Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Mon meilleur ami en France

«Je suis en France pour les vacances.» En entendant cette phrase, mes amis imaginent la mer azur, la cuisine elaborée aux restaurants et des visites innombrables aux chateaux et endroits qui ne sont que magnifiques. Même ma mère, qui est en vacances aussi, parle sur un ton rêveux et envieux que j'ai rarement entendu dans ma vie. C'est presque impossible à leur expliquer que je mène une vie très, voire trop calme dans une petite ville en Normandie. Je n'ai ni une voiture ni un vélo pour me transporter partout. Mais pour ne pas râler, ou pour apprendre à prendre du plaisir où que je sois, comme ce que Monsieur Confucius a suggéré, je me concentre sur les petites choses. Pourtant, mon entourage est trop absorbé dans l'idée que c'est hors de question de vivre une vie mondaine dans le pays aussi paradisiaque que la France. Je les laisse rêver alors que je porte toute la vérité cruelle.

Car je n'ai pas encore décidé de m'installer ici, je ne cherche pas la connaissance de gens qui viennent du même endroit que moi. Peut-être j'ai supprimé ce besoin en moi sans en prendre conscience, soit en France soit aux Etats-Unis. A part ma quasi-famille française ici, j'ai en fait un ami formidable. Je lui rend visite presque tous les jours. De temps en temps je me sens coupable en l'aimant autant mais je rayonne incroyablement après notre rendez-vous. Je doute que la magie de cette amitié soit plus forte que l'amour. Mais non mon chéri, tu n'as pas besoin d'être jaloux. Tu et mon meilleur ami me plaisez aux manières totalement différentes. Il comble mon désir matériel mais tout le monde connaît combien l'acte de consommer est important pour les femmes quoi que l'on achète. Voilà, bonne réponse, mon meilleur ami est Champion!

A Taïwan, je ne ressentis jamais le plaisir de faire les courses. C'est plutôt un petit train-train obligatoire. J'ai réussi à survivre tout de même. Néanmoins, en France, fréquenter Champion est un rituel plein de joie, même après le jour de courses. Il y a toujours quelquechose que l'on manque. Il y a toujours de nouveau trucs que l'on peut essayer pendant le dîner ce soir. L'aventure de découverte ne cesse jamais jusqu'à ce que je me demande si je suis devenue shopaholique. Maintenant je me rends compte pourquoi il y a des gens qui ont besoin de thérapie pour cela.

Voilà, vous savez combien ma vie française est calme:-)...

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Story of the kitchen

At home we have a long and narrow kitchen. With more than one person in it, everyone feels ill at ease. Maybe that is why my mom didn't like our presence. When we volunteered to help or to look at her, she would whisk us away impatiently. So I thought of the kitchen as "her" domain. Even though she didn't always take delight in cooking, it was a sacred space for her. When I was young, I understood the significance of the kitchen for her and respected it.

Then I found myself an adult. I felt burgeoning in me the need of spending time in the kitchen. In the beginning it was merely a faint whisper, "Go, take a try. You won't be sent to hell simply in using the kitchen for one day." I desired to cook for the man I loved, and I needed to borrow my mom's kitchen for practice. With the courage of love, I took the plunge at the risk of being scolded an discouraged.

It turned out to be very different from what I had expected. My mom had planned the retirement from the kitchen for a while. She was tired of preparing food after doing it for decades. She found other interests outside the small kitchen. Instead of supervising my every move, she learned to relax spontaneouly. However, every woman knows how difficult it is to take the transition from someone who fidgets in the kitchen to being a couch potato. The kitchen is still part of her, but not everything.

I was delighted to find a new place for me. There is by no means any word to describe my joy in discovering my talent in the culinary art when I always stuck to the idea I was nothing in cooking. The beautiful aroma of food drifting in the air, the resounding music of chops falling on vegetables, the passionate fire and heat that penetrates the food. I might not find the kitchen so soothing as the heroine in Yoshimoto Banana's book, but it's a place to calm my soul. I began to realize why many moms treasure the kitchen so, even if they did not put it in words.

