Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hey, What Are You Some Kind of Capitalist Pig or Something?

 I don't want to appear to be crassly commercial. But I have to tell you, I've wanted to find a way to use the blog to make a little money, for a while. I'm really not expecting to make much, but I've decided to add some advertisements for Amazon.com to the blog.

It's not just that I'm some kind of crazy capitalist. This thing takes an enormous amount of work. I research or travel. I take photos. I upload them. I write and do the best that I can as a writer. It all takes time and, believe it or not, I think my time has value. So I decided to try this.

Christine Gambito aka "Happyslip"
I chose this program because I can control the content of the ads. One of the problems I have is that I don't want the ads to be some product or some thing I don't believe in, or wouldn't want to support. I watched Youtube's "Happyslip" struggle with the site she used as a base, for running ads that were contrary to her belief system. I certainly don't want to contribute to the exploitation of young Taiwanese women by having an ad that says, "Find and Marry Hot Taiwanese Girls." I want all the content on this site to be something reflective of my values.

With Amazon.com I can choose what I want to advertise and I will advertise something that goes with the blog post or the blog. But I need your help. You seem to be a quiet group. I ask for comments on content or format and nothing. Silence ensues. No comments at all. I guess if people don't like it they just stop looking at it. But I don't want that. I want you to read and learn about Taiwan's beauty, history, culture, traditions and people.

If you are going to buy something advertised at Amazon.com anyway try to use the links I put in for you. If you don't like it contact me my email address is in the "Contact Us" link and I'll stop doing it, rather than lose a lot of readers. There is an example in my last post, Eating My Way Through Taiwan:  Buddha Jumps Over the Wall [Feb 19,2011].

Photo Credit:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/sdaffphotos/sets/72157608069319936/

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Eating My Way Through Taiwan: Buddha Jumps Over the Wall

I know this sounds more like a post on exercising, but really it’s about food. Over the Chinese New Year I was invited to a number of traditional Chinese New Year meals.

There are a number of foods that are traditional to Chinese New Year. Many of the foods that are eaten have a purpose. They are representative of something. Here is a list of Traditional foods for Chinese New Year.

Mustard greens – They are served as a vegetable and they represent long life. The eating of Mustard greens is a wish for the long life of those eating the meal with you.

Taiwanese Black Chicken
Whole chicken – Usually a whole chicken is served in one form or another. In all of the Chinese New Year meals I ate, the chicken served was a Black Skinned Chicken prepared as a soup. The Chicken symbolizes starting a new family and for those already married, bringing wealth to the whole family.

Fish – The Chinese word for fish is Yu, which is pronounced the same as the word for abundance. It is noted that although every family prepares fish, it is symbolic to not eat all of it as this ensures you leave something for the remainder of the year.

So nearly every Chinese New Year meal includes these foods. I was invited to three Chinese New Year meals this year and all of these things were included in each one. But there was one other common food that was served. It is a special dish that is peculiar, I think to Taiwan, and it's called "Buddha Jumps Over the Wall," or in Mandarin Fo Tiao Qiang (phonetically: Fwu Teeow cheeahng). There is a story that goes with the name:

A Fu Zhao scholar was picnicking with friends. He took all the food that he had, put it in a wine jar and heated it over a fire. The smell drifted off the food and across the landscape until it reached a Buddhist monastery. The monks smelled the food and couldn’t resist inviting themselves to the picnic. So they jumped over the wall and descended upon the picnic. A poem was written to commemorate the meal. There was one line that was written in praise of the food that went like this, “Even Buddha himself would jump over a wall to taste this dish.” I didn’t realize that Ancient Buddhist Monks were such poetic souls.

So what is Buddha Jumps Over the Wall? It’s a form of Shark Fin Soup. There is an extensive list of ingredients.

Shark's Fin, Abalone, Quail Eggs, Chicken, Ginger, Dry Sherry, Bamboo Shoots, Lamb, Pork, Ham and black Mushrooms.

That’s a lot of different ingredients, but here’s the real story! These things are added on the first day. It takes two days to make this soup:

On the second day you add Chinese Turnips, Carrots, Cinnamon Sticks, Anise, Chicken Stock, more Sherry, double dark Soy Sauce, Bamboo leaves, and a large Lotus leaf.

Apparently, you just walk through the traditional market and ask for one of everything. I think the reason it takes two days is because no one has a pot big enough to cook it all at once.

Buddha Jumps Over the Wall

Now for the thing for which you’ve all been waiting. Is it tasty? If you know me or you’ve read this blog for a while you probably will guess that I’ll eat anything, at least once. My philosophy is that if they eat it somewhere in the world it must be good to eat. Well, when I say good I mean it probably won’t kill you. I don’t like everything I try and I’m way too polite to say, “I wouldn’t eat that if it was the only thing between me and starvation.” I generally, eagerly try whatever is placed before me. But I wouldn’t be honest if I told you that I would jump over a wall for this soup. I think that Shark Fin is a little too strong flavored for me. Buddha seems to enjoy it more than I do.

Note: I have to get better at taking my camera with me everywhere. I sometimes feel that its rude to whip out my camera and start shooting the food and the people so I keep it put away or don’t bring it. Then I have “borrow” from other blogs to get the pictures.I always try to give credit. I may infringe copyrights but at least I’m polite about it.

Photo Credits:
Black Skinned Chicken.

Buddha Jumps Over the Wall

Thanks to these excellent blogs for these pictures.

