29 July 2008

Some Final Thoughts

Today is a travel day. I'm returning home. I've had quite a lot of time to reflect on Taiwan. I'm sure not sufficient time to file the experience neatly away into the annals of my memory; a lifetime wouldn't be enough. But, as Pat and I began to reflect on the way to the airport, we came to some important points of engagement.

Conversation, classroom lectures, and mountains of textbooks educate me. I'm heavily invested in my formal education, thus far, and I'm greatly humbled to have such an opportunity. In some ways, however, my first extended trip abroad has proven more didactic than years at any university. (We value knowledge so, but understanding is rarely appreciated to its merit.)

So to travel to Taiwan, to stay, to befriend Taiwanese people, to eat the food, experience the culture--in all of this, I was not expecting to be so imprinted with perspective. Much to my embarrassment, I didn't realize all of this until my much anticipated trip to the airport with Pat.

We began to talk about the previous evening's meal, when our fast-friend from Taiwan, Claire and we went out to celebrate our time together. We asked Claire what her favorite restaurant in Taipei is, and when she suggested one with, of all things, a Chinese name, we stared blankly, and asked her to show us the way. We were brought to a small brewery with delicious food and another interesting amalgam of US and Taiwanese influence. Seafood soup with a beer broth, and a teriyaki cuddlefish salad were on the menu for the evening, as was some in-depth discussion of Taiwanese vs. American Education. Through this one meal, all my education of cultural differences finally engaged with practicum.

Claire is perhaps the gentlest of all my friends. Her humble deferring attitude lends itself well to most relationships, and quietly demands both respect and reciprocity. In thinking on her conduct, I've learned a lot. Most religions at least allude to the paradox of the least being the greatest and visa versa. From Claire's offering me a sip of her drink before she had a taste, to her intense concern over our affinity to the restaurant she chose, Pat and I have discovered what collectivism is truly about. I'm able to understand traditional "feminine" roles, and instead of dismissing them as foreign or antiquated, to embrace the power found in humility.

For the above reasons, I'm intensely sorry that I didn't allow my heart to be more open to Taiwan. Perhaps as an effort toward emotional preservation, I guarded myself from investing my whole humanity into this experience, assuming that two months is too short a time to make worthwhile connections. How many opportunities have I forgone in doing so? Who did I miss getting to know?

On the other hand, how touched I have been, in spite of my stoic approach. How happy I am that the least among us has the strength to make me melt. And how excited I am to forge ahead into more mistakes and lessons in humanity.

26 July 2008

Our final adventure found Pat and I at Yeliu (野柳) Geological Park, a considerable distance from Taipei. Because of the 45 minute journey, our bus was quite comfortable with comfy seats, and plenty of leg room. The downside to having such a luxurious coach is that you can't tell where you are, let alone discern which stop is yours. We were promptly helped by the locals, when we confidently headed to the front of the bus 15 minutes early.

An especially bulbous 
sandstone formation

Upon arriving, it was a short walk to the park, which is notable for it's sandstone formations. As the sandstone gets eroded by tides, wind, and other sand in the water and wind, the harder layer on top remains.This produces fragile looking protrusions from the ground that have the potential to resemble human figures, like Taiwan's famous Nephertiti Head. 

The African Princess's Head-
smaller than expected

The formation is lauded as one of Taiwan's natural treasures, and it is quite fascinating. However, I was expecting something more American Southwest in scale. Regardless of the size, though, many of these formations are indeed endangered.

Funky sandstone formations, 
whipped up by the wind.

The queens head isn't expected to last for much longer, as her "neck" is shrinking by the year. So little time! The threats of erosion are not only significant from the wind and water, but also from the tourists that traipse all over the nifty squiggly rock.

Squiggly alien landscape

Some are even so daring as to get on top of the formations, which will inevitably lead to the sqigglies eventual disappearance.

Taiwanese tourists, their 
own brand of rule-breaking

The park is also a place where the ocean and the shore cohabitate, making for some dramatic interplay. Because the sandstone is so fragile, the shore is little more than a steep, rounded drop-off into the ocean. 
Ominous, yet ignored warning signs

That's probably why the powers that be decided to paint a red line on the sandstone shore, with multiple signs reading "Danger!" -- none of which were heeded by any tourist present, myself and Pat included. The Taiwanese have a slightly-more-than-healthy fear of water, and take it upon themselves to restrict citizens and, especially, tourists from even the most remote risk of drowning. That said, the following picture is much more safe than it looks.