The kitchen in France is a heaven. There is no limit, no restraint to whatever I'd love to try. I am too eager to exert my talent. In the end, I just forget what I knew so well--every kitchen belongs to a certain woman. Before I find mine, I am just a guest. Even competitions come in very subtile forms in the kitchen. The traces fall in conversations and comments about food not with any malicious intent. Far from it. It's just that how can I take for granted such a place that isn't mine? On one hand, I am ashamed of my temporary amnesia; on the other hand, I try to take a step back.

Even when I am not in the kitchen, the clinking sounds of glasses and silverware still gives my heart a beat. I wonder with what exotique dishes we are going to please our tastebuds today. In the meanwhile, I ask myself, "Where is my kitchen?"

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Hidden treasures

When we visited the castle in Beaumesnil, it was a beautiful Saturday afternoon. Compared with those numerous and celebrated chateaux in the Loire region, this one is a 0.01 karat of diamond. Its glamour is not eye-catching but agreeable all the same.

I took my first trip to France three years ago. My companions and I, we took extreme pleasure in digesting fully-loaded itineraries. As travelers, we wanted to see nothing but the best and the coolest. That frame of mind led us to Chambourg, Chenonceau, Ambois etc. Exquisite and stunning as they are, we ended up promising never to see any castles in the rest of our life. Simply put, we had had enough.

Had it been not for the impulse to prove there that is nothing to see in Normandy, I would still keep the promise. The Beaumesnil chateau was just a beginning point. I came across its lovely picture online and it is not too far away from Elbeuf. Since the castle is located within the meandering paths surrounded by green fields and trees in summer, its charm is obviously not easy to detect. We were not the only visitors though. Private as the castle is, among the few visitors, some spoke a Germanic language which I couldn't distinguish. It didn't take much time to go through the whole building. But we paid the ticket price for a sunny day, a lovely stroll, a cheering adventure, and also, good mood.

From now on, I will stop glorifying the South because too many tourists have been doing it in my place. The tourist sites in Normandy welcome people only six months a year, from April to September. It will be a huge shame not to be a little more sensitive to its beauty while it screames in silence, "Look at me, even just for a few secs!."Come to the North to experience the cooling air. It's just different, not worse in any way.

Thursday, July 21, 2005


I know it would take me much effort to convince you these are crepes, or to be exact, the result of my failed attempt. At first, their formless appearances really upset me, but I decided to keep them as samples for Annick so that she could give me advice on how to improve the taste and the shape. Besides, it would be nice to give friends a reason to laugh, whether they have a stressful day or not.

It's not hard for myself to know the reason why my crepes did not resemble those beautiful and round ones sold in restaurants. Even though I followed the recipe word by word, my wild spirits in cooking makes me a terrible cook when it comes to dessert. For beginners, what matters most in making desserts is precision, not creativity. I can blame everything on the recipe, but I felt partly responsible too. However, in the country of pastry, I can try and try again, until I master the art of making paper-thick crepes. And more important, I should stop grumbling when seeing crepes on the menu of desserts. After all, it's not such a piece of cake like I assumed.

Monday, July 18, 2005

French fairy-tales

Foe viewers used to Hollywood ways of thinking, every French film reserves a huge surprise. It wouldn't be hard to guess the endings of American mainstream movies, but French reverse all the values taken for granted and liberate the audience's conventional ideas of love, dreams, courage...

The film "Chouchou" is about a north African seeking for his cross-dressing nephew in Paris. He passes for a Chilian to win sympathy from the father of a suburban church, thus a bed. With the priest and brother Jean starts his life in Paris. Gradually it is revealed to the audience that he dreams to be a woman, at least dressed like one. The father introduces him to work for a shrink to whom Chouchou confesses his secret. The doctor encourages him and gives him permission to dress as a woman in the clinic. Then starts his double-faced life, man before and after work and woman at work. Afterwards, he is reunited with his nephew who works as a cross-dresser in a nightclub. While waitressing there, Chouchou runs into a man that just ADORES him as a woman and falls in love with him. In one confession, Chouchou tells the father why he desires so much to be a woman and the father is utterly moved by his story.

