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Saturday, April 9th, 2011
3:40 pm - Juliet visit to Taipei
Four day weekends are a rare luxury when you're in the army. Well, four day weekends are a luxury for anyone, except perhaps the unemployed, but they're particularly luxurious for military types because at least everyone else gets to go home at the end of the day. We have to sleep in barracks with people who snore, and your only hope is to fall asleep before they do, and thus keep them awake with your own snoring. Yes, that's right, sleeping in the barracks is a zero sum game.

However, we got a four day weekend last weekend, thanks to a couple of traditional Chinese holidays, so it was a good opportunity for Juliet to come up and visit. And visit she did, arriving on the afternoon of April 3rd by High Speed Rail. After I picked her up at the station, we immediately set off to a department store near Taipei Main Station (without even stopping home to drop off her bags, no time) to catch a movie, Gnomeo and Juliet. As a cute little gnome said at the beginning of the movie, "The story you are about to see has been told before. A lot." However, it was still an enjoyable experience, quite funny and charming, and it was fun to play "spot the voice actor." I managed to recognize Michael Caine, Jason Statham, and Patrick Stewart. The movie's full of little references to other Shakespeare works, as well as other movies, though I think I was the only person in the theater who recognized the Bambi reference.

After the movie, we traveled to cousins Rex and Ray's new restaurant, where we managed to stuff ourselves silly. We also commented on how attractive the waitresses are, and whether they were chosen based on their looks. In addition, it was around dinnertime that we noticed we were reading each other's minds and reading each other's thoughts quite often. We knew exactly what the other person was going to order, we both had the same idea of what to do after the meal, she could predict the punchlines of my jokes, etc. We'd shared this sort of psychic connection since we first met, but this was the first time it'd manifested itself so extensively, so it was a very nice surprise.

The next day, we headed off to see a Marc Chagall exhibit at the National Palace Museum. The place was packed full of people, though I wonder how many people actually wanted to see some Chagall artwork, and how many people went just to be able to say they went to see some Chagall. Personally I'm probably in the latter category. I don't know much about Marc Chagall, in fact every time I hear his name I actually think of Cho'gall, a two-headed ogre mage from the Warcraft games. Still, the artwork was very interesting, if a bit impenetrable for the uninitiated. Chagall liked to put various farm animals in his paintings, so you'd have a scene of Paris at night, and then there'd be this green cow floating in the sky.

After the Chagall exhibit, we then headed to the main exhibition hall at the National Palace Museum, where we saw a mind-boggling collection of ancient Chinese artifacts. Ceramics, porcelain, calligraphy, paintings, furniture, statues, jade, bronze, and many other things I can't even remember. The museum itself was also full of people, so it was a bit fun to people-watch.

Afterwards, we then headed to the Floral Exposition, which was ending at the end of April, so it would probably be our last chance to visit. We entered after 5:00pm, which got us a discount on our tickets. The various exhibitions were still full of people, with huge lines outside each hall, so we decided to visit only the exterior areas. The place isn't called the Floral Expo for nothing, it's full of flowers of every description. Particularly memorable was the hedge maze, which we managed to successfully navigate after about half an hour of wandering.

For dinner, originally I'd planned to go to a barbecue restaurant, but they were full, so we headed to a Korean tofu restaurant instead. The restaurant provided infinite refills of kimchi, so I got to eat all the spicy cabbage I wanted.

All in all, this was probably one of the fullest days Juliet and I had ever experienced together. The three places we visited (Chagall's exhibition, the National Palace Museum, and the Floral Expo) are all actually places that can take a full day to explore, or even longer. We managed to see all three of them in one day. While we can't say we saw everything in depth and detail, we did get a good feel of everything there, so it was definitely worth the trip.

The next day, April 5th, was designated as a day of relaxation. The morning was partly spent on a ceremony for the Tomb Sweeping Day (we'd already swept up the Saturday before) but the rest of the morning and the afternoon was spent sitting in front of the television and vegetating. The movie version of the Phantom of the Opera was on, and I shared some of my views and analysis on the movie with Juliet, who did a very good job of pretending to be fascinated. Mainly she was interested in seeing if I was going to cry, since I cry a lot at musicals.

Then, in the evening, we went to the train station and had crepes for dinner (once again managing to predict what the other person would order), before I sent her on her way via High Speed Rail and then trudged back to my barracks.

I think the main things I got out of this trip was a reaffirmation of how much we're meant for each other, given how we're now so comfortable with each other's company we can read one another's mind. And I found it's fun to go around and see things, like museums and exhibitions. I'd never really enjoyed going to them before, but it's very different and very enjoyable when you have the best girlfriend ever to share them with.

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Tuesday, March 1st, 2011
5:12 pm - Visit to Tainan
The February 28 holiday provided me with a good opportunity to head to Tainan, since it's easier to justify a trip over a long weekend than over a normal weekend. So on February 26, I clambered out of bed at 7am to take the High Speed Rail down to Tainan.

You know I'm a military man when getting up at 7am counts as sleeping late.

After meeting up with Juliet, we went to a quiche restaurant for lunch. Quiche is a funny word. The restaurant was very cozy and pleasant, and the quiches were much better than the oven-heated versions we used to have in the States and in the UK. Which should be obvious, now that I think about it, since the restaurant would have trouble staying in business otherwise.

Afterwards, we went to see Black Swan, starring Natalie Portman, Mila Kunis, and the guy from Irreversible. Apparently Winona Ryder was also in the film, but I didn't recognize her AT ALL. I think that means she's a good actress. Anyway, the movie was interesting, and it showed how Natalie Portman has an amazing range as an actress. I've seen her in Star Wars, Brothers, Closer etc, and each time she's utterly convincing as a new type of character. In Black Swan she mostly plays an innocent ballet dancer who's gradually losing her mind, but there are glimpses of a different character underneath too. The fact that it's the same actress, playing the same person, but capable of showing a completely different facet of the character with just a single glance... just wow.

After the movie, Juliet had to go teach a class at her cram school, so I wandered around the department store and read a book about Jin Yong's edits to his novels. The book can be summarized with "Jin Yong is an idiot, what was he thinking?"

That evening, due to our inability to get a room for me at my usual hotel, I stayed over at Juliet's house, inconveniently evicting her and her older sister from their room. I do feel kind of bad about that. They have a really nice room though, very comfortable.

The next day, we had lunch at a restaurant with a castle theme, again very atmospheric and cozy. The food was excellent too, and they kept playing old love songs, most of which Juliet and I were able to hum along to.

After lunch, we took a train to Kaohsiung and visited Cijing Island, which is located near our old university. It's a major tourist destination, with beautiful scenery and lots of street vendors. We walked on the beach, but there was no beach kissing and definitely no dot dot dot. Though we saw some other people kissing on the beach. Not sure if any dot dot dot was involved, we didn't get close enough to see.

After the island, we strolled around our alma mater a bit, noting all the changes that had taken place in the few short years since we'd graduated. Then, for dinner, we took a taxi (with a very talkative driver) to our old favorite restaurant, a tepanyaki place in a department store. Later that evening, Juliet and I worked out our code phrase, which we'll use to determine if either of us is an impostor. Naturally, I can't tell you guys here what our code phrase is, that would defeat the purpose.

Now, I've neglected to mention up to now that I'd been suffering from a mild cold during the week before my visit. I'd pretty much recovered by the time I'd gone to Tainan, but there was still the chance I was still infectious. Plus, there was also a small chance it wasn't a cold at all, but rather H1N1, since someone in my barracks had caught H1N1 earlier, and all indications were it came from me. So either I had H1N1 and managed to recover from it all by myself, or there was a new strain of H1N1 (we shall call it H1N1 2, The Sequel) running around, possibly mutated by me. Or I didn't have H1N1 at all, I dunno.

