Sakura Season

It’s cherry blossom (sakura) season in Asia. Here in Taiwan the sakura bloom a little earlier than in Japan, due to our southern location. These nice blossoms popped right around March 1 in Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Park, just a block from my apartment.

Hanami is a long-standing Japanese tradition of welcoming spring. Also known as the “cherry blossom festival,” this annual celebration is about appreciating the temporal beauty of nature. People gather under blooming cherry blossoms for food, drink, songs, companionship and the beauty of sakura.

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Four Years!

Today, March 4, I celebrate the fourth anniversary of leaving the USA for Asia for my retirement. It’s been a fascinating journey and I have not missed the States at all! Even though I vowed to myself to reduce or eliminate daily news from home and Facebook, I must admit that has not really worked out. The entire Trump story that has unwound since I left has proven to be too irresistible and I find myself juggling notifications from ABC, CBS, NPR, Bloomberg, New York Times, Washington Post,  The Guardian, AP, Reuters, SF Gate, NHK and more – daily. What a circus to watch from afar! It has been especially interesting to compare viewpoints from journalists in the US with English-language news sites that I read from Taiwan, Vietnam and Japan.

For those of you who I have not spoken with recently, here is the latest plan. I love Taiwan and am working on a way to stay here long-term. After four years living out of a suitcase consistently has gotten really old and I have spent the last year trying to “root”. It is always a challenge due to visa regulations, but I think that I am close to an answer here in Taiwan due to some recent radical changes to their immigration laws – in a nutshell, they have suddenly become friendly to foreign professionals. In my case, my Screen Actors Guild membership since 1978 looks like it is paying a big dividend because I am a long-time member of an international arts organization and Taiwan now wants more of us. The caveat is that these new immigration laws are brand new (effective February 8) and the local officials are still finding their way on implementation. In a very real sense, I am a guinea pig in applying for this – I should have a determination one way or the other in 30 – 45 days. If the answer is yes, I will be granted a “Gold Card” which gives me an open work permit as a freelancer, a 3-year renewable multiple entry visa without any requirement to exit the country during that time, and Taiwan National Health Insurance – which is widely regarded as one of the best plans in the world.  I have recently listed with two Taipei talent agents for TV, film and print work. Here, I am a foreigner and I know that the work is limited – still, there is not much competition for roles. So we’ll see how things work out.

OK, so that’s my update. I’d love to hear from you!

Lantern Festival – Taiwan

lanterns-1024x550Well, it’s that time of the year – 15 days after the lunar Chinese New Year to be precise. Here in Taiwan the CNY festivities come to an official end with various lantern festivals throughout the island. What happens, fundamentally, is that people gather to write their dreams and wishes for the coming year onto paper lanterns and then release them into the sky. In modern times, this has grown to an event where 80,000 people gather in Pingxi (pronounces Pea-ng-she), which is a village in New Taipei City (which used to be New Taipei County until recently, the out-skirts of urban Taipei City). It is out in the country and not very easy to get to by public transportation, especially given the population that fills the trains going and coming for this particular event – so I opted not to engage this year (I swore off operating any type of motor vehicle about 3 years ago, and Pingxi is too far and too crowded and too dark to bicycle to). Nevertheless, it is rated by many travel sites as one of the top-10 events world-wide to witness in a lifetime. So, I am posting a couple of photos that I pulled off the web to illustrate the event. Happy Year of the Dog!

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Tokyo Park

After a very satisfying sushi brunch at Tsukiji, I strolled down to the old imperial hunting grounds (Hamarikyu Gardens).  Serene, beautiful and relaxing right in the heart of the Ginza district, Tokyo.

Trees Skyscapers

The bamboo sheathing around the joints of the tree are an ancient technique to prevent wintering bugs from burrowing underneath the bark to escape the cold.

Bamboo Covering

The above is an extremely decorative expression of the bamboo technique.

Trees Ladder

And here is the crew that makes it all happen. Check out the safety ladder!

New Years Eve – Taipei

Well, I had some problems downloading my video from last night, so I took the liberty of copying the best file that had been published on YouTube that was approximately from the same vantage point as me. Thanks, “biolumate”! This was the scene, there were tons of people and the MRT was open all night. World class!

 

Mid-Winter Blooms in Taipei

Even though it has been a relatively cold and wet December here in Taipei, I still visit the Botanical Gardens at least once a week. It’s only a short walk from my home; it is always full of interesting characters to watch; and the landscape is forever subtly changing. I was surprised to see so many small flowers in bloom. Some reminded me of alpine flowers during a Grand Teton summer. Here are some of more interesting things I photographed during my last visit.