In the meanwhile, there is a problem in the clinic. A man who claims to be the police is eager to hunt down Chouchou because the latter angers him while he seeks for a session with the doctor. In one scene, in order to save the shrink, Chouchou throws the vase at the man, which only worsens the man's hate for him. Not to involve the father and brother Jean, Chouchou moves into his nephew's apartment. He worries and misses his man at the same time, but at the end, he decides to go to the police and settles the problem once for all, only to find that the man is a lunatic. The ending is a merry one because Chouchou has a wonderful wedding with all his friends' blessing.

I have not seen enough French films to suggest that there is a formula in French styles of fairy-tales, but it was difficult not to be surprised that many cultural/social phenomena are taken for granted. For example, encouraging a man to be a cross-dresser or a woman is the last thing one will find in many cultures, not even in comedies. Besides, it's even more amazing that one man accept another man so easily without any problem of gender issues, without caring about what others might say. Most of all, it seems that the whole society is open-minded enough to view a man as a woman only because he considers himself as one. Little by little the audience can't but take it all. What is thought of as taboos is displayed openly on screen. This film might be a naive comedy, but it focuses on what is beyond the superficial differences. Maybe my viewpoint is nothing but a naive interpretation, but what matters more than when a man finds the best way to present himself with confidence and what is more important than love and dreams? Genders and social prejudice can't stand in the way. I call this the French fairy-tale. There might not be a beautiful woman and a handsome man, but the seemingly ridiculous story might be closer to the reality than the prototype of Hollywood fairy-tales.

Saturday, July 16, 2005

Traveler's eye

Friends are curious about the town where I stay. In the meanwhile, the longer one stays in a place, the more difficult it is to find a postcard that can fully represent its spirit. I am in such a dillemma. First, Elbeuf is not a tourist spot, so its postcards are not widely available. Even those I came across in bookstores gave a general and even vague impression. There are always cows, fields, churches, bungalows. These images can equally represent the whole France or even Europe. One year has passed by, and friends still don't have any idea of Elbeuf.

I took a walking tour around part of the city yesterday. Among all the shots, I selected an ordinary or artistically ugly one as a postcard of Elbeuf for my friends. I was happily amazed by the remains of this stone building at first sight, but no one ever suggested taking a walk there together. I'd been thinking, "How can people be so indifferent to a historic site like this?" And I couldn't but feel honored to live so near a square with all the history behind it. One day I couldn't keep the question anymore, "This must be a tourist site right? Look at the stones and traces of the past." D answered lightly, "No, that used to be a factory. It was torn down years ago." Well, I did sound ignorant in not knowing the remains of a factory could be so artistic...

For foreigners, Elbeuf is an adorable French town because our eye is not used to the typical architecture in France. For locals, Elbeuf is not considered beautiful at all. At first I was surprised about everything I saw, but after being brainwashed, I started to tell people that there are millions of towns more pleasant to visit. I've lost my traveler's eye. When we take things for granted, we are harder to please and even annoying.

This postcard reminds me to live the daily life with the traveler's eye no matter where and for how long I've dwelled in certain place. And of course, it is for my friends who have traveled and who have not traveled yet this summer.

Friday, July 15, 2005

a forest person and a sea person

The sea around the coast of Normandy is not attractive, not even in summer. In fact, it's even intimidating on cloudy days. D didn't hesitate to confess his preference for forests when we first talked about the question, "Do you prefer the moutains or the sea?" So we have got into the habit of strolling in the forests after diner since last summer.

There is nothing flagrant or special about the forests in Normandy. For professional tourists, they are far from being tourist spots. It takes calm to enjoy the vast land of trees. Sometimes we hear animals respond to one another in their unique ways of communication. I think forests reflect D's personality to a certain degree. The trees do not give explicit messages. They are silent and immobile, but they live. With time and curiosity, those who are interested will learn and love them. That is what D is like.

