Buns, Balls, and Crabs (part 2)

… Or how I ate my way through Taipei and lived to tell the tale. Or, how I learned sharing is caring. (Second of multiple parts)

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Crab legs and claws, snails, shrimp and other drool-inducing delicacies at the Keelung Maiokau Night Market

Taiwan is not a good place for dieters. There is just too much delicious food. Our first afternoon alone, in the first three hours in Taipei, we have managed to eat mee sua, which is thin rice flour noodles in a thick broth/gravy with pieces of meat in it and flavored with soy sauce and vinegar. It was mouthwatering. Before that, someone bought a packet of fried chicken nuggets that were out of this world, which our group all sampled. I must say, the Taiwanese really know their street food. And almost anything can be considered street food, as I would later see as we visited the night markets — the first of which, I would be introduced to that first night.

I love traveling by myself and getting lost in a new place. But I must admit, for this first trip to Taipei, I’m glad that I had colleagues who have been here several times and can just guide us as to where to go. I suppose finding the night markets would be easy, for a newcomer. But finding the little stalls and carts that sell the best buns, for instance, is going to be a problem for newbies. There’s also the language problem. More people now speak English, especially among the young university students, but non-Mandarin speakers may still have a hard time getting understood. Still, that’s part of the beauty of travel, isn’t it? On this trip, though, we had a guide who knew her way around. That saved time figuring out how to get to the different places. And of course, the company had hired a van to take us to the more far-flung areas we wanted to go to, which again, saved us valuable time.

Continue reading Buns, Balls, and Crabs (part 2)

Buns, Balls, and Crabs

…Or, how I ate my way through Taipei in five days and lived to tell the tale. (Part 1 of several parts)

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Entrance to Keelung Miaokou Night Market. Taiwan is crazy with night markets and they’re fabulous places to eat, drink, eat, shop, eat, meet friends… and eat

This was a company-sponsored bonding trip that happened mid-2013. Yes, a bit late to be posting it now more than a year later, but you know how it is — sometimes things just pile up! So Taiwan. Had to admit, it’s not on my travel bucket list (I don’t really have an actual list; but when pressed on where to go, I can name a few places) — in fact, it’s not even top of mind of places that I would consider visiting. Blame a friend’s comments more than a decade or so ago when she was on a business trip to Taipei and had a miserable time of it because ordinary people didn’t speak English and there were not enough signages in English to make your way around on your own. But since then, had heard great things about Taipei and Taiwan in general, so when the office went for a trip there, I was excited. Who wouldn’t be, when it was practically a free trip to go gallivanting?

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Weekend: Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve

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I’ve realized that I’ve been behind in my blog posts lately. I had planned to update more frequently, but you know how it is, life happens and somehow before I knew it, weeks have passed and I haven’t done a single entry (pop culture posts of videos and links somehow don’t count)! Mabel, a good friend and wonderful blogger (check out her blog here) said she missed my “walking around Singapore” entries, so I thought I’d post these images of Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve today…. Actually, I had planned to post this a few weeks back, when I had the crazy idea of downloading and filing all my photos from the phone, but got sidelined because of a bum back (more on this in a future post).

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Lunchtime break: Random quotes

Ever since high school, I’ve jotted down quotes and passages from books, magazine articles, TV shows and movies I’ve watched, people I’ve met and even overheard conversations of random people in various notebooks that I’ve been lugging around with me ever since. But with the advent of Facebook and the various incarnations of social media (like this blog), my tendency to record stuff has tapered off, which is really a pity because jotting things down was sort of how I kept track of things that happened in my life (“Ahh! Wrote this while I was having coffee with whatshername and she told me about that thing with whatshisface…” stuff like that) or was a good creative source whenever I feel blocked about what I’m writing — which is what is happening now, actually. However, this past weekend, after updating my phone’s software, I was scrolling through my notes, and it turns out I’ve been jotting down or taking photos of random stuff and I just haven’t really realized it. So I’m putting them here, before I delete them forever from the phone. Warning, some are sappy, some are wise, some I’ve posted on my Instagram or posted on Facebook, some are funny and some are just plain, “huh?”

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Hablamos Español!

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Duolingo’s fun interface

I’ve been meaning to enroll in a language course for a few months now. I think learning a new language is not only fun, it also adds to your knowledge about other cultures. And as someone who deals in words everyday, I am always fascinated by how words and phrases evolve in language (yes, sorry, nerd flag flying proudly!). I also figure, learning a new language is a skill and can’t hurt the resume. The thing is though, language courses are expensive and it’s no joke trying to squeeze in several hundred dollars from an already strained budget.

Enter the Duolingo app, which I read about in Slate a few days ago (subhead to the article: “Stop Playing Candy Crush and Learn a Language Instead — It’s Just As Much Fun”. OK then, I’m convinced! Read the full article here). Apple named it iPhone app of the year for 2013, and with good reason! I downloaded it a few days ago to test it out and see if I can actually learn Spanish (The app currently teaches Spanish, French, Italian, German, and Portuguese to English speakers, and teaches English to speakers of those languages plus Dutch, Russian, Hungarian, and Turkish, with more on the way). Because I am Filipino, and my native tongue is speckled with Spanish words and phrases (from 300 years of Spanish colonization) and I took 12 units of the language in college, I thought I would have a leg up in really learning it. And so far, it’s been fun!

Duolingo uses gamification to get users to learn a language. The app basically transforms language study into a fun game involving points, video game lives (in the app, they’re designated as hearts) and when you finish a level, you get a trumpet fanfare. Fun! Unlike my Spanish classes in college, it doesn’t teach the words by rote memorization of conjugations (flashback to college and Señor Arespacochaga’s class as he tried to instill in us verb conjugations. Bebo, bebe/s, bebemos, beben, anyone? ). Instead, Duolingo’s teaching style is quick, bite-sized and upbeat — the visuals are bright and cheery too (which definitely helps for me). It won’t explain the concepts and logic behind the grammar. What it does is throw you into the thick of things and lets you start learning. If you can’t cope, don’t worry. You can repeat levels and practice as often as you want to. My only problem with it is that there are portions where I have to habla out loud. But then, those are my insecurities talking and not the app’s fault.

According to its co-founder, 34-year old Luis Von Ahn, the app is not designed to help you with phrases for your next trip abroad. What it hopes to do is transform you in the course of a few months into a well-rounded conversationalist. “You won’t sound native,” he says in the Slate article, “and when you’re talking you’ll do a lot of simplifications. You’ll probably mess up the subjunctive form. But you’ll get around. You’ll understand what you hear very well. You’ll be able to read books and watch movies in the language.” Good enough for me.