25 September, 2013

Variety and New Skills

 It appears there are yellow watermelons in Taiwan. I've never seen one before, but they taste about the same. The only difference besides colour is that they are slightly less sweet than the pink variety.

A good friend of mine is currently in France with her cast and crew. They are putting on a puppet show in a beautiful theatre in Saint Andres, Champagne. The company is called The Space Behind The Couch and they are not the only ones taking part. There is a festival taking place specifically for puppet plays. The play they are doing is a rendition of the sad, true tale of  Sadako and the Thousand Paper Cranes.

I acquired a copy of the book and, after the short read that it is, I tried my hand at making a paper crane.

This proved successful, so I attempted a large one.

And then a few more.

I began making them in my spare time at work between lessons. I know have about fifty of them, some strewn around my desk while others have been stuffed into a small bag which is spilling out in one of the desk's drawers.

But amateur origami isn't the only thing I have taken up with relish of late. Last weekend my girlfriend raised the level of my sewing from that of attaching wayward buttons to the use of a sewing machine. I have completed my first item - a dice bag.
The material in question is a remnant from an old pillow case, but as tutorial material it worked adequately. My next one shall be made of finer material of my own choosing.

15 September, 2013


During break time at school at the end of this past week two of my students approached me and handed me an invitation at an event. The details of the event were slightly unclear, but I got the impression that there was going to be a concert or show with various people playing music and/or performing short skits. I accepted it and finding myself with free time on the day in question (today) I headed to the address.
Imagine my surprise after arriving at my destination and climbing four flights of stairs to find myself in a kind of Sunday School. It was a Christian gathering, no questions there, with people singing praise and worship songs on stage while the audience - largely children - sang along. The songs were all in Chinese, though I recognised various ones through their melodies. Being an atheist I felt a little out of place. One of the students found me and after a short while I was introduced to his mother and we proceeded to chat until the songs ended.

What happened next was apparently what the invitation was all about. We were presented with a short play involving five actors and aimed at presenting a moral, as you would expect from a religious gathering. This was followed by a ten minute break and then another play, this time with four actors. I only understood bits of the Chinese, but as it was a play and aimed at a young audience I could guess just about everything that was said.

Looking around the room I saw something both alien and very familiar. The alien sense came from me being a foreigner viewing an aspect of a culture which has adopted a foreign religion. The familiar part was seeing a group of people gathered for religious matters. I once followed a religion, back in the day before I began forming my own questions and understanding of reality, and I know the comfort that people get from being dictated to and being relieved of the stress of individual thought.
But there was also something else I noticed. As I could not understand enough of the language, all the talking around me was reduced to white noise and I found myself analysing the situation. What I found compelling was the sense of community created by a group of people coming together to socialise through the medium of a common interest. Though I could fault them for choosing a religion as that medium, I cannot fault them on the joy and excitement they all shared in connecting to one another. It's a bit like gaming, in a way; a group of people getting together to have fun and to play around with some fantasy.

12 September, 2013

Rooftop Gaming

Nanshijiao, in the south of Taibei City and close to the mountains, is an area home to a wildly popular sport. This sport is non other than racing homing pigeons. It is a highly competitive sport with rivals constantly trying to steal each others prize birds. People sometimes set up nets across treelines during races in order to try and catch birds. Then, if they catch an especially fast flyer, they can ransom it back to the owners for absurd prices. I've been informed that ransoms can be as high as hundreds of thousands, if not millions.

Enter into this calm picture the presence of six bemused foreigners equipped with pencils, paper and enough dice to choke a horse. We ascended to a rooftop flat, though flat may be a generous word. Put simply, it's a box - a box on the ninth floor.

The larger structure is the frame surrounding the stairwell and lift shaft. The "flat" is the smaller square on the right.

This friend doesn't live alone, though. He shares this glorified lookout point with two adorable overgrown-rats.

Unlike most "rats" (tiny dogs) these ones were good natured and I took a shine to them. I believe it was partly to do with them being sweet natured, and heavily influenced by their lack of yapping. I don't recall a single bark all afternoon.

Of course it wasn't long before our minds began drifting to practical matters. Dogs are, after all, tamed animals and many of the other animals we've tamed have been put to use pulling plows or providing us with milk. What could dogs do?
A military application soon presented itself.

Behold, the half-breed chihuahua improvised semi-automatic.

It wasn't long before everyone had gathered. We released the hounds to enjoy an evening of freedom while we brought out the real weapons.

As you can see my weapons have gone native on me.

We set out our things upon one of the tables visible in the picture earlier, gathering around it on bar stools. Playing commenced in the late afternoon, after a lively encounter with the wind which left us chasing paper around the rooftop and requiring us to flank one rather unruly sheet before it could be snagged and returned to a folder.

Rooftop gaming is an experience. Being that high up we were enjoyed the novelty of actually feeling the breeze and welcomed it after the heat. Luckily our day of gaming wasn't as hot as the week prior. But all things come to an end and for us that meant daylight. The sun lowered itself to the horizon and then gleefully sank beyond our reach. It wasn't, however, time for gaming to end.

'n Boer maak a plan. So did we. The host whipped out a lamp at sunset and gaming continued into the night. We eventually packed it up at twenty minutes to midnight.

PS: We found Batman.