I was in love with the sea, even before I knew how to swim. I think of my love for it as innate in all islanders. The blue water thrills me. The sounds of waves charm me, and the sunshine that glitters on the sea never fails to delight me for a whole day. When I live on continents, I feel the urgent need to go to the sea. Ridiculous as this might sound, I do hold a deep and unexplicable feeling for water.

So is a forest person compatible with a sea person? Can a night person spend a whole life still in love with a morning person? Sometimes I play stupid on purpose and attribute my worries to our personality differences while deep in my heart I know they don't cause any problem. Perhaps I just need to be assured and reassured and you have forgotten that.

As long as we are together, we can see some of the forests and some of the sea. It's nothing but a humble wish...

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Moules sans frites

Unlike Taiwan, there isn't a great variety of seafood in local supermarkets here, but mussels are a main specialty. Tourists pigging on a huge plate of mussels along with a mountain of french fries is a classic summer scene. When I first learned that mussels can be a main course, my amazement was beyond words, but afterwards it was replaced by a sense of loss. I had devoured hundreds of innocent mussels, but I knew I would be hungry soon. I grew up with the firm idea that mussels are for side dishes or soups and it's impossible to change how people think of each kind of food.

At home we eat more clams in home-made cuisine. Mussels are rarer and more expensive. I'd like to profit from the vacation here and please my tastebuds. After all, mussels are a fantastic dish when seasoned with garlic and white wine. For those who are particular about the visual effect, add some parsley and slices of red chili to garnish it. Voilà! This is by no means a dish reserved only for restaurant chefs.

Too bad I have long quit eating french fries, for the sane sake of my health. However, that doesn't stop me from picturing the heavenly combination for the gustatory orgasm.

"Is it a gift?"

The streets today are envelopped in festive atmosphere. Hot sunshine, the coming of 14, July. What else to ask for? I decided to go for a walk to the bookstore on the main and only street in town.

I know I have perfect ability to communicate with people in French, but being out alone always makes me feel unreal. I look around, attempting to enjoy the fresh air, only with the stealthy pace of a thief. Others are just too occupied to notice me. It takes time I guess...

Before entering the bookstore, I thought of questions the ladies might ask me. Since this was not my first time there, I wasn't afraid at all of the situations I would encounter. Luckily, no one harassed me today. Not even the "May I help you?" sentence. Sometimes it's nice to be forgotten.

It took me much effort to choose a book I really felt like reading. I came across a new story by Amélie Nothomb, who is also the author of the film "Stupeur et Tremblements." Though any book can help me better my French, it's still wise to go for something worth reading.

I gave the old lady a look meaning "I'd like to pay." Everything was perfect in silence. Suddenly, she burst out a sentence after ringing the cashier. "Huh?" I uttered the question sound twice since I still didn't understand what she said the second time. She was forced to rephrase her question in another way. "Is it a gift?" I shook my head feeling embarassed. She must have thought if I were capable of reading Nothomb's novel, I should have understood her simple sentence. As a matter of fact, spoken words are much more difficult to capture than written texts, at least in my case.

Fortunately, it's not a trend here to keep foreign maids like in Taiwan, or I would be considered one sent by the family to go on errands. Strange to say, I had the same feeling when shopping in the most fashionable zone in Taipei. I was surrounded by circles of beautiful women with exquisite make-up. I was totally plain. We fought with each other to purchase the crystal accessories ruthlessly. Later I joked with friends that I might easily be mistaken as a foreign maid. So this out-of-place complex always exists. Perhaps when I return to my imagined "hometown" like Vietnam or Indonesia, I'll still think of myself in the same way.

Wednesday, July 13, 2005

We love TV!

The best way to reject the culture of a place is not to watch TV. Yet it's somber to think of the banal daily life without even the entertainment of TV programs. This is almost impossible for me since I am from a little island inundated with various TV channels and TV sets everywhere. Apart from the 100 channels to choose from, TV can be found in all the public places. Being passive is also a blessing in Taiwan.

