Wednesday, April 22, 2020

Goodbye Taiwan

I've lived in Taiwan for almost 11 years and it has come time to head home!I will be leaving in January 2021 to move to Tucson Arizona.  So we will be posting a new blog called, surprisingly, "The Tucson Adventure."  I'm nothing, if not creative, that is for sure!  The blog will start as we prepare to move.  Things like

1.  Buying a House in Tucson while living in Taiwan. 
2.  Packing and shipping our whole life and all of our stuff to the US.
3.  Adjusting to a new place.
4.  Culture Shock in your own native country!

And anything else that comes to mind that seems interesting. 

I have decided in my retirement that I'm going to spend some part of the day writing - EVERY DAY.  Well, that's what I say now but we'll see. I have a couple of writing projects that I want to begin working on in addition to "The Tucson Adventure."  I'll reactivate the Standing Stones Blog and continue to add photos to "Taiwan Wildlife" (although it will probably transform into "Tucson Wildlife"!

I'm retiring so I don't want to make it a job, but I'll try to have at least one new post a week on each blog.  The resolve seems to be weakening already.  I went from a declaration, "I'm going to spend some part of each day writing," to "I'll try!"  What a wimp.  I won't let my resolve...dissolve!

Monday, January 1, 2018

Happy New Year from Taiwan - 新年快樂

Taiwan's welcome to 2018.  Fireworks at the Taipei 101.  This year in addition to the fireworks the 101 added projection to the show.  The projection depicts the 2017 Universiade Games in Taipei, in addition to special kaleidoscopic graphics.  Pictures and explosions, what more could you ask for.

Happy New Year from the Taiwan Adventure Publications!

Source:  Taiwan News via YouTube: (linked)

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Birds of East Asia: A Review

I have to say at the outset that I am not a “professional” bird watcher.  Although, I could see myself at some time in the future settling down to watch birds do bird things.  My lack of mobility and limited (mobility scooter) transportation means that my main locations for watching birds are fairly specific.  Often, people think that disabilities limit your ability to be involved in something like bird watching, but it can still be a rewarding pursuit, with a few adjustments. 

Taoyuan City is “famous” for the number of parks spread throughout.  Most of them are beautiful little oases in high-rise neighborhoods.  So, my particular area of ornithological study is the urban park habitat.  Occasionally, I am able to go into the more rural areas to watch, but that requires a driver and someone who is interested in a quiet few hours.

I got involved in bird watching because I could recognize only a few of the birds I saw in trees, in rice fields and on poles near my home.  Not all of them are the same as California’s birds.  In fact, I have only seen a few that I recognized without the assistance of my trusty Field guide.

I suggested to my children that a field guide for Asian birds would be a perfect gift during the Christmas gift-giving season.  They laughed.  They told me bird watching is an old man’s sport; oh, the derision, I endured.  I was steadfast; a field guide was all I wanted.  They made other suggestions, I shrugged them off.  I really had no other needs or wants.  As Christmas got closer they got desperate, so they tricked me into revealing, once again, the name of the field guide I wanted:  Birds of East Asia, by Mark Brazil. 

So this is my review of that field guide.  In some ways, I think it is an excellent book.  There are a lot of beautiful, full-color renderings of birds in different positions.  For example, there are drawings of birds standing, flying over head, and flying at eye level.  The advantage of that is that birds rarely sit like museum exhibits for you to look at.  They are usually about some mysterious bird business, whatever it may be.

The descriptions of the habitats and ranges are quite good and the little maps are helpful.  There is some good taxonomic information; genus, and species.  Although, I have a tendency to “Google” them when I find them so that I can find out what order they come from.  For instance, I found a bird just last week called a Malayan Night Heron.  The drawing of the bird left off the crest that was obvious and visible, so to be sure of what I was seeing I used Google, which produced a large number of photos.  In addition to the corroborating photos, I found that the heron is of the order Pelecaniformes.  This is the same order as Pelicans, but according to the description and location of the bird, they are not really water birds.

The only other problem with the book is that it covers a large area:  ChinaTaiwanKoreaJapan, and Russia.  This is quite a large geographical area, so the range maps are a little too small to see clearly.  Remember, my children called this an old man’s sport.  I’ll cop to being a “not-as-young-as-I-used-to-be” man, I won’t go all the way to old, but even with my bifocals, the maps are a little small.  Taiwan is, after all, a tiny island in that large land mass.

Finally, the last problem, I have with this book is its size.  I think it’s a little heavy for a field guide.  My copy is paperback and I don’t like to take it out into the field because it might get destroyed.  I generally, try to photograph the bird and then come back and look it up.  It can be difficult if I come across more than a couple of birds because I have to take notes in order to remember locations and habitats.