Anyway, on the third day Juliet was starting to feel a bit under the weather. She still had to go to her tutoring job in the morning, but when we went to a hot pot place for lunch with her family, she was definitely feeling under the weather. So after lunch, she paid a quick visit to the doctor, who said she's suffering from a high fever and might need to be hospitalized. So... I feel bad about potentially giving her H1N1.

Nonetheless, she still insisted on seeing me to the High Speed Rail station, but I insisted that she head home and rest as soon as possible, and she insisted that my plan to suck out some of her virus via her lips was poorly conceived.

All in all, it was a very nice visit, and I'm deeply grateful for my wonderful girlfriend for planning out so many great things to do and so many great places to eat at, and accompanying me everywhere despite the ravages of a viral infection. I most definitely, certainly, absolutely have the best girlfriend ever.

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Tuesday, August 10th, 2010
9:05 pm - Visit to Tainan, and conscription
So I'm getting conscripted tomorrow. Most of you probably already know that, but for the people who don't, there you go. I go in and do one year of military service, after which I'll be buff and muscular and probably taller.

Before I go in though, I went to Tainan to see Juliet for probably the last time in a long time. I've heard many horror stories about soldiers who get dumped while they're doing their national service, and either go crazy with an assault rifle or try to hang themselves on an obstacle course. I don't have to worry about that, since I've managed to find the girl least likely to dump me while I'm away, but it's nice to see her nonetheless.

On Saturday August 7, I took the High Speed Rail down to Tainan, and was met by Juliet, who had a new hairstyle. Long and curly, with bangs in the front. Quite cute, but also a bit more mature. We had lunch at a dumpling restaurant, and then headed to our favorite department store to wander around a bit. Juliet had to teach a class at her cram school that evening, so she set off in the late afternoon, while I was free to wander a bit more. I spent most of my time there re-reading the Da Vinci Code in the bookshop. I also had some Macdonalds for dinner, much to Juliet's displeasure.

After Juliet returned, we went to a night market, where Juliet had a late dinner of some pork steak.

The next day, we spent some time at Juliet's house in the morning, playing with their new pet rabbit. The rabbit apparently thought I'm some kind of bird of prey, because he refused to let me hold him. When I finally grabbed him and lifted him up, he struggled so hard I thought I'd drop him and we'd end up with little rabbit bits all over the floor. When I finally put him down, he dashed under the sofa and refused to come back out.

Later, we had lunch with some of Juliet's friends from her internship days at an elementary school. One of them brought along her boyfriend, who served as a paratrooper during his national service. He told us lots of interesting stories about life in the army, and gave me tips for pullups. He also mentioned he's quite thin, so his pullup tips might not apply entirely to me. The lunch was at a new vegetarian hotpot restaurant, they were still trying to sort everything out but I thought they've got quite a bit of potential.

In the afternoon, we went for a bit of shoe shopping before heading back to the department store again, where we bought tickets to a 9:30 showing of Despicable Me. We went for the late one because the earlier ones were in Chinese, and Juliet's considerate enough to know my preference for English films. Then we wandered around the store some more before heading off to a restaurant owned by the family of one of Juliet's students. She'd promised her student she'll visit their restaurant, and since I'm a big fan of keeping your word I thought it was a smashing idea, to have dinner there.

Unfortunately, it was closed. Something about Father's Day.

So instead we headed back towards the department store and then had some dinner at a Thai restaurant nearby. While we were ordering, we debated whether their pineapple fried rice has shrimp balls in it, with me insisting that the menu says there are shrimp balls, and Juliet saying it'd be weird to have shrimp balls in the pineapple fried rice. In the end, she was right, as she usually is.

Then, after dinner, we enjoyed Despicable Me in 3D. It's quite a nice movie, not very complicated or preachy, just a nice kid's film.

The next day, we headed to Juliet's house to play with the rabbit some more, and then had lunch with Juliet's father and sister at a hotpot buffet restaurant. Strangely enough, I didn't eat nearly as much as I thought I would. I only had one slice of cake, for example.

After lunch, it was time to head to the High Speed Rail station and get back home, so I could prepare for my military service. The preparations are largely complete, I think, though usually when I say stuff like that it means I've forgotten something very important, like my conscription notice.

So tomorrow I go in. See you all in a year.

P.S. Best girlfriend ever. :)

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Wednesday, July 21st, 2010
10:24 pm - Jekyll & Hyde/Juliet visit to Taipei
In each of us there reside two separate natures, two distinct personalities. One dark, one light, one good, one evil. Now, it is the curse of mankind that these two extremes should be constantly at war.

As a firm believer in the duality of human personality, I've been a big fan of the musical Jekyll & Hyde for a few years. Its central theme, of our inner struggles between good and evil, is one that I find easy to identify and agree with. Therefore, when I heard that the Broadway version of the musical would be touring Taiwan, I immediately snapped up tickets. Actually, I snapped up tickets twice, once for the Taipei performance, once for the Kaohsiung performance. I'd attend the Taipei showing with some people from my institute (and encounter quite a few celebrities in the process, actually) and see the Kaohsiung show with Juliet. This would be the first time she's seen a "proper" stage musical, instead of the wannabe musicals we used to do for the Grand English Drama.

On Friday, June 9th, I took the High Speed Rail down to Kaohsiung, and met Juliet at the station. My train actually arrived one minute before hers did, so we met at the exact halfway point between our platforms. Since the last time I'd seen her, she'd apparently grown taller and prettier. Okay, the taller part can be attributed to high heels, perhaps, but she's definitely prettier.

We took the Kaohsiung MRT to the Kaohsiung Cultural Center, a rather large general performance hall, suitable for concerts as well as a variety of stage shows. I'd been there once before, to see a dance performance by Cloudgate, but I didn't have many memories of it. Also, my seat for the Cloudgate show was on the second floor, but our seats for Jekyll & Hyde would be in the very first row. Nothing but the best for Juliet's first musical.

Before entering the Cultural Center though, we strolled around for a bit and sat on a stone bench (which had been rendered quite warm by the blazing sun) and chatted. I noticed Juliet was using a handbag I'd bought her, and Juliet noted that apart from her shoes (and, presumably, her underwear) she was actually covered from head to toe in stuff I'd gotten her - top, jeans, handbag etc. That made me quite delighted actually.

Nearing dinnertime, we decided to get out of the sun and find somewhere air conditioned. We settled on Mos Burger, where we had a dinner of itsy bitsy burgers and tons of potato wedges, onion rings, and chicken nuggets. Mos Burger is the ultimate paradox of fast food, tiny burgers that fatten you up nonetheless.

We headed to the Cultural Center about 10 minutes before the doors were due to open. There was a concessions stand outside, selling merchandise such as shirts, CDs, programs etc. I mentioned I wanted to get a t-shirt, while Juliet suggested a polo shirt instead. We went up to the stand, and immediately both of us asked what their largest size was. We got the XL polo shirt in the end.

After settling down in our seats, we realized we were the only people in the first row. This was a surprise, as the first thirty rows at the show in Taipei had been packed full. Eventually, five minutes before the show started, a girl in a slinky black dress came down to the first row and sat down about 10 seats away from us. We had the entire first row to ourselves, the three of us. Until intermission, anyway, when a bunch of people from the second floor came down and occupied the empty seats.

The star of the show was a guy named Brad Little, who played Jekyll/Hyde. He'd toured Taiwan before, I believe, as the Phantom in the Phantom of the Opera. I'd seen him in Taipei, and had been astounded by his skills. This guy can sing!

On the whole, the Kaohsiung show was probably better than the Taipei one, due to an almost total avoidance of technical difficulties. The Taipei showing was plagued by caption problems, microphone problems, lighting issues etc. They'd ironed out all the kinks for the Kaohsiung showing. As a result, we could enjoy the musical unimpeded, just sit back and let the music and drama wash over us. Words cannot describe how amazing this musical is.