In recent years, talk shows have caught on. The range of discussion varies from political issues to fashions. Of course, those who'd like to learn more about daily life must-know are not forgotten. There are talk shows for everyone, targeted at different levels and walks of viewers. As for the interaction between TV hosts and the audience, in certain politics talk shows, people can call in to share their opinions. This was especially the fad a few years ago.

How do French TV producers attract higher ratings? French people seem not to be satisfied with being heard on the telephone. There are tons of quiz show games, at noon, in the evening. People attend the games not just to win a lovely amount of cash but also to be seen. The questions cover a wide range of knowledge and the forms of answering depend on programs. Sometimes it's guessing a number closest to statistics from the polls. Sometimes it's a multiple choice question. It's hard to imagine that this is a country where teachers suffer because the TV culture gives the impression that people are eager to learn.

The quiz shows did not attract me in the beginning. I am always more into the melodrama type of TV series in Taiwan. Little by little, after I got used to the pattern of watching Jean-Pierre Foucault's "Millionnaire" during dinner time, I found it a pleasant way to improve my French and fill the blank in the chapter of French contemporary culture. I even secretly imagined my sitting face to face with him and answering those cryptic questions with ease. It's more than easy to fall into the pattern of watching TV, even in a foreign place, in a new language. And even there are only six channels...

veggie-stuffing mania

This evening Annick and I struggled between the crying of her little grandson and making stuffed onions and tomatoes. French recipes are too foreign for me, not just in terms of the vocabulary, but also the French ways of preparing food. I happened to see on TV a few days ago certain chef teaching people how to empty all the round-shaped veggies imaginable and put innovational stuffing inside. Stuffing exists in Chinese cuisine too. If I do not remember wrong, in some restaurants, fried rice is served within an empty pineapple. But I am really impressed with French passion for stuffing. Maybe this explains why I learned the word "farci", which means "stuffed" before other verbs frequently seen in French cookbooks.

So, how do the stuffed veggies taste? I might not be in an objective position to answer the question. I did notice another interesting thing about the French cooking style. It seems common to grind ingredients and in the end everything tastes like baby food, only with different tastes. Since my teeth are one of the few organs that still works normally, I really prefer to see food cooked and preserved in its original form. Well, today I do not understand the French tastes...Or maybe it's time to cast aside my prejudice and accept the "tender" side of French cuisine.

Tuesday, July 12, 2005

one night in Bangkok

By the time I go to bed every night, the house is all quiet. Early as I hit the sack, my competitors are too good. So my punishment is solitude. Some might enjoy it, but I feel like companionship during vacations. I search for consolation in my memories and I find one night in Bangkok perfect company for tonight. Outside it's cool and calm, but in my mind's eye, night just begins and Bangkok is about to liven up. I dragged my smelly body that had sweated rounds and rounds in the daytime, but the party was not over yet. I was far from willing to go back to the hotel. In the streets, the crowds bustled with desires, longings, and the air felt tempting. For everyone, something major was to occur. It would be so new that no similar experiences were written on the record of memories before.

Since it's not a tradition to stay up here for excitement, I'll have to excuse myself. Good night. I'll have to continue the trip in my dream. If you are a little drowsy, you are welcome to join me here in Elbeuf.

Want some mutton?

I have to admit that posting the photo of this successful dish is mainly for my own vanity. I am probably the only person that visits my blog regularly, or maybe a little bit too much. There are many ingredients I didn't use to eat before my epiphany. "No thanks, mutton is too heavy for me." "Oh, I have lactose intolerance. My stomach doesn't digest cheese well." These taboos were totally left behind when it dawned upon me how delicious a meal can be if used appropriately. Well, we have to embrace the fact that the only theory that doesn't change is people do change.

Below the mutton is a vast paradise of veggies covered in olive oil, seasoned with salt and pepper. The members of this paradise include tomatoes, aubergine, carrots and hotdogs. Most of all, the combination of Chapelure and Parmesan cheese gives the dish a golden and crispy look. Of course, don't forget the irresistible smell when it's taken out of the oven. Want some mutton?

