Tuesday, January 26, 2010
I am sure that the feeling I am about to convey will be dwarfed by what I experience when I visit Hong Kong and Taiwan, but being in a city this build up and dense is astounding. I wonder how far back you would have to go to see this area still untouched by humanity. There are so many layers of life, so much activity, so many people, so many buildings. Everybody makes due with such little space, everybody seems so much less friendly, with the increase in population density follows an increase in the density of society's discontents, this increase seems to harden all of those people who would ordinarily be friendly but have simply become disillusioned about humanity, one too many drunk homeless guys on the subway speaking loudly to the barbie dolls he has affixed to his backpack.
Eating in France has been mostly hit, little miss. Lots of Kebab, I'll take a picture next time. It is always shaved meat, french fries, iceberg lettuce and really bad tomatoes. Tasty... Not exactly my ideal meal, its about as far from organic and as far from raw-vegan as possible. The big kebab spit is a delicious way to cook meat and seems about as far out of reach for an individual's home kitchen as commercial kitchen appliances go, but then cooking meat is still not my forte. I don't really know what process takes meat from a living animal and makes a kebab spit out of it, that might be the mot frightening aspect of the whole thing. I also don't really know what happens to the meat overnight. Oh well. More reason to eat raw-vegan when I can arrange it.
I found quinoa! It was in the international section of Carrefour supermarket in Bordeaux. Apple cider vinegar is also more common here, there are a few brands, organic and not.
The produce selections have been pretty lacking in all the supermarkets I have visited in France. I haven't seen any Kale in this country at all, I did see something called Lamb's lettuce which was pretty tasty, bites like arugula, and I'm pretty sure it isn't lambs-quarters. I also haven't seen any mushrooms except for buttons. I will be visiting the big supermarket in this district of Paris soon, with my camera. The things I got the most excited about when I visited it last week were: the entire cow tongue, large boxes full of tripe and huge selections of unpasteurized goat and sheep cheese.
These items sound particularly different than the foods which that part of my brain which craves green smoothies drools over, but this is what happens when you visit French supermarkets.
They also sell the meat from the birds which are raised in the style to make foie gras in the supermarket. Definitely one of the best tasting pieces of duck I have ever had. It really sucks that the least sustainable and least healthy methods of raising animals are the tastiest. I wish that grass-fed beef was ridiculously delicious, that free-range ducks tasted as rich as the foie gras duck. I guess that is one of the big things I love about raw-vegan. Organic fruits and veggies do taste better, fresher tastes better, local tastes better.
I need to go find a place to charge my laptop, the converter I brought doesn't have a ground on it so I am borrowing converters until I can find a new one, hopefully tomorrow.
Monday, January 25, 2010
Thursday was a 17 hour day since I lost 7 hours flying east. I slept the entire ~10 hour plane ride so waking up friday wasn't bad.
Friday was my first day in France. Brian met me at the airport and we took the RER from the airport to Brian's flat. His flat is essentially an efficiency and I thought it was crazy small until I saw another apartment later that day which was probably the same size of my kitchen. The later was also the location of a party that had at least 20 people in it. That was actually a lot of fun. They call international students "erasmus" students. I got to practice my spanish with a bunch of people from across the spanish speaking world and speak english with the rest. I need to learn more languages... I guess thats the point of the trip though so I am being pro-active about it. Friday night was too late and Saturday morning too early.
The three hours of sleep that I got were nowhere near enough but I could luckily pass off my stupor as jet lag. We went straight to the TGV to train from Paris to Bordeaux. The countryside was beautiful, I noticed it briefly before I fell asleep. We got into Bordeaux, took a brief tour of the town, then got some food from the supermarket and prepared some dinner at Brian and Chloe's friends house who we are staying with (Max and Melissa). It was another late night, one of Max and Melissa's friends came over, he didn't really speak English, we communicated by mean of showing one another electronic dance music and hip hop on my laptop and youtube. That was an experience. The sleeping situation here is a long string of fold out couches. It really isn't bad though.
We woke up today at around 1, shutters that close on the outside of the building are very effective at blocking out light. Living in an apartment with only one window helps to filter out light as well. We met up with a friend that Brian met in New Orleans who is now working for a local vineyard. He drove us around the region and gave us a nice tour of a vineyard. The pictures are on my flickr.
