Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Waking Up A Bamboo Viper

A few years ago this blog was mostly about cultural topics of interest to me in the countryside of south-central Taiwan’s western coastal plain. Since moving up to the relative isolation of the mountains, there has been less to observe on the cultural front. Instead, my recent blog entries seem to be more about terrors of nature!

For example, yesterday a customer at the restaurant next door commented that they saw a snake sleeping in a cubby hole above them. Low and behold --- a few minutes later family members caught a bamboo viper (青竹絲 Trimeresurus Stejnegeri) which had been hibernating just a few feet away. It quickly awoke from its hibernation and went berserk!

My photographs of the snake inside its jar tonight were quite fuzzy due to my hesitance to open the jar and wipe the inside clean. I was very careful when releasing it  a few minutes ago as well! That’s because this wiki entry says the following about the venom:

It has a potent hemotoxin. The wound usually feels extremely painful, as if it had been branded with a hot iron, and the pain does not subside until about 24 hours after being bitten. Within a few minutes of being bitten, the surrounding flesh dies and turns black, highlighting the puncture wounds. The wound site quickly swells, and the skin and muscle become black due to necrosis. The size of the necrotic area depends on the amount of venom injected and the depth of the bite.2013-12-11 21.14.43photo-1







Here’s a clearer picture of the same kind of snake photographed by someone in this same mountain village:

On a related note, just a month or so ago someone found another kind of (mildly poisonous) snake inside the main fuse box a few feet away (whose switches we flip regularly without really checking to see if anything might be lurking inside). Luckily, I have yet to touch or step onto anything when putting on my shoes outside, etc.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Arachnophobia in Taiwan

One afternoon way back in 1990 I was watching Arachnophopia in the movie theatre when, sometime during the suspense of the giant spiders, I reached down for my soda and put my hand on something I wasn’t expecting. Yikes! Thankfully, it was just a napkin which had fallen from my lap.

Fast forward 20 years to Taiwan. Anyone who has lived here for a few years has had one or more of these large unwelcome critters creep into their house.

In Taiwanese, they’re called LaYa 喇犽, Mandarin is 白額高腳蛛. In English, they are known as Huntsman spiders, heteropoda venatoria (also known as the giant crab spider or the banana spider—it has also apparently made its way to Florida, Texas, and California). Although their bite is supposedly harmless for humans and they help reduce the local cockroach population, I would rather not have them around the house, thank you very much! More than once I’ve felt one crawl across me in the middle of the night, or looked up from my bed to see one suspended to the wall. Aaarrrrgggh!! They manage to get my adrenalin going every time. And they are so fast—not easy at all to track down, although a direct spray of insect repellent will (eventually) kill them.

All this to share what happened to me last night. After a long day, I came in to change clothes and saw a spider I did not recognize from previous experience high up on the wall. It looked more or less like the spider above, but it was larger and had a white rectangular shape (about 1 inch square) fanning out underneath it. As usual, I freaked out, grabbing for the spray and hoping for the best. I managed to get in two good shots before it hid in a crack in the wall behind my wardrobe.

Relating my description to Taiwanese family, they said: “That’s a Face 人面 Spider!  tThey don’t usually come inside. We have lots of them here  Their bite can be deadly!”  So for the next hour before I fell off the sleep I couldn’t stop thinking that maybe we had one of these terrors in the room next door. I had better be careful walking over there in the morning to put on my clothes! Note: Latin name is nephila pilipes.

In the morning I found nothing in the room but had a few minutes to surf the net before work. Apparently this spider still manages to kill a few people every year or so here in Taiwan, but usually the effect of the effect of the venom dissipates “within a day or two.” I don’t want one in my undy/sock drawer!

This afternoon when I came home to investigate the room by moving furniture piece-by-piece, to my relief I found dozens and dozens of tiny dead baby spiders everywhere… as well as the dead mother. As it turns out what I had seen was the former “harmless” (except for the threat of  heart attack) variety. I had sprayed her in the nick of time… just before she laid her eggs… The egg pouch was the white object I had seen and now picked up off the floor. I feel very thankful to have seen her when I did… I’m told these things grow up quickly and I can’t imagine how hard it would have been to track down all the youngsters if they had hatched and had a few days headstart!

Interested in learning more? This link talks about the common spiders of Taiwan. Although it’s in Chinese, the next to last listing in the index shows you some scientific names with picture links.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Taiwan Leaf Beetle

As I was preparing for work yesterday I looked down at my papers and saw this lovely and amazing beetle which came in from the cold mountain surroundings.