After the show, we rushed to the train station and got on the first train to Tainan. Juliet dropped me off at my usual hotel. I'd actually lucked out and gotten a room, originally we'd thought we'd need to get a different hotel, because they said they were fully booked. But a room opened up in the end.

The next morning, after a hearty hotel style buffet breakfast, we took the High Speed Rail to Taipei. We had lunch at Banciao Station, which had recently been augmented with a slew of restaurants and shops. Wandering around the new restaurants, we couldn't decide what to have, so we went for the healthy option and ate at a vegetarian restaurant. It was pretty nice.

That afternoon, after a brief doctor's visit to have a look at a mild rash on Juliet's neck, we headed into Taipei to see the new movie Chloe, starring Amanda Seyfried, Julianne Moore and Liam Neeson. I didn't anticipate any problems, so we headed to a department store near Taipei Train Station and checked out their cinema. They weren't playing Chloe. So I took Juliet to Ximen, nearby, with a few movie theaters. None of them were playing Chloe either. This was very odd. So we admitted defeat and started home, but on our way to the MRT station we spotted another movie theater, hidden in an alcove. To our surprise, they were playing Chloe. So we got to see the movie in the end.

The film itself was pretty good, though its premise is quite outlandish. Plus we got to see Amanda Seyfried naked, hey hey!

The next day, Sunday, we stayed home until the afternoon, due to the uncomfortable heat outside, which was hot enough to flash-fry anyone unlucky enough to be exposed to the direct sunlight; it was like we'd all turned into vampires. In the afternoon, we decided to go ice skating, except when we got to the rink we found that:
1. Since it was a Sunday, the rink would be closing at 6pm, which was in 2 hours, and
2. The rink was full, so we'd have to wait until people come out, so in all likelihood we'd get far far less than 2 hours of skating done.

Despite our disappointment, we decided it would be best to leave the rink and come back another time. So instead we decided to head to Juliet's cousin's eyeglasses shop, to pay her a visit. Juliet had been meaning to make a call at her cousin's, but could never get her on the phone. We'd found, in advance, the location of the shop online, but when we stopped by the guy inside told Juliet's cousin wasn't in, as she didn't work on weekends.

On the bright side, we did get to cool off by having some ice cream at the Macdonalds nearby.

While taking the MRT back, we realized that they'd extended the MRT to reach a shopping mall called Miramar, which we'd visited once a few years ago. Miramar's located slightly outside the city center, and didn't used to have a MRT station nearby, so it wasn't somewhere we visited all that often. But since we hadn't been there for a few years, we decided we might as well go take a look.

One of the most distinctive features of Miramar is that it's got a huge ferris wheel on the roof. But we decided to have some dinner first, which we did at a tepanyaki restaurant that added deep fried garlic to their dishes. Garlic, when deep fried, turns into a soft mushy substance that loses none of its distinctive flavor and odor, but is capable of getting jammed between your teeth. Therefore, after dinner, we made sure we both gobbled down some breath mints before talking. We also had some more ice cream at Haagen Daas, which involved a meringue that was so sweet even I thought it was too much.

We also found a 360 degree 3d theater, which played 10-minute short films in 3d. Basically, since the screen was wrapped around the entire theater, it would sometimes feel like the objects were floating inside the theater itself. We saw two films, one about underwater life, and the other about a haunted room. The underwater one was quite interesting, though I jumped pretty hard when the sharks showed up (so hard, in fact, my hat flew off). In my defense, they also had these air blasts that came out of hidden nozzles at critical moments, enhancing the "oh crap" factor. I recall the 3d theater in the aquarium in Thailand also had a similar feature, though theirs sprayed water. The film about the haunted room was fairly creepy, though being a veteran of several horror video games I actually predicted most of what would happen. I also made sure I was looking the other way whenever I knew something was about to jump out at me. I'm most proud of the end of the film, when the words "THE END" showed up in blood on screen, and I said to Juliet, "It's not over yet." And as soon as I said so, a bloodied hag with long black hair popped into the theater, wielding a pair of 3d shears.

After that, we took a ride on the ferris wheel, which didn't involve as long a wait as we'd anticipated. Finally something went right. Now, I realize this ferris wheel has been around for quite a few years, and has never suffered any mechanical malfunctions. I also realize they probably test it quite rigorously and regularly. But that still didn't stop me from getting a bit nervous as we stepped into the air conditioned box (yes, there was air conditioning, it's a very classy ferris wheel) and started our way up. I kept picturing the ferris wheel disengaging from its axle and tumbling down sixteen stories to the streets below. In fact, I was thinking to myself, "This would be a great way for a Final Destination movie to start."

Unfortunately, the fifteen minute ride went uneventfully, so I won't get to star in the next Final Destination movie. During the ride Juliet and I discussed why they only put people in every other box. I said it's probably so the staff on the ground don't get overwhelmed with people getting on and off. Juliet suggested it might be due to privacy concerns, because people in each box can only see into the boxes immediately adjacent to them. I then suggested we do something with our privacy. Juliet then glared at me. At least I'm glad no one else saw that.

Afterwards, we headed home, and apart from a brief incident involving a cockroach in the bathroom, the evening passed smoothly and uneventfully.

The next day, we headed to FJU and our institute for lunch with a few of the GITIS people. Claire and Cecille were back from abroad, and I was eager to get some gossip about their last year. We went to a restaurant near campus famed for their huge pork curries. I didn't get one though, due to concerns about my already overexpansive waist line.

After that, we came back home to hide from the heat outside, until Juliet needed to head to the High Speed Rail station to travel back to Tainan. Since we'd eaten quite a bit at lunch, we weren't all that hungry in the evening, so we had a simple dinner of one vegetarian dumpling each, along with some soy milk. And then, after briefly browsing the new shops at the station, Juliet got on her train and rode away.

All in all, while our best laid plans went a bit awry, it didn't matter, because we still got to spend time together. In the end, that's what matters most to me. After all, I have the best girlfriend ever. :)

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Friday, June 18th, 2010
8:49 pm - Visit to Kaohsiung/Mamma Mia/visit to Tainan
It's been five years since I went on stage and acted out the character of Harry Bright, the gay banker from the Bank of England and one of the potential fathers of Sophie Sheridan, the precocious twenty year old who's getting married and looking for someone to give her away.

I mention this because despite it being five years ago, I've never lost the singing/dancing/acting bug and I've been itching to get back on stage again. Unfortunately, I've yet to find a good opportunity, but when I heard that the NSYSU DFLL Grand English Drama was Mamma Mia again this year, I thought it'd be a good chance to live vicariously through a new generation of stage addicts.

Therefore, on the afternoon of May 29 2010, which was a Saturday, I headed down to Kaohsiung via the Taiwan High Speed Rail, arriving at around 3:00pm. The Kaohsiung MRT trip back to my old campus was uneventful, as well as remarkably empty. I can see why people are saying the Kaohsiung MRT is hemorrhaging money.

The NSYSU campus had several significant changes. The streetside lamp posts had all been replaced by streetside traffic cones. I kid you not, they'd removed all the posts and put the lamps on two-foot-high traffic cones. It was hilarious. Also, there seemed to be more wild dogs on campus.

Since I had a few hours to kill before the show started, I decided to wander around campus, and I saw that the back door to the Sun Yat Sen Hall (the performance venue) was unlocked and unguarded. Naturally, I decided to put my sneaking skills, developed through many hours of painstaking videogaming, to the test. Slipping through the door, I hid in the darkness until, two seconds later, I was spotted by three different people.

"Err... hi there. Is Professor Chung here? I was wondering if I could speak to him," I improvised.

"No, he's not here right now," said a girl, probably part of the backstage crew.

"Oh, all right then, I'll just be going now." I was patting myself on the back for my smooth getaway when I heard whispering behind me.

"Is that... it really is him, isn't it? It's him!"