More thoughts later, talking about eating in France will be the subject of my next post. I am having a great time. Too busy doing to blog about it.
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Don't feel too sorry for me, I mean I am sitting here blogging rather than cleaning, packing, organizing, paying bills, sleeping or anything else that could be considered moderately productive.
Maybe I'm being too hard on myself, I started blogging in order to connect to my friends and family members in a way which could be sustained despite my physical distance. I suppose I am being productive in-so-far as I am developing that connection.
Now I feel better. Sorry to have dragged you all through that... it needed to happen.
So I will be driving to Houston at 6 am, going directly to TECO Houston. Because of the political status of Taiwan (China refuses to acknowledge Taiwan as a separate government but does acknowledge it as a separate economic entity) Nations which trade with China cannot have a Taiwanese "embassy" or "consulate" but instead they have the TECO - Taipei Economic and Cultural Office.
The power of semantics...
So I called TECO today and asked them what I should do since I don't have my acceptance letter from either school yet but would rather not enter the country on the Visa Waiver Program as I will then not be able to extend my stay beyond 30 days. I received an answer which has quelled all my nagging worry. I should just get an extendable tourist visa! Of course! I can change it to a student visa in Taiwan! Yay!
This should seem like common sense... Or maybe it should seem like common sense to me as I have been google searching visas non stop for a couple weeks. But it wasn't an option found on any website! I continually looked for tourist visa Taiwan, hoping to read the answer that I now know to be my future... It is nowhere to be found online (except for here... now) All websites make the supposition that any tourist will not need a visa because they can enter the country on the VWP(visa waiver program) and as such, they don't even address the fact that you can get a 60-day tourist visa extendable to a maximum of 180 days. And they can process same day! Hopefully this means instantly or else I will be entertaining myself in Houston all day.
So far this blog post is not so scattered... the title could read "48 hours, no visa, no worries" or something to that extent. I suppose that blogging is static, I could go back and change the title, but the stasis of literature and the internet is one of my big turn offs to written language. Once I hit publish, these words will always Be. Never changeable. Never fluid. Where else in life do we find such permanence. Stasis is artificial, life is change. Language should be fluid, blogging will be a dialogue, a journal, not an essay.
I will be coming to terms with blogging throughout these posts. The fact that I am blogging is still sitting somewhat heavily upon my soul. Musings for another day... perhaps from the airport when I really do have time to kill...
Monday, January 18, 2010
Four days from today I am leaving the country on a four month long, round the world journey. Not too long ago this trip was in the realm of "wouldn't it be cool if." Over the holidays the idea moved into the "hey it might be a good time to." Now I find myself staring at my wall calender, four days away from finding myself packed and at the airport.
The ultimate goals of this trip are: 1) to visit Asia and 2) to begin learning Mandarin. I will be spending three weeks in Hong Kong (Feb 3 - Feb 25) and then I will be flying to Taipei for three months. (Feb 25 - May 28) I have applied to two language centers in Taipei but I wont receive word back from them until while I am overseas. Keeping my fingers crossed on that one. (notice: levity masking a fear which keeps me up at night)
This blog exists as a bridge to keep in touch with friends and family members. If you know me in real life then you might have noticed that the things I talk at length about are mostly just food, agriculture and tea. If you notice that the blog posts to follow this one feature those three elements almost exclusively, I hope you wont be too surprised.
Hopefully this Google affiliated blog engine will be accessible while I am in Hong Kong. Only time will tell if Google is serious about its moral opposition to Chinese Internet policy or whether they were merely firing some shots across the brow of China. My bet is that Google won't give up the fastest growing economy in the world in order to stand up against censorship, but hopefully California-based Google will prove this Texas-born cynic wrong. (even if it means I can't blog from Hong Kong and am forced just go dark for three weeks, maybe flickr will work.. a picture is worth a thousand words right? If only I could have created a picture to express all the elements of this blog post)
Anyway, getting back to this blog post's title, I have a lot to do, particularly since I need to go to the Taiwanese consulate in Houston to get a student visa but I don't have an acceptance letter from either school yet, which is usually a requirement for a visa. Trust me, my pending acceptance is not looming heavily over me or anything, not at all burdensome. In no way are there any dark clouds off on my horizon, oh boy how lucky I am to embark on my journey footloose and fancy free!