Pat is perfectly safe. 
The angle gives a daring feel, though.

This place, pretty as it looks in the noontime sun, is best visited in the cooler months, or in the morning if you must on a summer day. By about 2 pm, I was spent, and had to get out of the sun and heat.

22 July 2008

Beach Bum

My nose began to peel today. I'd been expecting it, though. Some pretty intense days on tropical beaches merit such dermal behavior, no matter how many coats of SPF 45 one slathers on. Let me explain.

The bottomside of the British Consulate

Saturday, July 12, a heard of Grand Valley students headed off to a Rock festival at Fulong Bathing Beach(福隆海水浴場) as a sort of last hurrah before their return home. We didn't listen to much music, but instead shirked the official swimming area for more exciting ventures. If you followed the link to the Fulong Beach wikipedia site (above) you could see a picture of the extensive beach-front with the little buoyed off area for swimming. This year was about twice as packed as that picture shows, and the swimming area about 4 times. Needless to say, we didn't want to be in a suss-pool of humanity; we opted for a cozy beach area across the little stream that emptied into the ocean there. We splashed, laid out on the beach, and sat in the surf like we've seen big beautiful black ladies do in Michigan. It was a blast. 

Then, this weekend, Pat and I decided to go with a group of students from the Mandarin Training Center (having been ruthlessly left behind by our Grand Valley friends) to the southern tip of Taiwan. It was good timing, too, as a typhoon struck the Northeast side of the island as we were heading South. On the way, we stopped at Kaohsiung (高雄, Gāoxióng) to ride the tallest Ferris wheel in Taiwan, which is so high because of its placement on top of a mall. The bird's eye view of that city was interesting, but it wasn't night time. I'd be quite interested to see it at night. And when it isn't raining.

Windows in a dungeon?

Before we got settled into our lodging, we stopped at the Former British Consulate just outside of Kaohsiung. It was interesting, complete with an awkwardly short basement, with tiny passages (that's me in one at the top of the page) into other, even smaller rooms. A place of torture and misery for legal offenders? Maybe. An elaborate cellar for storing sensative foods served at the Consulate? More likely. It was interesting to see the juxtaposition of English taste with the Chinese flavor. The brick building at the top, square and, well, western looking, had been retrofitted with cement downspouts shaped like bamboo. There was even a temple at the top of the bluff overlooking the ocean.

Terraces at the Consulate

Later on, having arrived at our quarters, we got a good night's rest for the following day. On the way to the bus, we found that the lodge that we were calling our temporary home was also home to a small number of fowl. And such a mood they were in. Apparently, they didn't want us to walk on the path that they were occupying, but hiss nor stink-eye could keep us away.

A. Anser Domesticus

On it was, to Éluánbí (鵝鑾鼻), the southernmost lightouse in Taiwan. It was visible from almost the whole park surrounding it, but few were looking bacak at the lighthouse with views like this:

Boardwalk in Kenting National Park

When we finally made our way to the lighthouse, we found it inside a courtyard, with whitewashed walls and buildings. It was kinda quaint.

Courtyard at the Éluánbí

I was amazed at how many people there were here. Our group only made up forty-some, but there were easily 4 times that many people swarming around the lighthouse and adjacent gift shop. 

Resting after a long hike in the sun

Following Éluánbí, we explored further into Kenting National Park, and finally came to the beach. After about 45 minutes of battling the 3 foot waves, I was whipped, and went under our parasol to relax and plug away at a book I've been hooked on.

I made lots of friends on the trip, and am looking forward to getting together with them once or twice before I head home.

The last two days, I've been relaxing, trying to recover from a persistent cold, and holding out from any last minute consumerism. I did get out to some new restaurants today, and explored a 24 hr bookstore more thoroughly than I had my first visit.

I finished my book Wicked on the trip down South (wonderful read, and jarringly different from the namesake broadway musical), and am anticipating a desire to read on my way back. I bought A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man by James Joyce and The Communist Manifesto(Books are so cheap here!) Portrait is delicious thus far...

12 July 2008

A Week of Culture (Jiu Fen, Chinese cooking class, and our Closing Ceremony)

大家好!(Dà jiā hǎo!) That means, "Hello everyone."