In general, I am delighted with this book.  When I’m stuck in my office I find myself leafing through it and trying to memorize the drawings so I’ll recognize the birds immediately.  

The book is published by Princeton Field Guides, Princeton University Press, copyright 2009.  It is available for purchase at Amazon for $US 26.44.  Birds of East Asia link at Amazon

Other Posts you may be interested in:

Not Quite the Last of the Mountain Men
The Trees Are Alive With The Sound of Music
Eating My Way Through Taiwan:  The Stink of Adventure

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Not Quite the Last of the Mountain Men

In the University, many, many, many years ago I studied Biology.  My plan was to be a Wildlife Biologist:   Climbing to the tops of mountains, living with Bighorn sheep for months at a time, counting sheep, or tagging bears, something like that. 

What can I say?  It was the “mountain man” period of my life.  I wanted to be a modern day Jeremiah Johnson, without having to eat anyone’s liver.  You didn’t know about that, did you?  He fought the Crow tribe and ate their livers when he won.  Robert Redford conveniently left that part out.  He was actually called, “Liver-eating Johnson.”  Now, there’s a nickname that would inspire fear among your enemies, am I right? 

Look, I’m not making this up – There’s a book about him called Crow Killer: The Saga of Liver Eating Johnson by Raymond W. Thorpe.  The description of the book mentions his liver eating proclivities AND the fact that the movie Jeremiah Johnson was fictionalized and based on this guy’s life.  I've added link below.

Anyway, I thought these mountain men were pretty cool.  I longed, for the open wilderness, the solitude, cooking over an open campfire.  I actually met the “Last of the Mountain Men” in 1975 up on the Salmon River in Idaho:  Sylvan “Buckskin Bill” Hart.  I worked as a whitewater guide and we rafted right past his cabin once a year.  He was a nice, if somewhat eccentric old guy.  He was seventy-two years old at the time.  There’s also a book about him called Last of the Mountain Men by Harold Peterson.  It was actually written for Sports Illustrated.  There's a link below.

It’s amazing how my mind wanders these days; I really wanted to talk about something else.   As I was saying I wanted to be a Wildlife Biologist, so I carefully studied courses like Zoology, Invertebrate Zoology, Botany, Entomology, Ichthyology, and Ornithology.  I wasn’t particular about what kind of wildlife I counted, tagged, and generally hung out with.  As a result of all of this studying, I could pretty much recognize a lot of different wildlife. 

I moved to Taiwan from California.  In California, I knew and could identify just about any type of bird that I saw.  I even understood taxonomy and could find my way around a dichotomous key.  Those were the days before Google, baby.  I could handle the old DK, like the pro that I was.

Then I moved to Taiwan.  Guess what the birds are different here.  So I recently got a copy of Birds of East Asia; China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Russia by Mark Brazil.  (link below) It’s a little heavy for a field guide, but there are drawings of hundreds of birds, along with taxonomic information, range, and seasonal visitation.  So now I’m kind of figuring out local birds.  I spend some quiet time in urban parks near my home and occasionally head out to the mountains to gaze at the birds and try to identify them.  It’s interesting and peaceful.

I’m not dreaming of being a mountain man any longer.  Oh, I still read an occasional F. Pat McManus book, but personally, I’m on to other things.  Here are some birds that I've seen near my home.  I prefer to use my own pictures but I'm way too slow.  By the time I'm ready to shoot a picture, the bird is already over Mexico, just so you know.  There are links to pages of these people, who are much more skillful than I am at photography.  

Pacific Swift - Apus Pacificus

Oriental Stork - Ciconia boyciana

Little Egret - Egretta Garzetta (Summer Plumage)

Chinese Bulbul - Pycnonotus Simensis Formosae

Book Links:

Photo Credits:

Other posts you may be interested in:

Saturday, May 27, 2017

More Than an Hour at Sun Moon Lake

I have a lot of trouble traveling in Taiwan.  It’s not for reasons that you would think.  It’s not because I can’t read the highway signs.  It’s not because I can’t sit comfortably in a car for long periods.  It’s not because I can’t read maps or understand the GPS.  It’s not for any of those reasons.  I have a hard time traveling because my schedule doesn’t really permit it.

I’m a pastor and guess what…Sunday is always just around the corner.  Between writing two sermons and a Bible study each week, my own personal studies, outreach, preaching, teaching, two blogs and all the other things that come up, I don’t have much time to hang out.  If where I want to go is more than a day trip away, I’m not often able to go.