Photo: Lovely insect on my papers this morning

Here’s a close-up.










And a better pic of the same beetle from the web:

Photo: Same kind of bug, but this person's pic is much clearer...

For anyone interested, here’s a cool website of all sorts of beetles unique to this country.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Psalm 117

Praise the LORD, all you nations! Extol him, all you peoples of the earth! For great is his steadfast love toward us, he loves us with unfailing love. And the faithfulness of the LORD endu:res forever. Praise the LORD!

Other Related Verses:
Gen 12:2: I will bless you and make you famous... and you will be a blessing to others. All the families on earth will be blessed through you.

Ex 19:4-6: You have seen what I did to the Egyptians. You know how I carried you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now if you will obey me and keep my covenant, you will be my own special treasure from among all the peoples on earth... And you will be my kingdom of priests, my holy nation.

Psalm 147:19-20: He has revealed his words to Jacob, his decrees and regulations to Israel. He has not done this for any other nation; they do not know his regulations. Praise the Lord!

Due to unexpected difficulty I encountered finding and navigating through online audio Old Testament bibles, I only included a few of the languages I had initially intended to include, switching to an appropriate NT reference for a few other languages.


Monday, April 29, 2013

My Ducorps Cockatoo Answering the Phone

Hearing "wèi nĭ hăo  喂你好" whenever a customer calls on the telephone, Frank-Frank soon started saying it himself whenever the phone rings:

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Shipping to Taiwan

What to do if you need to ship from the United States to Taiwan, but the size of your shipment is more than your luggage can accommodate yet less than an entire freight crate/container?

My first trip to Taiwan 16 years ago, I mailed  a few boxes via the U.S. Postal Service. Back then it was affordable. A few years later, I shipped a pallet stacked with sealed boxes via a freight company (sorry, I don’t remember which one). Six years ago I learned the U.S. Postal Service was no longer making international sea shipments. So I carried two over-sized suitcases on the airplane. This past January, in need of shipping once again, I learned of another more affordable option which Taiwanese students use when they return to Taiwan from studying in the United States:

Charlene Enterprise Inc.

The end of January we wrapped our boxes in plastic and sent them off. I shipped three boxes around 18 in * 18 in * 24 inches each, as well as a fourth smaller lighter box (57 lbs. + 62.4 +54.6 + 20 lbs. = 194 pounds). The cost to ship to Taiwan came out to  US $250.00.

Unfortunately, unless you plan a few weeks ahead when you are visiting your friends in New York City and can drop your boxes off yourself at Charlene Enterprise’s Woodside, Queens location (which I unfortunately did not!), you’ll also have to pay for UPS to ship your boxes to NY. In my case, the domestic shipping cost for the four boxes cost an additional $154.47, raising the grand total to over 400 bucks (local delivery in Taiwan is included in what you pay to Charlene). In spite of the UPS shipment cost,  I found the overall expenses to be reasonable since I was not interested in shipping anything more.

We waited almost exactly two months before receiving our shipment, which was a few weeks longer than we hoped. Still, being on the long end of the time wait boundary was reasonable considering that the company waits until they have enough other packages going to Taiwan so they can bundle them all together in the same shipment

In our case, the boxes had not been unwrapped or opened by customs either. Nothing was taxed (we carried most of that in our carry-ons). Nor was anything damaged. So I would recommend the service. Please let me know though if you find something cheaper or quicker!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

My Old Neighbor Mr. Ding on TV

Today this noon I sat down to watch pre-downloaded news video using the Miro application. To my surprise whom should I see but my old neighbor from when I used to live in Yunlin, Mr. Ding! 加油丁宗華!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Life in the Kitchen Part 3: Bullying Little Animals

Here at the restaurant are 5 birds which I raised from the time they were babies. They attract quite a bit of attention from some of the customers. Two of the birds garner more attention than the others, but I’m still somewhat attached to four of them. While I was away in the US, this place became their home.

This past week, then, it made me angry to pass by the cages and either catch in-the-act or after-the-fact children 欺負小動物 “bullying the little animals” by poking them with sticks and even kicking the cages. They tried feeding them inedible items ranging from tree leaves to raw coffee beans. 很沒有規矩!

Sadly, in some cases, the children were only following in the footsteps of their adult parents. On two separate days I found cigarette butts in the cages, as well as betel nut 檳榔。These would have come from the so-called adults.