Other posts you may be interested in:

Taiwanese Traditions:  Chinese New Year:  The Legend of Nian
Eating My Way Through Taiwan:  A Traditional Restaurant

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Taiwanese Traditions: Chinese New Year: The Legend of Nian

Photo Credit:  http://hubpages.com/hub/the-story-of-the-nian-monster
I’ve talked before about Chinese New Year traditions. I’ve written about red banners, I’ve written about the monster. I’ve written about saying Gongxi. I’ve even compared Passover to the Chinese New Year Tradition. But I’ve never written about the legend that led to these traditions.

Last week I was talking to a Taiwanese friend about the legend and the why people practice the traditions that they do and she told me that most Taiwanese people do those things, but they don’t know why and don’t know about the legend itself.

The traditions of Chinese New Year date back more than three thousand years. In fact 2011 is the year 4708 by the Chinese Lunar Calendar. In the interest of education I will share the legend of Nian, which is the reason for the Traditions of Chinese New Year:

The Legend of Nian:

In the distant past, the people of Peach Blossom village lived in fear of the monster. Every year on the eve of the New Year, the monster, Nian, would emerge from the sea and kill people and livestock and tear the village up. The people, who were terribly afraid of the monster, would flee the village and head for the mountains. After the monster had passed the people would come down to the village clean up the mess and get on with life. But the affect on the village was devastating.

Photo Credit:  http://traditions.cultural-china.com/en/13Traditions474.html

One New Year’s Eve a beggar came to the village. An old woman gave him a meal and urged him to flee with them to the mountains. The old beggar told the woman that he could rid them of the monster if he was allowed to stay in the old woman’s home for the night. She continued to try to convince him to leave with the rest of them for the mountains. When she saw that the beggar wouldn’t leave, she left him in her home and fled with the others. Then the beggar began to prepare for the arrival of Nian.

He put red banners on the doors of the homes. The monster was frightened by the color red and wouldn’t go near it. He made firecrackers and placed them throughout the village. Then he waited for the emergence of the monster.

When the monster came up out of the sea he was immediately confronted by the red banners, then the firecrackers were ignited and the noise and color drove him back into the sea.

When the villagers returned they saw that village was left intact; that the beggar had protected the village. From that time on the villagers prepared every New Year’s Eve by placing red banners over their doors and lighting firecrackers.

Unfortunately, as in many other nations, people have forgotten the reasons behind their traditions. But every year, in Taiwan, people hang red banners alongside and over their doors and light fireworks. Every year the greet each other by saying “gong xi,” which means congratulations, the meaning is that the person has survived another year without the monster getting them. Finally, the word Nian, in Mandarin, is translated as year.

Other posts you may be interested in:

Taiwanese Traditions:  Ghost Month
Taiwanese Traditions:  Chinese Valentines Day
Taiwanese Tradititons:  Xin Nian Kuai le
Random Asianess:  Walking the god
Random Asianess:  Oh Sure, Now We Decorate

Friday, February 4, 2011

Traveling with M13: Custom Scooters of Taiwan

Custom Scooters – Part two of a three part series.

As in America there is a certain group of people in Taiwan that like to customize their vehicles. Most people spend a lot of time on their scooters so people like to customize them. I’ve seen a number of them on the road. Some are just body and paint customs, some use LEDs to cause a glow on the street below the scooter. Some have custom engine parts and some are done for racing.

As I said before my scooter has a bit of customizing done on it. But mine was customized in order for me to ride it. I needed some structural modifications to compensate for physical disabilities. (The third part of this series will center on bikes modified for disabled people.) So, customization is for more than just looks, or to stand out in a crowd. There are good reasons for customizing. If you’re bike calls attention to itself, then maybe drivers will see it more easily and avoid squishing it which is especially important if you happen to be riding it.

Sometimes though, people get carried away. Mordeth13 has a video that shows a scooter covered with crystals. This scooter has a sale price of $1,500.00 USD without the modifications but with them the Bike sells for $15,000.00 USD. I wonder what the thing weighs with all those crystals on it.   I wonder how easy it is to ride. I wonder if the owner of that bike rides it at all.

More than 100,000 Swarovski Crytals source: http://www.privilegedclub.com/)
When I was a kid, I had a friend that had a totally customized Volkswagen Beetle. It was awesome; well, as awesome as a ‘70s era Volkswagen Beetle could be. Beautiful paint job, the engine completely chromed. The thing was, though, he never drove it. It just sat in his garage, until he trailered it to some car show. I bet the owner of that crystallized scooter doesn’t drive it, either. I haven’t seen it on the streets, I can tell you that.

I think I’m going to do some minor customization on my bike. I want to put some blue LEDs under it to get a nice blue glow on the street at night. I want people to be able to see me easily. Customization with lights makes you more visible at night. Improved visibility equals improved safety. Plus it looks cool, which is equally as important.

Mordeth13 and his hot custom bike, Hello Kitty?

You Tube’s Mordeth13 has customized two of his scooters. His wife had an older scooter that was weather beaten and worn looking and he took it in got a fresh paint job, a seat recover and new floorboards and it looks brand new. The paint is kind of a pearlescent white. It really looks very nice. Then, he realized that her bike looked so good he needed to do one of his own, as well. He was looking for something that would match his image. After all, he’s You Tube’s motorcycle bad boy; the scourge of the Taiwanese Police and media darling. The press in Taiwan reports on his every move.

But not all customizing jobs work out. Not everyone has taste and style. Some guy in my neighborhood has customized his own bike. I’m not sure what he was going for but you can’t miss the bike. On the front by the handlebars is a small altar to some Taoist god. And the back looks like it has rockets. I think all the tinfoil is a nice touch, though.

Thanks to Mordeth13 for the use of this video and patiently allowing me to photograph him for this blog.
Photos by Emily and Brenda Banducci

Other posts you may be interested in:

Traveling With M13:  Finding Toad Valley
Traveling With M13:  The Sequel:  Return to Toad Valley