizza, that wasn’t bad. I sampled some fries and sushi and finished with some tiramisu, that wasn’t. It had something cakey on the bottom, not ladyfingers and more than one person choked on the thick layer of powdered cocoa on top.

The desserts confirmed that Taiwan doesn’t have much to offer in terms of calories equalizing the enjoyment for sweets. Still, I tried a piece of pineapple with caramelized sugar that was delicious.

In a very hippie tradition, one of the group moms had us write notes of good will for each other on heart shaped puzzles. I tried to come up with something new for everyone, but all the notes I wrote were along the lines: “I hope you have new experiences that bring you happiness this year.” Some of the wishes other participants wrote me were in Chinese, tiny Chinese that I can’t read, but I am pretty sure it isn’t a Taiwanese curse. Pretty sure.