Normal Days on Film

I want to say these rolls are nothing special, but that isn’t completely true. They are honest pictures of more subtle days in Taiwan, from waterfalls, to making dinner, to my neighborhood, to my bedroom.

To date, this is my favorite batch.

Praktica BCA – Lomography 800

Ricoh 35 ZF – Kodak TriX 400

End of an Era

I’ve always struggled during periods of transition. Regardless of the magnitude of change  – new job, haircut, moving, my favorite Chick-fil-A closing, graduation – it is an emotional upheaval that prods the anxious monster in my brain.

The worst-case-scenario happened in June: I resigned from DaZhu AND I didn’t get the desired writing position. I cursed myself for my zealous and foolish decisions. After a couple of frustration-filled crying sessions, I resigned to the outcome and focused on finding a teaching position in Taipei.

Within a week my recruiter lined up an interview with a private middle school close to the Taipei zoo. Typically, schools ask interviewees to create and present a 10-30 minute long lesson plan of their choice. This school provided lesson content the day-of and allotted 40 minutes to prepare a 20 minute lesson. 

Using my laptop, a notebook filled with past lessons, and provided textbook, I struggled to create an interesting and fun lesson plan in the designated time, but I ended up making a shoddy six-page PowerPoint outlining grammar rules, and one boring activity. After 45 minutes of hectic planning, I presented to the Director of foreign English teachers (a young Taiwanese woman), a current English teacher (a young South African man), and my coordinator (a Taiwanese man) in only 7 minutes. Both the coordinator and Director asked “that’s it?” when I ended, but the Director added “nice and efficient I like it.”  The interview portion left me feeling confident because I connected with the Director about being women in education, and she mentioned “students love young, female teachers but they’re hard to come by.”

As I walked to the bus stop with my coordinator, he assured me I handled the interview portion better than two other candidates, but they have more experience than me so it’s hard to tell who the school will choose. I held back disappointed tears on the bus ride home.

2 days later an email from my recruiter popped up on my phone and my eyes widened as I read they offered me a position starting on August 27. My immediate response, “WOW!!!!!!!! I AM SO HAPPY!!!!”

Though the school is located further from the city than I anticipated, I will work with my desired age range (7th-12th grade students) and receive a sizable raise (more than my previous teaching position & the rejected writing job).

Eager to begin my life in Taipei, I ended my apartment lease on July 31, completed  my teaching contract the same day, and found an apartment with a move-in date on August 1.

My agenda was filled with a long to-do list for two weeks. While teaching summer camp, I filed a police background check, completed a medical exam, opened a bank account, toured potential apartments, and ate multiple goodbye lunches with co-workers.

Once I completed the pre-employment check-list and signed my teaching and apartment contracts, I relaxed and began looking at Luzhu through a lens of lasts.

Below are photos and captions taken in Luzhu to commemorate my 7 month stay and appreciate everything that happened.

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Beloved art of mine hanging above the desk in Luzhu apartment. Posted to the wall are: a card from students, photo taken by my sister, images from various artists, and a selfie of Peter and I taken in Tokyo. (Photo taken on a disposable camera).

Photograph of Ricoh 3ZF (left) and Canon Rebel T6 (right) taken on my balcony using a disposable camera.

A view of Nanzhu Road, connecting Luzhu and Nankan. I biked along this road numerous times to Nankan to get my nails done, meet Peter for coffee, go to the movies, eat at Pizza Rock, or because I was bored. The road was surrounded by serene farms and occasional betel nut stands. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film.)

A row of U-bikes sitting outside of DaZhu Elementary school. Whenever I traveled to Nankan or needed a Ubike, this was my go-to station. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film).

Peter hesitantly posing for picture while sitting on toilet in Luzhu apartment. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film.)

A cherished routine of mine was to walk 2 laps around a large pond after dinner. At night, the small sidewalk filled with joggers, families, stray dogs, and flirting teens. The smell of fish and ripening fruits floated in the air and I was surrounded by mysterious foliage, such as the one featured. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film.)