So, Tuesday (I realize that is a long time ago; I apologize for the delay.) the group went to Chiufen (九份,Jiǔ fèn, or Nine Measures), a traditional village gone slightly-off-the-beaten-path tourist attraction. The village still has an old style street complete with cramped passage and cozy shops.

The old style street

These streets are filled with all sorts of people. Your typical American college students studying Chinese, your miscellaneous Asian tourist, popping over to Taiwan, and quite a few friendly, if slightly over the top, vendors.

A sassy vender in 九份

Waking around 九份 with the amigos, I found some more interesting entrances to buildings. My classmates and Taiwanese friend grace the pixels of the following. Here, we're on our way to taste some shaved ice with different sweet bean sauces over the top. Not many of us Americans thought this was the delicacy that the Taiwanese people did, all of whom slurped greedily.

A televangelist and an Asian supermodel

I really enjoyed 九份, because it offered a chance to see a tiny little town, an evident contrast to the 6 lane bustle of Taipei. The souvenir opportunities abound here, too. I think that a lot of my American classmates relished this as their chances to buy gifts for their loved ones are getting fewer by the hour. Another reason to love it is that it's on the side of a mountain that overlooks the Pacific. I really love places where the ocean and mountains are so tightly packed. 

A door on a hill

I've been noticing a lot of color in Taiwan. I really like taking pictures of places where a wall becomes a passage. Especially when they're advertised with such pigmented adornments...

Windows next to the door on the hill

The architecture of 九份 doesn't end there, though. Just up the mountain from the town were what looked like tiny summer cottages, all colorful and well lit. My professor informed us to the contrary, though. Rather than homes for the living, these quaint bungalows are dwellings for the dead. Not cheap, either. The cost about the same as house (one that people live in). They certainly are pretty, though.

Afterlife bungalows

Wednesday, we had cooking class. It was hard to catch a picture of our teacher, as she was a busy bee, flitting back and forth to each of the 11 dishes that we would eventually enjoy for dinner.

Chinese chef extraordinaire at work, with assistants

Cooking in a wok is much different that otherwise. Apparently, you're supposed to heat the wok first, then add the oil. When that's hot, ad the seasonings, and meat/tofu to brown. Then, in go the vegetables and salt at the end. The food lastly goes on a big plate/bowl from which people are served onto their small bowl of rice. This way, everyone gets to try everything they want, and get plenty of carbs to balance their meat/veggie/lipid combo from the wok.

The bounty

Thursday we had a delicious meal at a fancy restaurant as part of our Grand Valley program. And what a meal! Peking duck. I've never had this before, and I started out high up, apparently. This restaurant has it's own duck farm and everything. Talk about local.

Finally, on Friday, the Grand Valley Group's graduation of sorts was held. We all got our pots that we threw at Yingge., along with a certificate recognizing our participation and completion of the program.

The ceremony was quite fun, with performers from Shi Da and our (Grand Valley Students) own skits. The names of these instruments are the Erhu (follow the links to read about the instruments, see more pictures, and audio/video samples at the bottom of the page), a two stringed violin-esque instrument with a bamboo bow and a snakeskin covered body:

The sorrowful sounding Erhu

The really amazing thing about these instruments is that they allow for notes to be bent. The Erhu has no frets, so a note isn't fixed like on a guitar. And the Pipa's frets have enough space underneath the string to allow for a half or sometimes whole step of action. That means that one fret can produce two notes, depending on how hard the player pushes down the string. This note bending is a classic element in eastern music, and distinguishes these instruments from the western similars.

Pipa student working her musical magic

I really can't say enough praise for the people of the Mandarin Training Center for being such wonderful hosts! They've facilitated the housing, entertainment and intense education of 15 students from GVSU, and hundreds more from all over the world. If you know anyone interested in studying Mandarin, especially if they're interested traditional characters, the MTC comes highly recommended.

04 July 2008

Plants and Animals, Fire and Ice

Guess what we did on last Wednesday?

That's right, we had a culture class on Chinese medicine, including, but not limited to acupuncture. Our presenter was an MD from China who told us about Chinese nutrition, exercises to aid in digestion and fatigue, and lastly, showed us acupuncture and a more extreme form of meridian stimulation:

You may not be able to tell, but that's a flaming hot pile of mugwart on my foot, burning a clear path for the Qi to flow through my immune system. The look on my face did eventually turn into a dapper grimace, but I think this one illustrates the pain pretty well. 

LI-3 point is good for decreasing
 headache and general inflammation.