Monday, July 11, 2005

Eternal addiction to croissants

If in a comprehension test of French food I really had to give an answer about my overall knowledge, I would say, "croissants" and "croissants" still. Last summer I snacked away countless croissants as breakfast, afternoon tea; it was just impossible to stop. Hard to describe why I could never touch croissants at home , but I was totally under the spell here. It was not until I tried to transport some croissants home that I realized the secret to its heavenly taste was the ample amount of butter and oil. After an exhausting long journey, the crispy layers were furrowed, oil stuck to the inner side of the plastic bag. How disastrous...

This year I gained some pounds, thus not so free to indulge myself with the tasty yet greasy croissants. The first morning I dieted on yogurts and fruits. I took pride in the fact that my addiction had finally come to an end. "Oh, we do all need to grow up and stop eating certain kind of food..." The second day, the healthful diet still lasted, and it seemed to work fine. The third day, the fourth day...I have forgot when a faint voice started to whisper in me the craving for croissants, but it was obvious that the voice became louder and louder, and my desire was monstrous. One day after the "healthy" breakfast, I gave the excuse of taking a morning stroll and sneaking into the bakery to get some croissants and pain chocolat. I couldn't help chew one away. "How can I live without croissants here?" Whether thin or fat, they are never on my list of must-not-eat.

There are some addictions which we'll never grow out of and as a matter of fact, there is no need to because that will do nothing but take away some sunshine from the dull daily life.

petit garçon

I accidentally caught sight of this little boy looking hard at something and that gave me enough time to take this shot. So, it looks like I am not alone in peeping at the neighbors...

My sky is blue today

It’s the start of a new week. This morning when I opened my eyes, I thought of you. Most of you have just returned from your summer trips while some of you have begun your new work. Due to the time difference, the moment I got up, you had had wrapped up a day’s work. Somehow the idea that you are so ahead of me is obsessing. It’s amazing that within a few days we are so apart physically, each with tons of stories to tell. Wait for me. I might be late in joining your story-sharing party, but I am sure to be there.

If you do miss me, imagine I am somewhere tranquil except the birds’ joyful singing and the cars’ passing by. Out of the window is a vast stretch of light-grayish blue sky. The clouds today are thin and light. My three-storied apartment is surrounded by other lower buildings. On summer nights, the neighbors open their windows gladly and that’s my favorite moment. It’s as if the apartments finally decided to open their hearts, even to a stranger like me. Even though I spend most of the time in either this little quiet room or the kitchen, it feels like I am always exposed to the caresses of the fresh air outdoors. And my heart has flown away to the other end of the sky.

I do miss you a lot...

A summer sunny day makes shrinks go away


This is the second or third complete sunny day after my arrival here 10 days ago. During the first few cloudy days, I would look forward to the appearance of sunshine with firm faith. It’s summer time and sunshine is synonymous with the season. In the end I grew so tired mentally that I just gave up hoping. After all, summer in Normandy is one thousand times better than winter, which can send an optimistic person like me to the end of the world.

It’s not hard to find things in common shared by people from different places. In the past and even now, Taiwanese say “Have you eaten?” as a way of greeting or commencing a small talk. Between Annick and people, it’s pretty much about the temperature of the day. She keeps a thermometer on the windowsill. She would report to me the weather conditions dutifully, accompanied by distinct facial expressions. Before today, it was usually with a slight frown. I guess she longed for a sunny day as much as I did. It’s funny that Mom complained about the killing heat at home. Are we really never satisfied or God really doesn’t treat us fair?

This noon while I was busy cooking in the kitchen, Annick came in panting. She commented on the sunshine outside with twinkles in her eyes. “Oh là là, it’s hot in the car.” I thought I had got the wrong word because a few days ago we were still curling in our car seats because the cool air was too intimidating. I rushed to the window in the attempt of proving if my ears were still ok. I was happily surprised to be greeted by the warm sunlight. Like French people, the French sun isn’t too willing to do its job, but it’s reassuring to know that the sun does exist.