This photo is taken from the same tree. The fallen petals from the blooming flowers were delicately arranged into a heart. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film.)

This is a result of a shutter speed experiment. I looked at this view daily for 7 months. Here, I read books, watched dogs lazily cross the street, and waited for the garbage truck. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film.)

One afternoon shortly after work, I ventured on bike ride around Luzhu to capture idyllic snaps of the Taiwanese countryside. Here are the results:

This alpha dog diligently watched as I hopped off my bike to take a few pictures of him and his family. As I situated myself on my bike and started to pedal away, he chased me down the narrow trail for five minutes nipping at my ankles! I’ve never pedaled so fast in my whole life. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film.)

I knew I lived in the country, but I had no idea my proximity to farms. I stumbled across a pit filled with hogs (?) sleeping and playing inside of giant concrete tubes. It was an unexpected and funny surprise. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film.)

Located adjacent to the hog pit housed a large population of identical chickens clucking in unison. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film.)

Seated along the edge of the wall, I enjoyed the view of the sunset against the backdrop of the river. I questioned myself “why haven’t I done this sooner?” It’s only when the end is near do I regret inactivity. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film.)

(Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film.)

It’s difficult to see in this image but this wall has hundreds of nails poking out of it. Unfortunately, my pant leg caught a nail and pinched my skin. Sometimes a little pain enhances the enjoy. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film.)

Small farm along Nanzhu Road. What is growing is unknown to me. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Lomography 800ISO film.)

Once a week since February, I ate dinner with Phillip and his family. I met Phillip while playing tennis at DaZhu, and he quickly became a great friend of mine. Originally, our dinners included a language exchange, but we all tired of this due to our busy schedules. We agreed to simply eat dinner, catch up, and spend time together like a family. I watched movies, talked about politics, and learned about Taiwanese cuisine and history. Phillip and Grace supported my decision to find work in Taipei and I am very grateful for their friendship!

Thanks to Peter’s long arms, we managed to take a group selfie. Seated from left to right: Peter, myself, Phillip, Grace, and Oscar. (Photo taken on Samsung Galaxy S8).

Grace and Oscar laughing as their dad, Phillip, teaches Peter and I how to say a Taiwanese phrase “My name is Peter.” (Photo taken on Samsung Galaxy S8).

Here is my best friend/mom, Jenny, in front of a wall of roses at River Mall in LuZhu. Neither one of us knew this mall existed even though it’s located 2 miles away from our school. After this photo was taken, we enjoyed a fancy Italian meal. (Photo taken on Samsung Galaxy S8).

While walking around my neighborhood, I found a graffitied wall. My favorite tags were “roach” and “fuck.”  (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Agfa Vista 400ISO film.)

DaZhu has a bi-weekly night market on Monday and Thursday. During my last visit, I ran into three 7th grade students (wearing red shirts) and their friends. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Agfa Vista 400ISO film).

For $100 NT, patrons purchase a bucket of rings to throw at bottles in hopes of encircling one. The prizes range from Taiwan beer, soda, whiskey, and small toys. Image taken at DaZhu Night Market on a Monday evening. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Agfa Vista 400ISO film).

Vendor at DaZhu Night Market selling sausages. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Agfa Vista 400ISO film.)

The day I cut and dyed my hair, I took a selfie. This is the best my tiny bangs have ever looked. (Photo taken on Ricoh 3ZF using Agfa Vista 400ISO film.)

 

3 Hours at Zhu-Wei Beach

竹圍海水浴場

Startled by the sound of my alarm, I squinted one eye open to check the time.  Saturday, 9 AM. Both eyes shut with ease as they refused to acknowledge the morning rays illuminating my room. Then a moment of clarity: “I want to go to the beach.”  I rolled over and whispered to Peter, “let’s go to the beach.”