In other news, I went to 淡水 (Dan Shui) this weekend to check out the ocean. I didn't see much of the ocean, as we didn't get out too far until later, but did catch a glimpse of some interesting Taipei county fauna:

S. Scrofa Domestica

This little beaut had a smaller amigo just out of the frame above. A little black squirrel was leashed to a small stump and was doing his best to look cute.

And speaking of cute, here's Joey just ticked pink over his mountain of an ice-cream cone at 淡水漁人碼頭 (Danshui's Fisherman's Wharf). More pictures of less quality can be found at the link to my Picassa Album for the Taiwan trip, also found on the side of my blog page.

Elation never tasted so good.

Tuesday a couple of different students and I went to Bao An Temple, my second time. I remembered that in writing a previous post, I couldn't find any pictures of the process of 擲筊, throwing the moon blocks. Remember, you toss two of them, so there's plenty here for lots of people to ask lots of questions at once.

Moon blocks

And should you get your question answered, it would come by way of drawing a stick from a barrel...

Numbered sticks

...and the number on the stick corresponds to a script of classical poetry, at this temple, on a board:

Classical poetry, for your interpretation

Last time, I wrote about how the poetry was in a circular chest of drawers, but this temple does things differently. Same basic concept, though. I was glad to have a chance to return to this temple. There were plenty of pics that I wanted to take that I only thought of after leaving the first time.

Little Giants; bonsai guarding the main alter

Yesterday, our group went to 貓空 (Maokong), a mountian area in the Southern reaches of Taipei. To get there, you take an half hour long gondola ride up the mountain, which offers some amazing views...

Taipei Basin from Maokong Gondola

One could see the whole taipei basin. And a pink sunset. It was quite nice to get such a beautiful panorama.

Atop the mountain, we were served a meal of delicious food, with every dish using tea in some way. After dinner, we sampled different types of tea from around Taiwan. Education by contrast. Lots to learn.

Of course, there's more to write, but at the moment I'm feeling quite ill. I think I should rest. Comments welcome.

24 June 2008

The Rest of the Weekend

To continue---I don't remember exactly all the locations and sights that we saw, nor the order in which the pictures were taken, but here's what I do remember:

It seems like we drove for days. This might sound taxing, and perhaps it was. But the long ride was frequently segmented into bite size pieces by many engaging stops along the way. Our guide, Xiǎo Zhào (the name 小照, interestingly enough, has a lot to do with illuminating things) seemed to know exactly what we should see, and Prof. Smith had a few connections that he called upon to give us tours, drink tea and educate us about Chinese culture.

A lone man watches tourists

At Ālǐshān, we found this temple to the Daoist earth god. I mentioned in a previous post that at many Daoist temples, people "cast lots of sorts" to divine information from the metaphysical. This time, several of us got to ask him to answer our questions about the future or some as-of-yet unrevealed truth. The gods decide whether or not to answer your question, and communicate this through moon blocks. The Process in Chinese is called 擲筊 (Zhì Jiǎo, tossing the bamboo blocks). The blocks are made out of wood today and are crescent shaped. One side is flat, one convex. You throw two of them and if they land one flat-side-down, and the other flat-side-up, it's a positive answer to your question. If both are up or both down, then it's a negative answer. After bowing three times and paying reverence to the god, you toss the blocks up to three times asking if you can have your question answered. If the answer is yes, you pick a stick out of a vase which will have a number on it. That number has a corresponding drawer in a round wooden box. Inside that drawer is an excerpt of classical poetry which should help you answer your question. Of course, it's up to your interpretation, but some students' questions were answered surprisingly well. My question didn't even get permitted to be asked. Perhaps that god couldn't be bothered with my question. Perhaps I'm not meant to know. I'm okay with that.

Another dragon motif at the Earth God temple

A bit more about temples before we move on. There's an interesting mix of three (plus) religions in Taiwan. Confucianism, which from what I'm gathering is the philosophical foundation on which the others lie. It's also the social code, as that's basically the heart of the philosophy. Then there's Daoism, which is also a bit philosophical, but seems more religioius: temples to different gods and goddesses are all over. Then there's Buddhism, which kinda gets mixed in with the medley of the other two, so you have Buddhist gods next to Daoist gods in temples, and a mashup of the two philosophies. The social mandate of Confucianism and Taoism gets cemented and policed with ideas of Buddhism's karma and the like. The Dao is Nirvana is Right Living. 