The merry atmosphere permeated the air and even our whole beings. We had a pleasant meal by the window. In the afternoon, we left the windows of the bedroom wide open. I read, basked in the thought of lovely sunshine that stayed with us. Flies danced around, but we didn’t care. Who would mind as long as it is a beautiful summer day?

In the evening, the sunshine lingered, with a more tender tone of color. The neighbors opened their windows to profit from the remaining day. This is the first time I got to see their faces. The loud crying sounds of babies was heard more clearly than ever, but it didn’t spoil our good moods. Rather, on a Sunday evening, it was relaxing to see people so at ease, not bothered by the idea of the working week to come, by the noise or by the flies. Only a wonderful summer day is capable of bringing out the calm in us...

OK, maybe I cheated a little bit to create such a beautiful illusion. It’s also summer vacation time...

Sunday, July 10, 2005

la joie de manger II

Like most of you, I scream and drool uncontrollably at the thought of biting the sweet yet thick roll of Peking duck, but the sauce isn't easy to come by. Fortunately, I still have cookbooks and recipes to thumb through. There must be ways to cook duck meat apart from the elaborate Peking-duck style.

Let's make the most of the duck fat. It will bring out a simply yet tempting flavor with the help of salt and pepper. Meanwhile, I decide to try two different flavors, one seasoned with soy sauce and the other with butter. After the preparation, the plate is sent into the oven for about 45 minutes. Voila, here is a new yet beautiful combination of duck and celery.

Life in Taiwan is full of bright-colored and impressive shots. We are to be entertained as long as we pay for it. We eat, move and get on the roads, on and on and on. If we don't feel like thinking, there is really no need to. While I miss that kind of life, I learn to calm down here and take delight in three meals, grocery shopping, taking baths and most of all, I think about what I want to be. Being such an international member of the global village, it's hard to live without any one of them, I have to confess.

La joie de manger

How to self-entertain in a country where all the stores are closed on Sundays? I am not going to wail simply because there is no KTV or department stores to visit. After all, I am not a party animal even in Taipei. Instead, we eat, to celebrate living, to make life more bearable, even pleasant.

Don't ask me how French cuisine is like. We don't eat anything except "my" cuisine. I dwell with a family that endures or even enjoys my crazy ideas. After the debutant training last summer, I am now a second-grade student in Normandy culinary school. (Oh, by the way, I am the only student here, also janitor, dean, professor, all in one.) This year the courses are mainly focused on creative cooking. No need to worry about the lack of authentic Taiwanese ingredients. Cooking is just about making the best use of what is left in the fridge and combining the best in cuisine from different places. I call this "cuisine without boundaries."

Question of the day: What is hidden in the aluminum packs?

Monday, July 04, 2005

They or us?

When I saw these three women, it came to my mind what my friends and I would look like in twenty years. We might be a little bit swollen in appearance, we might look hicky for a lot of people, but who cares? We will still be happy about the little trivial details in life, whether picnicking next to the bus stop or grumbling to our hearts' contents about men...

Cheers to my beloved girlfriends...

Gloomy Normandy

This is the view when I look out from my window. If I am lucky, the warm-yet-not-tingling sun might smile upon me. Unfortunately, sometimes summer in Normandy is just sad and gray as its winter. Tons of French people flock to the south for the lovely sunshine and the sea. I am too rebellious to make the same choice. Well, then I need to be mentally strong enough not to be overwhelmed by the melancholiness of Normandy.

As a matter of fact, I traveled from the north of my island to the north of France. But there is such a difference to the sunshine of the two places. Where I am from, the sun never hesitates to embrace or even to penetrate into us. It loves to see us sweat and curse and that is the proof of its existence. Here, the sunshine is timid. Most of the time, it seeks for the courage to show its face. Even when it appears, it is never aggressive. It's a diffident lover that needs to be encouraged and loved.

What's my lesson then? Learning to love the sentimental Normandy...