And then the girls called to me, "Excuse me! Excuse me! Are you Harry from six years ago?"

I turned back and said, "Yes, yes I am." (Strictly speaking it's five years ago, but we're humanities students, mathematics has never been our strong suit)

So I went in, and got my picture taken with this year's Harry, and snapped a couple of photos with my crappy phone camera of the platforms (again) and the empty seats. I'd missed the feeling of being on stage, so very much.

The show itself was pretty good. The performers had sped up every song at least twofold, probably due to time constraints, and their dancing was outstanding, much better than ours. Our pronunciation was probably better, and we had a really strict music director so we could really belt out our songs, but they definitely won on the dancing front. Also, at the show I saw Joyce, Marjana, Malien, Ellen (and her students), Amy (and her date), Jack (and his date), and Philos (and his date). I made sure to hug Philos at least once.

After the show, I stayed around to gossip with Ellen a bit, and then helped out the current cast and crew move some of their gear, while telling them horror stories about shows past. All in all, quite a memorable trip back.

That night, I stayed at the Seaview Hotel, a four or five star hotel on campus, the kind that makes you look at the price list and ask, "And that's for just one night, is it? Do I get, like, my own personal butler with it?" Unfortunately, there was no personal butler, which meant I had to go down to the front desk for help if I ever lock myself out (luckily, this only happened once). My room was the same one I stayed in on my last visit, though the view was only moderately nice because it was quite rainy. The room came with a very nice breakfast, fortunately for my waistline not a buffet.

The next day, Sunday May 30, I headed to Tainan to visit Juliet. I took a regular train, the first time I'd ever taken such a train myself throughout. Usually Juliet's with me to handhold me through the process, since I'm a big baby, buying tickets and finding the platform and getting on the train and fighting for seats, etc, but this time I was on my own. I had contingency plans in place for if I'd gotten on the wrong train. The contingency plans involved lots of taxis.

I arrived in Tainan around noon, and Juliet picked me up at the train station, appropriately proud of me that I didn't need to resort to the taxi plan. We stopped by my usual hotel, and then headed to lunch with Juliet's family, at a sukiyaki restaurant. This was the first time I'd ever tried sukiyaki, which is sort of like a hot pot, except there's just a small bit of diluted soy sauce in the pot. Since the meat and veggies are simmered directly in the sauce, it becomes very tasty. Quite a nice first experience with it, I thought. Also, in the restaurant's men's room, I noticed the urinal pads had the message "Don't do drugs" written on them. Gee thanks, Mister Urinal Pad! I was all ready to start doing lines of coke right here off the bathroom floor, but now I've changed my mind!

After lunch, during which I ate more than I really should have, Juliet and I headed to our usual shopping mall to watch Letters to Juliet, which starred Amanda Seyfried and Vanessa Redgrave and a whole bunch of other people I didn't recognize. The movie included the song Love Story by Taylor Swift, which I am totally stealing for a variety of potential future uses.

Afterwards we shot some hoops and played a few arcade games, and then had a dinner of bagels, because we'd eaten quite a lot at lunch.

The next day, we spent the morning hanging out at Juliet's house, watching TV, before setting off to the High Speed Rail station, where we had a lunch of Mos Burger together. This was quite a trip out for Juliet, since she had to take the shuttlebus back to town, which once again confirms what I've known for a long time.

Namely, I have the best girlfriend ever. :)

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Monday, March 29th, 2010
4:00 pm - Visit to Tainan
*digs up fossilized journal from layer of chert*

So, I visited Tainan two weeks ago, and I'm only writing about it now because I'm a procrastinating bastard. Also, I was busy.

On March 17, I went down to Tainan via Taiwan High Speed Rail. There was actually a bit of doubt regarding whether I'd make it down there or not, since the HSR line had been damaged by an earthquake a few days prior. It all worked out though, and I arrived without incident. Juliet took me to lunch at Tao Ban, a very classy and very expensive Japanese restaurant, where we both stuffed ourselves silly. To work off the extra calories, we went for a walk at a nearby elementary school.

The school, whose name escapes me at the moment, was built quite recently, and as a result it's very fresh and modern looking. Quite beautiful. It even had its own pond. We weren't the only ones there though, there were other people taking walks, as well as a few students playing in the playground. We considered whether we'd want to send our children here; I said we should probably try to make sure they don't fall into the pond. Also, their basketball hoops were a bit lower, to accommodate elementary school level skills, so I jumped and managed to touch the rim and that made me proud.

In the evening, we saw Brothers, starring Natalie Portman, Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal. Not a bad movie, the three leads give great performances, though it feels like the director forgot to include an ending. Because of our big lunch, we didn't feel very hungry around dinnertime, so we just went to a bakery and got some bread and rolls. I got a whole wheat raisin bun, which was surprising because I usually hate health food.

The next day, I overslept and missed the hotel breakfast, which was good because their breakfasts tend to be fatty. I spent the morning at Juliet's house, where we watched TV, and for lunch we had traditional Taiwanese glutenous meatball dumplings, commonly called "meat balls" in Chinese. After that, we went to a local flower festival, at which there were many beautiful flowers on display. There was also a "maze of wishes", in which people could write down their wishes on a little card, and hang the card in the maze, and the wish is supposed to come true. We wandered around the maze a bit, reading (and occasionally mocking) other people's heartfelt wishes. Most of them were for money, so if this maze really works, we're going to have a lot more rich Taiwanese people soon.

Juliet had to go to a tutoring session in the afternoon, so she dropped me off at our favorite shopping mall, where I wandered around and practiced my Time Crisis 2 skills. I am good at light gun arcade games.

In the evening, we went to the KTV with Juliet's sister. I can still only sing English songs. I did manage to give a presentable rendition of Lady Gaga's Poker Face though.

The next day, I did manage to get up early enough for breakfast, and had fatty foods. Spending the morning at Juliet's house again, watching TV, her family and I then headed out to a very efficient Japanese restaurant for lunch. This restaurant's really cool, you order your set meal, and then five seconds later the waitress brings you everything, so your table's jam packed with food. After lunch, we went to the HSR station and just sort of hung out and chatted, while looking at the people who pass through the station. There were several foreigners who were followed by people who looked suspiciously like interpreters.

Best girlfriend ever. :)

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Tuesday, March 2nd, 2010
5:23 pm - Juliet's Birthday Visit
*digs up fossilized journal from sandstone layer*

Juliet visited Taipei for her birthday on February 10th. I'm only updating this now because my month of February was devoted to pretending to write a thesis proposal. We do not talk about the thesis proposals.

Juliet arrived on the morning of the 10th, during which I wished her a happy birthday at the train station and then immediately took her to an expensive steak lunch. It's one of those restaurants where you don't go in without a special occasion, and/or being a highly influential businessman. It's one of those restaurants where they post the menu at the door, but not the prices, because if you have to ask about the prices then this restaurant probably isn't for your price range. It's one of those restaurants where the waiters introduce each dish with a history of its development.

I had vouchers for the place, so I got to take Juliet there without having to pay a dime.

The food was good, and very filling (there were a whole bunch of courses), and we were surrounded by many influential businessmen and people celebrating special occasions. Actually, they also came to us with a cake and a photo, since it was Juliet's birthday. They also offered to sing, but we declined.

In the afternoon, we headed to a new mall near Taipei train station. It's not very large, though quite stylishly designed. Reminiscent of some of the shopping malls in Thailand. For dinner we had crepes, since we were quite stuffed from our lunch. Apparently this was the first time Juliet had ever had crepes.

The next day, we headed to the zoo. We both like the zoo, and it's been a while since we visited. Juliet's favorite animal is penguins, which partly explains why she got a penguin-shaped boyfriend. We managed to see penguins. We also saw pandas and koalas, without having to stand in line for ages - one of the advantages of going on a weekday morning - as well as countless other animals and fish. There was also a rhino who farted at me, that was memorable.