Speaking of the adults, this afternoon, the last day of winter vacation before children go back to school, I picked up 78 cigarette butts from the adjacent restaurant parking lot (about 12 spaces). I’m sure I could have found more if I had kept looking! And a few days ago while driving back up after having running errands, it seemed the car in front of me was throwing a different piece of garbage out of the window every 20-30 seconds. What classless lowlife. Hopefully, the litterbugs/bullies/gangster types only constituted a small fraction of the customers who visited over the Chinese New Year.

Life in the Kitchen: Temporary Restaurant Workers

I’m here as a volunteer part-time dishwasher to help keep things going over the busy Chinese New Year rush. In order to get most of the rest of the work done, the restaurant hired 3 students (and the little sister of one of them, who although not a “hire” has been helping). Here’s their breakdown:

1. One gal, a 15 year old high school student, comes from a single parent home. In Taiwan, after a divorce, it’s usual for the kids to live with the father. That is the case here. Unfortunately, however, this young lady’s dad is the hospital living out his final days with liver cancer exacerbated by drinking to excess. He could pass away any time now I’m told.

2. The oldest student, a third year high-schooler, comes from a home where the father drinks and sometimes beats him. His mom is a foreign bride from Indonesia (as is the mother of the other two girls). After the young man accidentally got burned by some spilled hot water earlier in the week, I wound up taking him on two different days to the hospital to get his arm wrapped. I was surprised that on the first day when I took him to the emergency room, when he presented his medical insurance card they collected less than USD $1 for the payment. The second visit, they didn’t collect anything. I learned for the first time that for low income families medical costs are drastically reduced.

I believe these grassroots, working class peoples, and especially their children, hold a special place in God’s heart. Jesus loves the little (and not so little) children. May He bless and continue to provide for them and their families.

Life in the Kitchen Part 2

I awoke another night last week around 1:30 to look up and see something flash quickly from left to right across my chest. Not wearing my glasses, I couldn’t focus clearly, but I thought I saw two little bulging eyes. I yelped, waking my wife. Both of us then heard the pitter-patter of rapidly moving feet. A rat! (here in Taiwan known as a money rat). It had just leaped off my chest.

We pulled out the luggage and boxes underneath the bed where the rat had ran, but found nothing. Then we saw a small crack we assumed he had slipped into. We went back to sleep.

A few minutes later we heard the pitter-patter again. We turned on the lights to see the rat looking down at us from atop a tall shelf. As we watched and tried to swat at it in vain, it was apparent it had absolutely no fear for us. It ran back into a crack we couldn’t reach.

Living in a remote location in the middle of the night, going for a rat trap was impossible. So I put out some peanut butter on a piece of paper and waited to smack it if/when it came out. However, I was unprepared for the rat’s sheer speed as it zoomed out, grabbed the peanut butter before my eyes, turned around and whisked back to shelter all in a split second. All before my hands could begin the downward motion with the weapon I was carrying.

We then prepared a trap using fly paper on a piece of cardboard and went back to bed. Within minutes the rat was caught in the fly paper, but before we could react it had ripped the sticky paper taped to the cardboard away, and taken it back with him on its run back to shelter. Just minutes after that, we looked up to see the rat staring down at us from atop the coffee maker.

Around 5 we gave up and I opened the door in the hope it would simply leave the room. It must have eventually, because we didn’t hear it again. The next day I rode into down and came back with some sticky traps. In five days it hasn’t come back to the room, although I did catch a glimpse of it in the shed outside.

Life in the Kitchen Part I

A week ago, on New Year’s Day, leaving our room and coming out in the darkened workroom around 1:30 am (windows but no door separating it from the outside), a bat swerved, just missing my head twice. Normally viewed as a harbinger of darkness in western culture, the bat is a sign of blessing in Chinese/Taiwanese culture: the second character in the Chinese word “bat” sounds like the word for blessing. Hope everyone had a Happy Chinese Year!

Life in the Kitchen Intro

A few months ago I cruelly joked with my wife-then-fiancé that while  visiting my parents in America she would be staying in a cage in the basement, coming out only for meals and for housework. Never did I suspect that upon our immediate return to Taiwan, it would be me/us temporarily living in a small room in the family restaurant right off the semi-enclosed kitchen extension used for chopping vegetables and washing dishes! Having said that, I must admit the room is newly and nicely designed with beautiful wooden floors in the Japanese style.

Well rested from a trip to the US, and just starting to look for employment again back in Taiwan, I volunteered to be a dishwasher for the 9 days of Chinese New Year (plus the prior weekend) in my wife’s family restaurant in order to help get them through the crazy holiday rush. The next few entries record a few episodes from this time.