We lounged in bed for another 30 minutes Googling “nearby beaches” and decided to venture to Zhu-Wei beach for proximity’s sake. The idle route is a low-stress environment to test ride Peter’s new 150 CC scooter. 

Ricoh 35 ZF – Agfa 400 ISO

With a trepid heart, I sat behind Peter and tightly squeezed his torso for the entire 14 km (8 mile) ride. Until that moment, I haven’t ridden a scooter since my accident in 2013. My left knee and hip still pain me from the collison.

We puttered past farms, tattered buildings, and brightly decorated bus stops, and my grip relaxed. A grin cemented on my face while the light breeze played with my hair and the sun kissed my cheeks. A giddy sense of adventure and spontaneity radiated within as I held on to Peter and watched the gentle clouds painted on the light blue sky slide by.

The joy and excitement shadowed my navigational duties. We missed a few turns and parked in a dilapidated lot. In the end, we found where sky meets sea; proof of a job well done.

Ricoh 35 ZF – Agfa 400 ISO

A range of emotions flowed through me as we walked onto the chocolate shore. At first glance the quaint and sleepy cove seemed an idyll place. Dogs played in the sea water quietly lapping onto shore. Parents watched their children dig holes in the sand from the comforting shade of rainbow umbrellas.

A few steps closer to shore, the sun reflected off a variety of plastic washed ashore from the Taiwan Strait. In lieu of seashells and rocks, plastic glittered along the shore — bottle caps, microwaveable containers, water bottles, and squeezed Coco cups.

The beauty and tranquility that beaches offer is why they’re revered in my eyes. Wind gliding over sand and waves gently greeting the land have a lulling effect which clears my mind. I’m instantly transported to an reflective state – uncluttered by anxiety and responsibilities.

This time the connection was disrupted by a grim reminder of human waste surrounding me.

I looked around and thought about every time I sipped on an iced latte from Starbucks, purchased carry out fried rice, chugged water from a plastic bottle,  and used plastic utensils because I was too lazy to find a metal fork.

Looking at the forgotten waste, I resolved to significantly reduce my consumption. It will be challenging considering I have limited vocabulary. I don’t even know the Chinese translation of “plastic” or how to politely say “I don’t need a straw.” It’s motivation to learn more Chinese phrases and simultaneously reduce.

The time evaporated as we raced and sprinted a few yards, threw a tennis ball while the water splashed our calves, and photographed the cloudy scenery.

Before we departed, I dipped my sandy feet in the water and a playful border collie greeted me with a purple Frisbee in mouth. She dropped the foam toy by my foot and with expectant eyes waited. (Only 10 minutes before this moment, Peter and I agreed that border collies are smart and fun because they can successfully play fetch.)  Amazed that she can read minds, or she can understand English, I scooped up the Frisbee and hurled it into the wind.

Peter and I rolled over in laughter as she kept returning the toy to me, and only me, for 15 minutes.

A perfect afternoon essentials: kindle, Frisbee, sea, dog, and boyfriend all together.

 

Hunger and Peter’s sunburn forced us to say goodbye to our new friend and find a shaded meal. A mile down the dusty road, we happened upon a Thai restaurant seated on the bed of a river along the outskirts of the fish market. We shared three spicy seafood dishes.

From the left to right: spicy seafood medley (mussels, shrimp, sea urchin, and other questionable meats), spicy shrimp soup, sweet potato greens mixed with chilies.

Peter swallowed a spoonful of soup into the wrong pipe, which left him coughing and teary-eyed the entire meal. I watched him with a grimace and asked myself “Do I help? … Can I help?” I refilled his water and avoided questions that could not be answered with yes or no.

Our delicious yet taciturn lunch marked the end of an endearing afternoon in Zhu-Wei. I can’t wait to see where Peter’s scooter will take us next.

A view of Zhu-Wei fishing harbor atop a pedestrian bridge leading to the Zhu-Wei fish market.