Due to mom preparing a filling breakfast for us, we skipped lunch at the zoo, and just had some ice cream as afternoon tea. We also speculated what it would be like to bring small kids to the zoo, for example Makoto-chan. And, perhaps one day, our own offspring.

In the evening, we headed to a hot pot restaurant I pass every day but never had cause to try. I decided it would be a good idea to try it with Juliet for the first time. It turned out to be an all-you-can-eat hot pot buffet place, though their selection of materials wasn't as great as the hot pot place Juliet's family sometimes take me to in Tainan. We had a very spicy hot pot. A VERY VERY spicy hot pot. It was so spicy, my breath could've ignited matches. All in all, not a bad place, though I suppose we have many other restaurants to try too. Also, since it was a buffet style, I ended up eating more than I really should have.

On the third day, we got up early to visit the shopping mall again, because we'd found out two days before that they show Valentines Day in the morning. So we went and saw Valentines Day. It's one of those movies that combines a bunch of little stories into one big interwoven narrative, sort of like Love Actually. All in all, not too shabby a film, though Love Actually was probably better. For lunch we had some pasta with some REALLY spicy Chinese dough cakes (I have no idea what their name is in English). We hung out at home in the afternoon, watching television and recovering from all the chili we had consumed over the last two days.

In the evening, we headed to another mall next to the Banciao train station, where we had dinner at Movenpick. That's usually an ice cream place, but we had experience eating there. Pretty good food, plus they move fast, so we don't have to worry about missing our train.

Quite a nice visit, on the whole. Regrettably we didn't get to go ice skating, which is what we usually do when Juliet visits. Next time, I suppose.

Best girlfriend ever. :)

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Thursday, October 1st, 2009
10:22 pm - Birthday visit to Tainan
For as long as humans have chosen their own mates, they've been terrible at it. Absolutely abysmal. Romeo should never have fallen in love with Juliet. Tristan should never have been with Isolde. Paris's love for Helen doomed his entire civilization. Lancelot and Guinevere were never meant to be together. Cyrano and Roxane, another pair of star-crossed lovers. And Oedipus... well... he was REALLY bad at picking a wife.

Still, with so many centuries of bad lover choices, it was inevitable that the pendulum would swing the other way eventually. In fact, with so many bad choices accumulating negative energy, the pendulum wouldn't really swing as much as zoom. Therefore, I believe all of this culminated in me ending up with Juliet, the rightest of right choices, the bestest of best girlfriends. Ever.

On September 27, Juliet and I first met up in Kaohsiung. We had a lunch appointment with Professor Yu Yo-Shan, back from NSYSU. Professor Yu is a vegetarian, so we went to a really nice vegetarian restaurant, where I had these huge mushrooms that were basically like a steak meal. Very tasty and filling. I could go for vegetarianism.

Afterwards, we headed back to Tainan, where I got my photo taken at a photo shop. I needed to get my picture taken because I'm applying for a new passport. I need a new passport to go abroad. To places such as Thailand. The photo guy insisted I take my glasses off. I said I usually keep my glasses on. He said I can take them off when I'm going through Immigration in Thailand. So if anyone reads a news story about a fat guy accidentally knocking over a whole bunch of people in Bangkok Airport because he couldn't see, it's me.

After the photos, we had dinner at a sort-of-traditional Taiwanese noodle place. We didn't eat a lot because were were both quite stuffed from lunch. We also had some traditional bean tofu dessert thingy. And then after that, we browsed a department store, and discussed the relative merits of light colors, dark colors, horizontal stripes, vertical stripes, and bras. We also got a really nice and sporty top for Juliet.

That night, back at my hotel in Tainan, I accidentally switched the air conditioning to the coldest possible setting, making it a remarkably chilly night. I think I dreamt I was back in Bristol. As a result of the chill (or, possibly, the dream) I felt kinda sick all throughout the next day, the 28th.

On the 28th of September, we went to Juliet's house in the morning and sat around doing nothing, which is an important part of our visits. We don't see each other very often, so when we do it's nice to just sit there and luxuriate in one another's company. Afterwards, we went to the department store where Juliet's mother works, and had bagels for lunch. In the afternoon, we watched The Proposal, starring Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds. Both of whom are hot. Seriously, Ryan Reynolds is so awesome, I'll bet he just went up to Scarlett Johansson and said, "Hi, I'm Ryan Reynolds," and she went, "Oooo, marry me!"

We also played a bit of the basketball game at the arcade in the department store, and I managed to rack up an unprecedented high score. Maybe wooziness helps with your shooting.

In the evening, we went to the Confucius Temple in Tainan, and had dinner at the night market. Due to my wooziness, we postponed our plan to go KTVing and delivered me back to the hotel relatively early in the evening, where I went to bed early like a good boy. After downing about a gallon of water first, though, because fluids are important when nursing a cold.

Apparently the water worked very well, because I woke up on the morning of the 29th completely cured (apart from a minor stomach upset, but it wasn't a big deal). 28 years ago, on September 29, I came to the decision that my mother's uterus just wasn't a suitable environment for future development and growth, and decided to pursue other living arrangements. Juliet got me a t-shirt for my birthday, which was actually exactly what I wanted, since I've been meaning to replace all my old and manky t-shirts with new ones. I wore the t-shirt on my birthday, and Juliet wore the sporty top we'd bought two days ago. We went to Kaohsiung, because Juliet had gotten tickets for a video game exhibition.

I'm going to say that again. Juliet took me to a video game exhibition on my birthday. Her pure awesomeness simply cannot be expressed with mere words.

The Game On exhibition was at the Kaohsiung Museum of Science and Technology, and showcased the development of video games over the course of history. It started out with Pong, Pac-Man, Space Invaders and Asteroids, and moved on to games such as Dig-Dug, Raiden, Street Fighter etc. All of the games were playable, so we spent hours just wandering through the exhibition, trying out everything we could. There weren't a lot of people there that day (it was a weekday) so there were practically no lines. I could show off my knowledge of the video game industry by explaining the history of each game and how it was significant. I also had the opportunity to show Juliet some of my old favorites, such as Half-Life 2, Virtua Fighter, Virtual On, Tomb Raider, Pokemon, etc. We played several fighting games, and Juliet managed to consistently beat me despite having never played a fighting game before. This girl's got talent.

We also took a turn on the Dance Dance Revolution game, which showed us we're not as manually dexterous as we might have hoped. The Guitar Hero game also proved we're not quite as musically talented as we might have thought. Oh, and we wanted to take a turn on the Wii but we couldn't since there was this one girl hogging it. There was also one memorable video game table tennis match, which I think was rigged because I kept hitting the net.

I'm just gonna say it again. Juliet took me to a video game exhibition for my birthday. We spent an afternoon playing classic video games together. :D

The Science and Technology Museum also had an exhibition, a free one, on public health and safety. We got to learn about various dangerous industries, and how to protect ourselves and our health. There was also a machine that measured our weight and body fat percentage. Juliet's healthy, I'm not.

After the Game On exhibition, we saw an IMAX 3-d movie on ancient Egyptian mummies and pharaohs, during which I learned that it's actually quite easy to doze off even in 3-d movie theaters.

In the evening, we returned to Tainan and went KTVing. Having exhausted my repertoire of songs on my previous visits, I tried singing some songs I wasn't completely sure about, and managed to screw up most of them. Imagine me trying to sing Mickey, or It Wasn't Me by Shaggy, or Wind Beneath my Wings. Juliet's a great singer though, and helped me through some of the songs.

On the 30th, we headed to a travel agency in the morning, to deal with our passports and Thai visas and travel arrangements to Bangkok. We thought about joining a package tour, but I wasn't sure if it's a good idea. Still not sure, to be honest.