So temples come in two main flavors. Confucian temples are quite austere, and simple. Reflection pools and benches line the courtyards. 

The Daoist/Buddhist temples are quite different. Because there are ideas about afterlife, gods, and the like, these temples are places for petition. Incense fills the air in and around these temples, colors excite your eyes, and the sounds of birds and worshipers shuffling about the deserted courtyards. Overlay all this in the context of a bustling street corner on which the temple sits, and the experience is even more unusual. The rumble of car engines, the laughter of kids walking home from school, and the sounds of street vendors waft over the walls of the temple courtyards in exchange for the incense smoke. It's a very honest metaphor of the religious and social becoming one.

Later, we stopped at Nantou on the way to wherever we were headed. Here, we found a Daoist temple that had been newly finished when an earthquake struck. The best laid plans! I thought this picture has a bit of cruel and/or poignant humor in it, and would be much better if the air conditioning hadn't cooled my camera down so that the lens fogged up before I could take any pictures... Perhaps the gods were averting bad PR.

Laughter, in spite or because of destruction?

The level you're looking at above used to be the third level of the building. This city was very close to the epicenter of the 2001 earthquake in Taiwan. The earthquake, on top of causing widespread damage and several deaths, also hit this temple pretty hard. It's as if the earth swallowed the first two floors.

Just around the corner however, literally within 3 yards of the fence around the devastated temple, these bees were busy as they proverbially are, producing Lotus Flower Honey, which, upon sampling, was found to be delicious.

Honey factory

The drawer in this pic is a catch-basin for the pollen on the bees' knees, which is sold for medicinal purposes: eat it and you're assured a healthy complexion and reduced allergies...

Sometime after Ālǐshān we wound up at Yùshān (玉山, or Jade Mountain) National Park. There, we spent the night in a nice hotel with a nifty tea store where, for NT$700, we got a couple hours and 12 seats at a tea making table complete with plenty of delicious Oolong tea.

The next morning, we were in for some more looking around, and some serious stair climbing. Fighting through droves of about 300 elderly women from Mainland China there with a Taoist dancing group, we boarded a bus that took us to a "trailhead." The "trail" was really a semi-paved path that had far more stairs than I could count. We climbed what seemed like endless stairs until we reached the Eyes of Heaven and Earth, naturally formed giant gouges in the earth. Professor Smith, Pat, and I got separated from the group and it was good to have such a knowledgeable tour guide. We talked history and Chinese philosophy until we arrived at our next stop on the trail...

Cascade of liquid life

A pretty pretty waterfall. The path lead right in front of the waterfall and we enjoyed soaking up the spray of the water, an "ion bath." This was especially refreshing, as the temperature was at least 90°F (32°C).

After being reunited with the group, and getting our belonings together, it was back on the bus.

Husband and Wife, 
famous trees in central Taiwan

We stopped off at the Husband and Wife, a pair of what seem to be deceased trees leaning away fron the slope of the mountain. They're austere, and solemn, but if you look closely, you can see some green opportunists perched high on the wife's (she's the closer one) left side branch. Click to enlarge. :-)

Our last stop was Sitou Forest Recreation Area, home of National Taiwan University's Experimental Forest. We climbed around, and, despite the Canopy walk being closed, saw plenty of interesting things. It was a fun place to wander around as a group. Big enough, not too crowded, not too deserted. Good place. I found some Red Cyprus oil, and some giftie things there.

Landscape painter in the park

Perhaps the best part ws this tree. 2,800 years old makes this tree well on its way to having a triply special spirit.

Grand Valley Taiwan group
And our special, elderly, botanical friend

Then, it was back home, about a 2.5 hour bus ride. We all got home and most of us were zonked by the time our heads hit our pillows. Exhausting, as I've mentioned, but well worth it. 

I have more pictures and another post in the works, so stay tuned. Now, though, it's homework time!

23 June 2008


Friday morning, we woke up and had to have our packed baggage and our sleepy selves on a bus embarking for the central mountains of Taiwan. We may have grumbled at the time, but a small sacrifice of sleep has never been so worthwhile.

Exchanging inside glances with 
a feathered incarcerated friend

7:15 Leave ShiDa
7:45 Arrive at Taipei main Station
8:06 Embark on High Speed Train southbound
9:06 Arrive at Taichung Station
9:30 Board private bus and embark for 啊里山 National Park.

