Tuesday, 19 November 2013

I've Been to Bali Too

I misspent some of my youth in Australia, and now whenever I hear mention of Bali an old, typically satirical Australian pop song called I've Been to Bali Too plays through my mind.

The song refers, of course, to the Indonesian island Bali, but Taiwan has its own Bali, just a short ferry ride fromDanshui. Unlike its Indonesian namesake, Bali, New Taipei, has no tropical beaches, multi-storey hotels or package tours, but it  does have its own quiet attractions.

We visited Bali on one of our holidays to Taiwan before moving out here, and hired bikes at the rental shop near the ferry terminal to ride along the beach bike path. We also visited the Museum of Archaeology, which introduced us not only to interesting information about Taiwan's ancient settlements, but also the value of receipts.

After the Taiwanese Government introduced a receipt number lottery, to encourage shoppers to ask for receipts from      shopkeepers who would otherwise cook their books to avoid paying tax, receipts took on a special value. They could be worthless, or they could be worth anything up to millions of dollars, depending on whether they bore a lucky number.

On entering the Museum of Archaeology, we were told that the entry fee was three receipts each. Cue total confusion.   Did she say receipts? Yes, I'm sure she said receipts. Doesn't she mean they give you a receipt when you pay? And so on,   for a long, puzzling moment until a kindly Taiwanese lady helped us out by donating from her own carefully hoarded    stash.

We revisited Bali last weekend on a trip with my son's Taekwondo class and spent the day at the adventure centre. We   were there for the paintballing, but other visitors were taking part in more daring, high rise activities.
I was happy to catch up on some reading while the boys and men enjoyed fulfilling their basic instinct to fight each         other. First the older boys went off to do battle in an arena filled with oil barrels. Then the Taekwondo coaches made         themselves targets for the youngest team members to take their revenge upon.
Apparently those paintballs sting on impact, so understandably the coaches lurked at the back for a while before pride    overcame them and they ran forward to capture the flag. The littlest Taekwondo students showed no mercy and fired       heavily. So much payback was concentrated into just a few minutes of paintball fire. The coaches must be masochists as    well as sadists because them seemed to enjoy the pain as much as they enjoy inflicting it.

Later, the coaches and older students could pretend   they were really at war by battling in teams on rough   terrain. The appeal was evident from the excitement of all       the other students and parents who watched the fight. Okay, I'll come down from my detached,         ironic viewpoint and admit it was fun to watch.

As soon as the battle was over the younger boys             illegally slipped under the fence to collect unused        paintballs as trophies. We now have a small tub of        paintballs at home that will no doubt gather dust in a  corner for several years. My son had a whale of a time. 
Part of the day's package was a cook-your-own barbecue. You can imagine what happens when you let adolescents           loose with charcoal and firelighters. Needless to say, half an hour later we were still without any sign of a flame and the   assistants had to come to the rescue of our blackened, over-excited children with a butane torch before we finally had      our barbecue underway. When we had sampled the half burned black and half raw sausages the younger boys produced, we decided enough was enough and roped in some older teenagers to help out with the cooking. Once they stepped in, food was eaten as quickly as it was cooked and by the end of the day not a scrap remained. Even the food poisoning          sausages had disappeared.

Heading home, I found I must be turning Taiwanese because, like the rest of the coach, I fell fast asleep. Yes, I thought to myself as I drifted off, I've been to Bali too.

Monday, 11 November 2013

Groups, Clubs, Societies

I've been getting behind with my posting lately, not because we haven't been doing anything interesting to post about, but because we've been doing too much.

Despite the long working and studying days in Taiwanese society, locals and expats take part in many additional activities. We've recently become involved in the Red Room, which exists to give people an opportunity to share their talents in a non-judgmental environment. At a monthly event called Stage Time and Wine, participants can sign up for five minutes' performance time, or just be a part of the audience in a relaxed, informal setting. Recently, Stage Time and Wine gave birth to a younger version of itself, Stage Time and Juice. Children and teenagers have been entertaining their audiences with skits, stand up comedy, singing, playing instruments and putting on puppet shows. My son has performed a couple of times and also attends the drama classes on offer on Sunday mornings.

We were introduced to the Red Room through our involvement with The Awesome Playgroup News, an offshoot of the Taipei City Playgroup. The playgroup meets weekly to give expat parents with young children the chance to get together with other families, and also puts on Christmas, Easter and Halloween parties for the children. Although there are lots of single English teachers in Taiwan, there are still relatively few families, and without such groups some people would probably feel quite isolated.

Clubs for most activities are easily found, especially through sites such as Meetup, which lists societies for more interests than you've probably even thought of. I'm currently attending the Taipei City Writers' Group meetings. We meet every other Sunday evening at a cafe near Taipei Main Station and criticise each other's writing horribly (joking). Inspired by my involvement with this group, I'm participating in NaNoWriMo, so expect my bestseller on the bookshelves sometime next year.

Meanwhile, other groups are starting up so quickly it's difficult to keep track of them all. Becoming is a group offering creative workshops in subjects such as story-telling, Chinese painting and poetic dance. We attended one of their crowded open events.

Parents' Place, a meeting place and educational resource centre for English-speaking children, has been familiar to us for nearly two years. My son attends the English literacy classes for Elementary school children, but they also offer art, baby-signing, Kindermusik, infant massage, Mandarin for mums, prenatal exercise and many other classes. I'm happy to say I'm past needing most of those classes now (except maybe the Mandarin).

Finally, with Christmas drawing near, I must tell you about Radio Redux. Performing plays as if via a live radio broadcast, Radio Redux's most recent offering was Dracula.
We saw the final performance, blood-curdling screams and all. It was scary - in a good way.

Radio Redux are now rehearsing for their forthcoming production, A Christmas Carol.
Our involvement with this organisation has deepened, however. Another reason we've been so busy lately is because we're taking part in the production. My son is playing Tiny Tim and I'm Mrs. Cratchitt. I'm not sure how this has happened, but there you are. Extra-curricular life in Taipei just sucks you in.