For lunch, Juliet's family took us to a Japanese restaurant, at which we all ordered the same thing, completely unplanned. I suppose there's a good reason for that though, it was quite a tasty meal. We all managed to stuff ourselves silly. After lunch, Juliet had to pick something up at her old cram school, and I was disappointed I didn't get to go in and see what her old boss looked like. After that, we drove to a local fish market, where we had a walk and bought a box of squid for me to bring back. And then we went to the High Speed Rail station, where we sat in a coffee shop and just chatted until it was time for me to leave. A nice outing with the family, you know?

This trip is the longest I've ever stayed in Tainan visiting Juliet. But, of course, it's never long enough. Eternity itself would be too short a time to spend with such a wonderful woman.

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Thursday, August 6th, 2009
6:32 pm - Juliet Visit
Whoops, forgot to update this thing.

Juliet visited last Friday, July 31. I picked her up at the train station and we had lunch at home. Since it was really hot and really sunny, we decided to stay at home for a while, but we went to Taipei around 4:00pm and watched Up, in 3D. With the 3D glasses and everything. Actually, it wasn't all that 3 dimensional, nothing jumped out at us or anything. The movie was pretty good though, although it could've been improved by being 15 minutes longer, to address some of the things that were a bit vague.

After the movie we had some Hagen Daas. We ordered an ice cream platter for the two of us, and an ice cream shake each. All of it was really good, though also very pricey. It was also really quite filling (there was a lot of ice cream) so for dinner we went to a convenience store and bought random snacks. I got a salad.

The next day we attended a wedding. Juliet's female friend from back at university was getting married. First we went to NTU in the morning, since the wedding was taking place in Taoyuan and they'd sent a coach over to pick up people from Taipei. The coach was scheduled to leave at 12:30, so we had lunch first at a conveyor belt sushi place. Once again, by sharing each plate of sushi, we could control my food intake.

The bus dropped us off at a church near where my mother's family live, in Longtan. In fact, I'm pretty sure the church is located in a park where May once tried to drive dad's car, resulting in a funny video that was subsequently posted to Facebook. The church was really crowded, since the bride and groom were very popular. The ceremony was pretty nice, quite relaxed and informal, though touching in all the right places too. We also got to see quite a few of our old friends from university.

After the ceremony was the banquet. The wedding banquet took place at a golf club, which was minorly amusing to me, since I could imagine these golfers coming back from an exhausting eighteen holes and suddenly WHOA there's a bunch of people dressed in lavish outfits. Juliet, by the way, was dressed in a black and white ensemble with high heels that almost, but not quite, made her taller than me. At the banquet, we sat with some people from our university, though I didn't really know them. The organizers played a Powerpoint presentation about the newlywed couple. One part that caught my eye was one slide that described the bride's initial reluctance to date the groom. She only agreed to his pursuit when she had a sleepless night, during which she heard a voice in her head describing why she should go out with him. She saw it as the will of God, so they ended up together. I thought it was interesting because she described herself as having absolutely no attraction to him at the time of that late night conversation with the Almighty.

We got home fairly late that night, though we spared a thought for the people coming up from Kaohsiung. Their coach wouldn't arrive until 1am.

Originally we'd planned on going skating on the third day, but due to the incessant solar beatdown and the fact that Juliet's legs were very sore from a full day of high heels, we decided to hang out at home instead. Near eveningtime we went to the department store near Banciao train station, where we had some Movenpick for dinner. (Juliet dubbed this visit the Ice Cream Trip) I ordered fish and chips, since I hadn't had any since I left the UK. Juliet had some pasta au gratin. For dessert we had ice cream.

Next time we meet should be my birthday in September. If I'm not here to respond to birthday wishes, you guys know why.

Best girlfriend ever. :)

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Sunday, July 19th, 2009
5:44 pm - Visit to Tainan
A couple of days ago I went on a three day trip to Tainan, to visit Juliet. I took the Taiwan High Speed Rail down to Tainan on the 15th of July, the ride was uneventful except for... well, no, it was uneventful. Which is good, because generally speaking an eventful high speed train ride usually involves the word "derailed" somewhere.

The weather was quite sunny when I departed from Taipei, though British habits die hard so I brought an umbrella with me. And I was quite happy I did when I arrived in Tainan approximately one hour and thirty minutes later, since it was growing overcast. I took a shuttlebus to the National Cheng Kung University campus, where Juliet picked me up after a minor hiccup involving the shuttlebus people having moved the location of the bus stop since the last time I'd visited. Checked in to the hotel, everything went all right, unlike last time when there was a guy quite eager to cut in front of me and get a room for himself and his female companion. Then when we rode off, we noticed the sky getting really quite overcast.

As these things are wont to do, it started raining when we were three minutes away from our destination. We figured the rain wasn't too bad, so we rode on, except one minute later it started raining REALLY hard, so we had to take shelter just outside a shoe shop, on the side of a roundabout. We ended up huddling there for nearly an hour, because the rain was so heavy even raincoats wouldn't have helped. The weird part was that the rain was really... patchy. It'd be raining cats and dogs one place, and then twenty feet away there'd be absolutely no rain at all, and then twenty feet away again it'd be raining hard. The patches of rain seemed to circle around the roundabout, quite regularly and rhythmically. I joked that we could probably measure the passage of time based on how many laps the rain did. The owner of the shoe shop came out to check on us periodically, which was understandable, I suppose, since we were within arms reach of her wares. If we'd wanted to, we could have ridden away with several pairs of loafers.

After the rain finally dwindled to an acceptable level, we rode to the Shinkong Mitsukoshi department store, where we had lunch at a Thai restaurant. Afterwards we browsed a special sale on jeans, but we didn't see anything particularly worthwhile.

Then we rode to a movie theater where Juliet's aunt works, where we saw Drag Me to Hell. Since I'd known in advance we'd be seeing this movie, and since I'm generally terrified of scary movies, I'd cheated and went online to look up the plot beforehand. So it wasn't too scary for me, though there were still a few jump-out-of-your-skin moments. And more than a few gross-out moments. For dinner we had KFC, though we didn't eat much because we'd had a late lunch on account of the rain, and because we'd just watched a movie in which a demonically-possessed man regurgitated a cat.

The next day, we took a train to Kaohsiung and went to the Dream Mall, one of the biggest malls in Asia. There we had a pretty decent tepanyaki for lunch, and then we wandered around browsing. Juliet found a pair of jeans she liked, and I sneakily paid for them while she was in the fitting room. I like to do nice things.

In the evening we went to a KTV with Juliet's sister. The great thing about going to the KTV with Juliet's sister is that she's a great singer, and she loves to sing. So she does most of the singing, which is good because I don't know many Chinese songs, and the English song selection at the KTV's rather limited. Also, since I was feeling a bit masochistic, I picked songs by the Bee Gees, Abba, Michael Jackson, and many other singers who go into vocal ranges generally reserved for dog whistles. Overall quite enjoyable though, and I managed to pleasantly surprise myself by successfully singing a few Chinese songs. This included the Chinese version of Phantom of the Opera, which was very well translated and lots of fun to sing.

Oh, it's also notable that Juliet wore quite possibly the hottest outfit she's ever dressed in ever. A top that almost shows cleavage, and very short jean shorts coupled with dark blue stockings. Apparently she caught several guys peering at her over the course of the day. I took a few photos, but I'm not allowed to upload them until Juliet gives the green light.

On the third day, the 17th, I had a hotpot buffet lunch with Juliet's family. Out of concern for my waistline and out of a desire to not look like a glutton in front of everyone, I tried to restrain myself. And mostly failed. Still, I wasn't the only one, that restaurant's one of those places where you go, "Oh my god I'm so full" while shoveling more food into your mouth. You just can't help it.

I also managed to track dirt into Juliet's house, which was embarrassing.

Overall, a nice trip, I always love spending time with the best girlfriend ever.