For example, we have always wanted to go to Taroko Gorge.  It’s probably one of the most beautiful places on the planet.  If you’re an American, it compares favorably to Yosemite.  It is gorgeous.  I’ve been there once; I spent about an hour there. 

A friend had had an accident in Hualien and was stuck in the hospital there.  My wife and I left on a Tuesday night to go visit him.  Hualien is about four and a half hours from Taoyuan City.  We got there and visited for a while and stayed in a hotel.  I had to be in Taoyuan the next day before noon, so we got up early and drove to Taroko Gorge.  It was about twenty minutes from the hospital.  We drove a half hour into the gorge and turned around and drove back out.  For my sixtieth birthday though, my family and I took two days off and went to Sun Moon Lake

Sun Moon Lake is located in about the center of the island.  It’s the largest body of freshwater in Taiwan.  The scenery is spectacular.  The temperature is cool.  It’s also a relaxing resort type atmosphere.

The main entrance to the lake is Yuchi Township in Nantou County.  I’ll include a Google map at the end so you can find it.  We stayed At the Tanhui Hotel, an inexpensive hotel across the street from the lake.  We could see the lake from our hotel if we looked through the glass of the hotel across the street.  The room was very inexpensive.  It was set up for four people, (Our daughters came along with us.).  The hotel served breakfast of eggs and cooked lunchmeat.  We weren’t really expecting much for what we paid.  The staff was nice and friendly; the room was clean although I could only face one way in my wheelchair.  I had to go out into the hall to turn around, but hey, it was a good way to meet my fellow travelers.  On the whole I’d recommend the hotel if you are just looking for inexpensive. 

The lake was beautiful:  Soaring mountains, cool breezes and fresh air; all things that can be difficult to find in summertime Taiwan.  The locals are mostly aboriginal and very nice and friendly.  The only thing that was a letdown was that we went to dinner about eight and had a difficult time finding any place to eat.  We ended up eating street food from a small night market. 

The highlight of the trip was a boat ride across the lake.  These guys lifted my wheelchair onto the boat and we powered across the lake to three locations.  We could get off at any of the stops and explore.  The place we stopped had a tram that went up over the mountain.  I don’t ride on things like that for reasons that I cannot reveal, but it has to do with mountaineering and hanging around.  That sentence seems sufficiently vague.  So, if you’re adventurous you can take the ride over the mountain and discover something.  I can’t have all the fun. 

I’m certainly glad that my family arranged this trip.  It was well worth the extra work to get caught up, we went on a Monday and stayed over night, but guess what…Sunday was just around the corner.

Photo Source:  Tanhui Hotel: 
All other photos:  Elizabeth Banducci

Other Posts You May Be Interested in:

Taiwan Travelogue:  The North Coast
Taiwan Travelogue:  The National Palace Museum
Taiwan Travelogue:  The Huaxi Night Market

Monday, April 24, 2017

Paying it Forward in Rice

A few weeks ago, a friend of ours,  got a little behind in his rice planting.  This man has been a great friend of ours over the last few years.  He’s helped us out in a number of ways.  He needed some help and we were glad to return the favor. So, one cold rainy day in April, my daughters and a number of their friends jumped in and went to work in the rice fields. 

Most of the planting is done with a tractor.  In a past article, (TaiwaneseTraditions: The Planting and Growing of RiceApril 4, 2011) I described the vehicle and process of rice planting.  What I didn’t mention in that article is that there are areas in the rice paddies, odd-shaped spaces where a tractor cannot go.  I guess we would call these “The Final Frontier.”  Well, maybe not, but the idea is that in order to maximize the crop yield, these odd-shaped spaces must be filled with rice seedlings.  If the tractor can’t go there, then they have to be planted by hand.

For one person, alone, this can be time consuming back breaking work, but for a group of young people with energy to burn it can be knocked out in a couple of hours.  Most of them had never worked in a rice field in their lives.  Three of them even grew up in countries where rice is not a major crop.  If I had to guess I would say that some of them have never done any “blue collar” work in their lives.  But they showed up and planted by hand and finished the job in about three hours.

I think rice fields are beautiful.  As the rice grows and fills in the spaces between seedlings there s something about them that just appeals to my sense of the beautiful.  They look like a perfectly manicured lawn.  All the grass, rice is a grass is at the same height.  It waves in the breeze, like ripples across a pond.  The color is a beautiful emerald green.  My family thinks I’m nuts, but I just appreciate the beauty in farmland, I guess. 

Other Posts You may be Interested in:

Taiwan Traditions:  The Planting and Growing of Rice
Taiwanese Traditions:  The Selling and Brewing of Tea
The Origins of Wulong Tea