Upon arriving at Ālǐshān and getting our stuff to our rooms, we went on the first of many wanderings in the woods. Ālǐshān is a beautiful place, with beautiful trees. So beautiful in fact, that the Japanese cut all of them down and shipped them to Japan. The Red Cyprus is all over in Ālǐshān, but all of the great trees save 20 or so are younger than 100 years. That may sound old, but factor in the 20 or so that are well above 1000, and your perspective might change. 

Mystic Trees on Ālǐshān

The Chinese believe that a tree has a special spirit after being alive for 1000 years. I'd agree.

As you can see, the woods around Ālǐshān have other interesting sights...

A lake-centered pagoda shrouded in mist

Again I'm having a bit of difficulty when it comes to autofocus, but the colors in this one have me whistling trills. 
Another stealth shot

After getting into bed, some of us had a rough night. One of us got altitude sickness and had to go to a clinic. Thank goodness, she is ok, and bounced back quite quickly, considering. The next morning, despite the complications of the previous night, we arose to embark on Ālǐshān's famous Cog Train to a beautiful, if chaotic vista to see 阿里山的日出 (ālǐshān de rì chū):

Peaceful as this appears, just outside of this shot were two men on either side with megaphones informing droves of visitors about the time, angle, and ideal camera settings of this vista. Amazing what a little cropping can do.

Sleepy street pooch

More to come, but now, I'm sleepy.

17 June 2008

Throwing Pottery and the Taipei Zoo

Lately, I've been busy. Schoolwork, studying for a standardized chinese test called the TOP test, and trying to stay social have been consuming my time. However, I've made some time now to get this posted.

Encouraging mascot at the
pottery cultural center

A couple of days ago, let's say Friday, my group from Grand Valley went to Yingge (鶯歌), a town south of Taipei famous for its pottery. We first had the opportunity to try our own hands at making some earthenware.

"...as easy as that!"

Our tutor was very helpful, but it was baffling how effortlessly he moved the clay into a spinning symmetrical work of art. Everyone had a go at throwing on the potter's wheel. We didn't have time to wait the day or so that it takes to fire the pots, so we chose our glaze and are waiting on our finished pots presently.... more to come!

Pure confidence

Afterward, we had some time to look in the shops at Yingge. (Here's a link to another blog that has some good pics of the shops there.) They all had pottery of some type, from large jugs to tiny little tea pots perfect for my BaoChong Tea, to elaborate, wildly glazed vases. I found a couple of things that I liked, but ended up running out of time and losing the stories to which I hoped to return. I'll either have to go back to Yingge or find the stuff elsewhere.

My rommate, however found some amazing Celadon Glaze Song Dynasty reproductions - a tea set fit for serving our delicious tea. I'm jealous.

Saturday, I was feeling under the weather. I had planned on going to a temple to snap some pics, learn some Chinese, and assimilate some culture, but instead I rested all day. On Sunday, however, some classmates and I went to the Taipei Zoo, which is allegedly the largest zoo in Asia.

Unknown Macaque

I don't know what it is about zoos, but I always feel a bit awkward ogling these animals. I understand that they're representing their species and all, and soliciting money for research and lodging, but something inside me protests their being put into a concentrated area and fed dead things. Nonetheless, they seem to be having fun (at least some of them) especially one of the first creatures that we saw:

These little monkees were all over the place, wrestling, climbing, backflipping. I was lucky enough to have my zoom lens to catch this one, as the fences were quite a distance from the action.

This little monkey looked so concerned at something; someone needs a hug. Or at least some social grooming.

P. abelii, male

One of the last exhibits we saw was of the Orangutan. This guy seemed eager to show off his flexibility. They say that in some ways, humans are most closely related to orangutans, although I can't remember how. 

I mostly took pictures of the primates. It's amazing how much emotion they show - especially the orangutan, though, perhaps because of their very large faces. Somehow, one felt connected with this one, those piercing eyes reaching beyond her confinement.

The zoo had a really neat insectarium, too, with a butterfly area. 

As amazing as these animals are, I still think this is my last trip to a zoo.

Right now, I'm resting following the TOP Test. It's raining again. Every afternoon, it gets unbearably hot, and then the clouds burst open and cool whole city off. It's glorious. The trade off is that not much sun gets through. Rainy season.

I'm content. The abstract provides for my needs.

Until next time.