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Thursday, May 28th, 2009
10:27 pm - Juliet's visit
Juliet visited between the 24th and the 27th. Originally she was meant to come on the 25th, but she arrived one day earlier to join the banquet on the night of the 24th. It was some religious-slash-cultural event, where we invite friends and family to eat a lot with us. Juliet arrived around noon, and I drove to the train station to pick her up. Then we immediately drove to the airport, to pick up dad, who was coming back for a week from Bangkok. I only got into around five near-accidents, which wasn't bad considering I hadn't driven in about a month and a half.

Dinner was interesting, not least because we got to eat a lot. No, it was interesting because we got to meet cousin Ray's new girlfriend. They'd been going out for about 2 months, and she's a television reporter and anchor. She's fairly cute, very nice, and according to Ray their star signs are highly compatible. So I look forward to hearing tons of gossip about them for a long long time.

On Monday the 25th, we went skating in the afternoon. Juliet's a bit rusty, so we took it easy, didn't try to overexert ourselves. The silver lining in this is that neither of us slipped, we managed to stay on our feet (well, our skates) for two hours. Then for dinner we went to an expensive Italian restaurant called Sabatini, one of those places with candles and flowers and a maitre d'. Since neither of us were particularly well schooled in the art of fine Italian cuisine, we were both terrified of doing something wrong. For example, they brought us a small plate containing a black olive, a green olive, a small crunchy breadstick, and an intricately arranged portion of pate. So... do we eat the olives? Spread the pate on the breadstick? Dip the breadstick in the pate? Use the breadstick to spread pate on the olives? Skewer the olives with the breadstick and leave the pate? In the end we just ate the whole lot as quickly as we could, hoping we didn't just accidentally eat something that was, for example, meant to be purely decorative.

The food was really quite good though. We had pasta, pizza, fish, beef, salads, soups, and peach pie and chocolate-and-banana cake for dessert. Overall caloric intake: Zounds.

The next afternoon we saw The Last House on the Left. The new remake, not the original 1972 version. The 1972 version is not a Juliet-friendly movie. Overall the film was all right, not too scary, not too tense, quite predictable and formulaic, but very strongly acted. Also, Monica Potter is still hot, despite being middle aged, bordering on old.

Afterwards, we went to a shopping district in Taipei called Wufenpu, where we browsed around looking for something Juliet's sister had requested. We didn't find what we were looking for, but we did find an interesting top for me. It's about three sizes too small, but I look all right in it nonetheless. I think of it as weight loss incentive.

For dinner we ate at one of those conveyor belt sushi restaurants. To ensure I didn't eat more than I should, Juliet and I shared each plate of sushi we took, so we would eat the exact same amount. I felt quite satisfied after the meal though, so I suspect Juliet ate too much. Then after dinner we browsed the Hsinchuang night market, and Juliet got a butterfly-themed top. The guy in the store commented that she looks more like a student than I do.

On Wednesday morning we went to GITIS, since I wanted to practice my interpretation on a speech being delivered that morning. Unfortunately, I hadn't prepared, so there were lots of things I couldn't translate. Also unfortunately, I was extremely rusty and out of practice. Additionally unfortunately, the speaker spoke very fast and in that disjointed way interpreters hate. All in all, I could've done better, but Juliet said I was pretty good already.

For lunch we ate at a restaurant famous for its huge fried pork steaks with curry. Seriously, they're a study in freudian symbolism.

That evening, at the train station, while we were sitting and waiting for Juliet's train, we noticed a woman put down her stuff on a nearby seat and head to the bathroom. We then noticed a vagrant eying her things. He then sauntered over and tried to pick up some of her stuff. I said, loudly, "Excuse me, sir, that stuff belongs to someone else." The vagrant looked a bit chagrined and sauntered away. Later on Juliet said she was proud of me for doing a good deed. I said I think we may have accidentally broken up a drug deal.

Juliet stayed for a bit longer than her previous trips this time, but as always it's never enough. Best girlfriend ever.

p.s. I seriously need a new camera, I just realized all the photos I took this trip came out all fuzzy and crap.

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Monday, April 27th, 2009
4:34 pm - Visit to Tainan. And Kaohsiung
Last Wednesday I went down to Tainan to visit Juliet. Okay, technically we met up in Kaohsiung first. We went to the Andy Warhol exhibition, which was touring Taiwan, and got to see a lot of weirdly hued portraits of famous people. We also browsed the rest of the gallery and saw a bunch of things we didn't understand. For example, there was an animated painting involving a woman gradually removing her Victorian outfit.

Afterwards, we visited NSYSU again, where we surprised the TAs in the department office and noted how we didn't know anyone left in the department. With the exception of Emily, who I keep running into every time I head back to DFLL. We also revisited the seaside, where we used to sit and chat for hours and hours on end. In the evening we had dinner in a really posh restaurant that played Indian music, and as a result I kept getting Slumdog Millionaire flashbacks.

The next day we saw ate lunch at a soy-sauce-boiling-type-place in Tainan. I don't think there's an English equivalent to this kind of restaurant. Yes I do study translation, why do you ask? Anyway, it was the first time I ever had that kind of cuisine, despite it being a major element of Taiwanese food, so we can say this was a major breakthrough for me. In the afternoon we saw Knowing at the movie theater in the local department store. Quite a tense movie, but overall not bad. Makes you think without trying to force its point home.

In the evening we went singing at a KTV with Juliet's sister. They're both amazing singers. I did my best, but was hampered by my limited song choices and relatively low pitch range. I first started out by trying to sing Westlife's songs, but they were too high, so I moved on to Aerosmith, which were even higher, and then I went higher still with the Bee Gees, and finally decided to permanently cripple my vocal cords by attempting a Sarah Brightman song. Ironically, I did fairly well with the Sarah Brightman.

The next day I had lunch with Juliet's family at a hot pot buffet. I managed to sort of restrain myself and not gorge myself silly. Sort of.

Sounds like a fairly packed trip, but we also managed to find time to just sit quietly in front of the TV at her house, just sit and enjoy each other's company. It's those quiet moments with her that I enjoy so much.

Best girlfriend ever.

Oh, and not many photos taken. Those that were taken will be uploaded to Facebook.

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Monday, January 5th, 2009
11:21 pm - Juliet visit over New Years
Since January 1 fell on a Thursday, the Taiwan government kindly gave everyone Friday off too so we could have 4 days off. Juliet took this opportunity to visit. She arrived on New Years Day, and got to meet Vivian. They were both funnily nervous. Lunch at home, then dinner at IR China 101 with dad's old colleague Mr. Chien and family. His two children are much grown now.

On the second, we all got up very early and drove Vivian to the airport. In the afternoon we caught a movie, Bedtime Stories, a heartwarming kids film in which Adam Sandler plays Adam Sandler, Russell Brand plays Russell Brand, Rob Schneider plays Rob Schneider, and cute kids 1 and 2 play cute kids. In addition, Courteney Cox plays Monica Gellar, Richard Griffiths plays Vernon Dursley, Jonathan Pryce plays Governor Weatherby Swann, and Lucy Lawless plays a really bizarre version of Xena the Warrior Princess. Still, not a bad movie. In the evening we visited FJU to see their Christmas lights. Unfortunately, they'd removed most of them. *shakes fist* At least the tree was still there.

Then on the third, we slept late (well, I did) and had another relaxing afternoon pretty much sitting around. Dinner was a classy vegetarian restaurant with Mom and Dad.

The weather was quite cold so we spent as much time as possible indoors. Also, I drove a lot.

Photos will be posted to Facebook when I happen to remember.

Best girlfriend ever. :)

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Saturday, December 13th, 2008
4:22 pm - Visit to Kaohsiung and Tainan
Whoops, I have a journal.

*applies vacuum cleaner to all the dust on the journal*

So I went back to Kaohsiung last Thursday. The Department of Foreign Language and Literature was undergoing an evaluation, so they invited alumni to participate in the interview. I was one of the seven people invited. Since we had only 30 minutes for the whole interview, and all seven of us were questioned at once, it actually meant I didn't get to say anything to the evaluators. I basically rode there on the HSR, sat around and looked pretty, then rode back. Good thing they paid for my ticket.

I got to see Kelly, Ellen, Doreen, and a bunch of other old school friends. They were disappointingly gossip free.

Then on Sunday I went to Tainan to visit Juliet. We had lunch at a very nice beef noodle restaurant, which appears to be a family favorite for them. Then we went to see the movie Painted Skin, which was advertised as a horror film but was actually more of a love story. The actors all performed very competently, but the movie was ruined by director hackery.

Then, the next day I had lunch with Juliet's family in a Japanese restaurant. Due to having enjoyed a buffet breakfast at the hotel already, I didn't each much at lunch, which I'm sure was a huge contrast to my apparently expansive waistline.

Overall, a very nice trip, got to spend time together, and that's all we need most so far. :)

Best... yeah you guys know the drill by now.

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Tuesday, November 4th, 2008
2:49 am - Visit to Hsinchu with Juliet
Juliet and I attended a wedding in Hsinchu last Saturday (11/1). We arrived fairly early, enjoyed a very relaxing lunch, then sat around because we didn't want to go out into the unseasonal heat. We did take a walk in National Tsinghua University though. They have their own lake.

The wedding took place in a church, and the overall atmosphere was quite relaxed and fun. When the minister said "You may kiss the bride," the bride actually recoiled out of embarrassment. The bride's one of Juliet's friends from university, so we also saw a bunch of old university friends and classmates.

After the wedding, we headed to the banquet, which was located in quite possibly the most beautiful and luxurious hotel ever. It was one of those places with carpet so thick you sank into it, ankle-deep, as soon as you stepped through the front door. The food was great, the entertainment was intriguing (Juliet and I were called on stage to participate in a game involving a drawing of a rib), and the atmosphere was one of romance and joy. Quite nice overall, pity we had to leave early to catch a train.

We then came back to Taipei together, and the next day we visited Grandpa in the hospital, had lunch at Cafe Grazie with the family, and sat around doing very little for the afternoon. Very relaxing, and it's so nice to just be able to spend time together.

Best girlfriend ever.

Also, who wants pics?

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Tuesday, October 14th, 2008
10:46 pm - Yeah... I can drive
I can't drive. This is common knowledge to many of you. I'm 27 years old, and I know approximately as much about driving as I do about tampon use. (For those in doubt, I don't know very much about tampon use)

So I figured it was about time to learn how to drive. Today I had my first lesson. First they drove me and a bunch of other students to the local DMV where we had our physicals. Eyesight, manual dexterity, all that jazz. I passed, which was actually a surprise. Then they drove us all back, and immediately decided to start me off with some parking and turning exercises.

Personally I thought it was rather risky of them to put me, a complete rookie, in control of a thousand-dollar machine that's well known for its susceptibility to crashing, but I do not question my teachers.

Anyway, by the end of the two hour session, I was turning and parking and cruising like a pro. You know that scene in the Iron Man movie, where Tony Stark tests out his repulsor boots, and after a successful test he lands and goes, "Yeah, I can fly"?

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Yeah, I can drive.

Also, today I found a hole in my pocket, so apparently I'd been leaking money all over the place today.

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Monday, September 29th, 2008
11:15 pm - Interpretation cases, and birthday
*dusts off Livejournal*

Ahem... Where to begin.

I had a very exciting couple of weeks. The first week was taken up by a bunch of translation jobs. Did translations until I wanted to puke, and vowed never to accept any translations again. Unfortunately, seeing as this is my career and all, it's probably not very feasible to refuse all future translations. I'll just have to wing it.

On Friday last week, I had an interpretation case, where I would be receiving Japanese to Chinese interpretation, and relaying it into English. It was an academic conference, on the preservation of historical districts, and there was a bunch of research and preparation to do beforehand. For example, I had to know the Japanese and Chinese versions of places and people's names. However, since I was exhausted from a week's worth of intensive translating, I didn't work as hard as I probably should've in my preparations. I had to rely a lot on my partner, Steven, who did most of the research. (Major shout out to Steven, great guy. Pity he probably won't read this blog)

Another interesting part about relaying from Japanese and Chinese is that Japanese uses a subject-object-verb sentence structure. However, Chinese and English both use subject-verb-object. This meant that the Chinese input I received was always either delayed (because the Japanese interpreters had to wait for the speaker to finish the sentence before they knew what the verb of the sentence was) or phrased in an awkward way to match the Japanese sentence. All in all, it was a very very challenging case.

Then, on Saturday, I interpreted for a major convention for a direct marketing company that SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS HA HA. Basically, the event was meant for congratulating two of their distributors, who had reached a major milestone in their sales records, being the first distributors in the world to accomplish it. It involved lots of pep, lots of rah rah rah, lots of talking about how they're the best company in the world and how everybody can do it if they wanted to. (Which then begs the question why they're celebrating this accomplishment and making it sound like a major event, but I guess I'm not there to ask questions, I just translate) My partner was an experienced interpreter called Perry, and also one of my teachers Nancy was there to do consecutive. They were both very good, showed me how far I have yet to go.

Over the course of the weekend, we were hit by a major typhoon, which meant that today (Monday) school and work were canceled. Coincidentally, today's my birthday. I am now officially older than dirt, and quickly approaching the "rock" age group. Since I had the day off, I'd planned on using my time wisely by wasting it all day. However, this afternoon I received a call from some of the people in my institute, who insisted we should all go out for dinner and celebrate a bit. So we went to a fairly fancy restaurant, during which we all ate well and also enjoyed cake. It was a very pleasant surprise. Also I got a new handkerchief.

I also received a slew of Facebook wall messages wishing me happy birthday (I swear, my wall has never been this busy), Cordi sent me this really nice montage she made, and Juliet sent me a very nice shirt which I will now wear all the time. Best girlfriend ever.

So... interesting few days, I'd say. Time to look to the future. *shakes cane*

*puts LJ back into cryogenic storage*

current mood: Old

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Sunday, August 10th, 2008
12:40 pm - Rob and Elliot
This comic reminds me of me:

From Rob and Elliot, http://www.robandelliot.cycomics.com/index.php

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Tuesday, July 15th, 2008
8:33 pm - Interesting series of days, Juliet section
In between my two interpretation cases, Juliet visited for three days. During this visit, I deliberately planned a lot of "do nothing" time. Stress relief strategy.

We saw Kung Fu Panda, which was quite entertaining. We queued and ate at Din Tai Fung, which was nice. We saw an exhibit of paintings by Millet and his contemporaries, which was hilariously crowded; I had no idea the Taiwanese were such art lovers.

All in all, a very nice visit, during which we spent lots of quality time together doing pretty much nothing. Best girlfriend ever.

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7:55 pm - Interesting series of days, interpretation section
After passing the professional exam, my institute started giving me interpretation cases. I had two cases in the month of July.

The first case took place on July 10th, with an organization THAT SHALL REMAIN NAMELESS HA HA. The conference was on children's theater education. My partner was Steven, a classmate. Overall, I think we did well, though there was one brief moment of panic when we received a speech script to be delivered that day on the morning of the conference. Cutting it just a little close there.

On the 15th, Sophie and I did a conference on life education and health promotion. There were two Japanese professors, who spoke in slow English and were great to interpret for. There were also several Taiwanese professors, who spoke in bullet-fast Mandarin and were torture. Also, the booth was tiny, which led to rather cozy moments. Best part was how the organizers didn't send us the information until 8:00 the previous evening. Ever tried reading 50 Powerpoint slides and around 30 pages of Word documents in an hour?

All in all, I'd say these were good first time experiences. And, of course, I got paid.

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